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You are here: Home Resources E-Newsletter Archive Summer 2008, Issue I Eco-Centric Individuation

Eco-Centric Individuation

Review of Bill Plotkin's Nature and the Human Soul by Journeys Board Member Randy Morris, Ph.D.

To individuate is a subversive act. It requires a person to move against their habitual ego notions about how things are and to reject many of the accepted norms of their culture.  Individuation is made more difficult in a time of what Jung called kairos, a time of the “changing of the gods”, a time when the worldview of a culture is itself undergoing a rite of passage. In such times, when the myths of our culture are not adequate to lead us into a new way of being, and new myths are not yet here, we have to return to what Thomas Berry called ‘genetic guidance’, the spontaneously creative and mysterious impulses of the world unconscious that originate in the same instincts through which the earth came into being. In short, we have to return to nature. But where can we find guidance that is not itself coming out of the old Cartesian, nature-phobic fantasy that is the problem? To read a text on individuation that is not grounded in such assumptions requires that the author be ‘cured’ of the disease of Cartesianism and have enough of the Bodhisattva in them to want to share their insights in a labor of love, a book. I am pleased to report that Bill Plotkin’s second book, Nature and the Human Soul:  Cultivating Wholeness and Community in a Fragmented World, fits this bill.

Nature and the Human Soul begins with the idea that humanity is engaged in the process of the Great Turning, the move from an ego-centric industrial growth model of civilization to an eco-centric earth community model that is sustainable into the future.  The question is then asked, “What does it mean to become fully human in an eco-centric world?” At a time when most therapeutic models are about coping with the dire consequences of our current circumstances, this is an especially generative question, one that is filled with hope for the future. To answer this question fully, Bill Plotkin dives deeply into the structure of the medicine wheel, the wheel of life, to create one of the most innovative and healing imaginations of the process of individuation that I have ever read. What brings this model to life is Plotkin’s 25 years of experience as a depth psychologist, wilderness guide and eco-therapist, leading individuals into the wild to seek their destiny. The abstractions of life-span stage theory are given pulse and beauty through the heart-rending and soul-stirring stories of the individuals whose experiences illuminate the phases of the wheel of life. More than just another developmental theory, Nature and the Human Soul has the potential to be a foundation stone in the New Myth that we so desperately seek. 

Bill Plotkin will be coming to the Seattle Jung Society on May 2nd and 3rd to discuss his new book. He will also be conducting a “Soulcraft Intensive” (based on his earlier book, Soulcraft:  Crossing into the Mysteries of Nature and Psyche) at Chinook Learning Center on April 26-30. For more information, and to see the kind of work his organization is doing, check out his website at 


-- Randy Morris, Ph.D.

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