Archive for xenolinguistics

Fractal Signifiers: Lacan and Psychedelics?

Posted in Pure Theory with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 9, 2008 by Bonni Rambatan

Image credit: (c) Jock Cooper

I recently got back in touch via Facebook with an old acquaintance, Diana Slattery (of Glide and The Maze Game). Her xenolinguistics research on “language in the psychedelic sphere” has inspired me to ponder about basically the same thing, or a more Lacanian version thereof: what happens to the Borromean rings in a state of “high”? A more practical question would be: Of what is the image above a signifier? For when one experiences actual psychedelic experience, reality as such dissolves — one enters a completely different realm of the Symbolic.

Reducing psychedelic experience to mere neurochemical reactions are but a premature response. Seeing all the theories around altered states of consciousness as the source of creativity and even language (Terence McKenna’s famous “stoned ape” hypothesis), I would argue that a psychoanalytic venture into the realm of psychedelics may prove to be a very productive research. I am not a naive idiot and believe right away those hypotheses without reading further, of course, but does the mere fact that people make those hypotheses in first place not speak volumes about the nature of psychedelic experiences? And when one takes into account Lacan’s theory of art and literature being a symptom as the fourth ring (synthome) that binds the three other Borromean rings together even in the case of Symbolic foreclusion (recall his reading of James Joyce in the later seminars), how should we read the dissolution of “common sense” reality under the effect of hallucinogens apropos the rings of Lacan? Furthermore, if we are to talk about the actual “entheogenic” — literally “God inside” — experience, does this not coincide with Lacan’s notion of the non-phallic sexuality of mystics?

I am not a new age fan or a pseudo-quantum-physicist celebrating altered states of consciousness with trippy fractal visions as the ultimate harbinger of nature’s true reality. I do suspect, however, that this xenolinguistic venture of psychoanalysis could help understand better how desire evolves. As the unconscious reveals so much of our desires, who knows what the altered states of consciousness may reveal? Perhaps it is here that we are to make meaning of Timothy Leary’s 8-Circuit Model of Consciousness in a psychoanalytic sense — digging up into the possibilities of transcendent mystical experiences instead of down into the vaults of primal instincts.