Fiction, Philosophy, and Poetry Wrapped Around the Creal: On Writing the Novella ‘Who Killed the Poet?’

Often, when confronted with an up-close manifestation of what my brother called “The Creal,” that vital metamorphic lava of life as constant creation, we bury our gaze in the poster, the label, the package—like that photo of an anonymous old man Bardo took when he was in London with Ophelia, on the way to Oxford, where her father Peter Lovelace lived. On the back of the photo, my brother had written: We form ourselves  to fit the pattern of the old days, of a time when nothing had yet been discovered on the other side of the limit of reality. We must be ready for another world to emerge, something beyond the daily business agenda. The blank-faced, and the lifeless, shall be buried. Intellect will be considered, sometimes, to collude with what it has denounced, for having sensed such mechanical absurdities, and yet failed to act. We are off to lands unknown, to breach every border. And nothing means anything in this world for us, except dying to be born again in the next and to create it, deep-rooted and dazzling, as one harpoons a monster. Already there emerge, in our murmurings, fields furrowed with our future deviactions.

This is an excerpt from Who Killed the Poet? (Snuggly Books, 2017), the English translation of the French novella Qui a tué le poète? (Max Milo, 2011), in which the Deleuze-inspired notion of Creal, first presented in the essay “Is a New Life Possible? Deleuze and the Lines” (Nous, 2009; Deleuze Studies, 2013) is allegorically unfolded in a tale of rebirth and rebellious esprit de corps, a textual machine in which philosophy, fiction, and poetry converge or diverge to create a physical experience of what our relationship with the Creal might be (see “On the Concept of Creal,” DARE 2015). Excerpts of Who Killed the Poet? will be assembled and manifested, in an attempt to answer the following questions: What does it mean for the same (?) author to write fiction, poetry, and philosophy around the same concept, and to what extent does it modify the author’s voice and life? Do genre nuptials produce a new unity, or an avoidance of unity (a resistance)? What are the forces at work behind the seven masks of Who Killed the Poet?: Ophelia Lovelace, Bardo Senior, Bardo Junior, Peter Lovelace, William Lovelace, Lea-Maria Spielswehk (an anagram of Shakespeare), and the narrator, Bardo’s twin?

The concept of  “Creal” qualifies a non-anthropocentric universal of  the kind proposed  by modern process ontologies: “Creal” is akin to what Deleuze called “disparateness”    or “second-degree difference,” what Deleuze and Guattari called “chaosmos” or “plane  of immanence,” what Bergson called “duration,” “creative evolution,” or “life,” and what Whitehead called “creativity process,” adding that “creativity is the universal of universals characterizing the ultimate matter of  fact.” The Creal does not seem to be teleological:    it is likely to diffuse in all real and virtual directions, without a pre-defined direction, since it can be co-created at every moment (with the “Creal-Poet”). The Creal hypothesis designates an immanent, ever-present, ever-absent, precursor or cosmic microprocessor: “Thunderbolts explode between different intensities, but they are preceded by an invisible, imperceptible dark precursor, which determines their path in advance but in reverse, as though intagliated.”

Since this intervention is intended to be in part a conversation with the audience, it will be partly improvised.

On the Concept of Creal: Ethical Promises of a non-Teleological Creative Universal

The French novel Paridaiza (De Miranda 2008a) describes a totalitarian digital duplication of our planet. A small group of rebels subverts the hedonistic-fascist system in which millions of players are imprisoned. The liberators implant a virus within the code of the immersive world in the form of a disruptive signifier. Five combined letters function as the grain of sand in the gears: “Créel,” a portmanteau for créé-réel, “created-real”—therefore “Creal” in English. In a simultaneous essay on Deleuze (De Miranda 2008b), republished in English (De Miranda 2013), the generic term “Creal” qualifies the kind of non-anthropocentric and non-teleological universal proposed by modern process ontologies: “Creal” designates what Deleuze and Guattari (1994) called the “chaosmos” or “plane of immanence,” what Bergson ([1911] 2007) called “duration,” “creative evolution,” or “life,” and what Whitehead ([1929] 1976) called “creativity process,” adding that “creativity is the universal of universals characterizing the ultimate fact.” Castoriadis (1986), faithful to the Pre-Socratic tradition, spoke of the dual unity of “Chaos/Cosmos” (and “Physis/Nomos”) in a two-sided cosmology.

The Creal is not teleological, as it tends to explode in all possible (and virtual) directions. The Creal might be historically post-anthropocentric (coming after Descartes and Hegel), yet it is ontologically pre-anthropocentric and constantly ante-historical (there is an analogy between the Creal and what science today calls dark energy). According to Creal ontologies, humans cannot be said to create fully: they edit, “institutionalise,” coordinate, direct, channel, co-realise, or shape a small portion of Creal. Creal is the dynamic differential core of the flesh of the world, “such stuff as dreams are made on” (Shakespeare, The Tempest 4.1). The less I act or control, the more I am creal—this was the main finding of the surrealists (Alquié 1965). As long as we posit an absolute that is defined as a non-Protagorean and non-teleological constant renewing, we become less inebriated with our overestimated human power to create.

This paper will show how most Creal-cosmologies tend to defend an “agonal” (or agonistic) conception of creation, at the risk of inoculating an essentialised notion of eternal struggle in their ontology. Henri Bergson ([1946] 1992) spoke of cosmic creation as an emotive machine that produces worlds and gods via a constant combat of spirit against matter; for him, the Creal is an “immense efflorescence of unpredictable novelty,” and the Real is the solidified and somewhat zombified side of life. Deleuze and Guattari (1987) spoke of “esprit de corps” as the spirit of seditious plural bodies that constantly decode the binary Real. A world is an agonistic compound of Creal and Real: it is a “creorder” (Nitzan and Bichler 2009).

Yet, precisely because of their intrinsic agonism, Creal-cosmologies contain a clear ethical promise. Here, the rationale shall be Lacanian, following a study (De Miranda 2007) of Lacan’s Ethics of Psychoanalysis (1997): to be sustainable a structure, an order, and a discourse all need a totemic absolute situated at the invisible core of the chain of signifiers. The invisible universal around which realities are constructed maintains their cohesion as an axis mundi. If we accept this to be true, we realise that postmodern attempts to construct durable worlds or communities without an explicit contractual absolute contain a formal fallacy and a political risk. It might be that the only way for polities to avoid the menace of totalitarianisms is to agree by a global social contract on an absolute that shall take the place of less plural and less democratic absolutes. I argue that, logically, creation is the only absolute that can constantly self-destroy and systematically recreate the respect for alterity. The Creal is an ethical absolute, not a scientific one. It can be understood as an open common ground to overcome the general devaluation of postmodernism, the over-evaluation of capital-humanism, and the menace of imperialistic state religions.

In De Miranda’s L’Art d’être libres au temps des automates (the art of freedom in the era of automatons) (2010), an essay on the philosophy of the digital, the term “ordination” defines the form of agency that humans can deploy to order and actualise a zone of Creal. The growing computational protocolisation of societies are not necessarily a threat, and we must continue to facilitate the self-empowerment of “people to come” with active digital literacy. Humans are “ropes over an abyss,” as Nietzsche (1974) said, bridges between Creal and coordinating machines. Our contemporary equivocal position in the middle of a chaotic universal, on one side, and an algorithmic universal, on the other, is our ethical chance: by identifying neither with the Creal nor with any ordered world, we maintain a position as arbitrators in agonal societies. To conclude, I shall propose that “agonistic pluralism,” a political theory inspired by Hannah Arendt ([1958] 1998), might be the most compatible with the Creal hypothesis. As Chantal Mouffe (2000) writes: “While we desire an end to conflict, if we want people to be free we must always allow for the possibility that conflict may appear and to provide an arena where differences can be confronted. The democratic process should supply that arena.” Perhaps, once we remember with Nietzsche, Lacan, Spinoza (Deleuze 1988), or Sade (Lacan 1989) that conflict is but the anthropocentric perceptive on the perpetual and multiple Creal becoming, we might become immature enough to abandon the paradigm of agony and replace it with a Heraclitean idea of childish creative play: “Eternity is a child playing, playing checkers. The kingdom belongs to a child” (Heraclitus quoted in Levenson and Westphal 1994). However, politics are not made by children …


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