White swans, a photo taken when I was at Nottingham in England at a week-long workshop with Luce Irigaray, contemporary feminist philosopher

Dr Kaye Gersch PhD 

psychoanalytic psychotherapist | clinical supervisor | couples therapist  

Killing the Buddha: the Foreclosure of Lacan explored through Chaos Theory and Qabala.


‘If you meet the Buddha coming down the road, kill him.’ 

What could the meaning of this Zen saying possibly be? I utilize the notion that all theories and paradigms, including those of religion and science, inevitably exclude access to the ‘real’ of Lacan via their intrinsic framework. There are many ways of struggling with direct and naked knowing, which sooner or later become clothed with a system of thought, which then becomes ‘foreclosed’. I analyse Lacan’s term 'foreclosure' and his initial use of it as applied to the process of psychosis and his later application as a normal psychic condition. Thus, theories and paradigms ‘foreclose’, but I look to chaos theory, which offers the (apparently impossible) paradox of a source of meaning that lies outside the symbolic order and thus invites a renewed apprehension of the ‘real’. C.G.Jung claimed that psyche and matter are two aspects of the same thing; Chaos theory and analytical psychology are describing similar dynamics, albeit in different realms. I draw parallels between the language and theory of Chaos, and the language of Qabala as both point to a chaos-certainty-chaos continuum.


psychoanalysis; chaos theory; foreclosure; Lacan; meaning beyond meaning; Symbolic Order; Buddha; Qabala; mysticism; C.G.Jung

The effect of scientific theory on consciousness

All paradigms of knowledge, whether scientific, political, psychotherapeutic, religious and philosophic effect how we see ourselves – they present us with a world to believe. According to Bertrand Russell, ‘Throughout history we have drawn our conception of ourselves and our place in the universe from the current physical theory of the day.’ (Russell, 1986, p. 45) Thus we are always creatures of our times and our thoughts and values are shaped by the theories that arise in those specific times. This is not to say that all knowledge is derived from physical theory, nor that it is historicist, but rather that a theory is a specific framework within which we pursue our enquiry, or limit our knowledge.

Freud thought and created his theories within the scientific paradigm when writing his 'scientific psychology.' He went to great lengths to appear scientific in his arguments, that is, to stay within the paradigm, although whether he was successful or not is debatable. He set out to discover in the human psyche laws and forces that would mirror those in the physics and chemistry of his day. (Zohar, 1990, p. 156) 

Yet the scientist Robert Oppenheimer cautioned us in 1956, that the worst of all possible misunderstandings could occur if ‘psychology [should] be influenced to model itself after a physics which is not there any more, which has been quite outdated.’ (quoted in Whitmont, 2007, p. 26)

The models which we use are fundamental to how we experience ourselves inwardly and outwardly. That is, theories shape how we think and how we structure our society. Religious faith, for example, is shaped by the dogma (or theory) of the religion itself. We behave differently if we think the world is flat, than if we have a round earth theory, to use a naïve example. We think in a limited way if our theories are limited. There is an argument for a multiplicity of theories, if we are to see ourselves more than one-dimensionally. As Bertolt Brecht said, ‘A man with one theory is lost. He needs several of them, or lots! He should stuff them in his pockets like newspapers.’

Chaos theory and analytical psychology are describing similar dynamics, albeit in different realms. (Van Eenwyk, 1997, p. 13) These dynamics constitute chaos reintegrating at greater levels of complexity. Jung said that psyche and matter are two different aspects of one and the same thing. (Jung, 1977, CW 8 par 418) And again: ‘There is no difference in principle between organic and psychic formations. As a plant produces its flowers, so the psyche creates its symbols.’ (Jung, 1977, CW 18 para 512) Prigogene, the father of chaos theory, discusses the coming together of our own insights about the world around us and the worlds inside us as a satisfying feature of the recent evolution in science. (Holland, 1998) He came to realize that the rules of the game were much the same, no matter what field he looked at. Chaos theory can be seen as a metaphor for something that has preoccupied humankind from its beginning; what was once attributed to supra-human elements - gods, giants and spirits can now be seen as a function of the relationship between energy and matter.

Everything that we regard as the knowledge of the world is organizationally closed: whatever the theory says about reality is not in fact that reality, because any theory is an abstraction of the whole and therefore is, in a sense, an illusion. Though scientific theories may be quite useful illusions, Bohm reminds us that the user of a theory should always be starkly aware of the theory's inherent limitations. (Briggs & Peat, 1989, p. 200) This echoes the phenomenological critique against the positivism first proposed by Auguste Compte, which recognized only positive facts and observable phenomenon, and rejects metaphysics, the unconscious, theism, and anything unexplained.

Prior to the 16thcentury philosophy, religion and science were much more closely associated than today. Nietzsche did not have to proclaim that (the old paradigm of) God is dead, because science had already dismantled him. Classical deterministic physics had already transmuted the living cosmos of Greek and Medieval times, a cosmos filled with purpose and intelligence, into a clockwork machine. Nietzsche made many references to science, and the limitations which reason created. In ‘Thus spoke Zarathustra’, he speaks of his own phenomenological approach; ‘I speak only of the things that I have experienced and do not only offer events in the head.’ (Nietzsche, 1969, p. 12) In his proclamation ‘I teach you the Superman’, he is making a plea for the leap that would take one out of the shackles of reason, out of the limitations of the paradigm, out of a 'foreclosed' system.

The ideas of quantum theory, specifically the developments of chaos theory and fractal geometry relate to the possibility of a new view of ourselves, collectively and individually. This view allows for radically different possibilities from the determinism of Freud's time. Yet the tendency towards wanting to create a theory which posits certainty is inherently very strong.  This tendence towards certainty is illustrated by the fact that Quantum physics itself is divided into two branches: on the one hadnd the ‘deterministic’, or the ‘universe of law and order’ of Einstein,[1] and the contrasting branch of Chaos Theory, ‘does God play dice?’ (Albert Einstein in a letter to Max Born, Stewart 1989) I will continue to link determinism with foreclosure as I develop my argument.

If we are not to be caught up in a deterministic, self-referent, narcissistic and entropic system, there is a great need for a re-visioning of our world. According to Benoit Mandelbrot, fractal geometry is not just a chapter of mathematics, but one that helps ‘Everyman’ to see the same old world differently. (McGuire, 1991) The mathematics of fractal geometry were first proposed in the 1920's, but it was only with the advent of sophisticated computers in the 1980's that Mandelbrot and Julia sets displayed their beautiful iterative patterns. The relationship between theory and form was clearly visible. Perhaps as Robert Stetson Shaw says, 'You don't see something until you have the right metaphor to let you perceive it.’ (quoted inVan Eenwyk, 1997, p. 262)

Carlos Suares and others who interpret symbolically the letter-numbers of the first five chapters of the book of Genesis present us with the idea that these biblical stories are an abstract formula or metaphor for the reality of cosmic energy. The age of determinate physics was also the age when the Creation story was insisted upon as being literally correct, that is that the world was created in 7 days. Foreclosure in its broadest sense could be seen as forestalling the approach of these cosmic energies, in this case achieved through an insistence on literal interpretation. As Suares comments, ‘The book of Genesis when read according to custom therefore appears in the form of a story relating the facts and gestures of such people as Adam, Eve, Cain, Able, and so forth, but whose names when read in the light of the cabalistic code reveal that they are abstract formulas of cosmic energy focused in the human psyche.’ (Suares, 1992, p. 55)

The medieval Hermetics or alchemists mingled Gnosticism, Christianity, and theologies from Egypt, Babylon and Persia. They believed their world was created from a pre-existing chaos. Yet there had been a movement by the Greeks, beginning with Democritus, proposing that everything by its very nature is predetermined. When everything is predetermined, nothing is left to chance. The determinism that characterized the paradigm of classical physics influenced other disciplines as well. Chaos was the word most dreaded by the physicist of the past, because it represents that which exists not only beyond the known but beyond the knowable.

Examples of anomalies abound in science which, when examined by science itself, actually constitute the collapse of the prevailing paradigm, and the development of a new one. Discovery begins with the recognition of an anomaly that makes it appear as if nature has somehow violated the paradigm. The scientist then has moved away from the old paradigm and entered a liminal area, beyond which a new paradigm may be waiting to be born. (Singer, 1990, p. 55)

Newton’s goal, at the end of the 17th century, was to structure the world so absolutely that every event was accountable within this system. [Paradoxically, he had been a skilled and passionate alchemist for 30 years, and here the unknown was his quest.] Reflecting this classical certainty and determinism, is Pierre Simon de Laplace, one of the leading mathematicians of the 18th century. In his Philosophical Essays on Probabilities he submits an ideal where nothing could be uncertain; and the future just like the past would be present before its eyes. (quoted in Stewart, p. 10)

Within this kind of system the erratic was treated as a side issue, as unpredictable and therefore unimportant. Now scientists are more willing to look directly at irregularity, and they accept Mandelbrot’s challenge: to scrutinize, rather than dismiss the apparently formless; to investigate the morphology of the amorphous. (Porter, 1990, p. 25)

Chaos theory[2]

It is not within the scope of this essay to discuss the principals of chaos theory except in the most cursory way. The definition of chaos theory itself, ‘lawless behaviour governed entirely by law’ gives some idea of its paradoxical nature. The nature of turbulent chaos is integration, inclusion or wholeness. Yet, as Michael Barnsley, a mathematician studying chaos, has written about fractal geometry: ‘You risk the loss of your childhood vision of clouds, forests, galaxies, leaves, feathers, flowers, rocks, mountains, torrents of water, carpets, bricks, and much else besides. Never will your interpretation of these things be quite the same.’ (Barnsley, 2000, p. 1) Like a naive childhood drawing of a cotton wool cloud, the laws of physics which we use to describe our world both explain and misrepresent it's existence. What we think of as a cloud is the signifier of what a cloud is in ‘the real.’

A: violent order is disorder:


B: A great disorder is an order.

These things are one.

This statement, in the style of the Zen koan, or the self-referent paradox, could equally be speaking about the essential nature of the physical world as seen by chaos theory, as the nature of the creative process in the human psyche. Thus the ‘violent order’ is a foreclosure, to use Lacan’s term, which sets up a counter-reaction that is in its most extreme form psychosis. Chaos goes from unity-chaos-unity, suggesting that there is a fundamental principal where certain things are unified within the psyche. But this very equilibrium creates the potential for a negative entropy which calls for chaos to engender life or liveliness, so that new elements can be added and a new order of complexity created.

Poincare revealed his insights about his own creative process in a lecture at the Societe de Psychologie 1908 in Paris. His personal pattern of scientific discovery seemed to be one of initial frustration, confusion, and mental chaos followed by unexpected insight. (Briggs & Peat, 1989, p. 192) This process of chaos followed by insight is similar to what happens in the therapeutic hour. The psychotic episode can be seen as an exaggeration of this chaotic space on the way to insight. Poincare was breaking away from the scientific paradigms in which he was educated, and it is the chaos, the discontinuity of this reorganisation, which enables a new order to emerge. He saw this as in inner-world version of the outer-world chaos theory, which he was developing. This process is emphasized by the Psychiatrist John Weir Perry who states: ‘Psychic development, unlike the learning process, is not an even, linear, or constant progress, but a series of phases marked by cataclysmic beginnings and endings, death and new life, regressions back and leaps forward, clashes of opposites and resolutions into synthesis -  all this is the natural language of the emotional psyche.’ (Perry, 1974, p. 8)

Chaos theory itself functions like a symbol in the domain of science: it transforms perspectives and unlocks forms of inquiry previously thought inaccessible. Fractal geometry is revolutionary in that it presents us with a new language to describe the shape of chaos. Fractals, says the science writer Jeanne McDermott, ‘capture the texture of reality.’ (quoted in Stewart, p. 242) The iteration which characterises fractal geometry suggests that stability and change are not opposites but mirror images of each other. ‘With a fractal, you look in and in and in and it always goes on being fractal,’ says British painter David Hockney. It’s a way towards a greater awareness of unity. (quoted in Briggs & Peat, p. 198)

Chaos theory is contributing to a new world-view, with its own distinctive epistemological, moral and spiritual dimensions. Prigogine said that ‘Whatever we call reality, it is revealed to us only through an active construction in which we participate.’ (Prigogine, 1984, p. 293) While Plato tried to distance himself from ‘participating consciousness’, Quantum physics and chaos theory insist that I am part of the experiment which I observe. It is evident that in the arena of perception we have reached a realization analogous to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principal. We do not observe the physical world. We participate with it. (Talbot, 1993, p. 94)

If, on the other hand, we experience a sense of alienation, we will have to reconstruct meaning through the incorporating of chaotic elements, as I will demonstrate in the psychosis of Schreber (1842-1911). Dr. Schreber was a man of high intelligence and a high court judge, who wrote a lucid account of his experiences, Memoirs of My Nervous Illness. This account particularly interested Freud, and later, Lacan, who were interested in the chaotic compensations of his psyche. Chaos theory gets close to the real genesis of individual human existence, as we see in Schreber, because it both allows for and observes a phenomena of uncertainty, leaps of growth in a discontinuous manner, the tensions of opposites as a creative rather than destructive principal, and chaos as the prima materia. These phenomena are as relevant for the psyche as for the physical world.

The ddevelopment of Lacan's ideas on foreclosure

Lacan critiqued and expanded on Freud’s work and this has brought to psychoanalysis many useful insights. The story of Lacan's development of ideas on foreclosure begins with three words Freud used, namely Verdrangung (repression), Verwerfung (rejection and repudiation and later, by Lacan, foreclosure) andVerleugnung (disavowal). Lacan was aiming to differentiate between psychosis, which operates by way of foreclosure, and neurosis, which operates by way of a repression. The third category of Freud’s, disavowal, represented the means by which perversion operates, and does not concern us directly here.

Foreclosure began as a legal term, which is significant in itself, as it is the law which prohibits in some way, but it entered the domain of linguistics when the French linguists Jacques Damourette and Edouard Pichon speak of foreclosure where something is precluded from being possible. (Grigg, 1997, p. 1) A foreclosure is a double bind, which represents an alienation. Russell Grigg gives the example: Mr Brook is not the sort of person who would ever complain. The ever flags the foreclosure. Mr Brook is thus denied the possibility of ever complaining.

According to Grigg, what is foreclosed is not the possibility of the events ever coming to pass, but the very signifier, or signifiers that makes the expression of impossibility possible in the first place. The speaker lacks the very linguistic means for making the statement at all. Lacan adopted the term in 1956 in his last seminar on psychosis as a definition of the notion of Verwerfung. Before this, psychoanalysis was thought to be largely able to treat neurotics, but not psychotics, because the structure of psychosis had not been understood. Lacan established that the understanding of the nature of foreclosure is central to an understanding of the psychotic process.

The work of Lacan on the mechanism [3] of foreclosure gave the psychoanalytic treatment of psychosis a more secure basis. Further and more important is that the problems that foreclosure raises are central to psychoanalysis in general. Even more central to my argument is that there is nothing to rule out the possibility that foreclosure is a normal psychic process, as Lacan develops in Seminar III, The Psychoses. In other words, we all, to some degree or other, repudiate, reject and preclude the very possibility of the existence of certain things. This is done by way of the absence of the signifiers, through language, which would enable us to say ‘not that.’ Following Lacan, that which is absent from discourse is also absent from the unconscious, in that the unconscious operates like a language.

To differentiate between the foreclosure associated with psychosis itself, and that of a normal psychic process, Lacan proposed that what is foreclosed in psychosis is the name of the father, a key signifier that anchors or quilts signifier and signified. Thus Lacan argued that it is only when what is foreclosed is specifically concerned with the question of the father, as in Schreber’s case, that psychosis is produced. According to Lacan, the Name-of-the-Father is that which controls both our desires and our language and is thus bound up with the activity of the superego, and our place in the Symbolic Order.

In Lacan’s Seminar XXIII, 1975-76 the general theory of foreclosure is applied to both neurosis and psychosis, a general theory of the symptom. This step effectively generalizes the concept of foreclosure. The delusional metaphor of psychosis is one response to this foreclosure; the symptom-metaphor of neurosis is another. Lacan proposed that there is a third possibility to the psychosis/neurosis possibility, through close and impassioned attention to the creative processes, for example through writing. Such was the case with James Joyce; Lacan is saying in effect that although the tendency may be there, the outcome is not predicted. Not only is this reflecting a chaos theory approach, but the engagement with chaos, through creativity, prevents an outright psychosis. In Joyce’s writing, there are many ‘epiphanies’ [4] that do not make much sense, which (appear to be) enigmatic and meaningless fragments outside of discourse and cut off from communication, but which are experienced as ‘sudden spiritual manifestation’. Thus enigma contains certainty, chaos contains order, absence of meaning becomes ineffable revelation.

Foreclosed, then, refers to that which is lying outside the limits of what can be judged to exist, yet reappears, as Lacan describes, ‘in relations of resistance without transference’, or, again, ‘as punctuation without text.’ (J Lacan, 1977, p. 388) Lacan also agues that there is a domain, which he termed ‘the real’, which subsists outside symbolism, which constitutes what is external to and radically foreign to the person and the person’s world. It is this which, ultimately, is foreclosed. The real, that impossible kernel of being, can re-enter an individual’s world through semiotic language, gesture, nuance and musicality, as in James Joyce’s writing as already mentioned, and as described by Kristeva. (Kristeva & Moi, 1986, pp. 14-22)

The case of Schreber

When Charles Peguy says that ‘everything begins in mysticism and ends in politics’, (quoted by Lacan from Peguy’s Notre Jeuness, 1910) we could equally say, everything begins in chaos (that of chaos theory) and ends in foreclosure, the foreclosure which foreshadows psychosis. Everything begins in that which is outside the symbolic order and ends up being subsumed within it. When Schreber creates his own code language, he is trying to break open immanence in the same way that Saures does in the words of fire of the Qabala. The phenomena of the enigma explicates this thought further: the enigma arises because the expectation of meaning that the signifier generates is radically disappointed. (Grigg, p. 11) In effect, what is foreclosed, ultimately, is access to a disordered universe, ‘for our own good’. (I am borrowing Alice Miller’s phrase, and also, significantly, from the 1974 book by Morton Schatzman, entitled Soul Murder, which examines the pedagogical techniques practiced by Moritz Schreber, Daniel Schreber's father.) So instead we have the enigma of a paradigm, whether that is a religion or a scientific theory, which arouses the expectation of meaning, which is radically disappointing. True, the meaning is not extinguished completely but the traces that remain are not sufficient to prevent the invention of a private metalanguage, hallucination, delusion and other devices to restore that which has never been found. In a sense we are all the three-legged stools which Lacan refers to (Lacan, 1993, p. 203) who function well enough without the fourth, but the absence shows up at a certain crossroads in biographical history, and one is confronted with this lack which always existed, like a phantom limb.

The notion that this is the foreclosure of castration, or of the name of the father, is an insufficient exploration of the intent and understanding of this process. In that the masculine, or phallic way has been denied him, through foreclosure, the other route for Schreber is through the feminine, and through feminization, which he attempts through the experience of jouissance in his own body. Although in Schreber’s case this is a psychotic exaggeration, it is also the way of the mystic, where direct experience, rather than hallucination, is attained. For the person who takes up the feminine position also takes up the masculine or phallic, and it is through this feminine jouissance that ethical relations to the Other are begun. This is what women have but know nothing about, according to Lacan. It is the embodied sense of that which cannot be spoken. (Lacan, 1998, pp. 61-66) In Schreber the barrier to jouissance is surmounted and jouissance is no longer located outside his body. It is ascribed to a divine Other who seeks his satisfaction in Schreber.

Kristeva posits the existence of the chora, a pre-verbal space inhabited by sensation, accessible to the mind and outside time, and therefore outside the symbolic order. It is in this space that the gap is bridged between the foreclosed and the world of communication, as in Joyce’s writing. As previously mentioned, Kristeva introduces a supplementary dimension to the Lacanian model in the form of a transitional sensory space termed the semiotic, occupied by sensation and images. This is a maternal space, outside of the demands of time and the demands of social code. She argues that Lacan did not place sufficient emphasis on the maternal. It is, according to Kristeva’s schema, in the semiotic that Schreber re-visions and re-enchants his world. Further, Kristeva argues against cognitivism, whose conception of knowledge lies only in the mind, not in relation to the other, and against fundamentalism which denies the play and enjoyment of liberty. Like Kristeva, I see the ‘safe’ ground of cognitivism and fundamentalism (of any kind) as inimical to freedom; they exclude the semiotic chora as a source of vitality and integration.

The religious language which Schreber and the majority of psychotic people use, (Perry, 1974) is an attempt to reach a regenerative and redemptive energy for which the language of religion and its symbols is the closest approximation. Colin Wilson, in his book ‘The Outsiders’, (Wilson, 1956) discusses the lives and struggles of many who have suffered the imperative of a life outside the constraints of the symbolic order. He includes Satre and Camus, Boehme and Kierkegaard, D H Lawrence and James Joyce, Dostoevsky and H G Wells, Kaffka and Hemingway, Henry James and Nijinsky, T S Eliot and John Stuart Mills, Nietzsche and Herman Hesse, Blake and Vincent van Gogh, Rilke, Tolstoy and Whitman, yet not Shakespeare, Keats and Dante who he describes as being ‘apparently normal and well-adjusted’. ‘What symbols,’ he asks, ‘what metaphor can an Outsider use which express his triumphant emergence from the impossible struggle, if not religious metaphors of the day? I think that part of the pain of a current day Outsider is that we are lacking in available metaphor, symbols which carry any weight that is adequate to bear the infinitely heavy significance of these experiences.’ (Wilson, 1956, p. 211)

Lacan remarks that psychosis occurs with particular frequency when the father has the function of a legislator, whether as one who actually makes the laws or as one who poses as the incarnation of high ideals. (Grigg) For Schreber, being a law-enforcer, the action of his own superego added to the laws of his pedagogue father. Unless we take the position of the heretic outside the symbolic order, the very system that we live in incubates this tendency to foreclosure.

Out of Eden -  Foreclosure and chaos theory

The chaos branch of quantum physics has the view that the foundation of reality itself is an unfixed, indeterminate maze of probabilities. (Zohar, 1990, p. 12) Dualism is represented in the simultaneous nature of matter being both wave and particle, not an either or. This is a confrontation that prevents us from being too fundamentalistic, even in science. ‘Quantum indeterminacy.…. is a powerful metaphorical way of perceiving reality.’ (ibid) This Indetermination is approached through the writing of Suares in a completely different field, that of the Qabala. He claims that ultimately we come to realize that consciousness is a discontinuous phenomenon; Qabala is a training of the mind that makes it so subtle and pliable as to allow it to pass through the mysterious doorway of human genesis and enter into the sphere where life-death and existence carry on their inter-play. Jointly, on both sides, the most precious gift of life is at stake; the principle of Indetermination, which allows all that can to become. (Suares, p. 77) It is only through chaotic Indetermination, rather than foreclosure, that we approach freedom. It is at the face of its very self, in its very deepness, that chaos is totally fecund. Abundant, prolifically fertile. (ibid p. 81) It is this fertility which Schreber activates in his delusional state. In this sense I am celebrating psychosis as an extraordinarily creative attempt to regain Eden, as Suares uses this concept, or to find renewal outside the symbolic order. In that we are all, to some degree psychotic (Laing, 1959)[5](Perry, 1974)[6] because we all, to some degree operate within a foreclosure, this chaotic regeneration is a necessary risk. Another way of saying this is that heresy, any kind of heresy, says ‘do it yourself, find a way outside the paradigm’, whereas orthodoxy, any kind of orthodoxy, says ‘we’ll do it for you, do it this way’. One is about direct somatic, phenomenological experience and individual risk, while the other is about a collectively agreed pattern and certainty within the symbolic order.

Within the Judeo-Christian tradition it is significant that the words in Genesis 1 which are translated from the word ‘good’ in colloquial Hebrew, denote a fixed certainty. This reveals the deep craving of the psyche for a state of static existence, which it sees as good. The story of the tree of good and evil is about our desire for the known, and our fear of the unknown, that for which we have no signifier. In the story of this tree and the serpent, fear sees birth as sin, freedom as disobedience, nobility as ruin. (Suares, p. 120) Even more provocative is Suares contention that Satan is ‘a continuity in existence which resists its own necessary destruction’. Psychologically, it is confinement in structures that hinder the flow of life-death in the mind. (ibid, p 192) It is this heritage in which we all participate to a greater or lesser degree merely by being born into this particular culture. It is the paradigm within which Schreber’s life was worked out, and the framework in which Freud proposed his theories and Lacan developed them.

‘The tree of the knowledge’in the original Hebrew words, convey intense movement, that of a whirlwind destroying all that is obsolete. Access to this, then, is what is being foreclosed. Suares, in his reading of Genesis 1:1 in the light of the letter-numbers of the Qabala, writes what could easily be taken as a Hymn of the Universe in the same vein as that of the scientist –mystic-priest, Teilhard de Chardin, who speaks of the forces of mighty universal cosmic energies and celebrates their destructive as well as their constructive powers in the Mass. (De Chardin, 1961) Before I return to Suares, it is worth remembering that Genesis 1:1 is usually translated as: ‘In the beginning God created heaven and earth.’ (King James version) Now for Suares’ translation:

‘Containers of existences, existences in their containers.

Universe containing the existences, containing its own existence. Upspringing of life, intermittent pulsation invisible, not thinkable; life always new, always present, never present.


Vertiginous movement that transcends all conception.

In the hidden depths of movement is the secret of existence.

And this movement is the custodian of all possible possibilities. Existence, projection of life, negation of existence...

Without resistance there could be no birth.

This is the becoming.’ (Suares, p. 78)

‘In the beginning’, says Lazlo the scientist, ‘there was chaos, instability, inflation and radiation.’ (Laszlo, 1987) Here we see a remarkable similarity.

The psychotic episode, and life in general, is an attempt to reclaim Eden, where the balance of forces is revivified, where the earthly and cosmic energies fertilize each other. The original state is one of all the possible possibilities, ie chaos. According to Suares (Suares, p. 115) this is the state of Adam and his Esha, (Eve). All organic structures have a necessary quality of resistance, which deteriorates into rigidity and self-preservation, or entropic chaos. Evolution, according to Qabala, is a series of simultaneous destruction-construction of resistances, the biosphere being an interplay between structures and unstructured energies. (ibid p. 89) Foreclosure is the means by which an entropic chaos is enacted. This is in contrast with the darkness which is swarming with all that could be, and its living power transcends all human thought. (ibid p. 88) This is the territory outside the symbolic order. Mircea Elliade frames the scene similarly: ‘If the world was restored to the state in which it had been at the moment when it came to birth, if the gestures that the gods had made for the first time in the beginning were reproduced, society and the entire cosmos (would become) what they had been then – pure, powerful, effectual, with all their possibilities intact.’ (Elliade, 1975, p. xiii)

Physics and metaphysics

History has shown us an uneasy relationship between ‘physics and metaphysics.’ For example, Descartes’ metaphysical commitment to mathematics, his invention of analytical geometry, the formulation of his famous ‘rules of reasoning’ – all this occurred in the months and years following a gnostic illumination that came to him on the night of November 10, 1619. His experience can be compared to the ecstatic illumination of the mystic. It is likely that his concept of ‘intuition’, one of his rules of reasoning - which he defined as a kind of direct and unclouded perception of the truth, and which was then to be followed by ‘deduction’ - was the formal translation from his mystical experience into the world of abstract analysis. There are many ways of struggling with the direct and naked knowing, which inevitably sooner or later become clothed with a system of thought, which then becomes ‘foreclosed’. This process of using a somatic insight to dislodge an old system has occurred many times, in science and religion most notably. The heretical soon becomes the established view, and those holding the established view react with fear to anything new. It would seem that chaos theory at least provides us with a model that allows for the constant of discontinuity, of radical intuition, of order-chaos-order.

The Emperor's new clothes

Every culture, by definition, constructs its own code or grid. It may be arbitrary, it may vary widely from culture to culture, but any culture can be counted on to defend its own particular grid, because it believes and on one level it is correct, that if the grid is compromised in any way, psychic integrity will be lost and the entire culture will go down the drain. (Berman, 1988, p. 78) No society can tolerate heresy, and certainly not the greatest heresy of all, namely the assertion that its cultural grid is lacking in any particular, transcendent validity. (ibid p. 80) Thus feminine jouissance, ecstasy and direct experience are considered a heresy because they break through the symbolic order. Can it be integrated into symbolic order, does it regenerate and enliven symbolic order? Yet we need the phallic structure of supposedly continuous existence. The not-duped-er, (Lacan) in seeing through the lie that we live, the foreclosure, makes a serious error. This alludes to the story of the Emperors clothes. Recognizing that the emperor is naked is not a good thing for the symbolic order. The on-going order of things requires that we see the clothes on the Emperor. Otherwise the door opens to chaos.

Historically, mystics have been those who live within feminine jouissance, and are misfits if viewed through the lens of the symbolic order; they are aware that the phallic order has a hole in it. This is especially true in Postmodernism, where structure has been questioned and dispensed with. The response to this is in symptomatic ways. According to Lacan, feminine jouissance can be a way of opening into ethics, which is the fundamental relationship with the other. If the response is not an ethical one it is a psychotic one.

The mystic also sees that ultimately there is no such thing as subject. That is, the name of the father is not foreclosed, that realization is contained or supported by something Other. The implication of this is that the solid duality of you and I is illusory. This relates also to quantum physics where observer and observed both influence each other and therefore are inseparable. Foreclosure is an emphasis on the container, rather than the contained, and this is therefore a tendency to one arm of a polarity. Likewise, the Qabala knows that YHVH is not a deity but an immanence, which can become alive and active when the two vitalities in us, the container and the contained, fecundate each other. (Suares, p. 43)

Killing the Buddha

There is a Zen saying, ‘If you meet the Buddha coming down the road, kill him.’ My contention, following Lacan, is that the foreclosure which reaches an exaggerated form in the genesis of psychosis is actually a feature of normal psychic development, and one which every person deals with on the way toward what Jung termed individuation. This particular double bind that we are all in, this collective pre-psychosis, is about both desiring and fearing our own freedom, that is freedom within and without the symbolic order. Quantum freedom is a far more terrible thing than our faith in the power of reason would have us believe, says Zohar. (Zohar, p. 163) If I believe in freedom at all I cannot be a determinist, and I do see that the Emperor has no clothes. When I act out of habit, or certainty, I do not act out of my freedom, nor do I exercise my creativity. If I meet the Buddha on the way I have met a foreclosure, which prevents me from living, which makes impossible the possibility. So, I must ‘kill’ him, so that the realisation of all the possible possibilities is possible once again. If I do not ‘kill’ him, I am already ‘killed’ by him.

Suares reminds us the there is no transcendence other than our intimacy with the unknown as the unknown. Seeking it is to avoid it. (Suares, p. 59) Finding it, ie the Buddha, is an even greater loss. The Buddha represents that which is beyond our ability to conceive, the signifiers themselves are missing. The Buddha, or literalising of that which cannot even be represented, is a determination in a context which is Indeterminate. We must ‘kill the Buddha’ so that we do not trap ourselves in the equivalent of a psychotic hallucination. The Buddha or YHVH are not deities. Any deistic notion serves to remove the disturbing realization of an all-invading immediacy. That which is not signified is beyond our frame of reference, we have not even allowed it the possibility of existence. As Heidegger says, however, nothing is not a nothing, but a something. ‘Pure Being and pure Nothing are therefore the same’, he quotes from Hegel. (Heidegger, 1978, p. 108) Hume suggested that certain things are comprehended by a leap of faith, and intuitively grasped. Will the inclusion into the collective psyche of the Indeterminism of chaos theory allow for the Unknown, and the Unknowable, without foreclosure?


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Biographical notes:

Kaye Gersch PhD began her professional life studying music but switched to Natural Therapies, with an emphasis on Homoeopathy, when her two daughters were born. Homeopathic practice led to an interest in the dream life of clients and the study of dreams, first through the work of Jung, and later Freud, and her practice as a therapist is informed by both. Her thesis for a Masters in Analytic Psychotherapy (2002) was entitled ‘Mysticism: Psychosis and Gnosis.’ After living in the tropics of Far North Queensland for many years she moved to Dubbo, NSW in 2018. She continues to play harpsichord and has taken up the ukulele! Her PhD thesis (university of Queensland, 2014) is ‘The Feminine in Body, Language and Spirituality.’ A full transcript is available on this website. 

[1] Ironically, Einstein, who had opened the door to quantum physics, was unable to see the implications of quantum theory and to recognize its possibilities, because he could not accept the idea that the foundation of reality could be governed by chance and randomness. (Singer, 1990, p. 59)

[2] Definition of chaos (Royal Society, London 1986) ‘Stochastic behaviour occurring in a deterministic system.’ Stochastic means random. Deterministic behaviour is ruled by exact and unbreakable laws. Stochastic behaviour is the opposite: ‘lawless and irregular, governed by chance. So chaos is ‘lawless behaviour governed entirely by law’. (Stewart 1989, p. 17)

[3] The extent to which the paradigm of science shapes my particular world is reflected in linguistics: so many words that I use in the analytic context are words which are borrowed or appropriated from science, such as mechanism, dynamic, system, device, structure. I wince at the automatic (linguistic and unconscious) bias that this creates. As I attempt a ‘morphology of the amorphous’, what language is available to me? Even the ‘extravagant hyperbole’ of the archetypes as spoken of by Jung, and as demonstrated in Suares’ reading of Genesis 1:1, quoted later, creates a particular form. Perhaps the epiphanies of James Joyce come close to exemplifying the ‘other side of language’ of Lacan; the purpose of language, he says, is to evoke, not inform. Although, of course, the purpose of scientific language isto inform.

[4] ‘By epiphanies, James Joyce meant a sudden spiritual manifestation, whether in the vulgarity of speech, or of gesture or in a memorable phase of the mind itself. He believed that it was for the man of letters to record these epiphanies with extreme care, seeing that they themselves are the most delicate and evanescent of moments.’ (From Stephen Hero, Jonathan Cape, London, 1956, p 216, quoted by Grigg, 1997)

[5] What he initially said of the ‘labelled schizophrenic,’ he later said; ‘In fact, we are all only two or three degrees Fahrenheit from experiences of this order.’ (Laing, 1959, p. 46)

[6] ‘The fact of the matter is that in all of us, only a hairsbreadth below the level of conscious rational functioning, there is quite another state of being with an altogether different view of the world and an altogether different way of growing to meet it. And that state of being, or that world, since it is experienced in terms of images and symbols, metaphors and myths, is considered mad and worthy only of banishment from the sane world of common sense. We find ourselves being very fussy about allowing it to appear only on certain terms. We all have this madness as part of our makeup.’ (Perry, 1974, pp. 6-7)