Speculative Non-Buddhism

ruins of the buddhist real

Posts Tagged ‘Jacques Lacan’

Spectral Discourse

Posted by Glenn Wallis on April 18, 2016

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 a hybrid for a publisher. After all, it combined untheorized dogmatic discourse with theoretically sophisticated discourse. How could a book like this, one that addressed at least two seemingly incommensurable audiences, be made to work? My contribution was meant to help in that regard.

It is not surprising that a book like this would fail to come to fruition. It was a long-shot to begin with. The reasons for the failure in this case were complex, having to do with the usual university politics, funder requirements, and professional and personal needs of the participants. But, being a disciple of Freud, I suspect that it failed for other reasons, reasons having to do with the issues I address in my text.

The examples I give stem from the specific nature of the conference. Some of them might seem strange to some readers. It should not be difficult, however, to exchange out these examples with countless other x-buddhist instances.


Spectral Discourse

by Glenn Wallis

1. The articles in this volume create a spectrum. A spectrum, recall, is a perceptual field of some sort that is constituted by a shared component, but within which specific values can vary infinitely. Think of the color spectrum. It spans hues from dark, melancholic violets and cool, deep indigos to hot, bright yellows and fiery reds. Notice the plurals. A spectrum is characterized by its gradations of values. But notice, too, the singularity of theme: the common phenomenon we call color. This allows us to speak more figuratively of a spectrum of, say, political views or of the autism spectrum. So, I think spectrum is an apt metaphor for making explicit the fact that the papers in this volume are (1) addressing a single theme, Buddhism, but (2) doing so in a way that reveals different values—sometimes subtly and sometimes quite profoundly different values. A reader of this volume could thus be excused for questioning whether it coheres in any meaningful way. To return to our metaphor, if that reader said that these papers were not on the same wavelength, would he or she be wrong? Read the rest of this entry »

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Lacan’s Encounter with Buddhism

Posted by Glenn Wallis on May 4, 2011

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’ . Read the rest of this entry »

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