NOTHING TO DECLARE The Language of Becoming (2): The Axiom of Becoming

2) The Axiom of Becoming

« if becoming is a model, not only the duality of the model and the copy, of the model and the reproduction, must disappear, but the very notions of model and of reproduction tend to lose all meaning » (Deleuze and Guattari).

THEOREM by Pasolini tells the story of a rich comfortable bourgeois family that finds its life shattered by a divine visitation. A young man arrives from outside, stays for an indefinite period, then leaves. During this stay he makes love successively to each member of the household – the maid, the son, the mother, the daughter, the father. Before he leaves each confesses that their identity has collapsed and that they are now confronted with their emptiness, their loneliness, their difference – with their soul and its inferiorities beneath their ego. The divine young man goes off and the film (and the book) shows the consequences of this divine event. The mother becomes a nymphomaniac, seeking to repeat the experience with young men picked up in the street. The daughter goes ‘mad’ – mute, and as if paralysed, she lies in her bed. The son becomes a revolutionary artist, inspired by Francis Bacon, doing work based on chance and outrage. The maid becomes a saint levitating and working miracles. The father gives away his factory to the workers, undresses in a public place and runs off into the desert crying out like a man-beast to God.

Beautiful, concise, a sort of passion play depicting the encounter of Eros and Psyche, the film unites high and low, sacred and profane, grace and disgrace. The film is a veritable symbol, i.e. a dynamic union of incommensurables where each pole is caught in the process of becoming the other. Pasolini writes:

« THEOREM was created on a gold background. I painted it with the right hand while with the left I worked on a fresco on a great wall (the film of the same name) ».

Both book and film, the work externally and internally, embody the duplicity, the essential doubleness of a psychic event. Written with both hands, it is both a theorem and an anti-theorem, an act of faith yes – but a strange sort of interrogative faith, faith in a question rather than belief in a dogma (‘I am haunted by a question I cannot answer’), a paradoxical vision of grace as the difference, the diversity, the deformity, the disgrace beneath the mask of identity. Faith in the psyche is the gift of the angel.

Deleuze notes that Pasolini’s films are characterized by a poetic consciousness which

« permits Pasolini to bring the … neurosis of his characters to the level of baseness and bestiality, in the most abject contents, while at the same time reflecting them in a pure poetic consciousness animated by the mythical or sacralising element ».

It is this doubling and interpenetration of subjectivities, this pulsation of the psyche between two poles that it links in a double becoming that Pasolini calls ‘free indirect subjectivity’ and which he compares to a free indirect speech, which concerns both a language A and another language B, but which is itself neither. It is rather « a language X which is none other than the language A in the process of becoming really a language B » (Pasolini).

Perhaps all great art and philosophy enacts and enounces this great theorem – at various levels and in infinitely varying ways. Losing our fixed ideas, our self-concept, responding to the loss of identity by more essential acts where grace and disgrace are so strangely mixed, we come to discover that the majority is no-one, that the norm is a lie, and that we all contain difference – underdeveloped countries, oppressed minorities, packs of animals – swarming multiplicities of all sorts that inhabit us.

The angel voids our fixed identities, but this need not necessarily leave us empty or crazy or mute or paralysed or less than human. If we can find a more fluid identity based on our difference, our diversity, and our internal minorities, perhaps we can exist as process, flow, movement – not a human being but a human becoming.

This vision of ourselves and others, of the world in general in terms of becomings (‘free indirect vision’) we can call the axiom of becoming. Yet the ‘axiom’ as we may suspect, can take many forms, and is itself in becoming. So it knows no direct formulation, it is more a paradox than an axiom, and we can call it both the axiom of becoming – to signal the leap into a different and incommensurable plane – and the paradox of becoming – to signal that it is precisely not a readily statable axiom but a variable phrase.

The language of becoming is myth, myth as the speech of the soul, its power to story and to confabulate, as it presents itself in lived experiences before they are seized in the dominant significations, the codified myths. The myth is to be continued or twisted and deformed rather than enshrined as a model or killed by interpretation:

« mythology lets things stay in flux or in process. A myth is a description of a process; it is itself a process ». (James Hillman).

It is in dreams that we see these becomings beneath our ego, these intensities beneath our identity, so many figures of fact and fantasy. Family and friends, yes, but politicians, historical figures, animals and aliens, rocks and fluids, buildings and landscapes. And the feeling that somehow we are all that, as if the psyche is much vaster than our ego and these entities are so many states or processes that we pass through or participate in, so many becomings that traverse us.

The idea that dreams foretell the future, as Jung remarks, reflects an obscure awareness that the dream and its figures are psychic processes, becomings that do not so much escape the present as belong to a moving present, a present of movements. The movements of the soul are not in the head, separate from ‘external’ movements, but their synchronic other side.

These dream figures, it would be easy to see them as thinly disguised representations of some merely personal drama. But this would be to imprison the dream, to enclose the unconscious in the system of identity, denying its aspect of becoming (for there are always two aspects, two poles) – or perhaps we should say that interpreting and using, understanding and living come together in the non-system of intensity. Think of Anti-Oedipus’s cry:

« Everything must be interpreted in terms of intensity ».

The unconscious does not care for persons and things as we think of them normally, but for becomings, processes, flows, vibrations, intensities. Not as disembodied abstractions, but here, now in these people: friends, lovers, strangers, enemies – so many ‘little people’ within each person:

« But what exactly is an encounter with someone you love. Is it an encounter with someone, or with animals that come to people you, or with ideas that invade you, with movements that move you, with sounds that traverse you? » (Deleuze).

What is the point of reading, writing, thinking, working, loving, if you do not transform what you meet, if you are not transformed by it? ‘Writing is becoming’ says Deleuze, but there is no law that says what you must become or even can become, the possible is created along with the actual, and becoming is always experimenting, inventing, trying out, creating something new. The unconscious is not there in advance waiting to be discovered, it is the poetry of these becomings – both physical and psychic, both real and imaginal.

Philosophy penetrated by the unconscious means

« arriving at the point where philosophy is necessarily poetry, severe poetry of its own procedures, inscription of its own surface » (Deleuze).

This poetry is « severe » because it must put everything in motion, it can appeal to no fixed laws or ideal constants, it revokes all discourses of method, it traces out a many-dimensional surface that has no privileged axis, where all is becoming. Thinking is becoming, but becoming something else than a thinker, becoming animals, vegetables and minerals, packs and flows, events of all sorts.

If philosophy and poetry can coincide, it is in a fragmentary speech where fragments are placed together without belonging to a totality. Dreams again provide a good example – freeing things from their day-world connections, creating or discovering other connexions in the dance of assemblage and dispersion, of dissolving and combining that traverses our lives, the pulverized poem of the soul.

Maurice Blanchot talks of René Char’s works (e.g. Poème Pulvérisé) in terms of these fragments that are an alliance of multiplicity and becoming. Juxtaposing words, phrases, images, events, yet accepting the distance between them, he assembles bits and pieces of a sort of matter that can catch and express indirectly the forces that are active in our experience.

The poem becomes an indirect language for expressing a new relation with these daimonic forces knocking at our door, an ocean of synchronicities, a piecemeal experience.

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