The primary goal and method of all Animas programs is the encounter with soul. Founded in 1980 by wilderness guide and depth psychologist Bill Plotkin, the Institute is one of North America’s longest-standing organizations offering contemporary wilderness rites. “Animas” is plural for “souls” in Spanish. In Jungian psychology, the Anima is the Inner Woman in a man; the Animus, the Inner Man in a woman. The Anima and Animus refer to the mysterious energies within our psyches that guide us on the journey of descent to soul. Animas Valley Institute is located in southwest Colorado in the valley of El Rio de las Animas Perdidas — The River of Lost Souls.
Animas programs differ significantly from those offered by most other wilderness organizations, vision-fast guides, and experiential educators. Our work is not primarily rites of passage, wilderness-based psychotherapy, or emotional healing. Our focus, rather, is nature-based initiation, whose central goal is the descent to soul for the purpose of maturing the ego so that it becomes a vessel for a person’s deepest, world-transforming gifts. Our programs are not designed to solve everyday personal problems or to help people better adjust to — or be happier in — the surface world of contemporary Western culture. Instead, our intent is a foundational shift that elicits each person’s most creative, soul-rooted response to our precious, critical moment in history.
“The heroes of all time have gone before us. The labyrinth is thoroughly known. We have only to follow the thread of the hero path, and where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god. And where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves. Where we had thought to travel outward, we will come to the center of our own existence. And where we had thought to be alone, we will be with all the world.”
— Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces