Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Brenton Clutterbuck guest post: Discordianism and Deleuze


Kerry Thornley

Gilles Deleuze

Stuck in the Middle with ‘Luze

By Brenton Clutterbuck
Special guest blogger

What is religion? And what is philosophy? We can try to answer these questions in a range of ways. Sometimes we try to map our own intuition onto these questions – we know what religion, and philosophy are deep down, which is to say, we know it when we see it, and we can try to offer explanations that satisfy these intuitions. This is the path of the patient teacher, the methodical map-maker, the precise graphic artist. This approach seeks an exacting certainty, observing the way in which things manifest themselves in our world and detailing them, tracing the lines and curves of their boundaries, tendencies and technicalities. It is definitive, singular, perfected.

Then, there’s the other way to approach things. We leave our tools behind, our rulers and tape measures and sketch-pad and pencils. We dismiss the concrete reality of what we see before us, the absolute certainty of our existing assumptions. Instead, we interpret the question as a challenge? What is religion? What could religion be? What could we do with it? What could it look like? How could it play a role in our lives? This is the world of the maniac teacher, the psychedelically enhanced map-maker, the giddy and gibbering graphic designer who uses a paintbrush in place of a fine-point pen.

Discordianism is a religion born from the creative act of dismissing existing assumptions about religion. It is everything we have been raised to think religion is not. If religion is traditionally solemn, Discordianism introduces playfulness. If religion traditionally promises order, Discordianism offers a holy disorder. When religion is traditionally sacred, Discordia offers profanity. Where religion traditionally requests subservience to a higher power, Discordianism elevates the practitioner to the very authority that religion compels us to serve. At every juncture, Discordianism attempts to reconstruct our very concept of what religion is and can be – it is an anomalous presentation of the very idea of religion, one that disrupts and challenges our existing maps of the world.

Perhaps this is why I felt so excited upon discovering the work of French philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. Like Discordianism, the philosophy of Deleuze and Guattari is a radical project that seeks nothing less than the absolute reworking of our existing sense of what philosophy is and could be. Philosophy is not, and should not be limited to an expansion of our logical understanding of the world, and our relation to it – rather the philosopher is the creator of concepts, generating new possibilities of thought that allow us to enter into new ways of being.

It is inevitable that there should be some comparison between the two schools of thought – both emerged in a similar period, where the idea of chaos was beginning to take hold, certainties were being eroded, and things long taken for granted had begun to deteriorate. Social upheaval and political instability were leading to all manner of rethinking the world. Disorder worshipping Discordians and post-structuralist philosophers were perhaps two articulations of an inevitable jumbling of social sensibilities.

And yet, I cannot help but feel that the quantum interconnectedness of these two entities is more than the reflection of a similar birthplace. They seem to be two strangers, exploring their own esoteric paths on opposite sides of the world. They stumble sometimes on the same influences - Wilhelm Reich, James Joyce, William S. Burroughs. I imagine that if Burroughs had been inspired to perform his famous ‘cut-up’ technique on Deleuze and Discordianism, he’d have found two entities strangely in sync with each other’s disordered explorations.

For example, chapter 10 of D+G’s A Thousand Plateaus is told through a range of voices including a moviegoer, a theologian, a Spinozist, a sorcerer, and even esoterically from the perspective of a secret and a molecule. Similarly, Robert Anton Wilson’s Cosmic Trigger divides the author into various selves – The Sceptic, the Satirist, the Shaman, the Materialist. Like Wilson, D+G consist of a whole community in only a few bodies; Since each of us was several, there was already quite a crowd, they say in the introduction to ATP. They have used their given names in writing this book, but their intention is ‘to reach, not the point where one no longer says I, but the point where it is no longer of any importance whether one says I. We are no longer ourselves. We have been aided, inspired, multiplied.’ On the Discordian side, Robert Anton Wilson became convinced of the ego as an ‘inconvenient fiction’ after following the advice of Uncle Al and biting his thumb every time he uttered the word ‘I’.

At times, the relationship between Discordia and D+G seems to be as above, one of similarly navigated space. At other times, they seem like complementary technologies. D+G’s conception of the rhizome has already proved enticing to Discordian thought, making its way into the work Art of Memetics, a book that has influenced and taken influence from Discordianism. The rhizome proposes an understanding of an organism as all middle – no beginning or ending. In contrast, the ‘arboristic’ model centralises one particular feature (the great trunk), and draws our conception back to a central point (following each leaf to each branch, each branch to the trunk). To speak arboristically of Discordianism we would elevate one feature – perhaps the Principia Discordia, perhaps the ‘big three’ figures of Kerry Thornley, Greg Hill and Robert Anton Wilson, or the historical emergence of Discordianism in the late 50s, from which it unfolded through time and space. But Discordianism has no leaders – or rather it does, in the shape of every man, woman and child [1], who are all Popes of Discordia. Discordianism functions in practice in fully decentralised form. No key figure, no text, no guiding principle can satisfactorily stand as the trunk from which all Discordian thought emerges. For more than a handful of Discordians, Kerry, Bob and Greg are old news, the Principia is hippie shit, Eris herself is irrelevant. And should we embarrass ourselves by running into the room, our pants around our ankles, screaming, “Stop! Stop! You’re doing it wrong!”? Of course we should not – there is no wrong. There is no point to which everything must connect, only the massive network through which connections emerge.

Ahh. I could go on, but I already feel the mania seizing me, as the rhizome of Disco-Deluezianism travels from one node to another, in a rapid process of free-floating association that D+G might describe as schizophrenic. What else could we say? That the Body Without Organs can correspond to the model of the creative/destructive and order/disorder, or that D+G’s assemblages give us a language to explore the conscious reorganisation of our perception into ordered and disordered arrangements, themselves grouped into reality tunnels which can also splinter and shatter through a self onto which reality is passively synthesised… but… but…

But hold on, let’s draw breath. This is all terribly strange and wonderful, invigorating in its potentialities, thrilling in its uncertainties, forgiving in its strange plasticity. We are in the middle of this process of discovery and intersection – indeed we will always be in the middle.

Shall we say one more thing? D+G tell us that a book is not a container, rather it is connected, engaged, attached to the outside. The creation of a book is in the between-space of itself and all that it meets, and all that rises to meet it. Shall we say the same too of Social Media spaces, of human assemblages? I am in the deep midst of exploring such a space, and I’d love you to join me on this journey, where we can ourselves meet in the middle to be inspired, aided and multiplied.

The Disorganised Body of Eris is a Discord Channel Dedicated to the Intersection of Deleuze and Discordianism. It can be found HERE

[1] I am certain, had Discordia been born a little later, the Pope Card would not have failed to mention the Non-Binary Popes, who are of course equally holy.

Brenton Clutterbuck is a writer and teacher,  the author of Chasing Eris and Si Nos Organzamos. You can follow him on Twitter and find out more here. 


Oz Fritz said...

Interesting post. I suspect RAW knew about Deleuze. I love Deleuze and Guattari.

Anonymous said...

I’ve been trying to find RAW in postmodernism. Deleuze, Foucault, etc. No luck. Surprised they weren’t right atop his list of intellectual hero’s with Fuller, Korzybski, Leary.

BFHN said...

Very interesting indeed, more like a starting point for reflexion...

Having Discordianism on discord must be one of the only things that make sense this year...will check it out, thanks!