"Real abstraction is non-organic life. This idea of non-organic life is everywhere in A Thousand Plateaus, and this is precisely the life of the concept."
- Gilles Deleuze, Two Regimes of Madness, p. 288 & p. 178
"Of course, there is no reason to think that all matter is confined to the physicochemical strata: there exists a submolecular unformed Matter. Similarly, not all life is contained to the organic strata: rather, the organism is that which life sets against itself in order to limit itself, and there is a life all the more intense, all the more powerful for being anorganic. There are also nonhuman Becomings of human beings that overspill the anthropomorphic strata in all directions. But how can we reach this "plane," or rather, how can we construct it, and how can we draw the "line" leading us there?"
- Deleuze & Guttari, A Thousand Plateaus, p.503
If following along with your copy of ATP at home, continue reading and hear their extremely bardoesque description of attempting life outside the organic strata followed by a severe warning: "...must therefore observe concrete rules of extreme caution ..." then some dire consequences of what could go wrong; caveat emptor.
Spiritual Engineering: methods of creating the kind of non-organic life they call "nonhuman Becomings of human beings," or what alchemists call "higher bodies." These bodies survive the death of the organism. D&G write about the "body without organs" (BwO) a term borrowed from Antonin Artaud; BwO = a non-organic body. ATP as a manual for spiritual engineering resonates with the role they give to machines in the creation process with their concept of "abstract machines" that give genesis to mechanical creative processes. The last sentence and the last word of ATP: "Mechanosphere." Engineer your mechanosphere.
Spiritual engineering appears foreshadowed and anticipated in Anti-Oedipus, Capitalism and Schizophrenia Part I when D & G presented the factory model of the Unconscious Mind as opposed to the Freudian conception of the Unconscious as a theater where the contents of this mind represent and symbolize something else usually having to do either literally or metaphorically with family. The unconscious "factory" is motivated by desire and this desire can become actualized or produced externally in the conscious world hence the D&G term: "desiring-production" as a term to describe the inner workings and function of the Unconscious or Deep Self. Discovering and bringing to light one's deepest desires then finding out how to produce them, how to make one's dreams come true, appears what Aleister Crowley means when he beseeches humankind to "Do what thou wilt." Desiring-production = Do what thou wilt. Of course, the complete formula Crowley gives is: "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law. Love is the law, love under will." How does this relate with desiring-production? If it seems D&G don't have an obvious connection to the second half of the formula consider that Deleuze cites Lewis Carroll as one primary source for "The Logic of Sense" particularly the Alice stories and Sylvie & Bruno. The latter seems an overlooked masterpiece.
Modeling and mapping out the unconscious or subconscious mind with the intention of making it known and thus more functional, examining the inner mechanisms of the human biological machine, puts D&G squarely in the company G.I. Gurdjieff and Aleister Crowley who both stated at different times that a primary intention of their methods was to render the subconscious mind conscious. This is also one effect of bardo voyaging; bardo training shares the intention to make the subconscious conscious through various exercises including past life recalls, certain ways of video gaming etc. etc. Another way to say it - the systems or approaches Gurdjieff, Crowley, and D&G present include different forms of bardo training. Deleuze, Gurdjieff and Crowley also have in common extremely obscure, idiosyncratic and singular language that makes much of their core writings nearly impenetrable when encountered for the first time. A safety net to winnow out the unwary before it gets too real may provide one, but certainly not the only explanation for their particular writing styles. All three also share a penchant for creating/reinterpreting various concepts relating to spiritual work. They are all fond of introducing neologisms, coining words and phrases creating nomenclature to further their communications and to make and sustain a self-referential lexicon of terms and aesthetics for practical use. Upon experimentation, many congruencies between the three systems will be noticed, overlapping, helping to explain and filling in blanks in each other. The underlying operational similarities between the three appear so close at times that it seems they comprise radically different ways of communicating the same information. It's the Sufi story of the 5 blind men and the elephant where each one describes a different aspect of the elephant then they put the information together to grasp the whole. Since some of their concepts and language appear obscure even after years of praxis and study it can prove quite helpful to cross-pollinate the systems for more complete understanding. They all contribute to a rhizomatic Tree of Life; the eclectic method of bardo training which, of course, can expand out to include any system or practice with the intention of making the subconscious conscious. Despite appearing less flamboyant and relatively scandal free, I strongly contend that Deleuze worked as an avatar of this era just as much as those other two rascals.
D&G practiced what they preached. They experimented with their work and their lives with the philosophy they wrote about. One key concept in ATP is the assemblage; the usefulness of looking at the larger picture of how systems and groups get formed between individual things; the connections between things, how they interact and affect each other. They use the example of the orchid/wasp relationship, the wasp carrying pollen to the orchid as an example of one kind of assemblage. Deleuze and Guttari each had strong individual voices, were innovators and forces to contend with in their respective fields before joining forces to write four books that quite effectively proves and validates the power of the assemblage to create.
The first time I attended a workshop and convention at I.D.H.H.B. in 1990 there was an emphasis placed throughout on forming small groups for more effectively carrying out whatever it is you want to do. I attended a lecture by Timothy Leary shortly after returning and was shocked by the coincidence when he delivered the exact same message: a strong recommendation to form small, independent, autonomous, groups of like-minded individuals. The suggestion to form assemblages seemed so uncannily similar that I imagined they could be in cahoots with each other somehow, either that or Coincidence Control was having its way with me again. This same notion found a radical and anarchistic expression in Hakim Bey's Temporary Autonomous Zone published around this time.
Assemblages relate to Buckminster Fuller's approach of viewing the behavior and aesthetics of whole systems as opposed to only looking at the parts. His recognition of the synergy made apparent through the formation of assemblages may help explain its importance to D&G. Assemblages form whenever musicians get together to make music. If you consider these assemblages to have a non-organic life of their own able to communicate through music then it appears easy to see music as a group invocation, a drawing down from above. Every magical act results from an assemblage of some kind even if it's an assemblage of a solo magician, his temple, robe and weapons. Crowley's assemblage for the reception of The Book of the Law included his wife Rose, Egyptian mythology, stele 666 at the Boulak museum and his apartment in Cairo among other things. All of Crowley's major works resulted from collaborations with other people; he was constantly forming and changing assemblages to further his research and experiments.
I've read ATP twice now and have noticed no deliberate use or mention of qabala, although one of Deleuze's revered sources, Antonin Artaud, studied and practiced it. However, one clear allusion to Crowley and the aeon of Horus in the form of a pun on birds does appear. The assemblage of Deleuze and Guttari clearly resembles the archetype of "twins," in particular the twin forms of Horus, a god comprised of an active aspect, Ra Hoor Kuit, and a passive or silent aspect, Hoor pa Kraat. These twins get recapitulated in posture every time the student practices a Star Ruby, Crowley's adaptation of the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram. Thrusting out the fiery pentagram from the forehead with arms extended making the Sign of Horus (The Enterer) puts one in the position of Ra Hoor Khuit, the active. This gets immediately followed by the Sign of Hoor pa Kraat with the forefinger to the lips in the traditional sign of silence, also a sign of defence. This twins motif also relates to the concept given in ATP Ch.3 that morphogenesis, the creation of forms, always has a double articulation with, as they basically say, one side facing out, the other side facing in. It can also prove interesting to compare the twins refrain with Deleuze's discussion of crystal-images in Cinema 2 The Time-Image. These crystal-images are one half actual, one half virtual, reflect each other and change places.
Besides being a highly innovative experimental psychoanalyst and theorist, Guttari was also an extremely energetic political activist constantly forming groups and organizing meetings for social change. At one point he was described as a militant Trotskyite - militant in the sense of being hard core and active, he never advocated violence as a solution and distanced himself from those elements though he did get beat up for his activism in the early days. He was also directly involved with the widespread protests, general strikes and university occupations across France that occurred in May of '68 which basically took over the country and brought the economy to a temporary halt. Guttari traveled frequently and was actively involved with one cause or another for social, political, or ecological change until the end of his life. Deleuze, on the other hand, stayed more in the background, more often then not expressing social activism by publicly voicing support as for example his essays on the Palestinian situation. Health reasons may have contributed to his largely staying off the front lines, but he wasn't completely retiring getting involved in demonstrations against repression in prisons with Michel Foucault and J.P. Sartre in the early '70's that sometimes resulted in violent clashes. Deleuze's main gig apart from writing was as a teacher of philosophy. His classes at the University of Paris at Vincennes/St. Denis became renowned. He prepared rigorously for them, attracted students from around the world and regularly lectured to overflowing crowds. One devoted student attended every seminar he gave from 1970 - 1987. Deleuze hated to travel and was married to the same woman from 1956 until his death in 1995. Guttari, on the other hand, had a succession of female partners throughout his life. Intersecting Lives by Francois Dosse provides excellent biographical portraits of these two iconoclasts.
Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guttari
ATP Chapter 10. 1730: Becoming-Intense, Becoming-Animal, Becoming-Imperceptible ... seems very shamanic in the sense of describing states of consciousness, modes and "becomings" beyond the ordinary; mapping out and modeling areas beyond common human existence. Becoming-imperceptible seems a recommended way to go though the authors appear extremely circumspect about favoring one course of action over another. Again, the authors live up to their words by becoming-imperceptible with their bias, presenting their visions without apparent moral or ethical judgement. It should be noted that becoming-imperceptible is not the same as being completely imperceptible. Their bias can be deduced and also shows a little more when the language gets more transparent. Still, in my novitiate experience, it's impossible to tell who is speaking, Deleuze or Guttari. Their individual opinions become imperceptible from one another. The D&G assemblage has formed what another assemblage, Burroughs and Gysin, called the Third Mind.
Becoming-imperceptible directly relates to the importance of silence in Crowley's mysticism as well as the extensive experimentation he did with invisibility in Mexico City. Crowley's invisibility or becoming-imperceptible practice served him well years later when he discharged his pistol in an attempted mugging in Calcutta and had to disappear into the night to get away. More on silence here.
Deleuze seems a magicien d'excellence because his magick appears mostly imperceptible. It's not immediately obvious that his philosophy can activate several different approaches or lines of work to spiritual growth - to the 'nonhuman Becomings of humans.'