At Lightspeed (or faster): A Report from The Second Meeting

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).

It is in this book of 1980 that Deleuze and Guattari begin to think of molecules as having tendencies so that, as Gregg Lambert notes, "A pharmacological investigation reveals real social and political consequences..."

It’s in this book that Deleuze and Guattari start to think of molecules as having “real social and political consequences…” that may be revealed through reading.

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


The first edition of Koestler’s 1971 book. It’s unlikely Dick read this, but he’d read an article of Koestler’s in Harper’s.

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.


9 thoughts on “At Lightspeed (or faster): A Report from The Second Meeting

  1. fcbertrand says:

    Chris, I think you’ll find that you meant to write Wolfgang Pauli, and not Linus Pauling regards P.K. Dick, C.G. Jung and the concept of synchronicity. Here’s a quote from the “Editorial Preface” to Jung’s: Synchonicity An Acausal Connecting Principle, Bollingen Series, Princeton Univ. Press, 1973: “Jung first used the term “synchronicity” only in 1930, in his memorial address for Richard Wilhelm, the translator of the I Ching, or Book of Changes. Jung was seeking to explain the modus operandi of the I Ching, which he had first come across in the early 1920’s in an English translation by James Legge (1882) but, as he said, came to understand only when he read Wilhelm’s version.” (p. vii)

    And this, from the same source: “Jung introduced the idea of synchronicity to strip off the fantasy, magic, and superstition which surround and are provoked by unpredictable, startling, and impressive events that, like these, appear to be connected…. But Jung introduced a puzzling complication: in support of his ideas he cited J.B. Rhine’s researches.” (p. v)

    So, it is Pauli and Rhine that Jung inculcated into his theory of synchronicity, and Jung’s intro to the I Ching, that P.K. Dick picked up on and used in his own unqiue/creative way.

    yours in kipple,
    frank c. bertrand

  2. Hi Frank, thanks so much for this; it’s very interesting to hear about Wolfgang Pauli. However, I fear we may have our wires crossed on this one (perhaps precisely as Dick would have hoped!), but in a second way, we are in total agreement.

    Firstly, on Linus Pauling. I did in fact mean Linus Pauling, because it is Pauling who is cited in Anne Dick’s book as the writer from whom Dick had picked up the ‘synchronicity’ idea. I’m not in any way suggesting that any ‘synchronicity theory’ was Pauling’s original idea; nor am I saying that Dick was influenced by Pauling’s articulation of that idea. However, I was not surprised at all when I read the reference to Pauling in Anne Dick’s book (which I have quoted from above, and which is also visible here via Google Books), having known that Pauling was one of the foremost proselytizers (if not the only real scientific proponent) of vitamin megadosing through the twentieth century. And Phil was at one time a passionate adherent, as we know, to this kind of vitamin regimen. (This is laid out well in his letters in the first 100 pages to the Exegesis publication). The Atlantic article, “The Vitamin Myth: Why We Think We Need Supplements,” to which I linked above, sets out Pauling’s stake in the vitamin science field (orthomolecular science). I was surprised, however, that Pauling had been the one (according to Anne’s note) to ‘theorise’ on ‘synchronicity’ — which is why, I think, you suggest that I am mistaken. But looking at it now, it is possible that Pauling has written on this subject. Given that Pauling and Pauli were both chemical scientists — scientists working in physical chemistry — and close correspondents and colleagues/friends — it is very likely that Pauling spoke of synchronicity in his writings as well, although I haven’t looked into where Pauling might have spoken about this. I’ll look into it.

    But to be as clear as I can, it is Anne who says that Phil was influenced by Pauling, who attributes the ‘synchronicity’ theory to Pauling, and then links this (and Pauling) with with Jung. This happens in the passage I’ve quoted above, but will do so again here:

    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.

    The point I was making above is that, as far as I can see (and I’ve been using PDF searching as well as reading it), Jung doesn’t use the term “synchronicity” in his introductory commentary, which is called his “Psychological Commentary,” in the foreparts of The Tibetan Book of The Dead (aka The Bardo Thodol.) I linked to my copy of the book (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), above, and will do so again here). I was saying that I think Anne might have made a mistake in suggesting that Jung describes synchronicity in TBOTD , and that she might have meant that Phil got the synchronicity idea from Jung’s description of it in his introduction to the I Ching or Book of Changes .

    As you say, Jung really spoke of synchronicity in in relation to, and in his remarks about the I Ching rather the TBOTD. This is exactly what I was hoping to point out. And Jung’s use of the term and description of synchronicity can clearly be seen in the foreword that Jung wrote for the I Ching, a html version of which is available here, which dates this foreword at 1949.

    (As a sidenote, there’s something unusual about this html edition: at n. 2 the reference to Jung’s work on synchronicity, which you cite, is cited as “Syndironicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle,” The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche…”. I wonder where this comes from? I know that you’re citing the 1973 Princeton version, which seems to have used the translation of the original English 1955 edition.)

    On the genealogy of Jung’s work on synchronicity, I’ve found in Joseph Cambray’s Synchronicity: Nature and Psyche in an Interconnected Universe, (available here, and very good by the looks!) these remarks:

    “While Jung continued to use and develop the term in his published works and in his letters, he did not produce a full-scale work on the topic until his 1951 Eranos lecture “On Synchronicity,” which was itself drawn from the more complete essay “Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle,” which he first published in 1952 in German as the first half of a book translated into English in 1955, The Interpretation of Nature and the Psyche; it was also published as a monograph in 1960 and is included in his Collected Works. The second half of the book contained an essay by Pauli, “The Influence of Archetypal Ideas on the Scientific Theories of Kepler.” As we have come to learn from historians in the field, Pauli and Jung had a significant correspondence from 1932 until Pauli’s death in 1958.” [See my link to the correspondence above.]

    I didn’t know that Jung had picked up the idea from Pauli and Rhine, however. Thanks for opening me up to this. But this is separate to my reference to Pauling and synchronicity, which all comes from Anne. Your point that Jung was influenced by Pauli is confirmed by Cambray’s book too (Chapter 1), where, in the foreword, David Rosen notes that “the origin of the concept of synchronicity” in Jung may be traced

    “to an early conversation between Jung and Albert Einstein and links it to the relativity of time and space. He helps us grasp the interaction of Jung and Wolfgang Pauli in their struggle to define and understand synchronicity. It was Pauli who helped Jung formulate the “psychoid archetype” that grounds the psyche in biology (and nature) and allows for interconnections with things in the universe.”

    I was also lucky enough to be given a copy of Jung’s The Red Book early this year, which is incredible, and I’m very interested in fleshing out the influence of Jung on Dick a little more, so this is great. (I recall an article dealing with this, published in Science Fiction Studies somewhere — I’ll track it down.)

    In any case, my point was simply that Dick is more likely to have read Jung speaking about synchronicity in the foreword to the I Ching rather than in the introduction (“Psychological commentary”) that Jung provides at the beginning of the TBOTD (as Anne Dick suggests). I think we actually both agree on that, and I hope that clears things up. Maybe Anne also meant to speak of Pauli, rather than Pauling? But then I think it’s equally likely that Pauling has written on synchronicity somewhere (I will check on this!), and that therefore Dick might also have read about the theory (although perhaps not for the first time), while he was with Anne, in Pauling’s work.

    • fcbertrand says:

      Oh, I quite agree that P.K. Dick picked up on C.G.Jung’s concept of “synchronicity” from the foreword to the I Ching. In fact, Jung’s work is far more important to PKD than most readers realize, and not just for synchronicity. I now have most of Jung’s “collected edition” and even put together an article about his “influence” on PKD at one point in the past..

      Methinks Anne Dick has got her wires crossed in mentioning Linus Pauling, versus Wolfgang Pauli. Pauling is, however, important for the vitamins megadose experiment PKD tried to get both his right and left-brain to fire together.

      • Hi Frank — yes, now we’re on the same page! Is the article on Jung and Dick around? I’d love to read it. And have you got your Norton edition of Jung’s The Red Book yet? Worth every penny, in my opinion. And thanks again for your interest in this reading group and (if I may say) my work as well.

    • fcbertrand says:

      I knew there had been something earlier on regards P.K. Dick and Wolfgang Pauli. It’s in his March, 1965 essay, “Schizophrenia & The Book Of Changes,” first published in the fanzine Niekas, No. 11, but also to be found in Lawrence Sutin’s collection: The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick (where my interview with PKD is also reprinted). Phil writes: “What distinguishes schizophrenic existence from that which the rest of us like to imagine we enjoy is the element of time. The schizophrenic is having it all now, whether he wants it or not; the whole can of film has descended on him, whereas we watch it progress frame by frame. So for him, causality does not exist. Instead, the acasual connective principle that Wolfgang Pauli called synchronicity is operating in all situations — not merely as only one factor at work, as with us.” (Shifting Realities, p. 176)

      • Hi Frank, thanks for these most helpful suggestions. Your second comment puts it all in perspective, and I do love that essay from Niekas — one of the great docs we have from Dick on his thoughts about psychosis and schizophrenia. He would have written that amid all the hubbub of Anne’s admission to the psych ward in 1964 and his and her use of the anti-psychotic Stelazine (which Phil felt was beneficial to him) — food for thought indeed.

  3. fcbertrand says:

    Chris, my piece about the influence of Jung on P.K. Dick can be found reprinted in, where else, an issue of PKD Otaku, No. 29, which is here:

    Don’t have the Norton edition of Jung’s Red Book, but a different one.

    Have done some cursory double-checking and I can find no direct link between Linus Pauling and Jung’s theory of “synchronicity.” The two people who are associated with it, as noted, are Pauli and Rhine. I’m suspecting that what happened is some confusion between Pauling’s theory of mega-doses of vitamins “synchronizing” the firing of both hemispheres of the brain, and Jung’s theory of “synchronicity.”

    And you are welcomed for my input. To put it nicely, MOST of what I see out there on the Internet/Blogosphere about PKD is unthoughtful trash, in my opinion, in particular by the likes of Anthony Peake and his ilk. So, I find your effort a refreshing change. Will be glad to participate as I can and help out with any relevant questions.

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