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Lacan's First Disciple

Author(s): Paul Roazen


Source: Journal of Religion and Health, Vol. 35, No. 4 (Winter, 1996), pp. 321-336
Published by: Springer
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Journal of Religion and Health, Vol. 35, No. 4, Winter

First

Lacan's

1996

Disciple

PAULROAZEN
ABSTRACT) A distinguished
analyses

of the

lives

and

ideas

historian of ideas long associated with detailed narratives


of the

founding

figures

of psychoanalysis

interviews

and

Marc-Fran

?ois Lacan, younger brother of Jacques Lacan and a Benedictine monk. Much is revealed in this
essay, originally published in French, of the thinking of both men, most startlingly perhaps of
the extent to which there are religious elements in the background and even the thought of
Jacques

Lacan,

that

commanding

personality

in French

psychoanalytic

circles.

a unique
in France has attained
status today. It is not just a
Psychoanalysis
matter
of the large number
of different
French
psychoanalytic
organizations,
or the quantity
of practitioners
in the profession.
But one group alone, out of
more
than a dozen, does form the largest unit
in the International
Psycho

analytic Association first set up by Freud in 1910. Although Jacques Lacan


was effectively driven out of the IPA in the early 1950s, it is a sign of the
special impact he has had that despite all the controversies associated with
Lacan he remains
in the history
the central figure
of French
psychoanalysis.
The liveliness
owes an
and vitality
in contemporary
of psychoanalysis
France
immense
debt to the inspiration
that Lacan succeeded
in providing.
are no bookstores
There
in the world as filled with
fresh texts on psycho
as
now
can
in
be
found
Paris.
The
fact
the
multi
that
analysis
long-awaited
volume

to appear
in French,
Freud-Ferenczi
first started
be
correspondence
fore either German
or English,
is a sign of the special interest psychoanalysis
in France. Nowhere
evokes
else in the world has psychoanalysis
been able to
so secure a part of university
become
life as there, although
not
something
too dissimilar
has been taking place in Argentina.
are cultur
French analysts
in an unusual way. Lacan
liked to think that he had accom
own
sur
to Freud,
and in my
of meeting
many
experience
who knew Freud personally
I can say that I have never
viving early analysts
as interesting
met
a group of analysts,
once
the ones who were
apart from
as can be found in Paris today.
around Freud,
ally

sophisticated
a "return*
plished

as well
Lacan's writings,
his theories
Understanding
And so when
I heard that
tices, is not an easy matter.
still alive, a Benedictine
monk who was an intellectual

as his
Lacan

prac
reported
had a brother

in whom

Lacan

con

Paul Roazen, Ph.D., is Professor of Social and Political Science Emeritus at York University
Toronto and Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

321

in

? 1996 Institutes of Religion and Health

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322

Journal of Religion and Health

it seemed

fided,

to meet

trying

to me

one way
this brother.

to get a handle

on Lacan's

was

contribution

by

On September 24, 1992, while in Paris on a short lecture trip, I went to


interview

Marc-Fran?ois

Lacan,

I had

heard

earlier

that he was

living

in a

monastery near Paris, but it turned out that he had recently moved to Notre
near Marseilles.
de Ganagobie
in Peryuis,
were
see
motives
in
to
My
trying
Marc-Fran?ois

Dame

unclouded

by any partisan

ship. I had been in Paris in 1991 and earlier in 1992, both times briefly. As a
student

of the history

of ideas,

with

a special

interest

in psychoanalysis,

knew how important the work of Jacques Lacan had become to the life of the
mind.

The

influence

of Lacan's

had

teachings

long since

far beyond

extended

France, but only while Iwas in Paris did I begin to feel that I had begun to
know
Once,

some intelligent
to start asking
enough
on the very day that Lacan's analytic

questions.
couch, among

items, was

other

being auctioned off in Paris, I had had a most congenial meeting with Judith
I was expected
Lacan's
favorite daughter from his second marriage.
to
Miller,
see her at 5 rue de Lille, where
he had practiced
for so many
On
that
years.
on the De St. Louis
to Lacan's
from where
I was
old
day I walked
staying
was
as
so
was
to
I
not
but
I
of
headed
where
apartment,
ignorant
actually

know, when instructed to turn toward the Left Bank, which bank of the Seine
was the left. As I habitually do with my interviews, especially when I do not
know where
I am going, I arrived early. I found the street easily enough,
and
on the apartment-house
looked at the placque
wall commemorating
the fact
that Lacan had once practiced
I know to
there. The only other psychoanalyst
have been so honored
I went to a small cafe nearby,
is Freud himself.
reading
a book while
a
ar
time
late
until
the
for
my
breakfast,
having
appointment
rived.
At

the appropriate

occasion

I headed

for rue de Lille,

but

then

only

at the

front gate of No. 5 did I realize that I had not been given the code to get in. So
Iwent back to the concierge, who telephoned Judith Miller. She told me that
there had been family problems that day, but if I waited she would come by
shortly. She brought with her Luke, a son, and also Gloria, who had worked
with Lacan
for years as a private
secretary.
They opened up the apartment
for me, showing me something
I did not
it had once looked.
of how elegant
were missing.
I
know then why some of the pieces of furniture
and paintings

felt I had stumbled rather badly when I inquired whether the apartment
would be turned into a museum, thinking of Freud's house on Maresfield
Gardens
fluidity

in London;
such an approach
of Lacan's
thinking.

was

plainly

far too static

to match

Luke's job was to help translate both the French and English.

the

I do recall

we three felt, as Judith


I
the shy amusement
when
showed me one painting,
a
uncertain
understood
of
from
her
few
seconds
after
French,
looking,
directly
that the picture was
to be of a male
The most
intended
orgasm.
striking
of what
I learned
that day came from Luke. He picked up a
single aspect

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Paul

323

Roazen

ball, which

ping-pong

had marks

drawn

all around

it, and with

love

and af

fection in his voice described how his grandfather had liked to relax that way.
a telling
spontaneous
gesture
to
how
Lacan's
understand
beginning
It was

Freudianism

on Luke's
system

part,
differed

and
from

I felt as if I were
linear
the more

I was used to. Afterwards Judith took us to a splendid lunch,

and Luke walked me around


the corner
on a subsequent
So it was
that when

for my

lecture.
to
I was
Paris
trip

planning

to see

Lacan's brother, I felt as if I already knew something of the family setting I


was

I respect the legitimacy


about. No matter
how much
of abstrac
inquiring
come
is
it
firm
conviction
that concepts
from the minds
and souls of
tions,
my
or disrespectful
real people.
It is not reductionistic,
of
toward the standing
context
in which
the human
of thought
ideas, to seek to appreciate
systems
arise. And
of psychoanalysts
in my experience
it is hard not to
especially,

think that all psychologists necessarily rely on their own history and intu
itions, much as they try to hold in check the subjective bias.
to Peyruis
Getting
take along, although

was

easier

another

than

Parisian

finding
friend

an
came

appropriate
up with

to
translator
someone
excel

lently qualified for the task. My time-table in Paris was so tight that there
no question,
as Marc-Fran?ois
a
had suggested
in his letter, of renting
car to drive south. Instead the arrangement
was that, starting
at seven in the
we would
a car to drive
take the TGV and then set about renting
morning,
near
to
the
train
station
Aix
from
itself. The Vaucluse,
in south
the Abbey
eastern
at that time of year seemed
and the
France,
beautiful,
unusually
tourist season was over. The road from the highway
to the monastery
turned
was

into an extremely winding one, and I was to find that the abbey itself had a
view

magnificent

high

over

the valley

below.

Notre Dame de Ganagobie dates from the tenth century, with parts of it
built

in the

are an ex
eleventh
and twelfth
centuries.
The Benedictines
were
old
Their
monasteries
not
as
of
order.
intended
tremely
great centers
to
rather
but
The
and
work.
hard
rule
Benedictine
learning,
exemplify
piety
to one historian,
to be "wholly lacking in eccentricity,"
some
was, according
in
which
to
as
stark
contrast
stood
Lacan's
knew
Por
I
it.
thing
personality
tions

of Notre

Dame
de Ganagobie
had been constructed
in the eighteenth
renovations
had
and
then
in
been
made
the
1980s and 1990s; they
century,
were done in keeping
one felt everywhere
with
the old style, so that what
were
the imposing
of
ancient
of high
walls
and the prospect
presence
rooms.
a strict community
I gathered
that this was
which made
ceilinged
medical
tools for orthopedic
purposes.

I was

instructed to leave the car just where one might have thought it

should not
was helpful

have

been put. An entrepreneur,


to transact,
who had business
in telling me where
to park. He said that we had to lock the car
be here, though a Walkman
had been
door, since "not only altar boys" might
left on the businessman's
front seat. The mixture
of the old and the new was,
if not disconcerting.
I was
my visit to Marc-Fran?ois,
throughout
striking,

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324

Journal of Religion and Health

met at the front door, having rung the bell, by the Abbot, all in black, wearing
a strikingly
in
from the outside
large cross. He was, I later learned, appointed
order to lead the priory.
in
It was characteristic
of the monastery
for Marc-Fran?ois
that we waited
a recently
was
not quite
built hall whose
construction
finished.
Looking
as well as a copying machine;
I could see a computer
around
the answering
device at the abbey
see a multi-volume

was

I had time to
only part of its up-to-date
technology.
on
the
Catholic
bare
bookshelves.
dictionary
relatively
not
I
did
to take as
felt
understand
the
need
(My translator-companion
why

many notes as I did; as a writer I believe that the devil lies in the details, but
I mean

in the

to speak,

context

of interviewing

Marc-Fran?ois,

only

collo

quially about the devil.)


turned out to be a bent old man of eighty-four,
who died not
Marc-Fran?ois
and walked
with a cane. A
scoliotic,
long after, in 1994. He was apparently
young monk
accompanied
him, helpfully
bringing
along some back cushions.
was
of his
that
lucid"
he
the existence
despite
Marc-Fran?ois
quipped
"very
a mass;
back problem. He was a Father, which meant
that he could conduct
a Brother
was
the monk who
left and then came back with more
cushions
who

lacked

such

Marc-Fran?ois

standing.
came to the

interview

do not recall, after the first few minutes,

prepared

with

elaborate

notes,

but

in his head. Lacan, who had


he had to say to me was
anything.
Everything
was
seven
died in 1981,
death came
Lacan's
years older than Marc-Fran?ois.
on "the day* of the fiftieth
in a mon
of Marc-Fran?ois's
presence
anniversary
the city, and then
outside
astery. He had left Paris for an abbey, Hautecombe,

from June 1992 had lived where I was interviewing him.


said he had been a philosopher
He
from the age of eighteen.
Marc-Fran?ois
did his philosophical
studies
at the Institut
and simultaneously
Catholique
of the law. Of all those he studied,
to be a student
St. Thomas
undertook
was
for Marc-Fran?ois
the most
Aquinas
By the time he first
outstanding.
a monastery
a doctor, "going in the
in 1926, his brother was already
entered
was
of psychiatry
and psychoanalysis."
four
But when Marc-Fran?ois
and Jacques
had
"the
aim
of
"decided"
their
both
that
twenty-one,
they
life was to be the search for the truth."
to ask about the relationship
This was an opening
between
and the
Lacan
to
Catholic
he
refer
could,
"stray
religion.
only
Marc-Fran?ois
thought,

way
teen

he
Christian
but when
culture,"
things." Lacan had aa very deep personal
started upon his medical
it took him "out of the way of religious
studies
prac
in God, "of course," but he
tices." He no longer went
to mass. He "believed"
was very committed
I inquired whether
to his medical
Lacan had al
work.
"to re
"No one" could say that, and it was
ways been a believer.
impossible
solve

that

stood

his

about

religion.

question."
brother's

Marc-Fran?ois
but
outlook,

that he needed to rely on them for

had his own personal


view, and he under
were
in these points
different"
"very
they

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Paul

325

Roazen

of religion was one where


I think there must have been a split
least part of Lacan's
fol
family and some of his psychoanalytic
for example,
to
lowers.
Elisabeth
refers
Roudinesco,
straightforwardly
that
for
not
Lacan's
he
and
she
himself
says
"atheism,"
having
reproached
from having
confine
chosen "the path of perpetual
prevented
Marc-Fran?ois
to suit Marc-Fran?ois.
life certainly
ment." Yet a monastic
seemed
Roudinesco
The

issue

between

tells us
a mass

at

came to Paris to celebrate


death Marc-Fran?ois
in memory
of Jacques's
the children
of his dead brother;
first wife
at his
of
He
while
those
his second stayed away.
had been married
attended,
too that after Lacan's

first wedding in a church (the abbot of Hautecombe gave the blessing), and
had had his children baptized. It does not seem to me surprising that he
once of having had, according
to Roudinesco,
"an elaborate
dreamt
or the
to
funeral."
If it had seemed
Marc-Fran?ois,
inappropriate
children of his first wife, Marc-Fran?ois
that mass
would not have conducted
in his honor.
to me natural,
to in
It seemed
both psychoanalytically
and historically,

could have
Catholic

and Jacques
Lacan. The
quire about the immediate
family of Marc-Fran?ois
father had been "a salesman"
in Paris;
there was one sister of Marc-Fran
was therefore
cois's who was five years older, and still alive. Marc-Fran?ois

the youngest of the siblings. He asserted that the three of them had been
"

"close
extremely
I specifically
asked

re
about
the mother.
immediately
Marc-Fran?ois
La?ant
that, in understanding
life, she was "very impor
sponded by saying
in this connection Marc-Fran?ois
tant." Somehow
in 1932
told me how when
Lacan did "a test," by which Marc-Fran?ois
meant
thesis on
Lacan's doctoral
he "dedicated"
it to Marc-Fran?ois.
(He failed to inform me that the
paranoia,
first dedication,
that one, was to his mistress.)
of
before
The exact wording
Lacan's
Michel
to his brother
dedication
struck a later commentator,
de Cer
"Tb the Reverend
Father Marc-Fran?ois
Benedic
teau, as "strange":
Lacan,
ac
tine of the Congregation
in religion."
of France, my brother
Supposedly,
to
been
cording
"surprised" by the dedication
"everybody" had
Marc-Fran?ois,
to himself,
were "astonished."
in particular
and the surrealists
If free associa
tions mean
was
this
and
in
the interview Marc-Fran?ois
by
point
anything,
was
I
relaxed
with
would presume
that he thought
the dedication
me,
pretty
that his mother might have appreciated.
would
(That dissertation
something
turn out to be the only book Lacan
ever wrote;
it was only with reluctance
that

Lacan

translated

it to be
allowed
into English.)

reprinted

in France,

and

it has

still

not

been

The mother herself had gone through a high level of intellectual studies,
and was
how deeply Christian
she
"very clever." Marc-Fran?ois
emphasized
was. She had "a great faith." She had been able to follow Lacan's work
"com
at which
pletely" until he went on to become a psychoanalyst,
point she could
not go further
in understanding
what he was doing. The profession
and the
doctrine were
"so new for everybody"
that she could not fathom what was

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326

Journal of Religion and Health

was sometime
but her education
going on. She had not gone to a university,
a
she
attended
fine
She was not
before
school."
1900, at which
"high
point
then particularly
in philosophy
in "general
but rather
interested
literature."
a lot with her husband's
and the effort involved meant
She worked
business,

that for the sake of the work her husband did it was necessary for her to
renounce

of novels and poems.


any kind of reading
at all." He sold oil in
unlike
herself, was "not an intellectual
husband,
a
was
in
involved
in Orleans.
and
with
I
Bordeaux,
soaps
Nice,
vineyard
success
asked
if Marc-Fran?ois's
father had been successful:
"Not very, but
Her

ful." In the world of business in which he lived "everyone liked him," and he
knew his job very well. He was not too involved with religion, but the rest of
the family

was

of their reUgious
faith.
very "close" because
a
to
had
himself
well-known
gone
Marc-Fran?ois
boys' school, the Coll?ge
It turned out that he had not only read his brother's
Stanislas.
first publica
but "everything^
else he had written.
For years
tion, the text on paranoia,
there was a distance
of some five hundred
kilometers
between
them, but that

did not interfere with their being intimately acquainted with one another's
work.

had written

Marc-Fran?ois

his

own

articles

on

and

theology,

Lacan

read them. Marc-Fran?ois had produced some 60,000 pages from 1950 on
about the Old and New Testaments and he had helped to translate an ecu
menical version of the Bible. A book of his called The Bible Vocabulary, deal
ingwith biblical themes, was not only translated into English but came out in
some

twenty different
Freud
talked about

languages.
about it "because"
of Freud.
and Lacan wrote
religion,
was
to
critical
knew
that
it
know
that
German
Lacan
Marc-Fran?ois
thought
was
to
to
do
that
first
he
translate
held
the
wanted
well."
Lacan
thing
"very
into French.
The "basis of all" Lacan's work was to
Freud's writings
correctly
"find the real meaning
Thomas
would
have

of Freud's
texts." But Lacan understood
now would
be very different
from

said

that what St.


thirteenth
spirit. As far as
the

an approach
to Freud
in that broad
Freud
"a lot" dining
the
himself
had
understood,
changed
Marc-Fran?ois
an "agnostic," but
course of his own career as a thinker. Freud was considered
that was only the "bad" side to him, and that meta
thought
Marc-Fran?ois
on his desk." (I shared Marc-Fran
he
had the Tiible
had
phorically
speaking
Lacan

century.

undertook

to the contrary,
he
occasional
that, despite Freud's
protestations
?ois's belief
was a stern moralist;
Judeo-Christian
but his ideas also served to undercut
in a way which
I did not explore with Marc-Fran?ois.)
In Marc-Fran
morality
neu
that his notion of obsessional
?ois's view Freud was "correct" in holding
rosis
Moses

could

"in some

and Monotheism

cases" explain people's


was "a remarkable

attitude

toward

God.

own

Freud's

book."

I cannot reconstruct how we jumped to talking about Anna Freud at this


point,

in connection

perhaps

with

what

I thought

was

her own relationship

to

Judaism, which I think contrasted with that of her father, but Marc-Fran?ois
maintained

that

she had

been

"completely

opposite"

to Lacan.

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He

had

fought

Paul

327

Roazen

throughout his life for his freedom,

those who

Among

followed

thought he had

and Marc-Fran?ois

the truth that he aimed for. All his


were
at odds with
those
trine,"
"completely"
was
"school"
the world,
important
throughout
for example.

achieved

the core of his "doc


theories,
of the IRA. By 1992 Lacan's
as far away as South America

Lacan, Marc-Fran?ois

out Denis

singled

Vasse,

Jesuit who had written a book called Time of Desire that Marc-Fran?ois
thought Imust read. He also singled out the work of Father Biernaert; but
was

Vasse

"the best

of Lacan,

follower"

in that

he did not

just

repeat

what

Lacan thought, but had succeeded in developing his ideas. Imentioned Fran
had also once been a Jesuit; but Marc-Fran
who I understood
?ois Roustang,
to do with Lacanianism
and
him
dismissed
for
"quit everything"
?ois
having
as perhaps
a
was
"a bit crazy." Even
not
though Marc-Fran?ois
psycho
he had picked up Freud's
analyst,
tactic, and perhaps Lacan's as well, of stig
as emotionally
former students
disturbed.
matizing

Although we had already embarked on talking about the surrogate family


Lacan had built up, and about the disciples who had turned out well in addi
to those who

tion

family in which
of them; it was

had

gone

he had

grown

this maid,

went back to discussing


the
a servant who was really one
is
"raised up" the children. There

sour, Marc-Fran?ois
up. They had had

Pauline,

who

had

a picture album about Lacan that Judith Miller had put together which has a
photograph

of Pauline.

It was

very

common

at

that

to have

time

such

nanny, although Marc-Fran?ois thought that that kind ofmaid "did not exist
more."

any

a
that Freud, with his "discovery" of the unconscious,
represented
in human
revolution
had not
Copernican
self-understanding.
Marc-Fran?ois
was not a reader of German,
read everything
of Freud's; Marc-Fran?ois
and
did not like the official translations.
I tried to discover how much Marc-Fran
since to me Freud was so intimately
connected
?ois knew about old Vienna,
He

held

was
the last days of the Austro-Hungarian
But Marc-Fran?ois
Empire.
"not familiar" with Viennese
culture.
I also asked about Carl G. Jung, who is commonly
ranked as Freud's great
as well as Lacan, Jung "did everything
est heretic. For Marc-Fran?ois
except
a back-handed
It was
in
of Marc-Francois's
way
certainly
psychoanalysis."
was
to
that
and
he
Lacan
that
say
discussing
Jung
"interesting
agreed
Jung
in all areas" except the one that mattered
to Jung. Marc-Fran?ois
most
went

with

that Jung, who made much


of the positive
possibilities
was
"a complete
to
the real Christian
tradi
stranger
tion." In fact, Marc-Fran?ois
insisted
that Jung was so far from Christianity
as to represent
"a dangerous
deviation" from it.
further, maintaining
in religious
thought,

It was impossible not to think here of the thunderous way heretics have
always

been

drummed

out of the Church,

as well

as the way

Freud

had

acted

in expelling Jung and others from within psychoanalysis. According to one of


Freud's

loyal

Swiss

disciples,

Ludwig

Binswanger,

Freud

had

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"often

referred

Journal of Religion and Health

328

to his

scientific

Calvary."

When

Binswanger

Freud

questioned

as

that it was "precisely his oldest and perhaps most

had happened

to how

it

talented

who had broken away from him,"


to give examples,
disciples,
Jung and Adler,
to be Popes_"
Freud had replied: "Precisely because
Freud
they too wanted
was capable of irony about himself,
and knew that in some sense he had tried
to set up a new church.

Freud's loyal disciple Hanns Sachs had once described how "didactic" anal
to train
future analysts:
have
de
yses were
always
designed
"Religions
a trial period, a novitiate,
of those among their devotees who desired
manded
to give their entire
life into the service of the supermundane
and the super
....
were
or
to
in
who
monks
It
become
other words,
natural,
those,
priests
can be seen

to the noviate
of the
that analysis
needs something
corresponding
con
once
the psychoanalytic
situation with
Church." Freud himself
compared
of analysands:
"In Confession
the sin
fession,
except that he expected more
ner tells what
in analysis
he knows;
the neurotic
has to tell more."
Lacan

himself thought of the psychoanalyst


monk]

who

in past

times

ventured

as being "like that solitary being [a

into the desert."

It is one

thing

to try to

imagine what it might have meant for a Jew like Freud to have founded a
church;

it is an altogether

different

and more

matter

complex

to follow

what

itmight have meant for a Catholic like Lacan to break with a Jewish church.
Jung

was

the

one

disciple

of Freud's

most

interested

some

in salvaging

thing psychologically meaningful from Christianity. Yet Jung was, to Marc


Fran?ois,
"completely
ken to a nice Jungian
French

intellectual
was
Marc-Fran?ois

different

from

Freud."

in Paris, how
this was
Ufe, although
group

I already knew, since I had spo


an influence
they had had on
the case elsewhere.
by no means
or rather doing
so out of
Freud,

tiny

inadvertently
echoing
for having written
in condemning
Lacan,
Jung
"stupid,
issues.
of confusing
been
had
crazy things";
Jung's
guilty
Jung
supposedly
an "interesting
was
unconscious
of the collective
idea," but not a
concept
to raise the issue of Jung
of daring
If I had ever thought
"very clear notion."
identification

with

I would have expected


I interviewed
in the mid-1960s,
her
when
Anna Freud
so
to say something
whom
to
she
had
heretic
the
Lacan,
identical;
helped
was
on
this
drive out of the ERA by trying to restrict his training
activities,
one point about Jung completely
in agreement
she and her father
with what
our
of Jung as a devi
had thought.
with
in
connection
discussion
Somehow,
ant within
he thought was
what
up
Marc-Fran?ois
brought
psychoanalysis,
one of his brother's
mirror
of
the
in early
the significance
"first discoveries":
a developmental
childhood,
I did not set the agenda

"step."
for what

topics

came up, but Marc-Fran?ois

moved

to talking about how Lacan had left Paris to live in the Midi during World
War II. (I do not know what the link was between discussing the mirror stage
and

those painful war-years,


that Lacan
except
in 1936, and a revision
of that
about mirroring
of
the
"The Mirror
As
Formative
Function
Stage

had

first

proposed
early paper, under
of the I As Revealed

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the

idea

the title
in Psy

Paul

329

Roazen

in 1949, became his most


famous
hav
of
wife
Lacan's
second
single concept.) Marc-Fran?ois
a
on
the
had
her.
"dossier"
and said
(Earlier
ing been Jewish,
compiled
police
at
to Georges
to Marc-Fran?ois,
she had been married
Bataille.)
According

choanalytic

Experience,"

which

he delivered

the matter

raised

some point

Lacan

it. Lacan

"took" the file and "destroyed"

and his

second wife

remained in the south of France "from the beginning to the end" of the Nazi
and he did have "some patients" while he was
there.
(I assume
occupation;
cases of some sort, or
that Marc-Fran?ois
meant
that Lacan had had analytic
a specialist
in that
ones, since he had long since become
perhaps
psychiatric
area.)

the war Marc-Fran?ois


to mean
that he lived

During
understood

himself was
in a monastery

I
in "the Italian
zone," which
in an area under the control

of Italian troops. He told how they had had a Polish bishop "hidden in their
had come
and that the Gestapo
monastery,"
in ferreting
Germans
out the Pole
"succeeded"
did not provide

Marc-Fran?ois

any

further

to get him. Unfortunately


the
were
they
looking for, although

details.

At this point in talking with me he paused to indicate that he did not like
journalists. I do not think there could have been any doubt in his mind that I
was

not

myself

professor,

since I had written


ahead as a university
some of the books
I had written.
Marc

in that category,
I mentioned
I think

and

Fran?ois qualified his distaste for journalism as a field by saying that he


the members
accepted
what
they were doing.

of the profession

when

they were

specialists

and knew

He immediately went on to discuss the ?cole Freudienne de Paris, which


Lacan had dominated from 1964 to 1980, when he dissolved it, shortly before
his

death.

pupils,

act

This

many

of Lacan's

of whom
Lacan

was

felt betrayed

a subject of great bitterness


among his
to court.
and some of whom
took Lacan

the assistance
with
of his
son-in-law
founded,
the organization
known as the Champ Freudian,
which
Miller,
Jacques-Alain
until today has been the largest single exponent
of Lacanian
with
teachings,
affiliated
around the world.
organizations
the interview Marc-Fran?ois
referred to Lacan as "my brother";
Throughout
this may seem a trivial point to bring up, but it was a part of what
I found to
be Marc-Francois's
to
in
Lacan.
Melanie
Klein's
contrast,
daughter,
loyalty
Subsequently

had

when I interviewed her in 1965, was so disaffected and alienated from her
as still to refer to her as "Mrs. Klein." Klein's
late mother
had be
daughter
come a bitter public enemy of her mother's.
But from Marc-Fran?ois's
point of
a
Lacan
been
had
himself
of
Lacan
Freud.
been
had
view,
genuine
disciple

able to develop Freud's thought; he did not remain "just a follower."


For

some

because Marc-Fran?ois
felt that he had left
presumably
he
switched
back to talking about the circum
important
points undiscussed,
stances
of his early childhood. Within
the family he and his brother were
"not
the same." For Jacques
treated
Lacan there was "a very deep love." "No com
petition"

reason,

between

the brothers

existed;

Marc-Fran?ois

was

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the

"little

one,"

Journal of Religion and Health

330

and Jacques remained the first born. It seemed in keeping to ask if the
mother

suffered

because
Lacan
gion. She was
did
was

she "did," but not


of Lacan's attitude
toward religion;
a monk,
to become
he "forgot" about reli
but because
"in a nice way." The father
and saw everything
"very naive,"
the father knew he
realize" what Lacan was doing, although
because

failed

"not really
an intellectual.

Marc-Fran?ois
one Lacan was
conquer

Paris:

likened

Lacan

to Balzac's

in Montmartre

living
"I will

and

at the age of twenty


Rastignac;
to
took for himself
the challenge

I will

be your master,

dominate

you!" Marc-Fran?ois

had himself read all of Balzac, and thought that Lacan had indeed come to
an analyst
he was "in his m?tier."
in listen
people," and could be "close" to his patients
him." In
"a lot," and "I understood
ing to them. Lacan
taught Marc-Fran?ois
of a woman
who had been
of this, Marc-Fran?ois
gave me the name
support
analyzed
by Lacan.
successfully
of
to
like a faithful
and here he sounded
disciple
According
Marc-Fran?ois,

succeed
He was

in overwhelming
"very warm with

the problem

Lacan's,

Parisian

with

American

life. As

psychoanalysts

is that

they

did not

go

further than the IPA (he readily used the shorthand "IPA" in talking to me,
as Judith

was contemptuous
also had). Marc-Fran?ois
of the American
Miller
of psychoanalysis,
into the equivalent
which made Freud's doctrine
of
a
"to
have
ridiculed
the idea that
ego psychology.
big ego"
Marc-Fran?ois
of someone
concerned with psychoanalysis.
could be the objective

version

to try to set Marc-Fran


have been hopeless,
and an interference,
of ego psy
I thought was
the genuine
about what
significance
straight
on
in
the
about
nihilism,
bordering
chology
correcting
negativisim
therapy,
can be found in some of Freud's writings.
It is a deeply
which
preju
ingrained
It would

?ois

dice within French intellectual life that ego psychology and America should
off on the grounds
of
and all would have been written
identical,
In
I
to
if
correct
had
tried
conformism
reality
Marc-Fran?ois.
advocating
strand in his
had set ego psychology
Freud himself
going; and that particular
to the needs of America,
it is true was especially
did
thought, which
congenial
to correct earlier pessimistic
think
much
imbalances
within
psychoanalytic
close to
condition,
ing. Lacan did have a genuinely
tragic view of the human
a
own central
can
considered
be
secular
Freud's
which
standpoint,
perhaps
be

seen

version
popular

as

of the

doctrine

of original

sin; but

such

a viewpoint

could

never

be

in the States.

According to the French mythology about the history of psychoanalysis,


Lacan had bravely refused to go along with the conformist thinking of Anglo
American

psychoanalysts.
has especially
ogy, which
in Paris. Yet
bad concept

the term ego psychol


to make
did manage
in America,
stand for an incontestably
effort Lacan put
does show how much
the evidence
Lacan

flourished

into winning recognition from the IPA; if he was a failure in preventing his
which was supported
excommunication,
of Lacan's
It is possible
for want
trying.

by Freud's
to provide

it was
daughter Anna,
rationalizations
fancy

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not
for

Paul

331

Roazen

for recognition
by the IPA, such as that he sought to
own
one fully realizes
a master with his
school. But when
the
avoid becoming
it does
he was
in the organization,
nonentities
relative
against
struggling
seem a poor show for him to have accused
to
others of unnecessarily
bowing

Lacan's

relentless

search

the weight of authority.


on the literature
was
about Lacan's
seemingly
up-to-date
Marc-Fran?ois
one small book written
as early as 1969? He
in particular
work. He mentioned
came to play in Lacan's
the role which
this
linguistics
thinking;
emphasized
had been true since 1953, and Marc-Fran?ois
that
Lacan's
1953
essay
thought
on "The Function
was "the start" of Lacan's
of Language
in Psychoanalysis"
in that
train of thought. There was a "unity" in Lacan's approach,
distinctive
he saw "man as a speaking
I did not know it at the time
creature."
(Although
one
I saw Marc-Fran?ois,
in
of his seminars
Lacan said that "speaking
brings
is
about Nietzsche's
claim
that God
God"; he also expressed
uncertainty

dead.) On the subject of speech I interjected a question, since I had heard


that when

Lacan's parents
to Marc-Fran?ois

according

came

to dinner, there was


his parents
"never" went

at the table.

silence
to have

dinner

But

there.

His mother died in 1948; his father, in 1960. In those last years Lacan's
father was
Fortunately

"very lonely." He lived in "a nice suburb" near


he was able to continue with his work right

the Bois
up until

de Boulogne.
the very end

of his life and he had a nephew who was able to help him professionally.
Marc-Fran?ois and I went back and forth between his brother's family life
and his

work.
Since
the Freud
professional
to be Marc-Fran?ois's
which
seemed

writings,

came
who
own Freud

in Lacan's
through
as well, appeared
to

me so at odds with the distinctively Jewish and Viennese figure that I knew, I
raised the question of whether it was possible to detach Freud from his his
of French
Too much
to me to have a
seemed
psychoanalysis
it was Marc-Francois's
it was "only"
that
conviction
explicit
one
to
if
knows
He
how
this was
mentioned
possible
study philosophy
history.
true of medieval
that
and
to
Etienne
Gilson
had
undertaken
too,
thought
St.
within
and
Descartes
their
cultural
context. Marc-Fran
study
Augustine
in Toronto
that Gilson
had been
then living)
(where I was
?ois mentioned
torical

context.

scholastic

air. But

during World War II.


As we were
how, when

back on the history


of ideas, Marc-Fran?ois
reflecting
Lacan was "put out of the IPA," he had compared
himself

noted
to Spi

noza being excommunicated as a Jewish dissident. (At that time Lacan had
stated:

"I am not

it would not be impossible?that


the psy
telling you?but
is a Church.
And yet,
the question
community
choanalytic
incontestably,
arises
of what within
it offers a kind of echo of religious
In my
practice.")
was
with
a
was
it
clear
that
of
intel
he
keen
student
dealings
Marc-Fran?ois,
lectual history.
For example,
he emphasized
the fact that St. Thomas
had

known Aristotle but not Plato, and he reminded me that in Aristotle the Pla
tonic

dialogue
disappears.
on his brother's
Reflecting

work,

Marc-Fran?ois

said he

thought

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it certain

Journal of Religion and Health

332

it had

"a lot"
changed
of
the
"real,"
concept
of the
the notion
known;
for
As
Lacan's
speaking.
that
the

there is
during the course of his life. For example,
it is impossible
to know, not just un
that which
to the area of language
referred
and
"symbolic"

the "imaginary,"
there he completely
idea about
case
of
notions
the
in
of
Freud's
the
(As
id, ego, and super
changed
so
I
think
to
sometimes
these terms can
attractive
students,
ego,
beginning
an
a
of
as
be
what
understood
shorthand
way
packaging
pioneering
partly
to
have
contribute.)
alysts
as a formal
Lacan
aside for the moment
thinker, Marc-Fran?ois
Putting
dressed. Marc
chose to exclaim
about how "impeccable" was the way Lacan
his mind.

I interviewed
when
Fran?ois,
sort of pajama-like
clothing.

a clerical habit but


him, was not wearing
the way Lacan had become
Yet he admired

some
"one

of the most elegant men in Paris"; "hewas a guy!"Marc-Fran?ois thought he


in agreeing
to see me, but he did not "regret" it.
chose
to
prin
explore what he thought of as a "philosophical
Marc-Fran?ois
to
the
"relation"
connected
of the unconscious.
The word
ciple"
"discovery"
"one becomes who one is in rela
meant
special to Marc-Fran?ois:
something
as "the couple," not any "one
of
tion to others." He proposed
God"
the "image
had

taken

"a risk"

human being." In this connection he suggested that the doctrine of the trinity
could
makes
that

no one can be a father without


a son. What
be properly
understood;
"real"
between
is
the
communication
the
them,
relationships
people
a
the "I" and the "you" goes to make
the connection
between
develop;

a
families
the loss of traditional
produces
being. For Marc-Fran?ois
ours is an "individualistic
for example;
lot of clinical problems,
like addictions
was himself
of course
that. Marc-Fran?ois
time," and he regretted
living in
in order
had
to
the community
of the abbey; the whole
moved
group
Peyruis
to get away from the "tourists" who congregated
around Paris. The previous
in the Alps.
years, was
abbey he had lived in, for twenty-one
move
to
between
and theo
continued
freely
family matters
Marc-Fran?ois

human

logical issues. On the one hand he thought that Judith Miller's

choice of

he had
became
the son-in-law
that because
Jacques-Alain
an
same
At
the
time
turned into
follower of Lacan's.
important
Marc-Fran?ois
was
a disciple
was
in his own way
of Lacan's,
that Marc-Fran?ois
except
a
of
The existence
Chris
out the Catholic
side of Lacan's
thinking.
drawing
It
cannot be explained
tian God, the father of Jesus Christ,
"mathematically."
so without
is God who is the one we are in relation
to; and this is necessarily
he

had meant

our

a
or emotional
had in mind
intellectual
understanding.
Marc-Fran?ois
one
In
was
to
"who
to
do."
tells
what
of
God
which
you
contrary
conception
in turn
"a father that set you free. One gets life, and must
stead, God was
a
once
one
one
son
of
brother."
the
becomes
God,
becoming
accepts
give it;
Otherwise,

in Marc-Francois's

thinking,

one cannot

love God.

Jacques Lacan had tried to read Hebrew. But studying the Talmud would
have been "too big"; it is full of "very interesting things" and can be subject to

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Paul

333

Roazen

"multiple
Fran?ois

interpretations,"
no mention
made

unlike
the New
Testament.
(Marc
supposedly
of
of the traditional
the
Tal
Christian
conception

mud as the origin of Jewish erring.) But he did hold that each century reads
the New Testament freshly; it was "wonderful" that it was impossible just to
is the most
important
thing." And you are "free when
"repeat" it. "Freedom
are
for other people."
you
responsible
I had come a long way to learn some elementary-seeming
of Lacan's
aspects
at least as espoused
of the
The whole
by Marc-Fran?ois.
thinking,
conception
of the mirror means
that
significance
ter development.
commentators
Many
trast to later psychoanalytic
thinking,

is a key, early on, to charac


in con
out that Freud,
pointed
took an egoistic point of view. And this

otherness
have

included more than his notorious indictment of Christian ethics, for example
when he tried to show how the maxim "love thy neighbor" is both unrealistic
as a moral
and undesirable
Freud
took for granted
the nurturing
principle.
of the mother,
functions
while
the tie that Freud repeatedly
wrote
about was

that of the child to his father. In a case history published as late as 1918,
Freud

talked

object

choice, which,

about

a male
father as
patient's
in conformity with a small

"his first
child's

and most

narcissism,

primitive
had taken

place along the path of identification." Freud at that time thought that a
small boy's "first and most primitive" human bond was to his father, not his
Freud was not excluding
of
the mother's
part in the psychopathology
as either a seductress
his patients;
in
but he understood
the mother mainly
an oedipal situation
or the source of adult homosexual
conflicts. Before World

mother.

War I, Jung had challenged Freud on the role of mothers, and others in the
movement

(such as Sandor

Ferenczi)

later were

to take a different

orientation

from Freud himself.


Erik

for example,
whom Lacan
considered
the most
Erikson,
dangerous?
an effort to spell out the
the best?of
the ego psychologists,
made
of mothers.
And Erikson, whose work remains
positive
significance
relatively
even though he was
unknown
in France,
the first male
also
child analyst,
because

tried his best to bring Christian ethics into psychoanalytic teachings. D. W.


in Paris,
known
told me in London
that the only analyst
Winnicott,
widely
whose books that he, Winnicott,
envied not having written
himself were those
by Erikson.
Lacan had, with his proposal
of a mirror
in his own way attempted
stage,
to make personality
in
what
North
America
would be called "in
development
I had written
as well as Freud,
about Erikson
in the conviction
terpersonal."
that to the extent that Freud's disciples were able to come to different
conclu
sions than the master
a
ca
himself
in
had
to
tribute
Freud's
way paid
they
as
a
the
creator
a
as
a
of
similar
field.
had
outlook
pacities
Marc-Fran?ois
of his brother.
follower
Erikson
a
unknown
to
become
had,
Marc-Fran?ois,

believing Christian, and tomy way of thinking the ultimate other that Lacan
had in mind had to be God. Built into my interviewing Marc-Fran?ois in the

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334

Journal of Religion and Health

belief that it would


place was an operative
but
Lacan
in isolation,
that he and his younger
in relation
to one another.
first

The abbey Marc-Fran?ois

not be possible
brother might

to understand
be appreciated

lived inwhen I saw him had been, like the other

in France,
Revolution.
Until
closed after the French
relatively
no
or
water
Dame
Notre
de
had
had
per
toilets;
recently
running
Ganagobie
or
one
was
were
it
two
monks
it
Now
had
there
before
haps
living
re-opened.

monasteries

thirty-three members along with the prior himself. Although the monasteries
in France had been shut down at the end of the eighteenth century, which
was

also

true

in Austria

and Bavaria,

where

were

the Jesuits

outlawed

alto

gether, by 1833 the first monks had begun to come back in France. By 1905
was undertaken.
of Notre Dame
the restoration
These
details
de Ganagobie
were provided
not by Marc-Fran?ois
but by a Brother, wearing
himself,
jeans
and sandals,
who had been the one to help Marc-Fran?ois
with
the extra
us to stay for supper.
pillows and who wanted

Unfortunately we had to return to Paris that night, and could not remain
to share

a meal.

But

it was

possible

for us to walk

around

at least

some

parts

of the abbey, which had twelfth-century mosaics. Since itwas my first time in
a monastery

I could not hope to fathom all that was going on around me. We
tran
did hear vespers
at the abbey was
atmosphere
being sung. The whole
a
us
who
showed
island of peace. The Brother
quil and friendly,
genuine
a
ac
arose from
around explained
that Marc-Fran?ois's
back problem
bicycle
cident he had had, and that the extent of his suffering went unexpressed.
to blame Jacques-Alain
Mil
said he did not want
Although
Marc-Fran?ois
to
of his nephew.
ler for anything,
it was clear he disapproved
It was painful
nice son
think that Marc-Fran?ois
had not even got to know Judith Miller's
an admirer
as much
as anybody. As we
of Lacan
left the
Luke, who was
was
not
to
be
its
and
it
hard
red-tiled
roof,
by Marc
impressed
monastery
to his older brother.
attachment
extraordinary
Francois's
One has to wonder why Marc-Fran?ois
countless
had not been interviewed
times before, given how important
life. I asked straightfor
he was in Lacan's
he had ever spoken to anyone
else, and there Marc-Fran?ois
wardly whether
as
I am sure he cooper
as
I
far
the
grew slightly
evasive;
know,
only person
two vol
ated with was Roudinesco
who at that time had already
published
umes about the history
in France
in which Lacan obviously
of psychoanalysis
of Lacan had not yet appeared
biography
plays a central role. Her best-selling
in print.
If nobody
had come to interview Marc-Fran
else from the outside
a
?ois, it was
Lacan's
person.

taboos
of the emotional
sign of the extent
I thought
it would
that although
obviously

with
been more

concerned
have

desirable if I had been less ignorant about Lacan's thought when I saw Marc
Fran?ois,
At the

was
to this material
I brought
the distance
I set out to interview Marc-Fran?ois,

time

in a sense
Parisian

an asset.
analysts

were

not too hopeful about what I could come up with. But then I knew that in the
past,

as when

I interviewed

Freud's

middle

son Oliver

in 1965,

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there was

no

Paul

335

Roazen

one could learn from such a family member.


(I got two
exactly what
I was
out of that one encounter
for my Meeting
Freud's
Family.)
to find just how knowledgeable
turned out
Marc-Fran?ois
agreeably
surprised
tobe.
From a rationalistic
Parisian
could be consid
point of view, Marc-Fran?ois
telling

chapters

as Roudinesco

a form of imprisonment
in his
put it, to have undertaken
a
was
it
Ufe.
of
And
from
Freudian
odd
view,
monastery
point
straightforward
indeed for such a young man as the one who showed us around
the abbey to
have given up a "normal" Ufe for one with such restrictions.
Yet the concept of
ered,

I am reminded
I can verify but

as the notion of atheism.


is at least as complicated
normality
of two stories about Voltaire's
of which
last moments,
neither

both ofwhich sound right. He is supposed to have been asked if he be?eved in


"Now is no time for making
enemies." And he was
told that
God, replying:
God would
"That's his m?tier."
commented,
forgive him, about which Voltaire
as an atheist
To describe
can too easily
Lacan
imply a jaunty view of God;
an
in a Catholic
atheism
to inquiry, rather than
should
invitation
be
country
to close off Lacan's
concerns.
to ultimate
relation
I found a school-marmish
Sunday-school

at Anna

atmosphere

Freud's

clinic

in con

in the mid-1960s,

trast to the intellectual excitement Lacan had bequeathed to Paris.


It should be obvious that I was deeply touched by the whole experience of
chants
being at Marc-Fran?ois's
abbey. Before then I had only heard Gregorian
on records. Now
I thought
I knew more about why Lacan wore such a special
almost
it had been designed
for him specially
shirt-collar,
clerical-looking;
by
on
Yves St. Laurent.
to say, and the
what
had
had
Reflecting
Marc-Fran?ois

kind of movement Lacan succeeded in founding, I found it hard not to think


in quasi-theological
One person who had helped
categories.
to Marc-Fran?ois
had specifically
asked not to be pubUcly thanked;
of him

me

to get
there was

that kind of fear of possible retribution, and of damage to a Parisian clinical


from within
the most
practice,
In histories
of psychoanalysis

orthodox

wing of Lacan's disciples.


there has long been a controversy

about

how

significant it is that Freud came from a Jewish background. It has seemed to


many

that

to talk

about

the reUgious

somehow be to diminish
Lacan's

as

context

in which

his

ideas

arose would

them. I think that the Catholic background

to

one an
way,
gives
invaluable
Yet thinking
about
insight
teachings.
how aUenated Marc-Fran?ois
felt from Judith Miller's
family, not to mention
the long court battle between
over his estate,
two sets of children
Lacan's
it
was hard not to conclude
are tragic.
that such family struggles
The link between
Lacan and Marc-Fran?ois,
to me a hu
seemed
however,
work,

out in Marc-Fran?ois's
spelled
into the nature
of Lacan's

special

man triumph. Michel de Certeau had found the 1932 dedication introducing
Lacan's

thesis

In Certeau's
the "re
"strange."
interpretation,
"religion" meant
in
and
"brother
to
what
called
Certeau
Ugious congregation,"
re?gion" pointed
"a brotherhood
based not on blood but on a common
in
the
Order."
sharing
Certeau
that this statement
of Lacan's was
like the purloined
letter
thought

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Journal of Religion and Health

336

obscured
of Poe, "placed in the most
obvious place and for this very reason
Certeau
had
which
characteristics
from view," but highlighting
Benedictine
was sim
not before observed.
In the 1975 edition of the thesis the dedication
Father Marc-Fran?ois
the Reverend
"Tb my brother,
Lacan, Benedic
plified:
between
of France."
found many
tine of the Congregation
Certeau
parallels
to
I cannot pretend
in Paris;
the Benedictine
schools
order and the Lacanian

that kind of knowledgeability, but I think it worth offering my brief contact


for what

with Marc-Fran?ois

he taught

me

about

his brother's

(j

"'A

Li

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teachings.