I didn’t put the philosophical questions of a possible past life as PKD as neatly aside as I had pretended.
I suppose from an earlier entry some of my readers might have guessed that. I am still deeply bothered that, if I was him, I’m still here in this continuity where he’s given up for dead, not a whole hell of a lot has changed, and
Ferris Fremont Donald Trump has a real chance of becoming president.
I was kind of guilted into trying not to think about it for a while by someone who I’m not sure I can count as a friend any more. We didn’t really speak after he began spouting more and more bile against Muslims on Facebook until one day, he made a really patronizing post about why the LGBT community should hate Muslims as much as he does. I made a friendslocked post on my Facebook calling him out and coming out trans for probably the first time to a lot of people who watch me, and I haven’t heard from him since.
Anyhow, this guy- let’s call him J- was quite adamant that I couldn’t have been PKD, in part because he was convinced he’d ascended into the pleroma.
And the thing is, Phil was convinced he would ascend into the pleroma too. J had a point. If someone like him couldn’t transcend the cycle of death and rebirth, then what was the point?
I’d been reluctant to talk to anyone about this since. Most of the people who were willing to listen had little to offer. But I finally got a chance to talk at length with my bishop about it, and he basically offered the idea that if I was him, and I’m still here, then there must be a point to it because we do have something to accomplish.
J was the sort of person who would have abhorred the idea that there was any point to being here. He referred me to a Buddhist writing which called the world a “burning building” and was very adamant that escape was the only valid goal. I had internalized his ideas because first, J seemed to know what he was talking about most of the time (except when it came to Muslims… and the economy) and second, because he and I share some admiration of Rev. Dr. Stephan Hoeller, one of the great scholars of gnosis of our time and, incidentally, the bishop to whom my local bishop answers directly.
But back to my talk with the bishop. This was right before I went on my long drive out to Aurora and had my breakthrough about my tendency toward a savior complex. I had started reading Phil’s novel “Radio Free Albemuth” some time before but hadn’t finished it due to distractions.
A couple days ago, I finished reading it finally, and I have to say that if I was him, and if there ever was a single manuscript that represented the answers I was looking for, this is it. A bit of background: RFA was written before “Valis” and represents the book in its original form; but it’s a radically different story, and contains all of the flaws you’d expect of an early draft from Phil. It derails and rambles a few times, the plot isn’t articulated as well as it could be, and the ending felt like a deus ex machina. The whole time I was reading it, I was thinking “if I submitted something like this to my publisher, they’d make me rewrite the whole thing too!”
But it’s an important piece of the puzzle. It’s an honest, story-driven take on Phil’s experience rather than a Gnostic tractate with a picaresque novel written around it like “Valis.” And in it, I found two pieces of wisdom that really resonated.
One of them was the ending. Let’s see… how do I describe this without spoilers? Old growth is cleared away, leaving the younger generation to flourish and carry on. That’s the archetypal theme. I imagine there’s probably an I Ching hexagram that corresponds to that though I’m still learning I Ching. Essentially, the torch had to be passed to a younger generation. Phil had to die because perspectives had to be renewed. If I was him, then it could be by design that I was brought back here.
This is relevant. I recently chanced on the Facebook page of someone who knew Phil (not my former friend J, who was only a fan and didn’t know him) and was struck by how they complained about how this generation never gets anything done and spends their time playing Angry Birds while their generation was protesting the Vietnam war; simultaneously, they were complaining about the present generation of activists and their protests.
Not only did it put me off making any attempt to reach out to them via Facebook since we clearly had little in common any more, but it gave me pause to think: what would I say about Millennials if I was still Phil, pushing 90 years old and having done and seen so much that my worldview was set fifty years ago? If I was meant to do something in this world, I couldn’t do it with such an outlook. I would have had to shed all that, the same way a snake sheds its skin.
The other one is the idea that the end goal was not mine to know or strive for; if I was meant to be part of it, then I must trust that the Lord has already made a path for me and follow it. This has been reinforced by the fact that my attempts to advance beyond my boring but stable existence into a better career or some kind of position of leadership have been thwarted by forces beyond my control. I always have the sense but not the certainty that something is keeping me on this path, like I’m on rails, and that this path is good and right and where I’m meant to be even if it tries my patience sometimes.
The passage went like this:
“So now I knew who Valis was; he was my father, my real father, from whose race I came repeatedly into this world, to leave again, to return again, to work toward some distant goal unseen, not as yet comprehended. The search, perhaps, was the goal. As I achieved a little motion toward it, I understood it. Overthrowing the tyranny of Ferris Fremont was a stop along the way, not a goal but a moment of decision, from which I then continued as before. Changed to some extent, but changed by my father, not by what I had done. For, I understood, Valis himself did it, through me. The virtue lay with him.”
There is no reasonable way forward for me except to continue on the path that has been set before me and not let my ego get in the way. I am doing well in my spiritual growth in this church and I believe continuing to study for holy orders is the correct place for me to be. I am doing well working part-time and recovering, albeit slower than I’d like, from the shock of Jack’s memories. I am doing well writing the kinds of stories I want to publish with a publisher willing to print them provided they’re of suitable quality. I am doing well in my historiography about Count William as well. These are the gifts I’ve been given. These are the tools of my path. I waver, I falter, I get distracted, but I always reaffirm my direction when I meditate deeply upon it for any length of time.