Many commentators have remarked on a pervasive spirituality to be found throughout Deleuze’s work, even if this spiritual atmosphere is not accompanied by adhesion to, nor even reference to, any particular spiritual tradition. Indeed, Deleuze’s espousal of a strict immanence, his explicit materialism, his resolute elimination of all traces of transcendent instances governing thought and action, his endorsement of Nietzsche’s announcement of the death of God as the preliminary to all philosophical thought – all this militates against any theological interpretation of his philosophy. Yet his whole work, from beginning to end, contains a spiritual dimension, of a singular nature.
Badiou, on several occasions, points out this spiritual dimension and he considers it to express something of the essence of Deleuze’s thought. In his only published letter to Deleuze, taken from their two year correspondence, Badiou points out that there is a deeper logic and motivation underlying the few explicit references to “Christ” in Deleuze’s writings. According to Badiou Christ, in Deleuze’s text, functions as the positive figuration of the philosophical life.
In the letter, Badiou is drawing a parallel between Deleuze and Heidegger, analysing the similarities and differences. He remarks that Deleuze does not share Heidegger’s “pathos”, nor his “jargon” (perhaps we can hear in this word an allusion to Adorno’s famous critique of Heidegger in THE JARGON OF AUTHENTICITY). Yet he claims that there is a common conception of thought as the “traversal” of the “pure virtual”. Interestingly enough, Badiou formulates this common element in (an approximation of) Deleuze’s jargon.
Thus Badiou isolates both with the explicit mentions of Christ and in Deleuze’s underlying image of thought a leitmotif that we might call, following the most recent terminology of non-standard philosopher François Laruelle, a “Christo-fiction”. Badiou, for reasons of his own, calls Deleuze’s recourse to the figure of Christ a “metaphor”. In Deleuze’s own jargon, we can say that Christ is a conceptual persona that vehiculates both philosophical concepts and non-philosophical affects.
It is important to note that Badiou is not accusing Deleuze of propounding a disguised theology or of lapsing into onto-theology. Deleuze’s Christ is de-sutured from all theology (cf. Laruelle’s CHRISTO-FICTION: “The principle is to desuture Christ from theology”). Christ figures not a historical person or an object of belief, but thought itself, as traversal of a pure virtual. Following Badiou’s analysis, we can say that in Deleuze’s texts “Christ” is one of the non-philosophical names of the immanent image of thought.
This heuristic use of fictions in order to attain the plane of immanence is theorised by Deleuze and Guattari in WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY?
we must make use of fictions and abstractions, but only so far as is necessary to get to a plane where we go from real being to real being and advance through the construction of concepts (page 207)
Laruelle is in agreement with Deleuze and Guattari here, maintaining that by “Christ” he means not a person but a thought:
Christ is simply the name of the science of Christ
Thus “Christ” for Laruelle also is the name of the immanent image of thought, called by him “science” (for reasons of residual scientism).