Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Dark Counterplayer

During my enormous revelations and anamnesis in March 1974 I perceptually observed God and reality combined, and progressing through stages of evolution by means of a dialectic, but I did not experience what I called "the blind counterplayer," which is to say the dark side as part of God. However, although I perceived this dialectic between good and evil, I could not ascertain anything as to the source of the evil. However, I did see the good side making use of it against its will, since the dark counterplayer was blind and therefore could be made use of for good purposes.
How to Build a Universe that Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later."
-Philip K. Dick, 1978

Dick on God's Infinite Void Game

"God manifested himself to me as the infinite void; but it was not the abyss; it was the vault of heaven, with blue sky and wisps of white clouds. He was not some foreign God but the God of my fathers. He was loving and kind and he had personality. He said, 'You suffer a little now in life, it is little compared with the great joys, the bliss that awaits you. Do you think I in my theodicy would allow you to suffer greatly in proportion to your reward?' He made me aware, then, of the bliss that would come; it was infinite and sweet. He said, 'I am the infinite. I will show you. Where I am, infinity is; where infinity is, there I am. Construct lines of reasoning by which to understand your experience in 1974. I will enter the field against their shifting nature. You think they are logical but they are not; they are infinitely creative.'

"I thought a thought and then an infinite regression of theses and countertheses came into being. God said, 'Here I am, here is infinity.' I thought another explanation; again an infinite series of thoughts split off in a dialectical antithetical interaction. God said, 'Here is infinity; here I am.' I thought, then, an infinite number of explanations, in succession, that explained 2-3-74; each single one of them yielded up an infinite progression of flipflops, of thesis and antithesis, forever. Each time, God said 'Here is infinity. Here, then, I am.' I tried for an infinite number of times; each time and infinite regress was set off and each time God said, 'Infinity. Hence I am here.' Then he said, 'Every thought leads to infinity, does it not? Find one that doesn’t.' I tried forever. All led to an infinitude of regress, of the dialectic, of thesis, antithesis and new synthesis. Each time, God said 'Here is infinity; here am I. Try again.' I tried forever. Always it ended with God saying, 'Infinity and myself, I am here.'" (Exegesis -- November 17, 1980)

And a bonus quote from Valis:

"A lot can be said for the infinite mercies of God, but the smarts of a good pharmacist, when you get down to it, is worth more."

Philip K. Dick on Dante's Three-Level Cosmos

I wish to laminate my two SF ideas together to form one ultra-complex novel...
(one) ...there exists a double-psyche entity (that is, one body and two minds, one of the minds being human; the other is an alien entity). Each psyche sees the world quite differently from the other.
(two) Three coaxial worlds generated by a computer (my more recent idea) with a switching back and forth between these three worlds, which represent the three levels of Dante's COMMEDIA

My fusion of the above will be as follows: the human psyche sees the middle realm, Purgatorio. The alien psyche, perceiving reality, perceives Inferno. However, when the two psyches combine (into what I call Ditheon, a two-chambered ultra-mind), together as a single entity they see Paradiso. The crucial element that the computer supplies is that it has the power to switch this two-psyche entity from left (human) to right (alien) to combined (Ditheon). The creature is under its control and therefore cannot on its own select which world it experiences; that is, it cannot control its left-right balance nor on its own

In this novel, "God known as he is" is of course the computer known as it is... For literally decades I construed two levels of mental functioning: android (i.e. machine) and human; but now I perceive a third, higher level, and, as I say, I equate the world of each as equal to a level of Dante's CoOMMEDIA.

Three kinds of minds; three levels--ascending levels--of reality. This to me is terribly exciting. A very coherent novel is forming out of all this, and this is based in turn on my life's work in defining the authentic human.

The Selected Letters of Philip K. Dick, 1980-1982

Monday, October 24, 2011

Quote from Humpty Dumpty in Oakland

"He brought colour, shape, awareness to the void. Darkness flew; and after the first moment of activity he subsided and rested, and took his seventh day - a cup of coffee."
pulled from The Project

Sunday, October 23, 2011

spurious realities...what is real

“…today we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups—and the electronic hardware exists by which to deliver these pseudo-worlds right into the heads of the reader, the viewer, the listener. Sometimes when I watch my eleven-year-old daughter watch TV, I wonder what she is being taught. The problem of miscuing; consider that. A TV program produced for adults is viewed by a small child. Half of what is said and done in the TV drama is probably misunderstood by the child. Maybe it’s all misunderstood. And the thing is, Just how authentic is the information anyhow, even if the child correctly understood it? What is the relationship between the average TV situation comedy to reality? What about the cop shows? Cars are continually swerving out of control, crashing, and catching fire. The police are always good and they always win. Do not ignore that point: The police always win. What a lesson that is. You should not fight authority, and even if you do, you will lose. The message here is, Be passive. And—cooperate. If Officer Baretta asks you for information, give it to him, because Officer Beratta is a good man and to be trusted. He loves you, and you should love him.

So I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power. They have a lot of it. And it is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing. It is my job to create universes, as the basis of one novel after another. And I have to build them in such a way that they do not fall apart two days later. Or at least that is what my editors hope. However, I will reveal a secret to you: I like to build universes which do fall apart. I like to see them come unglued, and I like to see how the characters in the novels cope with this problem. I have a secret love of chaos. There should be more of it. Do not believe—and I am dead serious when I say this—do not assume that order and stability are always good, in a society or in a universe. The old, the ossified, must always give way to new life and the birth of new things. Before the new things can be born the old must perish. This is a dangerous realization, because it tells us that we must eventually part with much of what is familiar to us. And that hurts. But that is part of the script of life. Unless we can psychologically accommodate change, we ourselves begin to die, inwardly. What I am saying is that objects, customs, habits, and ways of life must perish so that the authentic human being can live. And it is the authentic human being who matters most, the viable, elastic organism which can bounce back, absorb, and deal with the new.”
(don't have the reference handy/grabbed it online)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Criticism of McKee from Rossi's review

Rossi's criticisms of McKee (from his SFS review of "Pink Beams")

”I agree with him when he claims that “it is both a mistake and a disservice to the right variety of Dick’s religious ideas to describe his entire experience and process of interpretation ... with a single categorical designation” (29), that is, Gnosticism. But why then should we describe Dick’s body of work with the single categorical designation of “Christian”? And why should we necessarily define a center in a writer who so stubbornly and passionately challenges our notions of center and periphery, and who is definitely not (as McKee acknowledges) a systematic thinker? A system necessarily implies the demarcation of center and periphery. We are dealing with the products of a restless man who declared himself to be both “Fascistic” and Marxist (Dick, In Pursuit of Valis, Publishers’ Group West, 1991:140, 175 ). McKee is persuasive when he spots, here and elsewhere in the book, the heterogeneous threads of Dick’s intellectual texture; he is not so persuasive when he argues that the texture shows a single coherent image.
even if considered on a purely theological basis, McKee’s monograph is marred by a defect that, while not nullifying the value of the book, nevertheless bars what could be the most stimulating development of his discussion. He maintains that “Dick himself never rejected religious interpretations of his writing, and seems to have thought such interpretations more valuable than more secular, political analyses” (26). While Dick’s theological side is important to his writing—and McKee proves that it is—doesn’t it have a political component as well?... are not Dick’s theological speculations a reflection on a fallen condition that is also a political condition? The Black Iron Prison, the Demiurge, Satan, if you prefer, are ways to reflect theologically on a personal crisis ... but also to reflect on an historical moment (the repression of the counterculture of the 1960s, Nixon, Watergate, etc.)... Dick never completely abandoned secular, political concerns, and that his theological speculations should always be analyzed within their historical and political contexts. Even the 2-3-74 experience, the starting point of McKee’s discussion, can be envisioned (like many Biblical prophecies) as having a strong political component that cannot be totally obliterated by any ecstatic mysticism, no matter how huge a dose of it is present...
In fact, we should not forget that part of that purportedly mystical and religious experience was Dick’s overwhelming feeling of having actually lived in first-century Rome at the zenith of the Roman Empire (3). Could not the vision of imperial Rome and early Christian communities be a quasi-Blakean vision of contemporary political concerns about the American Empire? Obviously, we cannot reduce Dick’s theology to politics alone, yet we cannot dismiss it either. McKee seems to have done just this, and that is probably the major defect of his otherwise commendable analysis.

PKD book covers illustrating religious themes (and a few merely freaky ones)

Philip K. Dick book covers are notorious for being psychedelic, and also for seldom having much to do with the content of the novel. But they are often striking, and sometimes end up illustrating his religious themes in interesting (often hilariously unintentional) ways.

Go to the excellent archive here for more.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

quick thoughts on "undermining ontology" in McKee's new PKD article

Gabriel McKee is the author of "Pink Beams of Light from the God in the Gutter." You can read Umberto Rossi's SF Studies review here (scroll down to find it).

His new article on Philip K. Dick is the latest effort by a PKD scholar to briefly summarize Dick's religious experiences in the context of his novels. As in his book (and reminiscent of Umberto Rossi's recent book), McKee emphasizes the "ontological uncertainty" aspect of Dick's novels. I can understand why PKD apologists often try to sell Dick in terms of this uncertainty, but I am worried that this emphasis can be misleading when it comes to Dick's philosophical and religious writings. I am not convinced that "ontological uncertainty" is the main point of Dick's novels either, as McKee seems to imply when he writes that "Dick’s stories serve to undermine the readers’ faith in ontology—he is poking the universe with a pin to see if it pops." This strikes me as a dangerously glib reading. It is certainly the case that Dick narrates an undermining of his character's faith in ontology, but I don't see how we can boil down his entire literary output to such a simple message. Dick wrote as much as he did as a "fictionalizing philosopher," as well as in nonfiction form, because he was obsessed with the problems of epistemology and ontology--not because he felt that he had already solved them. Undermining faith is certainly one of the philosophical moves he employs, but I doubt that Dick would have the following he does if it was the only trick in his book.

McKee proceeds from explaining the nature of Dick's fictionalizing philosophy to Dick's theological writings, applying this reading of ontological uncertainty. Dick's theology according to McKee is fundamentally speculative; he never ends up with a permanent theory. He writes:

"Dick presents all of this as theory, and never as fact—or rather, he presents it as fact, and then promptly pulls the rug out from underneath each explanation. Throughout the Exegesis, Dick declares that, “at last,” he has found the ultimate explanation—but, within a page or two, he second-guesses every eureka. Thus the theology of the Exegesis is speculative: it proposes much but asserts nothing. It is, ultimately, not about the answers, but about the myriad possibilities that the questions themselves imply. It is a theology built on doubt—indeed, it throws the very division of faith and doubt into question."

While I don't disagree that doubt is an important aspect of Dick's philosophizing, I am not sure that we can apply doubt as a key to his theology quite so easily. Something other than doubt motivated Dick to do the work that he did, which consumed the last eight years of his life (and annoyed many jealous fans and critics who wish that he had written more SF novels instead.) My impression from reading Dick's descriptions of his experiences is that he did indeed have no problem endlessly spinning theories, but he was doing theology because of the things that he found difficult to doubt. Sometimes I see Dick as the other side of the R.A. Wilson coin: whereas RAW's put-on method was a largely destructive enterprise in an effort to "wise up the marks," with Dick we see a man obsessed with experiences that cannot be explained away by the usual method of doubt.

See also McKee's ranking of PKD Adaptation from best to worst.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

God has Eaten Man

"Man has not eaten God; God has eaten man."
-Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle (1962)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Philip K. Dick on Religion, Science, and Belief in Voices from the Street

"There's nothing left of religion! You go to a church and the minister reads out of a best-selling novel. He's nothing but a psychologist. They go out and tell soldiers it's fine with Christ to kill the enemy - that's what God wants."

"It's scientists who've got us where we are, tampering with the universe. Scientists with their bombs - science is the devil's way."

"Do you understand what the prophets were?...The impact of great things yet to come impinged on their minds. Everything they saw will come about; but these events were of such foreign and awesome nature that only by rendering them in elaborate poetic imagery could they translate them into the diction of the times, and represent the events to themselves."

"Nobody decides who can be saved. Nobody selects, like a draft board picking eligible men. You're saved for the same reason a ball rolls downhill - because of natural laws."

"Don't you believe in anything anymore?"
"Nothing that exists. What I believe in is bullshit."

"I'm not loyal to anybody… It never occurred to me to be loyal to a person - only to an abstract ideal… And then I wonder why I can't find something to believe in."

again stolen from Palmer Eldritch's PKD Project

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Essential Books for the Study of Philip K. Dick and Religion

If you're interested in getting any of these books, please consider buying them through these links to support my research and writing. (Turn off Adblocker if you can't see the links.) See the links on the sidebar of this blog for many free readings and Google Books previews on PKD.

The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick: Selected Literary and Philosophical Writings

The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick

Philip K. Dick and Philosophy

Laurence A. Rickels--I Think I Am: Philip K. Dick


Letters 1980-1982

Letters 1977-1979

Letters 1975-1976

Letters 1974

Umberto Rossi--The Twisted Worlds of Philip K. Dick

Lawrence Sutin--Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick

Greg Rickmann--To the High Castle

Samuel Umland--Philip K. Dick: Contemporary Critical Interpretations

Philip K. Dick Library of America Valis trilogy and Maze of Death

Kim Stanley Robinson--The Novels of Philip K. Dick

Anne R. Dick--The Search for Philip K. Dick

Tessa B. Dick--Remembering Firebright

Emmanuel Carrere--I am Alive and You are Dead

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

PKD and Godel Escher Bach

In one of the Selected Letters from the 80s Phil gushes about reading GEB, which he loved and felt explained his literary method of philosophical puzzle stories. He mentions his letters to Ursula Le Guin, who he says never understood what he was trying to explain. But now that Godel Escher Bach exists his words should be intelligible. This is not an exact paraphrase and I'll post an excerpt later. Meanwhile here's a bunch of relevant/fun images I found searching Google Image