Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Black Iron Prison

So in March, 1974 I remember Inferno (the Black Iron Prison), but was quickly moved to the Palm Tree Garden.
Rickman Philip K. Dick in his own words

"The Empire never ended," Fat quoted to himself. That one sentence appeared over and over again in his exegesis; it had become his tag line. Originally the sentence had been revealed to him in a great dream. In the dream he again was a child, searching dusty used-book stores for rare old science fiction magazines, in particular Astoundings. In the dream he had looked through countless tattered issues, stacks upon stacks, for the priceless serial entitled "The Empire Never Ended." If he could find it and read it he would know every-thing; that had been the burden of the dream.
Prior to that, during the interval in which he had experi¬enced the two-world superimposition, had seen not only Cali¬fornia, U.S.A., of the year 1974 but also ancient Rome, he had discerned within the superimposition a Gestalt shared by both space-time continua, their common element: a Black Iron Prison. This is what the dream referred to as "the Em¬pire." He knew it because, upon seeing the Black Iron Prison, he had recognized it. Everyone dwelt in it without realizing it. The Black Iron Prison was their world.
Who had built the prison-and why-he could not say. But he could discern one good thing: the prison lay under attack. An organization of Christians, not regular Christians such as those who attended church every Sunday and prayed, but secret early Christians wearing light gray-colored robes, had started an assault on the prison, and with success. The secret, early Christians were filled with joy.
Fat, in his madness, understood the reason for their joy. This time the early, secret, gray-robed Christians would get the prison, rather than the other way around. The deeds of the heroes, in the sacred dream-time . . . the only time, ac¬cording to the bushmen, that was real.
Once, in a cheap science fiction novel, Fat had come across a perfect description of the Black Iron Prison but set in the far future. So if you superimposed the past (ancient Rome) over the present (California in the twentieth cen¬tury) and superimposed the far future world of The Android Cried Me a River over that, you got the Empire, the Black Iron Prison, as the supra- or trans-temporal constant. Every¬one who had ever lived was literally surrounded by the iron
walls of the prison; they were all inside it and none of them knew it-except for the gray-robed secret Christians.
That made the early, secret Christians supra- or trans-tem¬poral, too, which is to say present at all times, a situation which Fat could not fathom. How could they be early but in the present and the future? And if they existed in the present, why couldn't anyone see them. On the other hand, why couldn't anyone see the walls of the Black Iron Prison which enclosed everyone, including himself, on all sides? Why did these antithetical forces emerge into palpability only when the past, present and future somehow-for what¬ever reason-got
Maybe in the bushmen's dream-time no time existed. But if no time existed, how could the early, secret Christians be scampering away in glee from the Black Iron Prison which they had just succeeded in blowing up? And how could they blow it up back in Rome circa 70 C.E., since no explosives existed in those days? And now [sic], if no time passed in the dream-time, could the prison come to an end? It reminded Fat of the peculiar statement in Parsifal: "You see, my son, here time turns into space." During his religious experience in March of 1974, Fat had seen an augmentation of space: yards and yards of space, extending all the way to the stars; space opened up around him as if a confining box had been removed. He had felt like a tomcat which had been carried inside a box on a car drive, and then they'd reached their destination and he had been let out of the box, let free. And at night in sleep he had dreamed of a measureless void, yet a void which was alive. The void extended and drifted and seemed totally empty and yet it possessed personality. The void expressed delight in seeing Fat, who, in the dreams, had no body; he, like the boundless void, merely drifted, very slowly; and he could, in addition, hear a faint humming, like music. Apparently the void communicated through this echo, this humming.
"You of all people," the void communicated. "Out of ev¬eryone, it is you I love the most."
The void had been waiting to be reunited with Horselover Fat, of all the humans who had ever existed. Like its exten¬sion into space, the love in the void lay boundless; it and its love floated forever. Fat had never been so happy in all his life.
Valis 39-40

Fat said, "Time does not exist. This is the great secret known to Apollonius of Tyana, Paul of Tarsus, Simon Magus, Paracelsus, Boehme and Bruno. The universe is contracting into a unitary entity which is completing itself. Decay and disorder are seen by us in reverse, as increasing. Entry #18 of my exegesis reads: "Real time ceased in 70 C.E. with the fall of the Temple at Jerusalem. It began again in 1974. The in-tervening period was a perfect spurious interpolation aping the creation of the Mind.' "
"Interpolated by whom?" Dr. Stone asked.
"The Black Iron Prison, which is an expression of the Em¬pire. What has been-" Fat had started to say, "What has been revealed to me." He rechose his words. "What has been most important in my discoveries is this: 'The Empire never ended.' "
Valis 50

There are two realities, he said to himself. The Black Iron Prison, which is called the Cave of Treasures, in which they now live, and the Palm Tree Garden with its enormous spaces, its light, where they originally dwelt. Now they are literally blind, he thought. Literally unable to see more than a short distance; far- away objects are invisible to them now. Once in a while one of them guesses that formerly they had faculties now gone; once in a while one of them discerns the truth, that they are not now what they were and not now where they were. But they forget again, exactly as I forgot. And I still forget somewhat, he realized. I still have only a partial vision. I am occluded, too.
But I will not be, soon.
The Divine Invasion p.128

Dr Abernathy felt the world's oppression lift but he did not have any insight as to why it had lifted. At the moment it began he had taken a walk to the market for the purchase of vegetables. [...] Somewhere, he thought, a good event has happened, and it spreads out. He saw to his amazement palm trees. [...] And dry dusty land, as if I'm in the Middle East. Another world; touches of another continuum. I don't understand, he thought. What is breaking through? As if my eyes are now opened, in a special way. [...] Somehow goodness has arrived, he decided. As Milton wrote, "Out of evil comes good." [...] Then, he thought, possibly the world has been cleared of its oppressive film by an evil act ... or am I getting into subtleties? In any case, he sensed the difference; it was real.
Deus Irae as excerpted in Sutin Divine Invasions p.228

Just as William Blake condensed the coming horrors of industrialism into his image of “Satanic mills,” Dick’s Black Iron Prison imaginatively captured the “disciplinary apparatus” of power analyzed by historian Michel Foucault. Demonstrating that prisons, mental institutions, schools, and military establishments all share similar organizations of space and time, Foucault argued that a “technology of power” was distributed throughout social space, enmeshing human subjects at every turn. Foucault argued that liberal social reforms are only cosmetic brush-ups of an underlying mechanism of control. As Dick put it, “The Empire never ended.”
Erik Davis
Philip K. Dick's Divine Interference

When the delivery girl arrived, Phil took one look at her and became mesmerized by the golden fish dangling between her breasts. When asked, the girl told Phil that this was the primitive Christian ICHTHYS symbol, ICHTHYS being the Greek for "fish". The fish was chosen in part because ICHTHYS was taken to be an anagram for "Iesous CHristos, THeou Yios, Soter" (Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior) . "The girl and I are secret Christians, in hiding because of the Roman persecution. The only way we can identify ourselves to each other is the innocent-looking fish symbol, a harmless pendant in the eyes of most. This secret ally brings not only medicine to heal my sore tooth, but spiritual medicine as well. After all, is not Christ the Great Physician?" He accepted the package and bade the girl good-bye. Phil found himself transported back to first- century Rome - the time of the founding of the Church amidst much persecution. The vision of another reality superimposed upon this one lasted weeks. Phil had a hard time deciding which one was true, and which the illusion. During this period of uncertainty, he found himself "trapped" (figuratively, I would imagine) in a Black Iron Prison - a Gnostic symbol of our fall into History. It is deceptively referred to as the Cave of Treasures. Phil used this concept obliquely in "Strange Memories of Death" (7), wherein he refers to his apartment complex as having been prison-like until the new developers made it appear like a garden. From his further description it is quite obviously still a prison, despite its Edenic appearance.
Paul Rydeen
Philip K. Dick: The other side

Instead of inner examination, there is entertainment, forming another layer of obscurity, entrapping and enclosing people in the Black Iron Prison—Dick's shorthand for the space-time trap that affects our ability to see the truth. ... Philip K. Dick: canonical writer of the digital age - Page 142 Lejla Kuckukalic

If the mental hospital is a prison, where Fat can be kept for an indefinite time (50), it is not that strange that Fat "discerned within the super-imposition [of contemporary California and ancient Rome] a Gestalt shared by both space-time continua, their common element: a Black Iron Prison." (48) The reference to Gestalt psychology should make us aware that the Black Iron Prison is a form which may organize and define the single parts of which it is composed: a form that may holistically define the political situation of Imperial Rome, or modern California, or the very personal predicament of Horselover Fat, a wrecked individual prisoner of a mental hospital -- and madness. The religious and esoteric symbols can thus be read as referring to a very concrete and mundane reality of suffering and despair (acknowledged by Palmer[233]); an individual reality, one should add. Let's not forget that the novel begins with Fat's nervous breakdown, *not* with the pink beam.
Umberto Rossi The Twisted World of Philip K. Dick 220-221

But no matter how many times Dick unmasks or destroys the Black Iron Prison of American suburban life, he always returns to it. Unlike the characters in William S. Burroughs. Richard Brautigan, or Thomas Pynchon, Dick's characters... go on working for grumbling bosses, carrying briefcases, sending interoffice memos, tinkering with cars in driveways, sweating alimony payments, and dreaming of getting away from it all--even when they've already emigrated to Mars.
Jonathan Lethem, Introduction to Selected Stories