Le Folie Circulaire: Our 5th meeting and a Seminar

Just a brief note to advise of two upcoming events this month. Firstly, we have our regular Reading Group meeting, which will happen this Thursday 4 September from 5:30pm.  This will take us up to about half way through the Exegesis. Details are on the poster below at left.

Beaming in Circles

poster - wk5 - draft -2In this section of the volume, we start to see Dick becoming increasingly and more rigourously speculative about his 2-3-74 experience, treating the occurrence not simply as the manifestation of a pink-beam force that invades and affects him, but as a kind of circulation that moves through, with, and then away from him. The descriptions begin to have some structural affinity with what French psychiatrist Jean-Pierre Falret described as  la folie circulaire (circular madness) in his introductory conferences between 1850 and 1854 on the clinical approach in psychiatry. Falret’s classification, formally enunciated in a paper of 1854, was the forerunner to what we now describe as bipolar affective disorder, a nosological category distinguished by the alternation of manic and depressed states over long periods of time. While Dick does not, here or elsewhere in his life, appear to experience bipolar in this classical sense–nor in the modern sense of what are now shorter manic and depressed periods–it is interesting to think of the structural topology of Falret’s philosophical-psychiatric notions alongside parts of Dick’s expositions. Falret suggests that, as a result of circular madness, and the impact of this mental disease on the soul, a “novum organon” (new organ) manifested in the sufferer, which could not be dissipated by organic methods alone. Palliation, rather, Falret argues, required a kind of reverse engineering of the new organ through a moral or hypnotic means. This process is partly induced and unconscious, and partly guided and aware. Thinking along the lines of Falret, Dick’s remarks on 2-3-74 are notable for their circular structure: 

An overriding quiddity of the 2-3-74 experience is this: It’s as if certain books of mine went out from me (Unteleported Man, Ubik, Tears, etc.) and then (years) later (or weeks) came back, like in F. Brown’s “The Waveries,” in signal form: including the “bichlorides” info, like an answer to a Q which I had previously—maybe years before—posed. It was all—2-3-74—like a mind responding to my mind as I expressed it in my books.

What is interesting here is how 2-3-74 facilitates the circulation of Dick’s mind and books, which originally emanate from him, either in their composition or during the actual 2-3-74 event, and then return to him–with the pink beam, or at a later time–now transduced “in signal form.” On the return of the books’ ideas, they now seem to answer questions that Dick had posed earlier–either in the worlds of the novels themselves, or in an altogether different place and time. The information, like a ‘new organ,’ provides an additional or supplementary material beyond merely what is written in the books themselves. What causes or enables this new organ–this sense of a new “mind responding to [Dick’s original] mind” to appear? This is Dick’s crucial question in many of these pages, and a question for us to reflect on in our discussion.

SAM goes Sci-fi


The second event of note this month is a free seminar that will happen at the University of NSW on Tuesday 9 September. Chris and Adam of the Reading Group will present seminar papers on radio/radiation and psychiatric devices in Dick’s fiction, and invite questions and discussion from those in attendance.

This is an evening seminar, and the talks should go for approximately 30-35 minutes each. Details are on the poster at left. I expect there shall be enough wine and snacks for all who attend. We’d love to see you there!


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