One of the basic lessons of psychoanalysis is that the object stands in place of the lack of a phallus. This is all the more apparent in the story of Adam from the three religions of the book. From Genesis, I highlight the following:
[2:25] And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.
[3:1] Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
[3:2] The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden;
[3:3] but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die. ‘”
[3:4] But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die;
[3:5] for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
[3:6] So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate.
[3:7] Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.
[3:8] They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.
[3:9] But the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?”
[3:10] He said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.”
[3:11] He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”
[3:12] The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.”
[3:13] Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate.”
Above, we can read about the story of the origin of clothing.
In Lacan’s fourth seminar on object relations, when Lacan discussed the object of fetishism, he had this to say:
[…] we did not need to wait for Freud in order to broach the psychology of clothing. In every use of clothing, there is something that participates in the function of transvestism [defined as the address toward the lack in the other by way of the imaginary veil]. If the immediate, current, common understanding of the function of clothing is to hide the pudenda, the question must be complicated be it ever so little in the eyes of the analyst. […] Clothing is not only made to hide what one has, in the sense of having it or not, but also precisely what one does not have. Both functions are essential. It is not a matter, essentially and always, of hiding the object, but also of hiding the lack of the object.
I highlight this passage only to demonstrate the timeless truth concerning the function of clothing for the human animal: to hide what is missing, to veil what one doesn’t anyway already have. Note, then, that the three religions of the book have highlighted precisely that the clothing was to hide “nakedness” and not, as it were, to hide the substantial genital organs.
Isn’t this in of itself interesting enough? The wisdom of the book is to play against our typical understanding of clothing to hide our body parts. Instead, the book claims that clothing hides what is already hidden anyway, nakedness.
Thus, when G-d asked Adam, “who told you that you were naked?” The only answer could have been: the serpent, that is, what analysts refer to as the “phallic function.” It is only by obtaining some knowledge – made possible precisely by the castration complex, the phallic function – that knowledge of the lack, knowledge of being naked, is made possible. Knowledge therefore is the price we pay for our passage through the phallic function. I need not turn to Ecclesiastes to remind you that knowledge, though beneficial in some respects, always, inevitably, runs to its limit. Freud, when discussing the end of analysis, referred to this as the hard rock of castration.
But why did G-d ask Adam the question (e.g., “who told you that you were naked?”)? It is clear that G-d already knows “the secrets of heaven and earth, […] what ye reveal and what ye conceal.” Then, why did he ask the question if he already knew? Perhaps, he asked because of what we do not know – that is, what we are not capable of knowing, which is the lack itself. G-d perhaps wanted to see if our knowledge was properly situated in the field of the serpent, in the field of the Other, but he also wanted to highlight the fundamental fantasy which structures our dwelling in language. In other words, he wanted not simply to ensure for that the separation from the divine place (the Mother) had happened, but rather to ask us the question about our knowledge of the separation so that we might see for ourselves that the separation has happened – and the price we must pay for it.