3 Pages

Introduction to Part 3: Religion, spirituality and the experience of psychosis


Lacan’s discussions of psychosis began with his doctoral thesis in 1932, where he attempted to apply post-Freudian conceptions to a case study of a young woman whom he called Aimée. Under the infl uence of structuralism his approach took a decisive turn in the 1950s, and this can be seen both in seminar 3 (1955-56), published as Les Psychoses (The Psychoses) (Lacan 1993) and which amounts to a detailed re-evaluation of the Schreber case, and in a paper he published in 1959 entitled ‘On a Question Prior to any Possible Treatment of Psychosis’. In the latter Lacan argues that psychotic symptoms are the manifestation in the real of something that has been excluded from the symbolic through foreclosure. Lacan continued to revise and elaborate his notion of psychosis culminating in seminar 23 (1975-76). It is a conception derived from clinical experience working in his early years as a psychiatrist in a hospital in Paris and later as a psychoanalyst, as well as from a profound emersion into psychoanalytic theory and philosophy. The primary features of Lacan’s approach include the idea that psychosis is structural and one that revolves around the notion of foreclosure. Foreclosure amounts to a ‘malfunction in the Oedipus complex’ or a reduction in the paternal function ‘to the image of the father’ (Evans 1996: 156). For Lacan, the structure of psychosis is quite distinct from psychotic phenomena like delusions and hallucinations, although they often have a stabilising function in a person’s life (Leader 2011).