I have already indicated the interest to be found in situating, at the level of the subjective status determined as that of the objet a, what, for the past three hundred years, man has defined in science.
Perhaps the features that appear in our time so strikingly in the form of what are more or less correctly called the mass media, perhaps our very relation to the science that ever increasingly invades our field, perhaps all this is illuminated by the reference to those two objects, whose place I have indicated for you in a fundamental tetrad, namely, the voice – partly planeterized, even stratosphereized, by our machinery – and the gaze, whose ever-encroaching character is no less suggestive, for, by so many spectacles, so many phantasies, it is not so much our vision that is solicited, as our gaze that is aroused. But I will leave these features to one side and stress something else that seems to me quite essential.
There is something profoundly masked in the critique of the history that we have experienced. This, re-enacting the most monstrous and supposedly superseded forms of the holocaust, is the drama of Nazism.
I would hold that no meaning given to history, based on Hegeliano-Marxist premises, is capable of accounting for this resurgence – which only goes to show that the offering to obscure gods of an object of sacrifice is something to which few subjects can resist succumbing, as if under some monstrous spell.
Ignorance, indifference, an averting of the eyes may explain beneath what veil this mystery still remains hidden. But for whoever is capable of turning a courageous gaze towards this phenomenon – and, once again, there are certainly few who do not succumb to the fascination of the sacrifice in itself – the sacrifice signifies that, in the object of our desires, we try to find evidence for the presence of the desire of this Other that I call here the dark God.
It is the eternal meaning of the sacrifice, to which no one can resist, unless animated by that faith, so difficult to sustain, which, perhaps, one man alone has been able to formulate in a plausible way – namely, Spinoza, with his Amor intellectualis Dei.
What, quite wrongly, has been thought of in Spinoza as pantheism is simply the reduction of the field of God to the universality of the signifier, which produces a serene, exceptional detachment from human desire. In so far as Spinoza says – desire is the essence of man, and in so far as he institutes this desire in the radical dependence of the universality of the divine attributes, which is possible only through the function of the signifier, in so far as he does this, he obtains that unique position by which the philosopher – and it is no accident that it is a Jew detached from his tradition who embodies it – may be confused with a transcendent love.
This position is not tenable for us. Experience shows us that Kant is more true, and I have proved that his theory of consciousness, when he writes of practical reason, is sustained only by giving a specification of the moral law which, looked at more closely, is simply desire in its pure state, that very desire that culminates in the sacrifice, strictly speaking, of everything that is the object of love in one’s human tenderness – I would say, not only in the rejection of the pathological object, but also in its sacrifice and murder. That is why I wrote Kant avec Sade.
This is the prime example of the eye-opening effect (désillement) that analysis makes possible in relation to the many efforts, even the most noble ones, of traditional ethics.
This is an extreme position, but one that enables us to grasp that man can adumbrate his situation in a field made up of rediscovered knowledge only if he has previously experienced the limit within which, like desire, he is bound. Love, which, it seems to some, I have down-graded, can be posited only in that beyond, where, at first, it renounces its object. This also enables us to understand that any shelter in which may be established a viable, temperate relation of one sex to the other necessitates the intervention – this is what psycho-analysis teaches us – of that medium known as the paternal metaphor.
The analyst’s desire is not a pure desire. It is a desire to obtain absolute difference, a desire which intervenes when, confronted with the primary signifier, the subject is, for the first time, in a position to subject himself to it. There only may the signification of a limitless love emerge, because it is outside the limits of the law, where alone it may live.
Jacques Lacan 1964 Seminar 11, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis, page -3