“When the space of a lapsus no longer carries any meaning (or interpretation), then only is one sure that one is in the unconscious. One knows.

But one has only to be aware of the fact to find oneself outside it. There is no friendship there, in that space that supports this unconscious.

All I can do is tell the truth. No, that isn’t so – I have missed it. There is no truth that, in passing through awareness does not lie” [1].

A previous text published in the LRO [2], argued that the ethical status of the unconscious may be perceived through an analogy with sound, mainly claiming that sound does not objectively exist in nature, but is rather in effect a subjective perception, resulting from air waves striking the ear drum and ensuing a neurological cascade that ends in the auditory cortex of the brain. The universe is totally soundless and silent; thus, if there is no hearing mechanism in place, to process the message carried via air, no sound will appear. An analogy was offered: if there is no psychoanalyst to listen to the analysand’s speech, no unconscious will appear.

After accepting that nature is objectively completely silent, it is reasonable to proceed to insist that nature is also absolutely and utterly colorless. Objectively, there are no colors in the universe whatsoever. None! Instead, there is only light, not as a visual phenomenon, but rather as energy or as substance or both. In fact, equally as with sound, color is merely an effect of light perceived by sight. Light, as we understand it in our time, can be described both as a particle and a wave. In its wave form, it carries various wave lengths. And so, when light of diverse wave lengths runs into the photoreceptors in the retina of the eye, it too ensues a neurological cascade which ends in the visual cortex of the brain. Light of different wave lengths actually corresponds or results in a subjective perception of different colors.

But sound and color, or a lack of sound and a lack of color, are not an identical difficulty in this respect. Actually, we can quite easily grasp in our minds an experience of a soundless environment. This is because the experience of silence, even total silence, is not foreign to us. But the experience of a colorless environment is for us categorically inconceivable. When one is asked to imagine a colorless surrounding, one may, at first instance, imagine a black and white universe, just as television broadcasting used to be before it came to be colored. But black and white are actual colors too. A colorless universe is not black and white, nor is it gray, nor is it transparent. What is it then? The answer is that a colorless universe is unconditionally and totally impossible for us to think of. This very impossibility is the exact definition of the real as Jacques Lacan considered it. It is impossible for us to grasp it, it is totally beyond our reach as speaking beings. The objects around us bear color only when we turn our gaze at them, allowing light emanating from their surface to hit our retina. At that moment we are in fact blinded by light, losing sight, so to speak, of the object’s real nature, conceiving them as if they truly possess color, but this truth lies. Once we look at it, we find ourselves outside it.

Hence, while the sound analogy refers to the ethical status of the unconscious, the color analogy just described refers to the unconscious as real [3], senseless, and without signifiers to give it meaning (or interpretation), evading perception and symbolization. The real as the impossible [4]. The colorless universe is an assumption which corresponds with the square root of minus one, with the naval of the dream, with the signifier stripped of all meaning and left to its material form. The colorless universe corresponds with the impossibility of any comprehension, understanding or conception regarding the real unconscious. One will always find oneself outside it. Dreams, jokes, slips of the tongue and other psychopathologies of everyday life are just formations of the unconscious, but they are not it. They are simply traces of the unconscious, they are only rumors of it, ghosts operating on its behalf, and are visible to us, as if the unconscious was suddenly enveloped with colors for us to see it. Indeed, signifiers “color” the universe of the speaking being, but the space of a lapsus is in essence precisely colored with nothing.

1. Lacan, J. Preface to the English-Language Edition (1976), Seminar of Jacques Lacan Book XI: The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, 1964. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Hogarth Press and Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1977. p. vii.

2. Gilat, Y. If a Tree Were to Fall on an Island Where There Was No Psychoanalyst: On the Ethical Status of Sound. May 25th, 2022. Lacanian Review Online, No. 346.

3. Lacan, J. Preface to the English-Language Edition (1976), Seminar of Jacques Lacan Book XI: The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, 1964. Trans. Alan Sheridan. London: Hogarth Press and Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1977. p. vii.

4. Lacan, J. The Third. The Lacanian Review, No. 07, 2019, p. 89.