NOTHING TO DECLARE The Language of Becoming (1): Dark Crystal

This is the first part (out of four) of an article originally published in TENSION Issue 9: « Murmur of the Soul », May 1986. The impetus to finally put it into blog-readable form was provided by an episode of the podcast ACID HORIZON devoted to « Inner Experience: From James Hillman’s Archetypal Psychology towards a Liberation Psychology ». This is a very interesting episode introducing the insufficiently known and read post-Jungian analyst and cultural theorist James Hillman and exploring his Archetypal Psychology, including some of the many resonances and intersections with Deleuze and Guattari’s schizo-analysis.

I began reading James Hillman in 1976, just before discovering Deleuze and Guattari’s ANTI-OEDIPUS, and have been reading him ever since. I attended Deleuze’s cinema seminars from 1981 to 1985 and was constantly struck by the parallels between Deleuze and Hillman around a common ontology of the image. Hillman gave me a new insight into Jung and prepared me for my encounter with Deleuze’s thought.

Unfortunately in the early1980s no one gave a damn about such connections. However, I managed to publish two articles on the convergences: NOTHING TO DECLARE and IMAGE IS THE MEASURE (to be posted after this one).

NOTHING TO DECLARE: THE LANGUAGE OF BECOMING by Terence Blake

my « method » is never anything but an attempt to situate thought outside its declarative sphere.’ (Pierre Klossowski).

1) Introduction: Dark crystal

« The leopard can’t change his spots but the spots can be gems » (James Hillman).

In this article we are going to attempt an alchemical operation: to melt down philosophy and psychoanalysis to a fluid state, allow them to mix together and combine, and extract a crystal that will be both and neither, that will be the result of the operation yet also its secret law, present from the beginning. Needless to say, alchemy does not work with the gross materials of concrete reality, but with psychic images – yet these images are not « in our heads » but out there in the world, the other side of each object, like a shadow or an echo. The alchemist does not cease repeating that though he may be working with concrete materials, the work, the opus, is both in him (psychic) and in the world (cosmic). The opus is against nature, freeing the soul from its imprisonment in literal realities – the passage from natural reality to psychic reality.

So let us not discuss ‘philosophy’ and ‘psychoanalysis’ as literal realities. Each is so vast, so divided, that it is impossible to be well-informed on anything but a small fragment of its total reality. Philosophy is ideas-in-movement, whether the neat orderly movements of arguments, proofs and refutations within a system or the more anarchic movements of inventing or transforming ideas. Psychoanalysis is adapting oneself to psychic realities and following the soul’s movements. In this sense, philosophy and psychoanalysis are immanent in our lives, traversing our states and activities like a continuous flow.

It is here that the alchemist tells us:

you have to break things down into their component parts, till you reach fragments that are neither substances nor processes but both: particles of becoming; till you reach fragments that are neither subject nor object but both: pure intensities; till you reach an unformed matter where words and things, images and acts, form a continuum.

Not any fragments will do – the world is full of mind-games with dead images, a cynical ‘surfing with the signifiers’ – but fragments that are bits of living psyche, that both shine and stink (shining with hard-won insights, stinking with the pathologies, the obsessions that push us). The world may be a ‘fragmented-totality-in-process’, an ocean of incommensurabilities. But there are all sorts of connections between the incommensurable fragments, beneath the system of the measure.

A fragment refers always to other fragments, forming a multiplicity as psychic states interpenetrate in a vast game of resonance, echo, reflection, affinities, attractions and repulsions. A fragment is always in a process of change, in a series of transformations or creative repetitions with its own rhythm and speed. Lines of force, lines of becoming, luminous fibres running between things. In each case, you must experiment, mixing things together in your laboratory, trying out various combinations of substances and operations, learning from experience, varying all the factors, noting the results and moving on.

The alchemist has no program to guide him and even the texts of other alchemists are a cryptic assemblage of hints, paradoxes, rules of thumb, ambiguities and coded messages. To decipher the texts requires the same sorts of operations as any other material – dissolving, decomposing, fragmenting, combining, sublimating. Alchemy is putting bodies in contact and observing their reactions – but the bodies can be words, feelings, dreams, memories, images, rhythms – anything which has soul in it.

Jean-Luc Godard is an alchemist when he cites Artaud: ‘I want the soul to be body, and you will not be able to say that the body is soul because it is the soul that will be the body.’ and all his films present an alchemical vision of a fragmented world, a process of revisioning.

The crystal that traverses the fragments has a double existence – like the fragments themselves. It is both virtual and actual, both personal and impersonal, both one and many. It is a paradoxical object that is always ‘between’: between psyche and matter, between dream and reality, between image and concept, between philosophy and the unconscious.

« I would like to have an enormous room covered in deforming mirrors from top to bottom. From time to time there would be a normal mirror between the deforming mirrors: people would be so beautiful reflected there » (Francis Bacon).

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