Yesterday at midnight and a bit I went downAgalma is an ancient Greek term for a pleasing gift presented to the gods as a votive offering. The agalma was intended to woo the gods, to dazzle them with its wondrous features and so gain favour for its bearer. The agalma, therefore, was endowed with magical powers beyond its apparent superficial value. Over time, the term ‘agalma’ has come to mean an iconic image, something beautiful – an object to be treasured. This is the context in which Jacques Lacan used the term ‘agalma’.
In the small square where I met you
Some statue which saw me it remembered me
And it didn’t deny to hear my pain
And I spoke to it for you and for me
And its eyes filled with tears and all the time they were crying
I told to it for your behaviour and for your other
For your unforgivable big mistakes
And then, my God, I burst into tears
That the dawn found me like a rag
With the statue in the road we walked together
It wiped my eyes and we changed road
Lacan introduced the term in his Seminar VIII (1960-1961), writing on Socrates' Symposium. The agalma is defined by love; it is the inestimable object of desire which ignites our desire. Relating this to the analytic setting, Lacan proposed that the ‘agalma’ is the treasure which we seek in analysis, the unconscious truth we wish to know.
In psychoanalysis, the analyst seeks to establish a transference with the subject. Within this transference, a discourse develops, a discourse between the client as speaking subject and the analyst as the Other. The transference relationship is what defines the agalma. It is the agalma, the inestimable object of desire, that becomes the agent of the transference relationship. The promise of this beloved object supports the client through the analysis. Seeking to discover this treasure, the client avows his or her desire, as manifested in the discourse.