Science and the Law: Schreber's Illegitimacy
Insofar as science exists in a dichotomous relation to religion, i.e., it is what religion is not (i.e., religion is based upon 'faith,' whereas science bases itself on 'empirical fact'), science is particularly well suited to this task. Furthermore, as a dominant discourse, science is governed by a definite set of laws based on logic and rationality. In other words, science brings order to chaos. In a semiotic 'universe' that is quite literally predicated upon nothing, the 'structuring' capacity of science cannot be underestimated. However, when science does eventually prove inadequate, when Flechsig (as a man of science) proves incapable of curing Schreber's 'nervous condition,' this semiotic distance collapses. This point is essential in determining the specific nature of Schreber's (second) psychotic break. The argument in general circulation is that in assuming the position of Senatspräsident to the Superior Court, Schreber is confronted with men who are in superior positions, and as such represent the father. Thus, try as he may, Schreber can not approximate this position; he found himself lacking (which was subsequently turned into a God that was lacking). Put another way, Schreber is called upon by the Law to a position for which he has no answer.
The task was all the heavier and demanded all the more tact in my personal dealing with the members of the panel of five Judges over which I had to preside, as almost all of them were much senior to me (up to twenty years), and anyway they were much more intimately acquainted with the procedure of the Court, to which I was a newcomer" (Memoirs, MH 63-64, D 47).
However, if we closely examine the Memoirs, it becomes clear that it is not Schreber's inability to carry out the tasks required of him, but rather, it is when (in his own words), he "had largely mastered the difficulties of settling down in [his] new office and in [his] new residence" (Memoirs, MH 63-64, D 47) that he experiences his (second) break. In other words, it is not that Schreber is 'in over his head.' Rather, because the signifier of the Name-of-the-Father (as that which functions as a 'third term' and as such secures his place and his continuity in a overriding kinship structure), is not available to Schreber because it is foreclosed, there is no legitimate place for him in the Law8. Thus it is in illegitimately (albeit 'successfully') occupying the place of Senatspräsident to the Superior Courtthe realm of Lawthat triggers Schreber's psychotic break.
To the extent that foreclosure of the signifier of the Name-of-the-Father excludes the subject from the Symbolic Orderthe realm of society and culturepsychosis often involves a profound disturbance in the realm of kinship relations9, and specifically names10. Schreber thus contends that the 'rent' in the 'universe' was instigated through the unlawful usurpation of proper name and 'place' of the forebears of Schreber and Flechsiga 'crime' he equates with 'soul murder.'
I want to say by way of introduction that the leading roles in the genesis of this development, the first beginnings of which go back perhaps as far as the eighteenth century, were played on the one hand by the names of Flechsig and Schreber (probably not specifying any individual member of these families), and on the other by the concept of soul murder (Memoirs, MH 54, D 33, emphasis mine).
'Soul murder' becomes the loss of one's name, or more specifically, the loss of one's legitimate place, one's right to exist as a subject of the Law. To the extent that the Symbolic Orderthe overarching structure governing kinship relations establishes one's legitimacy, one's right to exist and be recognized as a subject of the Law, such a loss would constitute 'soul murder.' Insofar as Flechsig specializes in nerves, Schreber (paranoically) believes that by acting upon his nerves11, Flechsig 'steals' his soul. (Memoirs, 54-55, D 33) In this capacity, Flechsig (as a signifier) plays leading role in Schreber's delusion.
Allow me to reiterate this point. While Schreber's illegitimate position in relation to the Law drives his psychic structure to its very limits (hence Schreber's heightened anxiety), science (as a discourse) still maintains the necessary distance from the place of foreclosure. Because science still functions as the master signifier par excellance (the discourse that 'grounds' Schreber's universe), Schreber turns to Flechsiga man of science and a 'nerve' specialistto cure his 'nervous illness.' In this capacity, Flechsig is the 'representative' of the sinthome, that which maintains the necessary distance from the place of the foreclosed signifier. Flechsig's inability to relieve Schreber's 'condition' however, simultaneously reveals the inability of science to function as the sinthome. It is thus my argument that when Flechsig is 'exposed' as incapable of 'curing' Schreber, and as such, science is 'exposed' as incapable of continuing to function as a substitute, Schreber collides with the abyss in place of the signifier of the Name-of-the-Father, i.e., he confronts a thoroughly inept God who is (not surprisingly) 'embarrassingly exposed.' From this point on, science in and of itself can no longer function as the barrier, or sinthome that maintains Schreber at a safe distance from the place of the foreclosed signifierfrom what must remain at a distance. (As an aside, it can be argued that Schreber's delusionthe construction of a hybrid discoursefunctions as the new sinthome.)
The Break with the Øther
This semiotic collapse severs Schreber's relation to the Øther and leaves Schreber (quite literally) on his own. In fact, by the time Schreber left for Pierson's Asylum (the "Devil's Kitchen") in approximately mid-June 1894, his illness had advanced to the state that all people and even surroundings were 'derealized,' i.e., Schreber saw them as merely "theater props" (Memoirs, MH 102, D 100). Schreber can now only imagine himself as real to the extent that he is (again, quite literally), the center of his signifying universe. Put another way, with the distance breached, Schreber is positioned in this 'empty' semiotic placethe place of foreclosurealongside an 'empty,' and thoroughly inept 'God'12.
Because Schreber no longer has a relation to the Øther13, he must rebuild his signifying structure within a closed Imaginary circuit, a circuit where he himself functions as the master signifier par excellance. Consequently, Schreber asserts categorically that "everything that happens is in reference to me," (Memoirs, MH 197, D, 233, emphasis mine) or "[i]t is demanded of me to relate to myself everything that happens" (Memoirs, MH 198, D 235, emphasis mine). In other words, 'meaning' is achieved only to the extent that it is incorporated in and through Schreber14. To further illustrate this point, consider the clause "[l]acking now is only the leading idea," to which Schreber responds "we the rays have no thoughts"15 (Memoirs, MH 234, D 199). That is, Schreber must do the thinking (e.g., even the "so-called not-thinking-of-anything-thought" [Memoirs, MH 144, D 158] is still thinking insofar as Schreber must "not-think-of-anything" incessantly). As the master signifier par excellance, it is incumbent upon Schreber, indeed his most profound duty, to 're-compose,' or as his delusion manifests, to repopulate this rotting world through his feminized body16, i.e., he must fill the emptiness, resolve the futility of the world, and restore it so that it again makes sense.
Within this context, it is hardly surprising that Schreber associates the withdrawal of 'rays' (or nerves) with becoming a "frivolous human being given only to the pleasures of the moment" (Memoirs, MH 129, D 138). This is an important point. Through his delusion (and as I will demonstrate, through the concentration of literalized nerves), Schreber establishes his place as the 'ground' of the universe. If he were to lose this 'ground,' he would become redundantindeed a "frivolous human being" (Memoirs, MH 129, D 138). Schreber thus asserts that "I lived in the beliefand it is still my conviction that this is the truththat I had to solve one of the most intricate problems ever set for man and that I had to fight a sacred battle for the greatest good of mankind" (Memoirs, MH 130, D 139).
Schreber as the Master Signifier par excellance
Essential to the argument I am putting forth in my thesis, is that Schreber's 'universe' is in actuality the expulsion of his own disconnected and as such, unrecognizable signifying structure. Indeed, Schreber's assertion that "the whole solar system would now have to be disconnected...the whole group of stars had to be drawn together into a single sun" (Memoirs, MH 84, D 75) epitomizes his (seemingly divine) task. To elaborate, the whole solar system that must now be disconnected is the unpinning of Schreber's signifying structure; the whole group of stars that must be drawn together into a single sun, is Schreber himself as the master signifier par excellancethe signifier to which all other signifiers in Schreber's closed Imaginary circuit are eventually 're-pinned' (Memoirs, MH 84, D 75).
The expulsion of Schreber's (now) disconnected and, as such, unrecognizable signifying elements appears to turn his 'universe' inside out; or rather, it is as though in this 'big bang'17, Schreber's signifying elements shoot out and disseminate18 into an externalized universe filled with planets and stars God's 'outposts' (Memoirs, MH 72, D 59)all connected by 'rays' or nerves (lesser or greater souls), and significantly, all eventually connected and united within Schreber19 through a feminine 'soul-voluptuousness, where 'feminine' is associated with 'fullness' and 'abundance,' i.e., being full of nerves20. Put another way, the implosion of a semiotic distance effects a semiotic explosion where signifying elements (manifesting in Schreber's delusion as 'celestial bodies') disseminate throughout the 'universe.' Insofar as these 'celestial bodies' are Schreber's own signifying elements (even though he does not recognize them as such), his 'cure' consists in their reincorporation.
The Schreberian Universe: A Bundle of Nerves
Nerves are the most over-determined signifying element in the Memoirsappearing no fewer than four hundred times. In keeping with the precarious nature of Schreber's 'nervous condition,' nerves manifest as "extraordinarily delicate structurescomparable to the finest filaments" (Memoirs, MH 45, D 19, emphasis mine). Schreber's 'nervousness' is both the literal means of installing himself as the center of the universethe master signifier par excellanceand (ironically) that which constantly threatens to undermine his position. Insofar as Schreber's nerves are the literal infrastructure of his nascent universe, i.e., as 'concretized' rays of God (the foreclosed signifying element Schreber is attempting to reconcile), to the extent that they are elements of the foreclosed signifier, i.e., the means he uses to reconstruct his universe, they are also the means that (in his delusion) constantly threaten to destroy it. This is particularly evident in what Schreber designates as the "flight of rays" (Memoirs, MH 136, D 147). In elucidating this phenomena, Schreber asks the reader to envision a scenario where
...the rays of a whole world, [Schreber's disconnected, externalized and unrecognizable signifying structure], are somehow mechanically fastened21 at their point of issue [Schreber's head], which travel around one single head [as in orbiting a celestial body] and attempt to tear it asunder and pull it apart in a fashion comparable to quartering" (Memoirs, MH 136, D 147).
This 'push and pull' dynamic is characteristic of the Imaginary realm; in fact, it could be argued that the Imaginary realm is particularly well suited for this reconstruction, i.e., because it involves rivalry, it incites Schreber to action, to actively (even if it is undertaken passively) reconstruct his signifying structure.
Schreber asserts as an axiom that "the human soul is contained in the nerves of the body." (Memoirs, MH 45, D 19, emphasis mine). This sentence attests to another key feature of psychotic language, i.e., literalization. The 'literalization' of Schreber's signifying structure occurs both on a macro- (universal) and a micro-level. For example, Flechsig's soul is 'thrown' into Schreber's belly where it manifests as a 'bulky bundle' that Schreber compares with a "volume of wadding or cobweb" (Memoirs, MH 92, D 86). In both cases, i.e., macro (the universe) and micro (Flechsig), these elements are depicted as a web or a sort of network. However, in the latter case (Flechsig's soul), it is as though it is compressed. It is worth noting at this point that Schreber explicitly states that he had a vision where Flechsig shot himself, which was followed by a funeral procession. At this time (and in close proximity in the Memoirs), Schreber felt that Flechsig had exceeded himself, e.g., referring to himself as "God Flechsig" (Memoirs, MH 91, D 86), and that he should be reduced to size. Flechsig, as such, is compressed into a ball and subsumed in Schreber's belly (where Schreber could not 'stomach him'); as Schreber states, "[i]n view of its size it would in any case probably have been impossible to retain this soul in my belly, to digest it so to speak" (Memoirs, MH 92, D 86). As another case in point of this psychotic literalization, when the 'souls' renounce the implications of Schreber's corporeality specifically his need for, and enjoyment of foodSchreber (literally, albeit delusionally) exists without a stomach.
Later for a time the miracles were in preference directed against my stomach, partly because the souls begrudged me the sensual pleasured connected with the taking in of food, partly because they considered themselves superior to human beings who require earthly nourishments; they therefore tended to look down on all eating and drinking with some disdain. I existed frequently without a stomach (Memoirs, MH 133, D 144, emphasis mine).
As a final case in point, this 'literalization' is evidenced in Schreber's delusional belief that the contents of his head and his spinal cord were being "pumped out...in the form of little clouds," i.e., (like a 'puff of smoke') where they might "vanish into [thin] air" in order to make him demented (Memoirs, MH 135, D 147).
When we situate these delusional manifestations in semiotic terms, abstractions are reduced to the concrete; connotations are reduced to denotations, and various denotations themselves are collapsed into a concrete singular meaning (nerves, or their manifestation as [divine] rays are the exemplar of this phenomenon). Schreber makes this explicit in the following passage:
...one must assume therefore that the capacity to be transformed into a human shape or become a human being, is an innate potentiality of divine rays. An entirely new light is thus shed on the well-known word of the Bible: "He created man in His image and in the image of God created He him." It appears that this passage from the Bible has to be understood literally, which no human being has so far dared to do (Memoirs, MH 193-194, D 228-229, emphasis mine).
This passage attests to another key feature of Schreber's delusion, i.e., while Schreber claims that rays must create, this creation is in fact a transformation of that which already exists. "They [the rays] have in particular the faculty of transforming themselves into all things of the created world; in this capacity they are called rays; and herein lies the essence of divine creation" (Memoirs, MH 46, D 21, emphasis mine). Schreber thus asserts that "great changeability is a marked feature of the soul-character" (Memoirs, MH 134, D 144). Insofar as Schreber is "filled with nerves of voluptuousness from the top of [his] head to the soles of [his] feet" (Memoirs, MH 204, D 243, emphasis mine) and "great changeability is a marked feature of the soul-character" (Memoirs, MH 134, D 144), the massive influx of rays (manifesting as 'nerves'), transforms Schreber into a voluptuous (i.e., nerve-filled), female being. Put another way, despite the manifestation of Schreber's delusion to create a new world (or to be the instrument of this creation), to the extent that Schreber no longer has access to the Øther, he cannot create, i.e., bring forth something new; rather, he can only transform, or in semiotic terms, reconnect and reorganize his disconnected signifying elements.
This reduction of abstractions to the concretethis literalizationis particularly striking in what Schreber refers to as 'nerve language,' i.e., nerves as literalized souls (or rays) 'speak' in a manner consisting in the vibration of nerves approximating the movement of vocal chords (Memoirs, MH 69, D 54). In other words, language (arguably the exemplar of abstraction) is reduced to concrete action. Moreover, Schreber conflates his 'nervous illness' (generally understood as a state of mind, i.e., an abstraction) with the excitability of his physical nerves. In a very definite sense then, these two disparate denotations (not to mention connotations) are collapsed into the concrete. And we are not simply dealing with Schreber's physical nerves; rather all 'souls' in Schreber's 'universe' exist as literalized nerves (or rays). Having said this, however, to the extent Schreber exists within a closed Imaginary circuit, this semiotic collapse manifests as a literal proliferation, i.e., the only others (souls) Schreber encounters are himself, i.e., his own small others, or unbarred, perverse, status-seeking big Others. In this world turned inside-out, rather than securing the universe, 'God,' as an inept master signifier, continually loses his nerve(s)22 and as such, cannot 'ground' the universe; nor can He contain his nerve, i.e.,"[a]s a rule God did not interfere directly in the fate of peoples or individuals." Schreber designates this "state of affairs [as] in accordance with the Order of the World" (Memoirs, MH 48, D 23).
Insofar as 'God' (as a signifier) maintains His distance, conditions remain in accordance with the Order of the World, i.e., Schreber's 'propped-up' signifying structure functions provided this distance is maintained23. As I have emphasized, it is the collapse of distance (between science, the substitute master signifier, and religion [or 'God'], the foreclosed signifier) that triggers Schreber's psychotic break. Howeverand this is decisiverather than re-establishing distance (an impossible task given that despite appearances, Schreber's 'universe' consists only of him), he negates himselfand in particular, as a man. In a very definite sense then, Schreber does not 'own' himself. Indeed one could argue that to the extent Schreber is 'occupied' by holy thoughts (literalized rays of 'God'), he cannot 'occupy' himself, e.g., he indicates that he "considered absolute passivity almost a religious duty" (Memoirs, MH 127, D 135). To resolve this 'universal crisis24,' as a sort of 'Great Mother,' Schreber reincorporates himself by 'absorbing' (Memoirs, MH 94, D 90) or 'soaking up' rays (which are in fact his own disconnected, externalized signifying structure). Schreber speaks of this task throughout the Memoirs as a task he does not desire, but one that he firmly believes is necessary if the Order of the World is to be restored25.
This state of Blessedness is mainly a state of voluptuous enjoyment, which for its full development needs the fantasy of either being or wishing to be a female being, which naturally is not to my taste. I must however submit to the necessity of the Order of the World which forces me to accept these ideas... (Memoirs, MH 240, D 291, emphasis mine).
While Schreber does insert himself as the master signifier par excellance, he does not, and cannot (given his closed Imaginary circuit) introduce the quality of negation characteristic of radical Øtherness. Instead, he must continually negate himself by 'sacrificing' to a greater good. However, to the extent that he must to do this incessantly, it becomes more of a 'habit'a necessary nuisance. Thus as counter-intuitive as it may sound, it is in the very act of negating himself, i.e., 'absorbing' or 'soaking up' rays, that Schreber regains himself (albeit as a literal 'bundle of nerves').
Now Schreber contends that when conditions are in accordance with the Order of the world, 'God' deals only with 'dead' nerves, i.e., by incorporating (or reincorporating) the nerves of corpses into Himself. Schreber further contends that "the nerves of living human beings particularly when in a state of high-grade excitation, have such power of attraction for the nerves of God that He would not be able to free Himself from them again, and would thus endanger His own existence" (Memoirs, MH 48, D 24, emphasis mine). In other words, 'God' was (necessarily) self-sufficient; He didn't need to approach the living human being, just as living human being didn't need to approach 'God.' (Here we get a glimpse of Schreber's pre-psychotic 'distance' from 'God' and religion.) Before Schreber's psychotic break, this distance manifests as a sort of disinterest in religion, i.e., he was not averse to it, yet not inclined toward it either.
...Nor was I (in my youth) a truly believing person in the sense of our positive religion. But neither have I been at any time contemptuous of religion; rather I avoided talking much about religious matters and I had the feeling that people who had luckily retained in their later years a pious child's belief, should not be disturbed in their happiness. But for my own part I had occupied myself too much with the natural sciences, particularly with the works based on the so-called modern doctrine of evolution, not to have begun to doubt, to say the least, the literal truth of all Christian religious teachings (Memoirs, MH 80, D 70, emphasis mine).
From this passage, it is clear that 'God' (or religion) did not and could not function as the master signifier par excellance. However, while 'God' is not a grounding master signifier for Schreber, 'God' (or religion) represents the symbolic legacy of Schreber's father. Thus when Schreber confronts the rent in his signifying structure, insofar as his father's symbolic legacy is religiona legacy and/or grounding signifier Schreber rejects (or forecloses)he encounters a void in the place of 'God26.' As such, Schreber is compelled to insert 'God'/ religion into his signifying structure. However, to the very extent that religion was inadequate as a master signifier prior to Schreber's psychotic break, it remains inadequate even as it is inserted with certainty.
The Law of the Father
The symbolic legacy of the father brings to the fore the function of the father. Regardless of whether it is performed by an actual father, a mother, or even a communal organization, e.g., a kibbutz) the function of the father is to situate the child in a larger orderthe order of Law and society, i.e., to introduce a third term into the family (or group) dyad. Specifically, it is to give the child a legitimate place in the Symbolic orderthe realm of society and culture. The introduction of the third term is often referred to specifically as 'triangulating' the mother-child dyad. However, the father function can prove inadequate even with the father present, and moreover even with a very authoritarian father. The father function opens the family dynamics, i.e., it sublates the law of the family to the Law of society. This is an essential pointparticularly in our analysis of Schreber and the Memoirs. Schreber's father (Daniel Gottlob Moritz Schreber27 [1808-1861]), was a religious crusader, one whose practices (particularly in the area of childhood pedagogy) had a significant impact on German society at the time28. In establishing the law rather than deferring to it, i.e., rather than demonstrating that he was also subject to a higher law (the Law of society as a whole), Moritz Schreber functioned as a real fathera particularrather than the representative of the signifier of the Name-of-the-Fathera universal. While Schreber's father did set down the law, make no mistake, it was his own law; and while Moritz Schreber represented himself as 'God's servant,' 'God' (as a signifier) answered to Moritz Schreber.
To the extent that Schreber's father functioned as a real father (versus a symbolic father), he was incapable of inserting Schreber into the realm of society as a universal Law. In other words, it is not simply that Schreber 'chose' science over religion, but rather, to the extent that the father function was not grounded in the realm of an overarching symbolic and universal Law, there was no symbolic 'place' for Schreber (existentially speaking). Again, it is hardly surprising that Schreber embraced the laws of sciencethe (universal) realm of Man.
Put another way, Schreber's most effective strategy to 'ground' himself in society (a structure where he has a 'place') is to take science (the realm of Man) as the signifier to ground all other signifiers. It is important to note however, that science is still a substitute, and as such, Schreber's 'place' is precarious. Thus it is indeed necessary to maintain a distance from that which would reveal his 'universe' to be predicated upon nothing. And it is not inconsequential that a fragment of Schreber's (now) disconnected signifying structure is positioned such that Schreber views himself as a 'danger' to 'God'; that is, science as the substitute master signifier that functions in place of the signifier of the Name-of-the-Father, must not collide with foreclosed signifier (this collision would result in a collapse). As such, it is dangerous for 'God' to approach man because in man, 'God' (quite literally) loses Himself29 (Memoirs, MH 48, D 24).
The Psychotic/Semiotic Collision: Science and Religion
As I have discussed, when science proves inadequate (specifically, Flechsig as a man of science and a 'nerve' specialist), Schreber's makeshift structure collapses, and with it, the distance separating the two realms30. With the distance breached, conditions are now contrary to the Order of the World.
As an important aside, the psychotic experiences the break with the Øther as the 'end of the world.' This is readily apparent in the Memoirs where Schreber asserts that "very early on [in his delusion] there predominated in recurrent nightly visions the notion of an approaching end of the world, as a consequence of the indissoluble connection between God and myself" (Memoirs, MH 84, D 53, emphasis in original). In other words, breaching the distance between the foreclosed signifier, i.e., God, which in Schreber's delusion manifests as "indissoluble contact with God" (Memoirs, MH 69, 75, 84, 101, 128, 155; D 53 ) inaugurates the end of the world as the latent psychotic understands it. With the distance breached, Schreber's signifying structure (or 'foundation') breaks into pieces, where order (albeit precarious) is reduced to chaos.
While under normal circumstances (conditions in accordance with the Order of the World), 'bliss' is obtained via a dispassionate detachment (according to standards of sexual decorum, and the scientific method), in failing to keep His distance, 'God' is "exposed as obscene and perverse." Insofar as there was no longer anything standing between Schreber and the abyss in the place of the signifier of the Name-of-the-Father, 'God' (as the foreclosed signifier) is experienced as invasive.
To the extent that science (along with Schreber) collapses into the place of the foreclosed signifierin this case, 'God'/religionSchreber must reconcile these discourses. Thus Schreber's nascent signifying structure involves a 'marriage' of sorts between the discourses of Religion ('God') and Science (Flechsig and Reason)31. This is particularly evident in phrases such as a "mechanical fastening" which led to the practice of "tying-to-rays" and later "tying-to-celestial-bodies" (Memoirs, MH 118, D 122, emphasis in original). In fact, the entire Memoirs plays out this endeavor, e.g., Schreber's writing style is scientific (i.e., he writes with meticulous detail), and he adheres to the scientific method (specifically, the principles of cause and effect). However, the cause is 'soul murder' and the effects are conditions contrary to the Order of the World. This is yet another example of Schreber continually introducing religious or 'unscientific' terms into a scientifically-oriented discourse. (And, as this analysis will demonstrate, these discourses are literally combined or 'united' in and through Schreber's literalized body.)
While, upon an initial reading of the Memoirs, it appears that Schreber is attempting to insert 'God' as the master signifier par excellance, upon closer reading, it is altogether clear that this 'God' lacks the strength to support Schreber's signifying 'universe,' and science is woefully inadequate to explain its ways. The Memoirs bears testimony to Schreber's dilemma, i.e., science (in and of itself) is ultimately ineffectual, i.e., it cannot explain the religious implications of his condition; yet religion (in and of itself) is also ineffectual, i.e., Schreber's 'God' is stupid, unreliable, and cannot resist urges of the moment (or see beyond the moment). As such, Schreber himself must take on the monumental task of assembling a 'hybrid' discourse by interweaving various elements (signifying fragments and/or clusters) of science and religion.
In this way, Truth (or rather truth) is literally combined or 'united' in and through Schreber's literalized body.)
That I would at all times be prepared to submit my body to medical examination for ascertaining whether my assertion is correct, that my whole body is filled with nerves of voluptuousness from the top of my head to the soles of my feet, such as is the case only in the adult female body, whereas in the case of a man, as far as I know, nerves of voluptuousness are only found in and immediately around the sexual organs. Should such an examination confirm that I am correct in what I assert, and should medical science thus be forced to admit that such phenomena on a male body cannot be explained in a natural way, then the 'delusion' of by body being to a large extent subject to the influence of divine miracles must appear in a very different light even to a wider circle of people...I am subjectively certain that my bodyas I have repeatedly stated in consequence of divine miraclesshows such organs to an extent as only occurs in the female body" (Memoirs, MH 204-205, D 245, emphasis mine).
While as the above passage demonstrates, Schreber adheres to the scientific method, i.e., science appears to be the means by which Schreber measures Truth, this 'appearance' is deceiving. As the master signifier in a closed circuit, Schreber's truth literally 'consists32' in and of himself. Others exist only to the extent that they recognize (and concur) with his truth(s). If not, Schreber dismisses them as 'fleeting-improvised men' (Memoirs, footnote 19). Thus, if medical science does not concur with Schreber, then medical science is wrong. If the authorities do not arrive at the same conclusion as Schreber, then the authorities are wrong (if indeed they exist at all). The point here is that insofar as Schreber positions himself as the measure of Truth (or rather, truth), the very nature of his delusional 'reconstruction' precludes the possibility of its ultimate success. Put another way, while Schreber's existence progressively becomes more tolerable, and his symptoms subside, he still retains the belief that he is the center of the 'universe.' To the extent that Schreber is a literalized discourse unto himself, a discourse where he functions as the master signifier par excellance, the Øther does not penetrate Schreber (i.e., despite its manifestation, his delusion is 'assembled' within an entirely closed circuit). At best, Schreber exists 'alongside' the Øther.
Schreber merges these disparate discourses in the Imaginary register. While I have alluded to the Imaginary throughout this analysis thus far, I would now like to stress this point. The Imaginary register is the realm of rivalry; as Schreber asserts, "whenever the Order of the World is broken, power alone counts, and the right of the stronger is decisive"33 (Memoirs, MH 78, D 66, emphasis mine). Moreover, Schreber's assertion that "God acts towards me in self-defense..." (Memoirs, footnote, 97, emphasis mine) exemplifies this dynamic. As I indicate in "Lacan and
Origami" (Figure 4), to the extent that Schreber is now a florid psychotic (versus a latent psychotic), he no longer has access to the Symbolic Order proper. This is not to argue that Schreber no longer has the ability to symbolize, but rather, that he is engaged in the process of reconnecting disconnected elements of what I refer to as his 'lower case' symbolic34. The dynamics however, are of the Imaginary realm. In this realm (governed by relations of rivalry), science and religionas antithetical discoursesare 'pitted' against each other, and finally reconciled in and through Schreber's body as a "union of all rays" (Memoirs, MH 166, 169, 176, 178, 186, 199, 223, 228, 237; D 189, 193, 203-204, 206, 218, 236, 268, 275, 287). Insofar as Schreber exists on the level of the Imaginary (the realm of physical 'consistency'), literalized fragments (or clusters) of his disconnected signifying structure take on a rivalrous and malevolent nature.
It is important to note however, that while Schreber believes he is the instrument of this reconstruction, i.e., the divine intermediary between 'God' and mankind (a medium through which a reconciliation of sorts can take place), to the extent that he no longer has access to the Øther, Schreber can only reincorporate and reconnect his existing (though unrecognizable) signifying fragments and clusters. In losing his access to the Øther, Schreber engages in the task of rebuilding his own universe; that is, while Schreber does restore a signifying structurea 'universe' where he has a placebecause Schreber's 'universe' is closed, his place is the only place. Now this is not to argue that there is no reconciliationthere is indeed. However, rather than a reconciliation between 'God' and mankind, there is a parallel semiotic 'reconciliation' of two disparate discourses: religion and science.
To further illustrate the 'closed environment' of the 'Schreberian universe,' consider the nature of 'souls.' Schreber maintains that their greatest pleasure lies in the recollection of past memoriesparticularly as they relate to others they have known (Memoirs, MH 52, D 28).
Souls' greatest happiness lies in continual reveling in pleasure combined with recollections of their human past...although the souls could retain the memory of their own human past, they could not for any length of time retain new impressions which they received as souls. This natural tendency of souls to forget would soon have erased any new adverse impressions (Memoirs, MH 52, D 28).
While initially this passage may appear as simply another inexplicable delusional manifestation, when read analytically, it becomes evident that it is both in keeping with psychotic literalization, i.e., 'souls' as Schreber's small others (which manifest as literal nerves)another example of the interweaving of religious and scientific terms, i.e., 'souls' (religious), and 'nerves' (scientific)and the closed linguistic circuit they inhabit. As such, 'souls' have only existing signifiers at their disposal; this manifests as their 'pleasure in reveling in the past,' and their inability to retain new impressions (Memoirs, MH 52, D 28). To reiterate, insofar as the 'Schreberian universe' is closed, the only (divine) penetration Schreber experiences is the reincorporation of his own signifying structure. As such, Schreber's relation to 'God' is entirely 'masturbatory.' (As an aside, given Moritz Schreber's rigorous interdiction against masturbation, the relation between Schreber and 'God' would most definitely constitute conditions contrary to the Order of the World35.)
Transformation Versus Creation in the Imaginary Register
Clearly, Schreber is not dealing with the universe per se; however this should not persuade us to minimize the complexity (and importance) of his task. Delusion is the 'creative,' or perhaps better stated, transformative means through which Schreber reconstructs his signifying structurehis very being. The distinction between these two terms, i.e., 'creative' and 'transformative' is essential. Because Schreber exists in a closed Imaginary circuit, nothing new can be introduced, i.e., by definition he cannot 'create.' Rather, Schreber rebuilds his signifying structure by manipulating existing elements; in particular by juxtaposing existing though disconnected signifying elements36. His hyphenated words are the most obvious case in point, e.g., tying-to-celestial-bodies, fleeting-improvised-men, and the writing-down-system37; as are Schreber's 'interrupted sentences,' e.g., "It will be ... done by, the joint of pork" (Memoirs, MH 173, D 199).
As I have indicated, the Imaginary realm is characterized by relations of rivalry, i.e., it lacks the societal pactthe Lawcharacteristic of the Symbolic Order. These rivalrous dynamics pervade the Memoirs. Within these dynamics, Schreber envisions himself as a sort of mediator (ironically, a representative of rationality and lawthe basis into which religion [as a discourse] is merged). While in Schreber's delusion this manifests as mediating between two opposing deities (i.e., Ariman and Ormuzd) and/or status-seeking small others (Flechsig in particular), as I have stressed thus far, Schreber is ultimately attempting to reconcile religion (the foreclosed signifier), and science (the substitute master signifier)one that eventually proved inadequate in and of itself. I have also argued that Schreber aims to unify these disparate discoursesdiscourses that were expelled and externalized at the onset of Schreber's (second) psychotic breakin and through his body as a 'union of all rays.'
Transformative Mechanisms: Re-establishing Distance
What is left to conjecture however, is the means of this reincorporation. Now Schreber asserts that "tying-to-celestial-bodies"38 became a permanent institution continuing to the present day and led to further consequences, particularly the "writing-down-system" (Memoirs, MH 118, D 123). Moreover, Schreber contends that "one must think of my body on our earth as connected to other stars by stretched out nerves (Memoirs, MH 118, D 123, emphasis mine). The following diagram illustrates the 'Schreberian universe.' Note also that Schreber's 'universe' is isolated from the Øther (represented by a vertical bar).
Zizek provides an insightful elucidation of this process. In The Sublime Object of Ideology, he indicates that
...the point de capiton is a word which, as a word, on the level of the signifier itself, unifies a given field, constitutes its identity: it is, so to speak, the word to which 'things' themselves refer to recognize themselves in their unity. (Zizek, 95-96, emphasis mine)
The implications are: 1) that signifying elements only have meaning in relation to other signifying elements (i.e., through difference); 2) 'meaning' is always and only established retroactively; and 3) that the master signifier is not simply a particularly dense nodal point, but rather, its role is entirely structural, and in and of itself, signifies nothing. If we conceptualize a system of differences, where meaning is not located in the signifier per se, but in its relation to other signifiers, this raises the question of whether a master signifier occupies a privileged status.
While from both a Derridean and Saussurean perspective, all signifiers would be considered equal (to the extent they acquire meaning through relations of difference), I suggest that we envision a linguistic structure within a hierarchal framework44. I propose a theoretical approach that utilizes both the concept of a master signifier, and a system of difference, i.e., where a master signifier 'pins' relations of difference as signifying clusters. If we accept as a postulate that meaning is established via difference, and use a kaleidoscope as an analogywhere signifiers, like colored pieces of glass, shift in an endless variety of patternsto the extent that the 'kaleidoscope' shifts, these signifying elements should assume entirely different meanings. This however, is not the case with Schreber. While the relation of master signifiers to the master signifier par excellance is severed, as are the relations between (subordinate) master signifiers, as Figure 3 (the Schreberian signifying structure) illustrates, the signifying clusters subsumed 'beneath' these severed master signifiers are retained. They are, as Schreber describes them, "like stars from which nerves hang suspended beneath them" (Memoirs, MH 84, 94, D 75, 90).
Schreber's signifying structure thus shatters on a horizontal plane (i.e., the connections between master signifiers are severed). However, while the vertical elements, or 'clusters' remain intact (i.e., they still maintain their relations of difference), to the extent that they refer to master signifiers that refer to nothing, these clusters are free-floating (hence the fleeting nature of the people Schreber encounters). Put another way, to the extent that these signifying elements (or fragments) remain in clusters (i.e., in relations of difference), they retain some of their meaning. Nevertheless, because there is no point de capiton to 'hold them in place,' (or rather, to keep them subsumed within given master signifiers), these signifying clusters are continually reorganized.
Now this prompts the question, 'what holds these signifying clusters in place?' While initially they continually shift, as Schreber's delusion progresses and 'rays,' manifesting as literalized 'nerves' are attached in and through Schreber's body, he becomes the literalized, feminized (or voluptuous, understood as 'full of nerves') corporeal master signifier par excellance that grounds all meaning (albeit in his closed Imaginary circuit).
For more than six years now my body has been filled with these nerves of voluptuousness through the continuous influx of rays or God's nerves. It is therefore hardly surprising that my body is filled through and through with nerves of voluptuousness to an extent which cannot be surpassed even by a female being (Memoirs, MH 207, D 247).
It is here that a semiotic analysis of the Memoirsan analysis that examines both the construction and disintegration of meaning in relation to difference, and does so within a hierarchical framework, i.e., signifiers that refer (or defer) to master signifiersbecomes increasingly complex. The semiotic 'reorganization' of Zoroastrianism is a case in point45. As a (second-level) master signifier, Zoroastrianism is clearly part of Schreber's signifying structure (Schreber is a very educated and well-read man). Early in his psychotic break, the 'subsumed' signifying cluster (which includes the elements 'Ariman' and 'Ormuzd') is detached from its master signifier (Zoroastrianism), a master signifier that after Schreber's (second) psychotic break, quite literally refers to nothing, i.e., as Figure 3 illustrates, the (first-level) master signifier 'Comparative Religion' refers to 'the abyss.' To the extent that 'Comparative Religion' refers to nothingan abyss in the place of the signifier of the Name-of-the-Fatherit becomes meaningless. In this way, Ariman and Ormuzd become elements of a 'free-floating' signifying cluster. However, it is important to keep in mind that as a signifying cluster, i.e., as signifiers existing in relations of difference, these signifying elements maintain some of their meaning. Thus Ariman and Ormuzd continue to exist as opposing forces. Moreover, their 'battle' is fought out in terms of cosmogony and eschatologykey elements of Zoroastrianism. Of particular interest however (although this is not depicted in Figure 3), is that Ariman and Ormuzd are repositioned (and 'pinned') by a 'quasi-Christian' deity, i.e., another master signifierand, not incidentally, one that is 'dependent' upon Schreber.
Another example of the semiotic reorganization of Zoroastrianism is its emphasis on rituals of purification. In Schreber's reorganized 'universe,' nerves (as the literalized structuring material that holds signifying clusters in place, master signifiers in relation to each other, and everything in relation to Schreber) assume a color, i.e., black, indicating impurity or depravity of character, or white indicating purity. As Schreber asserts,
...the nerves of morally depraved men are blackened; morally pure men have white nerves; the higher a man's moral standard in life, the more his nerves become completely white or pure, an intrinsic property of God's nerves (Memoirs, MH 49, D 25).
Now as I've discussed, Schreber's 'universe' starts to 'rot' (or decay) when it is exposed as based upon nothing. Schreber thus envisions himself as a leper who "inters other lepers/corpses [in order] to provide for themselves an at least tolerable death" (Memoirs, MH 98, D 94). In semiotic terms, this 'plague' evidences both the literal decay of Schreber's signifying structure, and a means through which he engages in its reconstruction, i.e., 'purifying' nerves through his body is yet another means of reincorporating (and reorganizing) disconnected signifying elements. Schreber's task, as such, is not only to reconnect the 'universe,' but through his transformative, nerve-filled body, to purify its decayed nerves (Memoirs, MH 72-73, D 59).
Rot and purificationkey elements of Zoroastrianismcan also be discerned in what Schreber refers to as 'putrid matter.' Specifically, Schreber contends that "day after day and hour after hour, poison of corpses and other putrid matter which the rays carried was heaped upon [his] body, in the belief that it would be possible in this way to suffocate [him] eventually and in particular to rob [him] of [his] reason" (Memoirs, MH 120, D 126). Of particular interest however, is Schreber's association of this 'rottenness' with the practice of 'tying-to-celestial bodies,' i.e., a means of reconnecting his disconnected signifying structure.
I have reason to assume that the poison of corpses or the putrid matter was taken from the same celestial bodies to which the rays had been tied, and where they were packed as it were with it or soaked it up in passing (Memoirs, MH 120-121, D 126, emphasis mine).
Based upon this analysis thus far, it can be argued that these incessantly repeated, yet meaningless (disconnected) signifiers are the (literalized) 'refuse' of Schreber's semiotic reconstruction. Allow me to elaborate this point. To the extent that this 'putrid matter' is caught within a closed circuit, there is no exit; hence it continually reappears as nonsense. Put another way, 'putrid matter' is the 'debris,' so to speak, of the signifiers and signifying clusters that Schreber uses to reconstruct his 'universe.' In other words, because these signifying clusters are incorporated in (very) different ways, there is always a surplus. In banal terms, to the extent that Schreber's 'universe' is confined to himself, there is no place to 'dump the garbage.' Thus the putrid mattersignifying refuseis 'dumped' on Schreber and in particular, his nerves (Memoirs, MH 98, 120, 135, 156; D 95, 126, 146, 175). Supporting this argument, Schreber explicitly refers to 'putrid matter' as "the remnants [that have been detached from] the forecourts of heaven" (Memoirs, MH 124, 121; D 190, 196).
Schreber's Pregnancy: A 'Body' of Signifiers
At this point I would like to shift this analysis to another very interesting 'development,' i.e., Schreber's transsexualism. In the Memoirs, Schreber states categorically that creation is "creation out of the void " (Memoirs, MH 42, D 16-17, emphasis mine); though at the same time, he asserts that this is beyond human understandingand importantly, that it is contrary to scientific beliefs (Memoirs, MH 42, D 16-17, emphasis mine). Yet if Schreber's breakdown is a semiotic confrontation with an abyss rather than a grounding signifier (the signifier of the Name-of-the-Father), then his 'creation' is precisely a creation (or rather 'transformation') out of the void. And Schreber himself must (literally) fill this void by reconciling these disparate discourses through a 'union of all rays,' a union, that in this concretized universe can only occur via the 'voluptuous' of his nerve-filled body. To the extent that Schreber equates nerves with femininity, his transformation into a woman, i.e., becoming full of nerves46, is essential in his endeavor to establish himself as the master signifier.
The significance of this, as it elucidates a semiotic analysis of the Memoirs, cannot be underestimated. Schreber's transformation into a woman is one of the most prevalent themes in the Memoirsone that has spurred various interpretations. Although Freud's rendition is generally considered to be (at least somewhat) reductionist, it continues to hold its own as the most infamous. In 'Notes on a Case of Paranoia,' Freud reduces Schreber's (very complex) delusion to a homosexual wish (where Flechsig is the object of sexual desire) and as such, situates Schreber's delusional transformation into a woman as a "solution of the conflict" (Freud, 183).
It was impossible for Schreber to become reconciled to playing the part of a female wanton towards his doctor; but the task of providing God Himself with the voluptuous sensations that He required called up no such resistance of the part of his ego. Emasculation was now no longer a disgrace; it became 'consonant with the Order of Thing', [sic] it took its place in a great cosmic chain of events, and was instrumental in the re-creation of humanity after its extinction....His ego found compensation in his megalomania, while his feminine wishful phantasy made its way through and become acceptable. The struggle and the illness could cease (Freud, 183).
It has also been argued that the devices of constraint devised by Schreber's father (and tested on his sons) 'predisposed' Schreber to a passive 'feminized' position, or eroticized the passive position. Lacan, on the other hand, takes a structural approach and argues that Schreber's 'transsexualism' is the result of the lack of the signifier of the Name-of-the-Father, i.e., since there is no paternal signifier to 'ground' Schreber, he 'regresses' to the feminine. While I do agree with Lacan that it is the lack of the signifier of the Name-of-the-Father that incites Schreber's transformation into a woman, it is not for the same reason. It continues to be my argument that insofar as the signifier of the Name-of-the-Father is foreclosed, and that this radical lack is confronted and revealed as empty, the subordinate master signifiers refer to nothing. Furthermore insofar as the subordinate master signifiers refer to nothing, they themselves become unhinged and empty. Schreber's signifying structure is, as such, predicated upon nothing. Situating this in terms of kinship relations (another theme that pervades the Memoirs), without a 'semiotic progenitor,' Schreber is illegitimate, i.e., he has no 'place' in the Symbolic Order (the realm of Law).
Now as I have argued throughout this analysis, Schreber does not (and cannot) create; however he does transform by reconnecting and reorganizing existing (though disconnected) signifiers. In this way, Schreber constructs a body of signfiersthough one with an entirely different shape. Pivotal to this line of argumentation is Schreber's 'conception' of nerves. In the 'Schreberian universe,' souls (both 'tested' and 'untested') and rays (of God) manifest as literalized nerves. Indeed, nerves are the very infrastructure of the 'Schreberian universe.' Thus Schreber asserts that nerves "develop to a complex system which embraces the most widespread regions of human knowledge" (Memoirs, MH 45, D 19, emphasis mine). With the totality of human knowledge literally residing in Schreber, i.e., with his body filled with nerves, Schreber is 'pregnant' with his own incipient signifying structure. While in his delusion this manifests as his divine calling to give birth to a new race, it is ultimately for Schreber to give birth to himself, i.e., to install himself as the master signifier par excellance. In his feminine and creative (or rather, transformative) capacityhis 'soul-voluptuousness' (Memoirs, MH 99, 120, 122, 145-146, 148, 150-151, 156, 165-168, 173, 175-178, 186, 189, 193, 199, 201-202, 209-210, 214, 221, 223, 225, 228-229, 231, 235, 237-240, 252; D 128, 166-167)Schreber fills the void in the 'universe' with his voluptuous bodya literalized, hybrid 'body of knowledge.'
Now Schreber's body must have the capacity to facilitate these rays (imagine a foetus in a male body). To reiterate an important point, insofar as Schreber reconstructs a new 'universe' out of the fragments of his shattered signifying structure, he constructs a new S2. Understood from this perspective, Schreber's transformation into a woman is 'semiotically' coextensive with the process of reincorporating and reorganizing his disconnected signifying fragments, i.e., by incorporating 'nerves of voluptuousness.' Thus while the confrontation with the lack of the signifier of the Name-of-the-Father instigates Schreber's breakdown, his transformation into a woman is far more complex than what Lacan envisions (particularly from a semiotic perspective).
Returning to Freud for a moment, his argument that Schreber becomes a female to facilitate sexual relations with a male (be it Flechsig or God), misses a crucial element of Schreber's delusion. Recall that Schreber feels compelled to envision himself as both a man and a woman engaged in sexual relations, "I have to imagine myself as a man and woman in one person having intercourse with myself" (Memoirs, MH 208, D 250). Put another way, Schreber's body must be the locus which facilitates the 'marriage' of opposing or different entities. Filled with nerves of God (nerves of voluptuousness) merged with science, Schreber facilitates a new orderone where the foreclosed signifier (religion or God) and its substitute (science) are reconciled in and through his nerve-filled (and as such, feminized) body.
Understood in semiotic terms, the signifying elements (which Schreber envisions as "nerve endings") that "dissolve in [Schreber's] body" are 'pinned' by Schreber in his 'seminal' capacity as the master signifier par excellance (via tying-to-celestial-bodies, the practice of not-finishing-a-sentence, and the writing-down-system). The rather paradoxical situation that emerges, however, is that in restoring this universal balance, these 'souls' become part of Schreber's body; this results in an increase of "soul voluptuousness" (Memoirs, MH 83, D 74). Thus the more souls 'lose themselves' in Schreber, the more souls are attracted to him. As Schreber points out, "I always warned them against approaching me, since I had become aware of the immensely increased power of attraction of my nerves from what had happened earlier, but the souls could not at first believe that I had such a dangerous power of attraction" (Memoirs, MH 84, D 75). In this way, Schreber's 'soul voluptuousness' increases exponentially to the extent that he is ultimately greater than God.
It is through this semiotic process of reincorporation, or establishing a structure where all signifying elements refer to him, that Schreber succeeds in establishing himself as the master signifier par excellance. Interestingly, this process parallels the way God (previously) renewed Himself through the reabsorption of souls (before conditions were contrary to the Order of the World). "It was ... the ultimate destiny of all souls to merge with other souls, and integrate into higher entities, remaining aware only of being part of God" (Memoirs, MH 52, D 29).
To elaborate this point, under 'normal' circumstances, 'souls' (i.e., the physical remnants of dead human beings) 'lose themselves' in God through their reabsorption into His totalitya totality of physical, literalized nerves. However, with conditions contrary to the Order of the World, souls now 'lose themselves' in Schreber. Put another way, instead of divine renewal occurring through God, it now occurs through Schreber. This concerns Schreber and leads him to contemplate "[w]hat detailed measures God would have to adopt after my death I feel I can hardly as much as speculate on" (Memoirs, MH 213, D n/a). Schreber is not simply a rivala dynamic facilitated by the Imaginary but a substitute for God. "They [the souls] ... regain in my body a more or less adequate substitute for the lost heavenly Blessedness which itself consisted in enjoyment similar to voluptuousness" (Memoirs, MH 149-150, D 166). In short, Schrebernot Godbecomes the grounding master signifier of the universe (albeit Schreber's own [unrecognizable] signifying structure).
Furthering this line of argument, insofar as Schreber's incipient signifying structure re-enters his body, he prepares to give birth to a new order (as the 'voices' indicate "[a] new race of human beings from the spirit of Schreber") (Memoirs, MH 211, D n/a). Thus to the extent that Schreber increases in sizea semiotic 'pregnancy,' so to speak, the 'universe' decreases (Memoirs, MH 94-95, 196; D 90, 166). Unlike Zizek's 'entirely structural' master signifier, as the master signifier par excellance, Schreber is precisely and quite literally 'a particularly dense nodal point.' Moreover, as the signifying elements (or clusters) previously 'attached' to God are progressively 'soaked up' into Schreber, he becomes infallible. In other words, to the extent that religionGodand science (as discourses) are progressively 'emptied,' truth (albeit lowercase) is quite literally located within Schreber. In his (literalized) delusion, this manifests as a physical increase in 'soul voluptuousness.' It is through Schreber's 'soul-voluptuousness,' or in semiotic terms, reincorporating and reorganizing his (previously) disconnected signifying elements, that Schreber believes he has become invulnerable. Thus he asserts with "absolute certainty...that God will never succeed in his purpose of destroying [his] reason" (Memoirs, MH 211, D 168). And that "[t]he scales of victory are coming down on [his] side more and more, the struggle against [him] continues to lose its previous hostile character, [and] the growing soul-voluptuousness makes [his] physical condition and [his] other outward circumstances more bearable" (Memoirs, MH 214, D n/a).
This leads to a very interesting phenomena. As these 'external' discourses are progressively 'emptied' via their reincorporation into Schreber, phrases become increasingly monotonous and grammatically incomplete, i.e., there is an inverse relation between the grammatical integrity of the external voices (souls and rays) and Schreber's reincorporation of his signifying 'universe.' Indeed, the 'voices' are eventually so indecipherable, that Schreber likens them to a hissing sound. (Memoirs, MH 202, D 241). Given the continual references to 'proximity' that pervade the Memoirs, it is hardly surprising that Schreber attributes this to the long distances these rays must now span due to the paucity of their vocabulary.
The tempo in which one speaks has slowed down almost beyond imagination as mentioned in Article 16 of the Memoirs and even since then. I have already given the reason: the more my body's soul-voluptuousness has increasedand it is increasing rapidly and constantly through the uninterrupted influx of God's nervesthe more slowly one must let the voices speak so as to bridge the vast distances between my body and their celestial abode with their few meager recurring phrases available (Memoirs, MH 225-226, D 272).
In other words, as Schreber's soul-voluptuousness increases, i.e., as he progressively reincorporates his signifying elements (manifesting as souls and nerves), there is a "great shortage of speech-material at the disposal of the rays [which have not already been reincorporated into Schreber] with which to bridge the vast distances separating the stars, where they are suspended, from [his] body" (Memoirs, MH 175, D 202).
When situated within the perspective of 'nerve language,' the scarcity of words at the rays' disposal results in fewer 'vibrations.' Thus (and quite literally), as the rays are progressively 'absorbed' or 'soaked up' into Schreber, i.e., reincorporated into his signifying structure (where they are no longer experienced as external), they run out of words. At this point, Schreber has reincorporated most of his small others, his signifying fragments and clusters. However as I indicate above, he 'stitches' them together in a bizarre fashion (though one that 'works' for him). And in so doing, he inserts himself as the master signifier par excellance where everything refers to him (or as his delusion manifests, are 'attached' in and through his body).
Writing his Memoirs is both a means for Schreber to 'solidify' his linguistic structurethe new S2he constructs, and to incorporate it (or arguably, himself) into an over-arching structure. By inscribing it in writing (and publishing it), he situates his structure within the realm of society as a whole. Put another way, even though Schreber writes his Memoirs on the Imaginary plane, by publishing his work, his signifying structure circulates within the Symbolic. Indeed, it was Schreber's intent (and belief) that his new S2 be integrated into the existing body of knowledge. "I can only see a real purpose in my life if I succeed in putting forward the truth of my so-called delusions, so that other people will be convinced and mankind gain a truer insight into the nature of God" (Memoirs, MH 248, D 302). However, to the extent that his new signifying structure is constructed on the Imaginary plane in a closed circuit, his S2 is qualitatively different than the S2 of the Symbolic (at any given time). Specifically, while the normal/neurotic refers to the Øther to constitute (and confirm) his or her sense of reality, the psychotic, by contrast, refers to him- or herself.
At a later point in Schreber's delusion, he once again recognizes the existence of 'real' people, and this causes him to question his previous views. Now keep in mind that these 'real' people have been there all alonghe just was not able to recognize them. In other words, his signifying structure is now such that he can recognize other people. However and this is importanthe still retains the belief that there is a qualitative change in the world. And indeed, to the extent that 'the world' is his signifying structure, it has changed.
To reiterate, once Schreber's signifying structure achieves a certain degree of ontological integrity or stabilityonce it begins to congealSchreber refers to the Law (the Øther) for his release. In a sense then, having re-established himself on the Imaginary plane (reconnecting his signifying structure), and in so doing being able to recognize himself as a human being "worthy of human dignity" (Memoirs, MH 201, D 238) and is able to recognize real others (not just his own small others). With his signifying structure now intact (though with a bizarre organization), he seeks a 'place' in the Symbolic Order proper. The question remains though: does his discourse (now) pass through the circuit of the Øther? or is the law he invokes and appeals to simply signifiers in his own closed circuit?
As I emphasize throughout this analysis, while Schreber seeks validation from the Øther (in this case medical authorities), the measure of truth remains within himselfand it is a literal and corporeal truth, i.e., his body. What Schreber experiences as 'soul voluptuousness' is in fact a reconstructed 'body of signifiers.' Thus the 'meaning' of Schreber's delusion, the signifying structure he constructs (by juxtaposing existing signifying elements and/or clusters) physically manifests in and on his body. While Schreber may now recognize the existence of doctors (where earlier in his delusion, they were all fleeting-improvised men), the last word remains in his body (versus the abstract scientific body of knowledge). So there has been a change, i.e., Schreber does recognize the ontology of others, however the locus of truth is not in a universala shared cultural/societal S2but rather, it remains in himself. Consequently, rather than obtaining a 'place' in the Symbolic Order proper, as I indicated earlier, Schreber can (at best), exist alongside the Øther.
1. As this analysis will demonstrate, the semiotic collision resembles a cosmological 'big bang' (on many levels). Briefly stated however, the collapse of the substitute discourse into the place of the foreclosed signifier constitutes an implosion. With the barrier breached, relations between signifiers shatter such that they become unrecognizable as one's own. This results in an explosion, or perhaps better put, an expulsion of seemingly external and foreign entities. However, as these signifiers are progressively reincorporated via psychotic delusion, the 'universe' ceases to expand and again starts to compress.
2. In the first sentence of Article II, Schreber asserts that "[t]his "miraculous structure" has recently suffered a rent, intimately connected with my personal fate" (Memoirs, MH 54, D 33, emphasis mine).
3. Throughout this analysis I will use the term "Øther" simply as a 'short-hand' version of "the barred Other," i.e., the 'Otherness' of the Symbolic Order.
4. 'Fleeting-improvised' is more accurately translated as being quickly or hastily put together, i.e., put together without much thought; temporary apparitions to serve a specific purpose. When put into context of the task of Schreber's delusion, i.e., reconstructing his signifying universe, these fleeting-improvised-men can be understood as temporary 'props' necessary for only a short period of time (Schreber's own improvisation) in his greater endeavor to reconnect his signifying universe.
5. Schreber sees himself "cast in several roles": "a Hyperbolian woman," a Jesuit Novice in Ossegg," a "Burgomaster of Klattau," "an Alsatian girl who had to defend her honor against a victorious French officer," finally "a Mongolian Prince." (Memoirs, MH 93, D 88).
6. According to Lacan, "[t]he fourth term, it happens, is the sinthome. It is just as surely the Father...and that, in short, the Father is a symptom, of if you prefer, a sinthome. The ex-sistence of the symptom is implied by the very position, which supposes this enigmatic link between the imaginary, the symbolic and the real. (Lacan, Seminar XXIII, 6, emphasis mine) And, "[w]hat I have defined for the first time as a sinthome is what allows the symbolic, the imaginary and the real to be held together..." (Lacan, Seminar XXIII, 42).
7.Copied with permission from Luke Thurston's "Writing the Symptom: Lacan's Joycean Knot."
8. "The problematic of legitimacy which shows itself to be that of legitimation takes a form here, perhaps, in the imaginary dimension, and its recuperation." (Lacan, Seminar XXIII, 34)
9. In fact it can be argued that under these circumstances, 'the subject' is a misnomer, i.e., the subject exists only insofar as he or she occupies a legitimate (recognized) 'place' in an overarching kinship structure.
10. "...the Name-of-the-Father is also the Father of the name..." (Lacan, Seminar XXIII, 6).
11. See the Memoirs, MH 57-58, D 37-38) for Schreber's description of this process (or rather, this 'plot').
12. Given that the 'place of God' was (for Schreber), an empty place, it is hardly surprising that Schreber would experience such immense frustration with such an obstinately 'empty' deitya 'God' who could not learn from experience, and only relate to dead things. (Memoirs, MH 48, 154, D 24, 172)
13. As a florid psychotic, however, he now contends with a proliferation of unbarred (small) others, e.g., Flechsig , von W., and countless other 'souls' he has known in his life; and the quintessential unbarred OtherGodin His manifest forms as Ariman and Ormuzd.
14. Schreber asserts that "[t]he lower and upper God...are not able to understand the living human being ... while they are at a distance" (Memoirs, MH 153, D 170). And "...everything spoken and done by human beings near me is due to the effect of miracles and directly connected with the rays coming nearer and alternately striving to withdraw again" (Memoirs, MH 164, D 187, emphasis mine).
15. I will discuss the semiotic implications of these 'interrupted sentences' further in this analysis.
16. This analysis will demonstrate that Schreber's 'femininity' is directly related to his increase in 'nervousness,' i.e., being 'full of nerves.'
17. Pun(s) intended, i.e., both sexual (sex as a 'bang' [and with 'God,' a particularly big bang]); and cosmological theory of the 'big bang.'
18. Again, pun intended, i.e., "[d]ecisive for my mental collapse was one particular night; during that night I had a quite unusual number of pollutions (perhaps half a dozen)" (Memoirs, MH 68, D 53).
19. While Schreber's ultimate goal is to 'unite' this rotting, externalized universe though his body, it initially manifests as physical threat, "an advancing yellow tide" against which he must build a fortress (Memoirs, MH 87, D 79). Schreber experiences a threat of something that would engulf him, or drown him (another recurring theme in the Memoirs). Schreber, in a sense, is in danger of 'drowning' in his own 'unanchored' signifiers; they threaten to overwhelm him, and it is not inconsequential that this occurs early in his delusion, i.e., before he has built at least something of a signifying structure into which this sea of disconnected signifiers can be organized and 'grounded.' Schreber, at this point in his delusion, does not feel grounded; rather he is, in a sense, free-floating in a system (or universe) that has no ground, or foundation. In fact, Schreber associates this very term, i.e., "foundation" with ;"nerves of mind" where the latter is a basic human right (and one he is denied).
20. Schreber describes "the tendency innate in the Order of the World, according to which a human being ("a seer of spirits") must under certain circumstances be "unmanned" (transformed into a woman) once he has entered into indissoluble contact with divine nerves (rays)" (Memoirs, MH 69, D 53).
21. As this analysis will further demonstrate, Schreber constantly inserts 'scientific' signifiers within a 'quasi-religious' discourse.
22. Again, this is literal; as Schreber asserts that "six years of uninterrupted influx of God's nerves into my body has led to the total loss of all the states of Blessedness which had accumulated until then and made it impossible for the time being to renew them; the state of Blessedness is so to speak suspended and all human beings who have since died or will die can for the time being not attain to it. For God's nerves also it is unpleasant and against their will to enter into my body, shown by the continual cries for help which I daily hear in the sky from those parts of the nerves which have become separated from the total mass of nerves." (Memoirs, MH 60-61, D 42)
23. For additional references to proximity and distance, see pages MH 46, 48, 94-95, 118; D 15 48.
24. Ironically, this 'universal crisis' is very much a 'particular.'
25. Insofar as the psychotic believes he must sacrifice himself for the good of the world, he suffers from a "messiah complex." Thus Schreber's head is surrounded by a shimmer of light (a "crown of rays"), and one that is "incomparably richer and brighter" that the one of Christ. In this sense, Schreber exceeds God; he does not merely supplement God, but rather supplants God (or Christ) as the master signifier par excellance. In fact, almost immediately following his description of the "crown of rays" around his head, he asserts that "the sun had to remain where I was or I myself had to be brought back." In other words, Schreber is the center of his new signifying structure; and as such (and like Christ), it is incumbent upon him to sacrifice himself for mankind. Indeed Schreber compares himself and his experiences to Christ. "When I think of my sacrifices through loss of an honorable professional position, a happy marriage practically dissolved, deprived of all the pleasures of life, subjected to bodily pain, mental torture and terrors of a hitherto unknown kind, the picture emerges of a martyrdom which in all I can only compare with the crucifixion of Jesus Christ" (Memoirs, MH 214, D n/a).
26. This will be discussed in detail in the following section.
27. Daniel Gottlob Moritz Schreber authored (among other books), Medical indoor gymnastics or A system of hygenic exercises for home use to be practised anywhere without apparatus or assistance by young and old of either sex for the preservation of health and general activity, rev. by R. Graefe, tr. by H.A. Day, 1899, with a plate and 45 illustrations in the text.
28. In fact, as MacAlpine and Hunter point out in the introduction to the Memoirs, "[i]n German-speaking countries small allotment gardens are called Schrebergärten after him" (Memoirs, MH 1, D n/a).
29. "On some night the souls finally dripped down on to my head, in a manner of speaking, in their hundreds if not thousands, as "little men." I always warned them against approaching me, since I had become aware of the immensely increased power of attraction of my nerves from what had happened earlier, but the souls could not at first believe that I had such a dangerous power of attraction." (Memoirs, MH 24, D 75)
30. It is worth noting that Schreber's 'God' is divided into anterior and posterior realms; and within the posterior realms, divided between Arimanthe deity most 'comfortable' with the body, and Ormuzdthe deity who remained at an enormous distance (appearing as a "tiny disc") (Memoirs, MH 229, D 276).
31. The 'harmonization' of these two discourses (science and religion) was also one of the main projects of the public intellectual in the latter half of the 19th century.
32. With the connotation of 'corporeal consistency.'
33. See Jacques Lacan, "The mirror stage as formative of the function of the I," Écrits (New York: London: W.W. Norton & Company, 1977), Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. Alan Sheridan, and "The Topic of the Imaginary," Seminar I (New York and London: Routledge, 1988), Translated with notes by John Forrester. Also see Dylan Evans, An Introduction Dictionary of Lacanian Psychoanalysis (London and New York, Routledge, 1996), page 82-84; Dany Nobus, Jacques Lacan and the Practice of Psychoanalysis (London and Philadelphia: Routledge, 2000), page 63-66.
34. The 'lower case' symbolic is a particular signifying structure that has not been sublated to the Symbolic Order proper via the Oedipus Complex and the signifier of the Name-of-the-Father.
35. Schreber's father, Daniel Gottlob Moritz Schreber (1808-1861), who authored (among other books) Medical indoor gymnastics (Revised by R. Graefe, translated by H.A. Day, 1899), was not only a religious crusader but was also a crusader against masturbation; believing it to be the cause of 'softness' of the German people at the time.
36. It should be noted that in creating neologisms by juxtaposing existing words, Schreber's method is very much in keeping with the construction of the German language.
37. Schreber's hyphenated words also serves as an example of psychotic literalization; in this case, verbs are transformed (or concretized) into nouns (and nouns with only a single denotation).
38. "As the expression denotes, a tying to some distant stars occurred which from then on excluded the possibility of a complete dissolution in my body in consequence of my power of attraction" (Memoirs, MH 118, D 122).
39. The writing-down-system parallels the reconstruction of Schreber's signifying structure, i.e., once incorporated it becomes mundane and banal. This is similar to the first appearance of the posterior realms of God; at first Schreber believed them to be authentic (to the extent that he did not recognize them, even though they were his own disconnected signifying elements). However, as they were incorporated into his own signifying structure (absorbed into his body as a literalized master signifier), they lost their authenticity. Put another way, because they were already incorporated into Schreber, "re-recording" them would be redundant. Only new phrases, i.e., externalized elements of his own disconnected signifying structure, were recorded. As such, Schreber asserts that the "frightening-miracle" is "to be regarded as the very first beginnings of divine creation" (Memoirs, MH 190, D 224).
40. See "Lacan and Origami: A Three-Tiered Approach to Psychosis" for a detailed description of the phenomenon.
41. As in the practice of 'tying-to-celestial-bodies' (Memoirs, MH 118, 126, 150, 157, 166, 173, 198, 212-213, 228, 231; D 122-123, 133-134, 166, 176, 190, 199, 235, 276, 279).
42. Again, Schreber is the means of measurement for reality. Yet this is not different from the Cartesian subject; in fact, despite its philosophical authority, such a 'self-contained' subject would be psychotic.
43. In footnote 36 in the Memoirs, Schreber lists some of the scientific signifiers that he used to 'prop up' his signifying structure: "I wish to quote some of the works bearing on philosophy or natural science which I had read repeatedly during the ten years before my illness, because one will find in many places of this essay allusions to ideas contained in these works. As examples I will quote only Haeckel, The History of Natural Creation; Caspari, Primordial History of Mankind; du Prel, Evolution of the Universe; Maedler, Astronomy; Carus Sterne, Beginning and End; Meyer's Journal "Between Heaven and Earth"; Neumayer, History of the Earth; Rancke, Man; several philosophical essays by Eduard von Hartmann, particular in the periodical "The Present," etc., etc."
44. See Figure 3: Schreberian Signifying Structure for a topographical rendition of this hierarchal framework.
45. Heading the good spirits was Ahura Mazdah (also Ormazd or Ormuzd) [sovereign knowledge], in primitive Zoroastrianism the only god. Six attendant deities, the Amesha Spentas, surround him. These abstract representations, formerly the personal aspects of Ahura Mazdah, are Vohu Manah [good thought], Asha Vahista [highest righteousness], Khshathra Vairya [divine kingdom], Spenta Armaiti [pious devotion], Haurvatat [salvation], and Ameretat [immortality]. In time the Amesha Spentas became archangelic in character and less abstract. Opposing the good ahuras were the evil spirits, the daevas or divs, led by Ahriman. The war between these two supernatural hosts is the subject matter of the fully developed cosmogony and eschatology of Zoroastrianism..
46. It is Schreber's belief that "nerves of voluptuousness exist over the whole female body whereas in the male in the sexual organs and their proximity only" Memoirs, MH 240, D 244, emphasis mine).
Fink, Bruce, The Lacanian Subject: Between Language and Jouissance, (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press), 1995.
Freud, Sigmund. "Psychoanalytic Notes on an Autobiographical Account of a Case of Paranoia(Dementia Paranoides) (Schreber)" (1911 ), Case Histories II. Volume 9, Penguin/Freud Library, Eds. Angela Richards, Albert Dickson, trans. James Strachey.
Lacan, Jacques, Écrits: A Selection. Trans. Alan Sheridan., (New York London: W.W. Norton & Company, 1977).
Lacan, Jacques, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan: Book III, Ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. Russell Grigg, (New York London: W.W. Norton & Company, 1988).
Lacan, Jacques, The Seminar of Jacques Lacan: Book XXIII: The Sinthome, [draft translation by Luke Thurston.]
Neiderland, William., The Schreber Case, (Hillsdale, N.J.: Analytic Press, 1984).
Schatzman, Morton, Soul Murder, (New York: Random House, 1973).
Schreber, Daniel Paul, Memoirs of My Nervous Illness, Eds. and Trans. Ida MacAlpine and
Richard Hunter, (London: W. Dawson, 1955).
Zizek, Slavoj, The Sublime Object of Ideology, (London, New York: Verso, 1989).