These last few weeks, blocks of my past keep bubbling up around my exploration of the Kabbalistic material. The brief aside about the Apocryphon of John, for example, has at its root the recollection of a short story I wrote in high school after having just discovered the Nag Hammadi Library. This is roughly contemporary with my first efforts to take a horoscope and made a tarot deck for myself with index cards, magic markers, and laminating sheets (see, memories). It seems like that is partly because these memories have a place to go, a block of becoming to which they and I both belong.
Speaking about becoming, I first read about Dumezil in college, during my summer of Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, and Jacques Lacan. Deleuze and Guattari, especially, left a mark on me, but there were other writers who were important to that phase that I am recollecting presently: Gloria Anzaldua, Rosi Braidotti, Judith Butler, Donna Haraway, Luce Irigaray, with Simone Weil circling like the moon. Simone Weil obviously predates the boys here, but the rest were living in the wake of their popularity.
While most of these women’s intellectual work was in some way sympathetic to that of Deleuze and Guattari, it was always clear that they were also different in some fundamental ways. Many of them spoke directly of their concerns with the popularity of Deleuze and Guattari, with the issues they had with the way they these two developed their insights. Even where they did not, I can recall sensing that their ideas were organized by a different sensibility.
I am thinking about them presently in light of my recent post on Indo-European mythologies. After writing about Dumezil, a post on Tumblr reminded me of when I first read about him in Thousand Plateaus so I reread that section on the war machine. I remember being a little uncomfortable with the almost romantic pleasure Deleuze and Guattari took in describing the war machine, but having read both Dumezil and portions of the original myths to which his work refers, I find myself doubting the account of the war machine more broadly.
In order to make their case about Indra and the war machine operating independently from the sovereign poles of jurist and magician, they have to erase the complexity of the jurist and magician both in Dumezil and in the original material. They have to overlook the way in which the magician has a special sympathy for the military function and erase the magician’s dual capacity to both bind and liberate. Deleuze and Guattari also elide the necessary role played by women in the organization and operations of both these function in the mythic material.
While I would like to highlight that most of these myths are fundamentally patriarchal, they become even more so in the hands of Deleuze and Guattari who are most concerned with the power of the implicitly and explicitly male-gendered sovereigns and soldiers. Tellingly, what all three (Dumezil, Deleuze, and Guattari) spend the least time confronting is the role of the productive function, the function through which women and the disfranchised most often exert influence on society.
I don’t want to say that women and the disfranchised should only exert power here and that the other domains are for citizen-soldier men. However, since it has often been in precisely the productive domain that women and the disfranchised have exerted power, we should be immediately concerned of any philosophical system that elides it; that system will normalize and naturalize those very patterns of oppression and disfranchisement.
We should also be concerned with any model of magic’s history that erases this zone from consideration, that makes our primary models of magical action the magician-jurist and the sorcerer-binder, that puts legislation and violence above life. To be fair to both Deleuze and Guattari, it is this magical and production-affirming life that I believe them to be seeking, but in the account of the war machine I see them falling prey to one of the sovereign propaganda machines.
The answer to the legislator that sees only the savage multiplicity as the proper counter will make of magic nothing but the regulation and abuse of the productive world. It will have us repeating, into the whispering dark ages of our era, the pattern noted by Faraone in Ancient Greek Love Magic by which magic becomes either violence carried out through subtle means or the modulation of that violence carried out through subtle means. As life necessarily includes these forces, so too must magic, but in order to see it all clearly, it must be clear that these are not the only forces in play.
We must find forms of joy that are productive and generative, not merely the agonistic pleasures of rivalry. That is where the continuity of the world resides, even if that continuity requires us to depart from our current habits. If Christ is a magician, it is important to note that his magical act is a dramatic reassertion of the productive order. That gives Golgotha new bite, for the three thieves then are three magicians (legislator, soldier, Christ) and the symbol asserts the productive Christ, claimant for life, raised above the rest in self-sacrifice.
Magic neither black nor white, but red and green.