Genesis and repetition

One day I worked on a film project in Rotterdam and Ghent. One of the actors in the film was, who owned a parakeet, which they claimed to have named after Gilles Deleuze. I learned that the name of the parakeet was in fact “Manzi”. Being quite surprised, I inquired how “Manzi” could possible be derived from the French philosopher. “Of course,” they explained, “Manzi that’s derived from Deleuze’s first name Gilles, Gillesman, and hence manzi.”

In the introduction to “Difference and repetition” – which is very conveniently called “Repetition and difference”, Gilles Deleuze aims at distinguishing repetition from generality. Deleuze writes “To repeat is to behave in a certain manner, but in relation to something unique or singular which has no equal or equivalent.” Just as Deleuze has made a project of thinking the diverse as diverse and not as unity, in this text Deleuze attempts to think repetition not as constituting natural law, but instead as creative. Repetition which only leads to general rules is what Deleuze refers to as “religion” – it generalises the singular into something ultimate or transcendent. Repetition is not mediation to a higher order – repetition is about the immediate.

In her inaugural lecture, “Mediation and the Genesis of Presence”, anthropologist Birgit Meyer explores a material approach to study religion. Her appeal is against the dominance of what she calls the “mentalist” approach towards religion, which places more importance on beliefs, texts and hermeneutics as the mediator of religion, whereas she argues that we have neglected our interest in the religious objects as mediators for religion. She proposes to look at how religion is generated through material objects, which serve as mediators between the transcendent and the immanent world.

On the outlook, Deleuze and Meyer have a different object of focus. While Deleuze refuses to look at religion, but is only interested in the immediacy of immanence, Meyer’s principal object of study is religion as a medium. But nevertheless, I believe their approach is in fact very similar: they are namely both interested in immanence and generation.

As scholars of religion, but using Deleuze, we could speculate that the religious – or the divine – is not something mediated, but something generated in the religious practice. This would reduce God from its function as transcendent being, to the moment of generation in the immanence of religious objects. If the divine could be generated in religious objects, this would  deny Deleuze’s rejection of religion and it would also deny Meyer’s attachment on the transcendent as the definition of religion. But this might be the necessary consequence if we want to focus on the immanent and the immediate.


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