Who Killed Gilles Deleuze? (Episode 4)

Fourth episode of the ongoing investigation (following Episode 3 in the series).

The Ancient of Days, William Blake

But the Almighty Lord had struck him and had delivered him into the hands of a woman. The Vulgate, Judith, xvi, 7.

‘This is getting serious’, Deleuze concluded, folding up the letter. ‘It seems the woman is married to a man who knows me. What a bother! Who on earth can it be, though?’. He became angry, because within him something incomprehensible was happening. He yearned for this unknown woman, was positively besotted with her. 

He tried in vain to pass in review all the soirées he used to attend. He couldn’t think of a single woman who would fit the letters he had received. This was precisely the thing about getting involved in illicit trysts and decadent levels of twist. One morning, about 9.15am, probably a Monday, you found yourself with an email in your work inbox that could bring everything crashing down on top of your head as quickly as you could shout out the phrase ‘shitstorm’ (for example, in German). It was as if Pollock had foregone Action Painting for the joys of minute and precise reputation destruction. You didn’t have to be paranoid to feel that the whole of 20th Century Western Art was on a vendetta to take you (and your joyous trysts) out of the life-existence equation once and for all. How vengeful the world really was, after all! 

But would this malevolent and vindictive vendetta (built on nothing more than putrid ressentiment as Nietzsche understood very well, already in the late Nineteenth century) succeed? The trouble with (or for) hyper-moralists is that they, as a rule, have far worse and more perverse skeletons in their closets than do the decadents. Lucky chance principle of the Universe. Deleuze reckoned to himself in his office, 9.15am, on that dreary and nervy Monday morning, bleak with a dense Parisian smog that rose sickly from the Seine’s bowels, that this principle might just come to his rescue. He stared over at a volume of Plato’s Letters, noting the serenity of the face portrait on the cover (but how accurate was this a representation of the real flesh and blood Plato?, Gilles wondered). He had heard stories that Plato’s Garden was nothing like that of Epicurus, the latter giving pleasure a good name, the former far less venerable in this regard. Of course, this wasn’t the image or the appearance we were given by posterity of Saint Plato (effectively the First Christian). Then again, Christ was no Saint either, the saints only coming afterwards. Suddenly, looking at a more iconoclastic noncanonical History, it all becomes clearer. Sigh. And another Sigh, longer and more disconsolate this time.

Gilles considered looking over the other side of his bookcase to take in one of the photos of Francis Bacon in Soho, looking dangerous and uncouth, but still mightily sexy and all neo-Nietzschean übermensch. After some seconds of significant consideration, he decided against looking Bacon in the eye. He had noted previously (and with some alarm) that Bacon’s face seemed to move comically, as if in satirical jest at the onlooker at times, which surely went against all materialist and empiricist norms and values (in which he still believed in, of course, at least in public discourse). Besides, Bacon was a clearly braver human being than Deleuze, reckless in deed and not just in word. It often had the effect (staring at Bacon’s visage and more importantly, his randy gait, often in a state of undress or dishevelment that bespoke eroticism, sometimes almost seen making lust to East London cockney skinhead boxers in tight shorts) of making Gilles feel frankly inadequate as a villain. I would never survive in Soho, methinksMore word than deedI am, he would whisper to himself and even as a man of the Book and of the Text, he also could admit this was a failing. He also had no understanding of bank accounts or of car mechanics (the latter being a distinct disadvantage when you drove a Renault). 

Alas! His asthma would intensify at such moments in his study and he would be overcome by a mix of emotion and terror, and he would bend over double and start to choke as if about to permanently expire. These episodes could go on for some time, up to thirty full minutes. Afterwards, it would take Gilles several prolonged and painful days to get back to any standard equilibrium. Fanny (Grandjouan from Limousin), his long-suffering wife, had become so perturbed by these experiences of her faltering husband that she had banned even mention of Bacon’s name in the family home. ‘That drasted queer Irishman’, she would yell at Gilles and their two children. ‘He has made our lives into a Total Misery, a sharp and hateful Despair. Gilles, you fool, if you continue to work on his material and, moreover, to become transfixed with the image of his decadent and no doubt sexual dishevelment, it will only bring tragedy. I am warning you all, ‘IF THIS MADNESS CONTINUES I DO NOT KNOW WHAT I AM CAPABLE OF DOING. I WILL NO LONGER BE RESPONSIBLE AT THIS POINT’. When uttered, these last words especially sounded extra shrill in the Deleuze household, as if they augured some future event of impossible foreboding.

This Mystery, our Mystery dear reader, of course, has been no stranger to nonlinear turns or early morning glory surprises. The problem with twenty-first century philosophy (as well as its twentieth century precursor) is that it is fatally derailed by its over-professionalisation, its air of total seriousness that smells and looks of middle-aged men’s dandruff on poorly tailored career suits. Philosophy has become ugly in the worst sense, and also tone deaf and blind to what is happening in Real Life or indeed in Surreal Life, Outside Its Study. As a result, and consequently, the Mystery runs the risk of not merely never being fully solved due to this predicament (both an existential and a spiritual one, a veritable malaise, a drasted quagmire of mood) but of never even being identified per se. Life at the post-Kantian University must allow itself to become amenable to risk and perturbance, to move beyond its dry and measurable scholarly visage and to embrace [wholeheartedly, with what Aristotle called the ‘big Soul’ (Mega-Psyche)] all contours of Wild Beauty and Supernatural Interference, as they start to register themselves on our hermeneutic counters. Blink and you will miss it, and most of the Rationalist Cranks surely do (too busy heads-down signing of endless bureaucratic pay cheques).

How to move beyond the blind contagion? Deleuze, this very Parisian Monday morning at now 9.17am (two long minutes, seemed like forever, having elapsed), pondered this question in a manner which was worthy of the Metaphysicians he had come to despise (always through a deep and thoroughly critical reading, never through superficial conjecture). Know Thine EnemyKnow Thine Enemy By Reading Them Better Than They Read Themselves. What he was beginning to realise (perhaps too late, however, only all too late now) was that in this deep and critical reading of the History of Thought, a certain repression had taken place, a subterfuge, a denial. This was the first realization. In brief, let us put it like this. Platonism as the primary edifice of this latter History Thought Canon, had targeted as its most ferocious adversary nothing less than the fecund and dastardly power of Shamanism itself. It was as if this early battle between Light and Dark, Good and Evil, Truth and Illusion, had set the tone for everything else that had followed right up from 500BC in Early Greek War to now, here in foggy Paris, a Monday morning, 9.19am and counting.    

Deleuze knew, more than anyone of course (perhaps also one of his few trusted colleagues, Lyotard at Vincennes, had an inkling via his reading of early Cynicism) what precisely was at stake in this clandestine and near-supernatural glimpse into what we might refer to as a specific Shadow World. After all, wasn’t Deleuze himself the thinker par excellence of Diogenesian dyadic elemental pluralized thinking that refuses vulgar (or idealistic) reductions down into a singular Leibnizian ‘monad’ structure? Yes, dear reader, if nothing else, Gilles was that. Drawing his inspiration from the most hermetic of sources, so as to harness the fullest most dyadic potential of Forces, Deleuze was also keenly aware that there was nothing wholly original in any of this. Had he not often thought, for example, that the feverish dreams which came to him in the middle of the night were indicating a frame of hermeneutic reference which could only conclude that Gilles his very self was not really some kind of self-sufficient human being after all (he truly dreaded admitting this to Fanny and his children, above all), but rather the transmigration, the reincarnation of the allegedly fictional character Durtal and his acutely tortured soul-body matrix that seemed to scatter its emotional debris and destruction from Huysmans’s erratic and occultic texts out onto the real world? Admittedly, to some, this might seem a far fetched speculation, as if a man suffering from a minor flu imagined that rather he was suffering from some regeneration of the Bubonic Plague. And yet.   

Durtal, a shy, censorious man caught up, nay obsessed in the writing of a haunted biography of Gilles de Rais, the monstrous fifteenth century child murderer thought to be the original for ‘Bluebeard’. Bored and disgusted by the vulgarity of everyday life, Durtal seeks spiritual solace by immersing himself in another age. His interest in and involvement in Satanic rituals and his surreal introduction to the exquisitely evil Madame Chantelouve would all be relevant ‘facts’ of the case here, of the detective story (which only seeks to understand and never, perhaps despite appearances, to sensationalise). Moreover, is it too gossipy and worrying to additionally mention Durtal’s self-same personhood being drawn into a twilight world of black magic and erotic devilry in fin-de-siècle Paris? Deleuze literally shivered at this melodramatic, almost soap opera vision, right here conjured up as if 100% empirically real, on a foggy morning in Paris. God, I hate Mondays, he whispered to himself.

All joking aside, this revelation (the Unconscious finally become Conscious, perhaps no less than this) must have been a heavy burden. As detectives of this narrative, we might also wonder if Deleuze’s becoming-aware in this cosmic historic manner may have caused his name and his haecceity (his very mortal singularity) to ring out in a drastic manner in the Underworld. We might think of bounties being raised on his head, but not for being taken alive of course. Such awareness might need to be silenced, ruthlessly, before it could do its worst (or best). What such revelations might involve (or who they might damage, hurt or destroy) is a matter only for wild speculation. We can think of this as a kind of Counter-Enlightenment Regime. Didn’t Montaigne (philosopher of light) plead in On the Duty of Historians that ‘to be silent on what all the world “knows”…is an inexcusable defect’. In brief, one can surmise that the original Myth of a divide between Truth and Illusion, Light and Dark, Violence and Peace, has something fundamental to do with all the ensuing subterfuge and rampant dissimulation. I choose my words carefully at this juncture. We might best encapsulate the direction of this dialectic if we take Derrida’s frankly obscene accusation (in ‘Plato’s Pharmacy’that Socrates was a sophist into a potentially even more obscene principle that Socrates was a shaman. This would be the point at which Plato’s Metaphysics and Crowley’s Magick converge, but only whisper this low and do please keep looking over your shoulder. Wasn’t this precisely the plight, the paranoid existence of one character we know well from our story, no less than Durtal, working away head-down and as quiet as a mouse in the Sûreté Générale, the bureau of National Criminal Investigation, also in Paris? 

The price for actually trying to bring these enigmatic and complex intuitions to the surface in human and social life is generally death. This is no exaggeration or dramatic pose. The rare ones, such as Aleister Crowley, who have seemingly succeeded in navigating the dangers and foregrounding the routes to a cosmic new consciousness in their works, have no doubt paid a price that was never made public in itself. Crowley made the connection, in his system of Magick, between these states of consciousness and a wholly wider range of subjective spiritual experiences than heretofore in modernity and also created a facilitation of contact with extra-dimensional entities. These kinds of paranormal openings don’t last long, in that they are not allowed to stay open by the overreach of Government or the Police Complex/Prison Complex.       

And so this sacred and very specific morning our anti-hero Gilles came to speak these extraordinary groundbreaking insights actually aloud (don’t underestimate this speaking the truth aloud to the world), breaking out into ecstatic SHOUTS at some points, at other moments appearing to enter some kind of calmer but nonetheless trancelike and wholly irrational delirium. Of course, Vincennes campus and offices were no strangers to such explosive human behaviour (from Badiou’s Vietnamese Maoist terrorists to Judith Lacan’s temper tantrums) but this was surely different, a whole Other (Dis)Order.

WE HAVE ALL BECOME LIKE SCROOGE, he shouts. The understanding of this frankly weird statement (possibly quasi-philosophical but perhaps closer to a Lewis Carroll or Artaud nonsense lyric) might be scaffolded by a sense that the standard presuppositions of our Reality Effect derive from the assumption that the material and theoretical world is the only horizon from which we can take meaning for our existences. But what if this latter supposition (not just one theory amongst others of course) was a kind of scrooging of the Life Force? What if, to the contrary, there were many other worlds possible than this Scrooge one? WE HAVE ALL BECOME LIKE SCROOGE therefore might be translated best as FUCK SCROOGE UP. However, let me immediately qualify this. The latter is not in any way a definitive interpretation of what Deleuze was shouting out, at this admittedly rather stressful period of his life. Let us remember also, hardly a minor point, that we are here, on this foggy Parisian Monday, between 9 and 11 am, not all that far away from the epiphany (is that a flattering conceptualization?) of Deleuze’s forthcoming, ahem, ‘suicide’. So close and yet so far. Isn’t that always the way with Mysteries, with Detective Stories, and indeed with Life Itself?