The second meeting of our group went very well, with an increasing number of attendees. We went overtime (my fault–Chris), and ended up discussing all matter of things about Dick, time and space, “transduction,” and more. A few of the things that we found most striking about the first hundred-or-so pages of the Exegesis included
- Dick’s fascination with tachyons;
- his relationship with Bishop Jim Pyke (as of yet only glossed by the group);
- the paranoid way in which Dick warns Claudia Bush to be “careful” with the information he shares with her about the Dead Sea Scrolls;
- Dick’s reference to his own amnesia (caused by his car crash of 1964); and
- Dick’s increasing fascination with megadoses of vitamins.
Dick’s “non-objective” Orthomolecular Visions
Dick’s experimentation with vitamins, and particularly vitamin C, marks the influence (perhaps indirect) of Linus Pauling on his thinking. Pauling is mentioned by Anne, Dick’s third wife, in her biography, The Search for Philip K. Dick. As Anne writes, Dick learned of Pauling through Carl Jung’s introduction to the Tibetan Book of The Dead:
Phil became interested in the I Ching and Linus Pauling’s theory of synchronicity, which Jung describes in his introduction to The Tibetan Book of the Dead. Phil began to use the I Ching as an oracle several times a day. Once he asked it if we should sell our old Ford station wagon. The oracle replied, “The wagon is full of devils,” so we sold it and bought that Peugeot, which also turned out to be full of devils.
As it happens, I can’t find the reference to Pauling, or even to synchronicity, in my edition of Jung’s introduction to the Bardo Thodol, and because Jung doesn’t really even write an introduction per se to this book, but rather a ‘Psychological Commentary,’ I’m inclined to think that Anne has this confused and means to speak of Jung’s introduction to The Book of Changes, which contains the I Ching. It is, afterall, in this introduction that Jung writes of synchronicity. Speaking of the I Ching‘s author’s fixation on the hexagram, Jung observes that
This assumption [regarding the importance of the hexagram for practitioners of the I Ching] involves a certain curious principle that I have termed synchronicity, a concept that formulates a point of view diametrically opposed to that of causality. Since the latter is a merely statistical truth and not absolute, it is a sort of working hypothesis of how events evolve one out of another, whereas synchronicity takes the coincidence of events in space and time as meaning something more than mere chance, namely, a peculiar interdependence of objective events among themselves as well as with the subjective (psychic) states of the observer or observers.
Whether or not Dick knew of Pauling through Jung’s remarks on synchronicity from The Book of Changes, it also seems likely that Dick had been influenced by Pauling’s (a Nobel laureate) views on orthomolecular medicine, and probably Pauling’s well-known and highly influential 1970 book Vitamin C and the Common Cold. Pauling’s orthomolecular medical knowledge had always been open to criticism, and it had, at the close of the twentieth century, come under increasingly forceful criticism, and it’s now seemingly unsupported by contemporary research. Dick, as he notes in these letters, uses megadoses of vitamins, which brought on strange experiences and dreams. The dream vision that Dick beheld while experimenting with these high dosages of vitamins are fascinating for readers at all inclined to psychobiography or biographical analysis, including what Deleuze and Guattari call schizo-analysis or (even better) pharmacoanalysis in their second volume of Capitalism and Schizophrenia, A Thousand Plateaus (below left), or what Avital Ronnel calls “narcoanalysis” in her fantastic Crack Wars. There has yet to be a study of Dick’s drug experimentation that calls on these methods (although I myself am working on something along these lines for a forthcoming book chapter).
Dick’s discussion of his dreaming of numerous independent “non-objective graphics”–artworks resembling Picassos and Miros, for instance–or of his dreaming about books that he would then, in his waking hours, find to actually exist within his house (albeit that these were ordinary, banal books — the most boring volumes he could think of) at once enthral, amuse, and perturb, leaving one to imagine that Dick is all at once engaging, comedic and unspooled. More than this, however, Dick’s experiments reveal a mind whose own teleology (a subject and term of some import in these pages) is not specifically articulated by him, but open to influence, to impression, to suggestion by an other.
Tachyons and Transtemporality
Notably, it is the tachyon theory that enables Dick to reify his sense of the reality of what might be called ‘transtemporal signals’–messages from the past and future, received by him. Dick had been influenced by journalist and writer Artheur Koestler, whose 1974 article “Order from Disorder” — probably an extension of the ideas that Koestler had originally proposed in his 1972 The Roots of Coincidence — also seem a prolepsis to chaos theory, enunciated by Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers’ 1984 Order Out of Chaos. Having read Koestler’s Harper’s article, Dick felt he had a new way of explaining (at least to Peter Fitting) the feelings that he had recently had, and had articulated, about his own sense of precognition and presentiment about the world. As Dick writes to Fitting in his letter of 1974,
Without the tachyon theory I would lack any kind of scientific formulation, and would have to declare that “God has shown me the sacred tablets in which the future is written” and so forth, as did our forefathers, back on the deserts of Israel under the sky as they tended their sleeping flocks. Koestler also points out that according to modern theory the universe is moving from chaos to form; therefore tachyon bombardment would contain information which expressed a greater degree of Gestalt than similar information about the present; it would, thus at this time continuum, seem more living, more animated by a conscious spirit, to us giving rise to the concept of God. This would definitely give rise to the idea of purpose, in particular purpose lying in the future. Thus we now have a scientific method of considering the notion of teleology, I think, which is why I am writing you now, to express this, my own sense of final causes, as we discussed that day. [Emphasis mine]
Following on from our tachyon discussion, our group became rather astrophysical and cosmological, as we thought along with Dick in his discussion of the possibility of time-travel, and the way in which he began to believe the very “freaks” (his word) who had begun suggesting to him that the world was becoming more Phildickian. In these pages (8-9 from memory), we also found interesting his own suggestion, half-joking, that Ubik, the novel, wrote him (rather than he it), and that he had somehow brought into existence, in the real world, certain characters that he had initially only featured in his novels. One example Dick names is Kathy from Flow My Tears, a simulacrum of whom Dick would later claim to have met in his real life.
We look forward to the next 100 pages of the Exegesis, which we now realise will probably require reading in about three or four sittings. As always, please do contact Chris Rudge for any further information about the group, or if you require any materials or instruction with respect to the monthly readings.