Spectral Discourse

spectral discourseWhat follows is a chapter in search of a book. I originally wrote it for an edited volume on meditation and health. I thought that the editor’s idea for the book was very promising. A conference was held in which a group of Buddhist studies scholars, Buddhist practitioners, and a combination of the two, scholar-practicitioners, gave papers offering various perspectives on meditation and health. The idea for the book was to take papers that addressed the same theme but from different perspectives and put them in conversation with one another. Dialogue was central to the project. The title of the book might have been something like Dialogues on Meditation and Health.

The editor was rightfully concerned that such a book would be too strange Continue reading “Spectral Discourse”

Lacan’s Encounter with Buddhism

Anna McLellan

In the Seminar on Anxiety Lacan has made use of Judaism and its practices, and of Christianity; and finally he will make use of Buddhism in his effort to explore the question of desire in its relation to the Other, and of the fundamental position of anxiety in these encounters.

In Judaism the Other – God – is an exteriority, a residue of the first identification with the father, a subject that Freud explores in “ Moses and Monotheism” . This God is positioned in a particular structural relation whose purpose is to minimize anxiety; in particular the super-egoic function which Lacan links to the invocatory drive – God speaks to Moses – and to the all-seeing eye of God inherent in the scopic drive. The sacrifice of God’ s son for mankind shifts the Christian’ s position to the Other – subduing this arbitrary power- thus shifting his relation to anxiety, which Lacan describes as now ‘ provoking the anxiety of the other’ .

In May of 1963, the week after his return from a visit to a Buddhist shrine in Japan, Lacan declares his intent to use his experience at this monastery to advance his teaching on “ the point where the dialectic of anxiety takes place, namely the question of desire” . He begins by reminding us of the hypocracy of the Westerner in the belief that the Oriental is lacking in subjectivity. Lacan is emphasizing that anxiety must be understood in relation to the desire of the Other, and that this is a structural position and has little to do with ‘ depth’ or ‘ heart’ . Continue reading “Lacan’s Encounter with Buddhism”