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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 affirmatively 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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The Emergence of a New World View

The suggestion that our culture is undergoing the collective transition to a fundamentally new mode of thought is one that has been unpalatable to the principal modern sensibility, but which irrepressibly continues to crop up, eliciting from those with minds sufficiently unencumbered by conventional assumptions the suspicion that such an emergence is possible, and perhaps even inevitable. Since at least Hegel at the beginning of the nineteenth century, and in the work of some of the most revered thinkers since then, the presentiment that a large segment of human culture is on the cusp of a transformation as fundamental as the revolution that birthed modernity has proven to be extremely persistent. The “new age” movement that began in the nineteen sixties, achieved widespread attention in the seventies, and has since undergone a trivializing reaction, in many cases for good reason, is perhaps the most prominent expression of some of the kinds of insights presented here, particularly the idea that culture is currently experiencing the emergence of a new world view. 


However, the new age movement was ultimately a failure in its implied goal—to bring about a new era of human history—though I would argue that it was a necessary step for the widespread publication of the kinds of ideas that had, until then, been the province of deeply rigorous and careful theorists like Hegel and James, Bergson and Gebser, Jung and Whitehead. The great commercial success of the new age movement was also its downfall as a philosophy to be taken seriously, as complex and profound ideas were often appropriated by the lowest common denominator and flattened to fit into a modern mentality, neutered by poor aesthetic taste, simplistic, self-centered spirituality, and overly credulous commerce in tacky paraphernalia. All of these elements that many of us find so worthy of ridicule have served to diminish some of the most significant ideas of the last few centuries to caricatures in collective understanding, often buried behind atrocious pastel book covers, embedded in absurdly grandiose and imprecise language, and inextricably mixed with preposterous and unprovable assertions.

While the present book is most emphatically not party to the new age movement as it is generally conceived, as Whitehead so presciently declared in 1925’s Science and the Modern World: “Almost all really new ideas have a certain aspect of foolishness when they are first produced.” There are numerous thinkers and writers who may have been sympathetic to the initial impulse to birth a “new age” during that movement’s earliest and most hopeful days, but who never acquiesced to that overly compromised designation. These thinkers have been quietly and consistently working to find some middle ground, to build a bridge between modernity and the emerging mode that many have intuited, and of which the new age movement is merely the most facile and publicly digestible approximation. 

In particular, scholars such as David Bohm, James Hillman, Charles Taylor, Stanislav Grof, Rupert Sheldrake, Terence McKenna, and Richard Tarnas, among many others, who have all done their work primarily in the second half of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first century, have taken up the task of carrying forward the epochal philosophical endeavor initiated by Hegel, James, Jung, Bergson, Whitehead, Gebser, and all the rest. They have endeavored to produce novel concepts, forms of language, and institutions through which the emerging mode of thought can be viably articulated and propagated into collective awareness. Therefore, despite the apparently radical nature of some of the ideas expressed in the present work in relation to the main streams of academia, the project of this book is actually a rather conservative one: to synthesize and consolidate the concepts and rhetorical strategies developed by these numerous precursors, and hopefully in the process to assist in differentiating these ideas from the problematic subcultures with which they have sometimes been associated. In short, the kind of thought expressed here seems ripe for an entrance from the liminal margins into the central spheres of cultural discourse, which it has, in fact, already begun to enjoy in the work of those thinkers mentioned above, and that of many others.

[This post is an excerpt from The Dynamics of Transformation: Tracing an Emerging World View.]

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Development Through Emergent Stages

The evolution of process in various domains appears to occur through a series of relatively discrete stages, which finds one of its most basic forms in the three-stage schema of premodern, modern, and an apparently emerging mode after the postmodern. G.W.F. Hegel, William James, C.G. Jung, Henri Bergson, Alfred North Whitehead, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and many others have generally employed this three-stage schema, whether explicitly or implicitly, and I will often refer to these broad stages extrapolated from these various conceptual systems. However, some theorists have subdivided these overarching divisions in finer detail. For instance, Jean Gebser traces a five-stage schema—archaic, magic, mythical, mental, and integral—further subdividing each stage into “efficient” and “deficient” phases. I will generally employ Gebser’s five-stage schema when a finer-grained approach is wanted, as I have found his terminology and his description of these stages to be the clearest and most useful articulation of the more specific phases of ingression. 

These five stages appear to manifest fractally in various progressions at different scales: from nonlife to prokaryotic life to animality to hominidity to human consciousness on the scale of evolution; from unfertilized egg to infant to child to adolescent to adult in individual human development; and from archaic to magic to mythical to mental and, perhaps, on to a novel mode in the collective development of human consciousness. These phases of process are rarely completely distinct from one another, as each stage generally contains the earlier stages within it as the very constitution of its emergence, and there are many compromise formations, regressions, and side roads that complicate the discernment of these stages of development. Furthermore, in contradistinction to premodern and modern hierarchical modes, the emergent view of developmental stages generally asserts that no stage is qualitatively superior to any other stage. So the adult is not superior to the child, who possesses profound imaginal capacities that are inevitably diluted by passage into the more complex later stages. Similarly, earlier cultures possess forms of knowledge and activity that developmentally subsequent stages have generally forgotten, or which have become diminished from neglect. However, while an earlier stage may be viewed as a “golden age” by some, the emerging mode does not usually deem these originary phases of process as qualitatively superior to later stages.

At our historical moment in the early twenty-first century, we live in a world in which cultures at all stages of development coexist, starting with a very few scattered instances of archaic humans, such as those rare children raised by animals, for example, abiding in an undifferentiated, dreamlike, preverbal consciousness nearly indistinguishable from the modes of relation experienced by the most conscious animals such as dogs, cats, and nonhuman primates. However, we have all experienced this mode of consciousness in ourselves and in others as infancy, a stage of development when there is essentially no awareness of self. It seems that this stage of consciousness in humans is only separable from a similar mode in nonhuman primates by the intuitively felt capacity to go beyond this phase facilitated through the enlarged neocortex of the human brain. At this archaic stage, one is essentially an animal, only transcending animality in the completely unarticulated bodily sense that one is destined for something more. But this is not a judgment of value, as the archaic stage is Adam and Eve in the Garden, a pure and undifferentiated innocence and embeddedness to be cherished, and to which we should all perhaps occasionally return. In fact, we do seem to return to something like the archaic stage of awareness every night in dreams. 

A significantly larger group of people apparently abide in uncontacted or isolated tribes that primarily inhabit the magic stage of consciousness, though this group still appears to be a small percentage of the current overall world population. In this world view, a self emerges, but this self is pre-egoic and almost completely permeable with the world and with others, so that the inner dialogue, made possible by the emergence of language at this stage, does not differentiate between what is imagined and what the modern mind would generally conceive as external, material reality. One awakens to a body, but the experience of being in magical consciousness is constituted in what mentality would subsequently demarcate into world and mind thinking and feeling together as an undifferentiated unity. Instead of a subject perceiving an object, the magical mode perceives what is, or at least what appears to be at that stage, swimming in a fluid, dreamlike mélange of images, emotions, and significations. 

The material production characteristic of magical culture is simple tools and weapons, talismans of various sorts, and cave paintings. However, in a magical culture, the shamans are those individuals who employ what Mircea Eliade calls “techniques of ecstasy,” from fasting and wilderness exposure to psychoactive plants, dance, and vocalization to perceive intimations of further stages of consciousness. It appears from testimonies of these individuals that these ecstatically induced intimations would generally be located in the mythical, but may occasionally go beyond that immediately subsequent mode to experience, however briefly, the mental or the currently emerging mode, or perhaps even later stages as yet unrealized, though these more distant stages would be almost impossible to communicate or sustain in a cultural milieu whose verbal structures and premises about the nature of reality are primarily magical. And we can all recognize this stage of process by remembering our early childhood, a phase that can be grown beyond by different individuals in various cultures at a range of ages, but from which most individuals in our era eventually emerge. However, shamanic “techniques of ecstasy” can certainly be practiced in the context of subsequent stages by individuals who have attained modern mentality, especially in the integrative mode, which specifically integrates the previous modes in an emergent synthesis, incorporating the unique capacities of each stage. 

It seems that for a large proportion of people in the present, though perhaps no longer a majority, their gravitational center of consciousness is located in the mythical stage, which is the stage of ancient religions and systems of thought that accompanied the entrance into history and the first signs of what we would consider civilization: writing, agriculture, cities, commerce, laws, kings, and above all, gods. This is the mode of consciousness that permeated Pharaonic Egypt and ancient Mesopotamia, and that produced the code of Hammurabi and Cuneiform tablets. This is the stage of cognizance that the ancient Hebrews first began to go beyond in their rejection of idols, and that Cortes and his crew encountered in Montezuma and the Aztecs in the 1519 meeting that would mark the incipient colonization of the Americas by Europe at the dawn of modernity. Whenever a culture or a group within a culture could conceivably be described as prerational or premodern (though these potentially problematic designations are structurally equivalent to calling a child a “pre-adult”), this usually means that we are encountering the mythical stage of consciousness. In fact, contemporary fundamentalist religious movements, particularly in both Christianity and Islam, appear generally to be composed of the mythically situated masses often cynically led by individuals who have achieved enough mentality to manipulate and control those whose consciousness has stabilized in the mythical mode. However, developmentally later modes can find great value in the capacities individuated by the mythical mode of thought, as well as the archaic and magic modes, forms of knowledge and perception which must be reintegrated if we are to move past the deficient mental phase characteristic of late modernity. 


Although there were intimations of mentality in the disclosures of many ancient mythical systems, the first eruption of rational consciousness on a large scale seems to have taken place during the heart of what historian Karl Jaspers has called the “Axial Age” centered on the approximately fifty-year period in the sixth century B.C.E. when many of the world’s most transformative religious and philosophical figures lived, including the Buddha, Confucius, Lao Tzu, Mahavira, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Second Isaiah, Thales, Anaximander, Pythagoras, Sappho, Thespis, Solon, and possibly Zoroaster—in other words the beginnings of Greek philosophy and science, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Jainism, and a transformed Judaic religion. This profoundly creative period built the foundations for the eventual emergence of rationality as the dominant cultural force in modernity, though it required around twenty centuries of thought, debate, war, upheaval, invention, and discovery for the mental mode of thought to begin to be articulated comprehensively, a process that appears to be nearing completion five centuries further on in late modernity. The Renaissance and Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century, the ages of Enlightenment and Revolution in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the age of imperialism, romanticism, and idealism in the nineteenth century, and through all this the development of science and technology have mediated the emergence of the mental stage as the dominant cultural mode in the West and, only in the last few decades, perhaps in the world. In the central spheres of modern culture, the attainment of rationality by the individual is the mark of entrance into full adulthood, and there seems to us something childish, and perhaps deficient or even dangerous, in a grown person who still primarily inhabits the mythical mode of consciousness but is embedded in a predominantly rationalist society.

[This post is an excerpt from The Dynamics of Transformation: Tracing an Emerging World View]

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