I have found a new guidebook in my personal development. I had been growing increasingly disillusioned with earlier texts such as RAW's Prometheus Rising, which still has its virtues but really only goes so far in addressing the issues at hand, dealing primarily with one particular layer of Self--the mind. In Nature and the Human Soul, I have discovered a system for personal growth that is much more focused on interrelationships not only with other humans, but with other living beings, the Earth as a whole organism, and even the entire Universe. While thinking and mental processes are addressed, they are balanced out with other aspects of Self, such as emotions and imagination. More importantly, the text focuses on the concept of the soul, not as a ghostly thing that flies to Heaven after you die to sit on a cloud with a harp and halo, but as the Higher Self that is intricately connected to Everything Else, not just whatever the ego wants. It is the Great Work without the egocentrism that is all too common in occultism.

Plotkin offers up a model of human development through a complex, yet easy to understand and intuit, set of eight life stages. The interplay among these stages is further elaborated as the halves and quarters of the Wheel, as Plotkin terms his system, are shown in relationship to each other, and their respective stages as well. Through the turning of the Wheel, Plotkin helps to guide people from childhood, to adolescence (where most people in postindustrial societies are permanently stuck, regardless of age), then into true adulthood (not what you'd expect at all!) and finally elderhood (again, not what people in a primarily adolescent, egocentric society assume).

There are certain tasks associated with each stage which help the reader not only to determine where s/he may be developmentally, but also offer ways to continue growing, no matter hir age. Passage from one stage to another is not determined by age, but by intuition--the spiritual center of gravity. Rites of passage are also discussed, and the author has spent years leading people in personal vision quests in the deserts of Arizona.

This is one of those books that's about magic without being overtly magical. Based in ecopsychology and depth psychology, the text allows a good balance between Western psychology, and more holistic (but never fluffy) spiritual, intuitive practices. In short, it's an excellent guidebook for any pagan or other magical folk who wants to work with psychology in their self-healing (or healing of others) but gets tired of a completely mind-focused approach. Plotkin may not call himself a shaman, but that's essentially what he is.

If you're looking for an advanced pagan or shamanic book, this is it. If you want to heal not only yourself but contribute to a healthier world, community, etc., this is an excellent guide.

~review by Lupa
Author: Bill Plotkin
New World Library, 2007
528 pages