By such a title I do not mean to imply that Dick or Braver are religious gnostics or obscurantists by any means, but rather that they affirm a cybernetic positive-feedback loop of information and communication with a “more than rational” notion of time, self, and cosmos. More of a secular and ironic twist to gnostic thought than an affirmation of some acosmic God. Or as with most anti-realists secularites of the pomo mode they harbor a intertextual or poststructuralist sense of being cut off in the prison house of culture. Shadows of shadows flowing in a world of signs in a solipsistic universe without access to the real world. Children of Kant and the turn toward subjectivity and subjectivation they seek ways back out of the maze and traps of a catastrophe that is also a fall into language.
The Philip K. Dick as Braver portrays him in “Coin-Operated Doors and God: A Gnostic Reading of Philip K. Dick’s Ubik” offers us a Gnostic adventurer whose early works already prefigured the war between good and evil in the linguistiverse of rhetorical gestures, where humans are half-lifers in a scripted story ruled by a false demiurgic half-wit kid whose mission is to cannibalize the energy of these locked away zombies like virtual drones in frozen tombs dreaming they are alive and in ultra-paradise. Happy Campers that believe they are safe and secure until they begin receiving disturbing interventions from a strange object: the Ubik. I’ll let you read the book and Braver’s essay for the details…
Such a reading shows just how difficult it is to reduce our inner experience or outer environmental systems to a verbal universe through art or science, religion or fiction. We live on the borderlands of truth rather than at its core, and everything is caught in the act of change rather than in the static field of static contemplation. We know in part, not whole; our minds are but the slow and selective evolutionary machines that have adapted to environmental pressures over millions of years that have in our age become disconnected from their early frames of reference. We now live in artificial worlds of our own making and suffer the consequences of these made habitats of meaning. A world where “heuristics” or models or reality that are partial, based on statistics and probability, rather than philosophical presuppositions; and, are more mathematical and organized by Set and Synthetic theory than by either Intellect or Sensation. In fact it is the main issue of our time that our “theories of meaning” or collapsing, are breaking down and leading us into what my friend Scott Bakker terms the ‘crash space’ of the symbolic apocalypse. Nick Land will associate it with the driving force at the core of capitalism that is accelerating us toward the closure of human history and time as Chronos. Let us venture into a world of fictive hyperstition, meme and egregore.
My friend Dirk (dmf) sent me a copy of Lee Braver’s* essay on Philip K. Dick’s use of Gnosticism in his science fiction novels. Of course many who have read his later novels such as the Valis trilogy or Radio Free Albemuth, as well as his 8,000 page Exegesis which is Dick’s mish-mash private journal, commentary, spiritual or agnostic adventures into the event in his life that occurred that many refer to as “the golden fish”.
On Feb. 20, 1974, Dick was hit with the force of an extraordinary revelation after a visit to the dentist for an impacted wisdom tooth for which he had received a dose of sodium pentothal. A young woman delivered a bottle of Darvon tablets to his apartment in Fullerton, Calif. She was wearing a necklace with the pendant of a golden fish, an ancient Christian symbol that had been adopted by the Jesus counterculture movement of the late 1960s.
The Sceptical Turn: Postmodern Irony and Undecidability as Rhetorical Doomfest
To be honest my own interest in Gnosticism and heresies in general came about from a few of my own personal experiences during a troubling period of my life during and after the Viet Nam war. Like Dick I’ve never been able to quite explain satisfactorily to myself or others what I experienced during a series of events. Were they real? Psychological: psychotic episodes, schizoanalytical adventures in a more than rational ‘crash space’? Metaphysical motions on the wheel of cognitive disassociation? Lapses into older animistic and magical neuroblasts from evolution? Encounters with future intelligences?
In a sense my whole life from 1969 onward has been a search for a theory of meaning that would satisfy my restless mind concerning this series of inexplicable events transpiring over a number of years from 1969 to 1976. This is not the place to describe this period of my life in detail (I’m doing that in a fictional novel), just to note that my interest in both scientific explanations and philosophical speculations began in that timeframe. I’ve pushed both inner experience (Bataille) and rational and scientific explanandum from every angle of both ancient, modern, and postmodern forms of thought. Scoured libraries, friends, enemies, stars, lizards, madness to discover the underlying truth hidden in these events. Discovering that truth after all is relative to one’s socio-cultural perspective (i.e., Symbolic Order – Lacan/Zizek), rather than some eternal part of the order of things. Even Badiou/Meillassoux matheme’s are open to change and events, so that such truths are immanent to the world as process or even future retroactive intervention, rather than eternal Ideas inhabiting some external Outside. Below I’ll deal with Deleuze’s notions of virtual Ideas and intensities, etc. Let’s leave this for now.
Even now like Dick I remain both open and skeptical of human systems of meaning which have never quite explained to me such invasions of the Real into my early life’s existence. All such ‘Theories of Everything’ seem like dark horse scenarios for some dogmatic worldview that would enclose us in some Utopian tyranny. No. My experiences go against such things. To say I went through an existential crisis is an understatement. To say that like those ancient physicians who stated: “Healer heal thyself!” Or Nietzsche’s apply the “spear to your own wound”, etc. is to say I pushed myself to the breaking point, entered the abyss and came out the other side a changed being. One who would no longer be bound by any specific creed, dogma, or philosophical system. Or as William Blake would say: “Create your own system, or be enslaved by another man’s.”