Soulcraft: Crossing into the Mysteries of Nature and Psyche


About the Book

Since 1980, depth psychologist Bill Plotkin has been guiding seekers into the wilderness — not just the outer wilderness of redrock desert canyons and snow-crested mountain ranges of the American West — but, more to the point, into their inner wilderness, the wilds of the soul. He calls this work soulcraft.

There is a great longing in each one of us — a longing 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 quite distinct from the transcendence aspired to in many eastern spiritual disciplines. In the contemporary Western world, we live as if the spiritual descent is no longer necessary or with no awareness that such a journey is meant for each one of us, not just for the heroes and heroines of mythology.

Soulcraft is a modern handbook for the journey of descent: what it is, why it is necessary, how to recognize the call to descend, the necessary prelude and preparation to the descent, what the process of descending looks and feels like, and a set of nature-based practices to initiate and quicken the descent and to maximize its soul-making benefits.

A border crossing into mystery, Soulcraft is rooted in depth psychology, wilderness experience, and the poetic tradition. It is not an imitation of indigenous ways, but a contemporary nature-based approach born from the landscapes of the American wilderness, 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.

Soulcraft celebrates 20 years in print

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Soulcraft has been translated into German, Russian, Hebrew, Czech, Italian, Korean, Bulgarian, Turkish and Latvian.

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Praise for Soulcraft

Every now and then a book is birthed into the world that is destined to irrevocably alter the spiritual face of modern culture. Bill Plotkin’s Soulcraft is just such a book. Charting a course through the underworld pathways with the heart of a shaman, mapping the powers of myth and psyche with all the soul and interpretive skill of Jung or Campbell, Plotkin’s guide to the journey of initiation is to nature-based soulwork what Huxley’s Doors of Perception was to consciousness studies.

— Frank MacEowen, author of  The Mist-Filled Path

This book is an immense treasure that will provide wisdomseekers, psychologists, and seasoned wilderness guides alike with a fresh heart-opening soul language, a new mythos for fathoming the depths of change, as well as time-tested practical methods for navigating the landscape of authentic transformation. In essence, Soulcraft is Plotkin’s “soul gift,” a user’s manual for the journey of the human soul, as well as a guide to the futurescape of why we are all really here. It is the book I wish I could have had at my fingertips when I began to feel the ancient call for rites of passage in my early youth. It is required reading for anyone guiding other people in soulwork, or delving deep into their own. As philosopher Parker Palmer has said, “The way to God is down.” Plotkin shows the way.

— Frank MacEowen, author of  The Mist-Filled Path

“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 to Soulcraft by Thomas Berry, author of The Dream of the Earth and The Great Work

“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

“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 guidebook, 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, author of The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos and The Universe Is a Green Dragon

“Those who allow Bill Plotkin’s musings to pass have allowed a diamond to fall from their pockets. Those who value the mystical secrets, the magic and mysterious in nature and the human soul, had better check their pockets, for there are priceless items here, far rarer than diamonds. There are huge questions here, and wisdom worthy of the twenty-first century. For in Soulcraft we find a new language, a new therapy, and a burning passion to get to the very heart of the universe. The answer to our difficulties? If not, a very important part of the answer. Check your pockets!”

— Steven Foster, Ph.D., and Meredith Little, directors emeritus, School of Lost Borders

“A poetic and yet intellectually rigorous exploration of the essential relationshop between the human soul and wild nature, Soulcraft guides the reader on a journey of descent, to return with gifts for a hungry world.”

— Molly Young Brown, author of Growing Whole and co-author with Joanna Macy of Coming Back to Life

“Radical, embodied, and mature, Soulcraft lays a map for those seeking to launch beyond the psychic and social limitations assumed in modern society. Please read this book. Please live it.”

— Chellis Glendinning, Ph.D., author of Off the Map and My Name is Chellis and I’m in Recovery from Western Civilization

“Within the concepts, principles, and practices embodied in Soulcraft rests the foundation for a possible future that is worthy of humanity’s coming of age. Soulcraft is a culmination of a quest for understanding that goes back 6,000 years. This book will permeate the collective consciousness of the future in the same manner as Erik Erikson’s Childhood and Society shaped the 1950s and the work of Abraham Maslow shaped the 1960s.”

— Dan Popov, Ph.D., author of The Family Virtues Guide

“How can we begin our life’s deeper conversation within the greater world of Nature? Bill Plotkin shows us the path.”

— Dolores LaChapelle, author of Sacred Land, Sacred Sex