Soul and soul purpose
The term 'soul' gets bounced around to mean all manner of things. When we talk about soul we are referring to the unique place and purpose that each and every one of us inhabits in the world. Oursoul purpose then can be seen as our very own particular ecological niche within the entangled golden web of life.
Soul purpose refers to what we were born into this lifetime to be and do, so as to be most in service to all beings - in sacred and reciprocal relationship with the whole earth community.
If our soul purpose refers to the unique gifts we were born to cultivate, craft and share, Soulcraft is the myriad ways (practices, approaches, ways of being) that support us to craft ourselves so as to become most able to live as our unique soul purpose, and thereby be most in service to all beings.
Soulcraft is an ongoing conversation, a dance no less, with Mystery/God/the Creator/Creatirix. Having received Mystery’s beckoning call, soulcraft practices support us to dive deep down into the underworld to harvest and alchemise the rich treasures that mysterious domain of the unknown has to offer us, and the middle world we continually return to.
The term soulcraft was coined by Bill Plotkin, whose first book is of this name. Bill's sense is that soulcraft practices fall into three main categories, all of which are what we would call approaches to inner-led change:
- Practices for leaving home /becoming an emotionally healthy adult
- Pathways to soul encounter
- Cultivating a soulful relationship with life
For more on this we highly recommend reading Soulcraft: crossing into the mysteries of nature and psyche by Bill Plotkin.
Check out our resources section for examples and to connect with pracitioners and organisations offering this support.
Bill Plotkin is founder of Animas Vally Institute, which we will refer to as Animas from now on. We highly recommend checking out their programmes.
Healing and wholing
Soulcraft both begins with and is grounded in what we are calling inner-led change - and which Bill calls healing and 'wholing'. Animas' soulcraft work places an important emphasis on the fact that us humans were each born with inherent wholeness - a 360 degree kaleidoscopic relationship with the world. And that within this we were each endowed with a cacophony of innate inner resources that support psychological wellness. Contrary to the emphasis so much of the world puts on our wounding, a 'wholing' approach places the emphasis on cultivating what Bill calls our four facets of Self or of human wholeness. Soulcraft prioritises practices and aproaches our reclaiming of these inherent human strengths, capalities and sensibilities.
Four facets of human wholeness
North - the nurturing generative adult
This is something like our inner-parent, the one in us that is emotionally grounded enough to take care of our young wounded parts - the exiled and frightened ones who experience themselves as victims. It is also the one in us who is a collaborative leader - who has developed the relational skills to work well with others and who has honed a diversity of 'ways of knowing' so that our leadership is sourced from our thinking, feeling, sensing, deep imagining and intuiting, in reciprocal relationship with the whole earth community. It is the one in us that feels a deep commitment towards compassion, forgiveness and living more and more towards unconditional love.
The nurturing generative adult is the gateway to our rescuer and our people pleaser (the one that wants to rescue and please people in our fear of otherwise feeling the pain of being rejected). It is also the gateway to our inner tyrannt/persecutor/oppressor (the one who is conditioned into acting out our power-over model of relating - both in relation to others and ourselves (known as the inner critic). It is also home to our army of loyal soldiers. These are the parts of us who are intent on keeping us safe through a range of 'survival strategies' they developed when we were young - and which as adults are often at the heart of behaviors that keep us small, prevent intimacy and more generally inhibit our inherent transformative power.
As we cultivate more of these four facets of wholeness these loyal soldiers start to become willing to reflect on whether their strategies are actually still needed and helpful now that we are emotionally healthy adults.
East - the Innocent /Sage
This is the one in us that has cultivated enough embodied safety in their system to exeperience a quiet mind and be deeply present to what is happening in each moment by sourcing from both the 'beginners eyes' of an innocent new born baby, and the sage-like wisdom and breadth of horizon that comes from having lived a full, embodied and examined life.
This aspect of us is most connected with the divine and spirit realm and is most concerned with leading us up into the upper non-dual realms of pure consciousness, beyond distinctions and strivings. It is the part of us that can connect with life's inherent emptiness - from where the messy, embodied everythingness is sourced.
Our innocent/sage is the gateway to our inner escapists - those addictive and escapist parts of us that find any number of ingenius ways to avoid feeling the pain of the world. The underbelly of our inner escapist is the dissociative state that comes from trauma, which then latches on to anything from food, alcohol or other substance addiction through to spiritual bypassing, consumerism or simply getting lost in our thoughts, stories or screens.
South - the wild indigenous one
This is the one in us that is deeply immersed and in connection with our embodied self and all the emotions, feelings and sensations that accompany that. This one 'lets the soft animal of their body love what it loves' in wild and ecstacic pleasure and play and ever deepening reciprocal relationship with and as the indigeneity of wherever it is they currently call home. It is this one that holds the key to our sense of belonging in sensuous and polymorphous erotic communion with the whole earth community.
Our wild indigenous one is also the gateway to revealing and lovingly relating with our young wounded, exiled and orphaned ones. Our inner victims - the ones who are in so much pain, grief, sorrow and sadness.
West - the muse beloved
This part of us that longs for the depths of myth and the underworld. The enchantress in us who knows how to court and romance everything and eveyone. It is our inner poet and storyteller whose words are whispered from the depths of the rich textures emanating from the underworld mysteries.
The dark muse beloved is also the gateway to our shadow selves and to the transformation and alchemy that unravels when we reveal and relate with both our golden and sinister shadow energies, parts and selves.
Soulcraft practices continue and deepen this wholing process, introducing and integrating new and multiple dimensions to what it is to be alive and human in these times.
For an in depth dive into cultivating these four facets of wholeness have a read of Wild Mind: a field guide to the human psyche, by Bill Plotkin.
What is the world longing for through us?
Soulcraft refers to the practices needed for for the deep cultural transformation our world is longing for through us. It blows open our perception of experience and ways of knowing and being, it renders the impossible possible, through the process of strengthening our muscles to welcome and dance in and with the unknown, with and as emergence.
Soulcraft deepens our trust in life, whilst blowing apart and bringing us to our knees in the face of any notions of, and blindspots around, entitlement that we may be unknowingly inserting into our notion of what it is we trust life to manifest and look like. Soulcraft more and more liberates us from the stranglehold not just of our ego but of the superego and the superego’s ego!
Soulcraft practices open our taste buds to the inherent sweetness of life - and not without a commensurate opening to it’s sourness, its darkness. Soulcraft is no more interested in letting the light get in than it is in blocking it out and allowing death to declare itself in life’s inherent emptiness. Soulcraft prepares the ground for us to be able to birth the exquisite beauty inherent within life’s every-thing-ness by crafting our being to tolerate the death and darkness of no-thing-ness. And through this divined marriage of dark and light some-thing else is continually birthed rendering reality as the perennial life-death life cycle.
Soulcraft blows apart our middle world limitations as part of the time-space continuum. In opening our whole-beings to soulcrafting we surrender to that which Mind is incapable of fathoming. Soulcraft serves both that which the world is longing for through us, and that which is unfathomable to Mind, leaving us pregnant with possibilty and forever gently poised to receive the unexpected gifts generously presented by the unknown.
Re-sourcing in our turbulent times
Soulcraft equips us to open to our grief of what it is to be alive in these times when species extinction is well and truly upon us and the continuation of our own species now appears to lie in the balance. And it so too equips us to hold and live as the creative tension that arises in opening to and holding the possibility of near-term societal collapse and extinction of the human-species, alongside an active and radical hope that as more and more to us learn to open to and dance with Mystery and learn the infinite, non-linear, unpredictable, wild and fancy-free steps of soulcrafting, the future of our species may just be as bright and radiant as the Love that each and every one of us shines as in each moment. And it is from this place of undeniable Love that soulcraft more and more supports us to creatively and transformatively respond to this epic creative tension of our times.
The journey of soul initiation
Once we have done what is needed to cultivate enough of these four facets of wholeness, its seems to be that we become 'whole enough' to be ready for the journey of soul initiation. This is a process whereby our soul reveals its unique purpose to us through the realm of the imaginal in deep imagery, visions, messages and stories. This journey of soul initiation seems to take anything from several months to several years.
Up until this point our ego has been operating in service of soul. Believe it or not, this is what explains all the deeply challenging and excrutiating experiences you have had so far. This was your soul providing you with just the experiences you needed to mature into an emotionally healthy and 'whole enough' adult, ready for soul initation.
Another way of saying this is that soul initiation is the process whereby our individual self dies to our adolescent ego and the old life in which this ego-self was necessary, but now hinders inner-led change and maturation.
For more on this check out The journey of Soul Initiation: a field guide for visionaries, evolutionaries and revolutionaries by Bill Plotkin.
To find out about programmes and mentors supporting healing and wholing and soul initiation work check out Animas Valley Institute.