Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Excessive Religion, Part 3: The Empty Space

Part 2

Recap of Part 2: Faith is always something that stands in excess of knowledge.

In both the Biblical text and Augustine’s confessions, there is always an element of excess that moves beyond mere knowledge. One does not merely hold beliefs about an object; one makes a libidinal investment in this object. Put another way, the object (God, here) is raised to the dignity of the thing. It is in the seventh year of his seminar, entitled The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, that Jacques Lacan makes some very useful remarks regarding religion and sublimation, remarks that I will then bring to bear on aspects of Bataille’s thought. In this preliminary discussion, I am not trying to draw too many parallels between the thought of Lacan and Bataille; their views of the subject are irreducibly different.

In psychoanalytic thought, the subject lacks. The subject cannot but lack; this the cost of the entry into the symbolic. Because of this lack, the subject must continuously search for an object that will fill this lack. Particular objects are taken to be the thing that will fill this space; This empty space is the cause of desire, desire being the desire for the other’s desire. One believes that the other’s desire will be the Thing that fills this void. The metonymy of desire is a constant movement from object to object, always pushing forward. Each object is discovered to have some internal failing, an inadequacy that generates a dialectical movement to another object. It is this metonymic movement to close this empty space that drives human action.

In The Ethics of Psychoanalysis, Lacan describes three particular ways of dealing with this empty space, this Thing that cannot be whisked away. All three methods are modes of sublimation. He speaks of art, science, and religion. Art builds itself around the Thing, around the empty space. The Thing becomes a source of creativity; the Thing is dressed up but always reappears. Science is an attempt to “foreclose” or deny this empty space; any excess or break in reality is denied in favour of a full description of the chain of conditions. Religion, on the other hand, is an attempt to respect the emptiness. The emptiness is acknowledged and a structure is built up around it. The emptiness becomes the mystery that sustains the religion; perhaps elevated from being a structural element of the subject to an element of ontology as such.

1 comment:

Jamie A. Grant said...

That last paragraph had some interesting ideas...