Swans Commentary » swans.com February 13, 2006  



Science Fiction . . . Altered Or Alternative Reality


by Milo Clark





(Swans - February 13, 2006)  Speaking of alternative realities, serendipity or synchronicity being what they may be, no sooner had I trundled off on the possible actualities embedded in Science Fiction than Lee comes home from the library with three of Philip K. Dick's works.

His collection of short stories, I Hope I shall Arrive Soon, (1) collected posthumously for 1985 publication, also holds his essay introduction, "How to build a universe that doesn't fall apart two days later." This piece comes from a speech otherwise unattributed.

Setting his stage, he begins characteristically, "Science fiction writers, I am sorry to say, really do not know anything. We can't talk about science because our knowledge of it is limited and unofficial, and usually our fiction is dreadful."

He isolates the core of his work within two topics, "What is reality?" and "What constitutes the authentic human being?" "Over the twenty-seven years in which I have published novels and stories, I have investigated these two interrelated topics over and over again."

He notes that he has long hoped someday ". . . to get an answer." In 1972, he tried this one: "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." In the following years, Dick acknowledges he hasn't done any better.

As I have said in previous Swans pieces, I long ago abandoned using the word "reality." Instead, I say "actuality" by which I mean the immediate perceptual fields of an individual and related thought processes involved with interpretations therefrom. In essence, actuality is our only knowledge. All else is learned, separated in time, lost in space.

As Dick did, I ask in my writing, "What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives. I distrust their power. And it is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind."

"I ought to know," he says, "because I do the same thing. It is my job to create universes. . . And I have to build them in such a way that they do not fall apart in two days. However, . . . I like to build universes which do fall apart. . . . I have a secret love of chaos. There should be more of it. . . .do not assume that order and stability are always good, in a society or in a universe."

". . . as soon as you begin to ask what is ultimately real, you right away begin to talk nonsense."

Dick noted in a preceding paragraph how we are taught early that . . . "You should not fight authority, and even if you do, you will lose. The message . . . is, Be Passive. And cooperate."

"The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words."

And, now, may we segue into today?

Al Gore, in his recent speech at the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Constitution Hall (January 16, 2006) in Washington, citing polls, noted that television was now the only source of "news" for over 80% of Americans. No wonder mind control is now so easy.

I will resist comment on the irony of speaking in DAR Constitution Hall on Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend. For those who are not aware, DAR was/is as close to a ladies' white supremacy organization as is possible.

Rupert Sheldrake, Terrence McKenna, and Ralph Abraham, during the later years of the 20th century up until McKenna's death from a brain tumor (April 3, 2000), got together when they could to do trialogues, exercises in creating universes with no real expectation that they would last two days.

Sheldrake posits morphic resonance as the perhaps unknowable transmitter of evolutionary actualities as well as species structures. McKenna, obsessed with the Mayan perspectives, which call for an end of suchnesses in 2012, and Abraham, inventor of cybernetically-altering actualities and fellow traveler into chaos make an awesome triad.

Some of their trialogues have been collected primarily by Ralph Abraham. Their 1998 collection is The Evolutionary Mind, Trialogues at the Edge of the Unthinkable. (2)

Taking one universe, the presently and generally accepted big bang universe, Terrence McKenna notes that concepts and beliefs about time are critically involved. He says, "What orthodoxy teaches about time is that for reasons impossible to conceive, the universe sprang from utter nothingness in a single moment. If you can believe this, then you can believe anything. It's impossible to conceive of something more unlikely, . . . It's almost as if science said, Give me one free miracle, and from there the entire thing will proceed with a seamless, causal explanation." (p. 123)

Think about the patent absurdity of an egregious fantasy -- an instant of time within which is compressed all actualities to come (not to mention all matter and energy). Are we far from creationism? Heavens, no!

Science, in McKenna's sense, has been watching television from its big bang moment and involved itself in a Big Lie fully worthy of Goebbels and Rove.

Stan Goff and Robert Baer are two once-insiders now outside who no longer believe in the Big Lies abounding around the once United States of America.

Goff is a retired master sergeant with deep Special Forces experience weighing on him. Baer did much of his twenty years as a CIA operative in the Middle East. Baer inspired the movie "Syriana." Goff is an autodidact well self-grounded in chaos. He would be an excellent substitute for McKenna in Abraham's constructs. See also Abraham's Chaos Gaia Eros. (3)

In his book, See No Evil, (4) Baer reports himself befuddled by Washington coteries, cabals, and cliques who live in a very different universe than what he experienced on the ground. He is pressed to understand the focus on Saddam Hussein, evil as he may have been, in contrast with the roots of Islamic jihad buried primarily within Saudi Arabia and its Wahabi/Salafi Islam.

"Are we not hitting the target we can rather than the target we should? Shouldn't we be pulling from the roots the people who hit us on September 11 rather than going after the bogeyman? It seems to me it's always the evil we refuse to see that does us the greatest harm." (p. 279)

Goff, in his Full Spectrum Disorder, the Military in the New American Century (5) -- reviewed in these pages -- rubs a reader's nose gruffly into the fallacies, cynicism, and gore of America's ventures during his time; Haiti, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Somalia . . . and now Iraq. Much of what is suspected about America's military adventures is confirmed by Goff.

His take on reality is not comforting: "As quick as we think we've got hold of something, it has somehow changed because whatever 'it' is doesn't exist in a vacuum, but amidst a vastly complex, and shifting set of relations to everything else. . . . Even scientists and academics are frequent prey to the delusion that reality is reducible. Fear, wide and deep, is the secret motive force of much human behavior, and, I think, reduction is often rooted in fear."

Rove's focus on fear and its heavy use by the Bush administration is symptomatic of much about which to be deeply concerned, although not feared.

Scathing in his characterization and condemnation of administration incumbents, Goff notes that, ". . . The post-nineties politics of megalomaniacal machismo has been dressed up as statecraft, like putting sunglasses on a pig. Soon those New Hampshire National Guards, along with thousands of others, will face the reality outside the looking glass, where a schoolyard challenge-line has been drawn from the comfort of Washington, and people in Iraq and Afghanistan willingly step across it with rocket propelled grenades and improvised explosives. . . .the new machismo of George W. Bush is politics as low performance art by those who have the freedom to indulge l'imaginaire, that habit of consciousness that Sartre characterized as an escape from social reality." (p. 227)

Howard Zinn, writing in the January 2006 Progressive, concludes, "War, I decided, creates, insidiously, a common morality for all sides. It poisons everyone who is engaged in it, however different they are in many ways, turns them into killers and torturers, as we are seeing now. It pretends to be concerned with toppling tyrants, and may in fact do so, but the people it kills are victims of the tyrants. It appears to cleanse the world of evil, but that does not last, because its very nature spawns more evil. Wars, like violence in general, I concluded, is a drug. It gives a quick high, the thrill of victory, but that wears off and then becomes despair. . . ."

". . . The war in Iraq has revealed the hypocrisy of the 'war on terrorism.' And the government of the United States, indeed governments everywhere, are becoming exposed as untrustworthy: that is, not to be entrusted with the safety of human beings, or the safety of the planet, or the guarding of its air, its waters, its natural wealth, or the curing of poverty and disease, or coping with the alarming growth of natural disasters that plague so many of the six billion people of Earth."

"White Badge," a Korean movie, does for the Vietnam War what "All Quiet on the Western Front" did for WWI and war in general by showing the horrors and hypocrisies involved in using young men as tokens of power mongers.

The London Review of Books (LRB) tends to stay closer to reviews than, say, The New York Review of Books. Lest we forget, however, that there are thousands of British soldiers in Shia Iraq, down around Basra. LRB, therefore, includes much sharp observation of Iraqi actualities.

In the 5 January LRB, Eliot Weinberger collected eight tabloid-sized pages titled "What I heard about Iraq in 2005." Eight pages in LRB is a very serious commitment of space. A sampling:

In 2005 I heard that Coalition forces were camped in the ruins of Babylon. I heard that bulldozers had dug trenches through the site and cleared areas for helicopter landing pads and parking lots, that thousands of sandbags had been filled with dirt and archaeological fragments, that a 2600 hundred year old brick pavement had been crushed by tanks, and that the moulded bricks of dragons had been gouged out from the Ishtar Gate by soldiers collecting souvenirs. I heard that the ruins of the Sumerian cities of Umma, Umm al- Kareb, Larso and Tello were completely destroyed and were now landscapes of craters. . . .

"I heard a US soldier talk about his photographs of the 12 prisoners he had shot with a machine gun. 'I shot this guy in the face. See. His head is split open. I shot this guy in the groin. He took three days to bleed to death. I heard him say he was a devout Christian. Well, I knelt down, I said a prayer, stood up and gunned them all down. . . .

I heard that a report by the CIA National Intelligence Council had stated that 'Iraq has now replaced Afghanistan as the training ground for the next generation of "professionalized" terrorists' providing a recruitment ground and the opportunity for enhancing technical skills. . . .

I heard that it said that Iraq was a more effective training ground than Afghanistan because 'the urban nature of the of the war in Iraq was helping combatants learn how to carry out assassination, kidnappings, car bombings and other kinds of attacks that were never a staple of fighting in Afghanistan during the anti-Soviet campaigns of the 1980s'. . . .

I heard a journalist ask the President: 'Do you think that the insurgency is getting harder now to defeat militarily?' And I heard the President reply: 'No, I don't think so. I think they're being defeated. And that's why they continue to fight'. . . .

I heard Lieutenant Colonel Frederick Wellman say of the insurgents: 'We can't kill them all. When I kill one, I create three'. . . .

I heard a man who had been in Abu Ghraib prison say: 'The Americans brought electricity to my ass before they brought it to my house'. . . .

I heard that the average monthly war coverage on the ABC, NBC and CBS evening newscasts, combined, had gone from 388 minutes in 2003, to 274 in 2004, to 166 in 2005. . . . .

To plunge into variances of time, perceptions of space, and actualities of knowledge consider the many books written by Tarthang Tulku in his Time, Space and Knowledge series. (6) He notes: "Making a commitment to activate the inwardness and multidimensionality of the past does not require us to fight to overcome obstacles and old patterns. The approach, strongly grounded in the linear mechanisms of dichotomy, will divert our energy and knowledge in ways that confirm the old. Instead of simply taking the actions called for, we will worry that our motives are impure; that we will not improve. Twisting our caring in on itself, we risk losing sight of the main point." (p. 310)

Stan Goff insists that actuality is non-linear and dynamic. Tarthang Tulku agrees.

How will we build a universe that doesn't fall apart? For even one day. Try.


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Truth is stranger than fiction. Please help both truth and fiction.

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1.  I Hope I shall Arrive Soon, Philip K. Dick, Doubleday, Garden City NY, 1985, ISBN 0-385-19567-2.  (back)

2.  The Evolutionary Mind, Trialogues at the Edge of the Unthinkable, Rupert Sheldrake, Terrence McKenna, Ralph Abraham, Trialogue Press, Santa Cruz CA, 1998, ISBN 0-942344-13-8.  (back)

3.  Chaos Gaia Eros, Ralph Abraham, Harper San Francisco, 1994, ISBN 0-06-250013-9.  (back)

4.  See No Evil, The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War on Terrorism, Robert Baer, Three Rivers Press, New York NY, 2002, ISBN 1-4000-4684-X.  (back)

5.  Full Spectrum Disorder: The Military in the New American Century, Stan Goff, Soft Skull Press, March 2004; ISBN: 1-93236-012-3  (back)

6.  For example: Dynamics of Time and Space, Transcending Limits of Knowledge, Tarthang Tulku, Dharma Publishing, Berkeley CA, 1994, ISBN 0-89800-4.  (back)


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This Edition's Internal Links

Marc Cooper's "Progressive" Rhetoric - Gilles d'Aymery

Eternal War - Deck Deckert

Distortions Of Casualties: American Wounded, And Dead, From Iraq - Don L. Durivan

Continuing Israeli-Palestinian Historical Trends - Philip Greenspan

The Assumption Of Oprah Winfrey - Charles Marowitz

Oprah Ignores True Problems with Truth - George Beres

Froggers - Martin Murie

David Lodge's Author, Author - Book Review by Charles Marowitz

Birds - Poem by Laura Madeline Wiseman

Letters to the Editor

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Published February 13, 2006