Lacanian Review Online: Waking The Body

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LRO 187
30th October 2019




Once Upon a Dream… or the terms of separation
Bogdan Wolf
 

There is perhaps no one in the geopolitical body called the United Kingdom today who has not been affected by and made subject to the divisions produced by the singular modality of discourse called Brexit democracy. Whatever side you are on, the remainers and leavers remain at loggerheads, stuck in a tight knit knot that is consistent with a state of hypnosis that muffles the effects of division. Freud spoke of hypnosis in relation to love. The state of being in love covers up cracks of the imaginary body and displaces the consequence of severance from the subject who is supposed to know how to act in accordance with my desire. The situation we are in is new and implies that the supposition in question crosses over to the desupposition and for this reason concerns not only the side of love. The state of hypnosis described by Freud incorporates also hate that provides new means to fill in the holes in the body. The new breed of love that Lacan called hatelove, hainamoration, dominates today the scene of political endgames, covering up subject’s stakes of separation. To bring them to light, I propose we approach this political end game not as a discourse but as a dream.

What is a dream if not a little delusion at the heart of which lies the singular outside-sense of the real opened to interpretation, that is to say to the continuation of dreaming? How to exit this dream, ask some, how to go on dreaming, ask others? How to find satisfaction in the rapturous severance from the hated other? How to sustain the anxiety of a cut-off point that makes desire ex-sist in an ambiguous connection to the castrated Other? These would be the terms of separation we have to confront. It is the point where Lacan took in his later teaching a new approach to the dream as the impossibility of waking. The real of the dream pushes the speaking body to the point where fantasy and denial of separation interlace. We need to distinguish them in their function and in the satisfaction they bring. It was important for Lacan to oppose dreaming not only to awakening but also to waking. The dream as a fear of waking made him evoke death as that which subjects us to the real beyond sense which is the real beyond alienation. We can glean from this development one of the marks of solitude that makes up the Lacanian School, as Jacques-Alain Miller showed us.

In 1974, Lacan was asked by Catherine Millot on the subject of desire of death (désir de mort), sleep, dream and waking[1]. In his impromptu, Lacan starts by pointing first to the dream’s inhibitory function. Inhibition limits the dream delusion by pinning it to the subject of the signifier in its connection with the real of the body. Not all of the dream is subject to interpretation. There is a real of the body that remains asleep and dreams, made of the signifiers, fail to wake the entire body. To wake, Lacan adds, to bring the body to a complete waking would lead to death. Just as sleep protects the body as its carrier, so the dream protects sleeping.

Lacan is critical of Freud for conceiving the death drive on the basis of the pleasure principle as a life aspiring to return to the state of inanimate matter. Life as real subsists beyond sleep. An idea of a return, however rapturous and on a cliff edge, amounts to evoking life beyond sleep. That’s why Lacan could say to Millot that “one never wakes: desires support dreams”. The support we give to the mythical dimension, the perspective from which Freud approached the drive, is also a dream. Dreaming keeps myths alive. How are we to read Lacan’s connection between the impossibility of absolute waking and the dream of death? The connection he makes points to the separation that in his later teaching becomes versions of père-severence. In analysis, these in turn become versions of awakening of which dream is instrumental. Analysis, in passing through love from the transferential unconscious to the real one, and through syncopal cuts of the rhythm of imaginary passions, changes the tapestry of dreams. It affects the real beyond desire and its interpretation. Analysis reduces and reknots the bare reeds of the real. The reeds have toric traits, like the body, and are formed around the hollow that supports them. It does not just support them. It makes it contingent, as Lacan depicted Shofar in Seminar X, for the reed to be adapted to a musical instrument that can carry sound subject to the relation between language aspired by breath and the void. The reed is therefore not just a metaphorical tool for playing a melody. It is built around a real hole from which vociferations are emitted as one emits a sound. Suffice it to say, these vociferations hold the body in a new, sinthomatic way.

Lacan was interested to know how the real beyond sense affects the body and found in the dream what Eric Laurent isolated as an “instrument of awakening”[2]. This follows further from the distinction Lacan makes between waking and awakening. We can wake up in the dream or remain asleep. Awakening is something else. The instant of awakening occurs when jouissance beyond of desire makes its mark. It can be an instant of disorientation or interference in the pleasure principle or a push in the dream towards waking. Take, for example, a dream in which the analyst appears as not knowing how to say something which disorients and anguishes the patient having shaken the homeostasis of the supposed knowledge attributed to the Other. In this sense temporality of awakening strikes as an instant cutting in between the fantasy of continuation of dreaming and life beyond sleep which awakens us to a new and fragmentary reality. The last and final awakening would lead to death. The dream becomes an instrument for language to be reduced to the body spitting out the scraps of lalangue of which Laurent gives us examples in his text. The singularity of each one can then be further reduced a self-identical letter or, through significantisation, contingently rise to the canto of speech. In this perspective, writing and speech emerge as post-structural real effects of an encounter between language and the jouissance of the body. Dream interpretation can have this effect and even demonstrate a certain hybridisation in relation to interpretation which prompts us towards writing or speech.

The second connection Lacan makes between waking and death is the one in relation to sex, not to the One of the real but to the Other sex. Here, he links absolute waking with apprehending sex. Full apprehension of sex implies death of the dreaming subject. And then he uses this connection to revert to the first one by saying that the non-existence of sexual rapport concerns its ab-sense (ab-sens) which is corelative to the non-sense of the real. This ab-sense “stimulates the desire to know this non-rapport”[3]. If we follow both the first connection to the real beyond the dream, of which Freud gave us a moving example in the form of the title “father, can’t you see I am burning?”, and the second one to the Other sex, this will highlight language’s function of ambiguity. On the one hand, language retains this function that “makes up for the absence of sexual rapport and thereby masks death”, and, on the other hand, desire accedes to death beyond wish-fulfilling function of dreams.

Lacan chose the image of Buddha to encapsulate the ephemerality of awakening because of the half open, half closed eyes. The ambiguity of desire’s link with the impossibility of sexual rapport, is encapsulated in the lowering/raising of the eye lids, which implies partial separation. For Buddha desire is an illusion because its link to having was marked by the phallic value of possessions but this is not the case for all. For Lacan this was not the case for the feminine sex, where the analyst is situated, for whom having in relation to the body as partly phallicised, differs from having a body that is not phallicised in its entirety. In dreaming, my body reminds me that I do not own it wholly or control its events. Separation is only partial. The absolute separation belongs to the dimension of the impossible which highlights Lacan’s second connection to the nonexistence of sexual rapport.

In the end, we can say that what emerges in the body, en-corp, following part-separations and part-awakenings is the temporality of vigilance. Lacan found it in one particular case to which he gave ample attention. I am referring to the dream of the father who cannot see his son. In his reading of the dream, vigilance is embodied by the person sitting at the backstage of the dream and watching over the son’s dead body[4]. While the father cannot come to terms with the loss, the person who is supposed to watch over dozes off and looks, Lacan adds, as if he was asleep. He reminds us of the figure of Buddha with his eyes half-closed. Lacan mentions the man holding vigil several times which we may find surprising. In this way he punctuates the difference in the dream between partial awakening and death of which he says that one must believe in it to make life possible. The dream in turn disinhibits desire by bringing it to the impossibility of the real.

 


[1] J. Lacan, Improvisation, désir de mort, rêve et réveil in L’Ane, Nr 3, Autumn, Paris, 1981.

[2] E. Laurent, Awakening from the dream or th’Esp of a Rev, Orientation texts for the Congress AMP 2020, January 2019.

[3] J. Lacan, ibid.

[4] Lacan, J. (1977). Miller, J.-A. (Ed.), Sheridan, A. (Trans.) Seminar XI: The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis. (1964). London, Penguin, pp. 58-59.

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