The Psychosis

Jacques Lacan

The phallus and the meteor
第22章: 阳具与流星

I’m not saying that the Name of the Father is the only one of which we can
say this.


We can uncover this element whenever we apprehend something that is of
the symbolic order properly so-called. On this subject I reread, once again,
Ernest Jones’s article on symbolism.51 shall take up one of the most notorious
examples in which this master’s brat tries to grasp the phenomenon of
the symbol. It concerns the ring.


A ring, he tells us, doesn’t enter into play as an analytic symbol insofar as
it represents marriage, with all that is cultural and developed, even sublimated
– since this is how he expresses himself – that this conveys The ring
as a symbol of marriage is to be sought somewhere in sublimation – we couldn’t
care less about all that, it drives us up the wall, we’re not people to speak to
about analogies. If a ring signifies something it’s because it is a symbol of the
female sexual organ.


Doesn’t this kind of declaration give you cause to wonder, when we know
that the putting into play of the signifier in the symptom has no link with
anything of the order of a tendency? You would really have to have the oddest
idea of natural symbolization to believe that a ring is the natural symbolization
of the female sexual organ.


You are all familiar with the theme of the Ring of Hans Carvel, a fine story
from the Middle Ages of which La Fontaine made a tale and which Balzac
used again in his Comes drolatiques. This fellow, who is colorfully depicted
and is sometimes said to be a priest, dreams that he has a ring on his finger
and on waking finds that he has his finger inside the vagina of his companion.
To put this in a way that dots the is and crosses the ts – how could the
experience of penetrating this orifice, since it is an orifice that is in question,
resemble in any way at all that of putting on a ring, if one didn’t already
know in advance what a ring is?

对于「汉斯、卡维尔的环圈」的主题,你们大家都耳熟能详。这是中世纪流传下来的美好故事,拉、范丰曾经将它编成小说,巴尔扎克再次将它运用在他的 comes drolatiques 故事集。这个被生动描写的人物,有时被说是一位僧侣,他梦见,他拥有一个环圈在他的手指上。当清醒时,他发现他的手指放置在他的伴侣的阴户里。以如此钜细无遗的方式来表达它,贯穿这个阴户的这个经验如何能够有任何方式类似戴上环指的经验,因为这个阴户受到质疑,假如我们没有已经事先知道一个环圈是什么?

A ring isn’t an object one encounters in nature. If there is anything in the
order of penetration that resembles the more or less tight-fitting penetration
of a finger inside a ring, it is certainly not – I appeal, as Marie-Antoinette
used to say, not to all mothers, but to all those who have ever put their finger
n a certain place – it’s certainly not penetrating this place which is, my God,
more like a mollusk than anything else. If something in nature is designed to
suggest certain of the properties of a ring [anneau] to us, it is restricted to
what language has dedicated the term anus to, which in Latin is spelt with
one n, and which in their modesty ancient dictionaries designated as the ring
that can be found behind.


But to confuse one with the other on the basis of the fact that it may be a
question of natural symbolization, one must really have had in the order of
these cogitative perceptions. . . . Freud himself must have really despaired
of you not to have taught you the difference between the two, and regarded
you as irredeemable little idiots.


Mr. Jones’s lucubration is designed to show us that a ring is introduced
into a dream, indeed a dream that culminates in a sexual action, only because
we thereby signify something primitive. Cultural connotations frighten him
and this is where he is mistaken. He doesn’t imagine that the ring already
exists as a signifier, independently of its connotations, that it’s already one of
the essential signifiers by which man in his presence in the world is capable
of crystallizing many things other than marriage. A ring isn’t a hole with
something around it, as Mr. Jones seems to think, in the manner of these
people who think that to make macaroni one takes a hole and surrounds it
with flour. A ring above all has a signifying value.


How else can we explain that a man is able to understand something, what
is called understanding, of the simplest formulation to be inscribed in language,
the most elementary utterance – Thafs it [c*est cela]? For a man, this
expression nevertheless has an explanatory sense. He has seen something,
anything, which is there, and thafs it. Whatever the thing is he is in the
presence of, whether it be a question of the most unusual, the most bizarre,
or even the most ambiguous, thafs it. It is now located somewhere other than
where it was beforehand, which was nowhere, now it’s – thafs it.

除外,我们能够用什么方法解释,一个人能够了解某件在语言被铭记为最简单的说明的东西,也就是所谓的了解?这个最基本的表达–「就是它」。可是,对于一个人而言,这个表达拥有一个解释的意义。他曾经看见过某件东西,任何东西,它就在那里,「就是它」。不管这个东西是什么,他存在于「就是它」之前,无论问题是否是最古怪,或甚至是最模糊暧昧的东西。 它现在被定位在某个其他地方,并非是它预先所在的地方。原先所在的地方是乌何有之乡,现在它存在—就是它。

I would for a moment like deliberately to take a phenomenon that is exemplary
because it’s the most inconsistent of that which can present itself to
man – the meteor.7


By definition the meteor is that [cela], it’s real and at the same time it’s
illusory. It would be quite wrong to say that it’s imaginary. The rainbow,
thafs it. You say that the rainbow is that, and then you search. People racked
their brains for some time until M. Descartes came along and completely
reduced the whole affair. There is a region that becomes iridized in little
drops of water in suspension, etc. Fine. And so what? There is the ray on
one side and the condensed drops on the other. That’s it. It was only an
appearance – that’s it.


Notice that the question is not at all settled. A ray of light is, as you know,
a wave or a corpuscle and a little drop of water is a curious thing, since
ultimately it’s not really in gaseous form, it’s condensation which is falling in
a liquid state, but in a suspended fall, between the two, in the state of an
expansive pool, as water.


When we say, then, Thafs it, we imply that that’s all it is, or that that’s
not what it is, namely, the appearance that we had stopped at. But this proves
to us that everything that has subsequently emerged, the thafs all it is as well
as the thafs not what it is, was already implied in the thafs it at the beginning.


A rainbow is a phenomenon that has no kind of imaginary interest, you
will have never seen an animal pay one any attention, and as a matter of fact
man pays no attention to an incredible number of related manifestations.
Various iridizations are exceedingly widespread in nature and, gifts of observation or some special research aside, nobody pauses at them. If on the contrary rainbows exist, it’s precisely in relation to the thafs it.


That’s why we have named them rainbows and why when one speaks of them to someone who hasn’t yet seen one there is a point at which one says to him – Thafs
what a rainbow is. And this thafs what it is presupposes the implication that
we are going to carry on until we have run out of breath, to discover what
lies hidden behind it, what its cause is, to which we shall be able to reduce
it. Notice that what has characterized the rainbow and the meteor from the
beginning – and everybody knows this since this is why it’s called a meteor
– is precisely that nothing is hidden behind it. It exists entirely in this appearance.


What makes it nevertheless subsist for us, to the point where we do not
stop asking ourselves questions about it, stems uniquely from the original
thafs it, that is, the naming as such of the rainbow. There is nothing besides
this name.


In other words, to pursue this further, this rainbow doesn’t speak, but one
could speak in its place. Nobody ever speaks to it, this is quite striking. The
aurora is interpellated, and so are all sorts of other things. The rainbow retains
the privilege, along with a number of other manifestations of the same kind,
that nobody speaks to it.


No doubt there are reasons for this, namely that it
is quite particularly insubstantial. But let’s say that one speaks to it. If one
speaks to it, one can make it speak. One can make it speak to whomever one
wants. This could be to the lake. If the rainbow has no name, or if it doesn’t
want to hear anything of its name, if it doesn’t know that it’s called the
rainbow, the only resource this lake has is to show it the thousand little mirages
of the sunshine upon its waves and the rising vapor.


It may well attempt to
join up with the rainbow, but it will never join up with it, for the simple
reason that the little fragments of sun that dance on the surface of the lake,
like the vapor that wafts away, have nothing to do with producing the rainbow
which begins at a certain angle of inclination of the sun and at a certain
density of the droplets in question. There is no reason to search for either the
inclination of the sun or for any of the indices that determine the phenomenon
of the rainbow, so long as it is not named as such.


If I’ve just carried out this lengthy study concerning something that has
the characteristic of a spherical belt, able to be unfolded and refolded, it’s
because the imaginary dialectic in psychoanalysis is of exactly the same kind.
Why are the mother-child relationships, to which there is a tendency to limit
it more and more, inadequate? There is really no reason.


We’re told that a mother’s requirement is to equip herself with an imaginary
phallus, and it’s very clearly explained to us how she uses her child as
a quite adequate real support for this imaginary prolongation. As to the child,
there’s not a shadow of doubt – whether male or female, it locates the phallus
very early on and, we’re told, generously grants it to the mother, whether or not in a mirror image, or in a double mirror image. The couple should harmonize symmetrically very well around this common illusion of reciprocal


Everything should take place at the level of a mediating function
of the phallus. Now, the couple finds itself on the contrary in a situation
of conflict, even of respective internal alienation. Why? Because the phallus
is, as it were, a wanderer. It is elsewhere. Everyone knows where analytic
theory places it – it’s the father who is supposed to be its vehicle. It’s around
him that in the child the fear of the loss of the phallus and, in the mother,
the claim for, the privation of, or the worry over, the nostalgia for, the phallus
is established.


Now, if affective, imaginary exchanges between mother and child are
established around the imaginary lack of the phallus, then that which makes
it the essential element of intersubjective coaptation in the Freudian dialectic,
the father, has his own and that’s that, he neither exchanges it nor gives it.
There is no circulation. The father has no function in the trio, except to
represent the vehicle, the holder, of the phallus. The father, as father, has
the phallus – full stop.


In other words, he is that which in the imaginary dialectic must exist in
order for the phallus to be something other than a meteor.



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