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January 2012

January 2012

A new practice for the new year:

Instead of saying, "I feel calm." I will try to say, "I am wading through calm." or better yet, "Calm is streaming by now."

Imagine emotions as intermixing fluid fields. Directly perceive the form of the fields. Study the eddies.

Swimming in an ocean of calm.

Waves contract near shore.

What feelings come from deeper waters?


Tumbling in the waves.

The view from underwater.

Reentering the flow of phylogons.

Foam on the ocean. A mass of ideas from which only a limited set can be studied simultaneously. I'd have to say a fairly typical day in the studio.

After the end and before the beginning, in the interstitial days before routines are firmly established, the glow of ocean time lingers, priorities are not yet set, and everything is still up in the air. This is a gap in the cycle; moments open and intentions variable.

Aligning frames. By some strange coincidence last fall, the time when I was exploring and defining phylogons just happened to be the moment that the book, "The Exegesis of Philip K Dick", was published. This book exposes over 800 pages of his notes, letters and speculations that later formed the basis of his novels. I equate this collection of subconscious outpouring to "The Red Book" of Carl Jung; which was also published not that long ago. There is now no shortage of material to sift through for anyone trying to compare patterns in subconscious emanation.

In the "Exegesis", there are more detailed notes on phylogons, certainly more than the three mentions in the "Divine Invasion". Also he sketches a context for phylogons and compares phylogons to ontogons. In the next few posts I am going to try to reconcile this new data from PKD's archive with what I've written about phylogons and see what I can learn from trying to fit these pieces together.

The stellar group of authors and scholars who edited the book "The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick" - hereafter referred to as TE - assembled an annotated glossary, not only listing terms used in the book but also covering important people and related concepts. This seems like the logical place to start.

From the glossary:
    ontogon: a neologism meaning an individual being or object, as contrasted to an ideal or Platonic form.

    phylogon: a neologism referring to a general principle or archetype.

    PKD coins these two terms from the words "phylogeny" and "ontogeny" from the fields of evolutionary theory and depth psychology to describe the relationship between individual and species life.
What stands out for me here is the importance placed on the relationship of the specific to the general. The same order of things is coded into the English language in the form of proper nouns and common nouns. I understand this arrangement as the frame (phylogon) and the contents of the frame (ontogon). We live in the specifics, inside the frame, but at times the frame opens and we can go outside and see a larger picture.

This related definition was nearby:
    ontology: The philosophy of being; ontologists ask questions about the nature and function of reality itself and about what it means for things to exist.

More from "The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick":
    "Q: What is the goal (purpose) of all reality?"

    "A: The harmonious fitting-together of everything (every part) into the unitary beautiful."
This fitting together into the unitary beautiful happens, for reasons PKD details, as the parts he calls ontogons convert themselves to phylogons. His description of the transition of ontogon to phylogon sounds similar to stories of spiritual journeys towards enlightenment and to the process that C. G. Jung called "individuation". The ontogons are our proper selves, the phylogons, our archetypes or higher selves.

I want to expand more on this transition dynamic, but before I can unpack his notes on the struggle for wholeness, I need to first try and describe the goal, the whole, or what PKD also refers to as VALIS (Vast Active Living Intelligence System). I mean really, he was so cut out to be a science fiction writer.

An entry written January 30, 1980 [82:1], puts these ideas together. In reference to VALIS...
    "A unitary web in process, self-initiating, in which I participate and and whose aspect as it pertained to me my mind determined conscious, all times simultaneous."
A timeless consciousness. A description of the whole, not as a physical presence but as a process. The entity also sounds eerily like the world wide web. Skynet anyone?

He continues by considering VALIS in relation to the ontogons and phylogons.
    "It took an infinity of forms, all of which came into being and passed away (ontogons) leaving only constants (phylogons) as part of the structure - hence it was in flux like a self-perfecting organism. The complexity of the structure increased upward (i.e. toward the macro) and downward (toward the micro) with each passing second."
It is clear from this description that PKD saw our everyday objects, or ontogons, as the most ephemeral aspect of VALIS. And note, the ontogons are the only part of this system that positivists acknowledge as reality. But in the vision of PKD, it is the archetypes, following Plato, the immeasurable ideals, that persist.

I'm still looking into the ontogon/phylogon references in "The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick." I believe this next quote [49:1119] raises an interesting question about how far PKD conflates ontogons, humans and matter.
    "We ontogons are not only systems for processing information but (1) information creates us; and (2) the main processing is a diversification and proliferation. You get more out of the ontogon than you put in:"
The quote is followed by a diagram drawn by PKD of two arrows pointing toward a rectangle and many more arrows pointing away, out the other side.

This description of the compounding of information from information not only sounds like the endless recombinations of ideas we read on the internet (this site included) but it resonates on a deeper level with a quote from a 1991 Terrence McKenna lecture,
    "So this is a general law of the universe, overlooked by science that out of complexity emerges greater complexity. We could almost say that the universe, nature, is a novelty-conserving or complexity-conserving engine. It makes complexity, and it preserves it. And it uses it as the basis for further complexity."
McKenna, like PKD, characterizes the universe, not as a location but as a process, in his words, an engine. For both, the forward arrow of time is leading us toward complexity; first physical, then biological, until, it is presumed, the ontogons reach a stage so complex that they can think, become self-aware and eventually understand the process of their own creation. In this case, we can say that a source of creativity is found in feedback from increasingly complex systems.

And what is the end game here? McKenna saw an eschaton, a culmination to the growth, and a birth of consciousness into something new. For PKD, the end is elusive, uncertain and even more complicated...

The sections of PKD's notes that deal with 'the end' are concerned with a paradox: the 'greatest good' cannot restore itself without inflicting intolerable suffering on what it has created. [God can't be whole again without destroying creation] These notes have the tension of a crisis reminiscent of the tension and paranoia in most of PKD's novels. He must have lived with this twisted uncertainty, always trying to find the right way back to unity, always looking for one more bit of hope. In regards to the 'greatest good' finding reunification without total destruction, he points to a solution:
    "All the Godhead can hope for is local and furtive repair to itself, due to an ontogon achieving an ontogon-phylogon identity transform (achieved through moksha [liberation] by the ontogon: identification with the phylogon of which it is ontogonous)....The ontogon-phylogon transform would restore the Godhead to its pre-fallen state of unimpairment, before creation."
With so many western spiritual materialists concerned with their own enlightenment and what such an achievement will mean to their own lives, leave it to PKD to take the point of view of the universe on this subject. He is clear that enlightenment means an individual discovering a relationship to a larger whole.

The way I read his argument, each ontogon that awakens, repairs the universe a tiny bit, but not until all ontogons awaken to their true nature is the universe fully whole again. This is a concept found in descriptions of the Bodhisattva, a being who can reach nirvana but instead returns to help others to the same goal; not wanting to be liberated until all beings are.

So PKD's hope for reunification without total destruction is an awakened creation that lives in harmony with the whole. Now that's an idea whose time has come!

Expanding the field. After finishing the exegesis, PKD processed his notes and a trilogy was published. These books have been described as three different interpretations of the same experience and because they seem very different I never quite understood why. Whatever arose from the events surrounding February 3, 1974, it was so layered and interconnected that it exceeded the scope of a single person's mind. Judging from the notes, three books were only the beginning of trying to convey the message.

The first book was called VALIS and dealt with the entity he described as the Vast Active Living Intelligence System. This entity, most closely representing God or at least the reality that encompasses us, was probably a good choice for where to start. The second book was The Divine Invasion which, I have already mentioned, is the only novel in which PKD published the term phylogon. I think the timing and use of this word in Divine Invasion makes more sense with the additional notes in TE. The phylogons, ontogons and VALIS are the characters that act out the safe transition to wholeness.

What woke me up and got me started piecing this thread together was the idea that emerged in last night's posting. What I glimpsed was that the essence of the ontogon to phylogon transition, the action that PKD saw as the universe's hope of saving its creation, was the work of the Bodhisattva. And then I remembered that the climax of the third book, The Transmigration of Timothy Archer, centers around the Bodhisattva. This path, combining enlightenment and compassion, described in the book as happening to one man, one ontogon, is being used as a specific example for what PKD outlined as a macro scale transition to universal wholeness.

I have to say that closely reading the notes on phylogons in The Exegesis has certainly given me a great new appreciation for the multi-threaded and subtly layered writing of Philip K. Dick.

Phylogon dissolution? What happens when an archetype becomes a cliche?

Breaking apart? Branching out? Is the phylogon phase finally giving way? Will we soon see the kind of change that happens only once every few years?