If You Find This World Bad, You Should See Some of the Others

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sciborg2

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« on: January 15, 2020, 11:09:46 pm »
A series of extracts from one of Philip Dick's essays written in 1977 entitled "If You Find
This World Bad, You Should See Some of the Others"


    An odd aspect of these rare, extraordinary ideas that puzzles me is their mystifying cloak of - shall I say - the obvious. by that I mean, once the idea has emerged or appeared or been born - however it is that new ideas pass over into being - the novelist says to himself, 'But of course. Why didn't I realize that years ago?' But note the word 'realize.' It is the key word. He has come across something new that at the same time was there, somewhere, all the time. It truth, it simply surfaced. It always WAS. He did not invent it or even find it; in a very real sense it found HIM. And - and this is a little frightening to contemplate - he has not invented it, but on the contrary, it invented HIM. It is as if the idea created him for its purposes. I think this is why we discover a startling phenomenon of great renown: that quite often in history a great new idea strikes a number of researchers or thinkers at exactly the same time, all of them oblivious to their compeers. 'Its time had come,' we say about the idea, and so dismiss, as if we had explained it, something I consider quite important: our recognition that in a certain literal sense ideas are alive.


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    What does this mean, to say that an idea or a thought is literally alive? And that it seizes on men here and there and makes use of them to actualize itself into the stream of human history? Perhaps the pre-Socratic philosophers were correct; the cosmos is one vast entity that thinks. It may in fact do nothing BUT think. In that case either what we call the universe is merely a form of disguise that it takes, or it somehow is the universe - some variation on this pantheistic view, my favorite being that it cunningly mimics the world that we experience daily, and we remain none the wiser. This is the view of the oldest religion of India, and to some extent it was the view of Spinoza and Alfred North Whitehead, the concept of an immanent God, God within the universe... The Sufi saying [by Rumi] 'The workman is invisible within the workshop' applies here, with workshop as universe and workman as God. But this still expresses the theistic notion that the universe is something the God created; whereas I am saying, perhaps God created nothing but merely IS. And we spend our lives within him or her or it, wondering constantly where he or she or it can be found.


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    "We in the field [of science fiction writers], of course, know this idea as the 'alternate universe' theme. ...Let us say, just for fun, that [such alternate universes] DO exist. Then, if they do, how are they linked to each other, if in fact they are (or would be) linked? If you drew a map of them, showing their locations, what would the map look like? For instance (and I think this is a very important question), are they absolutely separate one from another, or do they overlap? Because if they overlap, then such problems as 'Where do they exist?' and 'How do you get from one to the next' admit to a possible solution. I am saying, simply, if they do indeed exist, and if they do indeed overlap, then we may in some literal, very real sense inhabit several of them to various degrees at any given time. And although we all see one another as living humans walking about and talking and acting, some of us may inhabit relatively greater amounts of, say, Universe One than the other people do; and some of us may inhabit relatively greater amounts of Universe Two, Track Two, instead, and so on. It may not merely be that our subjective impressions of the world differ, but there may be an overlapping, a superimposition, of a number of worlds so that objectively, not subjectively, our worlds may differ. Our perceptions differ as a result of this. ...It may be that some of these superimposed worlds are passing out of existence, along the lateral time line I spoke of, and some are in the process of moving toward greater, rather than lesser, actualization. These processes would occur simultaneously and not at all in linear time. The kind of process we are talking about here is a transformation, a kind of metamorphosis, invisibly achieved. But very real. And very important.


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    Contemplating this possibility of a lateral arrangement of worlds, a plurality of overlapping Earths along whose linking axis a person can somehow move - can travel in mysterious way from worst to fair to good to excellent - contemplating this in theological terms, perhaps we could say that herewith we suddenly decipher the elliptical utterances that Christ expressed regarding the Kingdom of God, specifically where it is located. 'My Kingdom is not of this world,' he is reported to have said. 'The Kingdom is within you.' Or possibly, 'It is among you.' I put before you now the notion, which I personally find exciting, that he may have had in mind that which I speak of as the lateral axis of overlapping realms that contain among them a spectrum of aspects ranging from the unspeakably malignant to the beautiful. And Christ was saying over and over again that there really are many objective realms, somehow related, and somehow bridgeable by living - not dead- men, and that the most wondrous of these worlds was a just kingdom in which either He himself or God himself or both of them ruled. And he did not merely speak of a variety of ways of subjectively viewing one world; the Kingdom was and is an actual different place, at the opposite end of continua starting with slavery and utter pain. It was his mission to teach his disciples the secret of crossing along the orthogonal path. He did not merely report what lay there; he taught the method of getting there. But, the secret was lost, the Roman authority crushed it. And so we do not have it. But perhaps we can refind it, since we know that such a secret exists.


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    Since at the resolution of every encounter of thesis and antithesis between the Dark Counterplayer and the divine Programmer, a new synthesis is struck off, and since it is possible that each time this happens a lateral world may be generated, and since I conceive that each synthesis or resolution is to some degree a victory by the Programmer, each struck-off world, in sequence, must be an improvement upon - not just the prior one - but an improvement over all the latent or merely possible outcomes. It is better, but in no sense perfect - i.e. final. It is merely an improved stage within a process. What I envision clearly is that the Programmer is perpetually using the antecedent universe as a gigantic stockpile for each new synthesis, the antecedent universe then possessing the aspect of chaos or anomie in relation to an emerging new cosmos. Therefore the endless process of sequential struck-off alternate worlds, emerging and being infused with actualization, is negentropic in some way that we cannot see.


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    If I consider the term by which I designate him - the Programmer and Reprogrammer - perhaps I can extract from that a partial answer. I call him what I call him because that was what I witnessed him doing: He had previously programmed the lives here but now was altering one or more crucial factors - this in the service of completing a structure or plan. I reason along these lines: A human scientist who operates a computer does not bias nor warp, does not prejudice, the outcome of his calculations. A human ethnologist does not allow himslef to contaminate his own findings by participating in the culture he studies. Which is to say, in certain kinds of endeavors it is essential that the observer remain occluded off from that which he observes. There is nothing malign in this, no sinister deception. It is merely necessary. if indeed we are, collectively, being moved along desired paths toward a desired outcome, the entity that sets us in motion along those lines, that entity which not only desires the particular outcome but that wills that outcome - he must not enter into it palpably or the outcome will be aborted. What, then, we must return our attention to is - not the Programmer - but the events programmed. Concealed though the form is, the latter will confront us; we are involved in it - in fact, we are instruments by which it is accomplished.


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    "In February of 1975, I had passed across into a third alternate present - Track C, we shall call it - and this one was a garden or park of peace and beauty, a world superior to ours, rising into existence. I can [thus] talk about three, rather than two worlds: the black iron prison world that had been; our intermediate world in which oppression and war exist but have to a great degree been cast down; and then a third alternate world that someday, when the correct variables in our past have been reprogrammed, will materialize as a superimposition onto this one ... and within which, as we awaken to it, we shall suppose we had always lived there, the memory of this intermediate one, like that of the black iron prison world, eradicated mercifully from our memories.
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Francis Buck

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« Reply #1 on: January 18, 2020, 10:20:56 am »
The first one is certainly an experience that resonates for me, even more so the older I get.

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« Reply #2 on: January 20, 2020, 01:40:43 pm »
The first one is certainly an experience that resonates for me, even more so the older I get.
Is it an appeal to something like Socrates' notion of "recollection" or the Platonic notion of innate ideas?

But, of course, my twisted mind can bring this to something like Hegel's notion of retroactivity, and perhaps something also about "over-determination."
“I am a warrior of ages, Anasūrimbor . . . ages. I have dipped my nimil in a thousand hearts. I have ridden both against and for the No-God in the great wars that authored this wilderness. I have scaled the ramparts of great Golgotterath, watched the hearts of High Kings break for fury.” -Cet’ingira