Soulcraft Musings Inaugural Introduction

Today, January 20, 2017, we inaugurate Soulcraft Musings, a new offering from Animas Valley Institute (see below). This is the same day America inaugurates a new president, a cultural upheaval currently mobilizing thousands of response teams worldwide. On this day we commence our humble project of Soulcraft Musings in support of the deepening, diversification, and flourishing of all life. At this time in the world, may we all inaugurate actions and projects that collectively give birth to a life-enhancing society.

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The journey of descent to soul has largely been forgotten in mainstream culture, but there is nothing more essential in the world today. The experiential encounter with soul is the key element in the initiatory journey that culminates in true adulthood. And true adults — visionary artisans — are the generators of the most creative and effective actions in defense of all life and in the renaissance and evolution of generative human cultures.

The encounter with soul is not a weekend workshop but an unfolding journey over many months or years. Harvesting its fruit and feeding the world with its bounty plays out over the rest of one’s life. Every day holds opportunities for each of us to prepare for the journey to the underworld of soul, or, once we have embarked upon the journey, to take our next steps, or to gather its mystical treasures and hone them into practical shapes, or to fashion never-before-seen delivery systems for carrying these gifts to the Earth community.

We, at Animas Valley Institute, would like to gift you with this weekly email of trail markers (cairns) on the journey to soul. These Soulcraft Musings, although each only a couple minutes of reading, will be, we trust, valuable guidelines and support on your journey. Each includes references for further reading, study, and practice. And each features a resonant image and poem.

The central theme that ties together all the Musings is, of course, soul and the human encounter with soul. But even the original depth meaning of the word soul has been lost to the modern mind. What we at Animas mean when we speak or write about soul is not what you’ll find in contemporary religious, spiritual, philosophical, or psychological traditions or in everyday conversation. We’ll explore these and many other fundamentals and principles in Soulcraft Musings.

If you’re already on our list, you’ll receive an email with a Soulcraft Musing once a week. If you’re not on our list and would like to subscribe, please click here.

And please feel free to share Soulcraft Musings widely with friends, family, and colleagues.

In wildness and wonder,

Bill Plotkin


Animas Valley Institute


Two Realms of Spirituality: Ascent and Descent
This is the second part of a ten-part Musing (one per week)

Friday, February 16, 2018

For me, spirituality is the realm of human development that takes us beyond the personal and interpersonal and into the transpersonal — which is to say, beyond the ego, beyond, that is, the commonplace world of our everyday lives — and into greater and more mysterious realms, into the ultimate and core realities of existence. The purpose of spirituality as I understand it is not primarily to benefit the ego, the individual self, but rather to reshape and mature the ego so that it can be of greater benefit to the world.

But there are actually two realms, or domains, of the transpersonal, and the vast majority of contemporary spiritual practices access only one. The two realms might be referred to as those of spirit or God on the one hand, and of soul on the other.

The first realm of spirituality turns upward toward the light, helps us transcend our ego’s insistence that the world be just a certain way and not any other; helps us dis-identify from the commotion of the strategic mind, so we can reclaim the inner quiet, peace, and bliss of our true nature; and assists us in cultivating a capacity to be fully present in the moment and one with all creation.

But the second realm of spirituality leads not upward to God, but downward toward the sacred center of our psyches, our souls. This journey of spiritual descent enables us to discover where and how to make our unique, individual stand in life. On this half of the spiritual journey, we don’t rise toward heaven, but fall toward the center of our longing. Although more ancient than the journey of ascent and equally sacred, this second spiritual realm is unknown to most contemporary people, even to many students and practitioners of depth psychology.

In many older traditions around the world, these two realms are referred to as the upperworld and the underworld. It is this second realm, the underworld of soul that has been almost entirely neglected in the familiar spiritual traditions of both the West and the East. These two realms of spirituality are not different ways to arrive at the same place; their destinations (Spirit and soul), although complementary, are entirely distinct.

To fully explain this, I’ll need to be very clear about what I mean by “soul” — it’s not what you think! — which I’ll do in next week’s Musing.

To read part one, click here