Plotkin’s own role, as he sees it, is as a ‘cocoon-weaver’ – someone who creates the space and conditions for people to undergo deep soul transformation. But in his books he has also been a cartographer, mapping the space where soul and nature meet and creating frameworks to help us navigate the encounters and metamorphoses that occur there. In his latest book, The Journey of Soul Initiation, he describes the Descent to Soul, the profound transformation that leads to true Adulthood – a state that, in our contemporary society, very few chronological adults ever reach.
Combining theory, autobiography, literature and accounts of others who have undergone the journey, he points to the deeper layers of the psyche that lie hidden and largely unsuspected by modern society, and how contracting them leads to a radically different relationship to ecological and human issues:
‘I believe the root cause of the dire crises and challenges of our time is a widespread failure in individual human development,’ he writes. ‘This has been true for so long and in so many societies that most people today are unaware of this breakdown in the natural sequence of human maturation, a failure now plainly evident – as witnessed in the current epidemics of psychological dysfunction as well as social and ecological degradation’.
For Plotkin, as for many of us, inner and outer work are mutually dependent, not opposed. The destruction of the living world, hyper-consumerism, the predations of modern economics, the injustice and corruption of our political systems – all can be seen to have their roots in a personal and existential absence: Perhaps the most fundamental crisis in the world today is a psychological and spiritual one: the loss of meaning or purpose… ‘The world is not well tended or engaged by people who don’t know what they are for, who don’t know why they were born.’
After several years of almost collaborating, Bill and I took the opportunity of The Journey of Soul Initiation‘s publication to get together and record a conversation. In a wide-ranging hour we talked about the book, his work at the Animas Valley Institute and his own story of journeying into relationship with soul, as well as about place, wisdom, hummingbirds, finding your ‘original instructions’, seeking hope in darkening times and the importance of reading Carl Jung.
Bill Plotkin, PhD, is the author of The Journey of Soul Initiation. As a depth psychologist, wilderness guide, and founder of western Colorado’s Animas Valley Institute, he has led thousands of women and men through nature-based initiatory passages. His previous books include Soulcraft, Nature and the Human Soul, and Wild Mind. He lives in Durango, Colorado and you can visit him online at animas.org.