Philip K. Dick & Nick Land: Escape to the Future

“Clinical schizophrenics are POWs from the future. […] Life is being phased-out into something new, and if we think this can be stopped we are even more stupid than we seem.”
…..– Nick Land, Fanged Noumena

“Help is here, but we still remain here within the Black Iron prison; we aren’t yet free. I take it that the camouflaged invisibility of the signals is to keep the creator of the prison from knowing that help is here for us.”
……– Philip K. Dick, The Exegesis

From time to time I revisit Philip K. Dick’s Exegesis and the essays of Nick Land in Fanged Noumena, both of which seem to me works of experimental or speculative fabulations, revealing subtle truths by way of pop-cultural artifacts to tell a story at once full of cosmic horror and fatal surety. In these fabulations we begin to apprehend the inescapable conclusion that this is not our home, our home is somewhere ahead of us in the future, that we’ve been either exiled, excluded, or unjustly imprisoned in this infernal paradise of global war at the behest of forces we barely even acknowledge. Yet, it is unsure whether some of us came back as insurgents and guerilla soldiers in a Time War that is still going on; while others were mind-wiped and exiled here, abandoned to this lonely hell to live out the remainder of our days in an oblivion of hate, war, and apathy.

Such are the quandaries of anti-philosophy and speculative fiction. One no longer asks what is real and unreal, appearance and reality, instead we ask ourselves within which circuit am I trapped, for whom do I serve? Am I a liberator or an autochthon of the land, a native or an insurgent from the future? Dick in his time would be considered a half-mad genius, while Land (still living) continues his guerilla war against the dark powers of the Cathedral. Both would view Art and Creativity as central to an ongoing struggle to awaken the sleepers from their self-imposed exiles and forgetfulness. Both would envision the need for a certain strange and bewildering rewiring of our brain’s circuitry, knowing we have been entrapped and encased in a memetic system that forecloses us within a symbolic order of repetition, and what is needed is a form of Shock Therapy and Diagnosis to help us once again understand the terror we’ve entered into and are becoming. Both would use language against itself, seek to explode and implode its linguistic etyms, use puns and parody, satire and fabulation to break us out of the chains of signification and word-viruses (Burroughs) that kept us folded in a mental straight-jacket.

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Lee Braver on Philip K. Dick’s “Ubik” as Postmodern Gnosticism

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 Ubikoffers 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.”

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Philip K. Dick: It’s Alive! – It came here from the future.


I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts. Not ignoring what is good, I am quick to perceive a horror…
……– Herman Melville,  Moby-Dick

Fabricius Veiento was discoursing very wisely to us just now on the follies of superstition, exposing the various forms of priestly charlatanry, the holy men’s mania for prophecy, and the effrontery they display in expounding mysteries they very often utterly fail to comprehend themselves. Is it not much the same type of madness that afflicts our declaimers…
…… – The Satyricon by Petronius

“In Ubik the forward moving force of time (or time-force expressed as an ergic field) has ceased. All changes result from that. Forms regress. The substrate is revealed. Cooling (entropy) is allowed to set in unimpeded. Equilibrium is affected by the vanishing of the forward-moving time force-field. The bare bones, so to speak, of the world, our world, are revealed.”1 says Philip K. Dick in his great behemoth of revelation, myth, science, and strangeness The Exegesis.

He would go on to ask: If time stops, what takes place? Not frozen-ness, but revelation. Some might see his mad world as unhinged, fragmented, deeply imploding into the dark gnosis of a twisted mythopoeic series of footnotes to the apocalypse. But they are wrong. Dick was actually quite sane by our standards. We are the ones trapped in a limited set of concepts, metaphors, tropes not P.K. Dick. Dick had already broken out of the prison house of language, left the tribe of academic jargon behind for the great frontiers of the imaginal, the imagination of humanity. He was unafraid of tapping into the ancient flows of religion, magic, occult – all the hidden and arcane wisdoms out of the subterranean realms of our literary, philosophical, and religious  inheritance and legacies.

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Beyond Representation: Plato, Deleuze and the Simulacra

Reason is the black widow in the cage of time. Spiderlike sufficient reason allows nothing to escape its dark power. Even the infinite cannot escape the grasp of this deadly creature, the venomous touch of reason kills everything within its purview, and like its dark precursor dissolves even the smallest elements into the acid bath of its formidable categories: identity, difference, doubling, and reflection. Representation is the disease of time, the cracked wand of a dead wizard whose power is dispersed among the broken vessels of light scattered to the four corners of the universe. Like ministers to a dead god our philosophers and scientists serve a Master illusionist, a sorcerer who has hoodwinked them all into believing in the power of the mind to capture reality in a box, when in truth the Real is the wilderness that can never be captured by thought.

The dialectic sought to push contradiction to its supreme limits, when in fact the filaments of this web thrown across this universe of doubt was itself made of the very essence of identity it sought to dispel, instead of truth we discovered in this net the capture of difference within the logic of identity that makes it the sufficient condition for difference to exist to begin with. In Hegel the game was rigged from the outset, the player and the played were bound to the curve of sufficient reason and clarity all along, and the touted power of this method was bound to a monocentric system of circular ratios that left no doubts to chance and necessity. Do not be fooled by those others who offer you the incompossibility of the world, either. Between compossibility and incompossibility there is no true connection or reversal, the former is not reducible to the identical, and the latter is not reducible to contradiction.1

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The Prison House of Capital: Walter Benjamin and Philip K. Dick?

In general, the fundamental terms  of these different Gnostic theologies are the same, and at their core is  an attempt to conceive and determine what is in and for itself. I have  mentioned these particular forms in order to indicate their connection  to the universal. Underlying this, however, is a deep need for concrete  reason.

– G.W.F. Hegel, Kabbalah and Gnosticism1

Walter Benjamin speaking of the strange power of objects, their fascination and splendor once remarked: “To perceive the aura of an object we look at means to invest it with the ability to look at us in return.” Benjamin discusses the aura in relation to Proust and to Leskov, but his most famous use of it is in “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” where it is bluntly defined as loss–the precise loss ensuing from mechanical reproduction. The aura is thus an effect of distancing, of the refusal of authentic opening, and of the withdrawal of even the shadow of an object-world. It is in his essay “On Some Motifs in Baudelaire” that Benjamin raises his conceptual image of the aura to its greatest power, partly by deliberately confusing “aura” and “aureole,” a wholly unrelated word (except by punning). The aureole is the bright ring seen around a misty sun or moon, or else the halo of god, angel, or saint. The word is a form of the Latin for “gold,” aurum, and ought to be very different from Benjamin’s aura, which, as I once wrote, “is properly an invisible breath, or emanation; an air, as of nobility, characterizing person or thing; a breeze, but most of all a sensation or shock, the sort of illusion of a breeze that precedes the start of a nervous breakdown or disorder.”2

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