Renewable Deleuze

Philosophies are renewable resources. Deleuze’s philosophy is a case in point.  Theological and religious contexts have seen a renewal of Deleuze in recent years. Kristien Justaert drew out Deleuze’s contributions to liberation theology (Theology After Deleuze). Josh Ramey articulated the hermetic dark precursors to Deleuze’s philosophical spirituality (The Hermetic Deleuze), and Christopher Simpson staged an encounter between Deleuze and radical orthodoxy (Deleuze and Theology). I mentioned this a few years ago, referring to the emergence of a “New Deleuze.” The renewal continues…

Continuing the exhumation of the theological and religious resources contained in Deleuze’s corpus, Daniel Barber digs up Deleuze’s concept of immanence in support of a postsecularism that is opposed to transcendence yet open to the naming of God (Deleuze and the Naming of God). F. LeRon Shults digs up Deleuze’s atheistic and diabolic tendencies to provide theology with iconoclastic hammers (Iconoclastic Theology). Many of these books make interesting points about debates about secularism, esotericism, transcendence and immanence, institutional vs. lived religion, the death of God, theopolitical power, and more.

Shults facilitates perhaps the most predictable renewal of Deleuze. Drawing iconoclastic resources from an ostensibly atheistic thinker is like shooting fish in a barrel. Nonetheless, I appreciate that Shults is among few thinkers to apply his Deleuzian sense of theology and religion to ecological issues. In a recent issue of the journal Religions dedicated to religion and ecology in the Anthropocene, Shults describes how his atheistic stance takes position in the Anthropocene. Still, there seems to be something that’s just way too easy about the reading of Deleuze that Shults presents. For example, consider his reading of the Body without Organs (BwO).

In The Logic of Sense, Deleuze refers to a “glorious body,” the Body without Organs, which he describes as “a new dimension of the schizophrenic body, an organism without parts which operates entirely by insufflation, respiration, evaporation and fluid transmission.” Insufflation is the operation of the BwO. In the final pages of Iconoclastic Theology, Shults offers a rhetorical question, “‘Insufflation’ sounds scary; how will we hold together?” Subsequently, he reassures us to overcome our fear, but he is thereby offering a resolution to something that is not a problem (…a metonym for his offering of iconoclasm during an era entrenched in iconoclasm). Who is he addressing? Who is afraid of insufflation? Not Deleuzians, surely, and not religious practitioners, who would doubtless find the predicate “scary” to be a paltry approximation for the intensities traversing their immersion in spiritual flows (inspiration/expiration/respiration). Nobody is afraid of insufflation, not Deleuzians, not religious people, not consumers, who are currently insufflating Earth’s life, land, air, and water with incredible rapidity. The problem is not a fear of insufflation but, to the contrary, an excessively zealous insufflation that produces inflammation and thereby botches the fluid transmission of the Body without Organs.

Shults makes the diarrheal  suggestion that we “Let go. Release. Flow,” as if that is a sustainable way to maintain a BwO. He forgets about the importance of maintaining sufficient strata to wake up the next morning. That’s where the rest of us are, struggling to find strata amidst manic insufflation, and Deleuzian resources can support this struggle, and so can numerous contemporary theisms that have already been through the fires of iconoclasm and are blistering with wounds that ooze atheistic secretions (e.g., theisms in liberation theology, spiritual philosophy, postcolonial theology, feminist theology, eco-theology). Along those lines, Clayton Crockett and Catherine Keller are producing perhaps the most relevant readings of Deleuze today. Crockett’s works apply Deleuze’s philosophy to the task of articulating an Earth-based political theology, and Keller folds Deleuze’s philosophy together with theologies of becoming (process), feminism, liberation movements, postcolonialism, and ecology.

It’s still an open question: Who knows what a Deleuze can do? We need more experiments with this renewable resource, more trials in becoming with Deleuze, forging connections with Deleuze’s corpus that energize our engagements in planetary coexistence.

Contra Deleuze: Latour’s Disputes

While I have read everything of Deleuze, I am not always convinced he is so useful in my empirical enquiries. I am impatient in this otherwise beautiful book, What Is Philosophy?, with the way philosophy’s role is exaggerated beyond any recognition, and also by the fact that on religion he has nothing much to say.  Deleuze is not my all-purpose philosopher.  Also, and that’s a disagreement I have with Isabelle [Stengers], I don’t see him as a good writer, and for me the writing is very important, the crafting of books with very specific literary strategies that embody very specific theories.
Bruno Latour, “Interview with Bruno Latour,” in Chasing Technoscience: Matrix for Materiality, eds. Don Ihde and Evan Selinger (Indiana University Press, 2003), p. 24.

I agree with Latour’s assessment of Deleuze’s writings, and more than that, I agree with his problems regarding Deleuze’s lack of attention to religion.  Although much has been written lately appropriating Deleuze into theological and religious discourses, Deleuze himself did an extremely poor job of accounting for religious truth.  Accordingly, it’s easy to say almost anything about Deleuze’s religion.  Is it a this-worldly Hermeticism (Joshua Ramey), a helpful source for Christian liberation theology (Kristien Justaert), or a Gnosticism that is neither this-worldly nor helpful for concrete emancipatory practices (Christopher Simpson)?   

I couldn’t agree more when Latour says, “I consider that philosophies that don’t deal with the truth production of religion are as incapable of dealing with real thought as those who can’t deal with the truth production of science or the truth production of techniques.  This is why the whole current of anti-religious thinking, which is very strong in much French critical thought, I find unhelpful” (ibid.).

That Latour said those words over a decade ago is an indication that he has been concerned with religion long before the “new enquiry into natural religion” that he is presenting in the current Gifford Lectures…even long before his work on Iconoclash or his articulations of “factish gods.”  Indeed, as he says in the interview I’m quoting here, “I started with religion and was a theologian first, exegesis more exactly” (ibid.).  I’m sure a book of Latourian theology is forthcoming.

Hermetic Deleuze

There is a great interview HERE with Joshua Ramey about his book, The Hermetic Deleuze: Philosophy and Spiritual Ordeal.  The interview is a recent episode of Expanding Mind on the Progressive Radio Network, hosted by Erik Davis and Maja D’Aoust.

It’s a very accessible overview of Deleuze’s philosophy, particularly with a view to its connection to hermeticism and other dark precursors to his thought.  However, the interview is no substitute for Ramey’s book, an exemplary work of scholarship that I highly recommend.  I’ll have more to say about the book another day.