Who Killed Gilles Deleuze? (Episode 5)

Fifth episode of the ongoing investigation (following Episode 4 in the series).

The Studio Wall, Adolph Menzel

It ain’t that in their hearts they’re bad
They can comfort you, some even try
They’d stick by you if they could
But that’s just bullshit, baby
People just ain’t no good.
– Nick Cave, “People Ain’t No Good”

All divination resembles an attempt by a man born blind to obtain sight by getting blind drunk.
– Aleister Crowley, A Description of the Code of the Tarot

Like our anti-hero Durtal, are we bored and disgusted by the vulgarity of everyday life? As with Durtal, dear reader, do we seek spiritual solace by immersing ourselves in another age? This very morning, a rainy Saturday in July 2023, I wrote a near-haiku (let’s call it an ‘American Haiku’ after Kerouac) concerning the ongoing plight of our sorry humanity or ‘H. sap’ for short. It runs as follows –

H. sap #1

How grotesque you are
Mostly wrong headed
With a gift for being a liar.

We will return to this concise picturing of misanthropy below. However, first, let us return to our bigger canvas. In this detective story we have been following already along a number of episodes, we have seen Gilles Deleuze emerge as a central character, one initially depicted across society as a suicided philosopher (hardly surprising or unusual in that of course). From Diogenes refusing to any longer breathe or to Chrysippus taking his own life in a laughing fit of final hilarious asphyxiation, we might say that this would rather be the expected end, no? And thus, jumping Gilles from the 7th Floor is only some kind of anticipated fate, once he had at least a decent career of books and also a notoriety in the end which might help the sales value of the inherited Philosopher-Deleuze estate etc. Which could thereby act as some kind of amelioration for the obvious loss and grieving of his poor wife Fanny (Grandjouan from Limousin) left behind, and his talented, privileged but also so clearly bereft children. So far so good, then.

And yet we have discovered some anomalies along this path of enquiry which seem to complicate this paradigmatic motif of the thanatologist (after all, Plato’s fundamental dictum, ‘isn’t philosophy only a preparation for death?’) who slips across to the Other Side by his own sleight of hand. 

We might cite here that shock which first greeted the sudden demise of Gilles amongst his close circle of accomplices, nothwithstanding the extraordinary and acute bodily mortifications they had seen him suffer in the last months. How can this be? The Philosopher of Life, suicided? Camus, yes. Bataille, definitely yes. Weil, hardly surprising. But Deleuze, NON! René Schérer in a short text of commemoration states baldly ‘Paris, November 5, 1995, this terrible devastating death…it was certainly not from any despair, or death wish, as he had always found this expression and even the idea of a ‘death drive’ [psychoanalysis], to be aberrant and contradictory’. To the contrary, then, Deleuze would be the philosopher of life, of perpetually affirming Eros contra Thanatos, also contra Nyx (mother of Thanatos and goddess of Night) and Hypnos, the father, and god of sleep and somnambulism. Down down with these Dark Gods!

Certainly, these are cautionary notes for any detective. One finds oneself in occult libraries, late into the sleepless hours (these libraries obey no man-made timetables of course, also impossible to locate on any GPS system of cartography – where exactly are they?) seeking out those marginalia in esoteric texts which might enable one to intuit something significant and truthful behind the constant ‘veil of seeming’ we, ordinary mortals so-called, take for everyday reality. Progress is difficult to discern in such matters as we are hardly dealing with linear science or even Cartesian clear and distinct ideas. What are we dealing with then? (shudder).

Moreover, the specificity of the Parisian philosophical context in which these events have taken place can hardly be understood as just one ordinary context amongst others. Previous enquiries in our episodes have noted some connectivity between our Deleuze paradigm scene and a trail which might at least lead back to Huysmans and his own rather clandestine attempts to see into the heart of dark truth. If Durtal is indeed a fictional anti-hero of The Damned, is he not also conceivably much more than this?   

Whisper it, dear reader, and be careful who indeed you whisper it to (for spies and cowards are everywhere amongst us, sometimes our intimates as I have learnt to my cost, no doubt), but beneath the respectable veneer of late nineteenth and twentieth century philosophical thought (leading up to our very contemporary moment of Summer into Autumn 2023) is a shocking realization and truth. Unsettling. Unmooring (if, that is, we were ever really moored). 

– Shhh (and now looking schizoid over one’s shoulder with a half eye). We no longer have religious or moral protection against the madness that is inherent to the human mind.

As I wrote these lines, I was immediately aware of a presence in my room. It was late and dark, and I had been somewhat unsettled anyways with events recently. But this presence had a voice and a clear word for me, gently hissed. I have learnt not to ignore such messages in the middle of the night. If Deleuze indeed sought to make enemies of not just Thanatos but also of this venerable god’s mother and father too, let me say that I am not so inclined. I have made peace with Nyx most especially, a goddess who can give insight and intuition unavailable to mere reason or rational and cognitive faculties. The word uttered was clearly a demand – ‘Count’. So I did, dear reader. What did I find? That’s right. The count of words to that specific point of my cautionary tale, unsurprisingly, 666. Let me repeat, 666.

It is not customary of course, to bring philosophers of the venerable tradition, especially in the French legacy, into any kind of association or dissociation with the Occult. If there have been dalliances across this intellectual and spiritual divide historically (and there have been, of course, undoubtedly), it is not considered something to make a big deal of. Or rather, we might say BE VERY CAREFUL if you seek to delve into these alliances or complicities or pacts. DANGER that way lies, without a shadow. Or rather with many, many shadows. Alas!

But this detective story is no ordinary matter of philosophical discussion. We are not merely talking here of epistemology, what can we know about this or that object. Or of morals or ethics, what is right or what is wrong. Or even of metaphysics, what has this to do with the structure of the universe. Although, in the end, we might say that all such matters are potentially inscribed and usurped within our nexus of interest, sucked into its abyssal structure like a vortex. Bataille used to speak about this as the relation between the ‘general economy’ and the ‘Accursed Share’ (La Part Maudite, ‘Devil’s Share’). How pertinent that mad neo-medievalist librarian’s studies (also a pornographer, hardly coincidental) seem to have been, starting back in the early 1930s. 

Bataille was not alone in this, although he is unusual in also being part (almost) of a more mainstream philosophical Continental tradition. We might think of the related thoughts of Aleister Crowley in a slightly different manner (part of no mainstream tradition, highly heterodox and esoteric). And yet what does Crowley tell us, only some truths that are perhaps already becoming all too clear as we work our way through the clues of this detective story? Are you sitting comfortably? Are you alone? Perhaps you foolishly think you are.

In his books on Magick and Tarot, Crowley shows us naïve ones (previously uninitiated) that the secret of magical invocation is to ‘enslave oneself in prayer’, by which he seems to mean that as the lover, the artist, so too each of us as lover-artists in potential, need to learn to lose ourselves in a creative frenzy which allows Magick to be encountered and thus to transform us beyond recognition. This is the Great Unmooring. Plotinus, that great Platonist mystic, defined prayer as a ‘(mega-) tension of the soul’. This is tension of another order, beyond the current obsession with mere nerve scale anxiety, going up and going down. We are talking here of a pathos beyond psychological or scientific calculus.

Significantly, our detective investigations have thrown up some pieces of information, previously lost or hitherto unconsulted matters of evidence when it comes to how we might start to reframe our admittedly scattered and somewhat speculative reflections into some semi-coherent narrative of ‘what actually may have taken place’. Dear reader, through machinations which I am unable to divulge, I have been able to get my greasy hands on a letter which our hero Gilles wrote to none other than the Dark Lord himself, Pierre Klossowski, in the period of the lead-in to the infamous publication of the text Anti-Oedipus.

            02/18/71 Rue de Bizerte

Dear Friend,

Our book on schizophrenia (D & G) will be published in later February (as in 2 weeks or so) and I am eager for you to read through it (EITHER SILENCE OR WAR WITH PSYCHOANALYSTS) [my capitalization and italics].

I kid you not. This is a real letter, written in Deleuzian ink (some might say nay in his very own blood). The capitalized and italicized words tell us all we need to know. Deleuze (not alone however, alongside his compatriot Guattari) was clued in as to the seismic findings of their new forthcoming co-written text. We might say that the co-authorship was also a channeling of other forces. Is it too much to say here Occult Forces?

What a lot of commentators miss in their reading of Anti-Oedipus as a critique, even a full-frontal attack, on psychoanalysis (either of the Freudian or Lacanian variety prevalent in the French academy at this time, and even at Vincennes close to D’s own lecturing and thinking work, where Judith Lacan the daughter held sway and what a tortuous sway it was) is that this attack was not a denial or an eschewal of the unconscious as such. Au contraire. The encounter with the unconscious is continually felt to be pushing from the Other Side. From where? To give some specific examples, we might say in contemporary music, in magic (or Magick) and in drug exploration. The Unconscious has by no means, through all of this, disappeared. Instead, we are still lost in its jungle, perhaps even more than before. But perhaps the key difference to note here is that the aims and teleology of psychiatry and the clinic are most definitely on the one side, and if philosophy can be said to have a teleology it is definitively directed and visioned wholly elsewhere. And Deleuze never was no clinician. We can all agree on at least this.

While acknowledging psychosis (and the inevitable ‘madness’ of subjectivity in the contemporary world, a world ON FIRE), philosophy here has the nous to see germs of new life and vital possibilities for the future. In contrast, psychiatry is on the look-out for adaptation, for recovery, and if all else fails, for subordination, incarceration. Discipline and (again and again) Punish. Oh the Sadism! Let us remember this when we reread Deleuze’s sweaty palmed missive to the arch-wise Klossowski (well-schooled from Counter-Enlightenment birth in the resistance to normalization and socialization). We should also note that this move beyond the clinic into a potentially transformative space of freedom beyond the psychiatric diagnosis is not a future which philosophy as a disciplinary practice can envisage on its own. 

Isn’t this both Deleuze’s great insight but also his great jeopardy? That philosophy should be open to (but only because it is DESPERATE after a fashion) to make some strange alliances with more esoteric or occultic traditions of thought and Magick. The very idea of this (shudder). It is exactly in this most precarious moment that we should note the impending publication of Anti-Oedipus and the breathless letter to Klossowski. As if the brother of Balthus could save us and the world! But it also explains the implicit and hardly hidden raw fear in the injunction to ‘please read through’. If the WAR cited wasn’t an immediate consequence of the publication, is it too much to speculate that sometimes WAR is waged by nonobvious means? That, sometimes at least, the most pernicious effects of such a war-mongering take a little longer, several decades perchance, to reach their intended target. 

Thus, finally in this instance, let us repeat some fundamentals. The Philosopher of Life, suicided? Camus, yes. Bataille, definitely yes. Weil, hardly surprising. 

But Deleuze, NON! René Schérer in a short text of commemoration states baldly ‘Paris, November 5, 1995, this terrible devastating death…it was certainly not from any despair, or death wish, as he had always found this expression and even the idea of a ‘death drive’ [psychoanalysis], to be aberrant and contradictory’. 

Oh Reader! We are nearing some tentative conclusions. Let the detective work continue. Also, let us watch our backs. Having started this episode with a near-haiku for sorry humanity and the plight of misanthropy, we might vary the theme while conscious of an equivalent result in the end:

H. sap #2

How occultic you are
Mostly two faced
With a gift for assisted death.