Not a chronological age range (our teen years) but a psychosocial life stage, divided into early and late Adolescence. Early Adolescence has one ecocentric version (the Oasis) and several egocentric versions (such as Conforming and Rebelling). Late Adolescence has only an ecocentric version (the Cocoon). (For more specific definitions of Adolescence, see the Oasis, the Cocoon, and Conforming and Rebelling.[view stages diagram]
Also known as true or ecocentric Adulthood, this is the life stage whose central feature is the conscious inhabiting of the unique eco-niche a person was born to inhabit, during which they deliver their singular gift to the more-than-human world. An Adult is someone who experiences themself, first and foremost, as a member of the Earth community, who has had one or more revelatory experiences of their unique place in that ecological community, and who is embodying that unique place as a gift to their people and to the Earth community. Doing so makes them an agent of evolution — and, in an egocentric, patho-adolescent society like ours, an agent of revolution. All Adults are visionary artisans of cultural evolution.[view stages diagram]
Jung’s terms for, respectively, the feminine “personality” within a man, and the masculine “personality” within a woman, both generally unconscious, according to Jung. On its healthy form, the anima is often a version of what I call the Dark Muse-Beloved (the West facet of wholeness) of people of any gender. (Jung’s “negative anima” and “negative animus” are subpersonalities, not facets of wholeness.)
center of gravity:
The hub of a person’s life, the priorities and focus that their day-to-day existence revolves around. For example, in early Adolescence, center of gravity is peer group, sex, and society. In late Adolescence, it’s the underworld, or the mysteries of nature and psyche. And in early Adulthood, it’s the depths of one’s culture (the embodied mysteries of nature and psyche). Center of gravity illuminates the deep structure of a life stage, helping us understand what people in that stage find most compelling. The way you can tell a person is about to move into the next stage is that their center of gravity begins to shift in that direction.[view diagram]
Ecocentric late Adolescence, the fourth of eight life stages in the Eco-Soulcentric Developmental Wheel, in which the Descent to Soul first becomes possible. The human archetype of this stage is the Wanderer. The culture-oriented task is leaving home (departing from the early-Adolescent identity). The nature-oriented task is exploring the mysteries of nature and psyche. The psychospiritual center of gravity is the underworld (the mysteries of nature and psyche). The trajectory of this stage is toward the experiential encounter with Soul.[view stages diagram]
The life passage between the stage of the Oasis and the stage of the Cocoon, the passage during which the center of gravity shifts from peer group, sex, and society to the mysteries of nature and psyche. What is confirmed are the adequate completion of the tasks of the Oasis (the adequate completion of an early-Adolescent personality, one that is both authentic and socially accepted) and the readiness to embark upon the journey of soul initiation.[view stages diagram]
Conforming and Rebelling:
An egocentric version of early Adolescence in which people either conform to or rebel against mainstream egocentric society; a way of life that emphasizes social acceptability, materialism, self-centered individualism, and superficial security rather than authenticity, intimate relationships, soul-infused individual service, and creative risk and adventure (as in the ecocentric early-Adolescent stage of the Oasis).
A psychospiritual wounding so distressing we form our primary childhood survival strategies in reaction to it, so hurtful that much of our personal style and sensitivities have their roots there. Unlike the ordinary hurts and injuries of everyday life, our Core Wound arises from the convergence of a preexisting innate vulnerability or sensitivity and one or more wounding events. The Core Wound, which is not healable, holds secrets of our Soul. When we experientially reenter our Core Wound during the journey of soul initiation, our Ego is shifted toward Soul, and the Core Wound becomes a Sacred Wound.
The West facet of the Self[view intrapersonal view diagram]
A role, craft, trade, profession, style, or art for enacting your Soul’s desires — your eco-niche — within your particular culture, time, and place.
Descent to Soul:
A psychospiritual expedition into one particular precinct of the underworld — the precinct I call Soul Canyon — and, if fortunate, the eventual emergence from those depths having been radically transformed by an encounter with Soul. The Descent is the most significant element of the journey of soul initiation. A Descent can, however, also occur one or more times after the journey of soul initiation. The Descent to Soul has five phases: Preparation, Dissolution, Soul Encounter, Metamorphosis, and Enactment.[view descent diagram]
The second phase of a Descent to Soul. What occurs in this phase is the dismemberment of who you believed you were, the unconditional disintegration of everything you believed the world was, the definitive end of the story you have been living, everything that enabled you to get the things done that you thought essential to who you were and who you could become.[view descent diagram]
The transition from egocentrism to ecocentrism — the major life passage from egocentric early Adolescence (such as the stage of Conforming and Rebelling) to the ecocentric early-Adolescent life stage of the Oasis. Eco-awakening occurs when someone has their first conscious and embodied experience of their innate membership in the Earth community.
Holding the greater Earth community (the ecosphere) as central in importance; contrasts with both egocentrism (holding the individual conscious self as central) and anthropocentrism (humanity as central).
ecological niche (eco-niche):
A person or thing’s unique place, role, or function in a particular ecosystem. (See Soul.)
I refer to this sometimes as our psycho-ecological niche. By adding the “psycho,” I am highlighting that our human niche in the more-than-human world has an intrinsic psychological dimension. Our eco-niche is not just a matter of where we fit in the food chain. More important is what we bring to the evolution of the anima mundi, the soul of the world, the way we’re able to enhance and enrich the relational net made up of and shared by all living things. A distinguishing characteristic of our human eco-niche is something psychological or noetic: our particular mode of consciousness, namely our conscious self-awareness.
Eco-Soulcentric Developmental Wheel:
A model of human development rooted in the cycles and qualities of the natural world. It describes what the stages of human development look like when we grow with nature and Soul as our primary guides: We take root in a childhood of innocence and wonder; sprout into an Adolescence of creative fire and mystery-probing adventures; blossom into an authentic Adulthood of cultural artistry and visionary leadership; and finally ripen into a seed-scattering Elderhood of wisdom, grace, and the holistic tending of the more-than-human world.[view stages diagram]
The conscious self; the locus, or seat, of conscious self-awareness within the human psyche, the “I”; a fragment of the psyche observing the rest of itself from a psychological distance. (See also 3-D Ego.)
Holding the Ego — the individual conscious self — as the most important element of the human psyche and as the center of personal existence. Contrasts with ecocentrism.
Someone who, following their years of true Adulthood, now occupies their ecological niche without effort, freeing them for the Elder task of caring for the Soul of the more-than-human world, an endeavor with even greater scope, depth, and fulfillment than that of Adulthood. An Elder cares for the Soul of the world by defending and nurturing the innocence and wonder of children, mentoring early Adolescents, guiding late Adolescents on the journey of soul initiation, mentoring Adults in their soulwork, supporting the evolution of the culture, and maintaining the balance between the Village and the greater Earth community. A true Elder contrasts with an “older,” an aging uninitiated person. True Elders have become rare in our world.[view stages diagram]
The fifth and final phase of the Descent to Soul, when you begin to embody your mythopoetic identity through acts of service to your community — when you launch your giveaway, the wholehearted performance of your vision.[view descent diagram]
Experimental Threshold Crossings (ETCs):
Practices for embodying your mythopoetic identity before you’re ready for Enactment or to choose or develop a delivery system — practices that reshape your Ego to be a channel for that identity. ETCs are your primary activities during Metamorphosis for bridging between the experience of soul encounter and the eventual cultivation of a delivery system to embody your Soul as a gift to others.
The East facet of the Self[view intrapersonal view diagram]
journey of soul initiation (JoSI):
The extended developmental process of searching for Soul, encountering Soul, and being shape-shifted by that encounter. JoSI takes you from the end of one particular life stage (the Oasis, ecocentric early Adolescence), across the passage of Confirmation into a second stage (the Cocoon, ecocentric late Adolescence), through the Cocoon and then across the next passage of Soul Initiation, which is the start of the life stage of the Wellspring (early Adulthood). Using a bigger lens, the journey of soul initiation could be understood as starting as early as conception or birth and ending with death.[view stages diagram]
Literally, the almond shape formed at the center of two partly overlapping circles — mandorla being the Italian word for almond. The Mandorla symbolizes the interplay of opposites and the inherent tension between them, the interaction and interdependence between apparent contraries.
The Mandorla Practice is a way to amplify the tension of a pair of opposites within your psyche in order to crack yourself open and quicken your plummet toward Soul.
The fourth phase of a Descent to Soul, in which the Ego is shape-shifted in light of and in accordance with the revelation or vision in the previous phase of Soul Encounter.[view descent diagram]
Our everyday, waking identity and state of consciousness — the personal and interpersonal world of Ego. This is the domain of family, friends, school, work, business, politics, community, and the natural environment in which we exist. It includes the practical embodiment of our soul work.
A significant change in a person’s social, vocational, geographical, religious, therapeutic, or other middleworld circumstances, especially when it occurs in psychological early Adolescence (in either the ecocentric Oasis or in an egocentric stage such as Conforming and Rebelling). Not to be confused with the Metamorphosis phase of the Descent to Soul.
Cultural ecologist David Abram’s term for our larger world that includes the human realm as one element or subset; in other words, the not merely human world. Not to be confused with the other-than-human world, the self-organizing world beyond the human Village or outside the walls of our homes. Synonyms: the Earth Community; the greater web of life.
See Dark Muse-Beloved.
The universal consciousness, intelligence, psyche, or vast imagination that animates the cosmos and everything in it, including us, and in which the psyche of each person participates. Common synonyms include Spirit, God, and the nondual. When consciously attuned to Mystery, we experience a profound connectedness with all things — the “oneness” of Mystery. The manner in which Mystery manifests itself or unfolds has been called, to cite just three examples, evolution’s trajectory, the Tao (the way of life), or the Universe story.
The way we consciously identify and experience the nature of Soul — namely, through metaphor in the form of poetic or mythic images or patterns. Since it’s not possible to directly describe our eco-niche in everyday descriptive language, we comprehend and appreciate it mythopoetically. Essentially what Carl Jung meant by “personal myth.”
Nature-Based Map of the Human Psyche:
A map of psychological wholeness — a nonarbitrary and comprehensive map because it uses the template of nature’s own map of wholeness. It serves as a guide to becoming fully human by cultivating the four facets of the Self and discovering both the limitations and the gifts of the four groups of our wounded, fragmented, and shadowed subpersonalities. It maps all of these elements of the psyche onto the qualities of the natural world that we observe in the cardinal directions as well as the characteristics of the four seasons and the four times of day: dawn, noon, dusk, and midnight.[view intrapersonal view diagram]
Nurturing Generative Adult:
The North facet of the Self[view intrapersonal view diagram]
Ecocentric early Adolescence, the third of eight life stages in the Eco-Soulcentric Developmental Wheel, the stage that follows the passage of puberty; the time of foundational social individuation. The human archetype of this stage is the Thespian. The culture-oriented task in the Oasis is the creation of a secure and socially accepted personality. The nature-oriented task is the cultivation of social authenticity. The psychospiritual center of gravity is peer group, sex, and society. The goal of the Oasis is to find a genuine way of belonging and a group to be faithful to. When successful, the Adolescent gradually differentiates a persona, a personality, an individuality, one that has an endorsed place in the social world — a place that is respected and deemed worthy by both self and others in a peer group or community. This results in an Ego ready for the journey of soul initiation, which begins in the next stage, the Cocoon.[view stages diagram]
A pathological version of Conforming and Rebelling; often a life centered in greed, self-centeredness, shame, addiction, and, for some, violence; the effect egocentric society inflicts on many of its citizens; not normal for humans.
Our capacity or faculty to experience, both consciously and unconsciously — including through dreams, thoughts, perceptions, imaginings, memories, and feelings. Most people use the word psyche as if it refers to a nonphysical structure or thing (a “mind”) or even equate it with the physical brain (a dreadful conceptual error), but psyche is actually a capacity, attribute, or characteristic of all sentient beings, such as humans, bears, birds, or trees. Each being has unique qualities of psyche.
See ecological niche.
psychospiritual center of gravity:
See center of gravity.
rite of passage:
A ceremony or other event that marks and supports (1) a major life passage, such as birth, puberty, Confirmation, or Soul Initiation, or (2) a passage between socially defined roles or statuses, as with school graduation; induction into a social, vocational, or military group; completion of a personal growth program; ordination; or marriage.
See Core Wound.
A bundle of innate resources all humans have in common, an integral whole that holds all the original capacities of our core humanness. The Self incorporates the four facets of our “horizontal” wholeness, which exist at birth but only as possibilities that we may or may not learn to access, actualize, and embody. The four facets of the Self (the Nurturing Generative Adult, the Innocent/Sage, the Wild Indigenous One, and the Dark Muse-Beloved) can be described in terms of archetypes — universal patterns of human behavior and character found in all cultures and in myths, dreams, art, and literature. The Nature-Based Map of the Human Psyche maps the four facets onto the qualities of the natural world. The Self contains all the resources we need to meaningfully contribute to our more-than-human world; to live a mature, fulfilling, creative human life; to effectively manifest our Soul’s desires; and to align ourselves with Spirit’s unfolding.
The Self is similar to but different than Carl Jung’s concept of “the self.” Jung described the “self” as “the totality of the personality”: “The self is not only the center but also the whole circumference which embraces both conscious and unconscious; it is the center of this totality, just as the ego is the center of consciousness” (Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, 398). Jung and I both refer to a totality that encompasses both conscious and unconscious elements, but I mean something less than Jung — but more focused. For me, the Self is our “horizontal” wholeness (the four facets) but not our “vertical” wholeness (Soul and Spirit) and not the Ego. For Jung, the “self” is the totality of the psyche; presumably, this would include what I mean by Soul, Spirit, Ego, and subpersonalities, and in this sense, I mean a smaller totality than Jung. Paradoxically and perplexingly, however, Jung also says that the “self” is the center of the psyche. For Jung, the “self” includes the ego. For me, the Self and the Ego are separate, but the Ego can have some degree of conscious access to the Self. (In fact, what I call the cultivation of wholeness is the process of the Ego developing conscious access to the Self.) For me, the Self and the Ego are categorically different kinds of things: The Self is a set of resources, while the Ego is the seat of conscious self-awareness; the Self does not have its own separate consciousness the way the Ego does. For me, by defining the Self as something less than Jung’s “self,” it’s easier to describe a variety of psychological phenomena, and it avoids the paradox of something being both the totality and the center. In another sense, however, my concept of the Self is more than Jung’s “self” in that I have more fully differentiated it by specifically describing its four facets (in addition to its four windows of knowing).
The process of healing our psychological woundedness by embracing our subpersonalities. Self-healing utilizes the compassionate perspective of the Self to cultivate acceptance of our subpersonalities. The goal is also to hone our ability to continue functioning from the Self when one of our subpersonalities tries to take over. In this way, we gradually cultivate a mature Ego that can act and speak for our subpersonalities rather than from them.
Elements of our own psyches that are unknown to the Ego and incompatible with the Ego’s beliefs about itself. The Shadow (as I mean it) is not what we know about ourselves, don’t like, and keep hidden; rather, the Shadow is what is true about us that we don’t know — don’t know at all — and, if accused of, would adamantly and sincerely deny. The repression (rendering unconscious) of our characteristics and desires unacceptable or inconceivable to our Ego is one of the ways our psyche tries to keep us safe. (The Shadow corresponds to the West subpersonality.) Shadow characteristics can be either “negative/sinister” (what the Ego would consider morally “beneath” it) or “positive/golden” (what the Ego would consider “above” it and out of reach).
A person or thing’s unique, innate niche in the Earth community. To discover our unique eco-niche, we must go through an initiatory process if and when we are developmentally prepared to do so. We become conscious of our Soul — if we ever do — through metaphor, through poetic or mythic images or patterns that I call mythopoetic identity. For me, Soul is an ecological concept, not a psychological one, and not a spiritual or religious one.
My definition of Soul is distinct from both Carl Jung’s and James Hillman’s. Jung wrote mostly in German, and the German word Seele means both “psyche” and “soul.” But Jung was careful to define both of these English words: “I have been compelled, in my investigations into the structure of the unconscious, to make a conceptual distinction between soul and psyche. By psyche, I understand the totality of all psychic processes, conscious as well as unconscious. By soul, on the other hand, I understand a clearly demarcated functional complex that can best be described as a ‘personality’” (Jung, Psychological Types, def. 48, par. 797). More specifically, Jung used the word soul to refer to the anima.
Hillman, in The Soul’s Code, employs a great variety of terms for something similar or related to what I mean by Soul or mythopoetic identity — including “soul,” “innate image,” “acorn,” “calling,” “character,” “daimon,” “genius,” and “destiny.” It turns out, however, that what he’s referring to, primarily, is an image we access in childhood of what we’ll be doing later in life; for Hillman, this is not mythopoetically identified but rather described in everyday terms of vocation, craft, social role, and so on. Hillman, for example, understood Judy Garland’s acorn or image to be her singing, Thomas Wolfe’s as book writing, and the calling of the famous Spaniard Manolete as bullfighting. So, by “soul,” Hillman is referring to what I would call a delivery system for Soul, not mythopoetic identity and not eco-niche.
A metaphorical image for the psychospiritual terrain of the middle three phases of the Descent to Soul. (See underworld.)
Holding the Soul as most important and the center of individual existence. Contrasts with egocentrism.
An approach that does not interpret dream images or seek meanings or messages from dreams but, rather, ushers the dreamer back into the full experience of the dream so that the dream can do its transformative work on the dreamer’s Ego. Soulcentric dreamwork is divergent from most other contemporary Western methods, which seek to mine the dream, to extract from it information, messages, or guidance for use in the dreamer’s everyday middleworld life; this is the Ego doing its interpretive work on the dream rather than allowing the dream to do its transformative work on the Ego.
A contemporary, Western, and nature-rooted path to the terra mysterium of Soul Initiation. Soulcraft has been shaped and influenced by wilderness rites and writers, the theories and practices of depth- and eco-psychologies, the poetic tradition, perspectives and practices common to current and earlier traditions of animism and Earth-honoring, the lived experiences of thousands of contemporary people, and the wild Earth herself. Soulcraft practices include dreamwork and deep-imagery journeys, solo ceremonies and exercises while wandering on the land, trance dancing and drumming, council work, storytelling, vision fasts, symbolic artwork, soul-oriented poetry, Shadow work, and communicating with birds, trees, the winds, and the land and waters.
Soul Encounter/soul encounter:
When capitalized, this refers to the third and central phase of the Descent to Soul, a phase in which soul encounters occur. Not to be confused with Soul Initiation.[view descent diagram]
When lowercase, soul encounter refers to the vision or revelation itself, an experience of a Soul image, symbol, or story — something numinous or sacred at the very core of a person’s individual life, and which mythopoetically communicates something of their unique, innate ecological niche.
The life passage from the Cocoon (ecocentric late Adolescence) to the Wellspring (early Adulthood), the passage that consummates the journey of soul initiation. This is the moment when our life becomes firmly rooted in the desires of our Soul, when the embodiment of Soul becomes our highest priority.[view stages diagram]
Soul Initiation is not to be confused with either Soul Encounter or soul encounter. Soul Encounter is a phase of the Descent to Soul; a soul encounter is a type of experience; and Soul Initiation is the transition between two specific developmental stages.
The powers that enable us to successfully occupy and embody our unique eco-niche, to take our ultimate place in the world, to manifest our Soul. Soul powers consist of the particular abilities, knowledge, and values that are especially easy for us to develop or acquire and that we’re able to hone to exceptional degrees. We need these powers to fulfill our eco-niche, but having these powers is not the same as having that niche. It’s possible for some other people to have and develop those powers without having that niche. And it’s possible to have that eco-niche (and know it) without yet having honed those powers, the powers necessary to successfully occupy that niche.
The sometimes hidden fragments of our human psyches — such as our Victim, Rebel, Critic, Tyrant, Addict, or Shadow — each of which attempts to protect us from further injury using childhood survival strategies. Also known as our inner protectors, our subs are constellations of feelings, images, and behaviors that operate more or less independently from one another and often independently of our conscious selves (Egos). Subpersonalities form in childhood, with the enduring purpose of protecting us from physical, psychological, and social harm. Often they succeed, but in the process they invariably create a great variety of other problems — for others as well as ourselves. Our subs are the source or instigators of what Western psychology understands to be our psychological symptoms and illnesses.
A three-dimensional Ego — an Ego blessed with some degree of conscious communion and integration with Self, Soul, and Spirit; a mature Ego. It’s “3-D” if you imagine Self as the horizontal plane with its four cardinal directions; Soul as the downward direction; and Spirit as the upward direction.
Not the occurrence of deeply distressing or overwhelming experiences but, rather, what we do within our psyches to protect ourselves — mostly unconsciously — from the psychological, social, and physical impact of those experiences. Our protective measures are specifically our subpersonality survival strategies. The trauma is created and sustained not by the original disturbing experience but by the reactions of our subpersonalities — most often without our awareness of what our subs are up to or why. The primary way we protect ourselves is our Escapists’ (East) strategy of disconnecting us from the affective and somatic dimensions of these experiences (our emotions, body feelings, and gut instincts). We numb out and tune out — the principal symptoms of trauma.
Transpersonal states of consciousness and identity characterized by depth, darkness, demons, the daemon, death and the dead, dreams (the “nightworld”), the subconscious, sacred woundings, Shadow, the unknown or not-yet-known, and visions of personal and cultural destiny; the realm in which the Ego is deepened and matured; the realm of the Soul (until it becomes conscious).
Transpersonal states of consciousness and identity associated with Spirit and characterized by unity (or nonduality), grace, bliss, transcendence, emptiness, light, enlightenment (such as Buddha mind, nirvana, satori, or Self-realization), the celestial realm, and pure awareness (consciousness without an object). During upperworld experiences, consciousness communes with or merges with Spirit, in this way disidentifying from all personal and cultural beliefs, goals, desires, and attachments. Meditation, prayer, contemplation, and yoga are common practices for cultivating a relationship with the upperworld.
A human community, or, better, the human element of the greater Earth community.
An experiential encounter with Soul in which you glimpse some feature of the image you were born with, a revelation of your mythopoetic identity, something that is unique to you — not on the level of personality, social role, or vocation but in the particular way you belong to the Earth community. A vision is your discovery about or your waking up to your particular thread of the dream of the Earth.
The primary archetype of someone in the Cocoon stage; someone in search of Soul.
Early Adulthood, the fifth of eight life stages in the Eco-Soulcentric Developmental Wheel, the stage that follows the passage of Soul Initiation; the period of soul-rooted individuation. The human archetype of this stage is the Apprentice to Soul. The task of this stage is to learn to embody Soul in culture — acquiring and implementing delivery systems (the culture component of the task) for soul qualities (the nature component). The psychospiritual center of gravity is the depths of one’s culture (the embodied mysteries of nature and psyche). Newly initiated Adults dwell at a kind of wellspring, tend to it, apprentice there. Having discovered in the Cocoon the underworld source of their one true life, they now reside where that underground gift surfaces, where it becomes visible and valuable to their people. They abide at the interface between the mysteries and the manifest in order to decipher the manner in which the transformational enigmas emerge into form. In the course of their exploration, they become a wellspring themselves. In apprenticing to Soul, they learn to embody in everyday enterprises subterranean secrets in service to the Earth community.[view stages diagram]
The cultivation of wholeness — all four facets of the Self.
Wild Indigenous One:
The South facet of the Self[view intrapersonal view diagram]
windows of knowing:
Psychologist Eligio Stephen Gallegos’s term for the four modalities or faculties — feeling, imagining, sensing, and thinking — through which we learn about self and world. Each of the four is of equal power and importance in living a balanced and creative life. Each is a distinct faculty not reducible to any of the other three.