Notes on: Deleuze G and Guattari, F (2004) A Thousand Plateaus, London: Continuum.  Chapter 2 1914 One or Several Wolves

Dave Harris


The Wolf-Man was another of Freud’s patients who was badly misunderstood and reduced to the Oedipal story, He has been misunderstood every since. It is because psychoanalysis likes nice simple categories rather than ‘multiplicities’.


Much more familiar territory (sic) here, with the Wolf Man reinterpreted as someone who had multiple connections with the world, including the world of wolves and animals as in becomings. Derrida’s lectures (on You Tube) find a lot of hilarity in jokes about dogs (aimed at Freud and Lacan who owned dogs), and a lot of French elegance in the use of the word ‘la bêtise’ which means ‘stupidity’ but also alludes to beastliness: Deleuze wants to say beastliness is a part of being human and that only humans can be stupid (says Derrida) because only they have freedom from being ‘grounded’ (wha?). Derrida also says that unless you understand Schelling, you won’t get this – the bastard isn’t even referenced in Thousand Plateaus though.

The concept of multiplicity is pursued. Deleuze tells us the concept ‘was created precisely in order to escape the abstract opposition between the multiple and the succeed in conceiving the multiple in the pure state’ (36). Then there is some stuff about the different sorts of multiplicities – the mass and the pack (more or less a crowd versus a group). Naturally, these are not distinct categories [classic philosophical idealism here – the real questions is – in which social circumstances does a mass turn into a pack and vice versa. Forget all this lyrical literary hoo-hah]. The gist of that:

We can no longer even speak of distinct machines, only of types of interpenetrating multiplicities that at any given moment form a single machinic assemblage, the faceless figure of the libido. Each of us is caught up in an assemblage of this kind, and we reproduce its statements when we think we are speaking in our own name; or rather we speak in our own name when we produce its statement. And what bizarre statements they are; truly, the talk of lunatics. We mentioned Kafka, but we could just as well have said the Wolf-Man: a religious-military machine that Freud attributes to obsessional neurosis; an anal pack machine, an anal becoming—wolf or -wasp or –butterfly machine, which Freud attributes to the hysteric character; an Oedipal apparatus, which Freud considers the sole motor, the immobile motor that must be found everywhere; and a counter-Oedipal apparatus—incest with the sister, schizo—incest, or love with "people of inferior station"; and anality, homosexuality?—all that Freud sees only as Oedipal substitutes, regressions, and derivatives. In truth, Freud sees nothing and understands nothing. He has no idea what a libidinal assemblage is, with all the machineries it brings into play, all the multiple loves.

Of course, there are Oedipal statements. For example, Kafka’s story, ‘Jackals and Arabs” is easy to read in that way: you can always do it, you can’t lose, it works every time, even if you understand nothing. The Arabs are clearly associated with the father and the jackals with the mother; Between the two, there is a whole story of castration represented by the rusty scissors. But it so happens that the Arabs are an extensive, armed, organized mass stretching across the entire desert; and the jackals are an intense pack forever launching into the desert following lines of flight or deterritorialization ("they are madmen, veritable madmen"); between the two, at the edge, the Man of the North, the jackal—man. And aren’t those big scissors the Arab sign that guides or releases jackal-particles, both to accelerate their mad race by detaching them from the mass and to bring them back to the mass, to tame them and whip them, to bring them around? Dead camel: Oedipal food apparatus. Counter-Oedipal carrion apparatus: kill animals to eat, or eat to clean up carrion. The jackals formulate the problem well: it is not that of castration but of "cleanliness” propreté, also "ownness”), the test of desert—desire. Which will prevail, mass territoriality or pack deterritorialization? The libido suffuses the entire desert, the body without organs, on which the drama is played out (41—2).


Note that the first chapter says that multiplicities are flat (and rhizomatic)  – there is no depth to them so no need to reduce them to an underlying explanatory level – hence Freud is mistaken and ‘There is no ideology and never has been’ (5) .Lots of multiplicities make a plane of consistency etc.

Expanded version: 

[The poor old Wolf Man, who has now been identified, but you'll have to look that up, had a dream, which was the key to Freud's analysis, apparently

"I dreamt that it was night and that I was lying in bed. (My bed stood with its foot towards the window; in front of the window there was a row of old walnut trees. I know it was winter when I had the dream, and night-time.) Suddenly the window opened of its own accord, and I was terrified to see that some white wolves were sitting on the big walnut tree in front of the window. There were six or seven of them. The wolves were quite white, and looked more like foxes or sheep-dogs, for they had big tails like foxes and they had their ears pricked like dogs when they pay attention to something. In great terror, evidently of being eaten up by the wolves, I screamed and woke up. My nurse hurried to my bed, to see what had happened to me. It took quite a long while before I was convinced that it had only been a dream; I had had such a clear and life-like picture of the window opening and the wolves sitting on the tree. At last I grew quieter, felt as though I had escaped from some danger, and went to sleep again" (Freud, 1918).]

The wolf man was aptly named in one sense, because it is a proper name for 'a generic multiplicity: wolves' (30).  Freud's work emerged from his attempt to distinguish between neurosis and psychosis.  Neurotics, like hysterics or obsessives, can see the links between 'the sock and a vagina, a scar and castration', but symbolising multiple images [or rather a multiplicity of objects, in the normal sense] indicated psychosis.  Salvador Dali could see the significance of the single rhinoceros horn, but is generally held to have entered madness when he starts comparing goose bumps to a field of tiny rhinoceros horns.  However, a multiplicity is important in that it changes elements,  'becomes' [much more of this in chapter 10].

No sooner has Freud discovered 'the greatest art of the unconscious, this art of molecular multiplicities', that he tries to domesticate it by seeing it as familiar molar entities after all -- the father, the penis and so on.  The reduction is justified by saying that psychotics deal with symbolic representations of similar things, but only representations of words.  It is the word that conveys identity and unity, the extensive usage of the name, acting to unify an aggregate.  Proper names do this as much as common nouns, domesticating multiplicity, and attempting to link to 'a being or object positied as unique ' (31).  Instead, proper names should be seen as referring 'as an intensity that the multiplicity it instantaneously apprehends'.  In this stress on the word to unify Freud is beginning the adventure of the Signifier, something that is going to assign proper names and reduced multiplicities to 'the dismal unity of an object declared lost'

The dream cited above was seen as neurotic, but Freud again reduced the possibilities.  He used free association 'the other reductive procedure'[which apparently reduces on the level of representation of things, before we reduce them to words].  'The wolves will have to purged of their multiplicity'.  Freud does this by associating the dream with a particular story in which a single wolf manages to eat six of seven goat kids.  This apparently explains why the number of wolves in the dream were originally six or seven, even though the wolf man only drew five - he was the sixth wolf or seventh goat, observing a primal scene.  The number five is significant because perhaps the scene happened at 5.00, or that 'the Roman numeral V is associated with erotic spreading of a woman's legs' (32).  As the number of wolves diminish, this symbolises the number of primal scenes witnessed (three), the two participants, and the one remaining wolf 'is the father, 'as we all knew from the start'.  Where there are zero wolves, this symbolises castration.  This analysis was already decided from the start, and animals could only ever be seen to symbolise primal scenes . The specific characteristics of and fascination for wolves as such  is omitted  -- 'Freud only knows the Oedipalized wolf'.

[Another patient is discussed --one of Guattari's?]. The thing about becoming wolf is to belong to a mass, become a subject in relation to a pack, 'or wolf - multiplicity', how to act as a subject in the pack.  The patient recounts a dream being in the desert and encountering various crowds to whom she is attached by a hand or foot: she has to manage to attach herself even though the crowd is in constant motion.  This is 'a very good schizo dream' about being part of the crowd and yet at the same time outside it.  Virginia Woolf describes the same phenomenon.

The unconscious is peopled with swarms, intensities, tribes.  Someone called Jean Ray is cited as having various hallucinations about micromultiplicity [some quotes describing these appear on page 33].  Freud did not see that the unconscious itself was a crowd and tried to explain them in terms of single persons, but schizos perceive the multiplicity better.  It can be a multiplicity of anything, 'of porous, or blackheads, of little scars or stitches.  Breasts, babies and rods... bees, soccer players, or Tuareg...wolves or jackals'.  What these examples show is that certain factors are involved: first 'something plays the role of the full body—the body without organs'.  This can be the desert or the tree in which the wolves sat, the skin, a house, anything.  Making ['real'] love helps us constitute a BWO alone and with others.  A BWO is not just empty, but one upon which the actor's organs are distributed according to crowd phenomena, 'Brownian motion', 'molecular multiplicities'.  The BWO is opposed not to organs as such but to their conventional organisation as organisms.  It is a living body 'teeming', 'populated by multiplicities'.  The unconscious is nothing to do with generation but with this population, tribal not familial.  Schizophrenics similarly do not arise because of problems with their families [which was the line taken by Laing and Esterson]: they are a desert inhabited by tribes.

These multiplicities can be described as a rhizome.  Each element in a multiplicity varies and alters its relation to the other, 'ceaselessly dance, grow, and diminish' [just as in hallucination].  The distances between elements are 'not divisible below or above a certain threshold', and when they cross the threshold they change in nature.  A swarm of bees can appear [in the Unconscious] as soccer players in striped jerseys, or as a band of Tuareg.  A clan of wolves can combine with a swarm of bees against Kipling characters ['Kipling understood the call of the wolves, their libidinal meaning, better than Freud' (34)].  The wolf man told a story about wolves followed by one about wasps and butterflies.  These elements and the distances, or  relations,  between them are always transformed, revealing their 'intensive character', intensive like a speed or a temperature which cannot just be added together.  However, these multiplicities do display a 'metrical principle' (35), but this comes from outside, in various physical phenomena, like those in the libido, which divides intensity into 'distinct qualitative and variable flows'.  Freud himself talked about libidinal currents, but still persisted in reducing the multiplicity to the One - the little holes or scars to the supreme scar of castration, the wolf to the Father.

He should have done the opposite, understanding things in intensity, where the wolf is the pack or the multiplicity, as it moves along a scale of intensity, where zero is the BWO.  There is nothing negative in the unconscious, only moves toward and away from zero.  Zero itself does not represent the lack, but rather the 'positivity' of the BWO.  The wolves can be seen as a threshold of intensity on the wolf man's BWO.  [With a weird bit about a dentist commenting on the strange nature of wolfie's teeth and jaws, 35 - it seems to foreshadow the discussion of becoming - dog in Chapter 10].  The wolf represents an 'instantaneous apprehension of a multiplicity', not a representation or symbolic substitute but 'an I feel', coming something on the edge of the pack.  It is not believing yourself to be a wolf: wolves are intensities, elements in multiplicities, 'a swarming, a wolfing'. 

The wolf machine is connected to the anal machine, but not through some oedipal apparatus: 'the anus also expresses an intensity'(36), so it is possible to think of a 'a field of anuses, just like a pack of wolves' [with some weird hallucinatory stuff reported about holding on to wolves with your jaw and your anus] The multiplicity transforms elements like jaw and wolf and puts them into other connections like eye and wolf.  Multiplicities permit lines of flight or deterritorialization [of conventional competitions and identities], such as 'becoming - wolf'.  We can become a wolf or a hole for that matter by deterritorializing ourself and following lines of flight.  It would be wrong to see holes are simply negative, or to see a constant anxiety about castration.  There are only 'particles of the unconscious, nothing but particles, productions of particles, particulate paths as elements of molecular multiplicities'.  A hole is just as much a particle.

The term multiplicity avoids the 'abstract opposition between the multiple and the one', escapes dialectics, conceives of pure multiples rather than fragments of a lost unity.  We find the idea in Riemann, who distinguished discreet [sic]  and continuous multiplicities, seeing the forces in the latter, their metrical principle as a result of internal forces.  Meinong and Russell distinguished extensive multiplicities of magnitude or visibility, and more intensive one featuring distances.  Bergson distinguished numerical or extended multiplicities, from qualitative or durational ones.  This is like their own division between arborescent and rhizomatic multiplicities [I thought arborescent structures were only three dimensional  -- perhaps they are n dimensional as well?], or between macro and micro multiplicities.  There are extensive molar multiplicities which are 'unifiable, totalizable, organisable' (37) found in the conscious or preconscious, and 'libidinal, unconscious, molecular, intensive' multiplicities which 'constantly construct and dismantle themselves in the course of their communications' as they cross over thresholds.  The second kind of multiplicity is composed of particles; they feature intensive distances as relations; Brownian movements.

These are [only] lkm'kmlogical distinctions. Canetti finds that some types of multiplicity are opposed sometimes but also interpenetrate, and these constitute packs or crowds.  In such masses we can find 'large quantity, divisibility and equality of the members, concentration, sociability of the aggregate', hierarchy, territorialization, and 'emission of signs'.  Packs have smaller numbers, are more dispersed, have a 'non decomposable variable distances', qualitative metamorphoses, inequalities', no totalization or hierarchy, Browniand variabilities, lines of deterritorialization and 'projection of particles'[the reference is to Canneti Crowds and Power].  Leaders of packs live a hand to mouth existence, while leaders of masses can consolidate their position.  The pack itself follows a line of flight as 'a component part of it', but masses segment their lines and see them as negative.  Members of packs are alone even while in company, and have to look after themselves as well as participating.  Changes in packs can isolate individuals temporarily, and then install them in the centre.  This can be seen as 'the schizo position' (38) on the periphery as above.  The mass subject on the other hand identifies with the group and the leader and is securely embedded, the 'paranoid position'.  There is no reason to assume that packs are less involved in mass societies.  Both can coexist - '"high society life" closer to the pack', and relations never coincide with normal social relations, nor do mannerisms.  Indeed, such non conventional matters are always 'specific to micromultiplicities'.

We should not see a simple dualist opposition between these different types of multiplicities.  There are multiplicities of multiplicities 'forming a single assemblage', operating in the same assemblage.  Packs can have masses and vice versa; trees can have 'rhizome lines' and vice versa.  Deterritorialization implies circuits of territoriality.  Intensities can start to flow 'in wide expanses'.  Becoming 'involves a molar extension, a human hyper concentration, or prepares the way for them'.  In Kafka or, the great bureaucratic machines also 'install little schizo machines of becoming-dog or becoming - beetle'.  The wolf man's things are obviously connected to the 'military and religious organisation of his obsessions'.  It is not the case that there are two multiplicities or two machines, but only the same machinic assemblage producing both aspects, 'the whole' or 'the [psychological?]"complex"'. 

Freud tries to reduce all this to Oedipus: his approach 'hears nothing and listens to nobody.  It flattens everything' (39).  In the second dream of the wolf man, during his psychotic episode, when he was being treated by Brunswick, she does seem 'that this time the wolves are Bolsheviks', who confiscated the patient's fortune - they have 'gone over to a large scale social machine', but it still all leads back to daddy, who happened to be a leader of the liberal party in Russia.  So the whole thing is driven by feelings of guilt for Freudians, 'nothing to do with mass disturbances, pack movements, collective signs, and particles of desire'.

What Freud tries to do is to see molar multiplicity and mass machines located in the preconscious, with a different kind of machine of multiplicity in the unconscious.  But both are these are combined in an assemblage, explaining the connections between the two levels.  'The libido suffuses everything', and social machines have a molecular unconscious as part of their 'very operation and organization'.  In the case of individuals caught in a mass, there is a pack unconscious, not the same as the mass unconscious, so that an individual or a mass can 'live out in its unconscious the masses and packs of another mass or another individual'. 

When we are in love with someone, we first really see them in a mass, we have to extract them from the group in which they participate, like their family, and then we explore their own packs or multiplicities which are 'enclosed' within them, and which might be entirely different.  Then the point is to join their packs to one's own, and to interpenetrate in 'heavenly nuptials, multiplicities of multiplicities' (40).  This is why love always involves depersonalization on a' body without organs yet to be formed'  Only at the highest point of this depersonalization can we name somebody, that they acquire 'the most intense discernibility in the instantaneous apprehension of the multiplicities belonging to him or her'.  This is revealed in things like 'or pack of freckles on a face... a clutch of girls in Charlus's  voice', or 'a multiplicity of anuses in the anus'.  Albertine ([in Proust]  is extracted from a group of girls, and the narrator discovers that she has her own multiplicities.

It is not enough to see masses and exterior groups as separate from internal aggregates 'that person [sic] envelops in himself or herself'.  There is no point distinguishing interior and exterior, since this division is always relative and reversible.  The point is to distinguish between different multiplicities.  Kafka's Felice [pass] cannot be separated from a social machine, the company in which she works, although her teeth 'send her racing down other lines, into the molecular multiplicities of a becoming - dog', the 'little molecular machines' that she also possesses.  'There are no individual statements, only statement producing machinic assemblages'.  The assemblage is libidinal and unconscious, although there can be different elements is all multiplicities in them, including 'human, social, and technical machines, organized molar machines, molecular machines with their particles of becoming inhuman'.  We can detect oedipal apparatuses and also 'counter oedipal apparatuses'(41), but these are just examples of statements and assemblages.  There are other 'bizarre statements'which we think are ours, although it is the assemblage speaking, and these are really odd as in psychiatric patients who might be obsessional or hysterical [these involve some of the hallucinations we have discussed].  Counter- oedipal apparatuses include hallucinations or passions that seem to break out of love for the parents, including 'incest with the sister...  anality, homosexuality'.  These are genuine libidinal assemblages, not substitutes for oedipus.

Oedipal statements are common and, for example even in Kafka [the example here is Jackals and Arabs ]. Apparently we can see the Arabs as the father, the jackals as the mother and the relation between the two as the story of castration.  But there are other dimensions, the Arabs as an organized mass in the desert, the jackals as an intense pack following lines of deterritorialization, and even the scissors [meant to be used to kill the Arabs] become not a sign of castration, but 'the Arab sign that guides or releases jackal particles' (41) [ the scissors are known to the Arabs and they use them somehow to attract jackals and explain the scene to Europeans]  The jackals are acting to clean up carrion, not consume or kill their father.  Apparently we can see the attack on the camel [left there by the Arabs to feed and domesticate the jackals] as an attack on the father, but not the attack on carrion [which is what jackals want], so their problem is how to maintain cleanliness 'the test of desert - desire' [something that will maintain the desert] .  The tension is between mass territoriality and pack deterritorialization, and the whole drama is suffused by libido.

'Every statement is the product of a machinic assemblage, in other words, of collective agents of enunciation'(42).  Proper names do not designate individuals, and are only appropriate when the individual 'opens up to the multiplicities pervading him or her', undergoing depersonalization.  Proper names involve the apprehension of a multiplicity [I think this is getting pretty confused here -- presumably this means some sort of empirical multiplicity, something more like a  haecceity?  Or an 'intimate' multiplicity as in the next sentence].  Proust attests to the 'pure infinitive' which is the subject behind the proper name - when he says Gilberte's name, he feels that he holds her entire body in his mouth.  Wolf man is a true proper name, an intimate one 'linked to the becomings, infinitives and intensities of a multiplied and depersonalised individual'.  Psychoanalysis knows nothing of these multiplications, and cries castration at every opportunity.  Oedipal statements are part of a machinic assemblage, but oedipal enunciation will not lead to proper 'individual, personal statements', and allow patients to 'finally speak in their own name'.  The wolf man is never allowed to speak: Freud never properly listens and says he means  father; when that breaks down, wolf man develop psychosis [which is pretty well incomprehensible]. 

Wolf man could have been understood better, by examining 'the machinic assemblage that was producing particular statements in him', but psychoanalysis never allows that, never allows 'the most individual of statements' to be enunciated.  Psychoanalytic neutrality actually involves not listening to people, or immediately interpreting what they say: Freud insist that the wolf man's dream means goats not wolves, that the wolf that eats the goats is his father and so on.  No wonder the poor chap is fatigued [he was actually a depressive], since the multiple symptoms are not understood, leaving 'all his wolves in his throat, all those little holes on his nose, and all those libidinal values of the body without organs'.  When diagnosed later, the wolves become Bolsheviks, but he is still 'suffocated by all he had to say'.  In the end he became well behaved and polite, 'in short, cured' (43), but one of his remarks indicates that psychoanalysis still 'lacks a truly zoological vision'[he extols the love of nature and a study of sciences, especially zooology].

[Again my worry is that psychiatric patients are not being listened to here either. They are made into philosophers supporting deleuzian ontology, instead of poor loonies needing Freudian metapsychology, but symbolic violence is happening to them just the same. The same necessary act of 'reading' is apparent in terms of Proust or Kafka too: try Jackals and Arabs for yourselves -- it is only short -- then try out D's&G's readings and you will see what I mean.]

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