What desire is concerned in the pass?

Andrew Lewis, Leonardo Rodriguez & Megan Williams*

We propose that the desire implied in the procedure of the pass must be the desire of the analyst, as defined in the well known sections of Seminar XI1  and as it is implied in the elaboration of the discourse of the analyst of Seminar XVII.2

Désêtre and the pass

The neurotic symptom, recognised as a jouissance inhabiting what could serve as an intention of the Other, is dismantled in the analysis. It is reduced to the primary symptom, in the sense in which Freud used the term at the beginnings of psychoanalysis.3 A relic of the forced choice of being-being marked-this primary symptom remains at the point where the subject accepts the primary fixation of the drives. For the first time as far as knowledge is concerned, he assumes the hidden name which has no meaning but is a vehicle for life. But he no longer inscribes it into a story of meaningful destiny, a hero’s tale; no longer inserts it into the discourse of the Other; no longer counts its repetitions.

What, then, motivates him to attempt the experience of the pass? The desire of the analyst which has been produced manifests itself in two planes. First, having ceased his counting of repetitions, the subject wants to make his act of concluding count. That is, he proposes to articulate the truth he has discovered, of the hole in the Other as cause of his fantasy, with the ‘textual knowledge’ which Lacan says gives the field of psychoanalysis its consistency.4 But this project, to reconstruct his act after the fact, in itself introduces into its certitude a vacillation. Thus the second aspect of his desire involves the verification that his conclusion-in which logic and the act coincided-was a valid one. Following from this, the problematic of the pass is how to verify an act which cannot be deduced from logic alone.

Lacan says of the passage from analysand to analyst that ‘[ … ] the being of desire reunites with the being of knowledge and is thereby reborn [ … ]’. That the knowledge at stake is bound together with desire ‘on a single-sided strip on which a single lack is inscribed’5  suggests that what is in question is not textual or conceptual knowledge. The knowledge is the one produced from désêtre, from the truth of lack, and therefore cannot be produced in the discourses of hysteria, the university or the master. In the pass, then, whatever oscillation of discourse may take place, it is the discourse of the analyst which must prevail. Lacan says:6

In this change of tack where the subject sees the assurance he gets from [his] fantasy [ … ] capsize, what can be perceived is that the foothold of desire is nothing but that of a désêtre, disbeing. In this désêtre what is inessential in the supposed subject of knowledge is unveiled, from which the psychoanalyst to come dedicates him-or her self to the agalma of the essence of desire, ready to pay for it through reducing himself [ … ] to any signifier [as a function of the transference). For he has rejected the being that did not know the cause of its fantasy, at the very moment at which he has finally become this supposed knowledge.

For this to be verifiable in the passant all of the participants in the pass must be ready to reduce themselves to ‘any signifier’, implying that désêtre must be operative in them too. The desire of the analyst therefore functions to found and orient the entire procedure. It remains a question whether the desire of the analyst can be recognised by those in whom it has not been verified, or whether in such a case there is only textual knowledge or ideals to orient the judgement. This is a question which has been debated in Australia. Perhaps those colleagues with more experience in the procedure can enlighten us on this matter.

The question highlights the tension between verification and what analysis produces: a disjuncture between knowledge and truth. The pass can only verify this disjuncture; one cannot know the truth which motivates the passer in the pass. Therefore the process of verification of the analyst’s desire in the pass takes psychoanalysis no closer to being a science.


Colette Soler has commented that the analyst who teaches does so from the hysteric’s discourse, from the position of analysand (Soler 1999).7  Since the passant is a subject who speaks, of necessity from a position of division, and since the passant produces signifiers in order to produce knowledge, the discourse of hysteria is evoked in the pass. The passant’s analysis began addressing the master and ended up producing the true master, not in the sense of ideals but as name: the S1, which implies also the lost object for whose lack it substitutes. This is what is to be given an account of in the procedure of the pass. There is a discourse at work, in that the passant’s speech has an effect on the other of the jury. But from the discourse of hysteria alone one cannot expect the crucial knowledge to be produced. Its production requires the articulation of a moment of revelation; of a singular truth which cannot be reduced to textual
knowledge. To remain only within the discourse of hysteria would constitute an impasse, which is a possibility that could come about in a number of ways.

The hysteric is someone who attempts to rectify the lack encountered in the Other with love. The passant who approaches the pass in the hysteric’s position may do so in order to sustain the father of psychoanalysis by incarnating what is missing from the theories of Freud and Lacan. This would imply a testimony
accommodated to the ideals of psychoanalysis rather than to its inability to offer a guarantee of being; an attempt to constitute psychoanalysis as Other in place of the passant’s solitude. This would imply the giving of testimony as a neurotic symptom.

The jury of the pass may, wittingly or unwittingly, contribute to the creation of this impasse if it assumes the complementary position, that of the master. The master is one who produces and incarnates ideals, to which love is addressed. Freud described hypnosis as the overlap of object and the ego ideal. Lacan adds that the object at stake is an empty object, a cause, and that the desire of the analyst is the instrument which can separate it from the ideal.8  If the effects of prestige at play in the School obscure the division of the Other, then ‘what the training analysis sought to eliminate’ will be re-established.9 This leads us to the question of the opposition between love for knowledge and desire for knowledge. The knowledge at stake in the pass is a particular one. It is the knowledge of the void in meaning which the fantasy previously covered; knowledge that the object in the fantasy was only a semblance; knowledge, that is, of an absence of sexual relation at the point in the Other where it is expected. The desire to know, caused by lack, has produced in the analysis a knowledge of that lack. It is the knowledge which has been avoided as horror, and it is correlative with the fall of the subject supposed to know. It is not a knowledge which cements a relation to the Other as site of knowledge, but which promotes the transference of knowledge towards the subject, in whom it is a necessarily incomplete enunciation. Following from this, we can deduce that it is desire for knowledge, not the love of it, which is crucial to the pass.

Freud did not invent the pass. He created psychoanalysis, and in order to do so he had to relinquish the position of mastery traditionally assumed by doctors. He, the first analyst, was necessarily the first analysand. His desire was not ambitious, as Erikson interpreted, but greater than him, as Lacan interpreted. The analyst needs to be more humble than the analysand, which does not mean making of his humility a form of impotence (hysterical stagnation). Freud knew that psychoanalysis must be the reverse of the master’s discourse. All the participants in the pass must dispose of imaginary lures and ambitions to possess power, and it is only the humility of désêtre which makes this possible.

The cartel can also contribute to an impasse by orienting itself to the discourse of the university. If, for example, instead of attempting to grasp the particularity of the testimony, the jury members listen only for cases of pre-established norms, then the passant will be viewed as one undergoing an examination, required to produce proofs of having acquired the collectively held knowledge. What the passant has to transmit cannot be prescribed by an orthodoxy,  because the experience that revealed to him his being was a singular one. The discourse of the university implies the cartel as holder of knowledge. From this position, the passant’s testimony to the division between enunciation and statement could be heard as a fault, a failure to pass to the idealised ‘full’ knowledge which is actually a semblant which hides a master. It would require the discourse of analysis to listen for an indication in the statements of the emptiness of a subject of desire.

The pass is not a teaching. What is transmitted is not taught. Teaching can itself be an impasse in the sense that the transmission of psychoanalysis requires a desire for analysis rather than a drive to accumulate knowledge about psychoanalysis.

The design of the procedure designates the passer as the means to avoid the passant’s speech being directed to an other of greater authority, but perhaps did not anticipate the ways in which the writings of the juries and the teachings of the Analysts of the School may be circulated in the School, as they are, for example, in the World Association of Psychoanalysis. It is necessary for the jury to write, but its writings risk having the effect of establishing a collective ideal of the end of analysis. This will tend to create an obedience school, and in those who ‘achieve’ the ideals proposed, a ‘hypomania’: the term Lacan applied to Balint’s proposal of the end of analysis as an identification with the analyst.10

The passage to writing

Lacan says that his proposition ‘implies a cumulation of experience, its compilation and elaboration, an ordering of its varieties, a notation of its degrees’, and that ‘its results must be communicated’.11 However, the teaching of academic formulations operates as an obstacle to the transmission of psychoanalysis. The experience of the pass alerts us to the disjunction between speech and writing. The testimony which must be written about cannot be grasped fully in writing. Academic formulas may be seductive, but they do cannot properly transmit the real at stake in psychoanalysis. A report by the jury made to circulate like a textbook may facilitate the establishment of ready-made formulas, creating the false impression that the pass can be traversed by following them. One can find such examples, but it would be absurd to propose a counter-formula. However, it needs to be born in mind that this is an important function of the jury which should be kept under discussion and permanent scrutiny.

The published writings of the jury must somehow do justice to the succession of writings involved in the experience of the analysis and the pass. The passage from speech to writing occurs in the  experience of the pass just as it does within the analysis itself. The analytic experience produces the writing of an absolute singularity which sustains the passage from analysand to analyst. It is  this writing which transmits psychoanalysis: in the offer from analyst to analysand, from passer to jury, from jury to School. It marks an analyst’s desire; it is the material through which the real of psychoanalysis ceases not to be written. The experience of psychoanalysis necessarily has to be written as a contingency.

* This paper was originally presented at the International     Rendezvous of the Forums of the Lacanian Field, Paris, July 2000, and published (in French) in Passes et impasses dans l’expérience psychanaytique. Actes du Rendez-vous international. Les 1 et 2 juillet 2000 (Paris: Forums du Champ lacanien, 2000), 39-45 and (in English) in Analysis, No. 10, 2001: 160-164.

  1.  Jacques Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis (London: Tavistock, 1977).
  2.  Jacques Lacan, Le Séminaire, Livre XVII, L’envers de la psychanalyse, 1969-1970 (Paris: Seuil, 1991).
  3.  Sigmund Freud, Extracts from the Fliess Papers, SE 1: 175-280.
  4.  Jacques Lacan, ‘Proposition of 9 October 1967 on the Psychoanalyst of the School’, Analysis 6: 6-7, 1995.
  5. Ibidem, 10.
  6.  Ibidem, 9.
  7. Colette Soler, Seminar conducted at the Australian Centre for Psychoanalysis, Melbourne, February 1999.
  8.  Jacques Lacan, The Four Fundamental Concepts, 267-274.
  9. Jacques Lacan, ‘Proposition of 9 October’, 3.
  10.  Ibidem, 9.
  11.  Ibidem, 9.
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