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Jung’s Influence on Deleuze and Guattari

Although it is not clear that Deleuze and Guattari were simply and unambiguously Jungians, they extensively engaged with Jung’s work in both affirmative and critical ways. For instance, in Difference and Repetition, Deleuze writes: “Was not one of the most important points of Jung’s theory already to be found here: the force of ‘questioning’ in the unconscious, the conception of the unconscious as an unconscious of ‘problems’ and ‘tasks’? Drawing out the consequences of this led Jung to the discovery of a process of differenciation more profound than the resulting oppositions.”[1] The concern with “problems” and “differenciation” is central to Deleuze’s project in what many consider his magnum opus, and it is striking that Deleuze articulates such a strong resonance between his work and that of Jung, as Jung’s influence on Deleuze has not tended to be emphasized by scholars.[2] Similarly, there are several passages in which Deleuze takes Jung’s side against Freud, who nominated Jung his “successor and crown prince”[3] in 1910, and then excommunicated him around 1913 for his purported psychoanalytic heresies. One of the most revealing of these passages by Deleuze is in L’Abécédaire, recorded as a long television interview that would only air after his death, in which he discusses “a text that I adore by Jung” about Jung’s dream of descent through successive subterranean strata, at the deepest layer of which Jung finds a multiplicity of bones that Freud insists on reducing to the unity of a death-wish.[4] Deleuze presents this encounter as a primary example of his central concepts of multiplicity and assemblage, which he portrays Jung as understanding, contrary to Freud’s egregious misunderstanding of these concepts, an instance that also finds brief mention in A Thousand Plateaus, where Deleuze and Guattari write that “Jung is in any event profounder than Freud.”[5] Deleuze also makes positive references to Jung in Nietzsche and Philosophy,[6] with Claire Parnet in Dialogues II,[7] and with Guattari in Anti-Oedipus,[8] and it even seems possible that Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of the rhizome from A Thousand Plateaus is at least partially derived from Jung’s discussion of this concept in 1961’s Memories, Dreams, Reflections.[9]

In 1969’s The Logic of Sense, Deleuze explicitly employs the term “synchronicity,” and significant portions of that book seem to be explorations of something very much like Jungian archetypes and the subtle kind of formal causation characteristic of the late Jungian conception of synchronicity in other terms. Deleuze indirectly defines synchronicity as a form of resonant correspondence that is not merely a linear logical series operating in terms of the causes and effects of efficient causation, while Jung, in the subtitle of the book Synchronicity, defines it as “an acausal connecting principle,” both of which definitions Deleuze implicitly takes up later in the same book, in relation to the Stoics and Leibniz, in his discussion of “alogical incompatibilities and noncausal correspondences,” of which he writes that “astrology was perhaps the first important attempt to establish a theory,” as this ancient mode of thought posits a persistent formal, as opposed to efficient, causal (or perhaps quasi-causal, or even acausal) correspondence between the movements of the heavens and events in the human domain.[10]

A decade-or-so later, in A Thousand Plateaus, the figure of Professor Challenger—who is apparently an embodiment of the assemblage of Deleuze and Guattari based on a character by Arthur Conan Doyle—is giving an obscure and difficult lecture which seems partially designed to prune back the audience (and perhaps those reading about this oddly hallucinatory presentation) to the few steadfast diehards willing to expend the extraordinary effort required to comprehend these esoteric domains, so that “the only ones left were the mathematicians, accustomed to other follies, along with a few astrologers, archaeologists, and scattered individuals.” In the same book, Deleuze and Guattari describe Jung’s approach as “integrating” any given animal image found in dream or myth “into its archetypal series,” though they express dissatisfaction with this construction, seeking further to deterritorialize Jung’s theory, which they clearly find great value in along with the Jungian approach of Gaston Bachelard in Lautréamont (about which James Hillman also wrote), to suggest that “we sorcerers” can discern that “there is still room for something else, something more secret, more subterranean” constituted in a becoming beyond the “progress or regress along a series,” which they associate with “the whole structuralist critique of the series,” a critique which “seems irrefutable.” However, later in the same text, they quote H.P. Lovecraft’s evocation of an ascendance through n-dimensions “up to the dizzy and reachless heights of archetypal infinity” in their description of the “plane of consistency” (as opposed to the “plane of development”) which is the locus of becomings “written like sorcerers’ drawings” on that immanent plane, “the ultimate Door providing a way out” or, alternately, “the gates of the Cosmos.”[11]

Deleuze and Guattari’s critique of the archetypes as “intrinsic qualities” rather than the conception that they advocate, in which “cosmic forces” or “expressive qualities” (which are “fictional” like the infinitesimal form of the calculus created by Leibniz) are real but nonactual formal causes characterized by their function in specific assemblages of becoming—nomadic paths enacting a vital autonomy for which particular effectuations are derivative points, so that the integral trajectory is primary and the series derived from it secondary—is already prefigured in Jung, who remained ambivalent about the archetypes’ ontological status. Thus, rather than rejecting altogether Jung’s archetypal theory, Deleuze and Guattari, like many Jungians, have refined that theory, rendering it more subtle and general by suggesting that the locus of becoming is not found primarily in the linear, sedentary series of chronological development, but in temporally nonlinear “transformational series” across scale ascending, as in Jean Gebser’s concretion of time, through increasing degrees of freedom. They seem to suggest that the integration of n-dimensional archetypal series is precisely the conceptual construction characteristic of the Leibnizian, infinitesimal version of the integral calculus, and thus that the metaphysical integration explicitly correlated with the integral calculus specifically integrates these nonlinear and nonlocal archetypal series of diachronic and synchronic resonances, which is precisely the mode of relation characteristic of Jung’s late expression of synchronicity, syncategorematically approaching the transcendental archetypal potentialities in their multiplicitous singularity.[12]

While these discussions of Jung’s work are profound, they require a Sherlock Holmesian reading of subtle clues to decipher, a recognition that Deleuze implicitly affirms in Difference and Repetition, writing that “a book of philosophy should be in part a very particular species of detective novel,” with hints leading the reader to revelations of ultimately complex networks of intertwined relations that were formerly occluded.[13] Deleuze, with and without Guattari, often only evokes these realms of thought, teasing the reader with references to Jung and his work in ways that cannot easily be pinned down, that remain elusive. One suspects the reason for this coyness is that, although Deleuze clearly found great value in Jung’s work, he also understood that Jungian thought has enjoyed an uneasy relationship with the main streams of academia, as Jung brilliantly and profoundly explored conceptual domains that were often beyond the pale for the dominant spheres of the twentieth century academy. However, this situation currently bears signs of a rapid shift, and the increased recognition of Deleuze and Guattari’s extended, though complex, engagement with Jung might help to carry the Swiss psychologist from the marginal frontiers of thought, where he remains the undisputed king, into the central nodes of academic discourse where Freud has long presided, at least in the humanities. In fact, Deleuze and Guattari explore most of the same uncharted domains as Jung, though their writing is so difficult and complex that only those who are paying very close attention, and in many cases who are already familiar with Jungian thought, will discern the deep resonances between these thinkers. One suspects that this was a subtle and purposive strategy by Deleuze and Guattari, which has been extraordinarily efficacious in allowing their work to occupy a central place in continental thought, while also allowing them to engage with relatively marginal Jungian concepts, winking at the Jungian cognoscenti while generally escaping the notice of those within academia who unquestioningly accept the overly hasty dismissal of Jung’s work largely instigated by Freud. Ultimately, Deleuze and Guattari implicitly seem to have understood Hillman’s admonition that “Freud and Jung are psychological mas­ters, not that we may follow them in becoming Freudian and Jungian, but that we may follow them in becoming psychological,”[14] though of course the same can also be said about following Deleuze and Guattari as philosophical and psychological masters.

[1] Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995) 317n17.

[2] A notable exception is Christian Kerslake’s excellent Deleuze and the Unconscious.

[3] Sigmund Freud and C.G. Jung, The Freud-Jung Letters (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994) 104.

[4] C.G. Jung, Man and His Symbols (New York: Anchor Press, 1964) 56-58.

[5] L’Abécédaire de Gilles Deleuze 1996. Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1987) 241.

[6] Gilles Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006) 212n8.

[7] Gilles Deleuze and Claire Parnet, Dialogues II (New York: Columbia University Press, 1987) 80.

[8] Gilles Deleuze, Anti-Oedipus (New York: Penguin Classics, 2009) 46, 162, 278.

[9] C.G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections (New York: Vintage Books, 1989) 4.

[10] Gilles Deleuze, The Logic of Sense (New York: Columbia University Press, 1990) 120, 170-71.

[11] A Thousand Plateaus 43, 57, 235, 237, 250-51, 333.

[12] A Thousand Plateaus 306, 322-23, 380, 398, 420, 507.

[13] Difference and Repetition xx.

[14] James Hillman, Re-Visioning Psychology (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1992) xii.

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An ‘Integrated Affair’: William James, Sigmund Freud, and Analysis vs. Synthesis in Academic Discourse

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I’ve been having a fascinating conversation with Dr. Andreas Sommer of Cambridge University (http://forbiddenhistories.wordpress.com/) in the comments of my earlier post “Affect and Rationality in William James” about whether Freud’s concept of “the return of the repressed” can viably be marshaled in relation to James’ ideas. I think Dr. Sommer is right that his approach as an historian is probably different from my approach as a philosopher and cultural theorist with a doctorate in English. But I also think he’s perpetuating a fallacy that’s fairly pervasive in contemporary academia, exemplified by the poststructuralist “incredulity towards metanarratives,” imposing an excessively critical analysis of conceptual wholes into their constituent parts. This primarily critical mode seems to miss the proverbial forest for the trees, which I believe is fundamentally counter to the integrative character of James’ philosophy. Indeed, James addresses this very issue extensively in his work. For instance, he writes in Pragmatism:

The pragmatic method is primarily a method of settling metaphysical disputes that otherwise might be interminable. . . . Theories thus become instruments, not answers to enigmas, in which we can rest.  We don’t lie back upon them, we move forward, and, on occasion, make nature over again by their aid. Pragmatism unstiffens all our theories, limbers them up and sets each one at work. . . . New truth is always a go-between, a smoother-over of transitions. It marries old opinion to new fact. . . . ‘To be true’ means only to perform this marriage-function. . . . Loosely speaking, and in general, it may be said that all things cohere and adhere to each other somehow, and that the universe exists practically in reticulated or concatenated forms which make of it a continuous or ‘integrated’ affair. . . . Everything makes strongly for the view that our world is incompletely unified teleologically and is still trying to get its unification better organized. (18-54)

The theoretical mode James consistently articulates is one in which diverse, and often contradictory theories, modes of thought, and thinkers can be brought into relation, their “metaphysical disputes” “settled” by the pragmatic “marriage-function,” which strives to unify, integrate, and reconcile seemingly incommensurable entities. This integrative impulse seems eminently applicable to the relation between the ideas of Freud and James himself, who, in the larger cultural context in which they are embedded, are more alike than they are different, not least in that they both spent their lives attempting to understand the same subject: the human mind in relation to the world.

Henri Bergson (with whom James was friends) also addresses the frequent modern academic preference for analysis over synthesis in Creative Evolution (to which James intended to write a laudatory preface for the English edition before he died):

Intellect therefore instinctively selects in a given situation whatever is like something already known; it seeks this out, in order that it may apply its principle that ‘like produces like.’ . . . Like ordinary knowledge, in dealing with things science is concerned only with the aspect of repetition. Though the whole be original, science will always manage to analyze it into elements or aspects which are approximately a reproduction of the past. Science can work only on what is supposed to repeat itself—that is to say, on what is withdrawn, by hypothesis, from the action of real time. Anything that is irreducible and irreversible in the successive moments of a history eludes science. To get a notion of this irreducibility and irreversibility, we must break with scientific habits which are adapted to the fundamental requirements of thought, we must do violence to the mind, go counter to the natural bent of the intellect. But that is just the function of philosophy. (24-25)

The mode of thought that Dr. Sommer is employing in apparently denying the possibility of finding complementary conceptual elements in James and Freud seems to me essentially complicit with the methods of reductive materialist science, which continue implicitly to dominate the humanities despite frequent protestations to the contrary. While I think the kind of critical, historical contextualization Dr. Sommer prefers is valid in its own right, it oversteps its domain of validity when it denies the impulse to produce emergent wholes through the synthesis of different thinkers’ ideas.

This pragmatic approach is concisely expressed by John Stuart Mill (whom James thought would have been a leader of pragmatism had he still been alive) in his essay “Coleridge”:

All students of man and society who possess that first requisite for so difficult a study, a due sense of its difficulties, are aware that the besetting danger is not so much of embracing falsehood for truth, as of mistaking part of the truth for the whole. It might be plausibly maintained that in almost every one of the leading controversies, past or present, in social philosophy, both sides were in the right in what they affirmed, though wrong in what they denied; and that if either could have been made to take the other’s views in addition to its own, little more would have been needed to make its doctrine correct.

Dr. Sommer seems to want to reify the “controversy” between James and Freud as metaphysically fundamental. I agree that Freud and James were very different thinkers, a point I allude to when I write that “James perhaps goes farther than Freud,” particularly in that James affirmed the validity of formal and final causation in addition to material and efficient causation, whereas Freud was a materialist, only affirming the latter two causal modes. However, I believe that critical negation (which Alfred North Whitehead terms “the peak of mentality”) of the possibility of synthesis, as Dr. Sommer seems to call for, should be relegated back to its appropriate place in the scholarly armamentarium, so that we can again begin to see apparently disparate modes of thought as complementary “in what they affirm.” In fact, as James asserts in a footnote to The Varieties of Religious Experience (444), this “inextricably mixed” quality of all kinds of “distinctions” was the predominant mode of thought prior to the seventeenth century. While I agree that critical, analytical, historical contextualization is a vitally necessary and important activity, one that has required the last few centuries for its individuation, this impulse is only half of a dialectical process. As Whitehead (who calls James “that adorable genius”) writes in Adventures of Ideas:

The difference between the two, namely the Hellenic and the Hellenistic types of mentality, may be roughly described as that between speculation and scholarship. For progress, both are necessary.  But, in fact, on the stage of history they are apt to appear as antagonists. Speculation, by entertaining alternative theories, is superficially skeptical, disturbing to established modes of prejudice. But it obtains its urge from a deep ultimate faith, that through and through the nature of things is penetrable by reason. Scholarship, by its strict attention to accepted methodologies, is superficially conservative of belief. But its tone of mind leans towards a fundamental negation. For scholars the reasonable topics in the world are penned in isolated regions, this subject-matter or that subject-matter. (108)

Despite Dr. Sommer’s assertion that “it’s of course fine that you make it your task to synthesize ideas,” he appears to contradict this affirmation in the rest of his response. He seems, along with much of current academia, to take an essentially Hellenistic rather than Hellenic approach to the production of knowledge, almost purely scholarly and analytic rather than speculative and synthetic. While I fully acknowledge the validity of tracing the direct influence on James of less well-remembered figures like Frederic W. H. MyersThéodore Flournoy, and Pierre Janet, I prefer a mode of thought which synthesizes the scholarly and speculative modes, asserting that, because James and Freud were perhaps the two primary psychologists who mediated the founding of psychology as a viable discipline, it is not only our right, but even our duty given a century of perspective, to bring their respective positive content into relation if we hope to generate novel understanding. Rather than a “forced marriage,” as Dr. Sommer terms it, I see this activity as a hieros gamos, a “sacred marriage” of opposites for the conception of discursive transformation via teleological concrescence.

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Affect and Rationality in William James

WilliamJames

William James writes in his Varieties of Religious Experience: “Each emotion obeys a logic of its own, and makes deductions which no other logic can draw. Piety and charity live in a different universe from worldly lusts and fears, and form another centre of energy altogether” (Varieties 298). James suggests that affective knowing, the focus on emotional or bodily information for the interpretation of experience, seems to illuminate domains that are inaccessible to the usual connotations of the word “logic,” as opposed to the more expansive derivation of the “Logos” of Greek philosophy in which sense James appears to be employing the term. As he describes it, being “inside” certain affective modes, including those accompanying rationality, constructs bodily experience of the world in radically different ways, forming different energetic centers that fundamentally color one’s perception of the world. Indeed, as James writes in Pragmatism: “The philosophy which is so important in each of us is not a technical matter; it is our more or less dumb sense of what life honestly and deeply means.  It is only partly got from books; it is our individual way of just seeing and feeling the total push and pressure of the cosmos” (Pragmatism 1). James contends that bodily experience is prior to any theoretical system that one may hold. As he makes clear, affective intuition determines the type of philosophy that one is drawn to, though because of the pervasive repression of feeling modes in favor of rational thought in modernity, this knowledge is often unconsciously acted out as if we are driven primarily by rational considerations.

James suggests that educated people in the modern West often think that we believe things for rational reasons when, in fact, we almost always use rationality as an instrument for justifying what we feel for, as he writes, “our passions or our mystical intuitions fix our beliefs beforehand.” He continues, philosophy “finds arguments for our conviction, for indeed it has to find them. It amplifies and defines our faith, and dignifies it and lends it words and plausibility. It hardly ever engenders it; it cannot now secure it” (Varieties 391-92). Although this view might appear anti-intellectual at first glance, to even undercut the very basis of reason, this does not appear to be James’ intention.  Rather, James demonstrates that intellectual rationality is but one way of knowing the world applicable to certain domains of experience more than others, and that, for complex historical reasons, the West has, for the last few centuries, pervasively and systematically privileged “logical reason” over what he terms “feeling” and “intuition.” As James notes: “Until the seventeenth century this mode of thought prevailed” (Varieties 443-44), particularly until the widespread acceptance of the Cartesian equation of thought with human being in general as codified in the cogito: “I think, therefore I am.” However, before Descartes and the epochal shift in philosophy that he enacted and represented, “such distinctions . . . between the impersonal and the personal aspects of existence, were hardly suspected or conceived” (Varieties 443-44). Thus, James suggests that the domains accessible to intellect and affect were not yet individuated in premodernity as they are in the experience of late modernity, visible in the radical Kantian separation of subject and object, which assumes that one can never directly perceive the world outside of oneself, so the only way to obtain real knowledge is through mathematics, formal logic, and empirical testing.

Contrary to this Cartesian-Kantian conclusion, the foundation on which the privileging of scientific rationality rests, James contends that intellectual rationality is but one valid and productive way of constructing experience and, thus, of knowing the world. This approach refocuses attention on bodily experience which, as James suggests, can provide just as much real information as rationality, though of a radically different kind. However, while modernity has often constructed these two epistemological domains as fundamentally discontinuous and incommensurable, James posits that, just as they were combined in premodernity in a generally naïve, unconscious way, it seems that the way to attain a more complete understanding of lived experience lies in the intentional integration of these experiential domains. And this integration appears to be constituted primarily in a consciousness of where one’s attention is directed, and of which mode one emphasizes at any given moment. James writes:

Now however fixed these elements of reality may be, we still have a certain freedom in our dealing with them. Take our sensations. That they are is undoubtedly beyond our control; but which we attend to, note, and make emphatic in our conclusions depends on our own interests; and, according as we lay the emphasis here or there, quite different formulations of truth result. We read the same facts differently (Pragmatism 94-5).

Ultimately, James sees freedom not as a triumph of rationality over mute feeling as the case has often been constructed in modernity, but as the freedom to emphasize whichever domains of process one finds most appropriate to illuminate one’s experience at any particular moment. Thus, by becoming conscious of repressed bodily knowledge, one becomes more able to participate in the “formulation” of “truth” than if one is conscious only of one’s verbal, conceptual rationality, but unconsciously driven by one’s neuroses: the non-verbal affective and intuitive modes of engagement returning as compensatory Freudian symptoms. “Experience, as we know,” James writes, “has ways of boiling over, and making us correct our present formulas” (Pragmatism 86), a statement that bears a strong resemblance to Freud’s description of the process through which neurotic symptoms are produced. However, James perhaps goes farther than Freud to see these symptoms as impelling the psyche towards greater integration rather than simply cathexis, which Freud describes as leading to regression, anti-cathexis, or sublimation, none of which seem to have the potential for the psychic conciliation that James implies. According to James, by paying attention to intimate bodily feelings and not just to rational logic, one can apparently participate in what James would later term a “radical empiricism.” James writes:

Our acts, our turning-places, where we seem to ourselves to make ourselves and grow, are the parts of the world to which we are closest, the parts of which our knowledge is the most intimate and complete. Why should we not take them at their face-value?  Why may they not be the actual turning-places and growing-places which they seem to be, of the world—why not the workshop of being, where we catch fact in the making, so that nowhere may the world grow in any other kind of way than this? (Pragmatism 111).

In James’ view, attention to intimate experience is the primary locus for the growth and transformation, not only of the individual, but of the world, for the deepest premises that we hold about the nature of reality fundamentally condition the type of meaning that we can elicit from immediate experience. In turn, the meaning that we cull from the raw data of our senses determines what kind of world we collectively co-create.

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