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Marie de la Trinitée analysante de Lacan

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Kristell Jeannot: Mary of the Trinity, analysand of Lacan.

Is it necessary to adjudicate the mystical oeuvre of Mary of the Trinity? I mean to study nothing but its other side. In fact, Mary allowed us to understand the other side of her mysticism, the clinical real that it covered, by the account of her analysis with Lacan. A courageous act. Beyond the editorial form of her mysticism, she provides a glimpse of the knotted secrets of an impasse that would cause her descent into what she named her “Examination of Job”. If the religious, said Lacan,“ put God in charge of the cause, but (cuts off) its own access to the truth there,” oh well, Mary, she teaches a lesson in ethics: she endeavors to say it succinctly, particularly in relating the things Lacan shared with her.

In the beginning of her analysis, Mary raised her complaint toward things exterior to her that will have caused her to be sick. Dr. Lacan disabused her of her Pascalian diversions: “You had to put yours there in order to make it so.” Here is thus a succinct traversing of her analysis, a going-through of subjective rectifications brought about by the analyst. I have arranged this material using a model formed by tradition, that of the seven deadly sins.

Lacan told her: “There were other things besides love of God. If there were nothing but love of God, this wouldn’t have happened.”

First sin: Sloth
In 1944 Mary of the Trinity yearned for illness in order to escape a conflict that was tormenting her: she found her self divided between her desire to lead a contemplative life, and the Dominican life that was her day-to-day: “Sometimes,” she says, “I ask myself why the Lord doesn’t make me physically incapable […]: like by making me sick”.

In fact, mental illness compelled her to live in the margins of the religious community for almost fifteen years. She no longer strove for anything, it was impossible for her to attend mass, let alone pray. She claimed the spiritual leaders (Directeurs spirituals) were responsible for her despondency. Lacan retorted: “It seems to me that you’ve never taken control of your life”. It was thus possible for Mary to concede her “cowardice,” and uncover, point by point, her own hand in the matter.

Second sin: Envy
Mary was up in arms about the takeover by men of the Church’s operations. A series of dreams brought her Penisneid to light: “recounted the dream from yesterday – insisted upon the analogy between this little girl from the previous dream and this little boy – recalled that another time I desired to be priest for the praise of God”.

Lacan interpreted it: “yet you see that this priesthood leads you to this little boy with the regret that you’re not him”. In any event, she manifests her phallic demand in her dialogue by highlighting the importance of personal priesthood – free of Christ and made possible by the mystical union with God – vis-à-vis ministerial priesthood.

Third sin: Gluttony
Mary suffered all her life of mental anorexia. Over the course of her analysis, she pondered the paradoxical greed that led her into her bond with the other: “Love and resistance: lose the resistance and you lose the love as well – because I believe that love is the second stage of resistance […] Greed and love convey the measure of resistance. Take away resistance, there is no longer greed or love.” Lacan appealed to her development: “You remember your dietary problems. Let’s try to grasp the most recent: why did you come on Thursday instead – If you can face up to the tension where you’re on this couch and communicating in words, not gestures – In this resistance you feel, you’re touching the core (19/3/52)”.

Fourth sin: Pride
Mary of the Trinity on her oeuvre: “It seems to me as if it were in no way about me, that the totality of what is written is just as, if not more, important, the writings of Saint John of the Cross, Saints Theresa of Avila and of Lisieux […]” At the same time, the modesty that she proclaims each week reveals high self-esteem: “I believe my values are superior to those by whom I am surrounded: values of ideas and spiritual richness – but the judgment of others has ruined me.” Lacan responds to her pointedly: “You’re mining ideas, and you stand in admiration before your ideas.” “The steeple, look at the rooster on the steeple: it’s nothing next to your pride!” , “It’s not true that you doubt yourself, and don’t say: then I’m dualistic”.

Fifth sin: Lust
The sin of desire is the hardest of unmask. In order to get to it, the reader of his analytic journal has taken to translating vocabulary touching on Greek sexuality, even shorthand. She mentions the “instinctive gesture” she had taken to performing before falling asleep, as well as “phases of voluptuousness: the hot bath, the intoxication of nature”. She approaches this intimate question with her analyst: “The other day I asked you a question about what happens when I’m consumed with desire for this or that and my reason no longer dominates. You simply responded, ‘Have you not heard about a certain original sin?’.”

Sixth sin: Avarice
Lacan was never stingy [ne fut point avare] with interpretations and explanations to impel his religious patient. When she was defending herself, with her body and cries, from being de-sainted, he retorted: “It’s because your renunciation wasn’t a true renunciation”, “Your preoccupation is ‘profit’ – avarice – the greedy don’t keep anything for themselves – they deny themselves everything.”

Seventh sin: Wrath
Before being perceived as having bad nerves [comme une malade des nerfs], Mary of the Trinity and her entourage believed in the existence of a malevolent control over her. As one Sister testifies: “[…] there was another painful scene. She threw herself on the ground with such violence that I didn’t dare go near to help her up, […] I asked myself if I was in the presence of a fit of madness or satanic possession. The expression on her face haunted me all night (…) To see this angelic figure suddenly become twisted and revolting!” The analysis updated the origin of these tantrums, her oath of obedience: “I feel physical aversion to those who have authority over me.” Lacan found for her a tailor-made nickname: “Terrorism, terrifying”.

Is there a moral to be drawn from this analysis?

The analysis of Mary of the Trinity serves to reminds us that “virtue”, as such, is “a name without substance”. To put on a monk’s habit and produce a mystical oeuvre says nothing about the ethical subject involved. Mary of the Trinity suffered from her own hypocrisy in wanting to appear as what she wasn’t, to please her hierarchical Superiors. Her analysis allowed her to admit the falsification of her life, of which she was at times both author and victim. Stepping back from the domain of true lies allowed her to escape suffering from the anxiety of culpability and revinidcation.

In the presence of her compulsive aversion to all figures of Authority, Dr. Lacan opened the way toward a possible blooming: “There is no proof that the religious life is the most favorable method” of becoming one with God, “if you find that the religious life is one […], it’s necessary to get rid of it and forge one that suits you.” Thus, her analysis finished, Mary of the Trinity resumed the course of her religious life, as well as the editing of her Notebooks. But the question remains to be seen whether the chief means to a possible definition of virtue isn’t psychoanalysis, following the rapprochement proposed by J.-A. Miller of psychoanalysis as moral practice.

translated by James Curley-Egan

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