PKD’s Love of the Disordered & Puzzling

PKD’s Love of the Disordered & Puzzling

Posted on May 21st, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Explorer Marmalade

I actually had to develop a love of the disordered & puzzling, viewing reality as a vast riddle to be joyfully tackled, not in fear but with tireless fascination.  What has been most needed is reality testing, & a willingness to face the possibility of self-negating experiences: i.e., real contradicitons, with something being both true & not true.

The enigma is alive, aware of us, & changing.  It is partly created by our own minds: we alter it by perceiving it, since we are not outside it.  As our views shift, it shifts in a sense it is not there at all (acosmism).  In another sense it is a vast intelligence; in another sense it is total harmonia and structure (how logically can it be all three?  Well, it is).

Page 91 (1979)
In Pursuit of VALIS: Selections from the Exegesis
by Philip K. Dick, edited by Lawrence Sutin

———

This deeply touches upon my experience.  I also had to develop a love of the disorderd & puzzling… for I never felt capable of denying these or distracting myself from their effect upon me.  If I didn’t learn to love the puzzles that thwarted my understanding, then seemingly the only other choice would be to fear them.

I was just thinking about the several years after my highschool graduation.  For most people, this time of life is filled with a sense of bright opportunity and youthful fun.  But, for me, it was the darkest time of my life.  I felt utterly lost with no good choice available to me.  I questioned deeply because my life was on the line… quite literally… because it was during these years that I attempted suicide.

I don’t remember exactly when I discovered PKD, but it was around that period of my life.  PKD’s questioning mind resonated with my experience.  The questions I asked only exacerbated my depression, but I did not know how to stop asking them.  So, to read someone who had learned to love the unanswerable questions was refreshing.  Plus, I was inspired by the infinite playfulness of his imagination.

Imagination was what I sorely needed during that time of feeling stuck in harsh reality.  To imagine ‘what if’ was a way of surviving day by day, and the play of possibilities brought a kind of light into my personal darkness.  I won’t say that PKD saved my life, but he did help me to see something good in it all.

Then, I became interested in other writers for quite a while.  I had even given away most of my PKD books.  I’d forgotten why I had liked him so much until A Scanner Darkly came out.  I watched it twice in the theater and was very happy to be reacquainted with PKD.  That movie really captured his writing like none other.

Those years spent away from PKD’s work, I had been seeking out various answers(such as those provided by the great Ken Wilber).  But now I feel like I’m in a mood again to simply enjoy the questions.

———-

I’ve been taking notes on another book and came across some lines that resonate with my sense of what PKD was about:

“Mercury is the trickster, happiest when he is at play.  Playing he is able to achieve the double consciousness of the comic mode: the world is serious and not serious at the same time, a meaningful pattern of etenrity and a filmy veil blocking the beyond.”

Page 77
The Melancholy Android: On the Psychology of Sacred Machines
Eric G. Wilson

Access_public Access: Public 7 Comments Print Post this!views (175)  

Nicole : wakingdreamer

about 5 hours later

Nicole said

i used to think when people talked about the teenage and university years as being the best part of our lives that i might as well kill myself then too. it wasn’t that i was as depressed as you, because my depression was only mild, but i was confused and searching. getting married and having kids was very challenging at times and i really only feel that i am beginning to enjoy my life as fully as i always wanted. i know what i want, i have some idea about how to be fulfilled and happy, i have a satisfying career and many friends, i am pursuing depth with God and meaning… everything is falling into place.

Marmalade : Gaia Child

about 5 hours later

Marmalade said

I hear ya.  I do enjoy my life now even though my depression probably isn’t any less than back then.  I have perspective now and I know what I like.  I focus on what I like and I do my best to ignore the rest.  I can now enjoy the questions but without as much angsty desperation.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

about 11 hours later

Nicole said

that’s really positive! though i do hope that somehow the depression can lift. That must be challenging always to come back to that. Reminds me of a book I enjoyed years ago called Father Melancholy’s Daughter
about a priest who couldn’t shake his tendency to deep depression no matter how hard he tried. very moving…
here is something else by the author about it

Marmalade : Gaia Child

about 15 hours later

Marmalade said

Thanks for the mention of that book.  I liked this last part from the first link:

One of the answers lies in the words of Margaret’s father to a fellow priest: “The Resurrection as it applies to each of us means coming up through what you were born into, then understanding objectively the people your parents were and how they influenced you. Then finding out who you yourself are, in terms of how you carry forward what they put in you, and how your circumstances have shaped you. And then … and then … now here’s the hard part! You have to go on to find out what you are in the human drama, or body of God. The what beyond the who, so to speak.”

“And then … and then … now here’s the hard part!”  lol

There is a movie about depression that I watched back then: Ordinary People.  I haven’t come across another movie that captures better my sense of my depression, but my situation was and is a bit different from the character. 

The story is similar to the Stephen King story The Body(made into the movie Stand By Me).  A younger son has to live with the memory of his dead older brother who had been the perfect son.  The mother is entirely into image and the son tries his best to fit in. 

The most insightful part of the film is where a depressed girl he had befriended in the psych ward had killed herself after convincing everyone(including herself) that everything was normal.  It shakes the boy to the core because if even someone who deals with their depression so ‘positively’ falls prey to hopelessness, then what hope is there for him.  However, the point is that he is less likely to try to kill himself again because he doesn’t repress his valid feelings. 

The message of the movie is that we all are just ordinary people, no one is perfect.  The movie presents the mother as less together than the son despte her trying to put up a positive front.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

1 day later

Nicole said

yes, Ben. Yes!

another book I have found important in terms of many of these themes – finding yourself, working out who you are in your family, understanding your mission in God, dealing with the death of a sibling – is mystical_paths_by_susan_howatch
Actually, it’s part of a long series about this psychic but though it speaks casually of paranormal abilities it is very real and goes deep into our day to day lives.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

5 days later

Marmalade said

I checked out your review of Mystical Paths and sounds like a strange story.
Have you read the whole series?

Nicole : wakingdreamer

6 days later

Nicole said

it’s a very strange story! i’ve only read a couple of the books, and while i’m mildly interested in the rest, you know the mantra! so many books… 🙂

PKD on God as Infinity

A favorite passage of mine from Philip K. Dick’s Exegesis which was a journal he kept later in life.  Excerpts of it were published under the title In Pursuit of Valis: Selections from the Exegesis (which sadly is out of print)The following excerpt can be found along with other excerpts at MIQEL.com.  For those interested in this, new excerpts from PKD’s Exegesis can be found on PhilipKDick.com.

 – – –

God manifested himself to me as the infinite void;
but it was not the abyss; it was the vault of heaven,
with blue sky and wisps of white clouds. He was not
some foreign God but the God of my fathers. He was
loving and kind and he had personality. He said, “You
suffer a little now in life; it is little compared with the
great joys, the bliss that awaits you. Do you think I in
my theodicy would allow you to suffer greatly in pro-
portion to your reward?” He made me aware, then, of
the bliss that would come; it was infinite and sweet.
He said, “I am the infinite. I will show you. Where I
am, infinity is; where infinity is, there I am. Construct
lines of reasoning by which to understand your experi-
ence in 1974. I will enter the field against their shift-
ing nature. You think they are logical but they are not;
they are infinitely creative.”

I thought a thought and then an infinite regres-
sion of theses and countertheses came into being. God
said, “Here I am; here is infinity.” I thought another
explanation; again an infinite series of thoughts split
off in dialectical antithetical interaction. God said,
“Here is infinity; here I am.” I thought, then, an infi-
nite number of explanations, in succession, that
explained 2-3-74; each single one of them yielded up
an infinite progression of flipflops, of thesis and
antithesis, forever. Each time, God said, “Here is infin-
ity. Here, then, I am.” I tried for an infinite number of
times; each time an infinite regress was set off and
each time God said, “Infinity. Hence I am here.” Then


he said, “Every thought loads to infinity, does it not?
Find one that doesn’t.” I tried forever. All led to an
infinitude of regress, of the dialectic, of thesis, antithe-
sis and new synthesis. Each time, God said, “Here is
infinity; here am I. Try again.” I tried forever. Always
it ended with God saying, “Infinity and myself; I am
here.” I saw, then, a Hebrew letter with many shafts,
and all the shafts led to a common outlet; that outlet
or conclusion was infinity. God said, “That is myself. I
am infinity. Where infinity is, there am I; where I am,
there is infinity. All roads—all explanations for 2-3-74—
lead to an infinity of Yes-No, This or That, On-Off, One-
Zero, Yin-Yang, the dialectic, infinity upon infinity; an
infinities [sic] of infinities. I am everywhere and all
roads lead to me; omniae viae ad Deum ducent [all
roads lead to God]. Try again. Think of another possi-
ble explanation for 2-3-74.” I did; it led to an infinity
of regress, of thesis and antithesis and new synthesis.
“This is not logic,” God said. “Do not think in terms of
absolute theories; think instead in terms of probabili-
ties. Watch where the piles heap up, of the same the-
ory essentially repeating itself. Count the number of
punch cards in each pile. Which pile is highest? You
can never know for sure what 2-3-74 was. What, then,
is statistically most probable? Which is to say, which
pile is highest? Here is your clue: every theory leads to
an infinity (of regression, of thesis and antithesis and
new synthesis). What, then, is the probability that I
am the cause of 2-3-74, since, where infinity is, there I
am? You doubt; you are the doubt as in:

They reckon ill who leave me out;
When me they fly I am the wings.
I am the doubter and the doubt

From the poem “Brahma” by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

“You are not the doubter; you are the doubt itself.
So do not try to know; you cannot know. Guess on the
basis of the highest pile of computer punch cards.
There is an infinite stack in the heap marked INFIN-
ITY, and I have equated infinity with me. What, then,
in the chance that it is me? You cannot be positive; you
will doubt. But what is your guess?”

I said, “Probably it is you, since there is an infinity
of Infinities forming before me.”

“There is the answer, the only one you will ever
have,” God said.

“You could be pretending to be God,” I said, “and
actually be Satan.” Another infinitude of thesis and
antithesis and new synthesis, the infinite regress, was

set off.

God said, “Infinity.”

I said, “You could be testing out a logic system in a giant

computer and I am—” Again an infinite
regress.

“Infinity,” God said.

“Will it always be infinite?” I said. “An infinity?”

“Try further,” God said.

“I doubt if you exist,” I said. And the infinite
regress instantly flew into motion once more.

“Infinity,” God said. The pile of computer punch
cards grew; it was by far the largest pile; it was infinite.

“I will play this game forever,” God said, “or until
you become tired.”

I said, “I will find a thought, an explanation, a
theory, that does not set off an infinite regress.” And,
us soon as I said that, an infinite regress was set off.
God said “Over a period of six and a half years you
have developed theory after theory to explain 2-3-74.
Each night when you go to bed you think, ‘At last I
found it. I tried out theory after theory until now,
finally, I have the right one.’ And then the next morn-


ing you wake up and say, ‘There is one fact not
explained by that theory. I will have to think up
another theory.’ And so you do. By now it is evident
to you that you are going to think up an infinite num-
ber of theories, limited only by your lifespan, not lim-
ited by your creative imagination. Each theory gives
rise to a subsequent theory, inevitably. Let me ask
you; I revealed myself to you and you saw that I am
the infinite void. I am not in the world, as you
thought; I am transcendent, the deity of the Jews and
Christians. What you see of me in world that you
took to ratify pantheism—that is my being filtered
through, broken up, fragmented and vitiated by the
multiplicity of the flux world; it is my essence, yes,
but only a bit of it: fragments here and there, a glint,
a riffle of wind … now you have seen me transcen-
dent, separate and other from world, and I am more;
I am the infinitude of the void, and you know me as
I am. Do you believe what you saw? Do you accept
that where the infinite is, I am; and where I am,
there is the infinite?”

I said, “Yes.”

God said, “And your theories are infinite, so I am
there. Without realizing it, the very infinitude of your
theories pointed to the solution; they pointed to me
and none but me. Are you satisfied, now? You saw me
revealed in theophany; I speak to you now; you have,
while alive, experienced the bliss that is to come; few
humans have experienced that bliss. Let me ask you,
Was it a finite bliss or an infinite bliss?”

I said, “Infinite.”

“So no earthly circumstance, situation, entity or
thing could give rise to it.”

“No, Lord,” I said.

“Then it is I,” God said. “Are you satisfied?”

“Let me try one other theory,” I said. “What hap-

pened in 2-3-74 was that—” And an infinite regress
was set off, instantly.

“Infinity,” God said. “Try again. I will play forever,
for infinity.”

“Here’s a new theory,” I said. “I ask myself, ‘What
God likes playing games? Krishna. You are Krishna.'”
And then the thought came to me instantly, “But
there is a god who mimics other gods; that god is
Dionysus. This may not be Krishna at all; it may be
Dionysus pretending to be Krishna.” And an infinite
regress was set off.

“Infinity,” God said.

“You cannot be YHWH Who You say You are,” I
said. “Because YHWH says, ‘I am that which I am,’ or,
‘I shall be that which I shall be.’ And you—”

“Do I change?” God said. “Or do your theories
change?”

“You do not change,” I said. “My theories change.
You, and 2-3-74, remain constant.”

“Then you are Krishna playing with me,” God
said.

“Or I could be Dionysus,” I said, “pretending to be
Krishna. And I wouldn’t know it; part of the game is
that I, myself, do not know. So I am God, without real-
izing it. There’s a new theory!” And at once an infinite
regress was set off; perhaps I was God, and the “God”
who spoke to me was not.

“Infinity,” God said. “Play again. Another move.”
“We are both Gods,” I said, and another infinite
regress was set off.

“Infinity,” God said.

“I am you and you are you,” I said. “You have
divided yourself in two to play against yourself. I, who
am one half, I do not remember, but you do. As it says
in the GITA, as Krishna says to Arjuna, ‘We have both
lived many lives, Arjuna; I remember them but you


do not.” “‘ And an infinite regress was set off; I could
well be Krishna’s charioteer, his friend Arjuna, who
does not remember his past lives.

“Infinity,” God said.

I was silent.

“Play again,” God said.

“I cannot play to infinity,” I said. “I will die before
that point conies.”

“Then you are not God,” God said. “But I can play
throughout infinity; I am God. Play.”

“Perhaps I will be reincarnated,” I said. “Perhaps
we have done this before, in another life.” And an infi-
nite regress was set off.

“Infinity,” God said. “Play again.”

“I am too tired,” I said.

“Then the game is over.”

“After I have rested—”

“You rest?” God said. “George Herbert** wrote of me:

Yet let him keep the rest,
But keep them with repining restlessnesse.
Let him be rich and wearie, that at least,
If goodness leade him not, yet wearinesse
May tosse him to my breast.

“Herbert wrote that in 1633,” God said. “Rest and
the game ends.”

“I will play on,” I said, “after I rest. I will play until
finally I die of it.”

“And then you will come to me,” God said.
“Play.”

“This is my punishment,” I said, “that I play, that I

* Krishna to Arjuna in chapter 10 of the BHAGAVAD GITA.
** George Herbert (1593-1633), English Christian poet and mystic. The
lines quoted by PKD form the final stanza of the poem “The Pulley.” In
line five, “my” is capitalized in the original.

try to discern if it was you in March of 1974.” And the
thought came instantly, My punishment or my
reward; which? And an infinite series of thesis and
antithesis was set off.

“Infinity,” God said. “Play again.”

“What was my crime?” I said, “that I am com-
pelled to do this?”

“Or your deed of merit,” God said.

“I don’t know,” I said.

God said, “Because you are not God.”

“But you know,” I said. “Or maybe you don’t
know and you’re trying to find out.” And an infinite
regress was set off.

“Infinity,” God said. “Play again. I am waiting.”

(17 November 1980)