It is impossible to refer back to a primitive state, either in some lost Eden of infancy or in some immediacy of unconscious animality, in which the force ofthe drive has not been always already stamped by the influence of symbolization. There is no raw purity of impulse that has not already been trellised by the web of representation. Nothing can be said to exist outside the two-cycle machinery of the imaginary and the symbolic. This means that there can be no direct appeal to the primordial object. Said otherwise, the objet a is precisely the locus of the primordial object in its very impossibilty.
In radicalizing the psychoanalytic concept of Nachträglichkeit, a Lacanian point of view reveals the profound appropriateness of Freud's choosing to represent the truth of the unconscious with the drama of Oedipus, a man whose fateful life seems to have embodied Nietzsche's self-description about being "born posthumously." Caught up in a web of circumstances that was knotted long before his birth yet unwaveringly guided the course of his acts, Oedipus is an apt emblem of unconscious determination. That the screw of fate bore in upon Oedipus precisely at the point ofa confusion about his own identity makes the appropriateness complete. Oedipus is the perfect instantiation ofthe Lacanian subject, for whom the assumption of his own being must be described in the future anterior: the subject who will have been.
Related to this first danger is a second: that of substantializing the Lacanian real. Just as it is impossible to point to any original state of desire that antedates the influence of the signifier, there is also no Ur-stoffof the real. Here we encounter the deepest mystery of the subject of the unconscious: namely that the ineffability ofthe real is not prior to the upsurge of the signifier but is, in a certain sense, constituted by it.
the Lacanian real cannot be said to have any incipent directionality or evolutionazy tendency ofits own. Rather the real erupts in human life only in and through fractures of the imaginary and failures of the symbolic. Perhaps it is impossible for us to avoid supposing that the real intrudes traumatically upon the subject from beyond the battery of representations like a force from outside the psychical system. It was in exactly this way that Freud himself pictured it in the Project as the impingment of energy Qupon the psychical apparatus. Yet any such appeal to an externally impinging force remains a reifving abstraction. As essentially unthinkable and unrepresentable, the real can only be conceived negatively, in terms ofdisturbances of the imaginary and the symbolic. Even in Freud's case, as we have seen, the real of energy does not remain a mute substance, but is everywhere related to movement within a structure. The real is evidenced only in the misalignments, dislocations, and catastrophes (in the mathematical sense of the term) ofthe structures of representation. It is in this sense that the objet a can be said to function like a "piece of the real." Located at the shifting intersection of imaginary and symbolic, this virtual object is the tell-tale of the tensions and slippages between the two registers.