The Garden (Bridge) of Eden

Watercolour and ink, 76 x 56cm, 2015


Adam and Eve both ate from the tree of knowledge even though they were forbidden to.  Before this act, they lived in a state of nature, in an undifferentiated state from beasts and plant life.  After eating from the tree they became conscious of their nudity and that they had this in common with the beasts in the Garden of Eden.  They hid their immodesty. The only other being possessing self-consciousness was the Supreme Being, God, as is shown in how he critically appraises his own work in the seven days he created the world.  As punishment for eating from the tree of knowledge, God banished Adam and Eve from the Garden.  In the moment of eating from the tree and becoming self-conscious, they also became conscious of the need to create a difference between themselves and the natural world.  As Hegel tells us, they became conscious of the subject-object relation.  Leaping forward to Jacques Lacan, I think of the pre-linguistic stage he proposes as being equivalent to the period before Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge [1].   In the (post-) linguistic stage, we cease to exist as objects amongst objects.  In becoming self-conscious, we become subjects and bring into being a world of objects.  Language becomes the stand-in for the thing, the world.  Lacan says that the Unconscious is composed from language.  This is because we construct our subjectivity, as per Martin Heidegger, by bringing the things around us into worldliness through language.  In Hegel’s terms, language is the thing as it is ‘for itself’ and not what it is ‘in itself’.  It is how consciousness (re)presents the world to itself but not how the world really is. 

Lacan claims our subjectivity is based on a fantasy of the world.  What is this fantasy?  If we return to the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, this fantasy is of a pre-linguistic state in which the world is not experienced as something inaccessibly ‘in itself’ and only accessibly ‘for itself’, mediated through language. The subject’s trauma is that he or she experiences the ‘for itself’ of the world, the world as language.  Hegel tells us that our knowledge of the world moves dialectically towards a State of Science, a state in there is no difference between the ‘in itself’ and ‘for itself’ of the consciousness of the world.  Consciousness grasps the concept of self-consciousness upon which the subject’s notion of itself is founded.

In Lacanian psychoanalytic sessions, the analyst focuses on the unconscious language of the analysand (the patient) and works figuratively speaking through the strata of language from which the patient has constructed his notion and history of himself as a subject, working backwards, chronologically[2] towards an imaginary origin, to the first experience in which the patient was confronted with the trauma of subjecthood, when he first became conscious of the existence of the difference of the ‘in itself’ and the ‘for itself’ of the world, when words came to stand in for things (and for the patient).  The analyst and the patient (analysand) together seek to return to the moment immediately after the latter figuratively speaking ate from the tree of knowledge and realised his nakedness.


[1] “...Condillac’s (procedure) who admitting that language was given by God as a finished product to Adam and Eve, supposes ‘that for some time after the deluge, two children, one male, and the other female, wondered about in the deserts, before they understood the use of any sign.'”  Derrida, Jacques, 1976: Of Grammatology, The John Hopkins Press Ltd, London, p.254

[2] psychoanalysis proceeds both diachronically (or chronologically) and synchronically, diachronically due to the repressive function of the Unconscious and synchronically due its displacement function. [See text on Lacan in  'Slavimo Beograd']

all content © Mark Gerard Brogan