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  • Believing in this World for the Making of GodsEcology of the Virtual and the Actual
  • Anthony Paul Smith (bio)

The Production of Immanence as Spiritual Philosophy

The central claim of Peter Hallward's recent Out of this World: Deleuze and the Philosophy of Creation is that Deleuze is ultimately a spiritual thinker, and therefore those interested in emancipatory and revolutionary political projects should abandon Deleuze's thought because it is insufficiently materialist. Hallward writes:

Deleuze is most appropriately read as a spiritual, redemptive or subtractive thinker, a thinker preoccupied with the mechanics of disembodiment 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.


In my review essay of Hallward's book I argued that he was correct to bring attention to the neglected spiritual aspects of Deleuze's philosophy, but that his negative valuation of this spiritual aspect was dependent on a misreading that ascribed a certain inherent moralism to the difference between the virtual and the actual (Hallward's version of materialism simply reverses this moralism, so that the virtual is bad and the actual is good). Ultimately this misreading arises out of an ecological and political weakness, for it confuses the relationship between the virtual and the actual with a moral relationship, whereas what Deleuze presents is more adequately understood as an ecology of the virtual and the actual within the milieu of immanence.1 The task of this essay is to develop this idea beyond the merely provocative to a demonstration of this aspect, both spiritual and ecological, of Deleuze's thought.

The argument unfolds from the axiom that Deleuze's philosophy is a spiritual philosophy of a certain sort; I do not seek to defend that position here. To do so would be to repeat some form of an argument that has already been made, from Hallward's polemic to Philip Goodchild's positive critical engagement to Christian Kerslake's very valuable historical studies and philosophical defense of the esoteric in Deleuze. Here I can only provide a truncated axiom of this spiritualism: the spiritual elements [End Page 103] in Deleuze's philosophy are located in the givenness and creation of realities that exist at the sub- and supra-individual level; these realities may not be represented adequately through molar identities, but can only be experienced as the immanence of these realities themselves. It is from the perspective of this spiritual philosophy--one that questions the rootedness in transcendence of both materialist philosophy and molar spiritualist philosophies--that a nascent philosophy of nature is pursued in Anti-Oedipus and deepened in A Thousand Plateaus. In what follows, I will trace this philosophy of nature as it explicates what forms the "unground" that produces and is produced by the interplay of the actual and the virtual.2 I will then explore this relational character of the actual and the virtual in more detail, to show that "immanence" is the name of this relation. We will then see how ecology provides a number of images that can become explanatory concepts for understanding the relational reality of this name. Finally, we will return to the spiritual politics present in Anti-Oedipus and connect it to Bergson's revolutionary insight that the mechanical and the mystical are irreducibly connected, in order to see how this spiritual philosophy of nature can foster a belief in this refractory world that can power the machinery for the making of gods.

Deleuze and Guattari's Machinic Philosophy of Nature

Deleuze remarked in an interview after the publication of What is Philosophy? that he and Guattari would like to "produce a sort of philosophy of Nature, now that any distinction between nature and artifice is becoming blurred" (Negotiations, 155). The remark is not surprising, since just such a philosophy of nature is already present in a nascent way in the co-authored works. This understanding of nature, arising out of the clarity that comes when the false problem of nature-artifice is tossed aside, is present in the opening pages of Anti-Oedipus, where Deleuze and Guattari write that "we make no distinction between man...


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pp. 103-114
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