"A soul, a soul, a soul cake,
please good mistress, a soul cake"
please good mistress, a soul cake"
I woke up at 4 am singing this song, and wonder why it just keeps replaying in my head. 4 am is an honest, if dreary hour. So, if dreams and discovering oneself singing weird songs are postcards from the unconscious, I have to ask the morning - what's a "soul cake"? And as I get caffeinated, the answer pops into my mind: soul cakes are real nourishment. Food for the soul that is authentic, food that sustains the spirit, found in nature and often in solitude. Or, in company, from generosity and mirth, from genuine warmth that offers a place at the hearth and a plate at the table.
As I write this, I think of the contemporary word "authenticity", which I've been hearing a lot lately. Authenticity, like "natural", has become a buzz word, and any word that becomes a buzz word in our "brand" conscious, consumer culture bothers me. I'm a natural born contrary, so I feel obliged when encountering buzz words to find alternatives that are not used to sell glitzy workshops or "natural" cosmetics in expensive plastic jars that will take hundreds of years to biodegrade.
But what other word is there to apply? Integrity? Passion? Honesty? Not quite.....what is meant when people talk about "authenticity" is, I think, a truly curious and contemporary concept, something unique to the peculiar time we live in. It means something "real" to be found in the dark forest of cyberspace and Walmart. Something digestible in a chemical feast of processed foods. Something that is not pre-fab, plastic, virtual reality, "reality show". Something that does not keep replicating because an anonymous hand pushed a button somewhere.
The quest for this kind of "authenticity" is something that did not exist in the not-too-distant past.
As I pursue this idea of a kind of essential authenticity, I wonder where "it" can be found within my own human psyche. I cannot say this quality is ultimately found in what I believe. We place great value on belief and faith, and belief and faith provide a backbone with which to stand and take a stand. But from a pragmatic point of view, a belief system is a habitual system of thought that enables one to organize their world, collectively as well as individually. Belief systems are mutable. I don't think "authentic" has to do with ethics either, although living with integrity does. And I know "authenticity" can become entirely lost in the towering abstractions of ideas. I suspect being authentic isn't even about emotions - any one who has ever sat with aching legs doing Vipassana meditation knows that emotions come and go, as impermanent and conditional as the breath.
"The brain isn't just in our heads. The brain is the entire body, which includes the aura, the etheric networks that exist between us and all life. Whether we're talking about a forest or another person, the abstract/cognitive removes us from that experience of communion, the ability to sense what is going on. Abstractions become what is going on. We can objectify at the drop of a hat. We have no problem making an object of anyone or anything. "Children are authentic, because they respond to their environment directly. A child experiences, without any filters, the love of Mom and Dad, and the waves of familial pain, denial, and suffering as well. Every impression is left in the psyche of a child to form, like an onion, layers of personae. Taking the masks off later, if they no longer serve us as adults, if the maturation process demands it.......... that can be hard to do.
Rafael Montanez Ortiz (in a 1989 interview with the author)
So, perhaps the "authentic" I'm trying to describe here ultimately has to do with instinct. I might define instinct as being in tune with a fundamental survive-able/thrive-able/alive-able force, along with every other living being on our living planet. The will to en-joy, to take in the life force and participate with it. As I write this, I remember stories of what Clarisa Pinkola Estes called "instinct injured women" in her famous book, "Women Who Run With the Wolves." As she pointed out, there are many, many life denying themes of sacrifice, masochism, and surrender of self that are handed out to women, mythologies and belief systems that are destructive to the fundamental will to live.
"Instinct injured" includes men, and the collective psyches of cultures as well. How else could we be evolving a world civilization that is reaching the point of unsustainablity? How else can we evolve philosophies and religions that reject the immanent sanctity of world as "illusion", that seek martyrdom or salvation in some imagined "paradise". How else can we evolve economic systems that are founded upon unrestricted consumption of resources and unrestrained growth? How else can we be, as John Steele wrote in his 1989 book Earthmind (with Paul Devereaux and David Kubrin) , "geomantic amnesiacs"?
I think, in seeking my own "soul cakes", deep nourishment, I seek something many others also seek, something that has to be reclaimed deep within the roots. An instinctual theology, if such an idea is not a paradox.
"Carl Jung, one of the founders of modern psychology and dream analysis, used to say that we all drink from the same source. To explain this concept, he developed a theory whose origin can be found in the work of the ancient alchemists, who named this source the “soul of the world” (Anima Mundi). According to this theory, we always try to be independent individuals, but part of our universal memory is the same."
Paulo Coelho, "Warrior of the Light"