Interstices of the Sublime – Chapter 4 – Foreclosing God


Heidegger’s Refusal and Psychoanalysis

In this section Crockett attempts a reading of the later Heidegger’s notion of refusal with the psychoanalytic concept of foreclosure as articulated by Lacan and Kristeva. Crockett critiques those theologians who have taken Heidegger seriously when he claims that if he ever attempted a theology he would be sure to leave out the term being. Many post-Heidggerian theologians have tried to re-think theology outside of the ontological and thus create a space in which we could once again have access to God unhampered by philosophical conceptuality. “The flight of the last god is also “the truth of be-ing as refusal,” which indicates a turning away from humanity on the part of God and Being” (68). For psychoanalysis, foreclosure is a primary repression in which content is barred from ever entering consciousness. In this sense, foreclosure is not the common notion of repression in which received material is banished forever into the unconscious realms. This foreclosure of signification (that leads to psychosis) is not simply a rejection to play by the rules of society; it also exposes the hole that lies in the Other. The parallel can the Lacanian Other and Heidegger’s Being become apparent. For Heidegger, “Being conceals itself as it reveals beings” (71), likewise for Lacan the Other is momentarily revealed in the opening of the unconscious. Crockett then asks when read together, does Heidegger’s refusal of God or Being suggest a psychotic aspect on the part of the subject (here Nietzsche’s madman serves a prime exemplar)? This foreclosure of refusal represents “a radical rejection of that which has refused itself, that is a rejection of God and Being” (72).

Freud’s Death Drive

Freud’s simplistic model that all organisms are motivated by a desire for pleasure was destroyed by his study of veterans who suffered from repetition-compulsion. Their compulsion to continue to repeat trauma forced him to reassess his concept of drive. In Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Freud posited that two drives exist: life (or sexual) drive and the death drive. The death drive is a desire to return to inorganic unity, and he assumes that this drive is more fundamental than the life drive. Freud also recognized that the telos of man was to achieve happiness, but for Freud happiness was just the absence of suffering. Aristotle’s philosophy can be understood that man strives after the Good, ultimately finding happiness in God. However, Kant’s notion of desire in the Critique of Pure Judgment is different insofar that beauty has no purpose or telos. If for Freud the ultimate end and purpose of life is death, then how can we understand the life drives since a striving against death motivates them? Freud offers the germ cell as paradigmatic example of the life drives. The germ cell “represents a detour in the journey to death – a detour that makes all the difference” (74). Kant also praised the freedom of human reason, which he ultimately constrained to uphold authority and respect the social order of his day. We ought to follow the freedom of the germ and reason, which opens up a space for thinking theology differently that does not remain constrained by the enclosure of tradition theologizing. Crockett concludes that the existence of the life drives is only supported by a rejection of the ultimate end of life, which is death.

Kristeva’s Rejection

Kristeva draws a parallel between foreclosure and expulsion. The latter term is an eruption of pleasure that is constitutive of the symbolic while simultaneously unsettling the symbolic. Expulsion is associated with anal pleasure because it focuses on the enjoyment derived from separation. Of course, this separation always implies a loss because inevitably the discharged object while conferring pleasure to the subject also requires the object to be forfeited. This rejection or foreclosure is beyond is the pleasure principle and while destructive can also “perpetuates tension and life” (75). Kristeva understands this subjective position of rejection to be one of poetic language in which the semiotic (drives that constitute the plane of signification) subverts any stable symbolic order. The return of rejection compels the subject to inhabit a dangerous position in the symbolic in which the subject can challenge the closed order of the symbolic.

Foreclosure of the True-Real

Kristeva’s coupling of truth and the Real implies that she understands that truth is absent as it slips into the impossible Real. Similarly, Heidegger’s understand of the flight of the last god also suggests a recognition that Being forever refuses to reveal itself to our grasping high-tech society. Recall that Kristeva earlier defined psychosis as the “crises of the truth in language” represented by a foreclosure of the signifier of the Name of the Father. Crockett draws these parallels by writing that, “[t]he crisis of truth in language, disappearance of the Real, is also the refusal of Being and the bypassing of God” (77). Kristeva’s concept of disavowal (a form of foreclosure) allows her to create a third subjective position beyond neurosis (disavowal of desire) and psychosis (disavowal of reality). While neurotics rely on truth and language while ignoring the real, psychotics feverishly cling towards the impossible Real at the expense of truths of human society. This third position of the hallucinatory hysterical discourse does not disavow either desire or reality, but rather conflates both the truth and the Real as the True-Real. In this liminal position the Real “burst[s] on the scene as truth, leaves a hole in the subject’s discourse in a repetitive representation that produces meaning…without creating signification” (78). This space opened up by the eruption of the Real ought to be kept open to resist fixed representations, and ultimately produces a revolutionary discourse.


Heidegger understands that in our day and age man tries to grasp after Being, but Being slowly recedes beyond the horizon. His solution is for man to learn to let Being be, an approach to life less focused on seizing and mastering the Being of beings. Countering this Heideggerian passivity, Kristeva urges us to foreclose the possibility of God which while productive also creates a psychotic subject through an artistic discourse. Crockett then challenges our understanding of theological language. Following Deleuze, he believes that all language is theological because language involves “the creation of sense and meaning” (80). Language however bars access to think the body as body, and his next chapter will focus on the repressed body of God that orthodox theologians refuse to address.

[Note: I found this chapter to be very challenging. If any of it was unclear feel free to ask for clarification]


One Response to “Interstices of the Sublime – Chapter 4 – Foreclosing God”

  1. clayton crockett Says:

    Hi Jeremy, thanks so much for doing this summary of my book, which really is extremely good, although it reminds me how very complex and dense the book is. I think you’re doing a great job for whatever that’s worth. (I was hesitant to respond, just because of how authoritative we usually treat an author, and I’m not sure I’m the best reader of my book necessarily).

    For this chapter, what I wanted to do was to see how foreclosure could be productive rather than just a disavowal, how rejection produces a kind of theological reading that’s not simply the standard Heideggerian Gelassenheit, but is a kind of revolutionary poetic language a la Kristeva. If I were to redo it today, I might express it in more Deleuzian terms, or at least I do try to do that in a chapter in my forthcoming book on Radical Political Theology. That is, how can we produce the Real, rather than simply try and fail to represent it?

    In response to an earlier question, is a theology informed by psychoanalysis necessarily unorthodox? It is for me, and I think it would be hard to read Lacan and appropriate him for a more orthodox theology, and most theologians don’t read him (although also because he’s so hard to comprehend). Probably the closest example I can think of is Marcus Pound, and I don’t know that that’s orthodox necessarily, it’s just a more traditional form of theology and theological love.

    Finally, why discuss Radical Orthodoxy? It’s a good foil, because they read postmodern theory, they are very articulate and smart (especially Milbank), and their conclusions seem very fundamentally basic and wrong, which amounts to a denial of negativity. The other reason I continue to refer to RO, even though I can’t say I still read them, is their critique of contemporary capitalism has a political edge I think is relevant to discussions of political theology, which is where you get once you work through Zizek and Badiou’s post-Lacanianism. But that is still very implicit in Interstices, becomes most evident in ch. 8.

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