Nature and the Human Soul

Nature and the Human SoulNature and the Human Soul

Nature and the Human Soul: Cultivating Wholeness and Community in a Fragmented World is a book written by eco-therapist and Animas Valley Institute founder  Bill Plotkin, PhD. The book was written for therapists, psychology students and avid followers of eco-therapy.

Plotkin explores the world of human development in relation to ecopsychology. The book borrows concepts from depth psychology, ecology, social activism and Eastern spiritualities. In his book, Plotkin outlines the eight stages of human eco-soulcentric development, the characteristics of each stage and how to proceed from one stage to another naturally. At first, the names he attached to the different stages might be a little off-putting. Names like “ The Apprentice at the Wellspring” and “The Wanderer in the Cocoon” might seem confusing and won’t give you an idea of what each stage entails, but after reading about each stage thoroughly, it’s easy to understand.

According to Plotkin, if we successfully go through the different stages and let nature guide us to it, we will eventually achieve a state of maturity that we’ve never known before. Unfortunately, Plotkin says that though people grow to full adulthood physically, their soul is stuck in perpetual adolescence, as evidence by our destructive behavior and vulnerability to addictions. Plotkin calls this stage the “Industrial Growth Society”.

The adolescent stage of human eco-soulcentric development, which is where most people are, explains the wide popularity of consumerism. People live to consume and consume, without any regard for what is wasted, especially the environment. People are conditioned to use to their own benefits – they use gadgets, natural resources, other creatures and even other people for their own advancement. We live in a world where purchasing power is considered the most important power, and the value of a person is dictated by the size of their bank account. Money is more important than values and people, and everyone this concept of entitlement where it’s ‘me first before others’.

Plotkin’s main worry is that this superficial world conditions humans into this way of thinking from the time they’re young. With people growing up and accepting this environment, the world may run out of ensouled elders that will guide others to look past this materialistic existence and seek nature to nurture their substance-starved souls. The book as a guide for people who want to progress with their soul’s maturity as well as guide other people to their true purpose in life.

To do this, Plotkin introduces some controversial therapy that may seem contradictory to present psychology practices. According to Plotkin, most therapists would cure their patient’s wounds, sometime employing the help of medication, and then send them back into the same destructive world that is disconnected from nature. Plotkin proposes that instead of trying to remove the wound or making the patient forget their wounds, they should allow their patients to bask in their wounds. Instead of tuning out the demons inside their head, patients should face them head on.

According to Plotkin, a journey deep into one’s own psyche to fully comprehend the source and implications of one’s wounds and experience them fully. Plotkin believes that all wounds carry with it hidden opportunities and lessons that will be wasted with current therapy methods. This is a vital component to our soul maturity. Plotkin envisions that if people paid more attention to their soul’s development, eventually we will live in a society that is cooperative, compassionate and self-sustaining.

While the book contains a lot of ideas that may be hard to stomach, the delivery makes it believable. The book contains a lot of personal stories and examples that fully explain each new term and concept the Plotkin introduces. It certainly makes for great classroom discourse and it gives humankind some hope that we can transcend to something better if we go past the materialistic and superficial world we live in.

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