Soulcraft: Crossing Into the Mysteries of Nature and Psyche


Since 1980, depth psychologist Bill Plotkin has been guiding women and men into the wilderness?the redrock canyons and snow-crested mountains of the American West?but also into the wilds of the soul. He calls this work soulcraft.

There?s a great longing in all people to uncover the secrets and mysteries of our individual lives, to find the unique gift we were born to bring to our communities, and to experience our full membership in the more-than-human world. This journey to ...

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Soulcraft: Crossing into the Mysteries of Nature and Psyche

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Since 1980, depth psychologist Bill Plotkin has been guiding women and men into the wilderness—the redrock canyons and snow-crested mountains of the American West—but also into the wilds of the soul. He calls this work soulcraft.

There’s a great longing in all people to uncover the secrets and mysteries of our individual lives, to find the unique gift we were born to bring to our communities, and to experience our full membership in the more-than-human world. This journey to soul is a descent into layers of the self much deeper than personality, a journey meant for each one of us, not just for the heroes and heroines of mythology.

A modern handbook for the journey, Soulcraft is not an imitation of indigenous ways, but a contemporary nature-based approach born from wilderness experience, the traditions of Western culture, and the cross-cultural heritage of all humanity. Filled with stories, poems, and guidelines, Soulcraft introduces over 40 practices that facilitate the descent to soul, including dreamwork, wilderness vision fasts, talking across the species boundaries, council, self-designed ceremony, nature-based shadow work, and the arts of romance, being lost, and storytelling.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Here is an abundantly wise and carefully crafted survival guide for the wild soul currently dozing (or dying) at the heart of your civilized life. Plotkin has wandered again and again into the nourishing darkness, and has returned with this earthly bundle of insights and images — talismanic tools for awakening to the outrageous depths both within us and all around us. He has bound them into a book that is immensely practical, alive with ritual intelligence, thick with useful tools from a host of courageous comrades."
David Abram, author of The Spell of the Sensuous

"As we enter a future where humans and the natural world are more intimate with each other, we will surely be powerfully influenced by this new guide into the mysteries of nature and psyche. In Soulcraft, Bill Plotkin gives us an authentic masterwork. In the substance of what he has written, in the clarity of his presentation, and in the historical urgency of the subject, he has guided us far into the new world that is opening up before us. We will not soon again receive a work of this significance."
— from the foreword by Thomas Berry, author of The Dream of the Earth and The Great Work

"The fundamental worldview of industrial society is that Earth is like a gravel pit or a lumberyard — just a resource for human use. We live disconnected from the evolving earth community, but our deepest allurement is a rich, intimate participation in nature and the ongoing adventure of the Universe. In this stunningly original and inspiring guide book, Bill Plotkin shows us how to reconnect with the sacred powers of life, of nature, of soul, and the ways that each one of us can reinvent ourselves and discover our unique way to flower forth."
Brian Swimme, cosmologist and author of The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos, The Universe is a Green Dragon, and coauthor with Thomas Berry of The Universe Story

Library Journal
Plotkin, a psychologist and wilderness guide, is the founder of the Animas Valley Institute (Durango, CO), one of the nation's oldest and largest organizations that leads nature-based "soul-discovery programs." Here he posits that many people today are suffering from "soul loss," or being out of touch with their true selves, as a direct result of our fast-paced society and alienation from the natural environment. This "soul loss" can manifest as addictions, depression, anxiety, and hyperactive consumerism. Plotkin believes that we can reclaim a more fulfilling and creative existence by embarking on a psychological journey based on his experiences leading contemporary wilderness rites. He incorporates many of his exercises and knowledge from those excursions into this book. Sprinkled throughout are poems chosen to illuminate the path of discovery, as well as many anecdotes from people who have participated in Plotkin's retreats over the years. Many books deal with exploring and repairing spiritual wounds, but this book shines in its focus on nature as a tool to heal. Recommended for New Age and spirituality collections where interest merits.-Mimi Davis, Broward Cty. Lib. Dist., Fort Lauderdale, FL Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781577314226
  • Publisher: New World Library
  • Publication date: 8/28/2003
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 265,229
  • Product dimensions: 5.84 (w) x 9.02 (h) x 0.93 (d)

Meet the Author

Bill Plotkin, PhD, founder of Animas Valley Institute, describes himself as a “psychologist gone wild.” A cultural visionary, author, and guide to the entwined mysteries of wilderness and psyche, he’s been blazing new trails for decades. His ecocentric re-visioning of psychology invites us into a conscious and embodied relationship with soul and with the more-than-human world. His other books are Wild Mind and Nature and the Human Soul. He lives in southwestern Colorado.

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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 18, 2012

    An Exquisite Book--A Must Read for Engaging Soul!

    I read a great many books on nature and our role in nature and have a PhD from Pacifica Graduate Institute, a Jungian/Depth Psychological Institute. So there is much in Bill Plotkin's book to attract me. Plus, my favorite modern poet is David Whyte and David's work along with other writers, is woven skillfully into this book's central theme of finding one's true self in Nature.
    And it is not just nature but wilderness that affords the most effective encounter with not only our own souls but the soul of the land and beings around--the Other. By opening to an ensouled world, Plotkin proceeds through numerous stories, to show how we can open to our own deepest truth.
    Plotkin does not stop there, however. His book is a call to each of us to find how to live in the world in such a way that we recapture the mystery and magic of nature and our role within Nature--not as a dominant force but as just one of the many facets.
    He speaks to those who are at a place in their life when they want to loosen the boundaries of our traditional culture and reconnect with a different way of being.

    It would be difficult indeed for anyone to read this book and not see the natural world around us in a totally different way. And in doing so, see his or her own life very differently as well.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2004

    Challenging, empowering, inspirational - the future of psychotherapy

    As a person fed up with the technology industry, who had entertained thoughts of law school, I signed up for a vision quest with Bill Plotkin and was exposed to many of the theories and practices found in this book. The results of my quest were beyond even my loftiest expectations, and today I feel re-born into a new life, more meaningful and passionate than ever before. A regular practice of reading from this book helps to keep my soul conversation going and focuses my attention on what is truly important. If you are unsure of your direction in life or unhappy with where you are, this book can help you find the answers. And if you like what you read, for God's sake, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! As Bill likes to say, a vision without a task is just a dream.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2003

    Swimming in the depths of your soul

    This is a book whose poetry will sing to your soul. The poetry opens you up to the rest of the messages contained in this book. If you are ready and willing to submerge yourself into the mysteries of life, then this is the book for you. It is dense with pratices that will open you up to your own soul song and teach you how to sing the song to the rest of the world. Are you ready?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2003

    Those who wander are not necessarily lost...J.R.R. Tolkien

    This is a book to read in autumn. Follow your rhythm and read on a rock. Read the poetry out loud. The message and the power of these pages is nourishment for our particular starvation. The warp of this book is the constant of nature as teacher, guide, and lover. The weft is the movement of story as curiosity, disturbance, and evolution. Soulcraft explores wandering, touching, noticing as acts of social disobedience. Soulcraft turns left when most turn right and invites one to climb into the mud. Simple, but not easy, unpretentious, but not without sophistication soulcrafting is always about unearthing threads of one's authentic story. Bill Plotkin is a weaver of the medicines that are waiting for the least the one's who are willing to take their first deep breath.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 19, 2003

    An Essential, Hazardous Journey

    Bill Plotkin's Soulcraft, grounded in the author's formal training as a clinical psychologist, and in his decades of experience as a wilderness guide who guides his clients through both inner and outer wilderness, provides readers with an experience-based, intellectually stimulating, and potentially life-altering antidote to mainstream Western civilization. Based on the premise that virtually all of us live lives that attempt to satisfy the ego's needs while ignoring the soul's deeper yearnings, Plotkin guides us to a severance from our ego-based lives, through an encounter with soul, and finally into a return, with new knowledge of the gifts we carry to our people--family, friends, co-workers and community. As he encourages us to grow from our necessary and valuable uninitiated adolescent need to be accepted by society, into our initiated adult need to live authentically these gifts we carry, he treats us to his own story and the stories of others who are doing the work of authenticity. More than 30 practices validate the presence of the word 'craft' in the book's main title. Whether the reader is drawn to meditation, drumming, dream work, deep imagery, befriending the dark, wandering in nature, working with shadow or any one of more than a score more approaches to living a soul-based life, Bill Plotkin challenges us to live our true callings, and provides us the means with which to do so. Soulcraft engaged me both experientially and philosophically, calling me to both act and think. It's no accident that Thomas Berry wrote the foreword, or that Brian Swimme, Angeles Arrien, Robert Johnson, and Derrick Jensen, among others, praised the book before publication. Bill Plotkin, in the words of David Whyte, whose poetry graces many of these pages, carries 'what is hidden as a gift to others.' For this we should all be grateful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 22, 2010

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    Posted July 9, 2011

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