Towards the end of his book on Henri Bergson, Deleuze mined from the philosopher’s work a spectral prefiguration of the people-to-come: the faint traces of an emergent and enigmatic open society, a “society of creators” and ‘privileged’ souls connected together by an imperceptible circuitry. Standing atop a grand, abstract summit, the open society derives its name not only from its differentiation to the closed society, but through that which it opens onto. The open society moves in the direction of what Bergson had called the élan vital, the impulse or force that compels self-organization in matter and morphogenesis through time. Such a movement is an affair of life itself, the sifting apart of the organic from the inorganic, organization from base matter. By ascending up a cosmological hierarchy in order to enter into unending engagement with this force, the mark of the open society is life at its most creative.
H.P. Lovecraft’s short story The Outsider first appeared in the April 1926 issue of pulp fiction magazine Weird Tales. It certainly suits such a publication. A surreal story full of inconsistencies and implausibilities, theories abound as to the scenario it is actually describing.
S.T. Joshi, writing explanatory notes for the story in a Penguin Classics collection of Lovecraft’s tales, wonders if the story is an account of a dream or if the unnamed protagonist is a ghost or immortal being, doomed to haunt the shadowy castle in which they find themselves, with so much time having past that the outsider no longer remembers how they came to be.
There is no final resolution to this endlessly interpretable story. What carries the narrative is not the horror of the unknown outside the castle, but the horror of the outsider’s own interiority and subjectivity — there are no mirrors with which they can see their appearance and they have no recollection of hearing another human voice, “not even my own; for although I had read of speech, I had never thought to try to speak aloud.”
Whilst apparently more at home amongst the skeletal dead than the painted portraits of the “living” that line the castle’s walls, and having little memory of how they came to arrive in their present circumstances, the Outsider is driven by a curiosity to discover the world outside the castle they habitually call home.