«– Para onde cavalga senhor?
– Não sei ao certo – disse eu –, só sei que é para fora daqui, fora daqui. Fora daqui sem parar; só assim posso alcançar o meu objectivo.
– Conhece então o seu objectivo? – perguntou ele.
– Sim – respondi – Eu já disse: “fora-daqui”, é esse o meu objectivo.»
Franz Kafka, “A Partida”
«Deleuze’s philosophy is best described as an exercise in creative indiscernment, an effort to subtract the dynamics of creation from the mediation of the created. Deleuze certainly pays careful attention to the mechanics of material or actual creation, the ways in which creatural structures are consolidated, administered, represented, and so on – but he explores these things only in order to invent suitably targeted means of escaping them. His affirmation of absolute and immanent creativity certainly blocks any invocation of a transcendent ‘creator’, but it also implies a philosophy that seeks to escape any mediation through the categories of subjectivity, history and the world. At the limit, we’ll see that purely creative processes can only take place in a wholly virtual dimension and must operate at a literally infinite speed.
What is really at stake in Deleuze’s work, therefore, is not some sort of enhanced creatural mobility, a set of techniques that might enable more supple or more fruitful modes of actual interaction. What matters is instead the redemptive re-orientation of any particular creature towards its own dissolution. Rather than a philosopher of nature, history or the world, rather than any sort of ‘fleshy materialist’, Deleuze is most appropriately read as a spiritual, redemptive or subtractive thinker, a thinker preoccupied with the mechanics of dis-embodiment and de-materialisation. Deleuze’s philosophy is oriented by lines of flight that lead out of the world; though not other-worldly, it is extra-worldly.
Deleuze’s work thus proceeds in keeping with Nietzsche’s prescription of a ‘constant self-overcoming’: ‘to become what one is, one must not have the faintest notion what one is’.5 Any particular creature can reorient itself in line with the virtual creating that it expresses through a series of transformations or ‘becomings’ directed towards what Deleuze presents as their exclusive telos: their becoming imperceptible. The value of any particular becoming (woman, animal, molecule…) varies with the degree that it acts ‘to the benefit of an unformed matter of deterritorialised flux’, the degree to which it carries us beyond the limits of perception, meaning and form.6 The ‘imperceptible is the immanent end of becoming, its cosmic formula’.7
Only by becoming imperceptible can an actual individual become fully adequate to the virtual creating to which its very being attests. Beyond the organic limitations of an actual living being, ‘becoming imperceptible is Life, “without cessation or condition”’. To use a metaphor adapted from Deleuze’s reading of Beckett, the imperceptible subject of such a life comes to float like a cork, helpless but serene, upon a tempestuous ocean of pure movement. Abandoned to the ‘cosmic and spiritual lapping’ of this sea, such a subject ‘no longer moves, but is in an element that moves’ (CC, 26). Like all of the writers that Deleuze admires, Beckett knows that ‘the aim of writing’, its ‘final enterprise’, is a ‘becoming imperceptible’. Beckett knows that in order ‘to create […] one has to lose one’s identity, one has to disappear, to become unknown’ (D, 45).
We will have to distinguish, as carefully as possible, such disappearing or becoming imperceptible from annihilation pure and simple. Despite some illuminating points of convergence, Deleuze’s counter-actualisation shouldn’t be confused with negative processes like those that Simone Weil calls ‘decreation’ or Walter Benjamin ‘mortification’. Nevertheless, the subtractive orientation of Deleuze’s philosophy is decisive. The pivotal question – how, as creatures, ‘can we rid ourselves of ourselves?’ (C1, 66) – finds an answer in the promise of
“imperceptibility, indiscernibility, and impersonality – the three virtues. To reduce oneself to an abstract line, a trait, in order to find one’s zone of indiscernibility with other traits, and in this way enter the haecceity and impersonality of the creator. One is then like grass: one has made the whole world into a becoming because one has suppressed in oneself everything that prevents us from slipping between things” (TP, 279–80).
In most of Deleuze’s otherwise varied discussions (of Spinoza, Nietzsche, Bergson, Proust, Bacon, Masoch, cinema…) what is at issue is almost always a variation on this same basic sequence. For obvious reasons, the inventions of art and science are especially suited to Deleuze’s conception of things, and it’s not surprising that readers keen to stress the contemporary relevance of Deleuze’s work tend to stress his approach to these and related topics. It’s with good reason that Deleuze is now widely read by students in all branches of artistic practice, and theorists of science from Prigogine and Stengers to De Landa and Massumi have long recognised the compatibility of his differential ontology with the unabashedly speculative or ‘acritical’ metaphysics that underlie some recent contributions to complexity theory (a theory dedicated to tracking the unpredictable, non-linear emergence of self-ordering trajectories and ‘dissipative structures’ from within fields marked by turbulence, disequilibrium, delocalised resonances, and so on).9 But preoccupation with the recent and the contemporary, may distract attention from what are clearly the most important paradigms of creation for Deleuze, namely ontology and cosmology. It is not just the work of art or science that is creative. It is all of being that is creative, in itself. Through most of the history of philosophy, of course, creative ontologies have been developed within explicitly theological frameworks, frameworks that rely on some sort of transcendent creator or God. Deleuze certainly doesn’t acknowledge any transcendent idea of God.
Nevertheless, in a number of important ways his work is consistent with the general logic of a cosmic pantheism, i.e. the notion that the universe and all it contains is a facet of a singular and absolute creative power (cf. EP, 333). (…) Deleuze is not the only French philosopher of his generation to think along these lines; he shares some limited though suggestive common ground with his contemporaries Henry Corbin, Michel Henry, Christian Jambet and Clément Rosset, among others.10 There is clearly nothing specifically contemporary about such a logic, however. On the contrary, the basic parameters of a philosophy that seeks to align itself with a singular principle of absolute creativity are very ancient. (…)
Absolute creation involves immediate (or non-relational) forms of individuation, precisely, as opposed to both relational or dialectical forms of individuation on the one hand and sheer extinction or de-individuation on the other. A singular creative force is nothing other than the multiplication of singular creatings, each of which is originally and uniquely individual in its own right. The essential point is that such individuation does not itself depend on mediation through the categories of representation, objectivity, history or the world. An individual is only truly unique, according to this conception of things, if its individuation is the manifestation of an unlimited individuating power. (…)
Participation in absolute creation is not the result, then, of a process of approximation or progression. It is not conditioned by trends in the world, or mediated by a complex dialectic. We are and have always been creation, and our awareness of being this relies, in the end, on nothing more (or less) than an original or pre-original affirmation, an affirmation which opens the field of its subsequent effects as a series of immediate implications. Preoccupation with the world as such, let alone a concern with the orderly representation of the things of the world, serves only to inhibit any such affirmation. Rather than seek to elaborate rational rules for the consistent representation of reality, Deleuze sees the fundamental task of philosophy as exclusively conditioned by our immediate participation in reality. Before he declares his well-known antipathy to Hegel, Deleuze seeks to confirm Bergson’s break with the neo-Kantian configuration of modern philosophy. (In this sense it is indeed Kant who figures as the genuine antagonist of Deleuze’s philosophy; Hegel is better conceived as its most dangerous rival). Rather than represent the world in a reliable way, Deleuze maintains that our real concern is to ‘know how the individual would be able to transcend his form and his syntactical link with a world’ so as to become the transparent vessel for that ‘nonorganic life of things which burns us […,] which is the divine part in us, the spiritual relationship in which we are alone with God as light’ (LS, 178; C1, 54). As we shall see, in many ways Deleuze’s project resonates with and renews that ‘Oriental intuition’ which Hegel found at work in Spinoza’s philosophy, ‘according to which everything finite appears as something merely transient and ephemeral’ – that ‘oriented’ conception of the absolute conceived as ‘the light which illumines itself ’.16 . (…)»
– Peter Hallward, Introduction to “Out of this World”.