Thursday, February 23, 2017

Deleuze and Qabalah

One cannot help wondering, given passages like this in his later writings, whether or not there is throughout Deleuze's work a kind of secret priority or silent perogative given to esoteric knowledge and practice as a clue to the multiple meanings of immanence, such that to completely comprehend the significance of Deleuze's philosophy one would have to delve more deeply into previous esoteric traditions. 
 - Joshua Ramey, The Hermetic Deleuze, Philosophy and Spiritual Ordeal p.102 -103

Indeed!  The Hermetic Deleuze is an excellent book about this subject matter, I highly recommend reading it.  It provides much background material to support the theory that Gilles Deleuze provides a metaphysics for Thelema.  By that I mean that he fleshes out the mechanics of how Thelema works to make practical sense.  Much of the philosophy or metaphysics may seem abstract, but it always links with actual events and states of affairs.  Deleuze reveals how to make Thelema work.

 If you are just joining the conversation, Thelema is a Greek word chosen by Aleister Crowley to represent his line of work.  It literally translates as Will, and with the Greek spelling, qabalistically transposes to 93.  The word agape, which means divine love, also transposes to 93.  This makes the two words qabalistically equivalent.  Thelema = love under will (not to say that it doesn't carry multiple alternate interpretations as equally valid).  The various descriptions Deleuze gives to "sense" seem closely related to Thelema.  The way I see it, The Logic of Sense = the logic of Thelema.  I alluded to one such connection between Thelema and sense in the first post of this series when stating that Deleuze (in LS) considered Lewis Carroll's fairyland story, Sylvie and Bruno, a masterpiece.  Of course, you have to read both parts of that story to get the connection (something else I highly recommend) so I will continue showing how Thelema and sense are related in different ways as we proceed through this ontological and theurgic labyrinth.

The Hermetic Deleuze (HD) doesn't mention Crowley or Thelema,  There are a couple of quick citations of kabbalah that are quite good. Written from a perspective of academic philosophy, Ramey is extremely articulate with both the philosophical and esoteric themes and how they mesh.  I don't necessarily agree with all the conclusions or premises, but he provides a great deal of valuable information on the direction of the early Deleuze, particularly in the third chapter, Deleuze and the Esoteric Sign, worth the price of admission alone. We find out that one of Deleuze's earliest publications titled Mathesis, Science and Philosophy is a Preface for a book by Johann Malfatti called Mathesis.   Malfatti was a doctor and healer for Beethoven as well as being a speculative esoteric writer.  Mathesis, as I understand it, is short for mathesis universalis - a universal math that can do or solve anything, perhaps a TOE - theory of everything.  " Malfatti's work envisions a medicine that would be effective not through technical proficiency, but as a lived embodiment of knowledge' a practical path to healing through the elaboration of sympathies, symbioses and vibrational patterns." (HD p.90).  Anyone with knowledge of Crowley's approach to arcane wisdom will see how closely Deleuze's Mathesis, Science and Philosophy resonates from its title alone.  Crowley would have it as Magick, Science and Philosophy.  Crowley vitalizes the notion of mathesis by associating his version with the Egyptian god Horus and gives instructions on how to make contact with this omniscient force.  Jimmy Page and Robert Plant also vitalize mathesis and provide an alternate contact point/entrance with the song The Song Remains the Same.  Qabalah seems yet another entry point into mathesis.

Though there isn't any discussion of qabala in HD  the sense of it clearly surfaces at times through quotes Ramey chose to use.  They sound exactly like how qabala functions without explicitly making the connection " ... the development of symbolic systems is as much a matter of creative encounter as it is a deciphering of signs. ... in poeticizing the world by a multilayered reading of it, always both new and traditional, we risk forgetting that poiein (etymology of poet -ed.) means first of all to create.' HD (p. 204).  These quotes are from the esoteric scholar Antoine Faivre.

According to Ramey, Deleuze betrays a close affinity and familiarity with occult theory in Mathesis, Science and Philosophy (MSP). Deleuze begins the essay by asking what the word "initiated" signifies. I just had an interesting coincidence searching for MSP online.  Found it here at, scrolled down to see how long it goes, and then read the first comment by someone named Squee: "So is this any different than Crowley's work "The Book of Thoth" - or many other numerological texts on the meaning of base 10 numbers?" Ramey points out that Deleuze asked that this article, along with five other early pieces, be removed from his official corpus.  Is this because he had a change of heart and repudiated his early interest in the magical arts, or was he choosing to go more underground, more occult with this interest.  I suggest the latter.  Talking about the occult seems paradoxical or oxymoronic in itself; as soon as you talk about the occult it becomes no longer hidden ... unless, of course, what you're saying intends to hide it further.  Ramey mentions in more than one place the strong prejudice Academic Philosophy has against anything to do with the paranormal or what inaccurately gets called, "the supernatural;" inaccurately by those overly challenged with the thought of immanence.  Deleuze was an actor par excellence in the drama of philosophy.  MSP seems out of character for that role.

The conclusion Ramey reaches here resonates with the practical side of Thelema: "But if traced carefully, a line clearly runs from Deleuze's early interest in the dream of mathesis unversalis to his attention to the cosmic dimension of art, to increasing attention, with Guattari, to the contours of specific forms of experimental practice. (HD p. 207).  Unsurprisingly, there is much material in this book that could apply to Thelema.  To this biased observer, Thelema marks the pinnacle of current hermetic thought and practice.

Rhizome and the Tree of Life

We will begin our investigation of Deleuze and Guattari's use of qabalah with the concept of the rhizome which they introduced approximately in the middle of their respective careers.  The Rhizome serves as the introduction to A Thousand Plateaus (ATP).  I am going to get a little ahead of myself and perhaps stretch your credulity a tad to describe how the book opens with some qabalistic indicators.  Then I'll resume building the argument from the ground up.  It starts on page 3 with this diagram of a music composition:

1. Introduction: Rhizome

It's reproduced more clearly in the book; there are dates one can see with a magnifying glass open to qabalistic interpretation, check it out.  Later in this essay, we'll see how various authors let the readers on to their use of qabalistic correspondences by presenting a very obvious link as a way to key in the input and initiate a search for subtler revelations.  The obvious (to a qabalist) connection in this diagram is the title of the music score: XIV piano piece for David Tudor 4.  

XIV = the path of Daleth = Door (as in David Tu-dor); The Hebrew letter called daleth = the English letter d and has the value of 4 by Gematria. The use of phonetic puns, like Tudor = two door, shows frequent usage in qabala communiques largely due to the pioneering linguistic efforts of James Joyce who gets invoked as early as page 6 in ATP.  Rhizome seems another phonetic pun; home is where, again?  The first sentence of the Introduction reads: "The two of us wrote Anti-Oedipus together."  To an imaginative interpreter like myself, the two of Tu-dor connects with the second word, two, thus implying that the two of them make a door.  Experience with ATP reveals that it indeed becomes a door into alternate models of abstraction and experience.  Further knowledge of the correspondences with daleth, as for instance The Empress tarot card, really shows where they are coming from, as well as making a direct connection with The Logic of Sense as it relates with the definition of Thelema delineated above. Tu-dor also suggests the dormouse from Alice in Wonderland which then links to the Jefferson Airplane lyric, "Remember what the dormouse said: feed your head, feed your head."  The trite hippie interpretation says that it means to take drugs; the qabalistic interpretation (Head = Resh = The Sun) indicates an instruction to feed your solar nature, an instruction explicitly alluded to in the first paragraph.
Again, if you're just joining the conversation, all these correspondences derive from the qabalistic dictionary put together by Crowley with some help from Allan Bennett, after inheriting it from MacGregor Mathers, one of the founders of the Golden Dawn.  It's published as 777 and other Qabalistic Writings of Aleister Crowley.  There is much supplemental material in The Book of Lies.  This is the dictionary of reference for the qabala used by writers such as James, Joyce, Ezra Pound, Robert Anton Wilson, Thomas Pynchon, to list the ones where I've seen it frequently deployed, and, as I've very recently discovered, Deleuze and Guattri. Robert Heinlein uses it a little bit in Stranger in a Strange Land as does Milan Kundera in The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

The first plateau in A Thousand Plateaus, the Introduction lifts the qabalistically aware reader up to a solar plateau immediately, or at least one where the sun is shining.  Deleuze and Guattari have an interesting way of transmitting esoteric data by baldly and blatantly stating it in a context where it seems offhand, not to be taken seriously; the fine art of misdirection.  For those who read the blog on paradox and nonsense, remember what it said about how qabalists love to play with opposite meanings.  Speaking of why they use their own names as authors, the eighth and ninth sentences in the book say: "To render imperceptible not ourselves, but what makes us act, feel and think.  Also because its nice to talk like everybody else, to say the sun rises, when everybody knows its only a manner of speaking."  I see this as important not only for the solar invocation which aligns with and reinforces the correspondences at the top of the intro, but because it also gently states an outdated conception that colors, or programs, our common experience of the world.  ATP appears to suggest war machines against that particular kind of sleep; assumptions about how things are we unquestioningly take for granted.  The solar invocation also resonates with the smiling sun face found on the cover of every copy of:

Buckminster Fuller used to point out that for a few hundred years at least we've known the world  is not flat, yet most people do not have the experience or awareness of living on a sphere.  We usually experience this planet as variations of flatness extended in the four cardinal directions.  The language of "sunrise" and "sunset" reinforce this unconscious and conventional way of perceiving the world.  The sun does not move around the earth, it does not rise, the earth spins on its axis to meet it or leave it depending upon where you are on the globe at any particular time.  Deleuze and Guattari say, 'it's nice to talk like everybody else,' - probably one of the most hilarious understatements in the book, as this book is written like no other and nowhere else does it remotely sound like how anyone else would talk.  Perhaps we can infer that ATP can change our experience of life as radically as learning the earth isn't flat?

I will also point out obvious references to the work of  another occultist, G.I. Gurdjieff, and his particular series (body of work), or school.  The "act, feel, and think" in the above quote reflects the three brains of man in Fourth Way (i.e. Gurdjieffian) terminology - the physical, emotional and intellectual.  Starting the book by saying it's nice to talk like everybody else is the exact opposite of how Gurdjieff begins Beelzebub Tales To His Grandson (his magnum opus) when he tells the story  of how his Grandmother told him on her deathbed never to do as others do.  I see this as a deliberate resonance.  The introduction to Beelzebub is titled, The Arousing of Thought, also strongly resonant with Deleuze's project both with and without Guattari, to create a new image of thought.  Gurdjieff clearly states the intention of Beelzebub, an intention that sounds like a prime motive for A Thousand Plateaus: "To destroy mercilessly and without any compromise whatever, in the mentation and feelings of the reader, the beliefs and views, by centuries rooted in him, about everything existing in the world.  To make you see and understand on one level, the literal level of astronomical bodies in Space, that the sun does not rise, the earth spins to greet it.

Now we go rhizomatically back to the rhizome.  The rhizome concept is one D&G borrowed from botany to describe a nonunified, nonhierarchical, nonlinear proliferation of connections and flows. "In botany and dendrology, a rhizome (/ˈrzm/, from Ancient Greek: rhízōma "mass of roots",[1] from rhizóō "cause to strike root" (wikipedia).  The etymology, 'cause to strike root' connects with qabalistic considerations already mentioned, as well as the notion of ATP mapping out one strata as a manual of practical Alchemy for the formation of higher, subtler, nonorganic bodies; stated plainly on page 4: All we talk about are multiplicities, lines, strata, and segmentarities, lines of flight and intensities, machinic assemblages and their various types, bodies without organs and their construction and selection, the plane of consistency, and in each case the units of measure; bodies without organs = nonorganic bodies.

The polar opposite to the rhizome model is the tree, the arborescent model.  The tree has a determined unity of form, it becomes a particular set thing.  It could be said that the aborescent model of growth attempts to copy a transcendental unity of some kind, it is set in its ways and follows a linear predictable growth.  They say that arborescence has a hierarchical structure.  This brings us to the Tree of Life, the basic model used in Qabalah.   It represents as a tree and has distinct arborescent features which would seem to make it not a rhizome, but we shall see that it is not that cut and dry.  D&G begin mention of arborescence with words about the nature of "the book" that  also resembles qabalistic genealogy  on the Tree of Life: A first type of book is the root book.  The tree is already the image of the world, or the root the image of the world-tree. ... But the book as a spiritual reality, the Tree or Root as an image, endlessly develops the law of the One becomes two, then of the two that becomes four (ATP p.5)..."

Here they bring up tree structures within rhizomes and vice versa:  There exist tree or root structures in rhizomes; conversely, a tree branch or root division may begin to burgeon within a rhizome.  The coordinates are determined not by theoretical analyses implying universals but by a pragmatics composing multiplicities or aggregates of intensities.  A new rhizome may form in the heart of a tree, the hollow of a root, the crook of a branch. (ATP p. 15)  The second sentence of this quote gives a good instruction for magick and qabalah users.  This next quote about music applies as well to the formation of correspondences upon the Tree of Life: "Music has always sent out lines of flight, like so many "transformational multiplicities" even overturning the very codes that structure or arborify it; that is why musical form, right down to it's ruptures and proliferations, is comparable to a weed, a rhizome.  (ATP p. 11-12)

More great advice and indicative of how numbers work in qabalah: The number is no longer a universal concept measuring elements according to their emplacement in a given dimension, but has itself become a multiplicity that varies according to the dimensions considered. (ATP p.8)  Compare that with "Every number is infinite; there is no difference," the paradoxical fourth line in Crowley's The Book of the Law.

Next up: Qabalah and The Plane of Immanence

No comments:

Post a Comment