Warning #2: This book describes a journey that very few in contemporary western society will take. Even less will know the journey is even possible. Hence, once you embark upon this journey you will find very few fellow travellers with whom to share the pleasures, and pitfalls, of this journey.
Warning #3: This is not a book (let alone a journey) for the faint-hearted. Acting upon what you read in this book will involve your death. Not your physical death, but certainly the death of who you were – or thought you were. The life you have created for yourself will die. What will emerge is the life you were born to live into.
A corollary of all three of these warnings is a recommendation that some prior reading of Bill Plotkin may be useful. Especially recommended is his 2013 book Wild Mind2 - his guide to the wholesome Self. Plotkin himself recommends ensuring a wholesome Self before setting out on the journey to Soul.
Plotkin understands Soul to be our deepest identity. Soul is our unique eco-psychological niche – our place in the world. This is not our job or vocation. It is not even our role in society. Our Soul’s purpose is to seek to serve the world (human and non-human) rather than to simply live in the world.
The journey, as Plotkin describes it, towards initiating our Soul, is not an easy, nor quick one. Nor is it the same journey for each traveller. Plotkin illustrates the variety of journeys possible by telling the stories of the journeys of several people. Three of these are reasonably well known to most of us: Carl Jung, Joanna Macy, and William Butler Yeats. Some made that journey with guides, others – such as Jung – had to undertake their journey without guides and without even a map. At times Jung (for example) thought he was losing his mind.
Yes, this book may describe a personal transformation journey (Plotkin uses the metaphor of a caterpillar becoming a chrysalis becoming a butterfly), yet it is so much more. In a world seemingly headed for environmental and social collapse, the need for soul-centric Adults and Elders has perhaps never been greater.
The lack of such Soul-infused Adults and Elders means there are few guides in the descent to Soul. Consequently, most adolescents in todays world remain trapped in adolescence, even though they may move chronologically into older age groups. Plotkin contends that we now live in a patho-adolescent world and most inhabitants of our world display patho-adolescent behaviours and attitudes. Very few transition to true Adulthood and thence to true Elderhood.
It sounds (and reads) like a vicious circle. A merry-go-round that we cannot get off.
Plotkin is an optimist however. The cycle can be broken. This book of his, if acted upon, is a cycle-breaker.
P.S. Last weeks Book Review was of a book outlining the dangers of our present western-styled lifestyle. This weeks Book Review is of a book outlining a journey that, if we took it, would greatly assist in moving away from that destructive lifestyle.
1. Bill Plotkin, The Journey of Soul Initiation: A field guide for visionaries, evolutionaries, and revolutionaries, New World Library, Novato, California, 2021.
2. Bill Plotkin, Wild Mind: A Field guide to the Human Psyche, New World Library, Novato, California, 2013.