BwO – Deleuze and Guattari: The Impossible Thing We Are Becoming

Timid, devoid of dynamism, the good is inept at communicating itself. Evil, much more zealous, seeks to transmit itself, and succeeds because it possesses the double privilege of being fascinating and contagious.
……………– E.M. Cioran

Or is it a question of a real passage of substances, an intensive continuum of all the BwO’s? Doubtless anything is possible. All we are saying is that the identity of effects, the continuity of genera, the totality of BwO’s, can be obtained on the plane of consistency only by means of an abstract machine capable of covering and creating it, by assemblages capable of plugging into desire?
……..-Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus

Is that it? Is that all that is needed? A construction kit for abstract machines, a magical tour bus of the impossible in a science fiction apparatus or time-machine between Aeon and Chronos? An entry into the nagual? Hyperchaos? The dark corridors of the Thermospasm? A collective assemblage project to undo two thousands years of western civilization one brick at a time? An exit plan with a treasure map to boot: a path forward: a movement between that which is and that which is not? A conduit for the impossible? Odysseus riding between Scylla and Charybdis? Sirens weaving a song of death? Howling’s in the wind driving us forward in despair?

Having never been born how could we exist? Oh, no, you’ll point to that hole, that cut, that toothed womb – vagina dentata –  from which the first worm emerged, a bloody pitiful mess of meat crying into the world (no, this is not a gendered slap in the face of time); a gushing out of an immanent ocean of the impossible. A virtual discography set producing time itself as a product of its own production? That wasn’t birth, that was a scandalous act of cowardice, beautiful and ugly. Ever since we’ve been floating between a sadomasochistic pendulum of infernal delights, never satisfied with our gift we seek out our true Body-without-organs; this thing we never are, but are always exiting toward. What would you risk to actually find it?

How many of us are willing to risk it? Experiment. Take the chance on becoming other? If real change is the movement of the world, or we not always changing? Every physical cell in my body is not the same as when I was born out of my mother’s womb, bloody and violently – awakened to the monstrosity I Am? What am I then? Or should we ask more appropriately: What is this thing we are becoming?

Are we fearful of the ugly truth? Is it too disgusting to approach? Why hide from this monstrous existence? Shouldn’t we follow those before us? Aurel Kolnai’s long essay “Disgust” from 1929, the first dedicated philosophical study of this emotion; William Ian Miller’s Anatomy of Disgust (1997); and Winfried Menninghaus’s compendious Disgust: The Theory and History of a Strong Sensation (2003). It bears affinity with certain theoretical applications such as Martha Nussbaum’s Hiding from Humanity: Disgust, Shame, and the Law (2004) and Julia Kristeva’s examination of the abject in The Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection (1982), as well as the many analyses of the disgusting in art such as Robert Rawdon Wilson’s The Hydra’s Tale: Imagining Disgust (2002). Carole Talon-Hugon’s Gout et degoit: L’art peut-il tout montrer?

But that is for a future study, now we wander the mazes of the Body-without-Organs. Seek a way a long the dark riverrun of abysmal thoughts where origins hide the motioning lust of desire’s broken vessels, those lights of evil energy that seems to seep into our lives from everywhere. Will you follow? What line of flight shall we follow today?

Too long we invested our questions in vaporware, a mind that never was, and could never be, a mere ghost wandering through the body-without-organs; a gaze without an object, a thought without a concept, a lost fragment of time in continuous metamorphosis with no place to call home. If nothing is real then everything is real, too real to be stopped, categorized, targeted, tracked, traced to its source in time; for time is the thing we cannot change, the merciless cruelty of change itself.

“It is not at all a notion or a concept but a practice, a set of practices.”1 Is this it? Are we a mere movement between desire and non-desire, an oscillating spark, a drum sending messages into time, a vibration calibrated to communicate the impossible? We have no destination, it cannot be reached, to reach it is just that: impossible. Absolute Zero. We ride the curve, the tracery of its dark power, down, down, down into the ever accelerating curve, falling, falling, swerving just at the last moment, moving ever so slightly out of the groove, experimenting with trajectories; dissatisfied, restless, melancholic.

A void, a sack of dust and particles, caught in-between making and unmaking: forces of exchange in which we are both product and producer. Some of us push the limits of the impossible to the point of bursting, navigators in-between, shamans or voodouns. Inside out or Outside in? Riders or ridden? Those who transcend or those who are possessed immanently: to ride beyond the limit, move up and out or down the vertical tree of motioning forces: mediums of power and healing, vision seekers, seers; else those who call down the powers: dancers, drummers, rhythm seekers of a immanent revelation, loa tempters who are ridden like the wild beasts by serpents of wisdom; exiled within, blind and possessed by powers or dispotifs from elsewhere. Experimenters without organs: “All true language is incomprehensible, like the chatter of a beggar’s teeth.” (Antonin Artaud)

“It is difficult to say what station the good man occupies among what we call beings, even if he is one. Perhaps he is a ghost?” (Emile Cioran) A mere wisp, a breath, a figure in the dance of rhetorical gestures, a sign pointing to signs, a difference that moves toward the impossible? “As a rule immanent to experimentation: injections of causation (TP, p. 150).” Outside in or Inside out? Does it matter? What is causation, anyway? Occasional disturbances in a void? A sort of collapse into or out of chaos? A wave or particle reflected in the mirror of temporal disorder? A movement of creation toward the body-without-organs, a making and an unmaking, possession or dispossession, composition or decomposition?

A forgetting rather than a remembering, a finding of that which never is nor could be, an empty place, kenoma or Pleroma? Fullness or emptiness? Neither or both? Elimination is the key, subtraction is your destiny. “What you take away is precisely the phantasy, and significances and subjectifications as a whole (TP, p. 151).”  Nothing will ever happen, because it is always happening. Caught between two modalities of time we are forever out of joint, never at home in either temporal movement. Coming or going? Past or future? The present triggers a vibration, a spark, an engine; an abstract machine. “The body is now nothing more than a set of valves, locks, floodgates, howls, or communicating vessels, each with a proper name… a Metropolis that has to be managed with a whip (TP, p. 153).” Who holds the whip?

Is this a torture chamber, a Sadean temple of blood and pleasure? “We see people tormented by the presence of a parasitic idea in their brain, like sheep by the residence of a trumpet-fly’s egg in their frontal sinus. Man, like the sheep, has the “itch.” That ends badly for the sheep — for the man also, very often.”2 Do we have ideas, or do they have us? This is an old war, one that in every generation draws young rebels to their death. Socrates was a bad man, he brought change to the youth of Athens. Fear is a terror from which there is no recovery. Knowledge? Or rather a forgetting and non-knowledge? Bataille or Plato? Freud or Lacan? Is there a choice? Or is this a battle between brothers, twins from the womb, carriers of a truth neither can hold nor release? Syzgy? Rebekah intervenes to save her youngest son Jacob from being murdered by her eldest son, Esau. Is this it, the true messiah a woman after all? Or just the beginning of conflict, the serpent in the garden driving a wedge that will never be done, a parable to our temporal betrayals?

So this is it? Negation: In contrast to the knowledge that keeps man in passive quietude, Desire dis-quiets him and moves him to action. Born of Desire, action tends to satisfy it, and can do so only by the “negation,” the destruction, or at least the transformation, of the desired object…” – Alexandre Kojève (Introduction to the Reading of Hegel). Or, Bataille: “What is given when one animal eats another is always the fellow creature of the one that eats. It is in this sense that I speak of immanence.” – Georges Bataille (Theory of Religion: Animality). A desiring machine: a cannibal or a brother? Gifts are never free. (Marcel Mauss). Why not? One always expects a return, a movement between giver and receiver, transmitter and receiver: communication begins with where “two or more gathered in my name” there is an obligation, a reciprocal bond that ties us to a killing, to a murder, to the “Death of God” (Nietzsche). Or Joyce: “I am tired of my voice, the voice of Esau. My kingdom for a drink.” (Ulysses)

“The thing – only the thing – is what sacrifice means to destroy in the victim. Sacrifice destroys an object’s real ties of subordination; it draws the victim out of the world of utility and restores it to that of unintelligible caprice (Bataille, Theory of Religion).” Is silence a sacrifice? Is this what we kill in each other, the word – that which is forever the impossible thing in us? Or are we giving each other the gift of communication, the poetry of time and meaning, a movement between the abyss and abyss? Nothing that can be held onto, grasped, caught in the trap of one’s jealousy – neither sacrifice or gift, but rather both at once a whim? “I would write on the lintels of the door-post, Whim.” (Emerson)

“The ironist sleeps happily because nothing can awake her from her dreams. The cynicist sleeps a light sleep, he dreams nightmares, and he gets up when power calls him.” (Franco “Bifo” Berardi, The Uprising). A BWO? Dream or Real: ““In the ignorance that implies the impression that knits knowledge that finds the nameform that whets the wits that convey contacts that sweeten sensation that drives desire that adheres to attachment that dogs death that bitches birth that entails the ensuance of existentiality.” ( James Joyce, Finnegans Wake) Intensities? “It has nothing to do with phantasy, there is nothing to interpret. The BwO causes intensities to pass: it produces and distributes them in a spatium that is itself intensive, lacking extension (TP, p. 153).”

One of Gilles Deleuze’s major ontological categories is that of a virtual continuum which, much like Spinoza’s substance, presents two sides-pure (in)extension and thought-or, rather, two powers: the power of being and the power of thinking: – spatium, surface, plane of immanence or, again, hyperspace.3 To connect or disconnect, that is the question, whether it is more communicative to mesh together in sexual excess and ecstasy, or disconnect into one’s singular void of thoughtlessness and fracture. Should we formulate a minor communication based on dispersal, delirium, chatter, silence, sickness, imbalance, and absence of work—and emphasize those affective states or emotions such as joy (jouissance – the bittersweet (Carson)), friendship, and longing? Hamlet under the pomo sun?

Rivalries? For Deleuze this was the problem Plato faced from the beginning. “The creation of a concept always occurs as the function of a problem.” (Deleuze) For Plato the problem was Athenian democracy itself – and, more specifically a theory of rivalry (agon). In Phaedrus and Statesman we see step by step his attempts to isolate the true statesman from the lover from the claims of numerous rivals.4  Athens and other Greek City states adapted to a new mathematics or geophilosophy, one that adapted the surrounding territories to a geometric extension in which the city itself became a relay-point in an immanent network of commercial and maritime circuits. These circuits formed a kind of international market on the border of the eastern empires, organized into a multiplicity of independent societies in which artisans and merchants found a freedom and mobility that the imperial states denied them.

According to Deleuze and Guattari once discovers that in striated space, one closes off a surface and “allocates” it according to determinate intervals, assigned breaks; in the smooth, one “distributes” oneself in an open space, according to frequencies and in the course of one’s crossings. (481) These two functions, allocation and distribution, serve as the dominant organizational principle that differentiates smooth and striated space. (Smith, p. 5) “Whereas the imperial spatium of the state was centered on the royal palace or temple, which marked the transcendent sovereignty of the despot and his god, the political extension of the Greek city was modeled on a new type of geometric space that organized the polis around a common and public center – the agora, in relation to which all the points occupied by the “citizens” appeared equal and symmetrical.” (Smith, p. 5). Ultimately, what came out of the Greek city was the agon “as a community of free men or citizens, who entered into agonistic relations of rivalry with other free men, exercising power and exerting claims over each other in a kind of generalized athleticism.” (Smith, p. 5).

Plato internalized the rivalry of the agora, thereby bringing about a revolution against the poets and priests of external order; allocating the rivalry of Ideas in agon against the athleticism of Athenian games. So that for Plato the true rivalry was to separate the copy from the simulacrum, the true Idea from the false so that the Sophist and the Philosopher (or lover of wisdom rather than possessor) became both claimants and rivals in an agon for the supremacy of thought against the poet and priest of the spatium. The “friend,” the “lover,” the “claimant,” and the “rival” constitute what Deleuze calls the conceptual personae of the Greek theater of thought, whereas the “wise man” and the “priest” were the personae of the State and religion, for whom the institution of sovereign power and the establishment of cosmic order were inseparable aspects of a transcendent drama, imposed by the despot or by a god superior to all others.” (Smith, p. 6).

“Every time desire is betrayed, cursed, uprooted from its field of immanence, a priest is behind it.” (TP, p. 154): the priests are, as is notorious, the worst enemies – why? Because they are the weakest. Their weakness causes their hate to expand into a monstrous and sinister shape, a shape which is most crafty and most poisonous. The really great haters in the history of the world have always been priests, who are also the cleverest haters – in comparison with the cleverness of priestly revenge, every other piece of cleverness is practically negligible.5 But what was the priestly revenge? Deleuze will shout it out loudly: it was the proclamation of sacrifice, of lack, of castration: the priest cast the triple curse upon desire: the negative law, the extrinsic rule, and the transcendent ideal. (TP, p. 154). The priest proclaimed “desire is lack,” then linked this desire to “pleasure,” and finally proclaiming the second sacrifice as masturbation brought forth the admonition that “jouissance is impossible, but jouissance is inscribed in desire”. (TP, p. 154). The latest incarnation of the priest: the psychoanalyst, carrier of the three laws of Pleasure, Death, and Reality. (TP. p. 154), all inscribed under the banner of an external ethos of lack, pleasure, and transcendence. There would be no escape, except by way of sorcery.

The Way of Sorcery: Carlos Castaneda

“Your only choice will be between a goat’s ass and the face of the God, between sorcerers and priests.” – Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus

Deleuze and Guattari will turn to sorcery, follow Carlos Castaneda and his adventures in becoming a sorcerer. For them it does not matter if this is ethnography or fiction, what matters is their experimental nature of self-transformation brought about by a participation in a deprogramming process between the “Tonal” and “Nagual”. Order and Chaos: the tonal realm of the Symbolic Order of logic, rule, law, civilization, culture, language; and the nagual as the outside, the noumenal, the Real which disrupts, causes havoc, destroys, and generally is beyond knowledge and power – the impossible against which the “tonal must be protected at any cost.” (TP, p. 162).

Carlos Castaneda has been vilified, lambasted, castigated, and generally broadcast as a fraud, New Age guru for the mass idiocy of fictional ethnography… and, one as Ward Churchill stated Castaneda is one of many authors who took advantage of, first, hippie culture, and later the New Age movement by “writing bad distortions and outright lies about indigenous spirituality for consumption in the mass market.”6 Yet, as Abram Anders in Castaneda’s Ecstatic Pedagogy: The Teachings of Don Juan will relate it Castenada should be situated in that sub-cultural influx of psychedelic pop-culture that flowed out of the 60’s and 70’s of the last century.7 Instead Anders follows D&G by asking another set of questions of Castaneda’s works: What does it do? What it does is to demand a different kind of reading—to be read as a recipe. (Anders, p. 4).

Don Juan Genaro’s ultimate goal for Castaneda is the injunction: “Stop the world!” As Deleuze and Guattari will argue, “Stop!  You’re making me tired! Experiment, don’t signify and interpret!  Find your own places, territorialities, deterritorializations, regime,  lines of flight!” (TP, p. 139). We are trapped in the symbolic order of civilization like flies in a Venus fly-trap unable to release ourselves from its clutches, we assume the language of reality is reality – that the structuration and organizing force of language that forges the links between thought and being is tied in a knot between concept and idea, linguistic sign and signification. Instead as Anders after D&G says of Castaneda’s apprenticeship to Don Juan:  “The apprenticeship will belong to the post-signifying regime, which is authoritarian and passional. It is a regime of exodus from the despotic and paranoid signifying regime of signs.” (Anders, p. 7).

Another sorcerer’s apprentice William S. Burroughs gave us the notion that “language is a virus from outer space”. Burroughs adroit use of elegantly worded but simple seven word sentence, has the power to unlearn decades of cognitive conditioning about the nature of the world we live in. Our view of human reality is a social construction mediated only by the instability, the ambiguity, and the volatility of languages used to signify our perception of the world. Indeed, language is a virus from outer space. A virus operates autonomously, without human intervention. It attaches itself to a host and feeds off of it, growing and spreading from host to host. Language infects us; its power derives not from its straightforward ability to communicate or persuade but rather from this infectious nature, this power of bits of language to graft itself onto other bits of language, spreading and reproducing, using human beings as hosts.

Michael Serres in an interview with Johannes Wick would describe the parasite somewhat like Burroughs language virus: “Parasites are in operation everywhere—in production, in communication, in the transfer of knowledge and in every form of exchange and networking. We have to learn that parasitism is a normal condition. It is a question of accepting to a certain extent the destructive power of our “enemy” the parasites. The enemy has come to me because it found something interesting.This therefore means I have got something interesting on offer. Parasites are as a rule intelligent, and it is therefore worth waiting before one tries to fight them off, because then you might find out what they are all about. Every interference provides an opportunity to collect new information. This creates the possibility to form an intelligent alliance from which both can unexpectedly profit. By associating cleverly with the presence of my enemy—the parasite—I can discover something completely new.”

So these viral agents order and organize our socio-cultural existence toward a purpose alien to desire. But why? What is their goal? Is this another hyperstitional memetics? A fictional engine of the meme to create or construct a future according to some design? But who’s? Humans are pattern-recognition machines. Scientific American states that we are “adept at detecting signals that enhance or threaten survival amid a noise world,” and notes that this is associative learning: “the belief that ideas and experiences reinforce one another and can be mentally linked to enhance the learning process.” The entire purpose of a virus is to “bypass or subvert a body’s concerted efforts in either blocking the entrance of diseases or defeating them after infection.”8  Several diseases have their own mechanism of infection, be it spreading through something/someone else, mutating frequently to throw defenses off the trail, slowly pick off the reinforcements needed to win, or become stronger the longer it remains dormant. However, most of the focus has been on “leveraging epidemiological studies of disease propagation to predict computer worm and virus propagation.” (Li 338) What of the socious?

For the Man of Knowledge in Castaneda there are four enemies: fear, clarity, power, and death. The first three enemies—fear, clarity, and power—are concerned with the dangers of becoming, of proceeding along a line of flight. The final enemy, however, is the condition of this mode of becoming; it is the condition of the post-signifying regime: “Old age! This enemy is the cruelest of all, the one he won’t be able to defeat completely, but only fight away.” As it is elucidated, this enemy—properly death—is the companion of the sorcerer throughout his life. Castaneda describes the relationship this way: “death stands to your left. Death is an impartial judge who will speak truth to you and give you accurate advice. . . . The moment you remember you must eventually die you are cut down to the right size.” (Anders, p. 12).

Yet, there is a greater enemy as well, one that locks us into a belief in the Man of Knowledge. One might say we need a new immunization program to eliminate, seek out and destroy the viral memes and parasites that have latched onto our socious and seek to reroute it toward ends we have no control over. Germ theory applied to ideas. One might invoke the ancient legends of the trickster or joker who through his playful pranks disturbs the equilibrium of society thereby instigating its collapse and apocalypse. As Serres attests there is a sixth definition of the parasite – a ‘thermal exciter’, that which catalyses the system to a new equilibrium state.9 In the northern tales Ragnarok (“Doom of the Gods”), also called Gotterdammerung is this transitional time between times when the worlds of man and gods are enveloped in a cataclysmic transformation in which humans will ultimately be subtracted from the realm of the gods forever. An age of forgetting and amnesia that gives men a chance to attain another level or mode of being. Serres tells us the capacity for social ordering to proceed in different directions is relative to that of the joker: the ramification of the network depends on the number of jokers. But I suspect there is a limit to this. When there are too many, we are lost as if in a labyrinth. What would a series be if there were only jokers? What could be said of it?10

The lessons of Don Juan, Burroughs, Serres will emerge from D&G this way: “The important thing is not to dismantle the tonal (Symbolic Order) by destroying it all of a sudden. You have to diminish it, shrink it, clean it, and that only at certain moments. You have to keep it in order to survive, to ward off the assault of the nagual (the Outside). For a nagual that erupts, that destroys the tonal, a body without organs that shatters all the strata, turns immediately into a body of nothingness, pure self-destruction whose only outcome is death…”(TP, p. 162).

We must create abstract machines strong enough to plug into the nagual, yet weak enough to keep one foot in the realm of the tonal, a plane of consistency that does not abandon the one for the other, nor advocates the reduction of the one to the other: the nagual to the tonal which would tame it, invest it with a mask, an appearance, a conceptuality – to knowledge. The nagual is the unknown, the impossible excess of the Real that lies outside all conceptuality and thought. Rather we must navigate the boundary zones between worlds, seek out the new while salvaging the old. At the same time discovering those alien agents from elsewhere the viral agents of language, the parasitic powers that have discovered in our socius and Body without organs a home and nesting ground to further their own agenda. We need both a diagnostic and critical apparatus, a heuristics capable of inventing new forms of thought and experimentation while at the same time exiting slowly the tonal symbolic order that has latched onto us and enforced its alienating rules, laws, and entropic relations upon us as a BwO.

Sovereignty designates the movement of free and internally wrenching violence that animates the whole, dissolves into tears, into ecstasy, and into bursts of laughter, and reveals the impossible in laughter, ecstasy, or tears. But the impossible thus revealed is not an equivocal position, it is the sovereign self-consciousness that, precisely, no longer turns away from itself.
………..– Georges Bataille


  1. Deleuze, Gilles; Guattari Félix. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. University of Minnesota Press; 1 edition (December 21, 1987)
  2. Gourmont, Remy de (2014-08-29). Decadence and Other Essays on the Culture of Ideas (Interesting Ebooks) (Kindle Locations 2323-2324). LONDON GRANT RICHARDS LTD.. Kindle Edition.
  3. Burchill, Louise. The Topology of Deleuze’s Spatium. (Philosophy Today, Vol. 51, January 1, 2007)
  4. Smith, Daniel W. Essays on Deleuze. (Edinburgh Press, 2012)
  5. Nietzsche, Friedrich (2010-03-01). On the Genealogy of Morals (A Modernized Translation with a New Introduction and Biography) (Kindle Locations 369-374).  . Kindle Edition.
  6. Ward Churchill, “Spiritual Hucksterism: The Rise of the Plastic Medicine Men,” Cultural Survival Quarterly 27:2 (2003): 26.
  7. Anders, Abrams. Castaneda’s Ecstatic Pedagogy: The Teachings of Don Juan. From: Configurations  Volume 16, Number 2, Spring 2008  pp. 245-267 | 10.1353/con.0.0051
  8. Li, J., and P. Knickerbocker. “Functional Similarities between Computer Worms and Biological Pathogens.” Computers & Security 26.4 (2007): 338-47. Print.
  9. Brown, Steven D. In praise of the parasite: the dark organizational theory of Michel Serres. Porto Alegre, v. 16, n. 1, jan./jul. 2013
  10. SERRES, M. The Parasite. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, [1980] 1982a.

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