The Creal (and crealism)

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Luis de Miranda

On the Concept of Creal and its relation to Deleuze’s philosophy


Every serious philosopher is a cosmologist. Deleuze’s cosmology was started alone and completed with Guattari. Interestingly, it is rather compatible, I would argue, with contemporary scientific cosmologies, with its dark energy and its dark matter. But their perspective is above all political, ethical.


Every cosmology has a prime entity, a universal. For Deleuze, it is Difference, as most of you know. Difference is a spatium, a pure immanence of original matter, which is a becoming of compositions and decompositions, a constant production of novelty and singularity, the stuff that dreams are made of, a negative entropy, an expansion.


Difference is not only a movement. It is a feeling, a glide of vibrating impressions, and that is matter’s ground. Difference is not so much a universal, but rather a pluriversal: it is not going anywhere in particular, it is disparating.


Difference is the real-Real. As I was writing one of my novels, published in 2008 in France, I wanted to find a name for a dimension where imagination becomes creative and desire creates what it envisions and contemplates, with the complicity of a divine entity that would not be God. In a first draft I called this dimension the real-Real. Réel-Réel. But I did not like the sound of it. Réel-réel sounded like someone was sawing the trunk of a tree.


And then I remembered Deleuze’s book on Nietzsche, and the distinction between the reactive human and the creative one. Real-Real sounded reactive: too objective, too essentialist, almost Platonic. After all, the dimension of bliss in my novel Paridaiza was about co-creating our multiverse, being sorcerer of the source, bending laws into unique cases, new realities. One morning, thanks to Deleuze and his reading of Nietzsche and Bergson, the real-Real became the Creal.


The Creal is what Deleuze calls Difference, what Whitehead called creativity, what Bergson called creative evolution, what Nietzsche called the infinite well. I propose to consider it as an ethical and political absolute, and for artists a practical source, which, collaterally, revives the idea of inspiration.


When I say that the Creal could be our Absolute, I do not pretend that the Creal is the truth, even though it resembles physics’s dark energy. It is, instead, a political and heuristic proposition, a Crealpolitik. It will, I argue, help us live better, together, in a co-metacognitive manner.

Lacan has showed how any discourse always revolves around a ghostly absolute, which is effectuated by the structure of the discourse itself, as a ghost in the machine. Human societies tend to crystalize around an explicit or implicit absolute value in order to function, be it God, Money, Enjoyment, Competition, Beauty, Science, Algorithmic thinking, etc.

It seems impossible to conceive of an organized society without an absolute value that holds the structure as a totem of belief. If you can show me an organized society without a founding principle treated as an essentialised value, please let me know. For us artists, creation is a universal absolute, even if we fight against the idea. I argue that we should not fight. If the-people-to-come does not nurture an absolute, then conservative ensembles will extend their proper absolute and code our territory. Absolute values are combat concepts. I feel we must temporarily accept agonistic pluralism.


Each organized group tends to territorialise as much people as possible. Each organized group tends to be a micro-fascism. So if we are to avoid the menace of totalitarianisms, we have to propose a strong absolute, but as a value that would constantly self-destroy and constantly be born again. We have to propose an absolute value that cannot be an alienation. I believe the Creal, is such an absolute. You cannot force anyone to be creative, according to Deleuze: we are all chaotically creative just by becoming and letting it go. The Surrealists new that: their automatic writing was the method of a Creal-machine. Creation can be a categorical imperative ironically, but not cynically. The Creal is a whimsical ethical absolute that is meant to get rid of fascist universal principles that alienate us everyday, be they religious, cultural, global.


Did I really define the Creal? It is a difficult task. It sounds New Agy, I’m afraid, but only for people who did not read enough Middle-Age cosmologies, or even further, Plotinus, or Heraclitus. The Creal is the inverted One, the ever creative flow that is the ground of all there is, was, and will be. The Creal is not the Real only, it produces the real – but not always. Is it a spiritual entity? Not entirely, rather a material one, immanent, and without direction. The Creal is non-teleological. It is not the Hegelian Spirit. The Creal is a constant explosion of infra-matter in every directions, a disparity of possibilities. It is the ever renewing source of life. It is also the source of art.


Now, one of the most important questions that is related with process philosophy is that of individuation, as most of you know. If the Creal, disparity, multiplicity, Difference are our origin without origin, how can we explain shapes, forms, individuals, objects or subjects as units, organisms, species, specificities, cities, persistent molar realities? How is there representation and not only presentation? This is were the body without organs will play a role.


Deleuze says that in everything we ought to start by the middle, because the middle is the only reality that is complete. In fact the Creal and its reverse, the body without organs, are asymptotical realities, virtualities. They are infinite limits. On one hand, multiplicity and novelty, a constant production of possibles and impossibles. On another hand, a pure unity that is not a number, but a cypher, a strange attractor. Deleuze proposed with Guattari the concept of body without organs as the reverse of difference, not its opposite but its other side. The body without organs is the invisible unity that allows regions of the differential spatium to have a skin, a form.

Here we must remember that Deleuze was a reader of Plotinus. Plotinus cosmology is not an ontology. It is an henology, a discourse on the One that says that One is previous to being. The primitive One is and is not. It is implied by multiplicity. There is a cosmic love story between two ghosts, the Creal and One. There are in fact two ghosts in the machine. This will sadden the reductionists.


As humans, we tend to be hardly more unified than a crack-up, as Fitzgerald noticed and Deleuze with him. And this is were the lines of life come into play, to explain how human individuation is possible, how the real is born from the Creal, from the well of eternity, as Nietzsche called it in Zarathustra.


Whether we are individuals or groups, we are made of lines, says Deleuze. There are three fundamental lines: the line of break or cut, the line of flight or rupture, and the line of fracture, the crack-up. Each line is the product of a constant folding and unfolding that constitutes the life of our soul, says Deleuze re-reading Leibniz. A swarm of small inclinations, a swarm of differences, inflexions of the soul. Because we are desiring machines, we are constantly creating constellations of points that create lines and folds, and we slide down or up such and such fold.


The line of break, or molar line, is the line of binary oppositions, the line of social institutions, the line of organisation. ‘You are not a baby anymore, go to school. You are not a student anymore, go to work. Man-woman, black-white, artist-scholar.’ Binary oppositions that simplify life for the sake of utility, organisation, institutionalisation, and group uniformity. Each molar line corresponds to a territory in which a code, a discourse, a game, can be followed and played without much existential anguish. Conversely, the line of rupture is the fold of difference, the line of flight, the call of the wild. Tempting, but also dangerous, because there is no such thing as a good or bad line, says Deleuze. And in the middle, as a result of the tension between the molar lines and the line of flight, is the molecular line, the fracture line, the crack-up. The crack line is probably the most human one, a pressure upwards or downwards expelling the Apollonian monolithic blocks of the molar line and limiting the Dionysian circular outflows of the rupture line. Human individuality is a rising fracture, a creative repetition and incarnation of the virtual polarities, between the pure novelty of the multiple and the pure void of One.


Deleuze adds that the three lines are different aspects of the same line, because they share a common feeling, a common ground of impressiveness, a cosmic emotion. A line is a polarity between micro-impressional events. Impressions connect matter and spirit, notices Deleuze re-reading Hume. A creative impression leads to an imagination, a shaping of the Creal. As soon as we name or label the impression, we introduce a perception by a subject, an I, and therefore we introduce time. Deleuze does not negate the hypothesis of the Cartesian cogito, but he agrees with Kant that nothing proves that the one who thinks is the same than the one who is. The I is fractured, and here we meet the crack-up again, in time. The ego is as if expulsed out of becoming, by its reflexivity. But this fractured situation of the I, both within and outside the Creal, is in fact a chance, the chance of a narrative and a self-legislation, the possibility of an oeuvre. We cannot be pure multiplicity, nor can we be pure form and unity. We are a crack line in between. This is our oxygen: to live in the limit, at the border, between the Real and the Creal, and operate zigzags with our biography, zigzags which are not random, but determined by our integrity, an identity stance, a strange attraction, a personal-collective esprit de corps that bends space and time. This process is not linear. We jump from one line to another, and lines jump in us. Desiring machines function by breaking down all the time, and self-repairing. We are henological machines, et play between unifying and proliferating tendencies.

This process is not totally chaotic because of the abstract unity of the body without organs. The BwO (CsO) attracts to itself the entire process of production and serves as its miraculate, enchanted surface.

In an explosion, not all the parts have the same speed. Parts that have more projective energy can become strange attractors, and form integrities (and sometimes integrisms). Individuation happens by becoming better listeners and co-composers of the music of the body-without-organs and the complicity of the Creal. Deleuze and Guattari call these listeners/composers the Sorcerer, the Anomal. As a writer, in my novels and in my essays, I have always had an experimental anti-method that connects and intertwines real life with the work of art, through synchronicities. The Creal is my holy Grail. This is why I add a u to sourcerer, to indicate that the Creal is a source, a source that erupts anywhere a volcano opens. Becoming volcano is becoming the body without organs, it is designing a more or less round shape around the void, thus allowing the Creal to emerge. Becoming a vibrating membrane, a well, a geo-logical void, to bring into existence that which does not yet exist. In order to become volcano one has to stand on a geo-logical plateau. Deleuze writes: ‘It is as if the ground rose to the surface without ceasing to be the ground.’

An impression expands, from points to folds and explosions of speed and matter, generating, as lava dries, as fire solidifies, effects of attractive collective integrity, assemblages. The inner experience is the outmost experience. Crealpolitik is: becoming volcanoes and smiths tailoring fire.


The unity of experience and habit creates the artist of life, a rising spiral that jumps from line to line, a knight listening to the Holy Creal’s music. When I propose a work of art, it is to create an object of contemplation which is a microcosmos of the music of the Creal I hear in me, the earth consolidated, connected to cosmos and to everyday experience. The subject forms itself in the given while forming it: this is crealism, a discipline of harmonising the real, a principle of common magic, desiring ensembles. Mozart explains in a letter that without magic, without heuristic loss of control, which is at the same time extreme concentration, he is not happy. If we are to equate pluralism and monism, which Deleuze and Guattari call ‘the magic formula that we all seek’, we ought to be, perhaps, at the same time the earth, the sea, and the sailor. The earth that erupts as volcano, the sea that shapes the fire, the sailors that write their common epic on the waves, from island to island, discovering new territories as they imagine them.


And we must not forget that in every island, there are indigenous people, with their own ensemble, which brings us back to the ethical frame. There is in each of us an imperialist, a conquistador. Can we change the world without dissolving existing tribes, or current conservatisms? Can we create a universal esprit de corps where agonism would be abolished? Can we create a common symphony of which we would all be composers, without generating a cacophony? Or is the Creal necessary cruel? This is a question I am asking you.





 Here is a talk I gave at the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Paris on the matter
Here a synthetic article in French: articl-etank

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