The perspective I chose for the Conversation organized by the Council under the title “School in Times of Pandemic”, occurred to me based on the latest events that arose within the World Association of Psychoanalysis.
On April 26, the WAP president, Angelina Harari, publishes a statement where she first underlines her particular interest in following the ways in which the associative life of each School develops at this time of brutal crisis linked to the pandemic caused by the coronavirus. Then, she reminds us the fundamental place of our Congresses, precisely, in supporting the associative life of the World Association of Psychoanalysis and thus she claims that the need for these encounters is inscribed at the very heart of the social bond that constitutes Lacan’s School, such as J.-A. Miller had already glimpsed in Caracas in 1980.
On this basis, she reaffirms the conviction that the Congress that was going to take place in April not only is not to be cancelled but that the will to carry it out remains intact – even if it is not yet possible to give more precisions about it.
Also, on Friday, May 8, we witness the relaunching of Rebús, the Congress Newsletter. In its 24th issue two new orientation texts are published: one by Laurent Dupont – current President of the ECF – entitled “Let´s dream a little”, and another one from Angelina Harari herself, entitled “Keep dreaming, encore.”[i] In these texts not only we find the affirmation that the dream remains, nowadays as always, a crucial topic for us, but also that what is at stake is to make of the questions that “Dream: Its Interpretation and Use in Lacanian Treatment” poses us, a fundamental compass to orient ourselves today in these times of crisis.
I must admit that the first thing I felt was an intense effect of perplexity: To go back to the dream faced with the nightmare we are living? Would it not be a matter of waking up a little instead of continuing dreaming? However, what I thought later is that the Newsletter is called Rebús for a reason and, therefore there is a hidden riddle there to be deciphered.
So, I’m going to talk about what I could extract by reading each of these texts carefully, and where is it that I think we can find references points to guide our work and, thus, support the associative life of the community we are a part of.
As usual, what is at stake for us is to put to work a lack of knowing which causes our desire to study the questions posed both by the practice and the teaching of psychoanalysis.
I divided my presentation into three points:
The Contradiction of the One
Dupont begins by proposing that this real that affects us today under the name of Coronavirus, should not be compared and that we should not get carried away by the human reflex that leads to make it fit into a chain of relations, that can leave us absorbed into an incessant production of certainly contradictory senses and truths, which will never do anything other than to cover over, precisely, the most real and singular of that against which we have collided.
The little inconvenience is that, since the coronavirus made its appearance in our lives, one of the things that we, psychoanalysts, started to do, was to try to reflect and produce texts regarding the real of an event which, undoubtedly, gives us a lot to talk about. How to get out of this quagmire? Could it be that the only dignified response before the real would be silence?
Personally – at least as a response valid for all cases- I don´t think so, and basically for one reason: that as we know, we can never be sure a priori of what senses could be conveyed by such a silence.
Having said that, by no means does this mean that I do not believe that what L. Dupont is pointing at is absolutely pertinent and crucial; but accounting for it requires a work of elaboration our part.
The decision not to compare implies an ethical position that concerns the analyst’s position with regards to everything we name with the word trauma, since what we aspire to is to preserve for each one of those affected by it, precisely, its dimension of singular and therefore, incomparable, One.
Comparing implies entering, inevitably, into the logic of the All. As demonstrated by Lacan, this logic is the one that founds the very notion of value[ii] as exchange value and therefore, defines the field of the measurable in terms of the phallic general equivalent. That is why it is said that comparisons are always hateful. We know that, when entering the field of comparison, the field of love irretrievably fades. We witness this difficulty in the political speeches that we hear every day.
I would like to dwell on this question: if we want to orient things in a direction that supports what of that real is incomparable, there is no kind of One able to name it in a way that guarantees that it will remain absolutely alone and completely separated from the field of meaning. I don’t think that naming it Sars-cov2 or Covid-19 instead of Coronavirus would solve the question that this raises for us.
To orient the question in that Other direction, we don’t have other resource that the signifier; and the signifier, even if it is reduced to a simple noise always conveys meaning, whether we like it or not.
As Lacan taught, and unfortunately for the so-called parlêtres, if the real is tied to the signifier One, it is inevitable, by structure, that it remains unswervingly equivocal, lawless and therefore producing a reference effect that will be ultimately always ungraspable. The real for the speaking-being never appears out of meaning, but always as a senselessness that never ceases to call for sense.
But then, what do we do with it? At least, we can begin by stating that the contradiction that underlies the issue I am posing here is not only that of each one… of us, but pertains to the One as such. After writing this, I remembered that I used the same title for the Testimony of the Pass presented at the EOL Annual Congress, last year, which was commented by Eric Laurent.
Later in his text, L. Dupont quotes Lacan’s famous phrase – to which Miller dedicated an entire course – when he postulated that, in the end, “Everyone is mad, that is to say, delusional.”[iii]
It is surprising that, far from locating this reference in order to oppose the field of the real to the field of meaning, he uses it to quote the striking text by Jean Daniel Matet, “Summoned”, published in The Lacanian Review 9,[iv] where he tells his experience of having suffered the most severe consequences of the coronavirus infection that led him to require hospitalization in intensive care and to be placed in a ventilator. In this testimony – which is an interesting example of the analyst’s desire- he uses the experience he went through as an opportunity to put forward, for the readers’ consideration, a fundamental issue that Lacan explored in his later teaching. He thus states that the delusion produced in him during the hospitalization, far from being a mere construction of meaning destined only to veil the real at stake, can be considered as a singular and inventive way whereby he managed to hold together his bodily Imaginary against the risk of fragmentation to which it was faced.
At this point I shall continue with the text by Angelina Harari. She starts from a reference to F. Naparstek’s intervention at the Congress presentation soireé, in which he especially referred to the function of certain dreams, related by subjects who went through the horror of concentration camps during Nazism, named as “dreaming of oneself being elsewhere” and felt as the resource they had had in order to preserve their identity and, thus, be able to face the horror they were going through.[v]
Following Lacan, we can say that these dreams of “being elsewhere” constituted the singular way that these subjects found to sustain a space of life which, at the same time unreachable by the traumatic signifier that pushed them to the impossible awakening, allowed them to hold together the bodily imaginary in the sense stated by Matet in his text.
This pathway will allow us to take into consideration the dream neither in the perspective of the formation of the unconscious to be deciphered, nor as a stopper-screen that one would have to cross to definitely wake up to the senseless real, but rather as Lacan proposed in “The third,”[vi] as a way of knotting a jouissance in the body that holds the imaginary consistency against the intrusion of the out-of-body jouissance conveyed by the traumatic One which always threatens to tear it apart.
Thus, the inquiry of the dream-sinthome as a singular invention without Other that holds the knotting of the three registers, opens up for our study.
Putting this reference to work in our community, especially in these times of crisis, seems to me to have clinical, political and epistemic value.
The fact that the signifier can but always introduce equivocation and meaning, says nothing about the resources we count on to stop this flight and about which way to lead it on.
What do we aim at with each of our interventions if not at introducing what we call an interpretation effect?
As we said, one of these resources is the one that sustains the logic of the All, but as posed by M.-H. Brousse in her text published in LRO “The Solitude of Bodies,”[vii] Lacan proposes in his later teaching that the analytic interpretation – when it is effective – allows to introduce an empty effect of signification, which also stops and limits the flight of meaning, but in another direction. It does so (and therein lies its unspeakable poetic effect) when it manages to introduce another jouissance in the body, a jouissance that is irreducible to the phallic measure. Undoubtedly this leaves the issue of what we call the analyst’s desire as a burning question. But we must not forget that Lacan states that “it is from the not-All that it arises.”[viii]
I think we are witnessing an event that no Hegelian-Marxist sense of history could explain. I don´t mean the virus, precisely. I mean: what caused the entire apparatus destined for the intensive production of the lack of jouissance – as Lacan called capitalism – to stop abruptly? What made it possible for millions of people across the planet to consent to the so-called confinement?
That reminded me of a book by F. Jullien about Mencius, which is a reference used by Lacan in both Seminar 7 and Seminar 18. In his book Foundation of morality, Jullien states that for Mencius the foundation of morality was found in a body-event that he called visceral reaction to an unbearable, one of whose paradigmatic examples is, precisely, what can happen to us in the body at the sight of a child that is about to fall in a well.
For the Chinese wiseman “Morality does not postulate anything, it contains neither mandates nor precepts and it is nothing other than this extension, the unfolding of such reaction.”[ix]
I think that this remark by Mencius may be precious to us in order to conceive a body-event which, while maintaining a bond to the other, does not do so in the name of the Ideal or in the Name of the Father.
The fact that this can happen to many people does not mean that the game is not played one by one.
In another text she wrote about the pandemic in LRO – “The Times of the Virus”[x]– M.-H. Brousse invented the expression the solidarity of the ones-all-alone. But how? a solidarity without a big Other? It is a beautiful oxymoron.
Why not think that this is something the pandemic can also teach us about what gives real support to that enigmatic social bond that Miller taught us to name as a School in Lacan’s sense?
After Discontinuity, we are slowly reinventing the ways to continue the delusional task of trying to keep knotting one by one that enigmatic jouissance that keeps the School alive.
Translated by Ana Inés Bertón
* Evening of the Council of the EOL – Escuela de la Orientacion Lacaniana – Argentina. This event took place on 14th May 2020.
[i] Rébus N° 24. Available online: https://vo.mydplr.com/44788c566f8bc633e751ba0beb1e325c-2bdbe47adee2b6d19b0741456b6d6b97
[ii] Lacan, J., L ´ insu que sait de l´ une-bevue, s´ aile a mourre, established by J.-A Miller in Ornicar 12/13, Lesson of December 14, 1976, unpublished.
[iii] Miller, J.-A, Todo el mundo es loco, Editorial Paidós, Buenos Aires, 2015. Unpublished in English.
[iv] Matet, J.-D., “Summoned!”, in The Lacanian Review, Issue 9, May 2020.
[v] Naparstek, F.A., “Rêve reél et rêve transférentiel” [Real Dream and Transferential Dream], La Cause du désir, n° 104, March 2020.
[vi] Lacan, J., “The Third”, in The Lacanian Review, Issue 7, Spring 2019.
[vii] Brousse, M.-H., “Solitude of Bodies”, LRO, COVID-19 #67, 23rd April 2020. Available online: https://www.thelacanianreviews.com/solitude-of-bodies/
[viii] Lacan, J., “Italian Note”, in Autres Ecrits, Seuil, p. 307.
[ix] Jullien, F., Fundar la moral, Taurus, Madrid, 1997.
[x] Brousse, M.-H., “The Times of the Virus”, in LRO, COVID-19 #23, 27th March 2020. Available online: https://www.thelacanianreviews.com/the-times-of-the-virus/