Spirituality and the psychotic subject in the thought of Lacan GEORGIA RAPSOMATIOTI
In this chapter I will outline some elements in Lacan’s theory of the psychoses in order to help us make sense of the autobiographical accounts of religious psychosis described in the next chapter.
Attempting to identify the function of religious belief in relation to the psychoses is an extremely complex task. The reason for this is partly because what lies behind religious beliefs and rituals is what we might call the unknown or more precisely, the unknowable. This is what Lacan called the real. The real refers to everything that per se escapes symbolisation, which is another way of saying that which cannot be put into words or even into thoughts. As such, it is part of the subject’s confrontation with death. Because, for all of us, death is on the horizon there is a sense in which the unknown and unknowable is very present. But is it really a matter of the unknown when it comes to interpreting a psychotic belief or simply a failure on the part of the psychotic subject to communicate his or her experience to us within ordinary language or equally of our failure to really listen to the patient’s speech? The two protopsychoanalytic questions which confront everyone – ‘Am I alone?’ and ‘Where did I come from?’ (Sharpe 2006) – are questions associated with the desire to know and discover the meaning of life. The world as we experience it is an enigma, in the sense that the arrival of every human being into the world seems marked by absurdity, for we are all destined to die. Our inability to solve this riddle satisfactorily makes it difﬁ cult for us to make sense of life. This, in turn, pushes us all towards those forms of knowledge that appear to give a deﬁ nitive answer to the mystery surrounding life and death. Yet, despite the various comprehensive systems of thought to which we turn, be they religious or scientiﬁc, death remains inevitable.