3) Philosophy and the Daimon
« We are made of dreams and our dreams are made of us » (Pierrot le Fou).
Understanding a philosopher is like learning a foreign language. You can learn to speak a foreign language perfectly without even letting it touch the different layers of your psyche – from the most banal to the most profound. It remains an instrument. A very different sort of learning can happen if learning the language takes place in situations that are formative of our life. We really do understand the language from the inside – we live inside it as if a new wing has been added to our house. The words to express love and friendship and irritation, silly word games, phrases from popular songs or ads come to us spontaneously and we may or may not know how to ‘say it in English’. Our experiences are ‘in’ the language, to a greater or lesser extent we are in the language. This sort of learning takes time and is never finished, it is not merely quantitative learning of grammar, vocabulary, expressions, but a learning tied to affects, experience, personal style. It takes a long time and mobilizes all the forces of the unconscious.
It is not every philosopher whose language can touch many parts of your psyche. The writing must reach a certain level of intensity where it is the soul that speaks. Concepts become more than intellectual ideas, and are also images as in a dream. A dream can condense affects, sensations, intuitions, reflexions, events, problems into a vital fragment that speaks to all sorts of aspects of our life, demanding to be related to many different actions, thoughts, feelings, situations.
A philosophy penetrated by the unconscious is written in this indirect language of dreams: it always means more and other than what it seems to say directly, it follows the detours of the soul, its zigzags and circumambulations, rather than the straight lines of ‘reason’. There is always a voice behind the voice, the murmur of many voices – and one can love a philosophy not only for what it says but for what it conveys of these other voices.
So I am going to talk about Deleuze, whose philosophical language is not just one of the richest in voices, not just capable of touching many zones of the psyche, but is consciously created in response to this indirect speech and to the sorts of forces that dwell in it – Deleuze would call them ‘the forces of becoming’ To work on Deleuze implies an ‘internal’ progression.
In the martial arts there is a distinction between external arts (such as karate) where the emphasis is on physical mastery of movement, and internal arts (such as taichi chuan and aikido) where the emphasis is on an inner’ evolution and where the movement is in relation to psychic energies, processes, intensities. The difference is between possessing energies and becoming ever more sensitive to them, an even better conductor of energies. As usual, this description may sound abstract, but means something very concrete. In taichi one works on setting the mind and the body in movement all over, locating stases, blockages, tensions and dissolving them, cultivating a flowing attention so that the movement comes from the middle – the middle of the body and psyche, between light and dark, between outside and inside.
‘Between’ – not a dead center where you lock yourself up in a suffocating prison, but a vibrating point that flows between the polarities, a de-centered center.
‘Inner’ may seem to evoke questionable divisions of the world into inside and outside. But anyone who has ever practised meditation or analysis, or taichi or a discipline such as painting, writing, dancing, philosophizing from an inner’ orientation will know what I mean. When you meditate you can see very clearly that it is not ‘you’ who meditate but so many voices and figures in you. The same, for example, for writing. You become aware of being populated by a host of little people. We are made of images, the stuff of dreams:
« this innerness refers to the soul, the activation of the complexes » (Hillman).
So the innerness and the subjectivity are not ‘ours’ but ‘theirs’. For Deleuze:
« subjectivity is never ours, it is time, i.e. the soul or the spirit, the virtual ».
« the only subjectivity is time, non-chronological time, seized in its foundation, and we are inside time, not vice-versa ».
These fragments that come to us in dreams and meditation, in moods and habits, do not form a unified personality ‘me’, master of my house, but the body’s other side, the body’s shadow, a body without organs. Or perhaps the organized, domesticated, armoured body is its shadow.
The body without organs is strictly neither an imaginary body nor a literal body, neither dream-body nor waking-body, but both: a play of dark and light, of dreams and reality.
« There are so many people who speak in us it’s as if each of us had many people in him. Besides, there is not a single morning that we write in the same way. It’s not going very far to say that it’s not the same ‘I’ who writes. And in the end it is all these « me’s » that make a work. The creator is a shadow » (Deleuze).
The body without organs is a good example of a concept that requires an understanding from the inside. Deleuze remarks that it is above all the most psychoanalytically sophisticated who have trouble understanding:
« Body without organs, I know people without any culture who understand straight away thanks to their « habits », thanks to their own manner of making one ».
But ‘people without culture’ is of course a way of designating people who may not have much official culture but are quite cultivated in an ‘inner’ way. As this involves quite a lot of de-conditioning and unlearning, why not call it a ‘counter-culture’.
‘Counter-culture doesn’t mean back to nature, pyramid power and the secret life of plants, but the culture of intensities. ‘Bodies without organs’ ‘becomings’, ‘intensities’ – I have talked to people practising yoga, meditation, kung fu, analysis, music, painting, eurhythmics, who have understood these ideas far better than those who write on Deleuze without ever leaving the close circle of a regurgitated jargon. The beauty of Deleuze’s ideas is that they are constructed so that you must take them over, make them your own, ‘falsify’ them in that they become something else in being related to other experiences.
If each new thing appears hidden behind a mask to make it seem familiar and acceptable, to protect it, then Deleuze’s ideas first appeared behind the mask of the history of philosophy (publishing books on Hume, Spinoza, Nietzsche, Bergson) and then behind the mask of structuralism and the conventional hodgepodge of Marx and Freud and Lacan and Althusser and Levi-Strauss (cf. his article « How Do We Recognise Structuralism » and LOGIC OF SENSE and DIFFERENCE AND REPETITION). But already here the germs of something else were growing.
If we look for signs of our crystal of philosophy and the unconscious in the early books, we can see that it has gone through several metamorphoses, each time becoming purer and operating its coniunctio more intensely. Deleuze’s early books present a forbidding dry scholarly exterior. Clement Rosset speaks of the ‘dryness’ and ‘coldness’ of Deleuze’s works, of the impression that he ignores the affects behind the systems of thought.
But the affective relation is there right from the start in his choice of anti-rationalist authors with their pluralism, their critique of power, their affirmative force. And the ‘dryness’ of the content is a mask that hides the operations needed to twist things into this form:
« it was necessary to pass thru all sorts of de-centerings, slidings, breakages, and secret emissions that gave me a lot of pleasure » (Deleuze).
System and intensity linked, but the intensity is masked, dissimulated:
« I loved authors that seemed to belong to the history of philosophy, but which escaped on one side or from everywhere at once ».
Beneath the dry style, secret flows – as if the books are written in two languages at once: the language of the concept and the language of intensity. In Logique du Sens and Différence et Répétition Deleuze begins to speak in his own name, to ‘treat writing as a flow and not a code‘, a still timid attempt to give the other voice more of a say. The philosophy is present in a de-literalized more imagistic manner.
Philosophy is regarded as detective story and science fiction in Différence et Répétition and Logique du Sens is called ‘an attempt at a logical and psychoanalytical novel’ – the plurilinguism of the novel deterritorializing the monologues of philosophy and psychoanalysis, allowing them to combine in new ways, forming a new crystal.
This new alliance of philosophy and the unconscious gives rise to what Rosset calls ‘Deleuze’s paradox’ (like Russell’s paradox or Zeno’s paradox) i.e. ‘the alliance of the sense of nuance, of precision, of distinction, with the absence of any system to integrate these notions. In other words, precision for nothing.’ (Rosset) This play of a differentiation that rips fragments from their context and of a synthesis that is partial, mobile and open, that does not form a totality – this play of difference and of disjunctive synthesis leads us to suspect that Difference is one of the names of the unconscious, and that Deleuze – like Hillman, Rene Char, Feyerabend, Pasolini – belongs to that race for whom
« what speaks essentially in words and in things is Difference itself » (Maurice Blanchot).
This play of fragments that don’t form a system but a sort of alchemical laboratory for the production of new syntheses is crucial in philosophy, in life in general. The ideal would be to let all the fragments live, let all the voices speak, but in such a fluid way that they would be present but imperceptible.
Deleuze’s language is fluid, flowing between various domains, sliding from history to philosophy to sport to films to dreams to drugs to pathologies to art – as if all pathways are possible, as if the image-concepts work on many levels at once, opening the assemblages, traversing the territories. It’s a language addressed to ‘unconsciouses that protest’, inviting us to be open to the unconscious as it plays through the whole of existence.
The State has been the model of so many things including the personality, including our personal style. So many people say « I am the State’ as if they are the crystal that traverses the fragments rather than the shadow it projects. Even a new form of writing in a tiny milieu can become the basis for the edification of a new State within the State, a Family or Mafia. But the movement of life is always elsewhere, in psychic states and processes: « The states are me’.
« It is only at the « normal » human level – i.e. which is the product neither of madness nor of childhood nor of art – that Being and Time seem to thicken and fatten to the point of no return » (Guattari).
These two posts-beautiful all the way down! Hours of rumination ahead!!
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Your writing has become so very beautiful.