Deleuzian Triptych | Priest, Antichrist, Catholic
To read Deleuze's Difference and Repetition is a demanding exercise. Partly because of his novel use of language, partly because complex ideas are developed. Instead of trying to summarize its entire content, this short text takes one theme present in Difference and Repetition (a minor theme - you could say) and cuts it out of context. The theme in question is “a Deleuzian triptych”. A triptych with three thinkers: Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Péguy.
There is a force common to Kierkegaard and Nietzsche (Péguy would have to be added in order to form the triptych of Priest, Antichrist, and Catholic). —Deleuze, Difference & Repetition
Three faces are put on display, sharing a common frame. Kierkegaard's face placed to the left. His portrait drawn on white with a soft gray stencil, showing his penetrating eyes, curly hair and a cravat of finest brand. In the middle we see Nietzsche’s face photographed in profile. His eyes are fierce, his hair well combed and his mustache salient. To the right, we see Péguy. His eyes are looking away into the distance, something dreamy, ethereal, surrounding him. So how did these three end up in this common frame? Separated in time and place yet brought back into our imagination as main characters in the Deleuzian drama of Difference and Repetition.
Each of the three, in his own way, makes repetition not only a power peculiar to language and thought, a superior pathos and pathology, but also the fundamental category of a philosophy of the future. To each corresponds a Testament as well as a Theatre, a conception of the theatre [...] What separates them is considerable, evident and well-known. But nothing can hide this prodigious encounter in relation to a philosophy of repetition: they oppose repetition to all forms of generality. —Deleuze, Difference & Repetition
Deleuze views these three not only as thinkers but as creators of dramas (To each corresponds a Theatre). They are different but deserves to be placed together, because they used the common method of opposing repetition to all forms of generality. However, even if they used the same method, in Deleuze’s view the difference is insurmountable.
Kierkegaard offers us a theatre of faith; he opposes spiritual movement, the movement of faith, to logical movement. He can thus invite us to go beyond all aesthetic repetition, beyond irony and even humor, all the while painfully aware that he offers us only the aesthetic, ironic and humoristic image of such a going beyond. With Nietzsche, it is a theatre of unbelief, of movement as Physis, already a theatre of cruelty. —Deleuze, Difference & Repetition
What Kierkegaard offers is a mode of existence beyond habit and memories, a path for transforming the basic experience of self-consciousness, into an individualization of the self (becoming-individual). However, in the end, Kierkegaard finds the highest form of individualization in surrendering to God - becoming One in a relationship with the One. And this is where Deleuze has to draw a line in the sand. Kierkegaard falls in front of the finish line, as if, he becomes soft, becomes another priest. The Nietzschean theatre, on the other hand, never reference anything outside itself. The will to power becomes everything, and the only true repetition is the will’s own repetition of itself (the eternal return). Therefore the Nietzschean theatre is called a theatre of unbelief, and ultimately: a theatre of cruelty.
Although Kierkegaard and Péguy may be the great repeaters, they were not ready to pay the necessary price. [...] Kierkegaard and Péguy are the culmination of Kant, they realize Kantianism by entrusting to faith the task of overcoming the speculative death of God and healing the wound in the self. —Deleuze, Difference & Repetition
To be able to act in this theatre of cruelty, you have to pay the necessary price, give up faith and maybe also hope. Healing the wound of the self with faith is no option. So Kierkegaard's and Péguy’s respective theatres falls short against the Nietzschean. However, little has yet been said about Péguy, and he’s not given much space in Difference and Repetition. Péguy’s views on tradition are accounted for, but his thought cuts deeper. This French poet, and convert into Catholicism, close to Bergson and Proust, of whom Hans Urs von Balthasar wrote that his poem Eve was a "theological redemption of the project of Proust". His project is separate from Kierkegaard, and unique in it’s own way. Deleuze never dwells on the subject of the “theatre of Péguy”, thereby leaving the question open for further explorations. I would, therefore, like to complement the above triptych to be read: a theatre of Faith (Kierkegaard), a theatre of Cruelty (Nietzsche) and a theatre of Hope (Péguy). To give the argument some depth a short reference to his poem “Portal to the mystery of hope”, will suffice. In the poem, he writes about the Christian virtues: faith, hope, and charity. Virtues are in a sense modes of being, and Péguy links these virtues to different characters. Faith and Charity are two elderly women, wrinkled by life. Everybody sees them and pays them respect. But in front of them runs a little girl. That little girl is hope. In Péguy’s theatre of hope the hero is a little girl with braids in her hair. The main event, the little girls hope. Because hope is maybe the deepest mystery of all. As a final quote, a piece from “Portal to the mystery of Hope”, written in the voice of God himself.
Charles Péguy - Portal to the mystery of hope
Faith, says God, does not surprise me.
It’s not surprising.
I’m so resplendent in my creation.
Charity says God, that doesn't surprise me.
These poor creatures are so miserable that unless they had a heart of stone, how could they not have love for each other.
But hope, says God, that is something that surprises me.
That is Surprising.
That these poor children see how things are going and believe that tomorrow things will be better
That they see how things are going today and believe that they will be better tomorrow
This is surprising and it's by far the greatest marvel of grace
And I’m surprised by it myself
And my grace must indeed be an incredible force
And must flow freely like an inexhaustible river
What surprises me says God, is hope
And I can’t get over it
The little hope who seems like nothing at all
This little girls hope
The triptych shows three faces, each corresponding to a different theatre. Each one of them directs themself to the individual. Calling the individual out to act on the stage. The stage being the modern world without any transcendent horizon. The middle option, a raw affirmation of life’s force in itself. Acting in this world, this theatre of cruelty, means to dissolutely develop life’s own potential. The left option, the Kierkegaardian theatre of faith, (unfortunately), stands for leaping into faith instead of affirming the individual lifeforce. The possibility of not facing reality, to chose blindness, healing the wound of the self with faith. However this triptych forces us to also consider a third option, beyond the dichotomy of cruel world versus blind faith. The theatre of Peguy. The little girls hope. An inward turning of the self, surrendering to hope. Hope is not a leap of faith, hope is what’s left when everything falls. Hope is a little girl.