Besides science fiction PKD also wrote essays and many short stories. He had 36 books published in his lifetime and 121 short stories. PKD explored sociological, political and metaphysical themes in his work. Other ideas he also explored were monopolistic corporations, authoritarian governments and altered states of consciousness. In his later works PKD focussed on his interest in metaphysics and theology. PKD often drew on his own real life experiences and explored drug use, paranoia and schizophrenia and transcendental experiences in such novels as A Scanner Darkly and VALIS. The novel The Man in the High Castle bridged the genres of alternate history and science fiction and won the Hugo award for the best science fiction novel of 1963. It portrayed life in the United States after it had lost to the Axis powers in World War II and the eastern half of the US was governed by Nazi Germany and the western half Imperial Japan. Flow My Tears the Policeman Said was about a celebrity who awakened in a parallel universe where no one knew who he was. This book won the John W. Campbell memorial award for the best science fiction novel of 1975. "I want to want to write about people I love and put them into a fictional world spun out of my mind, because the world we actually have does not meet my standards." "In my writing I even question the universe; I wonder out loud if it is real, and I wonder out loud if all of us are real." Although PKD spent most of his career as a writer in near poverty-nine of his stories have been adapted into popular movies since his death including Blade Runner (One of my all time favorite movies) the book version was called Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Total Recall, A Scanner Darkly, and Minority Report. In 2005 Time magazine named Ubik one of the one hundred greatest English language novels published since 1923. In 2007 PKD became the first science fiction writer to be included in the Library of Americas series.
I always thought it incredibly sad and yet somehow so ironic because of the nature of the subjects he wrote about that PKD didn't live to see Ridley Scott's Blade Runner completed. PKD died a little over three months before the movie was released in June of 1982. PKD's untimely death denied him the chance to have a taste of material wealth that would have been a great change from what he was used to-I do not believe he was at all a "thing" oriented person-but an "ideas" person-still though, what a change it would have been for a man who had been near homelessness many times. Besides a measure of material wealth I also wonder what he would have thought of the success of the movie-and other movies that were made out of his books in relation to the fact that he got people to think about some very deep topics. The nature of reality is one topic that also comes out in much of his work. I find PKD the man, his ideas and his life even more interesting than his books. He spent a great deal of his life battling mental instability, depression, paranoia, failed relationships and drug abuse. In the 1970s his California home became a crash pad for petty thieves and drug addicts-basically-lost people. This is probably because he was able to identify so well with being lost in the world. PKD married five times and had three children. Also in the 1970s his home was broken into. In a fascinating spiral of thoughts he first thought that perhaps it was a government job. This was during the Nixon years when paranoia was at an all time high. PKD was a very open, free and in many ways politically liberal man (although politics hardly defined him) who had grown up in Berkeley, California and although usually very poor in material things he was the kind of man who would give you the shirt off of his back if you were in need. He was certainly no stranger to drug use and he wondered if perhaps he had made it onto Tricky Dick's "enemies list." Then after a while he began to feel that he had burglarized his own home!
He thought that the reason he didn't remember robbing his own home was due to a blackout while on narcotics or the onset of mental illness. This incident in his life led to him writing the book, A Scanner Darkly. The title is a reference to a passage in the Bible in 1 Corinthians 13, which states: "For we know in part, and we prophecy in part. But who that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I beame a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part, but then I shall know even as I was known." The books protagonist is required to view clips from his life on a "scanner", a holographic recorder projects. In Chapter 13 of the book, the protagonist muses that he has seen life with a scanner, but came no closer to properly perceiving his life than Saint Paul with his primitive mirror or glass. True understanding he suggests will only come when death is defeated. Many of his friends also thought he was the unhappiest man they had ever met. By far-the most interesting experiences in his relatively short life were yet to come.
In the early months of 1974 PKD experienced hallucinations, dreams, synchronicities and gnostic visions that he collectively thought of as 2-3-74 or shorthand for February/March 1974. PKD would spend the rest of his life attempting to understand the meaning of these events in a thousand page handwritten manuscript he came to call the Exegesis. Even when his fictional output slowed down he continued to work on his Exegesis every night-analyzing, sorting and interpreting through 2-3-74, as well as his published novels and short stories. Besides its function as mystical exegesis it also served as a daily diary along with self-analysis and a dream journal. Very seldom in the history of literature is their such an open window into the mind of a writer penetrating his deepest spirit and psychological space. PKD came to believe that an alien intelligence that could quite possibly be god was communicating with him through an interface called the Vast Active Living Intelligence System (VALIS). This system took the form of a ship in outer space delivering highly concentrated doses of information to him through beams of pink light. He described it as an "invasion" of his consciousness that also "by a transcendentally rational mind" he also claimed to believe that co-existing within himself was a "plasmate." PKD believed that his "plasmate" was an early Christian who though very much alive in the first century was simultaneously interpenetrated into PKD's body and mind space. Like many of the protagonists from his own novels, PKD believed in the possibility that he was hallucinating his current life and was really living in another place and time.
In this case the Roman empire-this is the origin of the rather haunting phrase frequently found later in his writing-"The Empire Never Ended." He also experienced a series of voices that gave him information telling him things he couldn't possibly know otherwise, including a just-in-time lifesaving medical diagnosis of his newborn son whose life was saved by an emergency hernia operation. PKD was well aware of how insane this all sounded and wrote many different theories about what was happening to him in his Exegesis and why he came to believe in the veracity of his spiritual experiences. One "proof " of his sanity was his claim that crazy people don't doubt their own sanity. Those who knew him at the time living in a modest apartment in Santa Ana, California considered him an eccentric, disheveled, intense, personally unhygienic, gentle, arrogant, emotionally hairtriggered and religiously bizarre.-BUT quite possibly the most brilliant person they knew-and certainly not a delusional schizophrenic. Despite his numerous psychological problems his friends considered him to be quite sane. Four astonishing novels came out of the whole experience. Radio Free Albemuth was his first attempt to deal with VALIS through fiction. In this tale-of which two of the characters are Nicholas Brady and Ferris Fremont-there is yet a third -PKD himself! In an attempt to defeat Fremont-who is a thinly disguised Richard Nixon (would have made a perfect 43 later!) Brady and Dick embed messages in popular songs in order to oppose Fremont's plans to impose a police state. The novel is a great counter-cultural response to Watergate filled with mystical interpretations of rock music, shizphrenic delusions and alien technology. Radio Free Albemuth was PKD's most daring work and the most autobiographical.
VALIS published in 1981 was a complete re-working of his 2-3-74 experience. The protagonist who now undergoes Gnostic illumination is the paranoid schizophrenic twin of science fiction writer Philip K. Dick and is named "Horselover Fat" Philip being Greek for horselover and dick being German for thick or fat. VALIS is more solemn and serious than the previous works mentioned and includes many of the most important events of his spiritual life and is very autobiographical in nature. Here are some quotes by PKD about his actual VALIS experience: "March 18, 1974: It, from inside me, looked out and saw the world did not compute, that I-and it-had been lied to. It denied the reality, and power, and authenticity of the world, saying, 'This cannot exist, it cannot exist.' " "March 20, 1974: It seized me entirely, lifting me from the limitations of the space-time matrix; it mastered me as, at the same time, I knew that the world around me was cardboard, a fake. Through its power of perception I saw what really existed, and through its power of no-doubt decision, I acted to free myself. It took on in battle, as a champion of all human spirits in thrall, every evil, every Iron Imprisoning thing."
Here is a direct quote from the book VALIS where PKD links his dead twin to Sophia, the sister/bride of God who experiences exile in the material world: "The changing information which we experience as world is an unfolding narrative. It tells about the death of a woman. This woman, who died long ago, was one of the primordial twins. She was half of the divine syzgy. The purpose of the narrative is the recollection of her and her death. The Mind does not wish to forget her. Thus the ratiocination of the Brain consists of a permanent record of her existence, and, if read, would be understood that way. All the information processed by the Brain-experienced by us as the arrangement and rearranging fo physical objects-is an attempt at this preservation of her, stones and rocks and sticks and amoebae are traces of her.
Now-what does all of this have to do with Gnosticism? I hope to give just a little insight today and then follow up-hopefully very soon with some more on Gnostic thought and other things also. I am not quite sure how this "series" will go quite yet-its kind of experimental-yet I think extremely important. Some of the ideas in this series have actually been kicking around in my little skull for quite awhile. I have often wondered at the apparent-and very real insanity of the world around us. Here I am not talking about the "fun" crazy stuff-but the horrific stuff in our world. I often thought of the leaders of this planet-both seen and unseen -and wondered-"Aren't some of these men and women afraid of a possible afterlife and its consequences at all? It seems to me like if I were one of these people who is on a pacemaker no less-I would sure as hell be trying to make peace with my maker if you know what I mean (guess who I am thinking of:-)! Then in 2004 I started looking at the superb and thought-provoking work Jeff Wells has done at his blog (along with many wonderful people at the Rigorous Intuition forum)-and I began to think-"Oh I get it -well kind of anyway-why some of these despicable dealers of death in this world might not be so scared of consequences upon their departure from this earth.
Then a matter of nights ago-even though I have had Jeff's book, Rigorous Intuition: What You Don't Know Can't Hurt Them since December-I gave the book yet another read through-probably my third -and after this reading during a wide awake insomniac night-I felt I had an experience of gnosis (roughly-knowing, knowledge). I think Jeff is one of the few people out there who "get it" in what is a very small club of women and men who are concerned with the direction the world is heading and most importantly WHY-it is heading in the wrong direction. I wish in American high school civics class they would cut all books out of the curriculum and have two or three as required reading-one is Howard Zinn's -"A People's History of the United States" and another is Jeff's Rigorous Intuition-and maybe I can think of one or two more about the way our "republic" really works-a "representative democracy" my hairy derriere-please scuse the French. Well once again I am tired and rambling-let me give you all a quote out of Jeff's wonderful book (ps -think non human intelligences when reading this-it is kind of where I am going with my new "series"-Donald Schrum is a man who had a bizarre encounter in 1964 with non-human "beings" and also Carl Higdon who had a bizarre encounter in 1974)from pages 299 to 300: "A wild tale, and like all such tales, impossible to verify. Yet his [Higdon's] bullet was in his pocket where he placed it, folded like a glove. And to ask But was it real? is likely to miss the point. Fungus the Bogeyman returned to a home and family after a good night's scare. To what, and to whom, do these entities return? Does the yellow man in the black uniform ever say "Honey, I'm home!" Are there factories assembling the bizarre and ungainly robots of Schrum's and many others accounts? Why is there so little standardization of craft, and why are there so many different kinds of entities? Religion and occult lore have more to say in this regard than exopolitics, because the things are manifesting themselves for us. Higdon might not have been terrorized, but he was drained, left a blubbering mess, like so many who encounter the Other, The Otherworld, too, has those who play good cop/bad cop. So long as they feed."
I thought this quote of Jeff's fit perfectly with where I am going with the Gnosticism link and thoughts of good and bad "possessions" and contact with non-human intelligences. I hope this made some sense and will try to give some links-I wanted to call it a rough draft until I could check up on a few things. Thanks again for all of your wonderful and thoughtful comments! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_K._Dick
http://www.ufoevidence.org/cases/case308.htm Carl Higdon Case
http://www.nicap.org/640904dir.htm Donald Schrum Case
PS-puter is doing the online/offline tango-I meant to say the Gnosticism part will be in the next article -I meant to have it in this one -but ran out of time-I also hope to get caught up with all the updated blogs tomorrow also! Peace and best to anyone stopping by!