The Stone is a appointment for a philosophers and added thinkers on issues both appropriate and timeless.
This is the aboriginal in a three-part series.
Part 1: Meditations on a Radiant Fish
When I believe, I am crazy. Back I don’t believe,I ache certifiable depression.
— Philip K. Dick
Philip K. Dick is arguably the best affecting biographer of science fiction in the accomplished bisected century. In his abbreviate and brief career, he wrote 121 abbreviate belief and 45 novels. His assignment was acknowledged during his lifetime but has developed exponentially in admission back his afterlife in 1982. Dick’s assignment will apparently be best accepted through the dizzyingly acknowledged Hollywood adaptations of his work, in movies like “Blade Runner” (based on “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”), “Total Recall,” “Minority Report,” “A Scanner Darkly” and, best recently, “The Adjustment Bureau.” Yet few bodies ability accede Dick a thinker. This would be a mistake.
Dick’s activity has connected anesthetized into legend, brindled with aureate tales of carelessness and intoxication. There are some who accede such fable commodity of a aberration from the actualization of Dick’s arcane brilliance. Jonathan Lethem writes — accurately in my actualization — “Dick wasn’t a fable and he wasn’t mad. He lived amid us and was a genius.” Yet Dick’s activity continues to obtrude massively into any appraisal of his work.
Everything turns actuality on an accident that “Dickheads” accredit to with the autograph “the aureate fish.” On Feb. 20, 1974, Dick was hit with the force of an amazing adumbration afterwards a appointment to the dentist for an impacted acumen tooth for which he had accustomed a dosage of sodium pentothal. A adolescent woman delivered a canteen of Darvon tablets to his accommodation in Fullerton, Calif. She was cutting a chaplet with the chaplet of a aureate fish, an age-old Christian attribute that had been adopted by the Jesus counterculture movement of the backward 1960s.
The angle pendant, on Dick’s account, began to afford a aureate ray of light, and Dick aback accomplished what he called, with a nod to Plato, anamnesis: the bond or absolute anamnesis of the absolute sum of knowledge. Dick claimed to accept admission to what philosophers alarm the adroitness of “intellectual intuition”: the absolute acumen by the apperception of a abstract absoluteness abaft screens of appearance. Abounding philosophers back Kant accept insisted that such bookish intuition is accessible alone to animal beings in the guise of counterfeit obscurantism, usually as religious or mystical experience, like Emmanuel Swedenborg’s visions of the adorable multitude. This is what Kant called, in a admirable German word, “die Schwärmerei,” a affectionate of alive enthusiasm, area the cocky is actually en-thused with the God, o theos. Brusquely across-the-board a the accurate limitations and strictures that Kant placed on the altered domains of authentic and applied reason, the astounding and the noumenal, Dick claimed absolute intuition of the ultimate attributes of what he alleged “true reality.”
Yet the aureate angle adventure was aloof the beginning. In the afterward canicule and weeks, Dick accomplished and absolutely enjoyed a brace of nightlong consciousness-expanding visions with abstracted beheld ablaze shows. These hypnagogic episodes connected off and on, calm with audition choir and prophetic dreams, until his afterlife eight years afterwards at age 53. Abounding actual awe-inspiring things happened — too abounding to account actuality — including a adobe pot that Dick alleged “Ho On” or “Oh Ho,” which batten to him about assorted abysmal airy issues in a audacious and annoyed voice.
Now, was this aloof bad acerbic or acceptable sodium pentothal? Was Dick actively bonkers? Was he psychotic? Was he schizophrenic? (He writes, “The schizophrenic is a bound advanced that failed.”) Were the visions artlessly the aftereffect of a alternation of academician seizures that some alarm T.L.E. — banausic affiliate epilepsy? Could we now explain and explain abroad Dick’s alive acquaintance by some bigger neuroscientific adventure about the brain? Perhaps. But the botheration is that anniversary of these causal explanations misses the affluence of the phenomena that Dick was aggravating to alarm and additionally overlooks his different agency for anecdotic them.
The actuality is that afterwards Dick accomplished the contest of what he came to alarm “2-3-74” (the contest of February and March of that year), he adherent the blow of his activity to aggravating to accept what had happened to him. For Dick, compassionate meant writing. Suffering from what we ability alarm “chronic hypergraphia,” amid 2-3-74 and his death, Dick wrote added than 8,000 pages about his experience. He generally wrote all night, bearing 20 single-spaced, narrow-margined pages at a go, abundantly handwritten and blowzy with amazing diagrams and cryptic sketches.
The amateurish abundance of paper, accumulated posthumously into some 91 folders, was alleged “Exegesis.” The bits were accumulated by Dick’s acquaintance Paul Williams and again sat in his barn in Glen Ellen, Calif., for the aing several years. A beautifully edited alternative of these texts, with a aureate angle on the cover, was assuredly appear at the end of 2011, belief in at a boss 950 pages. But this is still aloof a atom of the whole.
Dick writes, “My exegesis, then, is an attack to accept my own understanding.” The book is the best amazing and continued act of self-interpretation, a acutely amaranthine cerebration on the accident of 2-3-74 that consistently seems to activate anew. Generally dull, repetitive and accustomed to bouts of massive paranoia, “Exegesis” additionally possesses abounding passages of 18-carat accuracy and is credible by an absolute and absolutely convincing sincerity. At times, as in the epigraph above, Dick avalanche into black dejection and despair. But at added moments, like some closing day Simon Magus, he is bedevilled of a berserk swelling-up of the ego to arrange with the divine: “I was in the apperception of God.”
In adjustment to accept what happened to him on 2-3-74, Dick acclimated the assets that he had at duke and that he admired best. These were a complete set of the 15th copy of Album Britannica that Dick purchased backward in 1974 and Paul Edwards’s arguably incomparable “Encyclopedia of Philosophy,” appear in eight handsome volumes in 1967, one of the ri and best abundant abstract abstracts anytime produced. Dick’s account was accidental and eclectic. Encyclopedias acceptable an absolutely benighted acceleration of affiliation that lent a assertive bookish and analytic adherence to his absolute obsessions.
Skimming through and beyond assorted album entries, Dick begin links and correspondences of account everywhere. He additionally stumbled into the primary texts of a cardinal of philosophers and theologians — conspicuously the pre-Socratics, Plato, Meister Eckhart, Spinoza, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Marx, Whitehead, Heidegger and Hans Jonas. His interpretations are sometimes absolutely camp but generally compelling.
This leads me to an important point. Dick was a able autodidact. He survived for beneath than one division at college, at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1949, demography and abandonment Aesthetics 10A in the amplitude of a few weeks. Dick larboard the chic in abhorrence at the benightedness and bent of his adviser back he asked his assistant about the believability of Plato’s abstract approach of the forms — the accuracy of which was afterwards accurate for Dick by the acquaintance of 2-3-74. Dick was clearly not accomplished as a philosopher or theologian — although I abominate that verb “trained,” which makes academics complete like calm pets. Dick was an abecedarian philosopher or, to borrow a byword from one of the editors of “Exegesis,” Erik Davis, he was that best baroque of things: a barn philosopher.
What Dick lacks in bookish and bookish rigor, he added than makes up for in admiral of acuteness and affluent lateral, accumulative association. If he had accepted more, it ability accept led him to aftermath beneath absorbing chains of ideas. In a afterwards acknowledgment in “Exegesis,” Dick writes, “I am a fictionalizing philosopher, not a novelist.” He interestingly goes on to add, “The amount of my autograph is not art but truth.” We assume to be adverse an credible paradox, area the affair with truth, the classical ambition of the philosopher, is not advised to be in action to fiction, but itself a assignment a fiction. Dick saw his fiction autograph as the artistic attack to alarm what he discerned as the accurate reality. He adds, “I am basically analytical, not creative; my autograph is artlessly a artistic way of administration analysis.”
Next, Part 2: “Future Gnostic.”
Simon Critchley is Hans Jonas assistant of aesthetics at the New School for Social Research in New York. He is the columnist of abounding books, best recently, “Faith of the Faithless: Experiments in Political Theology,” and is the adjudicator of this series.
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