Saturday, September 16, 2006

The Religious Sense: Psychoanalytic Theory and Jacques Marie-Emily Lacan

something far-fetched, perhaps too fanciful, perhaps something to put you to sleep, a midnight snack for the left and right brains

My next class is called Ethics and Public Policy (ethics for the public administrator). Class does not start until September 25, but I'm getting a head start reading and researching. The book starts off with background information in post-modern ethics. So I've been poking around the Internet at related topics, and in the Wikipedia entry on postmodern philosophy, I found a reference to the psychoanalytical theorist Jacques Marie-Emily Lacan. This drew my curiosity. Prior to this the only place I have ever seen that name was on the web pages of MySpace friend Theophila. So out of curiosity I went to Lacan's Wikipedia page. The last two sections (titled, "The Other" and "The Real, the Imaginary and the Symbolic") prompted certain ideas to my imagination.

"Lacan considered the self as something constituted in the "Other", that is, the conception of the external."

If this statement is not 9 months pregnant with theological meaning then I don't know what is. At least the parallels are there. A newborn only knows that s/he exists, then in its dependency becomes conscious of the parent as other. But the parallel to God (the Other) is great. The statement is extremely Augustinan in the sense of God as Other, yet at the same time ourselves being in God and God in us.

"unconscious prefigured structuralist linguistics"

More vague though, the talk of language is very suggestive, as the primary form of revelation for us Christians comes to us as the Word--that is in the form of language. Interesting too that, ironically, with Wittgenstein’s destruction of metaphysics (a pillar of Christian philosophy) and the birth of linguistic philosophy, how much more prominence have the signifiers of language been given?

"...language is never completely contained - it always contains things beyond what is intended, and these things form an endless chain of signifiers. This signifying chain, and more broadly the ordering structures of language in general constitute the Other (that word is always capitalized in Lacan's work)."

Is this not analogous to the, "Religious Sense?”
Is this not, as the church has taught at least since the middle ages (Aquinas), that with reason alone, a person can to some extent intuit/ascertain the existence of God (higher power) ?

"Lacan also formulated the concepts of the Real, the Imaginary, and the Symbolic, which he used to describe the elements of the psychic structure."

Are not the Real, the Imaginary, and the Symbolic all part of worship and spirituality? (Perhaps this is more obvious to a Catholic or within Catholicism, with the emphasis on the Sacramental).

Similarly, "The Real, therefore, can never truly be grasped or engaged with - it is continually mediated through the imaginary and the symbolic."

Lacan had been raised by a devoutly Catholic mother, but left the faith in adolescence. He had a brother who became a monk however, and Jacques remained close to him throughout his life.

There is a profile of Lacan here:

His Wikipedia entry is here:

A Google search on “Lacan God” yields this brain squeezer: