Binding and Loosening
Does consciousness have a structure?
Consciousness itself has no structure or form. It is polymorphous. To say it is polymorphous is essentially to say it is formless, because only something that is essentially formless (hence undefinable in any determinate and fixed way) can be polymorphous. This is the essential import of Rumi’s poem I once cited in The Dark Age Blog,
“I am the morning mist,
and the breathing of evening.
I am the wind in the top of the grove,
and surf on the cliff.
Mast, rudder, helmsman and keel,
I am also the coral reef they founder on….
Both candle and the moth
crazy around it…
I am all orders of being,
the circling galaxy,
the evolutionary intelligence,
the lift and the falling away.
What is and what isn’t…”
This “I” here is not Rumi’s “I” of the human person. It is the consciousness itself speaking, which is nonetheless also Rumi’s consciousness and Rumi’s “I”. They are indivisible. This “I” is what Carl Jung would call “The Self” as opposed to the Ego. The ego nature, which is Rumi’s person, is itself only one form that the consciousness can and does take, and which we call the human mold or the human archetype. Thus where Rumi writes of this “I” of consciousness being “what is and what isn’t…” it is because consciousness is essentially formlessness, but in being formlessness can express and experience itself as any and all forms (the polymorphic). The phrase “what is and what isn’t…” pertains to the formal and the informal respectively, or the actual and the potential, respectively. This is the basis for “shape-shifting” in shamanism or the polymorphous nature of the gods in mythology.
There are many, many passages in Rumi about this essential structureless but simultaneously polymorphous nature of consciousness. The structurelessness state of consciousness is called “non-existence”, as in the following poem:
Become More by Dying
O my noble friends, slaughter this cow,
if you wish to raise up the spirit of insight.
I died to being mineral and was transformed.
I died to vegetable growth
and attained to the state of the animals.
I died from animality and became Adam:
why then should I fear?
When have I become less by dying?
Next I shall die to being a human being,
so that I may soar and lift my head among
Yet I must escape even from that angelic
everything is perishing except His Face.
Once again I shall be sacrificed, dying to the
I shall become that which could never be
I shall become nonexistent.
Nonexistence sings its clear melody,
Truly, unto Him shall we return.
It might seem that “nonexistent” is the most undesirable state possible, unless you understand what Rumi is saying here. To become non-existent is to become formless, and therefore realise consciousness as being infinite and eternal (formless and timeless or beyond time and space). Being “nonexistent” therefore means that this consciousness can manifest as any form it chooses to become. Again, in this poem, the “I” is not the egoic “I” of Rumi, but the pure voice of consciousness or awareness itself. In our human terms, to become formlessly aware or as “pure awareness” is to shed the human form, or what is hinted at also in the term “anthropocentric attitude” (which is a variant of narcissism). This process is called “binding and loosening”, and pertains to the formal and informal. As such, what is called “The Great Nothingness” or the Void, the Nihil, etc doesn’t really exist except as the fullness of potentiality, and which Rumi here calls the non-existent or non-being.
The power of binding and loosening, which is the modus of this “I” of consciousness, is represented by Rumi in another poem called “Nobody” which is worth citing,
says it correctly.
What is Paradise
but nothingness ?
The religion and doctrine of Lovers is
Or again from Rumi, where “birth” is the binding to form, and death is the loosening away from the form.
Your non-existence before you were born
is the sky in the east.
Your death is the western horizon,
with you here between.
The way leads neither east nor west,
Remarkable stuff, really.
When I was an undergraduate student at university, I was frustrated with sociological studies and really didn’t know why. Later I understood that my frustration with sociology was largely due to the omission of consciousness from the study of society. Society was conceived as a kind of great public machine, while consciousness was treated as a private matter and as tabula rasa or terra nullius. This is impossible because society is the formal structure in spacetime of a common structure (really, a structuration) of consciousness. Any society or civilisation is the formal, symbolic expression of a consciousness structure and in that sense, always comes into being as an experiment in formalising (or conventionalising or ritualising) consciousness itself. Historical eras, which are societies and civilisations, are articulations of a consciousness structure over time, which we call “the formal”. It is the act of binding consciousness to form that results in “institutions” and “conventions”, rites and customs. The decline of historical eras and civilisational types into “informality” (so to speak) is the loosening away. This almost playful, creative, experimental binding to form and loosening away from form is what we call genesis and nihilism, or the rise and fall of eras.
A consciousness structure, then, is its formal expression in institution and convention, which is the act of binding to form. The formal expression of a consciousness structure is the formal process of institution.
So, it is licit to speak of a “consciousness structure” even though consciousness really has no extensible structure or form itself. In this sense (when speaking of social institutions) we can speak of the formal and informal aspects of society as the binding and loosening of consciousness to and away from form (or the “phenomena”).
At present, there is quite a bit of “loosening away”, which is the process “formally” known today as “deconstruction”.
And while we are on the subject of form and the phenomenal, I’ll leave the last word in this post to Rumi,
“It’s not always a blind man
who falls in a pit. Sometimes it’s one who can see,
A holy one does sometimes fall,
but by that tribulation, he or she ascends,
escapes many illusions, escapes
conventional religion, escapes
being so bound to phenomena.
Think of how PHENOMENA come trooping
out of the desert of non-existence
into this materiality….
This place of phenomena is a wide exchange
of highways, with everything going all sorts
of different ways.
We seem to be sitting still,
but we’re actually moving, and the fantasies
of phenomena are sliding through us
like ideas through curtains.
They go to the well
of deep love inside each of us.
They fill their jars there, and they leave.
There is a source they come from,
and a fountain inside here.
Be grateful. Confess when you’re not.
We can’t know
what the divine intelligence
has in mind!
Who am I,
standing in the midst of this