1 Aug 2009

Crystals of Time. from Deleuze, Cinema 2: The Time Image

by Corry Shores
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Crystals of Time


Gilles Deleuze

Cinema 2: The Time Image

Cinéma 2 : L’image temps

Ch. 4 : The Crystals of Time

Ch. 4: Les cristaux de temps

To better explicate Bergson’s notion of duration, we will examine the way Deleuze characterizes the present instant as a crystallization. Bergson spoke of crystallization when describing perception, in Matter and Memory.

We might possibly have instantaneous pure sensations. But perceiving something requires some time. So consider that we are stepping out the door. Then raindrops begin falling. So we automatically open our umbrella. When we perceive the rain, we are seeing something else as well. Our mind projects images from our memory onto our sensation. This way, images from past perceptions of rain superpose upon our ongoing sensation of raindrops. These overlaid images then contract together. But this contraction is always going on. And it has been like this from the beginning of our lives. So let’s imagine if we can sensations we might have had very early on in life. We sense some object O.

That sensation sends an image to our minds. This produces memory-image A.

But just as soon as our minds receive the image, they send it back to our senses, as though the image were electricity passing around a circuit, never stopping anywhere.

The projected memory-image contracts the current sensed object-image. Together they form our first perception. In the meantime, the object has changed slightly, on account of a variety of possible reasons: it changed, or our perspective changed, our attention was interrupted, and so on. So when the past memory contracts with the current sensed object-image, their differences are forced together into the same image. This way we produce a new object-image that is slightly modified. It is partly virtual, because certain aspects of it are remnants from the past. However, that does not make it less real. For, these remnants are pieces of reality that have been preserved in our current perceptions. Hence we see then that we only perceive things by compressing the past with the present.

So the past object-image contracts with the present one, to create a new modified object-image, which we will call B’.

Like before, this image is sent to our minds, while all at the same time, the memory image is being sent back to the sensed object-image. This motion is like an electrical circuit. Just as soon as the battery sends current to the light bulb, current on the other end of the bulb already is moving back to the battery.

And then, the new modified object-image B’ contracts with previous image A to create memory image B. All the while, whatever current form of the contraction is in our memory, we send it back to the sensed-object-image. This way, our perception keeps billowing outward as new differences are contracted to the original image.

[Note that in Deleuze’s rendition, he places dashes only on the actuality side, perhaps emphasizing that the contractions involve the present instant of actuality.


But we must note something important. There is a continuity in our changes of perception. So we are continuously contracting whatever is in our memory to whatever we are sensing. And, every memory is already a contraction that is contracted with many other contractions. But on account of the continuity, and the fact that all our perceptions are contracted with other contractions, we really are contracting the whole body of memories into every new perception. So we do not merely contract all the similar instances of “grass” together when we see grass. In fact, we take all the images we have ever seen, and they all contract with our current perception of grass. However, we only notice those parts of our memory that resemble our current perception of grass, if even we notice any past memories at all. It all depends on how useful it is for us to notice these resemblances. Yet there is this ongoing condition of our consciousness: all of our remembered past is continually present, as the virtual which is contracted to the actual. The past is never gone from the present. And in fact, we cannot have a present perception unless we are also contracting a past image to it [otherwise it might just be a bare, instantaneous – and thus unperceived – raw sensation. But perceptions require duration, which means the continuous renewal of the past.] Hence we do not follow the traditional model of the present’s relation to the past. So we will not think that present things turn into the past, and thus the present has some priority over the past. No, because we cannot have present experiences without the past already being contracted into them. Hence in fact, the past is prerequisite for the present, and not the other way around.

So, when we perceive something, we at the same time are recalling something else. What we perceive is real, and what we recall is virtual or we might say imaginary. Also, our present perceptions manifest in our physical behavior. So if we perceive a red light while driving, we contract previous recollections of stopping, and we then automatically enact the habitual bodily behavior of hitting the brakes.

We see then that our whole body of memories continues to “billow” outward as the circuit continually widens. Bergson will use another diagram, his famous cone, to help us grasp another aspect of our consciousness. We noted that we may or may not see in our imagination the previous images that are being contracted. If someone asks us to think about red lights, we might form clear and distinct memory-images of them in our mind. But when we are distracted while driving, and then we are caught off-guard by a traffic light changed suddenly to red, we will automatically hit the brakes without noticing any memories of red lights flash into our minds. And recall also that our memories of red lights are already contracted with ever other memory we ever had. But we only notice the parts that are most useful at that moment. So when we are contemplating red lights, we notice specifically just red light images. And if we are to think about how they work, we might also notice images of electrical wires, circuit boxes, and so forth. When we are contemplating things abstractly, the images spread-out into full and distinct forms in our minds. This is even more so the case when we are dreaming, and memories are fully there for us to see and experience again in their entirety. So Bergson will depict such expansions with a wide circle. These memory-images are still contracted together, but they are given a lot of space to spread-out so they can be seen more distinctly. But when we automatically respond with a habitual behavior, like hitting the breaks, all these memories are implicit and intensely there in an instant. And they manifest fully as our habitual bodily action. So Bergson will depict such intense contractions with a point. But there are many instances in between, when our memories are more-or-less contracted. So the circle widens to varying extensions. And it becomes more-or-less distant from bodily action, depending on how abstractly we contemplate the memories. So Bergson depicts these layers of contraction with a cone [The first is the simple cone that precedes the layered one].

And the different layers of contraction are the thousands of circles in between the point and the cone’s upper base [here Bergson depicts just two of the many thousands of intermediate circular layers]:

Everything in the cone is our memory, here displayed in its full range of possible contractions. So all our memories are found in the point S where they contract into one bodily habitual action, and as well, they can all be found at the top broad circle, in expanded form. Circumstances call for different degrees of contraction, so we vary from layer-to-layer each moment, going up-and-down (‘melodically’ as Deleuze might say.)

[Here is the rendition in Deleuze’s Cinema II.


So everything in the cone is virtual, and what lies on the plane of experience is actual. We contract our virtual pasts onto the present at point S. In this way, the virtual is continually being actualized by means of contraction. Bergson uses these metaphors: the further our memories expand, the more they evaporate; and the more they contract, the more they crystallize. There is always a “double current” moving from one tendency to the other, which is

always ready either to crystallize into uttered words or to evaporate into memories. (Bergson, Matter and Memory, 211b, emphasis mine)

consiste dans le double courant qui va de l’une à l’autre, – toujours prête, soit à se cristalliser en mots prononcés, soit à s’évaporer en souvenirs. (177)

We will now explore Deleuze’s characterization of the “crystal image” in his Cinema II text. He writes:

We have seen how, on the broader trajectories, perception and recollection, the real and the imaginary, the physical and the mental, or rather their images, continually followed each other, running behind each other and referring back to each other around a point of indiscernibility. (Deleuze 67b)

Nous avons vu comment, sur les parcours plus larges, la perception et le souvenir, le réel et l’imaginaire, le physique et le mental, ou plutôt leurs images se poursuivaient sans cesse, courant l’une derrière l’autre et renvoyant l’une à l’autre autour d’une point d’indiscernabilité. (93bc)

The simultaneous circulations and contractions of the past and present made the difference between the two indiscernible. But it is most indiscernable at the smallest circuit of the billowing contractions, and at the point nearest the plane of actual experience.

But this point of indiscernibility is precisely constituted by the smallest circle, that is, the coalescence of the actual image and the virtual image, the image with two sides, actual and virtual at the same time. (67c)

Mais ce point d’indiscernabilité, c’est précisément le plus petit cercle qui le constitue, c’est-à-dire la coalescence de l’image actuelle et de límage virtuelle, l’image biface, actuelle et virtuelle à la fois. (93c)

We will note briefly some of Deleuze’s terminology. He speaks of opsigns or what we might also call sonsigns. There are two sorts of these signs. Sometimes in cinema, we are shown objective images that give a “report.” This is like the expanded circle at the top of the cone. These report-images (or what Deleuze calls constats] give us a sense of things that we can visualize abstractly so that we can determine the relations between things in an explicit way. By this means we can also clearly see the ‘distances’ between related things, in an almost geometrical way. So it gives us “vision with depth, at a distance, tending towards abstraction.” (6bc) The other kind of opsigns are more like the point at the end of the cone, where images are contracted into a habitual bodily reaction to actual ongoing stimuli. These ‘instats’ give a “close, flat-on vision inducing involvement.” (6bc) Deleuze speaks of these signs in terms of crystallization, writing:

We gave the name opsign (and sonsign) to the actual image cut off form its motor extension: it then formed large circuits, and entered into communication with what could appear as recollection-images, dream-images and world-images. But here we see that the opsign finds its true genetic element when the actual optical image crystallizes with its own virtual image, on the small internal circuit. This is a crystal-image, which gives us the key, or rather the ‘heart’, of opsigns and their compositions. The latter are nothing other than slivers of crystal-images. (67b.c)

Nous appelions opsigne (et sonsigne) l’image actuelle coupée de son prolongement monteur : elle composait alors de grands circuits, elle entrait en communication avec ce qui pouvait apparaître comme des images-souvenir, des images-rêve, des images-monde. Mais voilà que l’opsigne trouve son véritable élément génétique quand l’image optique actuelle cristallise avec sa propre image virtuelle, sur le petit circuit intérieur. C’est une image-cristal, qui nous donne la raison, ou plutôt le « coeur » des opsignes et de leurs compositions. Ceux-ci ne sont plus que des éclats de l’image-cristal. (93-94)

In the next passage, Deleuze will refer to the “Epicurean atom.” The atoms are very small, but they have some measure of size. What makes one atom larger or smaller than another has to do with how many parts it contains. The parts extend but they themselves do not have any extension. When we combine them, we obtain extension [like Hume’s extensive parts]. So because these parts are inextensive, they are more like limits.

we have already declared on the ground of its relation to sensible bodies that the atom has size, only we placed if far below them in smallness. Further, we must consider these least indivisible points as boundary-marks, providing in themselves as primary units the measure of size for the atoms, both for the smaller and the greater, in our contemplation of these unseen bodies by means of thought. (Epicurus, line 59, page 35c, emphasis mine)

So an atom is so small as to be like a point, but it itself contains parts: inextensive limits. Deleuze writes in Cinema II:

The actual image and its virtual image thus constitute the smallest internal circuit, ultimately a peak or point, but a physical point which has distinct elements (a bit like the epicurean atom). (Deleuze, 68d)

L’image actuelle et son image virtuelle constituent donc le plus petit circuit intérieur, à la limite une pointe ou un point, mais un point physique qui n’est pas sans éléments distincts (un peu comme l’atome épicurien).

So in the instant of the current moment, the virtual past contracts with the momentary present. These images are fused together at a point. But it is a point with two sides: past and present. When the past image projects-upon and contracts-with the current one, it emerges from its virtual state and crystallizes. This produces a new actual image, which is already on its way to becoming virtual as a memory.

Distinct, but indiscernible, such are the actual and the virtual which are in continual exchange. When the virtual image becomes actual, it is then visible and limpid, as in the mirror or the solidity of finished crystal. But the actual images becomes virtual in its turn, referred elsewhere, invisible, opaque and shadowy, like a crystal barely dislodged from the earth. (68d)

Distincts, mais indiscernables, tels sont l’actuel et le virtuel qui ne cessent de s’échanger. Quand l’image virtuelle devient actuelle, elle est alors visible et limpide, comme dans le miroir ou la solidité du cristal achevé. Mais l’image actuelle devient virtuelle pour son compte, renvoyée ailleurs, invisible, opaque et ténébreuse, comme un cristal à peine dégagé de la terre. (95c)

So the crystallized image then enters into our memories. It is virtual, but it is also continually actualizing in the present. Crystals often have parallel faces and are transparent, so we might consider them as having internal mirrors facing each other. When the crystal enters our virtual memory, it then influences the way it will contract with images in the future. [See this entry on how repetition changes the mind.] So the crystal in a sense becomes more like a seed.

The crystal is no longer reducible to the external position of two mirrors face to face, but to the internal disposition of a seed in relation to the environment. What will be the seed with which we can now sow the environment [...] ? (69d)

Le cristal ne se réduit plus à la position extérieure de deux miroirs face à face, mais à la disposition interne d’un germe par rapport au milieu. Quel sera le germe capable d’ensemencer le milieu […] (96cd)

Now, consider that Deleuze interprets Spinoza as a philosopher of expressionism. There are things that we find in reality. These things are expressions of reality. Part of what we see is explicit. We see whatever facet is shown to us explicitly. And we see what it is in that moment. But the thing has other dimensions that are not limited to spatial ones. We might for example think that on the subatomic level, the object is expressing quantum mechanical principles that do not at all exhibit their strange properties to us as its super-atomic observers. Strange and incomprehensible things are going-on inside the object, and it is on account of this behavior that the object is the way it is at that moment. So the thing expresses this other dimension, but implicitly so. Now also consider that objects are changing, most times unpredictably. The changes occur as a result of a struggle of forces that are pushing-and-pulling the object in different directions of development, all at once. Certain forces prevail, often on account of pure chance, and the result is the changes the object undergoes. But at any instant, there are merely tensions and tendencies. The tendencies are implicit intensities. And the ways these intensities play-out in actuality are the explicit extensities. Consider also language. There is intensional meaning, which is like what is implied, and [for Deleuze] intension is also the tendencies for the meaning to change. And there is extensional meaning, which are the specific nameable objects that our sentences refer-to. In order to write well, it is important to communicate both on the explicit and implicit levels. And finally consider artistic creation. If the artist is too explicit, then she might as well be an illustrator for a magazine. But if she makes art where too much is implicit, as for example when there is either a mess on the canvass, or something so abstract that most people cannot relate to it, then also the art will not communicate very much. But when there is something explicit to see, but at the same time those explicit images and their relations are being push-and-pulled by implicit tendencies and suggestions in the artwork, then it will express more to the viewer. So in sum, expression for Deleuze means a mixture of explicit and implicit, virtual and actual, intensity and extensity. The crystal image as the contraction of the present actualization with virtual past would thus be expressive in this manner. At every moment, what we experience in the current instant is contracted with the virtual past, and in that way the two crystallize together. But just as soon as they crystallize, the crystal image is already moving into the virtual past. And again, just as soon as it is becoming virtual, it is also being contracted again and actualized. In this process of actualization, the virtual past is like a seed being planted in the current instant. Our experiences then are dually a seed from the past affecting how we experience the present, while at the same time a crystal from the present changing the nature of our past. Hence our experiences must have something about them which allows them to be fertilized by the past, and be crystallized with it.

The crystal is expression. Expression moves from the mirror to the seed. It is the same circuit which passes through three figures, the actual and the virtual, the limpid and the opaque, the seed and the environment. In fact, the seed is on the one hand the virtual image which will crystallize an environment which is at present [actuellement] amorphous; but on the other hand the latter must have a structure which is virtually crystalizable, in relation to which the seed now plays the role of actual image. (72c)

Le cristal est expression. L’expression va du miroir au germe. C’est le même circuit qui passe par trois figures, l’actuel et le virtuel, le limpide et l’opaque, le germe et le milieu. En effet, d’une part le germe est l’image virtuelle qui va faire cristalliser un milieu actuellement amorphe ; mais d autre part celui-ci doit avoir une structure virtuellement cristallisable, par rapport à laquelle le germe joue maintenant le rôle d’image actuelle. (100b)

So even though the crystal image has two distinct parts, one present and one past, they are contracted together into one thing. Something cannot be created in the past. So past images cannot be created in the past. Hence the past must be created in the present. This means that the present is both passing and past in the present instant, which is possible when we contract the virtual past with the current perception. The two merge. So every present perception is already a past perception, just as soon as we perceive it.

The crystal-image may well have many distinct elements, but its irreducibility consists in the indivisible unity of an actual image and ‘its’ virtual image. But what is this virtual image in coalescence with the actual one? What is a mutual image? Bergson constantly posed the question and sought the reply in time’s abyss. What is actual is always present. But then, precisely, the present changes or passes. We can always say that it becomes past when it no longer is, when a new present replaces it. But this is meaningless. [ft 18: M-E 130 ... ] It is clearly necessary for it to pass on for the new present to arrive, and it is clearly necessary for it to pass at the same time as it is present, at the moment that it is the present. Thus the image has to be present and past, still present and already present, at once and at the same time. If it was not already past at the same time as present, the present would never pass on. The past does not follow the present that it is no longer, it coexists with the present it was. The present is the actual image, and its contemporaneous past is the virtual image, the image in a mirror. [76-77] According to Bergson, ‘paramnesia’ (the illusion of déjà-vu or already having been there) simply makes this obvious point perceptible: there is a recollection of the present, contemporaneous with the present itself, as closely coupled as a role to an actor. ‘Our actual existence, then, whilst it is unrolled in time, duplicates itself along with a virtual existence, a mirror-image. Every moment of our life presents the two aspects, it is actual and virtual, perception on the one side and recollection on the other . . . Whoever becomes consciousness of the continual duplicating of his present into perception and recollection . . . will compare himself to an actor playing his part automatically, listening to himself and beholding himself playing.’ [ft 19: M-E 135-138] (77)

L’image-cristal a beau avoir beaucoup d’éléments distincts, son irréductibilité consiste dans l’unité indivisible d’une image actuelle et de « son » image virtuelle. Mais qu’est-ce qu cette image virtuelle en coalescence avec l’actuelle ? Qu’est-ce qu’une image mutuelle ? Bergson n’a cessé de poser la question, et de chercher la réponse dans l’abîme du temps. Ce Qui est actuel, c’est toujours un présent. Mais, justement, le présent change ou passe. On peut toujours dire qu’il devient passé quand il n’est plus, quand un nouveau présent le remplace. Mais cela ne veut rien dire. Il faut bien qu’il passe pour que le nouveau présent arrive, il faut bien qu’il passe en même temps qu’il est présent, au moment où il l’est. Il faut donc que l’image soit présent et passée, encore présente et déjà passée, à la fois, en même temps. Si elle n’était pas déjà passée en même temps que présente, jamais le présent ne passerait. Le passé ne succède pas ou présent qu’il n’est plus, il coexiste avec le présent qu’il a été’. Le présent, c’est l’image actuelle, et son passé contemporain, c’est l’image virtuelle, l’image en miroir. Selon Bergson, la « paramnésie » (illusion de déjà-vu, de déjà vécu) ne fait que rendre sensible cette évidence : il y a un souvenir du présent, contemporain du présent lui-même, aussi bien accolé qu’un rôle à l’acteur. « Notre existence actuelle, au fur et à mesure qu’elle se déroule dans le temps, se double ainsi d’une existence virtuelle, d’une image en miroir. Tout moment de notre vie offre donc ces deux aspects : il est actuel et virtuel, perception d’un côté et souvenir de l’autre. (…) Celui qui prendra conscience du dédoublement continuel de son présent en perception et en souvenir (…) se comparera à l’acteur qui joue automatiquement son rôle, s’écoutant et se regardant jouer. » (105-106)

The virtual memories that we contract in the present instant are different from the images we might recall in our memory. [See Matter and Memory §13 for more on this distinction] The non-contracted memory images fall along a chronological succession. But the virtual pure recollections are always present, always contracted with the current instantaneous perception. [Matter and Memory §39 and §40]. Because this virtual memory is actualizing in the present, it is not yet chronologically dated. So it is part of what Deleuze calls “the past in general.” If it were some specific past, it would be one image among a chronologically arranged sequence of other dated images. But it is a general past, for two reasons: 1) it occurs in the instantaneous, non-linear now-instant, and so it has not yet received a specified place in the past, and 2) this virtual past includes all past perceptions we ever experienced, all contracted together; hence, it is general past in this other sense, because it is always the whole collection together at once. But even though the virtual image is contracted with the actual image, they are still two different sides of the circuit, two different facets of the crystal.

Bergson calls the virtual image ‘pure recollection’, the better to distinguish it from mental images – recollection-images, dream or dreaming – with which it might be readily confused. In fact, the latter are certainly virtual images, but actualized or in the course of actualization in consciousness or psychological states. And they are necessarily actualized in relation to a new present, in relation to a different present from the one that they have been: hence these more or less broad circuits, evoking mental images in accordance with the requirements of the new present which is defined as alter than the former one, and which defines the former one as earlier according to a law of chronological succession (the recollection-image will thus be dated). In contrast, the virtual image in the pure state is defined, not in accordance with a new present in relation to which it would be (relatively) past, but in accordance with the actual present of which it is the past, absolutely and simultaneously: although it is specific it is none the less part of ‘the past in general’, in the sense that it has not yet received a date. ’ [ft 20: M-E 135] As pure virtuality, it does not have to be actualized, since it is strictly correlative with the actual image with which it forms the smallest circuit which serves as base or point for all the others. It is the virtual image which corresponds to a particular actual image, instead of being actualized, of having to be actualized in a different actual image. It is an actual-virtual circuit on the spot, and not an actualization of the virtual in accordance with a shifting actual. It is a crystal-image, and not an organic image. (77)

Si Bergson appelle l’image virtuelle « souvenir pur», c’est pour mieux la distinguer des images mentales, des images-souvenir, rêve ou rêverie, avec lesquelles on risque e la confondre. En effet, celles-ci sont bien des images virtuelles, mais actualisées ou en voie d’actualisation dans des consciences ou des états psychologiques. Et elles s’actualisent nécessairement par rapport à un nouveau présent, par rapport à un autre présent que celui qu’elles ont été : d’où ces circuits plus ou moins larges, évoquant des images mentales en fonction des exigences du nouveau présent qui se définit comme postérieur à l’ancien, et qui définit l’ancien comme antérieur d’après une loi de succession chronologique (l’image-souvenir sera donc datée). Au contraire, l’image virtuelle à l’état pur se définit, non pas en fonction d’un nouveau présent par rapport auquel elle serait (relativement) passée, mais en fonction de l’actuel présent dont elle est le passé, absolument et simultanément : particulière, elle est pourtant du « passé en général », en ce sens qu’elle n’a pas encore reçu de date. Pure virtualité, elle n’a pas à s’actualiser, puisqu’elle est strictement corrélative de l’image actuelle ou de pointe à tous les autres. Elle est l’image virtuelle qui correspond à telle image actuelle, au lieu de s’actualiser, d’avoir à s’actualiser dans une autre image actuelle. C’est un circuit sur place actuel-virtuel, et non pas une actualisation du virtuel en fonction d’un actuel en déplacement. C’est une image-cristal, et non pas une image organique. (106-107)

Our virtual images do not exist as mental states. They are always present in the current instant, even though we do not notice them all. We might only notice a small number of them at any moment. But that is merely because we do not find it useful at that moment to notice all the rest which are contracted together in the present. Now, when we do want to recall recollection-images, we do so by actualizing some part of our virtual memory. We do this by making that part of our virtual memory come before us as a perception. In a sense, we “leap” into the general past of the virtual memory.

The virtual image (pure recollection) is not a psychological state or a consciousness: it exists outside of consciousness, in time, and we should have no more difficulty in admitting the virtual insistence of pure recollections in time than we do for the actual existence of non-perceived objects in space. [77-78] What causes our mistake is that recollection-images, and even dream-images or dreaming, haunt a consciousness which necessarily accords them a capricious or intermittent allure, since they are actualized according to the momentary needs of this consciousness. But, if we ask where consciousness is going to look for these recollection-images and these dream-images or this reverie that it evokes, according to its states, we are led back to pure virtual images of which the latter are only modes or degrees of actualization. Just as we perceive things in the place where they are, and have to place ourselves among things in order to perceive them, we go to look for recollection in the place where it is, we have to place ourselves with a leap into the past in general, into these purely virtual images which have been constantly preserved through time. It is in the past as it is in itself, as it is preserved in itself, that we go to look for our dreams or our recollection, and not the opposite. [ft 21: All these themes are dealt with in M-M, ch. III.] It is only on this condition that the recollection-image will carry the sign of the present which distinguishes it from a different image, or the dream-image, the distinctive sign of a temporal perspective: they exhaust the sign in an ‘original virtuality’. This is why, earlier, we were able to assimilate virtual images to mental images, recollection-images, dream or dreaming: these were so many incomplete solutions, but on the track of the right solution. The more or less broad, always relative, circuits, between the present and the past, refer back, on the one hand, to a small internal circuit between a present and its own past, between an actual image and its virtual image; on the other hand, they refer to deeper and deeper circuits which are themselves virtual, which each time mobilize the whole of the past, but in which the relative circuits bathe or plunge to trace an actual shape and bring in their provisional harvest. [ft22: Hence Bergson’s second great scheme, the famous cone of MM, p. 211.] (77-78)

L’ image virtuelle (souvenir pur) n’est pas un état psychologique ou une conscience : elle existe hors de la conscience, dans le temps, et nous ne devrions pas avoir plus de peine à admettre l’insistance virtuelle de souvenirs purs dans le temps que l’existence actuelle d’objets non-perçus dans l’espace. Ce qui nous trompe, c’est que les images-souvenir, et même les images-rêve ou rêverie, hantent une conscience qui leur donnent nécessairement une allure capricieuse ou intermittente, puisqu’elles s’actualisent d’après les besoins momentanés de cette conscience. Mais, si nous demandons la conscience va chercher ces images-souvenir, ces images-rêve ou rêverie qu’elle évoque suivant ses états, nous sommes ramenés aux pures images virtuelles dont celles-ci ne sont que des modes ou des degrés d’actualisation. De même qu’on perçoit les choses là où elles sont, et qu’il faut s’installer dans les choses pour percevoir, de même nous allons chercher le souvenir là où il est, nous devons nous installer d’un saut dans le passé en général, dans ces images purement virtuelles qui n’ont pas cessé de se conserver le long du temps. C’est dans le passé tel qu’il est en soi, tel qu’il se conserve en soi, que nous allons chercher nos rêves ou nos souvenirs, et non l’inverse. C’est seulement à cette condition que l’image-souvenir portera le signe du passé qui la distingue d’une autre image, ou l’image-rêve, le signe distinctif d’une perspective temporelle : elles puisent le signe dans une « virtualité originelle». C’est pourquoi, précédemment, nous pouvions assimiler les images virtuelles à des images mentales, images-souvenir, rêve ou rêverie : c’étaient autant de solutions insuffisantes, mais sur la voie de la bonne solution. Les circuits plus ou moins larges et toujours relatifs, entre le présent et le passé, renvoient, d’une part, à un petit circuit intérieur entre un présent et son propre passé, entre un image actuelle et son image virtuelle ; d’autre part, à des circuits eux-mêmes virtuels de plus en plus profonds, qui mobilisent chaque fois tout le passé, mais dans lesquels les circuits relatifs baignent ou plongent pour se dessiner actuellement et ramener leur récolte provisoire. (107-108)

So we find both the past and the present crystallized in our current perception. Every moment, there is the tendency moving back to the past, while at the same time there is the tendency to continue-on past the present. Our experience of time is this split-tendency. But, the crystal is instantaneous. So it is not time itself. However, in a sense, we look into the crystal and see time passing through the transitions between moments. Because the past and present are contracted together in the crystal, it is one image. But, within this image lies the boundary between past and future. It is the infinitely-small inextensive present instant that is continually vanishing, like the evanescent quantities of differential calculus.

since the past is constituted not after the present that it was but at the same time, time has to split itself in two at each moment as present and past, which differ from each other in nature, or, what amounts to the same thing, it has to split the present in two heterogeneous directions, one of which is launched towards the future while the other falls into the past. Time has to split at the same time as it sets itself out or unrolls itself: it splits in two dissymmetrical jets, one of which makes all the present pass on, while the other preserves all the past.

Time consists of this split, and it is this, it is time, that we see in the crystal. The crystal-image was not time, but we see time in the crystal. We see in the crystal the perpetual foundation of time, non-chronological time, Cronos and not Chronos. This is the powerful, non-organic Life which grips the world. The visionary, the seer, is the one who sees in the crystal, and what he sees is the gushing of time as dividing in two, as splitting. Except, Bergson adds, this splitting never goes right to the end. In fact the crystal constantly exchanges the two distinct images which constitute it, the actual image of the present which passes and the virtual image of the past which is preserved: distinct and yet indiscernible, and all the more indiscernible because distinct, because we do not know which is one and which is the other. This is unequal exchange, or the point of indiscernibility, the mutual image. The crystal always lives at the limit, it is itself the “vanishing limit between the immediate past which is already no longer and the immediate future which is not yet . . . mobile mirror which endlessly reflects perception in recollection’. What we see in the crystal is therefore a dividing in two that the crystal itself constantly causes to turn on itself, that it prevents from reaching completion, because it is a perpetual self-distinguishing, a distinction in the process of being produced; which always resumes the distinct terms in itself, in order constantly to relaunch them. ‘The putting into abyss [mise-en-abyme] does not redouble the unit, as an external reflection might do; in so far as it is an internal mirroring, it can only ever split in two’, and subject it ‘to the infinite relaunch of endlessly new splitting’. (79, emphasis on ‘vanishing limit’ is mine)

puisque le passé ne se constitue pas après le présent qu’il a été, mais en même temps, il faut que le temps se dédouble à chaque instant en présent et passé, qui diffèrent l’un de l’autre en nature, ou, ce qui revient au même, dédouble le présent en deux directions hétérogènes, dont l’une s’élance vers l’avenir et l’autre tombe dans le passé. Il faut que le temps se scinde en même temps qu’il se pose ou se déroule : il se scinde en deux jets dissymétriques dont l’un fait passer tout le présent, et dont l’autre conserve tout le passé. Le temps consiste dans cette scission, et c’est elle, c’est lui qu’on voit dans le cristal. L’image-cristal n’était pas le temps, mais on voit le temps dans le cristal. On voit dans le cristal la perpétuelle fondation du temps, le temps non-chronologique, Cronos et non pas Chronos. C’est la puissante Vie non-organique qui enserre le monde. Le visionnaire, le voyant, c’est celui qui voit dans le cristal, et, ce qu’il voit, c’est le jaillissement du temps comme dédoublement, comme scission. Seulement, ajoute Bergson, cette scission ne va jamais jusqu’au bout. Le cristal en effet ne cesse d’échanger les deux images distincts qui le constituent, l’image actuelle de présent qui passe et l’image virtuelle du passé qui se conserve : distinctes et pourtant indiscernables, et d’autant plus indiscernables que distinctes, puisqu’on ne sait pas laquelle est l’une, laquelle est l’autre. C’est l’échange inégal, ou le point d’indiscernabilité, l’image mutuelle. Le cristal vit toujours à la limite, il est lui-même « limite fuyante entre le passé immédiat qui n’est déjà plus et l’avenir immédiat qui n’est pas encore (…), miroir mobile qui réfléchit sans cesse la perception en souvenir ». (108-109)

Bergson, Henri. Matière et mémoire: Essai sur la relation du corps à l'esprit. Ed. Félix Alcan. Paris: Ancienne Librairie Germer Bailliere et Cie, 1903. Available online at:http://www.archive.org/details/matireetmmoiree01berggoog

Bergson, Henri. Matter and Memory. Transl. Nancy Margaret Paul & W. Scott Palmer. Mineola,New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 2004; originally published by George Allen & Co., Ltd.,London, 1912. Available online at:http://www.archive.org/details/mattermemory00berg

Deleuze, Gilles. Cinéma 2 : L’image temps. Paris : Les éditions de minuit, 1985.

Deleuze, Gilles. Cinema 2: The Time Image. Transl. Hugh Tomlinson & Robert Galeta, London: Continuum, 1985.

Epicurus. “Letter to Herodotus.” in Epicurus: The Extant Remains. Transl. Cyril Bailey.Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlag, 1970.

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