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The exemplary case is divinity: is what we call “God” not the big Other personified, addressing us as a larger-than-life person, a subject beyond all subjects? In a similar way, we talk about History asking something of us, of our Cause calling us to make the necessary sacrifice. What we get here is an uncanny subject who is not simply another human being, but the Third, the subject who stands above the interaction of real human individuals – and the terrifying enigma is, of course, what does this impenetrable subject want from us (theology refers to this dimension as that of ). For Lacan, we do not have to evoke God to get a taste of this abyssal dimension; it is present in every human being.
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The temptation to be resisted here is the ethical domestication of the neighbor – for example, what Emmanuel Levinas did with his notion of the neighbor as the abyssal point from which the call of ethical responsibility emanates. What Levinas obfuscates is the monstrosity of the neighbor, monstrosity on account of which Lacan applies to the neighbor the term Thing (), used by Freud to designate the ultimate object of our desires in its unbearable intensity and impenetrability. One should hear in this term all the connotations of horror fiction: the neighbor is the (Evil) Thing which potentially lurks beneath every homely human face. Just think about Stephen King’s , in which the father, a modest failed writer, gradually turns into a killing beast who, with an evil grin, goes on to slaughter his entire family. No wonder, then, that Judaism is also the religion of divine Law which regulates relations between people: this Law is strictly correlative to the emergence of the neighbor as the inhuman Thing. That is to say, the ultimate function of the Law is not to enable us not to forget the neighbor, to retain our proximity to the neighbor, but, on the contrary, to keep the neighbor at a proper distance, to serve as a kind of protective wall against the monstrosity of the neighbor. As Rainer Maria Rilke put it in his :