Sunday, September 2, 2012

Faith of Our Fathers - Afterward

This text provides an interestingly boiled down version of Dick's approach to religious studies. The part about Erigena at the end is one of the fullest treatments we have of that Erigena quote, which he usually only mentions briefly in The Exegesis.

"I don’t advocate any of the ideas in "Faith Of Our Fathers"; I don’t, for example, claim that the Iron Curtain countries will win the cold war – or morally ought to. One theme in the story, however, seems compelling to me, in view of recent experiments with hallucinogenic drugs: the theological experience, which so many who have taken LSD have reported. This appears to me to be a true new frontier; to a certain extent the religious experience can now be scientifically studied … and, what is more, may be viewed as part hallucination but containing other, real components. God, as a topic in science fiction, when it appeared at all, used to be treated polemically, as in "Out Of The Silent Planet." But I prefer to treat it as intellectually exciting. What if, through psychedelic drugs, the religious experience becomes commonplace in the life of intellectuals? The old atheism, which seemed to many of us – including me – valid in terms of our experiences, or rather lack of experiences, would have to step momentarily aside. Science fiction, always probing what is about to be thought, become, must eventually tackle without preconceptions a future neo-mystical society in which theology constitutes a major force as in the medieval period. This is not necessarily a backward step, because now these beliefs can be tested – forced to put up or shut up. I, myself, have no real beliefs about God; only my experience that He is present … subjectively, of course; but the inner realm is real too. And in a science fiction story one projects what has been a personal inner experience into a milieu; it becomes socially shared, hence discussible. The last word, however, on the subject of God may have already been said: in AD 840 by John Scotus Erigena at the court of the Frankish king Charles the Bald. "We do not know what God is. God himself does not know what He is because He is not anything. Literally God is not, because He transcends being." Such a penetrating – and Zen – mystical view, arrived at so long ago, will be hard to top; in my own experiences with psychedelic drugs I have had precious tiny illumination compared with Erigena." 

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