In a previous post, I distinguished between several versions of love. I’d like to adjust my position ever so slightly. Unfortunately, I am writing this from a train and so I do not have access to my previous notes. I can only hope that I do not confuse my categories.
First, there is mystical love. The mystical experience celebrates love as an intimate and indescribable connection between one being and another within a world. It is important that love be understood as an experience because it is this experience which occludes the dimension of love as an imaginary phenomena as well as love as a perfectly rational philosophical system. The mystic experiences pure love. In other words, unlike the next category of love – namely, psychoanalytical or hysterical love – love, for the mystic, is something that can not be interpreted. Hence, love can not be worked through. Moreover, love, for the mystic, does not move in the direction of the one to the other, but rather in the immediate and non-directional (perhaps it is even considered “natural”) connection. To give a very obvious example, I often hear my colleagues reduce the love or joy they have to another (or to some-thing) to a truth. In this conception, the pure experience of an encounter between oneself and another provides one with an unmediated access to truth. Thus, love is validated as a truth simply because they experience it: “I can’t describe it, I can’t describe why it is there, but it is nonetheless there, and you can not invalidate it.”
Mystical love must be therefore a gifted form of love. It must be a form of love that has been endowed unto those specially selected (by god?) to understand themselves and the feelings or connections that they experience in their relation with others in the world. Mystical lovers believe themselves to be truly self-aware and absolutely autonomous from the intervention of any third party. For the mystic, a meage a trois is not only undesirable, it is also impossible. This is the point: the mystic, through his or her unmediated experience of love, presumes him or herself to be a self-contained whole. By necessity, the mystic has abandoned – or, at the very least, precluded – the concept of the unconscious. This is why psychoanalytic love is an advancement in our understanding of the category of love. In essence, psychoanalytic love was designed to prove to these shallow mystics that their relationship to others in the world is mediated by the signifier. Mystical love operates from the dimension of the self-contained being (designated by a’) toward the other (desingated by a). It is for this reason that I maintain that the mystic believes him or herself capable of short-circuiting the natural relationship between beings and things in the world.
a <— a’
The second category is psychoanalytic love. This is the version of love that Lacan discovered within the clinical setting. Love, within the Lacanian clinic, always occurs within the dimension of the transference. It therefore provides a certain amount of trouble for the analyst. It’s for this reason that the analyst must not interpret from the direction of the analysand’s love, nor, for that matter, from the direction of his own love for the analysand (or, more accurately, for the place which the analysand occupies for the analyst), but rather she or he must interpret through the love. The difference is made abundantly clear by Lacan’s earliest schema, schema l (below):
You can see, then, that love (a'<>a) blocks any transmission of the analysand’s unconscious truth ($<>A) because it is transmitting across the imaginary axis of the traditional schema. On the other hand, if we step through the transferential situation, that is, if we step outside the interpretation from love and toward an interpretation through love, then we by necessity also move in the direction of an interpretation of the analysand’s unconscious truth. This is why it is perfectly justified, and customary, among analysts, to refer to the transference or interpretation from love quite simply as: “love transference.” Within the love situation we are not dealing with the split subject ($) nor with the site of the big Other (A) but rather with the ego-ideal (a’) and the ideal-ego (a). In other words, if we interpret from the transference then we are no better than mystics. If we are to pass toward the properly symbolic dimension of the unconscious – which the determination of psychoanalysis itself – then this by necessity requires an interpretation of the transference from within the symbolic coordinates of the alienated subject at the hands of the big Other ($<>A). None of this will be new to dogmatic Lacanians. Psychoanalysis does not abandon the mystical transferential relationship in favour of the symbolic. Rather, psychoanalysis works through the mystical love between the place of the analyst and the place of the analysand. Finally, I claim the following: if the mystic experiences pure love then the subject of the transference imagines true love.
The psychoanalytic category of love requires that one abandon love in the first instance as a category of truth. Psychoanalysis claims that the unmediated connection of one and another, manifested as a sort of love-transference, is true. Moreover, psychoanalsysis has as its imperative that we discuss love, being an affect which is not primary inasmuch as it brings about or responds to a truth, but merely secondary – an effect much more than a cause, inasmuch as it finds itself on across the divide between anxiety and transference. Of course, anxiety, for Lacanian psychoanalysts, is intimately bound up with truth. Anxiety is the first step toward the articulation (or, if you like, dialectization) of a truth. Love, on the other hand, is a step backwards from this truth precisely because it masks the primary affect, anxiety. Psychoanalysis asks us to step backward so that we might take two steps forward. But, within psychoanalysis, it is not possible to discuss love as a positive response to a negative affect. For example, we can not move from anxiety toward love. For psychoanalysis, love is good only insofar as it brings us backward one step. There is nothing inherently positive about love, there is nothing inherently revolutionary about love. In fact, the move is always supposed to go in the other direction: from love toward anxiety. Perhaps it is the case that psychoanalysts love the concept of anxiety a little too much, and are too anxious over the concept of love.
My claim is that it is possible to move beyond the anxiety that the concept of love provokes for psychoanalysts. For instance, Alain Badiou – whose master, he confesses, is Jacques Lacan – made the move from a psychoanalytic understanding of love toward a properly philosophical understanding of love. For Badiou, love only occurs on the condition of an event and therefore, on the condition of a radical fidelity to the truth of that event. Here, we can fully understand the different point of departure for the three hitherto described categories of love: first, the mystic begins with love and falsely believes himself to have, by that love, truth; second, the psychoanalyst believes him or herself capable of working through the love to arrive at a truth – however, this only happens on the condition that one ultimately reject an interpretation from love toward an interpretation of truth (thus, one either has truth or one has love, but not both at the same time), and; third, the philosopher, according to Badiou, has love precisely because he has acquired an interpretation of the truth of an event. This is among the real innovation of Badiou’s philosophical project: to rescue love – as well as the subject – from the dimension of the hysterical object cause of desire.
We arrive at the remarkable break-through of the philosophical category of love: it has allowed us to understand the movement from mystical, through psychoanalytical or hysterical, and toward revolutionary love. If, then, philosophy elucidates the movement from mystical love toward revolutionary love, then revolutionary love is what comes after the event of love beyond philosophy. Revolutionary love moves beyond philosophical love precisely because it refuses to be caught up in academicisms. Revolutionary love refuses to allow itself to remain stuck within the circular drive of understanding yesterday’s forms of love. If psychoanalytical love moves through mystic love, and if philosophical love moves through psychoanalytical love, then revolutionary love, as a biproduct of philosophical love, exposes what is within philosophical love more than philosophical love. If philosophy is an owl that flies at dusk then revolutionary love is what occurs during the dawn, as the dawn itself. This is why revolutionary love is already there within Badiou’s conception of philosophical love. There is something that moves through philosophical forms of love and it is what I call love at first sight. If, for philosophy, love is always a second sighting inasmuch as it is a looking backward, backward, for example, through the psychoanalytic category of love and the mystical category of love, then, for revolutionaries, love is an encounter that is mystical and yet comes from another source which is not, as psychoanalysis imagines it, imaginary.
Revolutionary love is always a form of love that responds to a real encounter. Revolutionary love is love from the real. It is another’s love – it is bigger than me, or you, or the two of us. It is the love, endowed onto us, not by divine connection (mystical love), nor by symbolic repression (psychoanalytical love), and also not by wise reflection (philosophical love): revolutionary love is an evental intrusion from the real.