Life Undead and Resurrected

“What is outside the cosmos the sage locates as there but does not sort out.  What is within the cosmos the sage sorts out but does not assess.”

“No one lives longer than a doomed child.”



If there is one theme in The Hermetic Deleuze:  Philosophy and Spiritual Ordeal that I think causes the most ambivalence for myself, and for contemporary philosophy, it is the possibility, today, of conceiving thought—any thought, whether hermetic or rationalist—as some kind of affirmation of life. Continue reading “Life Undead and Resurrected”

Conscious Complicity at the Crossroads: A Response to Jacob Sherman’s “What’s at Stake in Hermetic Reterritorialization”

Unlike explanation, the symbol is the identity, the encounter, of the sensible object and the object of thought.  The sensible object is called symbol, and the object of thought, losing all signification, is a hieroglyph or a cipher.  In their identity, they form the concept.  The symbol is its extension, the hieroglyph its comprehension.  Whereupon the word “initiated” takes on its full sense:  According to Malfatti, the mysterious character of mathesis is not directed against the profane in an exclusive, mystical sense, but simply indicates the necessity of grasping the concept in the minimum of time, and that physical incarnations take place in the smallest possible space—unity within diversity, general life within particular life.  At the limit, we could even say that the notion of the initiate is rationalized to the extreme.  If vocation defines itself through the creation of a sensible object as the result of a knowledge, then mathesis qua living art of medicine is the vocation par excellence, the vocation of vocations, since it transforms knowledge itself into sensible object.  Thus we shall see mathesis insist upon the correspondences between material and spiritual creation.

Gilles Deleuze, “Mathesis, Science, and Philosophy” (Collapse III, Ed. Robin Mackay, Falmouth:  Urbanomic, 2007, p. 151)


What happens when a tradition has to be radically modified, and immediately modified?   A certain ancient tradition of initiation calls for a fire, but the land on which the initiation must take place is suffering from drought and the danger of wildfire is too great.  Yet the initiation must take place.  Those leading the ritual process discern that the initiation will take place, this time by water.  On what basis is this discernment made?   What principle legitimates the change?   The very fact of having to make such a decision seems to violate the tradition, to place oneself outside its gift, to alienate one from its power.  What is the passage, the “pass” (Latour’s term) by which such a tradition others itself, differentiates itself, becomes more itself as it becomes more than itself?   I do not have a direct answer to this question, which is somehow, between the lines, what I suspect Jacob Sherman has asked of me.  I suspect that my confrere Matthew Haar Farris, who conveyed to me this problem in painstaking detail, may have more to say directly about it, than I can.  All I can say, here, is that such crossroads increasingly define tradition, for me, rather than being seen as in any sense external to traditions—philosophical, religious, aesthetic, magical, or simply democratic. Continue reading “Conscious Complicity at the Crossroads: A Response to Jacob Sherman’s “What’s at Stake in Hermetic Reterritorialization””

What’s at Stake in Hermetic Reterritorialization?

This is a guest post by Jacob Sherman who is Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Religion at the California Institute of Integral Studies. – APS

Joshua Ramey’s The Hermetic Deleuze: Philosophy and Spiritual Ordeal is such a rich, provocative, and deliciously inconclusive book that I have had trouble deciding upon the shape of a response. The details of the book – the excavation of Deleuze’s hope for an eschatological community of immanence, the reading of the Deleuzean (and Peircean) sign as a kind of arcanum, the rigorous thematization of the shamanic in Deleuze’s process philosophical wagers, etc. – all demand careful, further engagement. Ramey’s work has the potential, alongside Kerslake’s, to change how many of us read Deleuze – not because the Deleuze he shows us is entirely foreign or monstrous, but because he seems to be a Deleuze we suspected of being there all along but could never quite catch sight of. I am left with the strangely giddy feeling that I won’t really have finished Ramey’s book until I’ve gone back and reread an entirely nonidentical Deleuze all over again. Continue reading “What’s at Stake in Hermetic Reterritorialization?”

The Nonstyle of Misknown Nonnaming: A Response to Anthony Paul Smith’s The Misknown Desire of the Philosophers: On Evaluation and Hermeticism

“The project of creating in a secular culture an institution that can manifest a dark, hidden reality is a contradiction in terms”

(Susan Sontag in Antonin Artaud: Selected Writings, Edited by Susan Sontag. Translated by Helen Weaver. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1976, p. xlv)

The tense relation between philosophy and hermeticism (increasingly, in my work, “hermeticism” is a generic term for the “spiritual sciences”) is a kind of double-cross. There is a kind of conflicting and twice-over short circuit between necessity and contingency that binds and blocks these two levels or modes of apprehension. On the one hand, philosophical concepts are grounded or founded upon a putatively universal appeal, an appeal to what would be or might be necessary for anyone with reason to assent to. On the other hand, there is the contingency of the perspective from which any such an appeal is made. I have argued in the book that philosophers themselves do a lot of work (and have a lot of work done to themselves) at the level of their perspective, having it shaped by a distinctive but often suppressed or unexpressed spirituality, a set of disciplines or practices that inform and potentially transform their explicit or stated concepts. (This is, incidentally, what the entire opening of Deleuze’s book Nietzsche and Philosophy is cryptically about).

Continue reading “The Nonstyle of Misknown Nonnaming: A Response to Anthony Paul Smith’s The Misknown Desire of the Philosophers: On Evaluation and Hermeticism”

The Misknown Desire of the Philosophers: On Evaluation and Hermeticism

“Yet here is a paradox that thinking immanence produces:it is impossible to judge in advance whether the elements of different assemblages, or the planes on which they insist, will be healthy or cancerous, salutary or deleterious to life (The Hermetic Deleuze, p. 180).”

Do philosophers ever know what they want? What drives a philosopher? What makes them undertake an ordeal? Or is it simply that the ordeal comes to them, prior to their identity as philosopher, that the ordeal is simply human or creatural? I’ve already expressed my admiration for Joshua Ramey’s The Hermetic Deleuze, but it is the attempt in this book to connect up the philosophical task with a simple creatural ordeal I find most laudatory about the text. It’s combination of the personal with the scholarly, sacrificing neither for the sake of the other. And though of course Joshua doesn’t speak directly of those personal ordeals, though he hasn’t revealed some of that along with some of his personal desires in the responses to this book event, but though he doesn’t speak to us about these ordeals one can sense them here. Philosophy, in Ramey’s hands, is a way of life – literally something to be taken up by a fleshy hand, perhaps soft from reading, but pressing up against other amidst a world of flesh, dead as well as living. There is an honesty, then, to Joshua’s book.

So it is odd then, and perhaps a redemptive move, that this honesty begins with the deceit of another philosophy. Continue reading “The Misknown Desire of the Philosophers: On Evaluation and Hermeticism”

Of Cruelty and Vulnerability: A Response to Dan Whistler’s “The Hermetic Critique of Deleuze”

By the end of his brilliant set of reflections on Deleuze’s very late work, and my own reservations (shared with many others) about the direction and tone of that work, Dan Whistler takes the risk of asking me some extremely blunt questions. He asks, if I perceive his explicit and implicit intentions, 1.) why I decided to write the book, at all, 2.) whether I perceive Deleuze to have either failed in or betrayed his own (disavowed yet on my view undeniable) hermeticism, and 3.) whether I might have been better off, in view of Deleuze’s possible failures and/or disavowals, having adopted a different starting point for thinking through the stakes and possibilities of contemporary hermetic iterations. If I am critical of Deleuze, that is, from an hermetic perspective, what should he have done, or said, and what might I still have yet to say or do that might re-iterate my questions and problems differently, with or without the company of Deleuze and his many concepts and multiple investigations?

Continue reading “Of Cruelty and Vulnerability: A Response to Dan Whistler’s “The Hermetic Critique of Deleuze””

The Hermetic Critique of Deleuze

This post is by Daniel Whistler responding to Joshua Ramey’s  The Hermetic Deleuze. – APS

I’ve struggled with what follows a lot: not just because of my affection and respect for Joshua, but also because The Hermetic Deleuze is a book of such rigour, subtlety and (perhaps most of all) extensity that whatever I have written seems to be engaging with a pale parody of Ramey’s prose. Nevertheless, my jumping-off point is a comment Ramey made recently on AUFS: ‘I would be the first to aver that Deleuze’s vitalist turn is problematic and incompletely conceived.’ The context to which is a few dense sentences that simultaneously cling on to Deleuze’s later thought as productively hermetic, while also recognising the need to redeploy ‘Deleuze’s work as something of a touchstone, something to move beyond’. There is complexity and ambiguity here worthy of The Hermetic Deleuze itself. And this is what I want to explore: the extent to which Ramey’s first book, while obviously post-Deleuzian, is also haunted by an anti-Deleuzianism – a spectral dissatisfaction with Deleuze’s published statements and the beginnings of a ‘hermetic critique of Deleuze’ as well as a ‘hermetic Deleuze’. Continue reading “The Hermetic Critique of Deleuze”

“Nature, driven out through the door, will come back through the window”: A Reply by Joshua Ramey to Rocco Gangle’s “A Shield, a Scepter, and a Crown: Enlarging the Circle of the Natural.”

The actual is contingent in this respect in the sense that the tools with which we think are products or deposits of semiotic relays that cannot by their very nature possess any intrinsic necessity. It is not that they could be otherwise, but that as they are, they are otherwise than necessary. This presents a purely positive characterization of contingency that does not depend upon either the negation of necessity nor the possibility of negation in general and is on the other hand not reducible to the arbitrary. Signs that are contingent in this sense possess a dimension of objective indeterminacy that is a function of the power of their semiotic character.

(Rocco Gangle, “A Shield, a Scepter, and a Crown: Enlarging the Circle of Nature”)

Why is it so hard to talk to those to whom we are closest? Is it nature, squirming and skirmishing against itself, avoiding the prospect of collapse into indistinction, as its creatures occasionally verge on the identity of indiscernibles? Or is it culture, equivocating (at) us through signs, exerting its law of metonymic drift? When do the Ravens belong to Odin, and when to Baltimore, and what, really is the difference, when Beyonce dresses and dances a look raven-worthy, and the lights go out in Voodoo, USA, exactly at the magical 13th minute and equally potent 22nd second, as in the 22nd and final tarot arcana, The World, lights out? But now, thanks to Rocky, the question can change, because we see, in an uncanny flash, that this series of contingencies belong to sign Raven as otherwise than necessary, and the problem is not how any two ravens can communicate (let alone how they can be the same), but why it is so easy, so effortless, so fluid in relay, for raven to make itself ever more indeterminate, ever more redolent, ever more resonant, ever more and yes, never more, thank you Edgar Allen Poe, I heard you. So it is not hard, actually, to talk to those to whom we are closest, as long as we admit that with those one is closest to, or those one also is, there is both nothing left (out) and everything (yet) to say. Continue reading ““Nature, driven out through the door, will come back through the window”: A Reply by Joshua Ramey to Rocco Gangle’s “A Shield, a Scepter, and a Crown: Enlarging the Circle of the Natural.””

A Shield, a Scepter and a Crown: Enlarging the Circle of the Natural

This is Rocco Gangle’s response to Joshua Ramey’s The Hermetic Deleuze. – APS

Thinking this morning of Joshua Ramey’s The Hermetic Deleuze and its call for practices of divinatory and esoteric experimentation along Deleuzian lines in contemporary philosophy, I opened at random my copy of the fat, wonderful and anonymous Meditations on the Tarot:  A Journey into Christian Hermeticism and fell appropriately into Letter III concerning the Empress.  The Empress, following upon the High Priestess and preceding the Emperor in the order of the tarot’s arcana, is a female archetype of sacred magic associated with three personal objects:  a shield, a scepter and a crown.  As the anonymous author glosses the image of the Empress from the Marseille tarot: “if the shield signifies the ‘what?’ and the scepter the ‘how?’ of magic, the crown represents here the ‘by what right?’” (trans. R. Powell, p. 55).  This is the passage, then, immediately following, that divinatory chance provided me:

“Although magic has disappeared from the criminal codes of our time, the question of its legitimacy still persists as a moral, theological and also medical question.  One asks oneself today, just as in the past, if it is morally legitimate to aspire – without talking of exercising – to an exceptional power conferring us with dominion over our fellow beings; one asks oneself if such an aspiration is not due, in the last analysis, to vaingloriousness, and if it is compatible with the role that all sincere and believing Christians reserve for divine grace, be it immediate or be it acting through the intermediary of guardian Angels and the saints of God?  One asks oneself, lastly, if such an aspiration is not unwholesome and contrary to human nature, religion and metaphysics, given the limits to which one can go with impunity towards the Invisible.

All these doubts and objections are well-founded.  It is therefore a matter not of refuting them, but of knowing whether there exists a magic which is free from these doubts and objections or, in other words, whether there exists a legitimate magic from a moral, religious and medical point of view” (ibid.). Continue reading “A Shield, a Scepter and a Crown: Enlarging the Circle of the Natural”

Leather, Fur, & Legendary Joy: A Response from Joshua Ramey to Beatrice Marovich’s “’We Dance These Beasts’: Capitalism, Animism, Believers of the Future”

This is Joshua’s response to Beatrice’s latest post. – APS

The first thing that Beatrice has done, in these gorgeously halcyon words, is to indicate, in her last paragraph, how I may have over-exaggerated the communal as opposed to individual significance of spiritual ordeal.  My fear as I wrote the book, and as I deployed this fraught and fragile word “spiritual,” was of the cheap and easy way that bids for “spiritual experience,” like those for “extreme experiences” (or extreme sports for that matter) can be neatly folded into contemporary habits of production and consumption.  This was only part of my fear, and I’ll try to address more of it below.  But what my own defensiveness elides, and partially obscures, are several things Beatrice’s subtle and crucial suggestions can now enable me to unfold. Continue reading “Leather, Fur, & Legendary Joy: A Response from Joshua Ramey to Beatrice Marovich’s “’We Dance These Beasts’: Capitalism, Animism, Believers of the Future””