I was going over my notes for Deleuze’s Bergsonism. It was discussed on the first day of class at Gail Hamner’s Deleuze-Foucault seminar at SU, and I wanted to catch up. I realized how hard it is to get a handle on Deleuze and what he’s getting at. How do you get your brain around a crazy, conceptually overstuffed little book like this one? I was in New York sitting in the car waiting for the street cleaning to finish up at 12:30 and tried to aggregate as much of my notes into a single statement. Here’s what I got.
Why does Deleuze turn to Bergson? That’s the question introduced in the translator’s introduction. My take on this question is that Bergson allows Deleuze to tease out the problem of dualism and monism. Actuality is the force of division. Virtuality is the force of radical surplus and excess Whole, creative potential, like naturing nature (natura naturante) in Spinoza. “Actual” differences in their division are combined with their “virtual” coexistence in “a single time” or duration (or what Deleuze will call “a plane of immanence”) (93-4).
Bergson gives Deleuze a way of being in time. “Thought” divides and differentiates in a single impetus along two paths, matter and “spirit.” This to me was a shocker, this reference to “spirit.” It does not seem to belong to the Deleuze corpus of concepts. But there it is, on p. 116, understood as thought’s “qualities and changes.”
In other words, duration picks up the concept of Spinozan substance elaborated upon by Deleueze in Expressionism in Philosophy. The single-differentiating impulse that constitutes duration as its condition propels Delueze beyond the human field into a more cosmic-mystical vision defined as superabundant activity, action, and creation.
Turning to art and mysticism at the end of the Bergson book, Deleuze writes about the “[s]ervant of an open and finite God (such are the characteristics of the élan vital), the mystical soul actively plays the whole of the universe, and reproduces the opening of a [virtual?] Whole in which there is nothing to see or to contemplate.” (This appears on p.112)