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The Supreme

The Birth of
the Intimate

Jews, Christians,
and other

A Conversation
with Alain Badiou

Fifteen Theses on
Contemporary Art

Katy Grannan



Religion, Psychoanalysis

Jacques-Alain Miller

translated by Barbara P. Fulks

Dokoupil image

I. The Logic of the Great Man

I'm going to tell you what I was thinking, stuck in traffic for an hour and fifteen minutes. I was thinking that this course was surely a ritual for me, without my knowing it. I say this because it is clear that I was not paying attention to exterior reality today. I heard at 8:00 am that there were strikes in the transportation sector, but it slid like water off a duck's back. I did not take the natural precautions because I was caught up in the automaton that this practice entails, an automaton that implies what Freud called — a denial of exterior reality. Anyway, this is what held me up; I fell inside. When I finish this speech, I will reflect on what has just happened to me, having perceived that this course is ritualized for me. This can't go on.

1. Why Moses

Final message

Why Moses? Why did Freud need Moses, as Lacan asked himself in his Seminar, L'envers de la psychanalyse? It's an historical fact that Freud made Moses — his death, monotheistic religion, its survival, and its persistence — the content of what Lacan called his final message. Of course one takes into account the historical context in which Freud sent this message: after having left Vienna and at a moment when the scientific ideas — his own, stemming from the Enlightenment, with modifications from Romanticism, these ideas which promised a future of rationality and tolerance — were revealed to be only illusions.

This revelation, imposed on his contemporaries, echoed for more than half a century and was carefully preserved in a certain number of memorials from another time—from another time, as they say, that has not been forgotten. Nonetheless, it was forgotten, as though what was manifested from the resurgence of a barbarity—as one says, from another time—could easily have been the entrance to the end of History.

Freud’s message thus remains a strange memento bequeathed to posterity, initially bequeathed to those who took over from his discovery and practice, in order that it be known that we remain tied to religion. There is something of religion which continues to be written. And today when religious belief flows into politics in multiple ways, how can we fail to recognize it? One might predict that this is only a beginning. Religious belief inspires unprecedented sacrifices, terrorist sacrifices which haunt the planet, which disrupt international exchange, which have palpable economic consequences. And then, here, in France, in a rather more comic way at present, religion claims a new place in the common space, in the public sphere, let us say even in the Republic itself.

Every day one can read in the press the tone with which an interconfessional syndicate claims a new mode of presence. Ah! They were all queued up there last week: the Papists supporting the Muslims, who were agreeing with the Jews, and then, last in line, the Protestants, even the most secular, who were claiming a right to the signifier, clothed in vestments. This touches on the image of the body; they want to modify the image of the body in the common space. The Republic does not know what to do about these claims in which a marvelous vestimentary ecumenicism is effected.

One is obviously forced to return to Freud’s illusion that religion had only the future of an illusion in the age of science, and that it would be effaced, exhausting what he called the interest—Interesse—of mankind. He had isolated the element which is undemonstratable in religion yet irrefutable, and he had the idea that the libido could be withheld by what was irrefutable in religion.

Woman and Monotheistic Religion

Why did Freud need Moses? This is the main question of The Future of an Illusion (1927). He released his Mosaic message from London and seemed to say: “This illusion has a future.” Who is Moses? Many things. A proper name. Someone. A man. The one Freud used in the title of his book, L’homme Moïse et la religion monothéiste.


Jiri Georg Dokoupil, Jesús dorado, inacabado, doble, acrylic on canvas, 1986
courtesy of Bruno Bischofberger, Zurich.

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