Gifford, James. "What Is Zizek So Afraid Of? The Reality Principle and
The Real Versus The Existential Hordes." Online. 2 Nov 2001.
http://www.ualberta.ca/~gifford/textszizekessay.htm. Date you read this page.
What Is Zizek So Afraid Of? The Reality Principle and
What Is Zizek So Afraid Of? The Reality Principle and
Slavoj Zizek establishes an ostensibly compelling mixture of Lacanian theory, philosophy and social theory; however, in a close reading I find it increasingly difficult to amalgamate Zizek's arguments regarding the Real of jouissance, the mutual exclusivity of knowledge and the Real, the death drive, and the connective language of 'paradoxes' and 'impossibilities' that ties these concepts together. Impossibility and paradoxicality, within the context of a symbolic order or cultural worldview, must meet with incarnations of the Real that break down these proscriptions; however, it seems unfeasible to reconcile this opposition when Zizek argues that a contextually paradoxical prohibition of the impossible (which reveals the presence of the Real) is necessarily homologous to the carrying out of the inevitable (which is entirely common and possible). To develop an alternative language with which to more clearly approach these difficulties that I have encountered in Zizek, I will explore the conceptual 'chain' that links Friederich Nietzsche to Otto Rank and Ernest Becker, through to the current empirical development of Terror Management Theory, as well as an exploration of ZizeAnnaud's Enemy at the Gates: 'Die Schreckenspforten, die Not und Tod'." Perspectives on Evil and Human Wickedness: An Inter-Disciplinary and Multi-Disciplinary Journal 2.1 (2003): in press. (30 pp.). Annaud's Enemy at the Gates: 'Die Schreckenspforten, die Not und Tod'." Perspectives on Evil and Human Wickedness: An Inter-Disciplinary and Multi-Disciplinary Journal 2.1 (2003): in press. (30 pp.). Annaud's Enemy at the Gates: 'Die Schreckenspforten, die Not und Tod'." Perspectives on Evil and Human Wickedness: An Inter-Disciplinary and Multi-Disciplinary Journal 2.1 (2003): in press (30 pp.). k's music and film references. My intention in drawing on this alternate conceptual framework is to reexamine Zizek's 'homologizing,' which I anticipate being incompatible with a discourse that draws on 'the will' or will psychology. I also anticipate that this incompatibility extends to broader examinations of anxiety and its functionality as an impulsion toward systems of denial, and it therein parallels Zizek's description of the symbolic order and its role in avoiding psychosis. Through this examination of the will and anxiety, this alternate reading will represent Zizek as reliant on the same existential mindset that he manipulatively excludes. My reconceptualization of the parallel themes in Zizek's works and the existential 'chain' of authors mentioned above will perform a reevaluation of the focus in both bodies of work, with the 'difference' of existential self-reflexivity leading to troubling transcendence projects on one end of the spectrum (alienation) and the Real of a paradoxical self-reflexivity on the other (Zizekianation?). The 'will' will be considered as a potential escape from the confines of either system.
Before investigating the chain of common arguments extending from Nietzsche to Terror Management Theory, which will form the middle portion of this paper, I will first require a clear outline of the issues at play in Zizek's works. My reading will focus on the philosophical terms 'paradox,' 'obversion' and the concept of impossibility, as well as the Lacanian concepts of the Real, reality, the death drive and jouissance, although the latter two concepts will only become explicit in the final section of my argument. To begin, Zizek uses 'paradox' within the contextual frame of a symbolic order or an ideological system, so that the physical or logical incongruity of a given 'true' statement is not the grounds for paradoxicality, but rather it is the internal incongruity of the governing conceptual belief system that is paradoxical. Likewise, Zizek's use of the term 'obversion' is not within its primary meaning – a strict restatement in alternate terms of the same logical statement, leaving the two statements strictly the same – but rather means the sameness of two different statements within the ideological context that is meant. I am emphasizing the distinction that ideological sameness does not necessarily agree with other measures of sameness, such as logical or empirical sameness.
I will begin by integrating Zizek's writing into this analysis, in order to better discuss these reworkings of philosophical terms within an ideological framework. In "There Is No Sexual Relationship" Zizek startlingly claims that incest is impossible within the context of "the paradox of prohibiting something impossible" (192). At first, the 'paradoxicality' of superfluously prohibiting incest seems absurd, since it is occurs regularly (if infrequently) despite social prohibition, hence marring Zizek's paralleling of it to the prohibition of the impossible. In that incest occurs, it is not strictly impossible; however, in The Sublime Object of Ideology the same terminology and examples recur, with Zizek claiming "the fact of the prohibition of something which is already in itself impossible" "attests [to] the presence of the Real" (Sublime 164). In regard to child sexuality, the reader is told that according to the ideological system "it does not exist, children are innocent beings, that is why we must control them strictly and fight child sexuality [which does not exist]" (Sublime 164). This statement may be more simplistically rendered: our reality denies child sexuality, hence it is contextually impossible, so we must take elaborate measures to ensure that it does not occur in order to preserve the system that denies it. This is an elaboration of the theme of the Emperor's New Clothes, although, in a contrast that will become significant later, Zizek gives an alternative reading and argues "the solution to this paradox... lies in the fact that the impossibility relates to the levels of existence (it is impossible; that is, it doesn't exist), while prohibition relates to the properties it predicates (jouissance is forbidden because of its properties)" (Sublime 164). I must also add that since "the fact of the prohibition of something which is already in itself impossible" "attests [to] the presence of the Real" (Sublime 164), the Real must be very closely associated with that which contradicts the ideological schema, such as the occurrence of the 'impossible.' In this sense, the unsymbolizability of the Real within the ideological context wherein it functions as the Real, lies in its definition as that which breaks down the given system of symbolization, rather than any further complexity. In this model, the Real as a category remains unknowable, but it becomes transparent in its epistemology once analysis of its particularity is based in an alternative ideological frame of reference. To a Freudian, incest is not longer the site of his or her personal or ideological Real, even if it is for a client.
Before discussing the context of these 'paradoxes,' and the similar context-sensitive use of the term, I wish to first address Zizek's paired use of the philosophical term 'obversion.' As with 'paradox,' 'obverse' is used within an ideological framework, such that "actively will[ing]... and work[ing] toward [the inevitable's] occurrence.... is the obverse of the paradox of prohibiting something impossible" ("There is No" 192), which has just been examined. Now, if we are to read 'prohibiting the impossible' as precisely the same logical statement, in negative terms (ie: obversion), as 'enforcing the inevitable,' then we must again contextualize these statements within an ideological frame in order for them to be sensible. In both cases, the impossible and inevitable must refer to that which is denied by the ideological context, such as the social denial of child sexuality exemplified above. Obversely, rather than referring to the contextually denied negativity (it is impossible that children are sexual, but we must prohibit it anyway), one could refer to the contextual positivity (it is inevitable that children are not sexual, but we must work toward this anyway). Another such obversion, in contrast to the impossibility of child sexuality, is the ideological position that claims the rise of the proletariat will inevitably occur and must be worked toward (enforcing the ideologically inevitable) and its failure to occur is impossible, so we must therefore prevent this failure (prohibit the impossible). In both cases, the rise of the proletariat is an ideological truth, and hence the paradoxes of the obverse relationships that reinforce its truth can only be held to be paradoxical within the ideological system that defines this truth, just as the obversion is strictly contextual and cannot include 'willing' the inevitable apart from the meaning of 'enforcing' or 'working toward' the inevitable. This opaque redefinition of 'will' by Zizek – here implicit but elsewhere explicit – is critical, and will be addressed in depth momentarily.
It must be noted that for an obverse relationship to exist in the context that Zizek provides, the inevitable must be that which is ideologically necessary. Such a redefinition is contrary to Wagner's Nietzschean statement that opens one of Zizek's most forceful paragraphs on this cluster of concepts. When Zizek unpacks the inevitable and reveals an obversion in regard to death and other unpleasant inevitable events, he cites Wagner making the claim "this is everything we have to learn from the history of mankind: to will the inevitable and to carry it out oneself" ("There is No" 192; quoting Cord 125; emphasis added). The difference between what Wagner wrote and what Zizek cites is a reference to that which negates the needed sovereignty of the subject, such as death or pain that is not ideologically necessary. To make the inevitable a part of what one has control over – to make it agency affirming rather than denying – one must "will the inevitable and to carry it out oneself" (192). Within this context of the Nietzschean will, the ideological truth confronts its Real and conquers it by willing it and thereby 'colonizing' it. I will also argue that bringing the inevitable within the scope of one's will by choosing it is similar to requiring it in the ideological system, with the difference being a personal negation of the trauma of diminished agency versus an ideological or socially imposed negation of this painful deficiency; however, within Zizek's argument the confrontation between the reality truth and the Real cannot occur because it is impossible. The willing of the inevitable (here no longer an ideological enforcement, but rather a determination or personal force, even if it ultimately creates or supports an ideology) is contextually impossible since the inevitable is herein contrary to the symbolic order and prohibited as well. The ideological system tells us that we do not 'really' die (we are transmuted into pure spirit in a utopian beyond), and it prohibits us from suicide, but when faced with the inevitable fact of death – outside of the ideological truth system – Wagner's suggestion of willing this inevitability in order to gain mastery of over it is now impossible and prohibited, as well as contrary to our inevitable and enforced lack of death in the ideological system. Just as psychoanalytic knowledge destroys the Real jouissance by revealing the contextual reality that it exists in, so too does the recognition of socially-denied inevitabilities (unnecessary pain or death) intrinsically violate the symbolic order and render its repressions of anxieties non-functional.
To clarify the above statements, I would like to devote some attention to the differing use of the term 'will.' For Zizek, 'will' comes to mean 'enforcement' or more particularly a 'working toward' something, just as one works toward the rise of the proletariat. 'Will' could be categorically rewritten as 'work toward' in his works; however, in the above paragraph I alternatively use 'will' in the sense that Wagner and Nietzsche would intend. In this sense, I refer not to actions taken to reinforce the ideological necessity or impossibility, but the personal "mental faculty by which a person decides on and controls his or her own actions or those of others.... [the] control exercised by one's will, especially over one's actions and impulses" ("will" 920). Most importantly, Zizek's reference to the will in Wagner's statement reduces it from an internal consciousness and agency to an external, ideologically defined act. In this distinction, Wagner refers specifically to willing the painful inevitability such as death or punishment for transgression, where 'will' refers to that which is denied by the ideological system. Hence, the exercise of the will distinguishes between the self and the necessary, as well as between the ideological system and the self's will. Willing the inevitable becomes quite the opposite from the Zizekian ideological enforcement of the denial of the Real, even if both are means to buffering the individual from a breakdown or psychosis. Here, willing is an active bringing about of the Zizekian impossibility within the scope of individual agency, in vehement opposition to the ideological frame.
Returning to the opposition between the phenomenon of the contextually impossible (that leads to an 'Emperor's New Clothes' theme) and Zizek's contention of 'impossibility' contingent on ideological levels of existence (such that the impossible does not exist), I will assert that the contextualization of paradoxicality within either the symbolic order or levels of existence is a new problem that needs to be clarified. While either position appears relatively pedestrian, Zizek again makes both positions radical through a reading that denies the Nietzschean will. It is relatively unproblematic to assert that a Real occurrence can exist as an 'impossibility' within an ideological context, just as it is unproblematic to assert that within such an ideological stratification of levels of reality, that which is ideologically impossible does not exist within the reality of the particular ideology. Nonetheless, the difference between these two ways of approaching a contextual paradox becomes problematic when the active will is a force dependant on conscious choice in the subject, and as such, is potentially capable of movement between ideological stratifications of realities. As I said, the intrusion of the Real in the symbolic system can be characterized as the occurrence of the impossible or failure of the inevitable, such as incest or child sexuality. Wagner's statement that one must "will the inevitable and carry it out oneself" ("There is No" 192; quoting Cord 125) holds two unspoken assumptions; the inevitable is something like incest, which contradicts the reality level of truth, and the will exists within an existential framework of the autonomous subject. Such a subject is self-reflexive and caught within a system of being which is intrinsically alienating in its absurd realization of future non-existence in the moment of consciousness of existence. Therefore, in willing this inevitable future alienation (from the world or from existence), the individual retains autonomy by positioning the self against or over the ideologically impossible. In this context, Zizek's rewording of 'will' as 'working towards' avoids overturning his context-sensitive theoretical apparatus of paradoxicality and impossibility, but therein denies Wagner's 'willing' as the Real that deconstructs his ideological system.
In this manner, Wagner's existential will can only exist in a system that contains punctures in the net of reality, and where existential absurdity inevitably intrudes. Hence, the subject is subject to the return of the repressed awareness of the falsity of the ideological system that buffers against the anxiety of this futurity: the inevitable Real that is needed by but impossible for the ideological system. The will requires self-awareness and the possibility of cracks in the symbolic order. In contrast, Zizek contends "The function of ideology is not to offer itself as an escape from our reality but to offer us the social reality itself as an escape from some traumatic, real kernel" (Sublime 45). In a very valid sense, this places the will of the individual (as a contrast to the ideological system) in a position where the traumatic real kernel may be read as the will itself. Within the reality (ideology) of Zizek's Lacanian system, it is the will that intrudes as the Real, and the Zizekian ideology properly acts as an escape from the "traumatic, real kernel" (45) of the alienated condition of self-conscious existence in an apparently unconscious world. Hans Jonas succinctly takes us back to this problem of self-consciousness and the will through a comparative study of Gnostic religiosity's nihilistic philosophy and alienation from the world, claiming
As a thinking reed [man] is no part of the [universal] sum, not belonging to it, but radically different, incommensurable, for the res extensa does not think, and nature is nothing but res extensa -- body, matter, external magnitude. If she crushes him, she does so unthinkingly, while he, being crushed, is aware of being crushed. He alone thinks, not because of but in spite of his begin a part of nature.... Thus that which makes man superior to all nature, his unique distinction, mind, no longer results in a higher integration of his being into the totality of being, but on the contrary marks the unbridgeable gulf between himself and the rest of existence." (Jonas 117)
The will and alienation are here very closely connected, as it is the thinking and willing state that alienates. In this manner, the traumatic kernel is given a fixed meaning as that which contradicts the ideological system, but can only be seen as such outside of the perspective of the threatened ideology. Rather than simply the lack of the ideological system, this existential alienation provides an anchor for the Real.
I contend that ideology is 'reality,' and in playing with the terms, Zizek makes it seem radical that reality exists to offer an escape from the Real, which can also be read as denial of the Real, rather than a ludicrous denial or escape from itself, especially since the Real is argued to only exist within the reality that places it as impossible or non-existent. Moreover, in functioning as an escape from the Real, reality acts as a buffer against that which it does not contain, whether such a thing is an existential anchor or an incompatible alternative ideology. I will add, if the Real and Inevitable coincide, such as with death, a situation occurs where the ideology denies or represses the inevitable and transmutes it into 'gold' in order to bring it within the scope of desire. Nonetheless, both ways of reading this ideology versus Real problem are identical and are only confusing in a problematic differentiation between reality and the Real.
As I argued above, the will of the individual, as a contrast to the ideological system, may be read as the traumatic Real kernel that reality exists to deny. In eliding Nietzsche and Sade, the Zizekian ideology functions as an escape from the "traumatic, real kernel" (Sublime 45) of the alienated condition of self-conscious existence entailed in the will. Moreover, Zizek links Sade and Nietzsche as "bourgeois poetes maudits" (286), and asks
Are concentration camps and killing as a neutral business the inherent outcome of the enlightened insistence on the autonomy of Reason? Is there at least a legitimate lineage from Sade to Fascist torturing, as is implied by Pasolini's film version of 120 Days [of Sodom], which transposes it into the dark days of Mussolini's Salo republic? ("Kant" 285)
To address this challenge, I will first make the distinction that even if the 'will' and Nietzsche's analysis of reason may be equated to the Sadean derogation of maja and 'working toward' gratification, this neither negates nor problematizes the functionality of such a will within the individual or ideological collective. What it does, however, is place the will at the foundation of the horrible tragedies of our century: tragedies that exist as the Real to our – and Zizek's – ideological systems, denying their utopian visions and illusions of functionality. My assertion is that our ideological systems are themselves the foundations of these tragedies, caught in the monkey-trap where the fist that holds the buffer against human tragedy and suffering is the same fist that (unless relaxed) keeps us caught in the killing cage. In clinging to a symbolic order as a defense against the Real that dissolves this pleasant way of viewing the world, we increase the same suffering that we are hiding from, which in a viscous circle increases our need for the ideological buffer against this suffering.
At this point in the paper, I will turn to an exploration of the conceptual 'chain' that links Nietzsche to Otto Rank and Ernest Becker, through to the current empirical development of Terror Management Theory. I do this in order to contrast the placement and discussion of human suffering and hero systems against the ideology of the Zizekian symbolic order. As a basic outline, Rank draws on Nietzsche extensively, Becker draws on Rank, and Terror Management Theory draws on all three. In regard to the questions I am addressing, I will use the four bodies of work as developmental segments of the same argument. Moreover, I will provide a context for my reading and textual evidence by using the four to argue that mortality is a fundamental human anxiety which ideological belief systems act a buffer against, much like the heroic, but that in this denial of death and the various associated subject matter, the soothing ideological systems can become a greater burden and source of suffering than the primary anxiety. This is especially so when these systems are confronted by difference, which challenges the symbolic overcoming of death or death anxiety, leading to a retaliation that is blind to what is actually being defended (the buffer that symbolically elevates one out of the path of death), but vehement to the extent of projecting the anxiety-object into the difference itself (the challenge to the buffer becomes the threat of death or Death itself). In this manner, it is the naïve overlooking of reality as only a symbolic order that is the foundation of the atrocities carried out in defense of the same reality, rather than Zizek's placement of the will in this causal position, which in its difference may become the means to escaping the cycle of suffering. The Nazi Übermensch may manipulate the ideological order to serve his will to power, but in the autonomous will lies the escape from the strict confines of this order and its manipulations, potentially leading us away from the subsequent Salo nightmare.
I will begin by appealing to some of Nietzsche's debates on what I will call the autonomous will, symbolic order and existential terror. Starting with the latter two, a salient example is the way in which "the Greek knew and felt the terror and horror of existence. That he might endure this terror at all, he had to interpose between himself and life the radiant dream-birth of the Olympians" (Birth 8). In this relatively brief and popular quotation, what I would like to draw attention to is the networking of projection from subject to object, a symbolic order that allows one to endure terror, and a primary anxiety inherent in existence where what is best is "not to be born, not to be, to be nothing... quickly to die" (8) in order to avoid the angst of ephemerality. Superficially, this seems analogous to Zizek's speculation of a Real-reality division such that 'reality' corresponds to the "radiant dream-birth of the Oympians" (8) and a sense of the 'Real' as that which is denied by this symbolic order. The problem that I am posing to Zizek's works is 'within this context how must we address primal anxiety'? Rank later develops this problem of primal anxiety in his concept of a death fear. I will add that this sense of fear/anxiety is supported by Lacan's statement, when referring to Rank's The Trauma of Birth, "anxiety is born with life" (Clark 126).
Turning to Otto Rank, we are told "First comes the perception of difference from others as a consequence of becoming conscious of self... then interpretation of this difference as inferiority... [and] finally association of this psychological conflict with the biological sexual problem, the difference of the sexes" (Will Therapy 55). For Rank, the sexual conflict is secondary to this primary recognition of difference. As Robert Kramer elucidates, much like my earlier use of Jonas, "The difference between nonexistence and existence precedes and colors all other difference" ("Otto Rank and 'the Cause'" 236). This is further elucidated as a "confront[ation with] the onotological, or, more precisely, the preontological, mystery of Dasein itself: the awesome difference—the ineffable difference—between nonexistence and existence" (232). By adding Barbre's claim "Rank believed... neurosis is the result of an individual's inability to affirm his own difference" (Barbre 251), we are led to Kramer's more fundamental tracing of a distinction in Rank's works between the awareness of living and the awareness of living with the futurity of dying. Kramer argues
not only do we forget that we are born to die, we also have an astonishing ability to forget that we are living. Our conscious awareness of Dasein—the fact of living itself—has suffered a much deeper repression than even the repression of conflictual oedipal sexual wishes or the repression of preoedipal deficits in the development of self. To be sure, Rank acknowledged both oedipal and preoedipal guilt, but observed that they are surplus guilt: they come on top of an already present existential indebtedness. ("Otto Rank and 'the Cause'" 235)
Forgetting, here, must be read as closely akin to repressing, with the acknowledgement that "forget[ting] that we are living" (235) represses mortality fear in the sense that it is only in being aware of one's Being that one can be aware of the potential for non-Being, the fundamental existential alienation or absurdity.
Hendrik Ruitenbeek makes the above connection explicit, stating "Nothingness may be defined as a feeling of emptiness and loneliness 'before which all else retreats.' And the absurd is, in Camus' terms, the substance of nothingness, non-being" ("Some Aspects" xxiii; emphasis original). From this, it naturally follows that "Unlike Freudian analysis, which deals with the Umwelt and the Mitwelt, the biological and social worlds, but almost ignores the Eigenwelt, existential analysis stresses the self." ("Some Aspects" xx). In a similar model, Kramer reads Ranks extending this analysis to maintain
according to Rank, consciousness of self—that is, self-consciousness or self-awareness—is yet more mysterious than consciousness. This is also the deepest meaning of Rank's (1929) frequently misunderstood claim that "the whole of psychology becomes of necessity a psychology of consciousness" (p. 25). Far from banishing the unconscious, which he always insisted was unknowable, Rank was alluding to the equally perplexing mystery of consciousness, which even Freud admitted he could not explain" ("Otto Rank and 'the Cause'" 236, quoting Truth and Reality 25)
This emphasis on the conscious dilemma foreshadows of the conflict that would develop between Rankian analysis and Freudian analysis, as well as the more current heretical turn to existential analysis.
Becker presents the rich notion, developed by Rank in the final chapter of his posthumous Beyond Psychology, that for Freud psychoanalysis was so effective in replacing immortality pursuits (culture, civilization, religion, the love object, etc...) because it is itself Freud's immortality pursuit. Rank argues, and Becker quotes, "Just as [Freud] himself could so easily confess his agnosticism while he had created for himself a private religion" so too his "psychological system, which was supposed to be the result of scientific empiricism, has been received and taken up as an ideology fought for and against with a zeal only comparable to that shown in religious wars" (Beyond 272). This concept is very closely linked to Rank's division between therapy and theory, which involves the adamant view of theory as essentially suppositional. Echoing Nietzsche's dictum on the ego in The Will to Power, Rank stated "there are no facts. The 'facts' are interpretations, and it is with those that we have to deal" (American 246). In the same vein as this view of religion as a response to mortality, Rank had begun working on the relationship between religion and the ability to cope with the pain and finitude of existence in 1929 with his work Psychology and the Soul. The premise of the work is the wordplay between 'psyche' and 'soul' in German (Seelen, soul or mind). Essential to the conceptualization of the mind here, is the Cartesian placing of it outside of corporeality like the soul, and it is this conflict between corporeal existence and the human being as a symbolizing animal that Rank focuses on as a primary problem. As Becker colourfully terms it in Denial of Death, man is an angel who shits.
I would like to make explicit at this point that, within the context of the chain from Nietzsche to Terror Management, I have not yet discussed the concept of the 'will' as such, which will become vitally important to this paper. To provide a context, I am suggesting that the integration of anxiety and projection into the formation of systems of order will lead us to an ego-centric view of psychoanalysis and a turning of drive theory to a conscious sense of the will. Without the Umwelt and Mitwelt, the will becomes the primary means to effecting change and resolution of anxiety, as well as the control the individual may potentially wield over the ideological buffer against the paralyzing terror of existential alienation. As well, through the active willing of the inevitable, which has already been introduced, the individual brings it under his or her will. This provides the same function as the ideological system, in that the feared becomes the desired: the alchemical transmutation of lead into gold and Schreckt into Liebe.
To bring my summary of heresy to its current state, Terror Management Theory espouses exactly the transmutation mentioned above, with ideology converting the feared into the controlled; however, to avoid the repression and aggression inherent in ideological systems that derogate difference, the individual, in becoming self-aware of the anxiety-buffering function of their beliefs, may willfully take up their function without taking up their costs. Building off the works of Becker, Terror Management Theory argues that
cultural belief systems evolved in part to protect individuals from the terror associated with the juxtaposition of an awareness of inevitable mortality with an instinct for self-preservation. Investment in what terror management researchers term a cultural worldview is held to manage these anxieties by explaining one's existence, and the inevitable termination of it, in the context of a meaningful cultural reality that provides the possibility of literal or symbolic continuance beyond death. ("Effects of Self-Esteem" 1331)
Here I would like to point out the affinity of this theory to my earlier discussions of Nietzsche. I am arguing that the "terror and horror of existence" (Birth 8) is the "awareness of inevitable mortality" ("Effects of Self-Esteem" 1331) and that the "radiant dream-birth of the Olympians" (Birth 8) is the religious "cultural belief system... [that] protect[s the Greeks] from the terror associated with the juxtaposition of an awareness of inevitable mortality with an instinct for self-preservation" ("Effects of Self-Esteem" 1331). Within the context of Terror Management Theory,
Cultural worldviews serve the fundamental psychological function of providing the basis for death transcendence. To the extent this is true, reminders of mortality should stimulate bolstering of one's worldview. More than 80 studies have supported this idea, most commonly by demonstrating that making death momentarily salient increases liking for people who support one's worldview and hostility toward those with alternative worldviews. This work helps explain human beings' dreadful history of intergroup prejudice and violence: The mere existence of people with different beliefs threatens our primary basis of psychological security; we therefore respond by derogation, assimilation efforts, or annihilation. ("Pride and Prejudice" 200)
Returning momentarily to Zizek's suggestion of a "legitimate lineage from Sade [and Nietzsche] to Fascist torturing" ("Kant" 385), it would seem that Terror Management Theory (TMT) would contrastingly place the cultural worldviews that Sade and Nietzsche challenge as one of the founding points for a lineage to Fascist torturing, in conjunction with the existential awareness of mortality and difference as conflicting with the buffer against this existential state.
Before furthering this discussion of TMT and its differences from Zizek, I wish to point out the affinity between it and existential philosophy. TMT's description of the buffering against anxiety is markedly similar to Albert Camus' more elegant statement that
Human insurrection, in its exalted and tragic forms, is only, and can only be, a prolonged protest against... the universal death penalty.... The rejection of death, the desire for immortality and for clarity, are the mainsprings of all these extravagances.... To fight against death amounts to claiming that life has a meaning, to fighting for order and for unity. (Camus 100).
This existential creation of the authentic as a claim that life has meaning, even if such meaning is purely personally created (an ideology), is closely related to TMT's emphasis on cultural worldviews and forms a secondary means to relating this manner of reading human atrocities in regard to the existential philosophy that developed after Nietzsche. Moreover, Arndt demonstrates that "mortality salience will not increase negative reactions to just any hostile target but rather only one that participants feel threatens their worldview" ("Effects of Self-Esteem" n.pag; emphasis added), hence supporting the position of this paper that the investment in an ideological 'reality' without a self-consciousness of the constructed nature of this investment and belief system, can lead to increased problems with aggression, independent of the individual will or necessary anxiety. Additionally, in regard to the primary position anxiety maintains in this model, and in support of the decontextualized use of Lacan to claim "anxiety is born with life" (Clark 126), is Solomon's contention that "the large body of empirical evidence that has consistently demonstrated that the effects of mortality salience are unique to thoughts of death rather than other unpleasant and/or anxiety-provoking events... points to a unique basic concern with mortality" ("Return of the Living Dead" 61; emphasis added).
Turning to an empiric tone, TMT has demonstrated a relational level of intensity between mortality salience and self-reflexivity, such that "when mortality is salient, people will avoid stimuli that increase self-awareness" ("Terror management and self-awareness" 1216). This relational level of intensity also follows for corporeality and mortality salience (Goldenburg); a relationship between mortality salience and "liking for people who support one's worldview and hostility toward those with alternative worldviews" ("Effects of Self-Esteem" 1331); as well as a trigger effect between mortality salience and a distal defense mechanism in symbolic cultural worldviews. As Greenburg argues,
Terror management theory... proposes that awareness of the inevitability of death is a core human problem that lies at the root of a broad range of superficially unrelated forms of human behavior. Research has shown that reminders of one's mortality affect such diverse phenomena as interpersonal attraction, judgments of moral transgressors, prejudice, aggression, stereotyping, estimates of social consensus for one's attitudes, risk-taking, and conformity to cultural standards and values. ("Proximal and Distal Defenses" 91)
In relation to Nietzsche, I will be using TMT as congenial to the proposition of existential anxiety expressed in the form of mortality salience as an intrinsic aspect of self-awareness linked to corporeality and investment in projection or transcendence via cultural belief systems.
In being self-aware, Wo/Man is aware of finitude, which is an anxiety, and "thinking of the end of man... is always already prescribed in metaphysics, in the thinking of the truth of man" (Gift 121; emphasis added), with this 'truth of man' being an anxiety buffering ideology. If we accept these propositions as reasonable, it follows that a contrast to Zizek's discussion of death and corporeality is both profitable and challenging. I will reiterate my suggestion that this comparison will lead to the ego-centric sense of the will that Zizek and much current theory overlooks. To begin, I will turn these propositions to Zizek's equating of the inevitable with the necessary within the context of death. To return at length to an earlier event we have discussed in Zizek's work, in his scrutiny of Wagner he claims:
'This is everything we have to learn from the history of mankind: to will the inevitable and to carry it out oneself.' Wagner's precise formation is to be taken literally, in all its paradoxicality - if something is already in itself inevitable, why should we then actively will it and work towards its occurrence, one might ask? This paradox, central to the symbolic order, is the obverse of the paradox of prohibiting something impossible (incest, for example), which can be discerned in Wittgenstein's famous 'What one cannot speak about, thereof one should be silent' - if it is in any case impossible to say anything about it, why add the superfluous prohibition? The fear that one would nevertheless say something about it is strictly homologous to the fear that what is necessary will not occur without our active assistance. ("There is No" 192; quoting Cord 125)
What subtle manipulation is the reader led through here? We begin discussing Wagner's discourse on the inevitability of death and the active willing of it, as a means to agency, but end with a fear not of death but the potential lack of death. We are back to the humoursly levitated village idiot footnoted earlier.
As has already been said, Zizek negates the will as Wagner uses it, and instead refers to a 'working towards.' If we reinscribe the will as used in Rank and Becker, the issue of willing the inevitable is no longer a context-sensitive ideological act, but is instead the agency of the self. We cannot choose to be born, but it can be retroactively willed so as to support individual agency, just as we cannot avoid death, but can have control over it through willing it. This willing of the inevitable treads very near to the death drive, but invokes Freud's initial problem in Beyond the Pleasure Principle with the will in the Fort/Da game and war neuroses. He deemed this irreconcilable with the instinctual drive of the reality principle itself. Building from this point, Zizek closes further questioning of the death drive itself by claiming that prohibiting the impossible is done to allay the fear that the inevitable (which is again somehow synonymous with the 'necessary') might not occur. By using Wagner, Zizek opens the discussion to a breakdown of the singularity of the ideological context, such that the will-oriented reader (or the reader made aware of the problems surrounding the will through Zizek's slippery use of the term) may properly claim that fearing the necessary will not occur is quite different from fearing that the inevitable will occur beyond one's control. The latter would be in agreement with TMT while the former would be antithetical to it. We can draw a closer distinction between these concepts by acknowledging the 'desire' connotation of need and the more commonly understood fear of the inevitable. Within the ideological context, the inevitable must be desired, since we will it (work toward it), rather than fear it and will it to gain a measure of agency over the ego-denying unalterability.
Is it correct to read Zizek here as meaning we will our deaths out of fear that we may not die? This would seem to be a willful misreading of Wagner and Nietzsche concerning the nature of the will, and the ego's realization of its limitation, resulting in the overcoming of this ego-denying (destroying) inevitability through the active willing of this destruction, thereby asserting the power of the individual and ego, and the formation of a symbolic order, or more strictly a metaphysics. Within a religious metaphysics, however, the fear of not dying can be strictly homologous to the desire for the transcendental paradise of the ideologically necessary. Nietzsche's famous arguments here are that "the cause-creating drive is thus conditioned and excited by the feeling of fear" (Twilight 62) and that this drive, to be distinguished from the psychoanalytic sense of the term, leads to the "belie[f] in will as cause in general" (Twilight 48) such that belief in the ego necessitates belief in the ego as cause via the will. These positions are in contrast to the strict ideological focus where the individual does not exist.
I would also like to draw attention to some of the specifics of word choice here. I have already mentioned my difficulty over 'inevitable' and 'necessary,' and will add that I cannot understand where Zizek sees a paradox in willing the inevitable, which is at best a superfluity once the strict ideological context is broken; however, 'obverse' is also problematic without the cradle of context-sensitivity. An actual obversion would lead us to the statements (and I'm simplifying here): 'All inevitabilities are willed' and 'No inevitabilities are not willed' versus 'All impossibilities are prohibited' and 'No impossibilities are not prohibited.' If this use of 'obverse' is manipulative of the reader's reasoning, how does it render an answer or position that is useful for Zizek's purposes? I will suggest that fear is being 'obverted,' to misuse the word, into desire, and in so doing we are manipulated from a will and ego-centred model to one based on the unconscious desire and drive of Zizek's system.
Moreover, it should be heavily noted that Zizek's argument invokes the active will above an instinctual model, but it is couched in a language that discourages such a reading. If one wills one's death out of fear that it will not occur, it is still as much a volitional and willful act as is the willing of one's death in order to master it. Willing one's participation in the ideologically enforced desire is equally an act of will as is rebellion from this object-desire. The first situation may be superficially reconcilable to the death drive as a confusion of fear and desire, while the second is not reconcilable; however, in advocating the existence of the positive will and an ego-centric anxiety as a primary motivator, both stances ultimately discount the concept of utter surrender to the drive in this willing of the inevitable. If the symbolic order that contains the 'death drive' is generated from an existential terror based on self-reflexivity and the active willing to maintain agency, then the 'drive' proper does not exist. Zizek will not address the problems raised by willing the inevitable (not the necessary), so as to have a measure of power over it. He instead plays word-games that lead the reader toward a sense of desire for death through the ideological imperative and away from his initial position where such a desire is willed within a system of fear and denial, but hence symbolically mastered. In this way, willing allows one to 'colonize' and 'know' the inevitable, rather than succumb to it, and it soothingly affirms the agency of the individual ego, rather than agonizingly denying it. Returning to Nietzsche, who describes the fear-conditioned cause-creating drive that acts as a will, he claims "to trace something unknown back to something known is alleviating, soothing, gratifying and gives moreover a feeling of power" (Twilight 62), just as the willful need for death is an act of colonization of the unknown country rendering a soothing reinforcement of one's power.
The most important problem to my mind here is: if the tendency toward a contrary to the pleasure principle is fueled by a need to assert agency over the inevitable (death) through projection (Other) or the will (Self), then would it not be more correct to consider the death drive as exactly the opposite of an instinctual drive, but rather an aspect or reflex of the conscious ego and the existential dilemma of mortality that is reliant on self-consciousness? The problem that I am getting at here is the conflict between an instinctual death drive and an ego-centric, existential Angst that leads to the conscious or even unconscious system of agency over death through both knowing and willing it. If death anxiety exists and is an elemental human provocation, then the instinctual drive theory is problematized in that conscious willful reaction and unconscious reaction are equally predicated on the self-conscious human condition. This situation elevates the ego to a position of autonomy over the purely drive-oriented concept of mind. If Zizek's word-games concerning the inevitable and the needed are dispelled, we are left with "will[ing] the inevitable" ("There Is No" 192) in a context of a symbolic order that allays the mortality salience intrinsic in self-reflexivity. This position, while highly agreeable to the Rank-TMT chain, is highly antithetical to Zizek's position on the non-volitional death drive, so if we read Zizek naïvely we find that he relies on the ego-centric will and sense of anxiety in order to derogate ego-centric analysis and the autonomous will, which is particularly apt in reflecting the discussion of paradoxes.
Even if we do not fixedly identify the death drive as the opposite of an instinctual function, it is at the least a problem in Zizek's critical apparatus that is not addressed, and that is moreover made into a larger problem through the ongoing equation of 'need' with 'must.' This confusion of terms in Zizek's works is itself perhaps the most powerful example of this challenge to the concept of an instinctual death drive. The paralleling of what one 'must' do or is 'compelled' to do (such as dying) with what one 'needs' or 'wants' (such as power) reveals the ideological construction of a desire to willfully take up what one is impelled to. This is the nature of any symbolic system that arises to buffer the individual from the trauma of impulsion. The willful misreading of Wagner and Nietzsche that I sarcastically alluded to earlier is exactly the Nietzschean mechanism of placing the unavoidable within one's power by desiring it, hence rendering Zizek's system an ideal exemplification of its own Real: it both is and denies its traumatic kernel.
TMT posits this kind of an investment in distal defenses against mortality as a reaction to heightened mortality salience, such that not only cultural symbolic systems acts as distal defenses, but also the major field of one's contribution to the transcendence system, which functions far more intensely. One's job or research, if it is a part of self-identity, is a greater aspect of the anxiety buffer than one's nationality, and is defended more vehemently. Arndt demonstrates ("Effects of Self-Esteem") that a challenge to the predicate of a buffer against mortality anxiety meets derogation exceeding that given to challenges to the cultural symbolic systems these predicates support. The specific predicate to the anxiety buffer used was the subject's major area of research and study when such a major was an aspect of self-identification. Hence, Zizek's own resistance to the theoretical assertion of the ego-centric will and his manipulation of the discussion of the 'willing of the inevitable' into an ideological 'desire for the inevitable' reflects the strongest impulsion of distal defenses against the challenge to his anxiety-buffering major; ie: his form of Lacanian psychoanalysis. As Zizek discusses the nature of the will within the context of the primary anxiety of mortality, which is antithetical to his investment in drive theory, he turns to a derogation of this challenge and reinforces a symbolic system that allows him to transform his terror into a "radiant dream birth" (Birth 8) of desire.
To reiterate, Zizek's discussion of mortality hinges on Lacan's assertion that "anxiety is born with life" (Clark 126). Where the anxiety of mortality or more generally the terror of existence is intrinsic to the human condition, whether conscious or unconscious, it must be asserted that such anxiety is derivative of self-reflexivity and the domain of the ego, even if it functions primarily unconsciously. This fundamental support for ego-centric psychoanalysis, which is antithetical to the drive theory forwarded by Zizek, is likewise deeply sympathetic to the agency of the ego in willing, and in particular to the function of the will in choosing the inevitable anxiety in order to overcome the dominancy of the inevitable. Moreover, unlike Zizek this gives us a theory where not only is the terror within the domain of the ego, but so too are the repressive reactive formations. Zizek's reactive formation of the willful encompassing of the inevitable parallels his transposition of the feared to the desired as an aspect of drive theory, hence we may read the refutation of the will as a distal defense against the dual threat of an increase in the salience of mortality that analyzing such a will entails, as well as the defense of the distal defense itself, against an alternative system of thought that removes the death-denying function of Zizek's Lacanian project within the cultural symbolic system. Unlike drive theory, the will to overcome and ego-centric psychology leave us with a space in which to challenge the capitulation to terror and subsequent derogation and repression, or in Becker's terms, we have an active space to escape evil rather than escape the Real.
If the primary antagonism in this paper now turns to address Zizek's lack of interest in problems concerning the active will in psychoanalytic theory as well as an unwillingness to address the debate surrounding ego or existential analysis in the Lacanian death drive, we will necessarily return to Freud's tentative initial assertion of the reality principle as an instinctual tendency toward death and destruction. This tendency must be carefully distinguished from an active willing of the inevitable (ego-affirming rather than ego-denying) that leads to the tendency to repeat. The examination of the chain of works from Nietzsche to TMT will be contrasted against the Lacanian death-drive described by Zizek and its historical beginnings in the Freudian reality principle.
Zizek's "Death and the Maiden" establishes a particular manner of reading Woman; however, setting aside Woman in the work, I will consider the background material that Zizek draws on in order to make his statements on gender. First, in the contention that the three films he addresses are varying versions of the "Death and the Maiden" theme, I am drawn to give closer attention to his titular allusion before focusing on (Woman's) surrender to the death drive. Although the mythical and literary appearances of 'death and the maiden' are diffuse, I will most closely consider Schubert's famous lied "Der Tod und das Mädchen." In this fine example of German lieder, Schubert gives the singer and pianist the challenge of representing multiple characters, much like his "Erlkönig," such that the voice and instrument must first imitate the frantic panting of the Maiden as she recognizes her mortality and rebels against it, and second imitate the plodding darkness of Death. This first segment of the song is placed in the treble for both piano and voice, but is followed by a sharp register and tempo change. Both become dark and somber, adapting to a march funebre in order to depict Death seducing the young maiden. The two explicit aspects of this song that I wish to draw attention to, in opposition to Zizek's use of the theme, are the internality and seductiveness of death. By the nature of the setting for a single singer in two roles – Death and the Maiden – the characters, become two aspects of the same identity. Death can no longer be projected out from the self, and must be read as internal to the performer. The cognizance (or identity) of Nonbeing is intrinsic to Being. Moreover, given my promise to discuss the death drive, the seductive singing of death may at first seem to parallel the instinctual death drive that is argued for by Zizek; however, this is not simply the Maiden's seduction by Death, but reflects Death's desire for the Maiden to actively choose him. Death does not take the Maiden at any point in the lied; he offers her the rare opportunity of actively willing what is inevitable, rather than the ego or will-denying option of having it forced upon her. This closely parallels the earlier discussion of Wagner's dictum to will the inevitable and carry it out oneself.
This is the conflict in the reality principle that I wish to address, and that is brought out so well in the Schubert lied – the distinction between a 'proper' instinctual desire or drive, such as hunger, and the more complex willing of a thing in order to have authority over it, hence transmuting the lead of fear into the gold of desire. This alternative principle of the transmutation of elements closely resembles another music example appearing in Zizek's work. The holy sacrament of marriage, as with al-kemi, is the symbolic transmutation of the base sexual contract (lead or body) into a transcendental union (gold or spirit). Hence, Zizek's reading of "the bourgeois ideology of marriage... gaining its first and perhaps noblest expression in Mozart's Magic Flute" (Looking 100) through its "sublime ideal of the love couple" (Looking vii) as a contrast to the Kantian contractual obligation regarding the mutual use of sexual organs, may be alternatively seen as the transcendence of death via the religious value system inscribed in the love couple. Pamina, while she and Tamino are undergoing physical trials of earth, air, water and fire, is explicit that while they are passing through the feared portals of death, their shared love will make them invulnerable to death and will light their passage . Another salient aspect of this passage in the opera is the personification of Death and Love, as with Schubert, which is not apparent aurally, as well as the lover's pursuit of this immortality project in the space between the two deaths – the space of the final destruction of self and the precursor in the awareness of mortality. The two are only united, for their first real communication in the opera, during this Orpheus-like descent into the underworld that gains them the transcendence of corporeality and mortality that Mozart was so conscious of in the last year of his life when he wrote the work. In contrast to Zizek's reading, which is dependent on the love-couple as an objet a, in the context of the earlier discussions of the fear of death, I am suggesting that the object in question is the ideological anxiety buffer described in Terror Management Theory, and the space between the two deaths is life itself.
Zizek maintains "Lacan conceives this difference between the two deaths as the difference between real (biological) death and its symbolization" (Sublime 135), which is much like the ancient Egyptian model, where the dead would wait to either enter the paradise of rewards or the hell of absolute disintegration. The existential model of life places man in a position of awareness of his mortality in the fact of living, and in this sense of difference she or he can only live in the underworld awaiting the weighing of the burdens on their heart. The space between the two deaths is the totality of self-conscious existence, yet with the incorporation of the death drive as an instinctual model,
the 'second death', the radical annihilation of nature's circular movement, is conceivable only in so far as this circular movement is already symbolized/historicized, inscribed, caught in the symbolic web – absolute death, the 'destruction of the universe', is always the destruction of the symbolic universe. The Freudian 'death drive' is nothing but the exact theoretical concept for this Sadeian notion of the 'second death' – the possibility of the total 'wipe-out' of historical tradition opened up by the very process of symbolization/historicization as its radical, self-destructive limit" (Sublime 136)
Within this description of the two deaths, the Egyptian metaphor of the underworld becomes even more apt, with the distinction standing between the cognizance of death in the symbolic order and the ultimate annihilation that figures as an absolute outside of this context of symbolization. This state, in the dismal underworld with one's heart teetering on the scale, is the complete realm of self-conscious existence, but with an ideological or religious system in place that denies the total wipe-out.
Returning to the conflict in the reality principle between instinct and active willing, I would like to emphasize that receiving what one desires connotes agency, while having the despised thrust on one denies the efficacy of the will. As with the love-couple in the Magic Flute, the trials that elevate them beyond the agency-deprecating struggle that fills the first portion of the opera exist in choosing the passage through the necessity of death (the portals of 'Not,' need/distress/necessity, and 'Tod,' death), which renders their autonomy over their fate, rather than the inevitable, simple animal perishing. It is a willful placing of death as the desired object that renders it ideologically controllable, rather than a succumbing to the instinctual desire. With this distinction in mind, I will examine the parallel situation to the death-choosing power of the protagonist and Zizek's assertions of the centrality of the death drive to Ben's role in "Leaving Las Vegas," as described in the "Death and the Maiden" article. My contention is that Ben's choice to pursue his own death in a suicidal drinking binge is no different from Schubert's maiden and her option of actively willing what is doubly the inevitable and the Real (not just the enforcement of the death-denying ideological reality): her surrender to death's seduction, whether she chooses to go with him or not. Moreover, I also contend that Zizek himself inadvertently makes this overturning of the death drive or reality principle via the active will (a rebellion against the inevitable death rather than rebellion against life) more clearly in his own works that I could attempt here. For this reason, I will be subversively interrogating Zizek's primary statements and the conclusions he draws from them. This is why Zizek is a Rankian, and has clearly read his Becker...
Zizek describes Ben as "utter[ly] devot[ed] to the death drive" ("Death" 210), but "we are not dealing here merely with passive despair and depression, but with a liberating act of decision" ("Death" 209). For Ben, the film opens with his realization of his addiction to alcohol and his now-inevitable downward spiral into destruction after losing his job; however, Zizek tells us we are not watching "despair and depression" (209) flash by on the movie-screen, but a joyful decision to gain a measure of control and mastery over this imperative addiction and inevitable destruction by willing it. This is not simply a 'working toward' death, which could be a particularly morbid manner of describing the process of living, but rather a volitional and conscious choosing of death, rather than the continued defeat of the ego by the addiction.
Before directly challenging the reading of Ben's act as an appearance of the reality principle, it is first important to revisit Freud's Beyond the Pleasure Principle and the two parallel situations he describes as exceptions to the reality principle. Freud first describes the child who throws away his own toys as an aspect of delayed gratification, rather than a denial of the pleasure principle, and follows this with the more problematic tendency to repeat for the sake of agency or willing control, such that "each fresh repetition seems to strengthen the mastery they are in search of" (Beyond 274; emphasis mine). This is effectively a division of the first situation described by Freud, where division (a) is the child's gratification of bringing back his toys, which can only be accomplished by first making them go away. Division (b) is an alternative reading of the same, within the context of his separation from his mother, such that the child uses the 'gone' toys as a way of mastering this separation from his mother by willing it. Just as she may leave him, he may have power by making his toys (projections of his mother) go away (and return via the umbilical string), hence moving from a passive to an active role, even if unpleasure is inevitably involved in both cases; "in that case it would have a defiant meaning: 'All right, then, go away! I don't need you. I'm sending you away myself'" (Beyond 247; emphasis mine).
The closeness of this rereading of Beyond the Pleasure Principle to Rank's central challenge to Freudian psychology is not lost to Robert Kramer, whose elucidations of Rankian theory have already been cited. Kramer asks, "Was Ernst turning passive into active with this play? Mimicking an instinctual renunciation? Becoming a conscious subject—a subject of psychoanalytic research?" ("Otto Rank and 'The Cause'" 227). As I have suggested above, this mastery of the traumatic inevitable in willing it is internally suggested in Freud's work. Kramer draws on Rank's theorizing of a birth trauma (a concept also derivative of Freud's 'asides') to extend the scope of this mastery over separation back to the primary parturition:
The inner chamber of Ernst's crib was veiled, like the womb. In pulling the spool up by a (navel) string, was not little Ernst reenacting his own birth? Was not little Ernst pulling on the umbilical cord attached to the interiority of the womb? Instead of recognizing the existence of mother ("there's mother!"), the word da, according to Jacques Lacan, means "there's me!," while inside mother is fort, absence, where the cleavage between "not-me" and "me" does not yet exist. "There can be no fort without da," wrote Lacan. ("Otto Rank and 'The Cause'" 227; quoting Four Fundamental 239)
The conflict that is not made explicit by Kramer, but which is implicit in his argument, is a repudiation of Lacan's statement that
To say that it is simply a function for the subject of instituting himself in a function of mastery is idiotic.... contrary to the whole phenomenology of Daseinanalysis [Existential Analysis], there is no Dasein with the fort. That is to say, there is no choice. If the young subject can practice this game of fort-da, it is precisely because he does not practice it at all" (Four Fundamental 239).
In the alternative articulation of willing the inevitable, or retroactive willing of the birth parturition, it cannot be upheld that "there is no choice" or that "he does not practice [fort-da] at all" (239), even if refusal would not bear out in the physical world.
Kramer elsewhere articulates the conflict between 'fort' and 'da' in the same existential context, closely reflecting Jonas, maintaining the "dividing line between the I, das Ich, and the universe is Angst, which vanishes only when I and You have [symbolically] become one, as parts of a greater whole. With birth, the feeling of oneness with the who, das Ganze, is lost" ("Insight and Blindness" 4). In a more direct challenge to Lacan's position, Kramer continues
Only by willing to be oneself..., by accepting one's difference..., can the human being discover or recover the creativity to change. A creature born out of a biological mother, constructed from two particles of cosmic dust, the human being is at once creature and creator, or, more accurately, progresses from creature to creator, biology to psyche, object to subject... ("Insight and Blindness" 5)
As has already been claimed, in the choosing of the inevitable, the conscious 'will' is still in an act of decision, even if the physical reality would allow no alternative. In choosing the inevitable and making it the desire, the subject is precisely practicing the function of mastery that Lacan places as idiocy.
Jay Watson also takes up this work in his reexamination of the fort/da game played by Ernst, suggesting the game of Gone/There may be read as doubling an assertive "Be Gone/Be There," reenacting the birth scene, with the toy representing the child and the child representing the mother; the two tied together by an umbilical string. By placing the game within the crib – where "translucent tissues, and hidden chambers offer a symbolic topography of the female body, and in particular the body of the mother, whose own inner chamber houses a tenant" (Watson 478) – the child is reenacting his own birth, and gaining mastery over it. As with Kramer, that which is technically outside his control, like the departure of the mother, becomes symbolically 'chosen' and therefore within the compass of the will, hence birth, physicality and the departure of the mother are no longer agency-denying, since they are willed traumas. Ernst "appears to enact the mother's original production of him—complete with string attached" (478), making his Dasein a matter of retroactively willed fact, rather than inevitability thrust upon him.
Watson also clearly aligns the mother's body and the birth act as "the subject's first conscious intimation of mortality" (488), especially emphasizing the absence of the mother implicit in the fort/da game and the physical fact of birth separation. In this context, "fort/da figures an ambivalent process of submitting to and resisting death" (488). In this, the mother is privelaged as "trope for death" (488), and the control over her presence and Ernst's own creation from within her "contributes to ego development by invoking but also dodging the larger, more unsettling game that nobody gets out alive" (488), where life is literally the 'working toward' death. Just as the love-couple in the Magic Flute choose to pass through the portal of death, which they would be compelled to do if they had not so chosen, little Ernst likewise passes through the portal into being, parturition, which may likewise be designated "die Schreckenspforten, die Not und Tod mir dräun" (Magic Flute 138).
This manner of reading Ernst's game leads Watson to argue
these shifting representations, which signal the advent of cultural and symbolic behavior in the infant subject [read: ideological enforcement of the inevitable as the desired and personal willing of the inevitable], allow the ego to evolve mature responses to the psychic trauma of mortality while dealing with that trauma at several removes. The emerging self can thus proceed with the business of living without being paralyzed by the fear of dying. (488)
I will add that this process of signification acts in this repression/domination of death anxiety (first encountered as the separation of birth) within a context of agency through Ernst's game, hence the symbolic order. Watson seems to argue that this symbolic order is developed as a denial of the paralyzing fear of death, which is first encountered through the trauma of birth. This is precisely the theoretical agenda forwarded by Rank in The Trauma of Birth in 1923, and the focus on will in this paper. The history of psychoanalysis tells us that these thoughts led to Rank discharge from the womb-like cradle of the psychoanalytic movement. The second aspect that I would point out is that in Watson's article the "unmasterable fact of death" (Watson 498) and the active will as a "stall tactic" (498) are both simplifications that are problematized in our reading of Zizek on the subject of suicide, where I will argue that active willing is not a stall tactic, and that by encompassing death, the will symbolically masters it. Moreover, the creative act of willing must also be acknowledge, even if there is not space for it to be explored here, for in The Trauma of Birth the titular punning must be acknowledged as profoundly significant. In trauma der geburt there is both a trauma (wound) and traum (dream), such that birth is not only the retroactive willed trauma, but is dually the willfully created traum that Ernst has here re-created to both master its wound in himself – a wound centred in Angst – and to master it through being its creator; its mother if you will. The self-willed and self-created trauma is a reinforcement of existence, just as "threats enhance the will to live, so [viewed] murder becomes "pro-life," a jolting tonic" (Lieberman n.pag).
The second exception to the reality principle, where there at first seems to be an instinctive tendency to unpleasure, comes with "the manifestation of the compulsion to repeat" (Beyond 273) that which is unpleasant, as with the child's symbolic repetition of his loss of the mother (as distinct from gaining control over the production of self). This division between two exceptions is unnecessary, as the two are still manifestations of the same pursuit of the ego's agency in the face of that which it cannot control. Just as the child gains control over his separation from the mother by willing it and symbolically acting it out, the war neurotic (or child) gains control over the trauma by repeating it in therapy or dreams. Freud describes this as the attempt to build up a resistance to the trauma by post-traumatically implementing the protective anxiety; however, he allows for the parallel reading of repetition "to strengthen the mastery they are in search of" (Beyond 274), which is the same situation we have been discussing in regard to the active will. Repeating unpleasure or trauma offers the subject an opportunity of mastering this event that is external to the proper control of the ego, through the act of willing it symbolically, and hence (re)creating it as their own.
Drawing on these distinctions, Ben's 'suicide' in "Leaving Las Vegas" corresponds (perhaps perfectly) to this tendency to "repeat unpleasurable experiences for the... reason that [he] can master a powerful impression far more thoroughly by being active... [such that] each fresh repetition seems to strengthen the mastery [he is] in search of" (Beyond 274). Ben's decision to end his life through an endless drinking binge in Las Vegas is not a surrender to his instinctual rebellion against life, but is the manifestation of his "liberating act of decision" ("Death" 209) to take willful and creative control of his inevitable addiction and demise through willing it. As with the child, psychoanalytic patient or war neurotic who repeats a prior experience of unpleasure for the sake of gaining mastery over it, Ben is gaining mastery over the inevitability of his death and the uncontrollability of his addiction through the active willing of it; hence transposing himself from a passive participant in his own destruction to an active master of it. For Otto Rank, this move is described as the transition from creature to creator, playing on the traum.
In his work, Zizek has described the reality principle via Freud, claiming "For Freud, the death drive is not merely a decadent reactive formation - a secondary self-denial of the originally assertive will to power, the weakness of the will, its escape from life, disguised as heroism - but the innermost radical possibility of a human being" ("There is No" 190). Herein, he shows his affinity for viewing the self-destructive turn as utterly separate from the desire of the ego, the individual will and the pleasure principle; however, this 'radical possibility' may be read alternatively in the sense of rebellion. The concept of the death drive as a rebellion or the "innermost radical possibility of a human being" ("There is No" 190) is contradicted by the possibility of viewing such an act (self-destruction or flagellation) as a manifestation of the will over these inevitabilities of the human condition or even the will within an ideological context. In flagellation, which is not terribly uncommon, TMT has demonstrated a connection between mortality salience and living "on an abstract symbolic plane: We cope with the threat of death by embedding ourselves in a meaningful [incorporeal] culture" (203), or more generally the mind-body dualism places the self apart from the corruptible body, which is then denigrated. This material is turned to a willful separation of self from the anxiety-provoking body, hence human concepts of disgust over physicality, abjection, the distinction of human from animal, sexual taboos, and the elevation of the "sublime ideal of the love couple represented in Mozart's Magic Flute" (Looking vii) from the brute sexual contract. Even with the example of the patient who compulsively relives or remembers the kerntrauma in therapy, without ever overcoming it, we can read this act of willing within the patient's viscous cycle of (a) recollecting the limited agency of the ego in the traumatic event, and (b) retrospectively willing it by reliving it and thereby returning to step (a). This does not utterly refute the possibility of such a thing as a death drive, but it does problematize the haphazard categorization of any tendency toward destruction as a manifestation of it.
The need for a distinction between these two possible contingencies is also dominant in the article from which the above quotation is taken, "There is No Sexual Relationship," and this problem parallels that which is seen in Ben's suicidal will. Not only is the will to power – in Ben's case manifested as the will to mastery over the inevitable finitude and addiction – precisely not a rebellion against the 'normative' condition of the pleasure principle, it is exactly the opposite of the "innermost radical possibility of a human being" ("There is No" 190). It is a completely conventional behaviour paralleling the creation of the symbolic order, and conforms to the human drive for mastery over circumstances, such as exemplified in the pleasure principle. Moreover, if we are also to consider sexuality in the context of a challenge to the assertion of incorporeality, how does the reality principle become reworked in the repression of sexuality and punishment of the body? If the body is the region of death, and one must maintain that the self is not subject to death, then it follows that the self is not of the body, and likewise sex is not of the self. In controlling or repressing sex, what is then read as being the real repression? Death? Can this be a refutation of the primacy of the pleasure principle by another instinctual level, or is it a subtle movement from the instinctual pleasure principle and survival-drive to a consciousness-centred anxiety? Similarly, flagellation, sadism and masochism can be seen as the denial of the finitude that the body represents, just as the tendency to repeat becomes a willful mastery. In Rankian terms, anxiety over death-consciousness is the Kern-problem that is denied, while death itself is mastered through aspects of projection, transference as an attachment of the self onto that which is symbolically beyond death, and the creative willing of the inevitable so that it is symbolically within one's control rather than denying one's agency.
In Looking Awry, Zizek claims that "far from being a sign of 'madness,' the barrier separating the real from reality is therefore the very condition of a minimum of 'normalcy': 'madness' (psychosis) sets in when this barrier is torn down, when the real overflows reality [ie: social constructs] (as in autistic breakdown) or when it is included in reality" (20). My question here is 'what have we invested in reality, the social symbolic system, that causes madness and psychosis when we reveal its superficial veneer-like nature?' Is repression via the social or symbolic order a means to affirming the metaphysical (incorporeal) denial of death through the placing of the self within the incorporeal symbolic order? If so, is not the formulation of 'instinct' itself a disembodying of what is essentially corporeal, and the theorizing of the death drive a way of knowing and colonizing the other of death and separation? Terror Management Theory nicely answer these questions that I have posed, such that if "humans [we]re aware that our most basic desire for continued existence will be thwarted...., individual members of our species would be paralyzed with terror unless we developed some means of managing this problem" ("Fleeing the Body" 201). This parallels (and deepens) Zizek's contention that the "the barrier separating the real from reality" (Looking 20), which is here read as the symbolic order or 'buffer' in TMT, is what prevents madness and psychosis.
In another film analysis, when discussing The Empire of the Sun, Zizek claims that "when the barrier [between the Real and reality] falls down... [Jim] invert[s] his utter impotence into omnipotence, to conceive himself as radically responsible for the intrusion of the real" (Looking 29) in the form of a deadly explosion caused by enemy warships. My question here is how does responsibility equate to omnipotence? Like the 'need' and 'must' problem earlier, is it not clearer and perhaps more accurate to read this through Nietzsche's (retroactive) willing of the inevitable in order to master it? This problem is not so far from Freud's Beyond the Pleasure Principle, and it forms one of the central arguments of Rank's works. Moreover, this willing would more accurately fit the impotence to omnipotence transition, rather than mere responsibility which is a subsequent result, which Zizek is quick to switch his terminology to present. He, Zizek, further claims "[t]he same enthusiastic feeling of omnipotence erupts later, in the prison camp, when an English lady dies. Jim desperately massages her and when the woman, although dead, opens her eyes for a moment because of the stimulation of her blood circulation, Jim is thrown into ecstasy, convinced that he is capable of reviving the dead" (Looking 30). Again, my challenge is that Jim symbolically conquers death at the time when his own mortal vulnerability is so prominent and heavy in his mind; he is living in a concentration camp. As earlier, is this a symbolic mastery of the cause of anxiety and the real, rather than 'responsibility,' which is a consequence? This is again an instance of the retroactive willing of an event, and claiming of authority over it, rather than surrender to the limitations of the ego.
In the same vein (pun intended), when describing The Night of the Living Dead, Zizek does not discuss death, the fear of death, nor the extreme corporeality of the dead zombies. Most importantly, he does not discuss the mainstream film analysis given of Romero, where the focus is on the nature of our defenses against the living dead: guns, malls and the nuclear family. All of these 'distal' defenses are riddled with the dead, who storm into the mall and cannot be killed by guns even while we are shot by the living; the dead are even members of our own nuclear family. Most importantly, for my reading of the film, within the context of these social defenses against the dead and the cognizance of death, the walking dead eat our brains, arms and gory intestines, revealing our repressed corporeality. The dead embody the knowledge that we are nothing but body and could be well described as self-conscious food for someone else. As with the above discussion of corporeality in Terror Management Theory, the living dead are the intrusion of the Real into the ideological system that maintains the essential incorporeality of the human Self, as distinct from the human Body. Feces and 'guts' remind us of our corporeality, and abjection is the denial of this physicality; 'it's not me.' This form of abjection even appears in the recent film "Enemy at the Gates," when Danilov finds himself hiding among the heaped corpses of his fallen countrymen, and responds by vomiting in a denial of his own mortal danger and corporeality (his living body is just like the dead ones he crawls through). This literally becomes Danilov's role in the war movement for Russia: the offering of heroes so that the doomed soldiers (the walking dead) no longer fear death due to the buffer of their social and ideological investment. Threatening execution if these soldiers failed to sacrifice themselves was not working well, so the hero system became Danilov's media-oriented innovation. This film presents an ideal example of the problem that I am approaching, as it is obsessed with corporeality and mortality within an Orphic Stalingrad situated on the dark side of the river Styx (the Volga), therein paralleling the space between the two deaths in the neo-Egyptian underworld, which is our world.
This form of the Real seems rampant in Zizek's works as his own personal exemplification of it. As Zizek states, in "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag: upon opening a window, the reality previously seen through it dissolves and all we see is the dense, nontransparent slime of the Real" ("A Hair of the Dog" 72; underlining added). This footnote is notably not reprinted in The Zizek Reader (1999) publication of this article; however, what I would point out is the 'slime' of the Real corresponds to the dead octopus, goop, placental mass, etc..., that so fleshily testifies in its horrific corporeality to the presence of the Real as linked to the denial of the physical and mortal sheath, and therein ties the Real to the existential anxiety of mortality. Is it not suspicious that for Zizek the ideal exemplification of the Real is corporeality, rather than an ideological overturning?
Returning (for the last time) to Zizek's extended discussion of Wagner in "There Is No Sexual Relationship," he makes an oversight regarding projection. He asserts that the death drive "points toward the traumatic kernel of the Real" ("There is No" 193) while offering the example, "the true enigma of the sacrifice does not reside in the magic efficiency of scapegoating, of sacrificing a substitute other, but rather in the readiness of the subject effectively to sacrifice himself/herself for the cause" ("There is No" 194). The problem here is the limitation on scapegoating or projection, that makes this statement true. The limitation lies in the dual possibility of the willing of the inevitable (as opposed to the necessary) and the projection of the inevitable into the scapegoat (ie: that which can be overcome; death and suffering can be killed or made to suffer in the scapegoat). Apart from the function of the death drive, Zizek's description of scapegoating does not allow one to project what one wishes to overcome into the scapegoat, which would seem to contradict the most common definition of a scapegoat: "a person who is made to bear blame or punishment that should rightly fall on others (¶Named after the goat which, in ancient Jewish religious custom, was allowed to escape into the wilderness after the high priest had symbolically laid the sins of the people upon it.)" ("Scapegoat" 714). Bearing this definition in mind (and the highly appropriate derivation of the term to Zizek's works, where the most common scapegoat is the Jew), the conflict seems to be between a scapegoat who substitutes for one's own desired self-destruction (death drive), and one who substitutes for one's fear of the inevitable (projection of a personified Death himself, and hence the psychological destruction or overcoming of him).
In continuation of this theme of the projection of a traumatic content into the scapegoat, we must address Zizek's placing of the enigma of scapegoating in "the readiness of the subject effectively to sacrifice himself/herself for the cause" ("There is No" 194), just as Danilov and Vassili Zeitsev of "Enemy at the Gates" are willing to sacrifice themselves to the heroic order as a means to preventing themselves from dying. As with suicide, if the act of submission or sacrifice of oneself is itself a reinforcement of the system of denial that allows one to escape from the inevitable destruction that is known to be ahead, the pain and suffering endured is indistinguishable from the fist caught in a cage of ideological enforcement. This is not a death drive proper, just as the carelessness of the general populace in the face of impending ecological disaster is not an instinctual death drive, but rather the full working-out of the monkey trap of ideology that drives one toward the repressed fact of death that sits as the kernal both creating and created by this ideology. The death drive is here an ideological impulsion, and in being so it could not be further from instinctual. The surrender to the death drive in being a scapegoat or masochistic maiden (as in "Death and the Maiden") is more properly surrender to the anxiety-buffering symbolic order that unfortunately demands a mortal price for its symbolic immortality. The monkey cannot gain freedom without first releasing its grip on the shiny prize hidden in the trap. As with the Orphic suicide cult, the scapegoat or oil executive is quite literally killing him or her self in order to escape death, just as the puritan creates the environment ripe for molestation by denying the Real of child sexuality and the Marxist perpetuates the repression of the proletariat through the comforting knowledge that 'someday' it will rise up.
One further compelling aspect of the scapegoat turns up in the ego-ideal, which Zizek conveniently discusses in the context of nationalism. In Tarrying With the Negative, he remarks on the "Ego-Ideal (Ich-Ideal) [the Ideal I]: [as] the point from which West sees itself in a likeable, idealized form, as worthy of love" (200). The flip side of this ego-ideal is the scapegoat, who is the Other, "the menace to our 'way of life'" (201). In defense of the nation-Thing, the nationalist derogates difference, which is itself the very means by which the nation-Thing is defined. This is the same pattern already analyzed as the defense of the ideology against difference, which is a denial of the ideology's anxiety-buffering function. Terror Management Theory raises this aspect of national scapegoating and investment in the nation-Thing as its primary means to regarding the consequences of mortality salience without consciousness of the aggressivity it provokes toward the challenging of its buffer:
Self-esteem, according to this analysis, is the sense that one is a valuable participant in a meaningful and eternal reality, and self-esteem is attained to the extent that one believes that one is successfully meeting the standards of value of one's culture. According to TMT, cultural worldviews and self-esteem provide an anxiety buffer that protects us from deeply rooted existential fears surrounding our vulnerability and mortality. ("Fleeing the Body" 201)
This view is remarkably borne out by Arndt's testing of liking for people who support one's worldview and hostility toward those with alternative worldviews" ("Effects of Self-Esteem" 1331) within a control for self-esteem, such that a self-esteem boost negates increased derogation of an anti-nationalist statement after mortality salience is raised, while "when a target threatens a dimension on which a self-esteem boost is predicated [ie: one's contribution to the nation-Thing], such a boost will not deter derogation following mortality salience" ("Effects of Self-Esteem" 1331). It seems that yet again aggressivity, in its nationalistic particularity this time, is tied to the same existential anxiety and buffering against this anxiety through ideological belief systems. The imperative 'enjoy your nation as yourself' contains the hidden agenda 'defend your ideological system or identification as your immortal self,' such that difference is a challenge, and a challenge holds the potential for absolute destruction paired against the Edenic beyond offered by the ego-ideal. The scapegoat is necessarily both a challenge to the nation and a challenge to the predicate of one's contribution to the nation, so that not only is it subject to the aggression reserved for challenges to the nation-Thing, but also the more tenacious aggression against challenges to one's personal contribution to the transcendence object of the nation. Both cases deeply involve the scapegoat as an aspect of projection, rather than a genuine threat, since it is only through projection that 'difference' equates to 'challenge.'
To which function of projection are we to turn? If scapegoating is both associated with the "fear that what is necessary will not occur without our active assistance" ("There is No" 192) and with an externalization of the death drive into aggression, must we not also question the scapegoat as "the Other into whom we project our own disavowed, repressed content [and in whom it] is sacrifice, so that, through the destruction of the Other, we purify ourselves" ("There is No" 194)? Is not the death drive functioning as a defense? Can one both symbolically kill the looming death in the scapegoat, hence killing one's fear of the inevitable, while synchronically desiring that which we are so emphatically denying? There seems to be an internal superfluity here, if not an inconsistency. If it follows that "the readiness of the subject effectively to sacrifice himself/herself for the cause" ("There is No" 194) is equitable to the projection onto the scapegoat (or placement of self in the ideology one is physically dying to defend), and we are sacrificing the scapegoat in order to purge ourselves of our repressed contents and fears. I ask, when we bring this dialogue into the context of willing the inevitable, is not the drive to self-destruction or masochism (or the externalization in murder and sadism) only another aspect of this destruction of the inevitable through the projection of a symbolized form of it? Can murder or sacrifice be the symbolic killing of death or dying to escape death? Does Zizek not raise this problem himself, even while avoiding addressing it?
To begin answering my own questions, if the tendency toward a contrary to the pleasure principle is fueled by a need to assert agency over the inevitable through projection or the will, then would it not be more correct to consider the death drive as exactly the opposite of an instinctual drive, but rather an aspect of the conscious ego and the existential dilemma of being trapped in a deadly time-limited press between corporeality and mentality? The traumatic kernal is the denial of such. What I am getting at here is the conflict between an instinctual death drive and an ego-centric existential angst that leads to the conscious or even unconscious system of agency over death. If death anxiety and mortality salience exist and are elemental human provocations, then the instinctual drive theory is problematized in that conscious willful reaction and unconscious reaction are equally dependent on the self-conscious human condition..
As a final note to this argument, I will again appeal to Zizek's question: "Are concentration camps and killing as a neutral business the inherent outcome of the enlightened insistence on the autonomy of Reason?" (" Kant" 285). In the problem of human cruelty and atrocities, the will and existential analysis have been nudged aside for theoretical approaches that offer an escape from what seems to be the Nazism inherent in the will to power; however, even Sade himself can offer a repulsion from the horrors of his own dungeon, and offer the clear moral
God forbid that anyone should think that in saying this I seek to give encouragement to crime! Of course we must do everything we can to avoid criminal acts – but we must learn to shun them through reason and not out of unfounded fears which lead nowhere. ("Dialogue" 159)
In this scenario, the horrors of unrestricted desire cannot be shunned on a moral basis or within the context of an ideological system that refuses to face these horrors as its own Real. In a more succinct statement, we cannot rely on the virtue of the weak to defend against the immorality of the strong, and in this acceptance, the maligned will is the vehicle for and escape from evil, rather than a re-veiling of wo-man's gaze at the world; a re-inscription of maja. To refuse the willful control over the inevitable that intrudes on the symbolic order is either and acceptance of psychosis (in Zizek's formulation) or worse. In reinforcing the symbolic order and enjoying the symptoms of its denial of its Real, a retreat is effected further into the systems that Terror Management Theory has shown to result in derogation of difference. In the case of the inevitable, this difference will or nill be enforced, no matter what Salo nightmares are created to defend the individual from the awareness of the crouching beast. The death drive, the instinctual desiring of the inevitable monster, becomes both the avoidance itself and the means to avoiding the endless retreat into ideology, but even in its own 'instinctual' description there resides another level of ideology that denies the willful choosing of the inevitable as the means to control and creation of the symbolic order that buffers against psychosis-inducing terror and control over the detrimental aspects of this buffer. As with the ecological crisis, "[we're] not really prepared to integrate it into [our] symbolic universe, and that is why [we] continue to act as if ecology is of no lasting consequence for [our] everyday li[ves]" (Looking 35), hence our denial of mortality leads us to pursue and chase our own death, rather than willfully choosing its future inevitability while continuing to live. In the same manner, the relegation of the will to non-existence in the symbolic order in which Zizek's writings function, leaves the resolution to the problem of Salos and Sadean dungeons without an outlet or escape via choice, since these horrific atrocities are within an ideology that is driven by them. The ideological system that seeks to escape from the horrors of our century forms these terrors as its own traumatic kernel that is both reviled and needed as a lack. In contrast, when subjects are aware of their own mortality salience-induced aggressivity and derogation, they negate the unconscious transaction between the anxiety buffer and the fear of its lack. Nonetheless, it is perhaps too much to hope that Zizek's formulation will include 'enjoy your will' or an abandonment of the symbolic order in the self-creation (traum) of the Real; although, it may still be possible to hope for a willful release of the fist caught in the trap of ideological denial.
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 The Real is the denied traumatic kernel that the ideology is built around, like an oysters grain of sand, but within the ideology this kernel does not exist. This is not to say that sand does not exist in any other perspectives.
 I would like to point out the slipperiness of the term 'reality' in Zizek's statement here, where it is both the specific Lacanian sense of the symbolic order, as well as the colloquial 'true world' concept. Ideology does not offer us an escape from the 'true world,' but rather offers itself as an escape from the trauma of lacking the self-same ideology. In effect, it is the village idiot who can lift himself by the scruff of his neck, because he does not know this is impossible. It is important to watch this slippage of terms closely.
 Schrecht, rather than Angst, was the term used in order to emphasize the break from Freud's approach, although I will be using the two terms interchangeably as referent to a primal anxiety/fear of death.
 In Goldenberg's succinct definition, "We refer to these threat-focused defenses as proximal defenses because they bear a close logical relation to the problem of death [ie: 'I will quit smoking because cancer is a threat' or 'I exercise, so I don't need to worry about cancer']. In contrast, we refer to the terror management defenses of self-esteem and faith in one's worldview as distal defenses because their connection to the problem of death is more remote and less rational [ie: 'I will go to church more,' 'I will defend my country' or 'I have a sculpted muscular physique']" ("Fleeing the Body" 202). Moreover, proximal defenses "are employed when thoughts of death are in current focal attention, distal defenses... are employed when the problem of death is on the fringes of consciousness" (202).
This lied is also the basis of his later string quartet with the same subtitle.
 Interestingly, this internality of the Other can be reversed depending on the performance. Due to the extreme low register and timbre of the death portion of the lied, it is usually performed by and Alto or a Bass, thus inverting the gender aspect of the polarity. Due to this 'breeches' role for the vocalist, among varying performances the audience is unsure if the male (Death) is an aspect of the female (Maiden), or if the female (Maiden) is an aspect of the male (Death).
 "[Tamino:] Hier sind die Schreckenspforten, die Not und Tod mir dräun. [Pamina:] Ich werde aller Orten an deiner Seite sein. Ich selbsten führe dich, die Liebe leite mich. (Magic Flute 138).
 Hier sind die Schreckenspforten, die Not und Tod mir dräun. (Magic Flute 138).
 Lending credence to the internal suggestions of this alternative reading in Freud's original work, the three parallel approaches given on this and the next page (mine, Kramer's and Watson's) were all developed independent of an awareness of one another, and are likewise expressive of Lacan's examination of the Fort/Da game in "Of The Subject Who Is Supposed To Know, Of The First Dyad, And Of The Good." I had not yet read the Kramer and Watson articles, and Kramer assured me in a private email that he had not yet read the Watson and was "playing with language here so that Freud's own unconscious can be revealed" ("RE: Rank & Lacan").