Albert Herter

“Woman with Gibbon” by Guy Colwell.

Magic and the Link Compliment of the Borromean Rings in America

by Albert Herter

A salvo

The Lacanian want-to-be-analyst in America is not unlike John the Baptist who when asked to identify himself said ‘I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness…’  There is a wildness in the cry of those who cannot be but amateurs (in the sense of lovers and without financial benefit) but on the other slope we have the fate of a tamed and harnessed Lacan, in the stable with all the other thinkers waiting to become usable in American universities, servicing the humanities.  One receives a credential with a sigh of defeat.  But despite this wildness the amateurs would like to contribute to the edifice being constructed across the Atlantic, and in South America.  Eventually we would like to build on New York bedrock. 

Marie-Hélène Brousse, during the Paris-USA Lacan Seminar at Barnard College this past September, said that when Lacanian analysis comes to the States it falls flat.  Only in the Arts, specifically directors such as the Coen Brothers, Tarantino, etc., is Lacanian analysis alive and well.  It is alive in so much as it is ‘subversive’ and ‘creative’.  This is in fact my own history, coming from an arts background and education, I found Lacan through a gallery.  I now belong to a reading group that is currently reading Miller’s address to the congress and the group consists primarily of musicians.  There is a dearth of ‘men of letters’ here, no symbolic fortress to support us.  As Lacan already noted during his sojourn in the States – there is a deficiency in the symbolic.  We are adrift in a soup of imaginary phosphorescence, bursting, oozing, continually reconfigured.  No wonder the Health Care Industry compensates with an obsessive reliance on statistics and categories- that makes everything appear impossible.  So this is the field one wishes to practice Lacanian analysis on.  An amorphous threat of litigation is pervasive.  As far as I understand, the bare minimum in order to practice legally is a two-year social worker program.  In some senses two years is not a long time, but in terms of an ethics of desire it is a very long time.  Presumably one learns more than how to call the police if the patient mentions suicide but still.  I considered making analysis my art practice.  At one point I investigated what sort of credential a fortune-teller requires. Perhaps we are the new magicians. W.H. Auden wrote ‘To believe that a world of nature exists, i.e. of things which happen of themselves, is not however invariably made.  Magicians do not make it. ” Just as the Imaginary after the Symbolic is not the same, Magic after Science would not be the same.  One need only conjure up the image of CERN, the 27 km circumference circular tunnel located 100 metres underground with its 2,400 full-time employees searching for the God particle to get a sense of the desperate need to make nature cough up another signifier.

There is a magician in England named Derren Brown who is ‘a performer who combines magic, suggestion, psychology, misdirection and showmanship in order to seemingly predict and control human behaviour, as well as performing mind-bending feats of mentalism’.  He is essentially a cognitive behavioralist suggesting actions to weak-willed volunteers.  In addition to his stage show he has a series where he exposes frauds who claim to speak to the dead or heal the sick.  He keeps company with men like Richard Dawkins.  What I would call the missionaries of science- Brian Greene, Daniel Dennett.  The prevalent magic of today is the magic of suggestion, hypnotism, nudges. Algorithmic magic. Everyone knows that the birth of psychoanalysis was tied to the renunciation of hypnosis.


Rogue analysis, Black Market analysis

The practice of Lacanian analysis in America is irredeemably political, at least for the foreseeable future.    

Ego psychology fit very well within the American program of forging individuals, harnessing their desires to the wagon of capitalist growth. A positivism and naivité which wanted to know nothing of lack or castration.  The New Yorker reports that Freud has finally landed on Chinese soil and will hopefully work the same magic, to reinvigorate the engine of endless expansion.  The article asks ‘Does psychoanalysis have a future in an authoritarian state?’  It tells about the suicides of workers at Foxconn factories, which make iPhones and other electronics, and a series of murderous attacks on young children by middle-aged men. According to The Lancet, nearly one-in-five-adults in China has a mental disorder, as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.  As regards the USA, perhaps Lacanian analysis has no relevance to a country that has not yet experienced a sort of ‘historical narcissistic disaster’.  Which has not yet been truly occupied.  And it may yet be awhile before the ground is fully prepared.

A certain school of thought in physics ends in the many-worlds hypothesis.  One can see in the movie ‘Source Code’ what sort of philosophy this leads to.  Never mind that in this reality you are a war veteran without an abdomen or legs, in another reality you get the girl.  In effect it feeds the fantasm, till it balloons up and competes with the real.  Thus the proliferation of gadgets which are auxillary components to amplify the imaginary and the symbolic.  The real erupts with actual combustion.  Soon it will be our symbols that will be under cyber-attack, our databanks.  What will the ordinary psychotics do when their phones, which are their true supports, are taken away?

I have been enamored with a video since university, which is called “Not Knot” that was made under the direction of Bill Thurston who is at UC Davis and is one of preeminent topologists in the world.  It is essentially a guided tour from Euclidian 2 space into hyperbolic 4-space, specifically a rhombic dodecahedron.  This space is defined by the Borromean rings taken as an axis. Every knot or link, with some simple exceptions, emits hyperbolic spaces.  I will just say that Roger Penrose used to admit a bias towards hyperbolic space in terms of the actual universe i.e. that the cosmological constant was negative.  In fact the rings are shrunk down and disappear to infinity ‘where light can never reach them’.   Perhaps psychosis can be thought of as a flirtation or proximity to the pure zero of the ring.  The neurotics float about in the more or less flat and uniform areas defined by the extremes of the rings.  The idea of the link compliment is a way of deriving one world from the three of the Borromean ring.  There is such a thing as One. This Borromean ring also has some similiarities to Penrose’s twistor (one can see the three rings in the twistor pictured above) which Edward Whitten, one of the premiere string theorists has since taken up with the hope that it may provide an escape from the proliferation of dimensions string theory has required in the past.  Could one say that the knot is on the side of being and the space defined by the knot is on the side of existence?  The videos narrator says the space around the knot is just as real as the knot itself and asks the question ‘What is life like in a space with a single line missing, or in a plane with a single point removed?’

Miller ends his rumination at the congress on Oedipus at Colonus, which was Sophocles last play written when he was eighty-nine years old and only performed four years after his death.  The Peloponesian Wars between Athens and Sparta had persisted for twenty-five years at the time the play was written.  It was a tribute to his birthplace.  Fitzgerald’s commentary reads ‘Oedipus has indeed endured his suffering with courage, but it is not until he has acted, and acted as the agent of divine justice, that the passionate man is fit to embody and to symbolize human divinity.’  ‘His rage and sternness in his last hours are the means of an affirmation.’  In New York we wondered if this was the harbinger of the end of psychoanalysis proper.

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