Joan Poelvoorde

Psychotherapy & Healing Arts


The moment of transgression is revolutionary jouissance (Kristeva, 1984), it dissolves the subject and returns it as something new (Bataille 1988a, Guerlac, 1997).

Anthony O'Shea
Transgressing Transgression, A Reply to Alexander Styhre

Let this serve as our invitation to you to begin to transgress the world of "transgression as sin" and enter the world of revolutionary jouissance. Jouissance is "organismic pleasure-bliss-ecstasy." (Michael Eigan, The Psychoanylitic Mystic, Free Association Books,1998.)

Jouissance can hold both immense joy and immense pain at the same time. It involves the breaking of one's personal boundaries and connecting beyond the self. Already the motif of return shows, which you will find repeated in the essays below—"it dissolves itself as subject, and returns as something new."

To begin at our beginning—the central Judeo-Christian myth of Adam and Eve, the Serpent, and the Garden, is a myth of transgression. From this transgression, mankind is said to have received the gift of knowledge of good and evil—discernment, consciousness. It signaled a separation out of unity with a godhead into separateness, and the possibility of one's individuation.

Every transgression has its price and its reward—we gained the gift of discernment, and entered the world of suffering, old age, and death. Did Adam and Eve experience revolutionary jouissance? Was there for them that moment of ecstatic victory? That is not the way they are depicted because this myth is part of the transgression-as-sin model.

In the Medicine Wheel of the Peruvian Q'ero, the first great transgression occurs as a result of our vertical movement from the South to North. That movement represents our growing up. Arriving at the North, we begin to examine our conditioning—social, psychological, and religious.

We begin to discern which values serve us and which do not. We step off the tribal path (deshi) onto the mystical path (marga)—a transgressive step. This is often the beginning of separation from family and friends, from church and educational institutions.

This separation is a revolutionary transgression. It is an act of courage and power. True individuation, however, demands that we integrate and make peace with our past, no matter how differentiated we have become from it—an acceptance of difference without judgment. In the words of a Jungian analyst: 

Individuation consists of two phases. In its initial phase separation of the individual from the given matrix of internal and external factors is required … from the psychological and behavioral imperatives of family and social milieu …

The second phase of individuation is the movement toward integration and wholeness. Full maturation requires the development of a conscious relationship to the psychic and social matrix from which one worked so hard to separate. Under ideal conditions, the second phase of individuation is characterized by active involvement in spiritual, cultural, social, political, and humanitarian endeavors. Attainment of this phase is described by Abraham Maslow as self-actualization, by Adler as social awareness, by Erik Erikson as generativity, and by Jung as wholeness or completed individuation.

Walter Odajnyk, Ph.D., personal communication

As a person who leans happily toward oppositional defiance, one of my most delightful transgressions is crossing the boundary between Middle World and Lower World. The relationship I have developed with Huascar, the Lord of the Underworld in Q'ero mythology, is also transgressive.

To be clear—I think of the Underworld as an actual place, but not a physical place. The Lower World exists in the depth of the unconscious. Neither do I believe that Huascar is a physical being. Here we are dealing with archetypes. We have moved into a world of metaphor and symbology. Loosened from the prison of the tonal, we enter the wide world of the nagual, the world of the mystical. Huascar and the Lower World are products of the power of the human imagination to create myth and meaning in life.  

Transgression can take place only in the profane world, the tonal. Once the boundary has been breached (transgressed), and access into the nagual has been gained, transgression is no longer an issue, and the world of revolutionary jouissance is attained.

Those who are having problems with direction in life, those who are having troubled relationships with the living, the dead, or the recently dead, come to me to find the answers from Huascar that are not readily available from other sources. Perhaps this journey to the Lower World works so well because the journey gives the client access to his own unconscious as well as the collective unconscious. The journey to Huascar's realm is a mythic journey, an initiation, and a revolutionary act. It requires intentionality and clarity.

As always, we begin a journey in Middle World, the extraordinary world in which we live our daily lives. We travel to the Lower World (our first transgression, or border crossing) on this journey, keeping clear within us the question that has so far yielded no answer. With humility and trepidation, we approach the Lord of the Underworld, that crafty shapeshifter who can be so formidable. We ask for admittance to his Kingdom (the next transgression on the journey). Huascar can appear cruel and demanding at the beginning of a journey. No one who has journeyed with me, however, has ended her journey feeling anything but love and support from Huascar. 

My greatest lessons in life so often arrive as a result of transgression—the breaking of a solemnly–held belief or commandment. I find myself asking if the price I pay is too dear. More often than not, the answer is a resounding "No." Vive la jouissance!

Joan Poelvoorde, a professional psychotherapist in Manhattan (NY) offering relationship, personal growth, anger management, creativity, shamanistic & Imago Relationship Therapy