222. Difficulty at the beginning (II)
Philip K. Dick’s basic theme is summed up in a yarn he penned in which a man cuts open his body to discover that inside he is mechanical; he locates a tape inside his body and cuts it—then everything goes black. Dick invites us to consider the unreality of our reality; and so he has become the paradigmatic writer of the last three decades, a time of Internet-enabled reality collapse—his stories are everywhere. When Dawkins said in The Selfish Gene, released around the time of Dick’s Blade Runner, that we are just machines to replicate DNA he shared a sensibility with Dick—the sensibility of our time.
They say Dick went mad. Strung out on amphetamines, he claimed the FBI or drug dealers or the Black Panthers or Philip K. Dick robbed his house and blew up his safe. Under heavy sedation for an impacted wisdom tooth, he opened his door to a delivery girl from a pharmacy; she wore the vesica pisces and at that moment Dick was hit by a pink light that he claimed revealed the secrets of the cosmos to him. His later VALIS novels and his great Exegesis elaborated these ideas over the last years of his life. Dick ended as a Gnostic Christian, convinced that he had received direct information via the pleroma and so seen the truth behind the “Black Iron Prison”—our reality, itself a mere creation of the demiurge, the “Age of Iron” or Kali Yuga.
To understand PKD, we must go to the start: he was born a twin; he had a twin sister who died at birth. All his life, Dick searched for his lost other half and was, eventually, buried with her in the same grave. Dick’s middle name was “Kindred”: the central drama of his life was the loss of his closest “kin”, the twin sister he never knew. He was alert to the significance of names: in his works the fictional representation of himself is “Horselover Fat” = “Philip”, “lover of horses” in ancient Greek; and “Dick”, “fat” in German. He studied Jung; he knew Jung’s concept of syzygy, anima and animus—the divine twins of Aion, emanations of God. Dick’s instability stemmed from the loss of his twin sister; subsequently, he sought out his anima in a quest for a “dark-haired woman”, his girlfriends were substitutes for his dead anima (sister).
PKD also had a particular fondness for Wagner and often explored his Germanic heritage, albeit in a repressed way. His novel The Man in the High Castle depicts a world where the Axis won WWII, and within the novel there is another novel that depicts a fictional world where the Allies win WWII. Dick composed this book with aid from the I Ching; and it is looped in a microcosmic and macrocosmic way, the author writes a fictional author who writes our reality back to us.
The novel represents his repressed Germanic side: the Axis should have won WWII—the I Ching revealed his unconscious desire; or, perhaps, it represents the other side of our cosmic loop where this event transpired. The swastika is a polar symbol; the symbol of the spiritual celestial pole that runs through the Earth: the defeat of the Axis marked the complete victory of the materialist forces of degradation on Earth, as instantiated by Russo-American communism. Dick knew this was so, but was unable to fully process it because of the death of his sister; it seemed too “nasty”, so he fictionalised his repressed Germanic side.
Dick’s “Black Iron Prison” is contemporary America, in his view a thousand-year illusory continuation of the Roman Empire created by the materialist demiurge (“The empire never ended,” he often said). His “madness” was an unstable Gnostic awakening, due to his sister’s death, a realisation that the forces of materialism—of the anti-Christ, frankly—have total dominion on the Earth, with only a few “secret Christians”—certainly not always found in the Church—able to puncture the illusion.