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246. Pushing upward (VI)

Stand on a bridge over the Amsterdam canal network and look down. The water flows beneath you and terminates at a distant intersection; from the intersection, you have a path to every destination in the world: you could go inward, to Germany; or you could go outward, to Java—to collect the nutmeg that made the Dutch rich. The canal system is synonymous with the free market; it is liquid, it brings about novelty and wealth. It is at once egalitarian and hierarchical; it is ordered, yet there is no head to the canal—its head is everywhere and nowhere.

The Amsterdam canal network is what Deleuze meant by the rhizome: the energy flow. The intersections where the canals meet constitute portals to other dimensions and new possibilities; yet the intersection itself is quite plain, almost ineffable. This is a network, but it is not akin to the network that undergirds a tree: the rhizome is short-term flux, short-term memory. Free markets are not really conservative, just as reactionaries say; even the British Conservative Party, not a very conservative party, uses the tree as its symbol; the tree: it stands for the rooted generations, tradition and order—its deep roots support the superstructure. The rhizome has no superstructure to support, it is—as with those Dutch canals—entirely liquid; it churns novelty. It would destroy the tree and its deep roots with its schizo potential; as Marx observed, it was the market that first liquidated rooted tradition, not socialism.

The rhizome is not, however, pure chaos; it is neither chaos nor order. It is the heterarchy: the heterarchy is how computers work—there are levels but any constituent part can swap levels at any time. We encounter a constituent part and it seems the same as every other; yet, in a moment, it can snap into a value-ordered position. The naïve liberal, such as Stephen Fry, looks at it and says: “In the network age, hierarchy is dead!” The fearful conservative, such as Roger Scruton, says: “It’s total chaos! French fashionable nonsense!” The wise man, who embodies the Tao, says: “It’s chaos and order—and neither; and both!”

A heterarchy can nest in a hierarchy, just as the non-stop energy tendrils of short-term memory nest in the wider hierarchical tree-like long-term memory; and, indeed, a hierarchy can nest in a heterarchy: Deleuze’s Body without Organs; it is a recursion, a seashell—the Nautilus shell with its Fibonacci-correct proportions; the microcosm and macrocosm.

You meet a man on the road; he wears a hooded cowl and seems very poor. You pause to offer him change for dinner—you feel proud. He refuses the coin, throws back his mud-spattered cloak to reveal a crown. “But you’re a beggar!” “No, I’m the man who gave it all up so he can be nothing at all; when that happened, I became everything.” This man—a monad, when on the move a nomad—is the intersection of an Amsterdam canal. Total submission and negation of the ego grants access to the monadic state: he is nothing, so he can be anything. The prince and the pauper: total duty, total deprivation—they can swap place and nobody knows the difference. Men who are this way inclined tend to be hermits: hermeticists.

We return via this route: French theory, computer science, neurology, free-market catallaxy, Dutch canals, and Leibniz’s monad. We return to the primal government, the Golden Age: rule by the Tao, as described by Guénon. In the Golden Age, the ego was liquidated; there was only the Self—represented by Doctor Manhattan above, his forehead’s monadic symbol—anyone could be anything. It comes about through total adherence to duty. “Travelling without moving,” as the hero says in Lynch’s Dune: the awakened man can be everywhere at once and nowhere. Divine government; it has levels without hierarchy, yet it is not egalitarian: the hermit monk can go straight to the king; the king straight to the hermit—they are the same, but different.


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