“We live in a Philip K Dick world now.”
I really enjoyed our recent interview with Erik Davis, my favorite Philip K. Dick scholar and all around great guy (I’ve had the honor of hanging out with him in person twice, and can confirm he’s a blast to share drinks and Gnosis with).
The interview included one of the main themes of Aeon Byte: how we live in a Philip K. Dick world, which also means the realization of the Gnostic nightmare. I’ve made my mad case, and Erik does it even better in both our chant and in his new book High Weirdness. I quote part of the book in the drivel introduction to our interview. Now, I’d like to post this content here.
Why I’m a doing this repetition?
Simple: If we don’t wake up, if we don’t at least see what’s hidden in plain sight and website, we will continue drowning in the Gnostic nightmare.
Thusly, here are the excerpts from High Weirdness that argue for our reality in a Philip K. Dick world:
Dick’s vision of VALIS, in particular, reads like an uncanny prophesy of our fraught network consciousness. On the one hand, we have become thoroughly absorbed into an all-consuming, endlessly arborizing, weirdly disincarnating information system. But with the onset of the Internet of Things, and the spread of smartphones, sensors, GPS devices, and augmented reality, the network no longer inhabits a separate “cyberspace.” Instead, it is now invading, reconfiguring, and rewriting physical reality, very much the way Dick describes VALIS using the world of objects to organize and extend itself into our spurious reality.
We find ourselves in a state of profound ambivalence, interpolated into nodes of posthuman network even as we go about our ordinary lives. As Dick writes in the Exegesis:
Our little psyche-world systems are perpetually bombarded with incoming information which we process and, at the right time to the right other stations we transmit in the rightly modified form. All this takes place through us as if we were transistors, diodes, wires condensers and resistors, all none the wiser. Meanwhile our closed private world engages our attention with challenges, pain and delight so that we will not merely subsist as slave components with nothing to do but function…without a world, we would degenerate fatally during the standby periods…Meanwhile we have food, music, books, and friends
Sound familiar? More and more of us sacrifice more and more of our lives on the altar of information processing, as we submit to an increasingly invasive and persuasive network that demands that we respond, link, like, retweet, and magnify our personal social networks. But Dick is also imagining something more subliminal here, more like the way we unknowingly feed the hungry algorithms of the Big Data cloud farms with the invisible bread crumbs of our digital activity. Here Dick approaches the grim declaration of the French philosopher (and PDK exegete) Jean Baudrillard, who wrote, around the time of Dick’s death, that the contemporary subject has now become “only pure screen, a witching center for all the networks of influence.”
Pretty startling, eh? I think Dick would have been amused at today’s digital delirium and transhumanistic orgy — probably one step ahead of the next Archon jihad on humanity’s consciousness. As Chris Knowles said on his blog and this podcast, these are Gnostic times. Erik seems to agree, as I bring in a quote from his book Techgnosis:
Gnostic lore also provides a mythic key for the kind of infomania and conspiratorial thinking that comes to haunt the postwar world, with its terror of nefarious cabals, narcotic technologies, and invisible messengers of deception.
Gnosis is the solution to these Gnostic times, the Gnostic nightmare, a Philip K. Dick world, or whatever you want to call this divine invasion by Archons. And a potent, modern-friendly Gnosis percolated into the world in the early 70s with psychonauts like Dick and continues bubbling today among fringe groups (for better or worse, but always for freedom from the Black Iron Prison). With that said, Erik discusses the evolving concept of Gnostic, from a chapter in High Weirdness dealing with Robert Anton Wilson:
Such edgy awakening, whether we see them as “spiritual” or not, are an important component to the work of emancipation, which is perhaps the supreme value shared across the fissure of the counterculture, motivating radical leftists, hippie seekers, and psychedelic anarchists alike. Paradoxically, however, the goals of emancipation and liberation were often paired at the time with sociological ideas and structural analysis that radically decentered the autonomous individual psyche. Attitudes, motives, dreams and drivers – even the persona experience of reality itself – were, it was argued, shaped or programmed by often pernicious political, institutional, and ideological forces. So who is there to be liberated?
This koan suggest the way to the sociological, cultural, and ideological analysis already lend themselves to a kind of conspiracy thinking. But to truly escape these influences and imprints, if only to turn around and reconstruct society, something more than critique is required. The external struggle, whether collective or anti-authoritarian, needed to be paralleled with the internal work of “raising consciousness” – of becoming, in contemporary terms, “woke.” Gnosis — raising consciousness to peak of world-rending insight — becomes in this context a political gesture, one that both illuminates the dark archons that manipulate reality, and provides a direct experience of that part of the self that seeks – or is – liberation itself. Awakening, here, is not an escape from the wheel, but a vertiginous discernment that goes against the grain.
Maybe that’s the best we can do in these Gnostic times, whether you’re qAnon, Antifa, Black Lives Matter, or the secretary tired of being bullied by their alcoholic, crypto-pedo boss:
Discern until you go against the grain.
But we must do something…anything…or else we will never wake up and not even be androids dreaming of electric sheep. We’ll just be trapped in the mindfuck nightmare of a Demiurge resentful at Wisdom’s rescue operation.
Here are some articles and vids on living in a Philip K. Dick world:
What Philip K. Dick’s “2-3-74” Vision Was Not
The Gnosis of Philip K. Dick and CG Jung
An Interview From Beyond the Kenoma with Philip K. Dick and Vance Socci
Philip K. Dick and his Affair with the Aeon Sophia
Philip K. Dick’s Own Definition of Gnosticism
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