Soulcraft Musings

Today, January 20, 2017, we inaugurate Soulcraft Musings, a new offering from Animas Valley Institute (see below). This is the same day America inaugurates a new president, a cultural upheaval currently mobilizing thousands of response teams worldwide. On this day we commence our humble project of Soulcraft Musings in support of the deepening, diversification, and flourishing of all life. At this time in the world, may we all inaugurate actions and projects that collectively give birth to a life-enhancing society.

The journey of descent to soul has largely been forgotten in mainstream culture, but there is nothing more essential in the world today. The experiential encounter with soul is the key element in the initiatory journey that culminates in true adulthood. And true adults — visionary artisans — are the generators of the most creative and effective actions in defense of all life and in the renaissance and evolution of generative human cultures.

The encounter with soul is not a weekend workshop but an unfolding journey over many months or years. Harvesting its fruit and feeding the world with its bounty plays out over the rest of one’s life. Every day holds opportunities for each of us to prepare for the journey to the underworld of soul, or, once we have embarked upon the journey, to take our next steps, or to gather its mystical treasures and hone them into practical shapes, or to fashion never-before-seen delivery systems for carrying these gifts to the Earth community.

We, at Animas Valley Institute, would like to gift you with this weekly email of trail markers (cairns) on the journey to soul. These Soulcraft Musings, although each only a couple minutes of reading, will be, we trust, valuable guidelines and support on your journey. Each includes references for further reading, study, and practice. And each features a resonant image and poem.

The central theme that ties together all the Musings is, of course, soul and the human encounter with soul. But even the original depth meaning of the word soul has been lost to the modern mind. What we at Animas mean when we speak or write about soul is not what you’ll find in contemporary religious, spiritual, philosophical, or psychological traditions or in everyday conversation. We’ll explore these and many other fundamentals and principles in Soulcraft Musings.

If you’re already on our list, you’ll receive an email with a Soulcraft Musing once a week. If you’re not on our list and would like to subscribe, please click here.

And please feel free to share Soulcraft Musings widely with friends, family, and colleagues.

In wildness and wonder,

Bill Plotkin


Animas Valley Institute

Questions for Creatures with Forward-Seeing Imaginations

For Thomas Berry

Friday, December 1, 2023

For billions of years, billions of creatures

have made a home on this jeweled planet

of water and stone. Wild love affairs

— Sun and Earth; fungi and algae; bacteria

and mitochondria — preceded and spawned us,

our ancestral lineage recorded in the original eyes

of trilobites, in undulating muscle of jellyfish,

in ancient skeletal minerals sketched first

in the dark heart of stars.

Peering billions of years backwards in time,

we probe deep space and cosmogenesis,

decipher the unfurling story of life,

yet barely perceive the future hurtling

toward us, even as it’s shaped

by our ambitious grasping hands, and filled

with the stuff of human imagination —

however impoverished or vast.

Billions of creatures already know

their perfect place in the cosmic dance —

their specific genius expressed in relation

to nectar or coral reef, sequoia or hawk.

Millions of unlettered species already answer

questions we have barely begun to ask —

the oldest mystery school alive in the ones

who commune without cults, communicate

without abstraction, migrate without combustion,

or – without brains or hands — couple with the Sun,

birthing energy from endlessly streaming photons.

What must they think of us — hungry ghosts,

hooked up to plasma TV, gathering faraway food

in packages, drinking from bottles of plastic,

razing forests for scented tissue and catalogues,

slicing our own flesh for pleasure or perfection,

pouring poison into the faultless bodies of children,

loading the tender arms of young men and women

with bombs and guns, exploding their minds

with the dismembered bodies of their own kind

before they know how to wallow with a lover

in wildflowers, beneath the holy Moon

and burning eyes of the gods, before they know

what genius smolders in them, awaiting fire,

before they know how to pluck a columbine

and offer cool nectar to the lover’s tongue?

This is the way it’s always been:

Billions of creatures co-arising, fading in and out

of the irreversible cosmic symphony. Do they regret

living as they must, cued to primal harmonics

of tide and storm, phytoplankton

and oak, lion and vole?

And what of us?

In the last green flash of consciousness,

before we are swallowed by the great night sea,

will we wonder if we have left a wake of ruin

or of celebration — an offering

of reciprocal magnitude

to the billowing imagination

and wild cosmic womb

from which we first emerged

as spark, as seed,

as a fragile embryo

of possibility?

— Geneen Marie Haugen

To read previous musings click here.