I want to write about people I love, and put them into a fictional world spun out of my own mind, not the world we actually have, because the world we actually have does not meet my standards
Philip K. Dick
How does a pilgrim essentially feel? Can that question be answered with any degree of certainty since all pilgrims are unique? I think it can, and I believe my answer may hold clues for how we, the Earth pilgrims as humanity, may operate in the future.There were many times in Shikoku when I would stop for a moment and look around after a long stretch on the road. It might have been up a mountain, by a river, or in the back streets of a tiny village somewhere, a village where relatively few outsiders ever come. And I was the ultimate outsider! Unshaven, sunburnt, carrying a large heavy staff and always wearing sunglasses I must have appeared quite formidable to local farmers whose lives revolve round constancy, certitude and staying put. I believe the quintessential pilgrim feels what I do when suddenly you stop and look around at nothing familiar at all. Every single building, person and geographical formation has never entered your brain via the magic of the retina and been decoded as an image. That tree over there is absolutely brand new. The talk entering your ears in a foreign tongue could just as well have come from Mars even if you speak the language-the world it is from is not yours. Freshly harvested vegetables or the night cooking as you slowly walk by, tired at the end of a long day assaults the olfactory sense with both excitement and sometimes disgust. Where am I? Who am I? The pilgrim essentially feels this: a stranger in a strange land.
"I am not of this world, my race is of heaven alone" might express it even more poignantly. Of course it was the famous science fiction writer Robert Heinlein who had titled one of his books Stranger in a strange land. Heinlein is usually identified, along with Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke, as one of the three masters of science fiction but it is not generally known that he was a financial backer of another, in my mind even more brilliant writer of science fiction called Philip K. Dick. Here is the Wikipedia introduction to him:
Philip Kindred Dick (December 16, 1928 – March 2, 1982) was an American science fiction novelist and short story writer. Dick explored sociological, political and metaphysical themes in novels dominated by monopolistic corporations, authoritarian governments, and altered states. In his later works, Dick's thematic focus strongly reflected his personal interest in metaphysics and theology. He often drew upon his own life experiences and addressed the nature of drug use, paranoia and schizophrenia, and mystical experiences in novels such as A Scanner Darkly and VALIS. Dick wrote of these stories. "In my writing I even question the universe, I wonder out loud if it is real, and I wonder out loud if all of us are real."
That is the feeling of being a stranger in a strange land that we, especially in the 21st century have almost totally forgotten. I was immediately attracted to Dick's writing, in particular his notebooks which were published as In Pursuit of Valis. Long before we had any idea in science that the universe might be alive (as I noted in an introduction of Biocosmos theory in my book Solar Code ) Dick had coined the phrase Vast Active Living Information System (VALIS) to describe his mystical understanding of a world far, far more complex than our pale and wan, nay limp philosophies of the modern age will ever conceive. He saw, he knew that the human mind is something exceedingly extraordinary and this led him to doubt just about everything. He especially doubted his own perceptions and considered how he himself might not be real, that he might be a simulation of a real person, thus his great treatment of androids in a book later to become the movie Total Recall. His was thus a very difficult life, of course.
In addition to his novels, Dick wrote approximately 121 short stories, many of which appeared in science fiction magazines. Although Dick spent most of his career as a writer in near-poverty, nine of his stories have been adapted into popular films since his death, including Blade Runner, Total Recall, A Scanner Darkly and Minority Report. In 2005, Time Magazine named Ubik one of the one hundred greatest English-language novels published since 1923.In 2007, Dick became the first science fiction writer to be included in The Library of America series.
He was far too deep for America in his own time. America then, as now, was totally intent as a nation on selling its citizens and the world its version of reality as a non stop shopping spree in freedom and democracy. All in the name of God too.You will forgive my satire here but remember that Japan is not far behind. How could such a schitzophrenic nation ever understand a true schitzophrenic like Dick? He really was split betwen worlds and did not know to which one, if even either, he belonged. But that is just another definition of a mystic who feels that his race is of heaven alone but has not an iota of evidence to back that up. Phil Dick was a very disturbed modern mystic, impossible to undertsand if you are totally sure about the reality of this world and what people believe about this world. What if it was all just an evolved computer game? Then there came an incident in his life than many travelers and pilgrims can more easily identify with perhaps than the static city dweller or farmer. Wikipedia continues:
On February 20, 1974, Dick was recovering from the effects of sodium pentothal administered for the extraction of an impacted wisdom tooth. Answering the door to receive delivery of extra analgesic, he noticed that the delivery woman was wearing a pendant with a symbol that he called the vesica pisces that early Christians used as a secret symbol. After the delivery woman's departure, Dick began experiencing strange visions. Although they may have been initially attributable to the medication, after weeks of visions he considered this explanation implausible. "I experienced an invasion of my mind by a transcendentally rational mind, as if I had been insane all my life and suddenly I had become sane," Dick told Charles Platt.
He woke up to a far greater understanding of the reality in which he found himself. He wrote thousands of pages of notes on gnostic Christianity which I find to be just as good as, if not better than the Gospel of Thomas for example. Here was a modern man living in his mind in the first century AD when Rome was heavily persecuting early Christians, many of whom were of the gnostic persuasion, meaning they leaned towards a more Buddhistic understanding of Christ. Know thyself, in two words. Most modern church goers of course do not know such people ever existed since the persecution of them was entirely successful. Rumi is another gnostic, an Islamic one. But it was not just his mind that changed. His notes reveal how his attitudes, his habits, his food and drink all changed too. It might of course have been, according to modern day witch doctors, psychologist shrinks, that he simply went mad. I think not. And besides who can possibly define anybody as mad any more in a world where Bible thumping US senators have prayer meetings before going to decide which Iraquis to drop bombs on? All in the name of freedom, peace and democracy of course.Those God fearing men and woman must be sane, because if they are not then we are all mad...
A recurring theme in Exegesis is PKD's hypothesis that history had been stopped in the 1st century A.D., and that "the Empire never ended". He saw Rome as the pinnacle of materialism and despotism, which, after forcing the Gnostics underground, had kept the population of Earth enslaved to worldly possessions. Dick believed that VALIS had communicated with him, and anonymous others, to induce the impeachment of U.S. President Richard M. Nixon, whom Dick believed to be the current Emperor of Rome incarnate.
Do you not see how if he had only survived a little longer to see the United States today and observe its totally incoherent, psychobabbler president he would feel totally supported in this apparently crazy idea? Even the far more balanced Einstein had often made the point that any new idea which at first does not seem crazy to everybody has no chance of developing into a serious theory.
In between my monthly pilgrimages to Shikoku I was regularly communicating with Graham Hancock and had organized a major lecture series for his new book Supernatural in Japan. One of his really wild ideas is that our DNA contains access points to entirely different dimensions that are currently simply not available to perception unless we change our state of consciousness. Shamans have always known this. Phil Dick was a literary shaman. But how many movie goers, and pilgrims for that matter, have any idea who was behind this incredible body of film genius?
Since Ridley Scott turned "Do Android's Dream of Electric Sheep?" into the science fiction classic "Blade Runner," seven of Philip K. Dick's novels or short stories have made their way to the big screen. To date, these films have generated over $1 billion in world-wide box office and ancillary revenue. This astounding success is the result of combining visionary stories with talent from the world's finest film directors, studios and stars. Steven Spielberg, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tom Cruise, John Woo, Ben Affleck, Harrison Ford and Keanu Reeves are only a few of the illustrious names associated with these projects.
The feeling of being a stranger in a strange land. For those who may have lost contact with this most primal human emotion let me remind you it feels wonderful. It is like an ancient memory, like the fairy tales of the bewitched princess turning into a frog but always having the deeply buried memory just at the edge of consciousness. This feeling reconnects us with reality at a far more instrinsic level than the superficial hype of 21st century democracies which promise us lives that even if we ever got, would bore us to death far faster than aids or cancer could claim us. We are a mystery. We are a power. We are a conundrum inside which sleeps a majestic secret. By reclaiming our true nature as Earth Pilgrims on a short stopover between dimensions, between worlds most marvellous and terrible, we remember, as Phil did that this little world we are sold here does not meet our standards in the least. Our race is of heaven alone.