Reflections on Alan Roland (2011)

Lacques Jacan

Religion is a response to the primal experience of anxiety (or Hilflosigkeit, helplessness) when faced with the real. But because of its character as a defense it contains from the beginning the seed of its own abolition: God must die so that we can live fuller. Or, as the Buddhist saying goes, if you meet a Buddha, kill the Buddha![1]

Contemporary scholarship that brings a psycho-analytic perspective to bear on migrant cultures and [foreign] selves by use of anthropological and ethnographic research, in Roland’s view[2], more or less suffers from a lack of case studies drawn from ongoing clinical work. This methodology of criticism without object proper, wherein the analyst is certainly not present to the unconscious motivations of the analysand, contaminates the omniscience of the analyst’s subject position with randomity: the absurd dehiscence at the heart of interpassive subjecthood in a free associative space is colonised by the analyst supposed to know. Nevertheless, what the supposed analyst really knows is only the subjective unity of his person reflected back to him in the manifold vellities of an allmighty semblable. The analyst supposed to know knows unremittingly well the pain of ignorance; to tarry with this non-knowledge is to frame the world in a scaffold of instinctual wishes, but also to let it slip into “…metaphorical expression[3]…” of various self semblables. The processes through which this falling into pattern, or emergence of form from instincts, come to impress their engram upon the person are of the order of Freudian primary processes: “…condensation, displacement, symbol formation, dramatization…symbolic processes essential in dreams, symptoms and…artistic creativity[4]”. It is evident that more than creativity and distance are required in the fructuation of a discernable chain of symptomal semblables between the analysts’ non-knowing of the analysand’s unconscious impulsions.

The creative interpellation of the analyst who presides on the lived relata of psycho-analytic theory blossoms like a questioning gaze in the grounding semblable of a presumed symbolic closure. The present is where an aetiological arché (ἀρχή) insinuates itself retroactively into the essential obduracy of the analyst in session, and his occult objet d’ analysis in the present. The analyst as a token of his professional type sets about laying down received shibboleths of theory[5] into the intersubjective space of the session, and the analysand’s query is dissolved in the traditional Oedipal solvent. The residual coherence of the analysand’s question, or the form of his questioning impulses and symptoms[6], come to resist the quilting force of the psycho-analytic object, i.e. the objet d’ a-nalyst inasmuch as they exceed the hermeto-logical shadow of the theoretical stiffness of the analyst. The analyst desires the symptom and its total power to be exerted upon the analysand inasmuch as symbolic excesses of the analysand’s desire resist the provenance of theory. There is, then, a sense in which the penetrating insights of the analyst are actually interpassive invaginations and the tender symptomal lacuna in the self semblable of the analysand—as introjected by the analyst—is actually a phallic gear handle. Though the analyst may withdraw from the psycho-analytic field situated in the reality principle he may do so only with the assurance proffered by an ideational pleroma: atelic synchronisation with-out totalising subjectivity must be his self semblability. The way this happens is determined by the quality of the analyst’s distraction[7]. The higher the quality of distraction from the rigid object d’ analysis, and its throbbing, symptomatic desire, the less of his own dirty fantasies will the analyst find in the analysand’s production of psycho-analytic artefacts.

Is it not that the analysand must pretend to pretend about not knowing the root of his suffering? No, it is not otherwise; whatsoever the analysand desires in a cure is to be found only in the symptomatic obedience of the analyst to the perverse demands of the object d’ a-nalysis and the peculiar resistance it offers to the analysand’s lived experience. For, after all “[t]here are some beliefs, the most fundamental ones, which are from the very outset ‘decentered,’ beliefs of the Other; the phenomenon of the…” analyst “‘…supposed to believe,’ is thus universal and structurally necessary. From the very outset, the speaking…” analyst “…displaces his belief onto the big Other…” a-nalyst “…qua the order of pure semblance, so that the…” analyst “…never ‘really believed in it’; from the very beginning, the…” analyst “…refers to some decentered other” a-nalyst ‘…to whom he imputes this belief. All concrete versions of this analyst ‘…supposed to believe’ (from small children for whose sake parents pretend to believe in Santa Claus, to the ‘ordinary working people’ for whose sake Communist intellectuals pretend to believe in Socialism” to the a-nalyst supposed to know who must pretend to be revealed to the analysand as a pure symptom in himself) are stand-ins[8] for the big Other…[9]a-nalyst. The big Other a-nalyst is the reflected semblance of the analyst wherein he discerns the form of the question posed by his own preconscious in an economy of surplus jouissance produced by the pursuit of the objet d’ a-nalysis. Or, to put it simply, the analyst must [symbolically] die for an analysis to come to closure beyond its nexus with the analyst’s genitality. This death is of religious significance; in death the analyst becomes the sum of the analysand’s appeals to randomity intercepted by the instinctual forces which impel his neuroticism.

The relation of patient interpellation into the passive disjuncture between the revealing analysand and the revealed analyst comes to be phenomenologically embodied by the signifiers which speak the name of the analyst’s ‘im-pure’ desire as their own discourse to an other who is still the analyst’s object of identification as analysand. In other words, the analyst doesn’t so much understand the analysand’s desire so much as he recognises the gnawing hand which impels his own. This mutual suspension of one’s person to the otherness of free flowing intercourse produces effects that fail to efface the engram which instinctual homunculi project upon the canvas of the solipsistic text that is the session. It is only because the big Other a-nalyst understands, understands even the incapacity of the analyst, to be a part of the larger plan, or gestalt, that which is rend by the projections/introjections of sharp imaginary interlocutory positions, as a necessary precursor to regaining traction with reality, that he tolerates the cupidity of the Lacanian a-nalyst.

The fact of this miracle may not put one off the responsibility that rides roughshod on the back of the analyst: his commitment to the w-hole of the analysand is incumbent upon his grasping of straws in the stability of an imaginary relation to the analysand’s semblable. Only in the transference and counter-transference of a session may the analyst appreciate the quiddity of the analysand’s loathing/affection to be an iota of his derisible/commendable authority by association/disassociation with/from the Law as much as a projection of the latter’s traumatic relation to his own psychical object. Yet there remain in each of these eventualities the closure of preclusion that emanates from the psycho-analytic gestalt: the aetiological importance of instinctual reality as sole hermeto-logical monad. Not only set upon a circulation of interpretive trajectories but also set out towards the circularity of all philosophy issuing from the Cogito that produces psycho-analysis. After all, one must admit that several experiences remain without the threshold of coherence that psycho-analytic theories append to consciousness as it is. Human consciousness concretised through culture, even from its despairing infidelity to reality, and the reality of its infidelity to despair, must be raised against the gaze of the inert a-nalyst, the necrological entity of the Law which issues from him is not a bulwark against psychopathology, regression or fusion/ representation with/ of the mother or father[10].

Spiritual consciousness, inasmuch as it is concretised by its persistence in the institutions and rituals of a culture, makes an analysand native to an associative field of spirituality as is commonly understood while resisting the quilting force of psycho-analytic theory. Or, as Roland (2011) puts it, dealing with South East Asian subjectivity in psycho-analysis: “If anything, clinical experience indicates that spiritual practices and experiences are a strong counterpoint to regression and childhood merger experiences with the mother in India and with the Hindu family[11]”. It would seem then that the vellities of analysis as they are informed by the resistance of a prevalent field of social realism, and its institutional semblabilities, are psycho-pathological in measuring what is not psycho-pathological; neurotic in the a-neuroticism of a coherently performative subject position; psychotic in diagnosing irreality in the exemplar adequation of a culture to the peculiar cathexis of its nonspatiotemporal gestalts of the world. All semblabilities are able and symbolic only in their interpellation into human relationships; the form of these relationships is more than the mere sum of their iterable exigencies and praxis, it is the sine qua non of analysability that rises to a place where the true content of the question is revealed beneath the shorn off libidinous gaze of the analyst. It is only under the prodigalised light of psycho-analytic theory that the foreignness of fantasmatic family resemblances among psychisms which seem a part of the same cloth come to shine independently as psychotic snot-rags; when the theory is stripped of its alienated gaze[12] and thrown into empathic interpassivity in the session it becomes possible to tell heat from glow, enlightenment from eccentricity. Then, the occult non-relation between the Occidental analyst and the Oriental analysand is one not mediated by the continuity of the phenomenological movement of human spirit through one immanent trajectory; rather, it is the interactive field between two discrete continua of normality/psychopathology of the whole spiritual self[13].

Roland—who has a smattering of Lacan[14] and has edited at least one edition of papers on Lacan claims no deep understanding of Lacan when he marshals a proposition which borrows from that proper name—believes that “[i]f one recognizes the spiritual self in everyone, including the analyst, our insights also come from a more fundamental consciousness and light that is within[15]”. Accordingly, it is not out of place to suggest that when one channels a proper name[16], as Roland does Lacan, the spectral hypostasis which renders Lacanianism Lacanian[17], or an object objective, is its felicitous sensation as received by the personal organ[on] of desire. So, the desire of the analyst is revivified through the prismatic whorl of the analysand’s belief structures as they clash and survive against the desire of the a-nalyst supposed to know[18]. The dialectic of psycho-analytic illumination demands the type of ego education which Tantra, Zazen and other meditative practices seem to inculcate in their practitioners[19]; just as Roland as a Lacanian doesn’t understand Lacan but is able to leverage a Lacanian insight when he so desires so too analysis proceeds by approximations that are impelled by the bildung[20] of a desiring analyst, and his latescent resistances to the psycho-analytic closure of a full interpretation. Just as Roland insists that his own, and his analysand’s, personal spiritual experiences are existential and not reducible to the “…premise of regression…[21]” only because critics aren’t interested in analysing spirituality in any other way I insist that Roland’s Lacanianism is a recourse to the non-responsiveness of the dead master, the master whose imprimatur was not granted Roland except as “…a potential persecutory threat…not in tune with the subject[22]”. Perhaps, it is the desire to one day have the wherewithal to receive the master, as an invagination of the objet d’ a-nalysis by the phallic signifier with its proper, prehensile name, which leads him to believe in a reincarnation of the dead letter as living substance.

From believing experientially in reincarnation, which is patently absurd[23], to seeing reincarnation as part of the aetiological signification of a symptom in the analysand is not as much a leap as is the sheer miracle of any analysis at all from an imaginary and minimal difference between the analyst and the analysand. Roland’s meditative practice, no doubt an ejaculation of his preconscious libido into the exotic vessels of his singular devotion, serves to increase the fertility of his praxis, more specifically his spontaneity and intuitiveness[24], he claims, is enhanced. Accordingly, so long as everyone is satisfied may not the performative lability of psycho-analytic desire, and its theoretical fantasmatisations, be leavened with the spittle of naysayers and the sweat of a thousand analysands? Indeed, there is no other way. Finally, if the analyst only lies he does so with full bodied assurance that he is merely pretending to pretend while he is assured in his arrogance that all else who strain for honesty are merely unaware of their own pretences. The analyst who understands what the analysand doesn’t say except in the raw and unalloyed desire of the a-nalyst supposed to know, the big Other a-nalyst, is also constitutive of the psycho-analytic session: transference and counter-transferences happen, foremost nay only, unconsciously[25].





McClelland, Norman, C. (2010). Encyclopaedia of Reincarnation and Karma. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers.

Roland, Alan. (2011). Journeys to Foreign Selves: Asians and Asian Americans in a Global Era. New York, NY: OxfordUniversity Press.


[1] Braungardt, Jürgen. (1999). “Theology After Lacan? A Psychoanalytic Approach to Theological Discourse”. Other Voices, v. 1, n.3 [January, 1999]. See here <, Ego, Other: Freud with Hegel. >.

[2] “…I marvel at the ease and assuredness with which Kakar, Kripal, Kurtz, and Obeyesekere interpret unconscious motivation from their textual and ethnographic material. As a practicing psychoanalyst [my emphasis], I often struggle for months to understand the unconscious subtext of what patients are talking about, even with patients who freely state what is on their mind”. See Roland, Alan. (2011). Journeys to Foreign Selves: Asians and Asian Americans in a Global Era. New York, NY: OxfordUniversity Press. p. 124.

[3] Ibid. p. 122.

[4] Ibid.

[5] “…one consequence of Lacan’s ideas, according Ross Skelton (1993) in his article Lacan for the faint hearted, “is that rhetoric holds the secret of our very being”. Enough of the complex, obscure, mis-understood and misinterpret Lacan! Besides, as Octave Mannoni (1971) puts it, the style of Jacques Lacan, “It is a style expressly made for psychoanalysts and psychoanalysis”. It is in this sense, because it is for us psychoanalysts, that Lacan became magic, poetry and science, baroque and art, rhetoric and philosophy, the challenge of language and the surprise of words. The intelligent elucidation of the mysteries of the Unconscious discourse of Freud: “A thing” to research, to study and to learn”. A META-STUDY of Psychoanalysis and ‘The Double Transformative Experience’: (III) The Simple Jacques Lacan: The Psychoanalyst. See < >.

[6] “…the unconscious has nothing to do with the instinct or some archaic knowledge, nor with thoughts that would be prepared underground. It’s a thought with words, a thought that gets away from your vigilance, from your active monitoring state. […] It is as if a demon played with your vigilance.” Lacan, Jacques. Trans. Guéguen, Pierre-Gilles. Lacan, American. Lacan Dot Com. See < >.

[7] Blake, Terrence. (2013). “Lacan and Ontology: Response to Levi Bryant’s Lacanian ‘Deleuzism’”. Agent Swarm. See < >.

[8] “Lacanians track them down through investigating the Subject’s choice of words.  They try to use dreams to unearth repressed signifiers so that the Subject may be better able to re-imagine their meanings”. See < >.

[9] Žižek, Slavoj. “The Interpassive Subject: The Subject Supposed to Believe”. The European Graduate School, Graduate and Post Graduate Studies. See < >.

[10] Roland, Alan. (2011). p. 128.

[11] Ibid.

[12] “Psychoanalysis does not offer ready-made solutions. This is its power but also the main cause for the polemic developed against it by other disciplines in the psychotherapeutic -theoretical and clinical- as well as the social field. However, psychoanalysis doesn’t stop because what keeps it alive and moving is beyond the realm of techniques, prohibitions and conventions”. See < >.

[13] Roland, Alan. (2011). p. 137.

[14] “In spite of being host to the first Lacanian psychoanalysts to visit the United States, and editor of a book that included their papers (Roland 1978), 1 have never really mastered the radically different discourse of Lacanian theory and practice”. Roland, Alan. South Asia Conference, University of Wisconsin, Madison. October 11, 2002. See here < >.

[15] Ibid. p. 149.

[16] “…Lacan wished to remind us in this seminar that the first of the names of the father is God the Father . . . Lacan relativizes the Name-of-the-Father when he claims that this father, the father of the famous paternal metaphor, is nothing but the place of God the Father . . . The Name-of-the-Father, which is in the place of God the Father, should not be confused with the subject supposed to know, the essential mistake as regards theory…”. Alain-Miller, Jacques. (2010). The Non-existent Seminar. The Symptom, Vol. 11. See < >.

[17] “To have utmost confidence that you alone know what a word really means, or possess a truth of truths, that would be psychotic. Or, to be confronted with a repressed word which returns in the real, such as someone who psychotically acts out in response to loss of imaginary fantasy-supplement. Stuff like that. So, rather than being psychotic, I think looking at the reality of words — the “reality of the virtual” even, drawing from Zizek — is crucial here. Is not the virtual another name for this Other, which, lacking consistency or existence as such, nevertheless functions somehow?”. See < >.

[18] “In Seminar XI, Lacan argued that whenever the subject who is supposed to know (SSK) exists then so will transference”. Accordingly, whenever there is transference and counter-transference between an interpassive dyad of analyst-analysand there is a presumed big Other a-nalyst who conducts the hermeneutic of the freely floating objet d’ a-nalyst.

See < >.

[19] Ibid.

[20] “Bildung itself cannot be sought except through the reflective thematic content of the educator. What is gained in the seeking of Bildung is a cultivation of Bildung itself, which is not attached to any kind of goal, rather, the attainment itself is a preservation of knowledge of the world that is already known, is finite and shared with the…” allmighty semblable. Tutt, Daniel. (2007). Gadamer: Transcending the Aesthetic Dimension, Erlebnis and Bildung. See < >.

[21] Ibid. p. 182.

[22] Ibid. p. 104.

[23] McClelland, Norman, C. (2010). Encyclopaedia of Reincarnation and Karma. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers.

[24] Ibid. p. 146.

[25] Ibid.

One thought on “Reflections on Alan Roland (2011)

  1. Pingback: Smoke and Mirrors: The Seat of Analytic Judgement | Lacques Jacan

Comments are closed.