When he died in 1982, Philip K. Dick left about 2000 pages of manuscript, much of it hand written, laying around his house. Those pages were collected and edited into The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick which was finally published in 2011. Although Philip was familiar with the work of Carl Jung, he doesn’t seem to subscribe to Jung’s conclusions. This becomes evident in Philip’s attempts to re-conceptualize and re-think possible explanations of a visionary period of his life in February and March of 1974. He recorded his dreams and attempted to understand them. I discussed the beginning his attempts in my essay 2-3-74 The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick. Now I want to focus on the way the Jungian concept of the inner feminine, the anima, rises to consciousness during this period of Philip’s life.
The first hint is in his letters to a woman, his friend Claudia Bush. He tells her of his dreams of a sibyl, a mythological female oracle of ancient Roman times. He claims “all my thoughts and experiences, focusing mainly in dreams, seem to constellate around the Hellenistic Period, with accretions one would expect from previous cultures. The best way to describe it is to say at night my mind is full of the thoughts, ideas, words and concepts that you’d expect to find in a highly educated Greek-speaking scholar of the 3rd century A.D., at the latest, living somewhere in the Mediterranean Area of the Roman Empire. (p. 27)” At first he refers to this night-time scholar as masculine, evidently because the dreamer is a man, but eventually he begins to refer to her in the feminine. He first considered the psychic teacher to be his dead friend Jim Pike, the Episcopal Bishop, whose interests were very similar, but Dick discards this hypothesis in favor of another.
The night-time teacher’s material is organized. Philip says that “it’s organized as if by a living, idiosyncratic personality, which I often sense behind it. This personality glimpsed by me as being a woman, holds up the book to me or mails it to me, etc. She likes me. She wants to guide, educate and help me. Evidently she’s exposing me to all this enlightening and ennobling written material deliberately, to make me into a higher life form, or anyhow, a better person. Up until now my higher education has been sadly neglected; she is making up for that, using very effective show-and-tell audio-video teaching techniques. (p.28)” And being a good student, Philip begins his research regarding the night-time teachings in the morning when he awakes.
This feminine teacher also seems to be a doctor, perhaps in the tradition of Asklepios. He says, “I am struck most by the amount of medical information and advice given me in these dreams. Health, mine, both physical and psychological, seems to be a high priority in this ceaseless nightly didactic print-out.” One such communication was written in his ex-wife’s handwriting saying “The bichlorides are a very poisonous poison for you.” It went on to say that he should “flush down every metallic toxin in the house: Sleep-Eze and spray can sprays with traces of metal in them. (p.28)” He did as he was told. He went further on the basis of this information, he says “I wouldn’t let my wife smoke. Now we learn that the carcinomic factor in cigarette smoke is radioactive lead–a metal poison. So this information, however bizarre, from whatever source, has a definite therapeutic quality and accuracy.” (p. 29) Philip’s inner feminine is positive and helpful. She is trying to extend his life as well as make him a better person.
In analyzing his inner teacher’s style, Philip says “I have so to speak a real pro for an unconscious. It’s a fine style but it isn’t mine. I’d never write “a very poisonous poison,” or, as it expressed a vital thought in my sleep once by saying, “She will see the sea.” It makes an exact point with no regard for literary style, a higher method of expression with the intent to convey its meaning above all. Therefore it resorts to such strikingly enigmatic words as “syntonic,” if that is what it means; no other will do and it doesn’t seem to care whether I know the meaning of the word or not; if I don’t then I can just look it up. (p. 29)” Philip K. Dick left us another wonderful example of how the positive anima archetype can be helpful and supportive of the creative process. He sees her work as preparing him for his destiny. She is giving him a healthy mind and body. She is “following basic Greek thought it is improving my mind and body together, as a unity. Health is equated–correctly so–with vigor and the capacity to act.” (p.31) Philip tends to be more rational, so he sees his anima’s teachings as basically Apollonian. “All its concepts, its viewpoints, are Greek. Symmetry, balanced, harmony. I sense Apollo in this, which is consistent, since the Cumaean sibyl was his oracle.” (p. 31)
I myself doubt Philip’s assessment of the oracle’s approach. The oracle at Delphi was also Apollo’s, yet one could hardly say it was easy to understand. The priestess often spoke in riddles, symbolic in form, true, but difficult to interpret. This is more in keeping with the messenger of the gods, Hermes, who traded his lyre for his brother Apollo’s magic staff. The Trickster god of the Hellenes would be capable of appearing in feminine form to a devotee of his Brother Apollo. It seems to me that the unconscious is educating Philip in the form of his contra-sexual opposite as it does with most men. The unconscious is creating more acceptance and respect for the feminine by using this approach. Philip is impressed enough to follow Its advice and recognize It as an inner, yet independent consciousness. But he isn’t able to hold that Jungian interpretation. By page 34 he decides his tutor is Asklepios, son of Apollo, the first dream doctor of ancient Greece. Essentially the feminine is now discarded. His anima morphs into a man. This suggests the author was probably dealing with a much deeper problem, one where the feminine is too powerful and must be degraded.
Maybe the symptom of this attitude is to be seen in the fact that Philip had five marriages. None of the women in his life were able to carry his unconscious feminine, nor could he. This is the tragedy to which Philip hints. He says that his tutor pointed out “the compulsion or fate lying ahead of me–is a darkening, a gathering gloom, which is a good description of my underlying melancholia (p. 31)”. When we cannot embrace the inner world of the archetypes and find a way of integrating them, of becoming androgynous in a sense, we have a tragic fate. We are out of balance and that leads to death, if it is not corrected. We see this in the myth of Asklepios, whose doctoring skills were so good that Death (Hades) felt cheated of his justly acquired shades (the spirits of the dead) and demanded the life of Asklepios in return for the damage he had done to the Unnamed One (Hades). Zeus is a just god and took the life of Asklepios, who, from that time on, only appeared in dreams.
Balancing the opposites is absolutely necessary. It is the treasure hard to attain, but worthy of attaining nonetheless. Philip K. Dick was given that opportunity at age 46. He died eight years later of a stroke.