Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Was Philip K. Dick a great mystic?

I think there's an interesting question as to whether Dick "ranks" with the great mystics of the ages. He sometimes thought that he might on the basis of the extraordinary nature of his experiences, but there's also the nature and value of his writings. Moreover, Dick was a pioneering *theorist* of mysticism (with a nod to David Gill and Erik Davis I'm calling him a "garage theorist of religion" in my book) who is doing a lot of interesting religious studies work in the Exegesis (see the comments of Kripal to understand how he's interesting to a contemporary comparative religion professor), although in his characteristically unsystematic form. However, even the "unsystematic" nature of his work has been greatly exaggerated: as McKee demonstrates there's serious Christianity in there ("a cruel religion... but accurate" -PKD), and as countless modern day occultists can attest there's plenty of insight into Altered States of Consciousness and magical practices of all kinds. That all said, it's also important to understand that he couldn't have pulled off any of this as an academic, being that so many of his insights are actually misunderstandings, however productive. Perhaps rather than trying to fit him into the box of old school mysticism we should see him as designing a new way to be mystical. But isn't that what all great mystics do?

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