Moments of Complexity: An Interview with Dr. Joseph Cambray, CEO-President of Pacifica Graduate Institute. Part II of II

Posted by Angela Borda on Jun 10, 2022 10:07:13 AM

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Joseph Cambray, Ph.D., has been the President and CEO of Pacifica for 5 years, and previous to that served as Provost. He is retiring this year, and while he will be very missed, I’m excited to hear from him about his take on teaching and what’s ahead in his endeavors.

“Joe Cambray is the consummate teacher. Blending the capacity for deep listening with erudition and insight, he creates an environment for engaged learning. He can speak about complex concepts with ease and provide examples from both clinical experience and other venues which serves to create an aliveness with the material. He speaks eloquently, pulling from a vast resource of integrated work, citing quotes and references without the use of notes while inviting active discussion. In addition to his skill in teaching, his exceptional quality of character and temperament contribute to the overall experience of his presence in the learning environment. I have the greatest respect for him.”

—Juliet Rohde-Brown, Ph.D., Chair, Depth Psychology: Integrated Therapy and Healing Practices Specialization

Angela: I saw that you recently taught a class on Jung for the Depth Psychology Integrative Therapy and Healing Practices program, and I know that you are beloved as a teacher here. What is it like for you to participate in the programs and interact with the students, when much of the time you’re focusing on fulfilling the role of President? Are you ever tempted to dive back into the realm of teaching entirely?

Joe: I love the experience of teaching for several reasons. Furthermore, it’s not disconnected from my work as president. I’m interested in emergence and complex phenomena. And that’s the way I like to teach, to interact with students, with the classroom as an emergent system. Then as we move together to explore things we discover things that might not have known otherwise. I rarely feel that I’ve taught the same course twice. I watch the trajectory of what I present and how it takes shape, which is very much tied to the unique qualities of each class. This process is very enlivening, especially getting to the edge of complexity and having holistic phenomena emerge. I also function as president in a similar way. I trust and like to see my directors and faculty work in sync and create a larger vision for the institution. It requires a deep-trusting relationship.

“I've known several capable education leaders, but Joe Cambray is the only executive I've met who operationalizes wisdom and compassion as an institutional practice and personal virtue. As Pacifica's President/CEO, he encourages our community to think generatively together as a form of collective intelligence and communal sense-making. Many organizations today are acephalous and suffer mission drift. At Pacifica, we value not only the achievements of our esteemed head but also his considerable heart.”

—Peter Rojcewicz, Provost, Pacifica Graduate Institute

Angela: Peter Rojcewicz, our Provost, has said that “While paving the road to Pacifica's future as a professional and caring institution, Joe has worn multiple hats. Wearing his intellectual/cerebral hat, he models a thinking mind publicly at work. Donning his insightful/intuitive hat, he responds effectively to challenges present internally and externally, answering the ‘double call’ of exceptional leadership to lead self and others outward and inward to new possibilities. With his receptive/empathic hat, he opens himself to hearing from us and speaking with us.” Like Peter, I have valued your approach to leading Pacifica as our CEO/President. In particular, I have appreciated the care and thoughtfulness that you brought to two+ years of leadership during the pandemic. How has Pacifica changed and adapted in response to Covid, and of what are you most proud during your tenure as president?

Untitled design (85)-1Joe: The pandemic has been about survival. So many institutions have closed, which has been sad to watch; the pressure to rapidly change was too much for many of them. Our survival has been in response to the curious opportunities that Covid has offered. It’s been enormously challenging but we’ve managed to put together different teams. We built an admissions team that has helped bring out messages of our innovative approaches to the community at large and helped generate a robust admission on a yearly basis. Very quickly we pivoted to a fully online program, almost overnight. I was very impressed to watch the way staff and faculty pooled our resources. I could not have done that alone. This was a collective effort to educate ourselves, our faculty, and students to being online within a matter of days. And how as an online entity we were then able to learn very quickly to best optimize this, and communicate the fields that were active within our educational processes to the online environment. It’s brought a deeper vision of the psyche that has enabled us to develop a relationship with the pandemic.

If you study viruses, you know that they’re at the edge of living and nonliving. They can be crystalized, put in a jar, and put on a shelf, so there is no energy going in or out, but the viruses don’t die. They go dormant and behave as if crystals. Bring them off the shelf and put them into a solution and they’re just as infectious as ever. This means they have a psychoid nature, partly inert matter, on the edge of things that have a psychology and things that are inanimate. So a vital question is how do we begin to learn from something like Covid, how do we learn to talk to Covid?

One of the first things I needed to educate myself about was what we were facing at the start of the pandemic. Early on I learned of the work being done at the Chan Center at Harvard, where researchers explored the origins of Covid by tracking its genetic evolution. As the planet warms up due to global warming, animals that live in the tropics are seeking relief from the overheating. So, those animals migrate, going to higher/cooler latitudes. In the process of migrating, they are exposed to species of birds they have never been in contact with before. Opportunistic things begin happening. The novel-corona virus jump species in some of those interactions, then ended up inside birds and bats taken to wet markets. With the leap to human, the virus quickly went global. So, human driven environmental pressures such as global warming are driving the infection process that comes back and bites us. We had better slow down and pay attention to this. What is this telling us about the nature of our world and the way we’re interacting with it? If we refuse to hear this message, we’re ignoring the oracle, and we will pay the price.

The shift in consciousness offered by the pandemic brings holistic, systemic approaches. While this has been implicit in the subject matter at Pacifica, it is now more powerfully coming to the foreground. For example, we had a yearlong diversity, equity, and inclusion task force at Pacifica, looking at systemic forms of racism that might not be identified easily. That’s part of the same systemic thinking that looks at Covid and requires us to ask, How is this happening? We have sought to think more systemically about Pacifica, our curriculum, our practices, our relationship with one another and the surrounding community as well as how we educate. In consequence I’ve seen staff and faculty interact more holistically; we want to know more what our colleagues are doing, what they are exploring. Relevancy feels increasingly urgent and real. This is one of the voices of the institution that I’ve been listening to.

Angela: You’ve said, “Retirement at my age allows a full-on non-pursuit of the intangible realm of no-thing-ness, exploring the margins of the psyche as they disappear into interconnectedness and paradoxically transform our world. And so, I shall leave you to more deeply join you.” Once you leave the position of President, what can we look forward to from you, and what are you most looking forward to? Will you continue your scholarship and teaching of depth psychology or are there new roads ahead?

Joe: I don’t know the future, but some of my ambitions are to explore these states of consciousness, write about them, and seek to synthesize a fuller picture. I hope to travel more in an ecologically minded manner. I have a history of travel, but mostly for work purposes. I’d like to do more travel to places with historical and sacred sights. I hope to continue teaching. I will continue to do supervision of groups of psychotherapists, supporting training and exploring how they practice with their clients, particularly in China and Eastern Europe.

Angela: I know I speak for all of us at the institute when I say thank you for your years of service to Pacifica, and very best wishes for your next adventure.

joe-2Joseph Cambray is CEO-President at Pacifica. He is also past President of the International Association for Analytical Psychology; he has served as the U.S. Editor for the Journal of Analytical Psychology and is on the Editorial Boards of the Journal of Analytical Psychology and The Jung Journal: Culture and Psyche. He has been a faculty member at Harvard Medical School in the Department of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, Center for Psychoanalytic Studies; adjunct faculty at Pacifica Graduate Institute. Dr. Cambray is a Jungian analyst in Santa Barbara, CA. His numerous publications include the book based on his Fay Lectures: Synchronicity: Nature and Psyche in an Interconnected Universe and a volume edited with Linda Carter, Analytical Psychology: Contemporary Perspectives in Jungian Psychology. Some of his recent papers include: “Cosmos and Culture in the Play of Synchronicity,” Spring Journal, Jungian Odyssey Series, 4, 133-147, 2012; “Jung, science, and his legacy,” in International Journal of Jungian Studies, 3:2, 110-124, 2011; and “Moments of complexity and enigmatic action: a Jungian view of the therapeutic field,” in Journal of Analytical Psychology, 56 (2) 296-309, 2011. Courses taught in the Jungian and Archetypal Psychology Specialization: Synchronicity and the New Science; Introduction to Depth Psychology; Jungian Psychology and Contemporary Healing II: Engaging Complexity and Diversity


Angela Borda is a writer for Pacifica Graduate Institute, as well as the editor of the Santa Barbara Literary Journal. Her work has been published in Food & Home, Peregrine, Hurricanes & Swan Songs, Delirium Corridor, Still Arts Quarterly, Danse Macabre, and is forthcoming in The Tertiary Lodger and Running Wild Anthology of Stories, Vol. 5.


Topics: Santa Barbara, Education, Pacifica Graduate Institute