One of the great discoveries this summer was Bill Plotkin’s book Nature and the Human Soul. Building on previous psychologist’s work around stages of human development, Plotkin offers a model linked with the natural world of seasons, directions, cycles, growth and diminishment. In his model, each stage has a cultural and nature task, a gift, and a center of gravity. Each quadrant and hemisphere also has unique qualities. For example, Early Childhood and Late Elderhood are both in the East quadrant, with a focus on Spirit, being (rather than doing), and presence. The South hemisphere, the first half of life, is focused more on the individual, while the North hemisphere, the second half of life, is focused on the collective. Each passage between stages also has its unique features, which Plotkin clarifies is frequently a years-long process.
I’m a bit skeptical of a stages approach to human maturity, but appreciate that this is neither linear nor hierarchical. In Plotkin’s analysis, US culture has a strong pull toward Early Adolescence, which as Stage 3 of 8 is a problem if the majority of folks of any age get stuck there.
Plotkin contrasts this Soul-centric or Eco-centric model with our more typical ego-centric model.
From p. 71, Nature and the Human Soul, by Bill Plotkin
Note, for example, that rather than the numbering going up to 8, it gets stuck on Stage 3 which goes up to 3F. As vitally important as ego-development is, a person or culture that does not expand beyond this has no room for the gifts of late elderhood. Life simply ends in failure since we can eventually no longer do the things an egocentric society deems valuable.
My interest is not in a spiritual maturity competition, but rather how each phase of life offers new and unique opportunities to go deeper into our soulwork and serve the common good.
If you have more interest in the first model you can read a blog by Bill Plotkin about it HERE
Or just buy the (big) book in which he dedicates a full chapter to each stage.