Tuesday, July 19, 2011

PKD on his work not being inspired by acid trips

VERTEX: Isn't "Faith of Our Father's," from Harlan Ellison's Dangerous Visions, supposed to have been inspired by or written under the influence of acid?

DICK: That really is not true. First of all, you can't write anything when you're on acid. I did one page once while on an acid trip, but it was in Latin. Whole damn thing was in Latin and a little tiny bit in Sanskrit, and there's not much market for that. The page does not fall in with my published work. The other book which suggests it might have been written with acid is Martian Time-slip. That too was written before I had taken any acid.

VERTEX: How much acid did you take anyway?

DICK: Not that much. I wan't getting up in the morning and dropping acid. I'm amazed when I read the things I used to say about it on the blurbs of my books. I wrote this myself: "He has been experimenting with hallucinogenic drugs to find the unchanging reality beneath our delusions." And now I say, "Good Christ!" All I ever found out about acid was that I was where I wanted to get out of fast. It didn't seem more real than anything else; it just seemed more awful.

VERTEX: In the light of your own experiences with acid, how accurate do you think The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch is as far as drugs are concerned?

DICK: You remember what happened when they got on that drug? It was bad, wasn't it? It was so bad it taxed my ability to imagine bad. And it didn't do them any good to stop taking the drug because they had flashbacks. And nobody at the time knew LSD was going to produce flashbacks. I had it in mind that the ultimate horror would be to get an addictive, hallucinogenic drug out of your system and you would say, "Well, I'm back in the real world now." And suddenly a monstrous object from the hallucinogenic world would cross the floor and you would realize that you were not back. And this is what has happened to many people who have dropped acid. It was just an accidental prophecy on my part.

excerpt from Sutin interview

Sutin Interview

[5]gl: Was PKD aware that C.G. Jung has had very similiar experiences as 2-3-74 before developing his theory of archetypes? Jung was hearing voices of greek philosophers among other experiences...

[3]64: Yes he was. PKD read Jung in the 1950s and early 1960s and I am certain from his own references that he was familiar with "Memories, Dreams and Reflections", in which Jung's account of his Gnostic visions is included. At the same time, the key period for Jung's influence upon PKD is the late 1950s & early 1960s, with archetypal figures of evil such as Palmer Eldritch emerging. But PKD did not pursue the similarities between his 2-3-74 experiences & Jung's own experiences.

[5]gl: PKD seemed to have a very interesting and influencial relationship with his psychologists/psychiatrists - why e.g. does he use the figure of Dr. Stone, i.e. an authority figure from the medical world, as the first person to help him explicate the experience in VALIS? Why the reliance on neurological or biochemical pathology instead of religion and/or philosophy?

[3]64: PKD was taken by his mother to see psychiatrists during his childhood and early adolescence. He was diagnosed, by one of them, as schizophrenic. Others offered other diagnoses. But the sense of fear and of--to a degree--dependence, stuck with him. By dependence, I mean that a sense of his own well-being could be instilled by a figure such as Dr. Stone saying--you're not crazy. If you fear you are crazy, that's a balm.


[5]gl: How did PKDs involvement with Gnosticism come about? Did he ever connect to any gnostic groups such as the Rosicrucians, or did he gather all his knowledge from books?

[3]64: His knowledge of Gnosticism comes very largely from books. In the early 1960s, he did befriend an interesting figure--an Episcopal priest-the Episcopal bishop of California--James A. Pike. Pike discussed with Dick the findings at Nag Hammadi. How much of the Nag Hammadi Scrolls Dick read at that time is unclear, as there were not yet complete translations in English. Jung was a key source for him in terms of knowledge of Gnosticism. Briefly, in 1974--just after the pink light experiences, PKD (by mail) joined an American Rosicrucian group, but he let it fall by the wayside. He was, by and large, more interested in Christian than Rosicrucian sources.


[5]gl: W.S. Burroughs and his cut-up method were an important influence on PKD for writing VALIS. however, in his late novel "Ghost of Chance", set in Madagascar, Burroughs mocks Christ and holds him responsible for the destruction of the ecosystem. In contrast to him, Dick sees (in the "Tagore Letter") the destruction of the ecosphere as a macrocrucifixion, developing the conviction of the pantheistic mystic Jakob Boehme, that God and nature form a unit. Anything you can tell us about those two influences?

[0]64: To my knowledge, Burroughs' cut-up method was not an influence in the writing of Valis. On the other hand, Boehme certainly was an influence, though PKD knew of his work only indirectly, through summaries in philosophical reference texts. That God was implicit in the universe, albeit veiled or concealed, was a vital insight to PKD. His metaphor of Zebra --set and ground combined--was of course drawn by the phenomenon of camouflage & protective adaptive techniques in nature--gnostic truth could be conveyed by similiar techniques.

[0]64: I might add that where Burroughs was an influence was in his conception of language as a virus, capable of occluding truth. Or revealing it.

[5]gl: In Divine Invasions you write that Edgar Barefoot is based on the famous theologist Alan Watts. Was he an influence to Dick, or is he just mocking him as it might appear?

[0]64: Mocking him lightly, I would say. PKD viewed him as a glib popularizer. A similar portrayal of Watts appears in Kerouavc's "Dharma Bums".


[5]gl: About your work and recent projects. Beside your work on Philip K. Dick you have written a biography of Aleister Crowley. Do you see relations between Crowley and Dick in any way?

[0]64: Yes I do, not that PKD was interested in Crowley--PKD had a dislike for 'the occult' so labelled. Obviously both men had life-forming experiences that shaped their spiritual outlook--2-3-74 and the reception of the Book of the Law in Cairo. They both wanted to comprehend the universe WHOLE.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

two PKD MA Theses I like

I've read a few PKD dissertations that I wasn't enthusiastic about, but Josh Lind and David Gill have both made important academic contributions that helpfully explain and clarify what Dick is doing in his novels. They aren't just insightful studies of PKD but also models of what the MA thesis should be as a project. Anybody who wants to study literature at the graduate level would profit from reading them.