How can you become whole and wild while helping the life community to do the same?

My guest in this week’s episode, Bill Plotkin, Ph.D., is a depth psychologist, wilderness guide, and agent of cultural evolution. As founder of western Colorado’s Animas Valley Institute in 1981, he has guided thousands of seekers through nature-based initiatory passages, including a contemporary, Western adaptation of the pan-cultural vision quest. He has been a research psychologist, professor of psychology, psychotherapist, rock musician, and whitewater river guide. Bill is the author of Soulcraft: Crossing into the Mysteries of Nature and Psyche; Nature and the Human Soul: Cultivating Wholeness and Community in a Fragmented World; Wild Mind: A Field Guide to the Human Psyche; and The Journey of Soul Initiation: A Field Guide for Visionaries, Evolutionaries, and Revolutionaries just published in January of 2021. Find him at

The premise of Bill’s new book, The Journey of Soul Initiation, is that the root cause of our human and ecological problems is failure of individual development. Our aim, he believes, is to develop so that we may be life-enhancing for Earth and ourselves.

Hear Bill discuss:


  • Soul initiation: a life passage most people long for but do not reach because our cultures don’t support this much maturation. It is an initiatory process into true adulthood, where one lives one’s real purpose of contribution to the life community. It is the adventure of wholeness and authenticity we all yearn for.
  • Soul: he defines it as an ecological concept—”the soul of a thing is its unique ecological niche.”
  • Foundational steps to soul initiation include recognizing which life stage you are in: early adolescence, late adolescence, adult, or elder.
  • How a society that encourages soul initiation and contribution to the life community will support people on this journey. Bill defines how childrearing, education, and religious and business institutions can shift as a society learns to promote the whole human development process into the soul initiation, true adult, and true elder phases.
  • The role of true elders is to ensure that the relationship between the human community and the larger Earth community is a good one, and to support the soul initiations of people emerging from early adolescence to give their gifts to the world.
  • “A healthy ego is one that is life-serving—this is who we are” until it’s suppressed. Healthy cultures raise people who want to contribute to the community. The ego is good at planning and is meant to be in service to the soul, which provides the vision. Soul initiation involves the right relationship between ego and soul.