High weirdness: Philip K. Dick, Robert Anton Wilson, and Chapel Perilous

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Here’s Erik Davis, in a recent interview conducted by Jeremy Johnson, briefly discussing the similarities between the respective realms of high weirdness exemplified by Philip K. Dick’s VALIS and Robert Anton Wilson’s Cosmic Trigger. Erik and Jeremy also make some interesting observations about the way the reading of these types of texts can often kick off explosions of bizarre synchronicities and psychic transformations, and thus serve as a kind of involuntary practice of bibliomancy. It’s an effect that I have experienced myself many times, and that I suspect you may have as well, if you find yourself drawn to books like these.

ERIK DAVIS: VALIS is a masterpiece whose power partly lies in its ability to disorient and enchant the reader. I suspect that for readers today it continues to resonate, as our world in many ways has simply become more PhilDickean. I am reminded of Robert Anton Wilson’s idea of “Chapel Perilous”. Wilson had somewhat similar experiences in 1974 — cosmic conspiracies, syncronicities, blasts of insight — and he suggested that there was a stage of the path, a kind of dark night of the soul, where the seeker can’t tell what’s paranoia and what’s reality. There is a surfeit of meaning — after all, there is definitely something like too many synchronicities. Valis is Dick’s Chapel Perilous, and he brings readers along for the ride. Some of them never quite get off. But Chapel Perilous is a place to pass through, not to call home.

. . . JEREMY JOHNSON: Professor Richard Doyle, who recently held a class on Synchcast for P.K.D., warned his students that reading Dick’s novels could induce what he calls an “involutionary” affect — meaning one’s life might start getting taken up by synchronicities and uncanny moments. I know you’ve mentioned in some previous presentations that you have experienced these moments (we might call them P.K.D. moments) where the book seems to become a divinizing tool for bibliomancy.

What do you think is happening here, if anything? And secondly: isn’t it interesting that this phenomenon seems to occur regardless of the perceived value of the text? It seems to happen as readily to a pulp scifi novel as the Bible.

ERIK DAVIS: The specific “occult” practice of bibliomancy is key to PKD. The first time I gave a talk on him, which was my first public lecture back in 1990 or something, I realized I hadn’t prepared an adequate definition of “Gnosticism.” With five minutes to go, people already sitting down, I panicked, and opened the book randomly and my eyes fell precisely on Dick’s pithy definition: “This is Gnosticism. In Gnosticism, man belongs with God against the world and the creator of the world (both of which are crazy, whether they realize it or not).” These sorts of gestures are also made by the characters in many Dick novels, a number of which feature oracular books that are opened to any page, or accessed with other random processes, like the I Ching in The Man in the High Castle. Researchers and scholars know these synchronicities well, however you might think about them, and Dick was very interested in seeding those sorts of connections in his novels. Reading, drawing connections, in a sense is invoking these kinds of uncanny links. For Dick, writing itself is alive.

MORE: “Erik Davis on VALIS, P.K.D., and High Weirdness” 

(For more on Chapel Perilous itself, see here.)

 

Image courtesy of Dan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

About Matt Cardin

Teeming Brain founder and editor Matt Cardin is the author of DARK AWAKENINGS, DIVINATIONS OF THE DEEP, A COURSE IN DEMONIC CREATIVITY: A WRITER'S GUIDE TO THE INNER GENIUS, and the forthcoming TO ROUSE LEVIATHAN. He is also the editor of BORN TO FEAR: INTERVIEWS WITH THOMAS LIGOTTI and the academic encyclopedias MUMMIES AROUND THE WORLD and GHOSTS, SPIRITS, AND PSYCHICS: THE PARANORMAL FROM ALCHEMY TO ZOMBIES.

Posted on May 1, 2014, in Arts & Entertainment, Paranormal, Psychology & Consciousness and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. “For example, during my military training in the town of Bien Hoa, I was seated amongst my comrades, and one of the soldiers was playing around. In jest, he grabbed a cover used to keep insects off our food and jokingly placed it atop the head of a fellow soldier. This soldier suddenly jumped from his seat and ran outside to the yard. He began digging a hole and shoving dirt in his mouth.
    After about fifteen minutes, he began pounding his head into the wooden walls of our encampment and rolled briskly back and forth until he vomited. Most of us looked on in fear; none daring to come close to him. Then he climbed on to the roof of the barrack and stayed up there for nearly half an hour. After he resumed his wits, we helped him get off the roof. I later found out that the poor soldier was an apprentice to a sorcerer who practiced a mountain animal system. Apparently, the placement of any object upon his head was absolutely forbidden in his system.” — Hien Van Nguyen, Journey Of A Healer: Mediums And Sorcerers Of South Viet Nam

  2. I’ve wanted a good clip of a S.Korean drama to share with you guys for a while , maybe you’ve already been watching this on DramaFever, but anyway.. this is a great clip from Bride of the Century . Chapel Perilous, no really..

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