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I was born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana by very loving and devout Catholic parents. As a teenager I felt called to the priesthood and entered the seminary in high school. I earned a B.A. in History and Philosophy from a Benedictine monastery/seminary, and a Licentiate in Sacred Theology from Catholic University in Washington, D.C., before being ordained as a priest in 1968. After three years I left the priesthood, married, completed a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, divorced, opened a private practice as a psychotherapist and co-raised my son.


In 1992 I decided to mark my 50th birthday by participating in a vision quest with Animas Valley Institute in the canyon lands of Utah. This experience was life changing in three significant and unanticipated ways:


  1. 1. My relationship with outer nature--the land and the beings of the land--shifted from being a tourist/spectator to that of a participant who recognizes the reciprocal and integral ties that every being, human and non-human, has with every other.

  2. 2. My heart opened to experience emotions at a level below rational knowing. For the first time in my life I experienced and expressed my emotions fully to others.

  3. 3. Having abandoned spirituality when I left the priesthood and Catholicism almost 20 years before, I had an experience of the spiritual in a way that felt personal, ancient, moving, and undefined by any other single human.

I spent six years deepening into what had opened for me on the vision quest. Access to my emotional life led to work on my personal wounds below the level of intellectual thinking, and into exploration of my psychosomatic body. I began to develop relationships with the many other aspects of myself, whose existence had previously remained hidden. I created and enacted ceremonies to engage with and honor the psycho/spiritual mysteries of myself and my soul, as well as the larger mysteries beyond my individual self. I spent time on the land in a new way that focused attention on the story/song/dance of the land, and on the unique part I was being called to play as a part of it.


In 1998 I returned to the place of my original vision quest. The journey took me beyond my personal sacred wound and into an extended process of dying to my old life. A space opened into which fell the elements and clues to the bigger story of my life. The truth of my call to priesthood was revealed in a new way. I was called to enact a priesthood that serves to guide people to the edge of mystery, to release them to venture alone into that dark realm, to hold a sacred space until their return, and, then to hear and fully honor the story of their journey.


During the next three years I trained extensively as a vision quest guide with Bill Plotkin, founder and director of the Animas Valley Institute, and with Steven Foster and Meredith Little, founders of the School of Lost Borders who are considered the grandparents and pioneers of bringing rites of passage work back to this culture.


In 2000 I was invited by Bill Plotkin to begin guiding vision quests for Animas Valley Institute. I was an Animas Valley Institute lead guide for 16 years, until leaving in 2015. I carry deep gratitude of all the gifts that I received from Bill, my co-guides, every participant whom I have had the privilege to guide, and the land and the Mystery. I continue to provide mentoring by Zoom, Skype, Facetime, or phone. If you are interested, you can contact me at peterscanlan@comcast.net.


In the past several years I have devoted most of my guiding energies to a 5-day nature-based Ancestral program. It is work that has been integral to my own personal story. And I am discovering that for many people to whom I have talked to and/or guided it resonates deeply. See the "Programs" section of this website for a more complete description of the work and times/places of ancestor intensives.


Oh give me a mystery, some simple mystery
a secret mystery - silence and timidity -
a fragile mystery, a barefoot mystery -
just one sweet secret mystery.


From Secret Mysteries, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, 1960