CriticaLink | Lacan: The Mirror Stage | Terms


The Latin word imago simply means "image", but it has acquired a number of powerful connotations over time. Christian theology refers to the "imago Dei", the image of God in which human beings were created and with which they should strive to conform. Carl Gustav Jung introduced the term into psychology; for Jung, the individual forms a personality by identifying with imagos that emerge from the collective unconscious, a shared reservoir of mythical figures and scenarios. Lacan takes up the term to refer to the image the infant sees in the mirror (or the image of the caregiver) and with which the infant identifies. In the ah-ha experience that characterizes the mirror stage, the infant grasps the connection between the image and its own existence. The infant experiences the imago as a Gestalt, a meaningful form.

It is important to note that the imago is external to the infant. The "I" comes into being not as an emanation of the individual, but as the result of an encounter with an other.