Well yesterday may very well have been the fiftieth anniversary of PKD getting zapped by the delivery girl's Jesus fish necklace, or whatever. The funny thing is that the deeper you dig into the timeline, the more out of joint it becomes. Maybe it wasn't February at all. On February 1, 1974, PKD writes to Jamis, "All I can recall about the entire month of January is that I had two molars and a wisdom tooth which had grown down and become embedded in my jawbone removed...." (74 SL pg 3.)
I got to spend part of the afternoon with High Weirdness author Erik Davis, as we riffed on Dick's visions for about thirty minutes in my class, before Davis had to teach the last class of his Stigmata course.
The main idea I got out of all of this is that 2/3/74 is a kind of sacred uncertainty (if you rearrange the letters of the word "sacred" you get the word "scared"). For me the most important lesson of this radical uncertainty is that part of me wants to be certain, and that I have to work to keep from being certain. As much as I would like to believe that PKD concocted these experiences to fulfill some unmet need for significance, I have to save space for the possibility that something divine and revelatory happened. And I would ask that you check your own need for certainty as you explore your own ideas about what happened to Phil Dick.
Davis put an old essay about the whole beam deal on his website yesterday. Davis writes:
"Unlike most religious seers, Dick did not approach his visions with anything like certitude. Dick distrusted reification of any sort (his novels constantly wage war against the process that turns people and ideas into things), and so he refused to solidify his experiences into a belief system. Like William Blake, another impoverished autodidact whose bubbling imagination was steeped in the Western visionary tradition, Dick approached his theophany (or “in-breaking of God”) as artistic material, reworking it in his writings with an artist’s commitment to irony, craft, and a political bite. Even in his private journals, he constantly liquefies his revelations, writing with a modern thinker’s sense of the tentativeness of speculative thought. “Indeterminacy is the central characteristic of 2-3-74,” writes Sutin in his Dick biography Divine Invasions. Sutin points out that mystics traditionally interpret their experiences within the faiths they are raised in. “Phil adhered to no single faith. The one tradition indubitably his was SFwhich exalts ‘What IF?’ above all. In 2-3-74, all the ‘What IFs?’ were rolled up into one.”