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Jacques Lacan. The Neurotic’s Individual Myth

Death is perfectly conceivable as a mediating element. Before Freudian theory stressed in the existence of the father a function which is at once a function of speech and a function of love, Hegel, in his metaphysics, did not hesitate to construct the whole phenomenology of human relationships around death as mediator, the third element essential to the progress by which man becomes humanized in his relationships with his fellow man. And one might say that the theory of narcissism, as I just set it forth, explains certain facts which otherwise remain enigmatic in Hegel. After all, in order for this dialectic of the death struggle, the struggle for pure power, to be initiated, death must not be actualized, since the dialectical movement would cease for lack of combatants; death must be imagined. And, indeed, it is this imagined, imaginary death that appears in the dialectic of the oedipal drama; and it is also this death that is operant in the formation of the neurotic—and perhaps, up to a certain point, in something that goes far beyond the formation of the neurotic, specifically the existential attitude characteristic of modern man. 

It would take little pressure to make me say that what functions as mediation in actual analytic experience is something similar to speech, to symbol, called in another language, an act of faith. But certainly, this is neither what analysis requires nor what it implies. What is at issue, rather, is on the order of the last words uttered by Goethe; and you may trust it was not for nothing that I brought him up as an example. 

Of Goethe, one can say that, by his inspiration, his living presence, he impregnated and animated Freud’s thought to an extraordinary degree. Freud confessed that it was his reading of Goethe’s poems that launched him in his medical career and, by the same stroke, decided his destiny; but even that is little enough compared to the influence of Goethe’s thought on Freud’s work. It is, therefore, with a phrase of Goethe, his last, that I will express the wellspring of analytic experience, with those well-known words he uttered before he plunged open-eyed into the black abyss—”Mehr Licht” (more light).

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