“The Hermetic Deleuze: Philosophy and Spiritual Ordeal” (2012) by Joshua Ramey

I’ve just been made aware of this very new book on Deleuze and the Hermetic tradition. As the commenter who brought it to my attention already guessed, it couldn’t be more relevant to my current project. Hermeticism has long been an interest of mine; I’ve even described myself as a Christian Hermeticist in the past. The combination isn’t a new one but has its roots (aside from possible Christian influences on the original authors of the ~2nd century Corpus Hermeticum) in the Renaissance, beginning perhaps with Marsilio Ficino. Though I’ve tried, I can’t seem to shake the Christ archetype out of my psyche. To be honest, I’m often embarrassed by this, since much of what passes for Christianity these days (and for that matter, much of history) I find detestable. The hermetic side of the combo comes from my need for a worldly or cosmic religion, and a sense of the magic of nature. As for  Deleuze, I’ve never read him directly. Several friends and colleagues have shared their impressions of his thought with me, and he certainly comes up a lot in Iain Hamilton Grant’s work on Schelling and Isabelle Stengers’ work on Whitehead. I will be reading his text Bergsonism in a course on process thought this fall, and most likely, I’ll read Ramey’s hermetic interpretation even sooner. Here is an excerpt from the introduction of The Hermetic Deleuze:

In the face of contemporary ambivalence over the validity and significance of esoteric, let alone “occult,” apprehensions of nature and mind, the political risk of this reading should be immediately apparent. Reading Deleuze as hermetic in any sense may force a departure from received presuppositions—modern, secular, or merely academic—about what rightfully counts as thought. I take that risk in part because I am convinced that the marginalization of hermetic traditions, and the suspicion and contempt in which they are still held by much of contemporary thought, constitutes a symptomatic repression of the complexity of both the history of modern philosophy and the stakes of contemporary culture, which is, from the internet to the cinema, completely obsessed with magic and with the occult. However, I can of course only speak for my own convictions that this spiritual material can and must be addressed, at least here, through the modest step of taking Deleuze’s spiritual debts to the hermetic tradition seriously. I do this by arguing for three interlinked claims: that Deleuze’s systematic thought is not fully comprehensible without situating it within the hermetic tradition; that Deleuze’s writings make a subtle yet distinctive contribution to contemporary hermetic knowledge and practice; and that the experimental stakes of modern and contemporary philosophy, as Deleuze conceived them, call for a revision and extension of the perennial hermetic project: the proliferation, differentiation, and nonidentical repetition of cosmic processes of regeneration and renewal. What is at stake for Deleuze in thought—and at stake in this book—is ultimately a political issue. Indicating the contours of a renewed spirituality of thought and a new vision of the mutual intercalation of material and spiritual forces is part of an attempt to fulfill the task of philosophy in late capitalism, a task Deleuze himself characterized as the renewal of “belief in the world.” My particular extension of this task, by pushing Deleuze further in the direction of his own hermeticism, is motivated by the conviction that to challenge the all-pervasive magic of that confluence of desire and power Isabelle Stengers once described as the great “capitalist sorcery,” requires an exceedingly sober attempt to countenance the aspects of social and natural reality thus far confined to the gnomic dictates of inchoate spiritual gurus on the one hand, and to the black arts of the industrial-entertainment complex on the other. Thinking more stridently through the spiritual dimensions of Deleuze’s work may enable us to forge new alternatives to the sinister perversions of belief in capital times, as well as to usher in a more concrete and complex sense of how to engender new relations between knowledge, power, and the spiritual forces of desire.

Click here for a PDF of the entire introduction.

[Update]: I just read this review on Amazon by someone named Robert Richards (I don’t think it is Robert J. Richards, author of The Romantic Conception of Life, but maybe? Another Update:: I found out who Bobby Richards is):

I read philosophy to shock vasanas. In India, vasanas are conditioned habits of mind, conditioned frames of reference and dispositions. For 20 years Deleuze has been my favorite explosive. To qualify, he’s been my favorite explosive imported from Europe. Tibetan explosives like Dzogchen and Tantra, or South American explosives like shamanic practices have also been effective. I have problematized my life as one of self-experimentation: one in which the spiritual, affective, imaginal, vital, physical and cognitive modes are all explored, re-imagined and re-invented.

Eight years ago I naively approached two of the heavyweights in the Deleuzian academic industry. I asked them what Deleuze thought about radical spiritual, or radical transmutational practices. Their reception to my question could not have been colder. I realized that I had encountered a self-annointed hierarchy of post-hierarchical post-whatevers, ones who had territorialized their Deleuze for their own hyper-chic secularizations. Annoyed, but not deterred, I continued to use Deleuze as private dynamite.

When I first read Joshua Ramey’s brilliant critique of Peter Hallward’s misfire of a book (Out of This World: Deleuze…), I sensed and knew that here was someone on the same track that I was on. Ramey felt like a brilliant shaft of sunlight cutting into the labyrinthian coal mines of Deleuzian secondary scholarship. Googling more about Ramey, I learned that he was working on a book. Hermetic Deleuze is the book.

This book contains the latent Deleuze I’ve been sensing within his philosophy, but did not have the rigor or imagination to incarnate. If you’re one of those rare spirits that feels the call to a new, untried and unprecedented way of becoming a New Man or New Woman, then this is mandatory reading. This is the Deleuze for the esoteric spiritual quest, for realizing Nietzsche’s highest and most brilliant visions, the Deleuze for Sri Aurobindo’s evolutionary futures, for Sloterdijk’s yearnings, Gebser’s Integral, de Chardin’s Omega, Wilber’s Third Tier, and becoming-Kosmos. This book gives me hard evidence that superlative intelligence and spirituality are not only finding each other, but that they deliciously enjoy copulating.

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6 thoughts on ““The Hermetic Deleuze: Philosophy and Spiritual Ordeal” (2012) by Joshua Ramey

  1. ‘the exegesis of philip k. dick’ hit the streets on november 7, 2011. this 1000 page edition presents the kosmodelic visions and depth-charged musings of one of the greatest science fiction writer of all time (he’s the spark of movies incl: blade runner, minority report, adjustment bureau, scanners, paycheck, total recall, etc.)

    I bring this to your attention, matt, because philip k dick turns out to have had the most unique, potent and provocative visions of christ i’ve ever read. in other words, delicious and medicinal…

    here’s a passage from his nov ’80 journal —

    [1:248] I would even be willing to argue that an experience such as mine (2-3-74) justifies the Fall in the sense of making it worth it due to the absolute joy generated by the re-collection and return. I know it was for me—all the tearful years were not only nullified; they were overbalanced by the bliss experienced in restoration. Whether my feelings in history could rightly be projected onto the deity I don’t know; but if my system is right in all respects, 2-3-74 was the deity recovering its memory and identity, and so is representative—a sort of microcosm of the total deity’s own travels, its journey. (I envision deity in dynamic process undergoing unfolding stages of self-knowledge.) Perhaps this is the ultimate price of the game: self-awareness, acquired through “external” plural standpoints, of which I am one. Then I would say, it is worth it, this journey. That’s my subjective opinion. So the Fall is a vast adventure, culminating in a joy that outweighs the arduousness and sorrow of the trip itself. And out of this adventure the deity knows itself more clearly, and, since (as I say) intellegere is its essence, this matter outweighs all else. [1:257] November 16, 1980 Have I had it backward? I’ve always said: I saw His Body camouflaged as the world. Maybe it’s the other way. I saw how the pieces of the world fitted together to form his body—this was what I saw that I called externally. This is the same thing as I understood inwardly when I saw that the wise horn of the dialectic selected pieces of the antecedent universe, as a stockpile, and fitted the pieces together to form the macrometasomakosmos which was its own self, its own metasoma. Here seen both ways (externally as Valis and internally as an inner consciousness): world evolved into the Body of Christ; world as pieces that seen acting and operating together became—were now—Christ as cosmic body. So it is world first; or rather they, as plural pieces, are world. Then they come together so that the they becomes an it, one body made up of all the many objects and processes that were—that had formerly been—the world. The lower plural evolve into the higher unitary. This was one process seen two ways, seen inwardly and outwardly. Yet you could still say, “His body was camouflaged as world. World was transubstantiated into Christ’s Body.” But it isn’t Christ’s Body posing as world; it is world becoming—joining together to form—Christ’s body. Again: it is a cosmic evolution. Not the higher invading the lower but the lower evolving into the higher, with pieces of world added element by element to complete and perfect this titanic body, a body so vast that I could only comprehend dimly enormous—infinite—volumes of space, space such as I had never conceived or apprehended before. Larger than the universe, which in comparison is merely finite. Limited. And all of it was alive and all of it thought. And the pieces didn’t just happen to fit together; they didn’t just haphazardly come together; Christ himself searched for the pieces, took the pieces, placed each piece of the world in place correctly, integrated, beautiful, a kosmos, a macrokosmos that was good, beautiful, pleasing and harmonious, where all the many parts that had been world interacted as one unity.* And yet absolutely in no way was this vast body anthropomorphic; it was not a human body. It was a permanent body that continually became more reticulated and arborized and complex and perfect, that had once been world. So my inner vision of the macrometasomakosmos formed out of the antecedent universe, and my external perception of Valis “camouflaged” are one and the same. And it is right here. Evolution, not reversion. Gestalting on my part; form-perception.

    And this was accomplished by him defeating world over and over again in dialectical combat with it, where he subdued it, disassembled it and assimilated it in the form of useful and appropriate pieces into his own vast body. Every new part incorporated—self-incorporated—came as a result of defeating and subduing world, but not defeating and subduing it by force, but rather by wisdom; by his being wiser than it, although not as powerful; it was his wisdom victorious over its power, and as it lost each time it lost another piece of itself. So the vast body grows, and with each defeat world becomes less and he becomes more: more completed, more perfected, more internally intricate and organized; and everything valuable in world is preserved eternally in his body as the right part fitted into the right place. And he systematically deprived world of its blind, inexorable causality, and substituted his volition in simulation of that mechanical causality, so that to the unaided eye causality still remained … just as to the unaided eye the plural constituents of world remained plural and unalive. And unable to think. And not integrated into a whole, a whole that was evolving internally, just as world passed over—which is to say evolved—into it. So in a sense there were two evolutions: world evolving into his body, not the pieces sort of swimming together but selected and arranged by him and an evolution internal to his body: the reticulation and arborizing, based on events in the world fed into his body, continual accretions passing from world—where they were transitory—into his body—where they were forever preserved and remembered, like within a memory system in a mind or brain. And all the internal arrangement was morphological, not in terms of space and time, but in terms of information, as if arranged by meaning, like a kind of language. Like neural conduits in a brain. There was an endless processing of things as information, as if every combination was tried out, a perpetual rapid activity, like an internal metabolism, an information metabolism. It was using objects—combinations and recombinations—of objects to think with. And every given thing was limited (telos) by every other thing, in comparison to which the antecedent universe was chaotic (atelos). It was alive; it thought; and it initiated its own movement. Nothing acted on it; all its movements were self-initiated. And nothing outside it acted to construct it; it constructed itself. And if you were outside it in the chaotic antecedent universe you were in a prison; but if you were inside it you were in a park or garden. And it constantly attacked the prison to dismantle it as a source of parts. And this had been going on for two thousand years, a really very bitter but somehow also joyful war. Finally, when an object was incorporated into this structure it became real for the first time, as if up until then in a certain way it had been illusory: coming into being and passing away without ever having truly existed. But now it was safe from decay and harm. And perishing. Forever. As if the body had a map of its own internal structure, the only structure ever to have been self-mapping, hence totally internally self-aware. Yet when you looked at this great system it was only ordinary objects such as you see every day. The basic things of the world, but interrelated and arranged without having moved in time and space. The internal arrangement was its own awareness of itself. Itself as map. As incredible as it may seem, I actually didn’t realize (until last night) that when I saw what I called Valis I saw what I call macrometasomakosmos. Apparently this is the case; the case that (1) I didn’t recognize their identity and (2) they are identical. That means that my vision as to how the macrometasomakosmos is constructed (out of pieces of the antecedent universe by means of the dialectic) applies to Valis. I literally saw the macrometasomakosmos into which the flux world feeds. So Valis didn’t invade our world in a disguised or camouflaged form, as I have always supposed; it is constructed right here, but invisible to us. It grows; it becomes more complex and perfected; and it constructs itself. Absolutely it is the Cosmic Christ; either that or it is one fuck of a meta life form.76 It just ruthlessly plunders the flux world, treating it as a chaotic stockpile that it uses for parts. And it is selective as to what it assimilates and where it places it in its own soma. Did I realize this? I don’t think so; I didn’t realize that I saw it and that it is Valis. It’s as if two thought clusters in my mind finally collided and formed one thought-complex. I had two separate categories: one involving invading; one involving construction, by its own self. […] Suddenly years of speculation are rendered void, by this realization. Valis experienced three ways. Valis is—indeed must be—the Cosmic Christ assembling itself out of the antecedent universe which it uses as a stockpile, which it (the Cosmic Christ) defeats perpetually in a dialectical combat. (1) Its mind was in direct touch with mine and it explained how it comes into existence and out of what. The macrometasomakosmos. (2) I saw it externally as Valis. (3) I was inside it, and saw its inner information-metabolism, what I call “the second signal.” Because the essence of its identity—its einai—is its structure, we can’t see it; all its constituents are ordinary objects. Also its einai is noein; they are one. Supra (3) confirms that (1) and (2) are identical. The fact that the macrometasomakosmos is right here, made up of ordinary objects structured into a cohesive unity, changes my conception of it; I must now reappraise everything I’ve thought during the past six and a half years. I’ve missed the point all this time; I knew Valis was here, but I could not figure out where the macrometasomakosmos was—since I didn’t realize that they—and what I call the “second signal”—are the same. It is a floating mind that turns objects into information within a brain, a brain that processes objects and their causal connections as information; it is especially active in our own communications media utilizing a set-ground system. I must admit that I don’t really understand this; why can’t we pick up, say, its meta-morphemes? Well, because we can’t perform feature-extraction with it. It blends perfectly. Am I to assume that I’m the only human aware of it? Hardly. Where I differ is that (I’d guess) I’ve struggled so hard to explicate what happened to me … no, that isn’t it. Could it be here just recently? No; that isn’t it either. It’s not in time and space; it’s exploded morphologically … or it utilizes a retrograde time axis, what I call negentropic time. I don’t know. It’s impossible that no one else has seen it, but you can’t see it unless it incorporates you. Maybe I’m the only one stupid enough to talk about it.

    Dick, Philip K.; Lethem, Jonathan; Jackson, Pamela (2011-11-08). The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick (Kindle Locations 13778-13786). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

  2. A singular series of events, which may be loosely classified as Deleuzian thinking because it’s problematic to call it philosophy, can be approached from a multiplicity of viewpoints, and that’s so fascinating while reading his works. It’s intense and mind-blowing (maybe even insane in one way or the other). Hermetic mindset is definitely one valence inherent in his body of works that cannot be unfolded in one totalizing way only.

  3. Pingback: Gilles Deleuze’s and Arthur Young’s Bergsonisms: An Outline and Notes « Footnotes 2 Plato

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  5. Pingback: Deleuze’s Platonism and Cosmic Artisanry « Footnotes 2 Plato

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