Transmission and Nomination

Lacan reinvented psychoanalysis by reading Freud in his own way – by stressing the radical truth of his practice and not the codified content of his ideas. For this he was excluded from the group – the official association of psychoanalysis. Yet analysis had never been part of the state or university and it had endured splits from the very beginning with Jung, Reich and others forming their own traditions. When Lacan formed his school he wanted the structure of transmission to be different than by certification. He created the procedure of the pass as an experiment to see if something could be learned about the transmission of analysis and also if there was an alternative to traditional nomination. Yet why did he insist that letters of recognition or nomination would be the outcome of the process. Does the former imply the latter? If one seeks to achieve authorization through the pass then it is a failure – the analyst only authorizes himself by and for himself. Does this not imply that the failure is built into the structure of the procedure or apparatus itself? Is this nomination by recognition from the group a necessary lure to lead one to undertake it? After all a “pass/fail” is still a grade – and though it was neither meant to guarantee nor bar the analyst, the outcome was uncertain. It is reported that the majority of pass attempts at Lacan’s school failed. Lacan himself declared the pass a failure after a decade of operation – perhaps because of a misunderstanding. Nevertheless the concept is sufficiently interesting to have inspired further exploration, experimentation, and controversy.

Is this also why Lacan dissolved his school? Because of the near impossibility of maintaining a community of those with no common fantasm, ideal, or ideology. Lacan certainly did not feel it was worthless or he would not have tried to maintain psychoanalytic associations and schools but he was nevertheless suspect of their ability to succeed. At least he was not going to allow a school to continue in his name if it could not remain true to his spirit. He himself had ultimately been excluded from the psychoanalytic community created in Freud’s name. At one point Lacan said that it was up to his descendants to be Lacanian, that he had been Freudian. In other words he had had the difficult task of figuring out how to remain true to Freud’s spirit and not the letter of the law created in his name by the other Freudians that he felt had missed the message. Lacan’s descendants would have to determine how to remain true to him without the benefit or detriment of a school in his name. Thus no one owns the truth of Lacan – or his desire. Perhaps Lacan was wrong. What he was really doing was figuring out how to be Lacanian – to speak in his name – to sign his name and nominate himself within the history of psychoanalysis, as well asphilosophy, science, and medicine. I believe that this unique style comes to full fruition at the end of his life, and this is elaborated in his concept of the sinthome and the poetics and mathematics of invention and nomination developed especially in seminars 23 and 24.

Freud had described the ends of analysis as the acceptance of loss, castration, and the feminine position. Lacan had echoed this in his description of the falling of the object cause of desire and the ensuing radical loss of unbeing or desetre. The pass was one way to enquire into the transition and transmission from the position of the analysand to the desire of the analyst by means of a form of nomination – the construction of a story or speech act reported to listeners who would then transmit this to a jury. Clearly Lacan was looking for a new end to analysis that Freud had not envisioned and it had something to do with new signifiers within the symbolic order. But the method devised was still too ensnared in the fantasm of group psychology and recognition by the other – the nomination by letters was to be given by the other through a pass or fail. In Joyce the artist, the poet, Lacan saw the possibility of another nomination. In this case desetre enables a subjective shift that leads to a freeing from the symbolic of the other enough to invent something new, and the pass is performed by the artist in the construction of new letters out of the old symbolic or “rotten culture” which had been given by the other. The pass of the sinthome is a new version of the old symptom – an event in which the dissolution of the symbolic is followed by a reconstruction out of its ashes. This pass or sinthome – an event rather than an apparatus – is lived, written, and transmitted among – but not for – others.