Nature and the Human Soul by Bill Plotkin

Nature and the Human Soul discuss the stages of development of humans viewed from the perspective of eco-soulcentric society.  The author tries to present how someone can move from an egocentric standpoint to a soulcentric one, or how to bring up a child to become soulcentric.  He uses his studies of the subject, and experiences of people he knows, as well as incorporating from the different eastern aboriginal cultures.  The author presents his developmental wheel in the hopes of cultivating wholeness and community in a world that seems to be moving away from that.  In my opinion the author failed miserably.

The first chapter of the book was deceiving in that it gave the reader the idea that this book was down to earth.  The author started his chapter with the usual idea that the earth was in jeopardy and that what we do to it as humans is the root cause.  Unlike other writers in the field he does not think that it has to do with science or industrialism but rather that people are not mature and are stuck in an egocentric adolescence.  In this chapter the author lays out his ideas on how to get a more mature earth population and the process by which he developed his wheel of development.  And the premises he is building his theories on.

The author in the second chapter is giving us HIS definitions of the terms he will be using and how he is going to use them.  This was a good idea to stop people from interpreting things from their own definitions and stance and so not getting what he is talking about.

Chapter three is an overview of the developmental wheel.  The chapter includes a brief overview of the four stages of the wheel; it identifies the transition stages and the stages that a mature human should go through.   And this is where the good points of this book stops.

The chapters that follow describe each stage to maturation, and for each stage you are given the tasks that need to be completed, the quadrant that the stage falls in and what is associated with these quadrants, the hemisphere of the circle that the stage falls in, the archetype of the stage, and the quadrant archetype, the gift associated with the stage, the center of gravity for this stage and finally how to move from this stage to the next.

I’ve decided not to recount what each stage is all about instead I want to talk about the problems that I faced with these chapters, and my impressions.  I have five major problems with this book, and to me they are fundamental ones.  The first is that the author is presenting a belief system disguised as a developmental wheel.  The second is that he is drawing on Eastern cultures to form this belief system.  The third is that he seems quite removed from the real world and talking mostly about a Utopia. The fourth is that he is assuming that everyone has a soul gift or soul destiny that has to be reached for them to be mature and that the Universe would not exist if there were no humans to acknowledge the Universe’s existence.  The fifth is that contrary to how he started out the book he ended it by saying that the root cause of all the earth’s problems are the industrial world and the scientific method.

Starting with the first problem, the author keeps referring to the Mystery that will be responsible for deciding when we transition from one stage to another.  To me that sounds a lot like a God that decides when we can do what; being a polytheist that goes against everything that I believe in.  A Mystery does not decide when I have matured or completed a task that allows me to transfer to the next stage I DO.

The second problem that I have is that the author keeps referring to cultures that are not western/European to give us examples of how close these cultures were to nature and how every rite they did was correct.  Every culture has its good side and bad side yet the author seems to be saying that the eastern cultures are the ones that had everything right while the western/European cultures had nothing to offer.  Surely he could have found some ancient culture in Europe or the west that offered a soulcentric example?  He talks about how the African tribes have rites of passage to adulthood, and he conveniently forgets that these tribes also circumcise young girls to signify their passage into adulthood.  These women have to suffer for the rest of their lives because of that.  Are we supposed to think that this is an example of a soulcentric society?  Another example he gives is that the Tawariq tribe in Africa the women when they are nearing their delivery date go out into the wilderness to look for a place to give birth on their own, without the support of their husband or other people, and when they give birth the child is not given to the father but kept with the women until a certain age, is that supposed to signify a soulcentric society?  Where is the father’s right to bond with his child?  And this child, how is it going to be a balanced human if he/she is only allowed to interact with one parent as it is forming its personality??  I believe the author has tunnel vision where the grass on the other side of the fence is greener.  Does our Western/European culture currently have its flaws of course, does that mean at it always had its flaws no.  If the author had taken the time to research he might have found a few examples to base his “developmental” wheel on (I’m sure he would have found a few examples).

Through out most of the book I had to resist the urge to through the book out the window.  There are many ideas in the book that are not very feasible for people who live in the real world to do.  For example, not every one has the choice to go out and live in an rural setting, most people have to work 2 sometimes 3 jobs just to put a roof over their heads, does that mean they are any less capable of being soulcentric, or that they don’t want their children to be so?  Most people won’t even let their children out of the house for fear of them being abducted or killed; does that mean they don’t want their children to be mature and soulcentric? He never once gave an alternative for these people.  What are they supposed to do?  How can they achieve the same goals without having to move to a rural setting?

The author assumes that everyone has a soul gift or destiny.  My question is why? I can understand wanting peace of mind but why would I want to box myself in an image of what I think my soul destiny or gift is?  Isn’t the whole point of being soulcentric is to be free to interact with the universe around you, to shape and be shaped by it?  I see my self as water or sand, taking the shape of the container I am in and interacting with it, and when that container changes so will my shape and form of interaction.  This is what I see being soulcentric is all about.  Then of course there is the author’s idea that the Universe would not exist if the humans did not perceive it.  How arrogant is that?  The Universe was there long before we were, and it will probably be there after we are gone (if we don’t destroy it with our arrogance first.)

The book just had to end with the idea that science and the scientific method has taken away all our awe of the Universe and hence our connection to it.  I happen to strongly disagree with that.  Science and the scientific method is a way to see just how awe inspiring the Universe is.  When you see how something works it makes you understand just how complex this Universe and everything in it is.  It humbles and inspires you.  Of course I won’t deny that we have become removed from nature and are no longer really connected with it, and I will lay SOME of the blame on the industrialization going on, but the real responsibility lays within us.  A murderer, kills using a knife, does that mean we blame the knife, or the person holding it and using it to kill?

The author did have a lot of good ideas, unfortunately as soon as he gave one he negated its effect with all the drivel he said after it.  I was looking at this book for implementation with Celtic spirituality.  Unfortunately for me I found nothing there that would help.   As I read the book, I asked myself where on his developmental wheel did I fall, in the end I had to come to the conclusion that I was no where, I do not agree with the original theories that gave birth to this wheel, and so I can not see myself anywhere in it.


2 thoughts on “Nature and the Human Soul by Bill Plotkin

  1. Willowwind says:

    Check out cell biologist Ursala Goodenough’s The Sacred Depths of Nature for a rebuttal of the idea that science and the scientific method have taken all the sense of awe out of our perception of the Universe. Lovely book.

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