Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Golden Opportunity

I'll make bones about the fact that I'm going on a total media blitz for Anne Dick's recently revised memoir The Search for Philip K Dick. I'm writing a more extensive review currently, but I want to give you guys another glimpse at the potential impact this book has on the academic study of PKD. I'm making a list of all the books that Anne mentions Phil reading - it's a long list and I'm 60 pages in. Just this afternoon I encountered this passage:

About this time I had started reading some of Carl Jung's writings. Dorothy Hudner [Phil's mother] had been deeply influence by Jung's works, and when she heard about my interest she sent of one of the beautiful Bollingen editions. Both Phil and I read it and soon we acquired and read the whole set. I thought of going to Zurich to study with Jung. I dreamt about cooking dinner for him. In the dream I opened up the refrigerator but it was filled with rotten meat. I guess it's just as well I didn't go. We listened when BBC interviewed Jung arriving in England for a visit. They asked, "Dr Jung, do you believe in God?" We were awed by his answer: "I do not believe. I know."

Phil studied Jung's volumes Alchemy and Symbols and Transformations in the Mass. He was interested in Jung's idea that a new world religion would soon arise, a religion based upon a quaternity instead of a trinity. The fourth force will be, Jung said, the force now regarded as demonic. This statement has a big influence on Phil" (60).

Well, there you go... A perfect foothold in the wall of influences any PKD scholar must confront. I've never read these books - I'm going to skim wikipedia forthwith [uh oh, wikipedia says, only: In 1944 Jung published “Psychology and Alchemy”, where he analyzed the alchemical symbols and showed a direct relationship to the psychoanalytical process. He argued that the alchemical process was the transformation of the impure soul (lead) to perfected soul (gold), and a metaphor for the individuation process.] - but I would imagine this idea of a quaternity could be read into The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (not to mention VALIS and The Divine Invasion). Who knows? The connections could be profound. I find it thrilling - like I've received a sudden bunch of leads in a long and tangled case. So much of the scholarship or coffee house speculations (if that's what you'd rather call it, I'll do you one better: bonged-out recliner ramblings) about PKD simply stab at the dark. There's a lot we know he read, but quite often people have been known to decide that PKD was influenced by a particular text. I may have been guilty, in the past, of assuming (perhaps even arguing that) PKD may have watched a particular movie.

Here in the excerpt from Anne's memoir you have solid evidence that this specific idea from Jung's text played some role in Dick's worldview (perhaps invading his subconscious and affecting his writing without his awareness). So I've added these volumes by Jung to the top of my reading list, but as I said earlier, I'm only on page 64. Perhaps more pressing research projects will emerge as I proceed.

Buy your copy today.


Joshua Lind said...

TDH: I agree with your point that Dick's interest in Jung is overlooked or just plain disregarded. I wrote a paper a year ago to try to help fill the gap, but I wasn't entirely happy with the result. Here's the first paragraph:

This paper began as an attempt to understand Philip K. Dick’s 1969 science fiction novel Galactic Pot-Healer. In preparing a literature review it became clear that, although critics agree the novel is an exploration of Jungian psychology, none of these critics were willing to provide an in-depth Jungian analysis. Douglas A. Mackey, in his survey of Dick’s work, provides the best short analysis, but he only points out Jungian ideas in the novel, stopping short of an earnest consideration of their wider implications or how they may connect to Dick’s larger project. Most critics see the novel as a misguided curiosity rather than an effective work of art that exemplifies Dick’s social and philosophical vision. In fact, there have been no significant Jungian readings of any of Dick’s work – despite his documented knowledge of, and interest in, Jungian theory.

Pantomime Horse said...

Anne Dick's memoir sounds exciting and now affordable.
I'm going to check whether this is available through a regular bookstore because I'm not comfortable with internet transactions. Also there is a small possibility that a request for a book will influence someone to order an extra copy or more to put on the shelves. But I'm wondering if the author makes more from a direct sale than a store sale. Any info on that?

I also want to mention that Greg Rickman's interviews and especially the published first half of his PKD biography has a wealth of information that is overlooked elsewhere yet Rickman seems much neglected by scholars and fans.

Switching subjects a bit I also want to suggest you consider doing an occasional bit of Wickipedia editing. There's no lack of articles that need expansion, revision or creation. Wickipedia editing can be frustrating and there's no money in it but people consult it a lot and the quality of the information is directly related to the quality of the editing. Maybe make some notes for future reference (be sure to include page numbers) so you can come back and expand on the skimpy Jung book articles after you've read the books.

majorhoople said...

"We are in fact asleep, and in the hands of a dangerous magician disguised as a good god....." from the Exegesis

I believe you are approaching the "occult zone", an area with which this bonged-out recliner has long speculated Dick was familiar. "Uh-oh" is right; bring plenty of grease, this territory can be hard on the bearings.

Mr. Hand said...

Jung's Psychology and Alchemy is a nice source, but it doesn't fully explain the claims he makes about the "hermetic alchemists" looking for the text of homoplasmate in VALIS--I have long wondered where that stuff comes from

Ragle Gumm said...

Great comments.

Horse: Anne gets more if you buy direct from her, but if your town or prefecture has a science fiction bookstore, you might ask them to order a few copies. If you're in the Bay Area I'll sell you a copy.

majorhoople: double uh-oh. not my are of expertise. is it the Jung texts, or the notion of alchemy that gets us into the occult?

Hand: 'hermetic alchemists' as in: Hermeticism is a historiographical phrase describing the work that attempts to reconstruct the mode of thought held by 17th century scientists. It primarily traces out the connections of Renaissance (16th century) modes of thought with those of the Scientific Revolution (via the wiki)?

Jeanette Marlin said...

Hi everyone, it's me, Phil's super mysterious first wife.

I've just completed my own book! It's entitled, "I Had Nothing Against Phil's Stupid F***ing Record Collection, Honest!" and it's going to be available exclusively for Amazon Kindle. It's a ton of fun and I hope you all give it a read.

I remember when me and Phil were married, all we ever did was lay around and read books! We read everything, but of course most of all, we liked off-the-wall, esoteric religious stuff. I remember the time Phil used the bathroom mirror to read Blavatsky's "The Secret Doctrine" backwards! And yeah, the kookier fathers of psychoanalysis were faves - Phil built an orgone accumulator and ate dinner in it every night.

Actually, what may be very interesting to you academically, is that what first brought us together was, at the time, we were both hard core into Aleister Crowley. On one occasion early in our marriage, we even performed a lengthy, gruesome ritual (using a neighbor's chihuahua) in an attempt to summon the devil. (Or "Baphomet," I guess technically). Later that month, my car got a flat tire and Phil was CONVINCED it was God getting payback! Well, only a week went by before I returned home from work to find an Orthodox Rabbi, a Catholic Priest and the Quaker Headmaster of a local parochial school, playing pinnocle with Phil, cans of Budweiser littering the living room. (Come to think of it, Robert Duncan was there too.) He'd asked them over to do a blessing, and one thing led to another. They were having a blast, and the conversation was over my head, but I remember at one point Phil managed to convince all of them that he was telepathic, and that in fact, they were all dreaming.

In terms of literary progenitors, let me give my official 2 cents: in my opinion, the greatest influence on Phil's writing are the less well known works of Robert Louis Stevenson. I recall him reading "The Wrecker" over and over, telling me, "Jeannie, THIS is what I want to write! THIS is ART!" He slept with it under his pillow for the whole six months we were married. That and Edith Wharton. In fact, I believe Phil had most of "Ethan Frome" memorized.

Anyway, thanks for the awesome blog! You should come interview me too someday! We'd need to do a phone interview, because I actually live in Istanbul. Long story. Cheers, everyone!

Mr. Hand said...

Ragle: I'm aware of Hermeticism the scholarly category. But I'm not sure about PKD's sources on the co-called "hermetic alchemists" he ties in to the VALIS appendix tractates. He may have read Frances Yates' classic Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition, which has a lot of problems. He may have been into reading the medieval and renaissance alchemists themselves and looking at the visionary emblems (the most interesting are 17th century) --there are a number of books that collect alchemical images that he might have had access to. Jung's Psychology and Alchemy treats of specific examples from historical alchemists but mostly does analytic psychology theory. I want to know more about where PKD got his notion of hermeticism. It's a shame that PKD's gnostic and occult /new age/weird christian research has received so little critical attention, but as the far-outness of discussions of the subject reflect, it's some murky water!

Adrian said...

I finished reading Search for Philip K. Dick today and am very happy to have had the chance to read it. Funny, sad and at times shocking. The minutia of everyday life (the "shoe" in Monopoly, never going to "college" in the game of Life...) is wonderful, but even more fascinating is learning just how much PKD mined his characters and situations from real life. I can only imagine how bizarre it must feel to read one of his books and to recognize a skewed portrait or situation of yourself in it. I'm tempted now to take a crack at re-reading all his works in chronological order, something I've never done. Bravo to Anne Dick making her book available at an affordable price!

Paul Broussard said...

This is somewhat of a tangent, but if you're interested in learning more about the origins of Jung's concept of the "quaternity", you should read the book, "Deciphering The Cosmic Number: The Strange Friendship Of Wolfgang Pauli and Carl Jung", by Arthur I. Miller. Pauli was a prominent physicist who was once a patient of Jung, and ultimately became his colleague of sorts. It's an easier read than Jung himself.