“The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.”
–Alfred North Whitehead

On reading Philip K. Dick for the first time…

“…mental illness. It was like a plague. No one could discern how much was due to drugs. This time in America–1960 to 1970–and this place, the Bay Area of Northern California, was totally fucked. I’m sorry to tell you this, but that’s the truth. Fancy terms and ornate theories cannot cover this fact up (Valis, 4).

I started reading PKD’s VALIS yesterday. I understand now where the inspiration for Richard Doyle’s thesis regarding the evolutionary power of psychedelic rhetoric came from. PKD has a way of alphabetically inducing a psychedelic experience. His words lift us out of our ordinary waking consciousness, opening the doors of perception to what Aldous Huxley called “Mind at Large.” I’m only 40 pages in, but PKD has already taken me on a gnostic trip into what at first, to my mini-mind, seemed pure insanity.

From loss and grief the Mind has become deranged. Therefore we, as parts of the universe, the Brain, are partly deranged. […]  The Mind is not talking to us but by means of us. Its narrative passes through us and its sorrow infuses us irrationally. As Plato discerned, there is a streak of the irrational in the World Soul. […] The changing information which we experience as World is an unfolding narrative. It tells the death of a woman… This woman, who died long ago, was one of the primordial twins. She was one half of the divine syzygy. The purpose of the narrative is the recollection of her and of 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, will be understood this way. All the information processed by the Brain–experienced by us as the arranging and rearranging of physical objects–is an attempt at this preservation of her; stones and rocks and sticks and amoebae are traces of her. The record of her existence and passing is ordered onto the meanest level of reality by the suffering Mind which is now alone (33-34).

Here is Doyle on PKD:






5 responses to “On reading Philip K. Dick for the first time…”

  1. noir-realism Avatar

    OMG… this is truly your first PKD novel… zonk! You’ll have to get his big book: the Exegisis… that’ll take for a ride down the rabbit hole… his novels of the sixties are still widely read as well. I was SF fanatic as a kid growing up in the latter fifties and onward… Dick came by way of one of Campbell’s SF magazines, a book club print the first time… reading Dick is almost as fun as the first time I read MAD Magazine… no comparison of course, but the excitement generated was the same. What can I say: I’m a sucker for the satirists and the psychonauts.

    Have fun!

  2. hartrichards Avatar

    The 52 extant tractates of the Nag Hammadi codices and PKD’s Exegesis are a gnostic psychonaut’s source books. If a philosopher metabolized PKD like Deleuze ingested Kafka, Proust and Bacon, we’d have an irruption of provocative thought. If Goethe were alive, the Exegesis would be Faust’s reference text, and not John Dee. PKD is essential to transmodernist sensibilities and the posthuman imaginary.

  3. terenceblake Avatar

    Dick is quite inspiring, and I think his short stories have much in them that we miss if we haven’t read the “metaphysical” novels such as Valis. I try to say something about the relation between VALIS and personal experience here: http://xenoswarm.wordpress.com/2014/03/23/valis-gnostic-schizo-existential-sf-masterpiece/

  4. Louis Brassard Avatar
    Louis Brassard

    A human is the null animal, almost no predetermined developing instinct on his own, but an total culturally fashionable throughout his life personality or social role. A human is the perfect actor, the theatrical animal fashioned by 15 billion years of cosmic evolution. The Greek term for actor is hypocrites, meaning one who wears a mask. It implies taking on a persona (persona being another word that originally meant ‘mask’) other than one’s own.
    All other animal have their role mostly wire-in pre-written with limited cultural modulation. The human animal is totally culturally fashion and in multiple ways. He can learn different roles. All forms of expressions can …. Human’s imagination is this capacity to experience without object, the experiencing of the evolved theatrical animal, the self-enaction of the whole evolution of the experiencing that this cosmic evolution is.

  5. John Bryant Avatar


    As you may be aware, I don’t read many books, especially science fiction. I’m very aware of PKD’s influence, but I know the VALIS story from the perspective from which it was written.

    I recall (pun intended) recommending VALIS to you since you like to read so much, but I find myself concerned now that you will not comprehend the nature of the metaphors nor the significance and orientation of the line between fantasy and reality. When I started describing my “Contact” experiences in the early 90’s, the similarities to Dicks stories were so strong as to validate some of the more ineffable claims to the legacy of researchers (Project Stargate) who had covertly infiltrated my life.

    They have gone to great lengths attempting to discredit and disinform the truth about various situations and realities. This includes targeted television broadcasts from “aliens” and “time-travelers” played to unsuspecting persons who had been given psychedelic substances. The researcher-dupes involved in these projects would then believe that the other accounts were also induced by the experiments rather than legitimate mental contacts with other time-spaces. There is a strong division in these cults between the ones who know and the unenlightened brainwashed tools who have no legitimate experience.

    Colonel Everett Jung withstanding, these same people are using you and your school to continue this crap.

    I have gone back and forth on the utility of writing my perceptions into fictional accounts, I generally choose Leary’s approach. But privately rather than publicly, I set out to formulate prescriptions for specific repairs to the western world-view and rationale. My strategy was to use the flaws in the empirical cannons and skill-set/functionality as points of attack. That has worked to an extent, but primarily within a secret cabal with no real control over it’s direction.

    The most serious problem, as I see it is that behind my back, the very same people who have exploited PKD’s work in theater began stealing my work, gaming with the implications and consequences of the unreconciled flaws in the western mentality. They exploited my lack of awareness of how William Shatner and Project Stargate had already fucked Leary over with Star Trek.

    From John Crichton forward, re-treatments like Minority Report began superimposing my situations and story over Dick’s in their theatrical renditions. All courtesy of the Hollywood Sci-fi “CONventions” -a puppet show from the research edge of the governments military-intelligence apparatus. Their efforts to protect their investments in an insane and unsound space-faring world has caused human genetic code incalculable injury that 99.9999 percent of the population isn’t even capable of understanding!

    This ignorance is due primarily to the secrecy and corruption surrounding the truth.

    You may have already seen this, but it’s an interesting commentary on the situation:

    And there are other ways…

    I look at you all see the love there that’s sleeping
    While my guitar gently weeps
    I look at the floor and I see it needs sweeping
    Still my guitar gently weeps.

    I don’t know why nobody told you
    How to unfold your love
    I don’t know how someone controlled you
    They bought and sold you.

    I look at the world and I notice it’s turning
    While my guitar gently weeps sponsored links
    With every mistake we must surely be learning
    Still my guitar gently weeps.

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