This backward meaning of death as a concept and human reality, is emphasized in the work of Lacan, in his lecture at the University of Louvain, through the pascalian dream of an infinity of lives in an endless line.
What we are experiencing today is this pascalian dream, but not in terms of an eternal life after death, where death would continue to play its part. After the death of God, man is killing death by himself. And that is a really heavy burden to carry, because:
A) castration is not to be revealed, because it unveils the fact that human nature is “not-whole”. And this is why images dominate nowadays: when there is no language, castration is less obvious.
B) Everything is full and everything is being refilled. There is no ellipse, which means there remains no place for a fantasy to develop and that has its consequences (C).
C) Modern symptoms involve too many ready-made answers for everything: life, death, love, sex, etc. But everything that is ready made, doesn’t involve a subjective language and therefore uniqueness. Consequently, we lack again the symbolic function and images emerge for a second time, as a symptom. Full and not castrated, they are more than welcome today. They redirect the imaginary directly to the real, without the intermediary of language and that has consequences in the dialectic of the body.
To be able to understand this, let’ s go back to Lacan’s first teachings. As J.A.Miller indicates “In the place of the dual system of the mirror, Lacan places the system-of-four of the Subject.”
So, what happens when two of the four limbs are cut off? When there is no barred Subject and no great Other (in terms of God), the subject becomes unstable. That is how we often experience nowadays the triggering of psychosis or disconnection, when it comes to ordinary-like psychosis. It can also take the form of abuse of the body, but not in the Christian-victimizing way: if death is no longer an issue, it can easily be repressed, or even forgotten. The outcome of this is some kind of a monster born of continuous efforts striving to achieve bodily youth and an accomplished narcissistic picture. But what remains can hardly be called human; what we actually have is an outcome analogous to Frankenstein’s. Fearless and powerful.
Therefore, it would perhaps not be too audacious to proclaim -in a Nietzschean fashion-, that death is dead. And that, of course, does not refer to real death. It is in the terms of the symbolic (the idea of death) that death is no longer considered a constitutional factor of the subject.
What can psychoanalysis say about this? One can say that, for one, castration –insofar as it pins down jouissance during the analytic process- can relieve this “zombial” anxiety. But everyday clinical experience proves that it is more complex than this.
Marie Hélène Brousse describes what takes place in the psychoanalytic process and how the psychoanalyst makes the Other exist, as the One signifier:
“ As a signifier, it is real, it is materiality, but of course, only with a little soul. And that’s why we can say, therefore, we are not atheists, we are just exorcists”.
It is perhaps in this “exorcistic” manner that we can bring the Other back in the game. But in this circumstance, it is not the good old God that we need to exorcise, but rather the modern, anxiety provoking and often fatal for the body, killing of Death.
1 J. Lacan, conférence à l’Université Catholique, Louvain, 13 octobre 1972.
2 J. -A. Miller, Séminaire «1,2,3,4», 11 Novembre 1985, inédit.
3 M-H Brousse, ‘Oh My God(s): Religions – Laughing Under Control or Nothing Funny Here’, LCExpress Volume 3 / Issue 3