Philip K. Dick: Schizophrenia and the I Ching

Books have been written about the hexagrams and the DNA code

The Secret is well hidden. Probably for our own protection. Throughout the centuries, those who sought the Secret through mental, physical, or chemical means were warned of the dangers. Most never reached the mountaintop. There’s a Pink Floyd lyric: “You reached for the secret too soon, you cried for the moon.” Poor Syd.  There’s a Netflix documentary on the adventures of Timothy Leary and Ram Dass, and in it none other than Marianne Faithfull lamented the fate of many people she knew that became vegetables through overuse of LSD. Too much, too quickly. In the Life Divine, Sri Aurobindo gives us a hint at the immensity that opens up when we set aside our egoistic preoccupations via psychedelic drugs or yogic disciplines in a chapter entitled “The Pure Existent”:

When we…look upon the world with dispassionate and curious eyes that search only for the Truth, our first result is the perception of a boundless energy of infinite existence, infinite movement, infinite activity pouring itself into limitless space, in eternal Time, an existence that surpasses infinitely our ego or any ego or any collectivity of egos, in whose balance the grandiose product of aeons are but the dust of a moment and in whose incalculable sum numberless myriads count as a petty swarm. (Sri Aurobindo, Life Divine, p, 78)

That’s not even half of it. Long ago, Baruch Spinoza, in the solitude of his 17th century rented room speculated that the causal order of the mind, and of the matter are the same. He named it Substance, the Secret which lies beneath this manifest world we experience. The Secret is not a pebble on the beach, or a mantra, or any thing or object that we can touch, sense, feel or think. Undifferentiated unity, the implicate order, wherein lies all possibilities. When Carl Jung and Wolfgang Pauli were discussing synchronicity, which is held to be the operating system of the I Ching, they were musing that mind and matter must at this level be identical, and this unity is the root reason deciding actual events in a quantum world of probabilities. But they described it as “acausal”, because this deciding principle lies underneath or beyond the creation of space and time, out of reach of cause and effect. In other words, the source of this immense and omnipresent reality lies beyond reality. Beyond before and after, beyond big or little. It IS. At least potentially. Touching THAT would be like stepping on the third rail of the subway tracks. Fried: Syd was diagnosed as schizophrenic. He reached for the secret too soon.

In his 1965 essay, “Schizophrenia and the I Ching“, Philip K. Dick, takes on this idea of an acausal principle of connectivity. It means time drops out. The Pauli/Jung idea of synchronicity is that an internal psychic event in my mind connects inexplicably yet unmistakably with an external event. Jung relates the case of a patient discussing a dream during their therapy session in Switzerland, a dream about a piece of jewelry in the shape of a scarab beetle, native to Egypt, and suddenly a scarab shaped insect appeared at the window, despite their rarity in Europe, all to help puncture the patient’s overly rationalistic view of life. Philip, America’s crazy visionary, whose fiction is enjoying popular TV adaptations on Amazon Prime, writes that schizophrenics lack normal perception of time. Most of us who have wandered into an altered state, chemically or otherwise, notice the time distortion. Speaking for myself, I can only take timelessness in measured doses. But PKD tells us that the schizophrenic has lost the element of time altogether:

The schizophrenic is having it all now, whether he wants it or not; the whole can of film has descended on him, whereas we watch it progress frame by frame. So for him, causality does not exist.  Instead, the acausal connecting principle that Wolfgang Pauli called synchronicity is operating in all situations, not merely only one factor at work, as with us. Like a person under LSD, the schizophrenic is engulfed in an endless now. It’s not too much fun

A real spiritual quest is voluntary entry into madness. Underreported are people engaged in the usually benign methods of meditation that have had, shall we say, less than blissful results. In fact, if you have ever cracked open a door in some dark cavern of the mind, you may have wished you left it alone.

This is where the I Ching comes in. PKD repeats that it works on the basis of synchronicity “and is a device by which synchronicity can be handled.” Let’s step back for a second to digest this idea. He is saying that the mind/matter unity underlying the universe, the timeless, spaceless undifferentiated unity, can be navigated with the help of the I Ching. What we experience is a film, unfolding frame by frame.  Our dull, habitual universe can feel oppressively linear, with clocks, deadlines, bills, and a tombstone to note the location of the remnants of our machine. Frame by frame. But the I Ching has already seen all that and is reporting a way for you to come home to the Source, the Secret, the True Self.

Timelessness, by direct access, is toxic. The “universe of the schizophrenic is, again to understate it, somewhat large. Much too large.” More than we handle, too many doors open.  But what if we can use an oracle to navigate from the timeless realm? PKD cites Pauli that it works 80% of the time, whatever that means. He goes on to say that the composer John Cage used it to derive chord progressions. Physicists used it to plot the behavior of subatomic particles. PKD wrote Man in the High Castle, currently showing on Amazon Prime, while consulting it extensively for advice on plot and characterization. Jung used it. Leibniz used it. The image above correlates it to DNA sequences.

What Philip makes clear is that the I Ching is an oracle that has total knowledge of the current state of the shared universe in which you are asking the question. And you are the mental part, the subjective part of the equation. You are given advice on the basis of your mental state and the configuration of the universe at the moment you throw the coins. 

Philip was reliant on the I Ching. It is the oldest book in the world. It is the basis for studying the permutations of chi. It may help you reach your true Self. Does its wisdom derive from the undifferentiated unity underlying the manifest universe? I don’t know.

All I know is that I don’t want to step on the third rail.


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