Philip K. Dick's "dear claudia" letters (excerpts)

Phil and I corresponded feverishly for about a year and, after that, occasionally. I typed these particular excerpts, passages that struck me, when reading through the letters for the first time in many years: they are a beginning. --claudia krenz
July 6, 1974

My preoccupation with Reality vs Illusion, my sense, throughout book after book, story after story, that somehow there are all sorts of hallucinatory illusions spun around and thoroughly surrounding the real world, and it is the former that we see, while imagining that we see the latter. I do not think it is illusion as much as delusion....Our original state of innocence may be morally okay but it soon leads to our being trapped and destroyed. The paradox of becoming wise, becoming aware of evil, is that as soon as we do so--which we must in order to survive the snares--we automatically participate in it...Is it a choice between being the innocent prey or the guilty predator? To lose unsullied or to win and be stained...If my next novel is very very long and appears on a lot of cowskins rather than paper pages, you'll know why (I really don't know for sure when I'm kidding and when I'm not. I don't want to wind up like Nietzsche, but then again it sure beats watching TV).

July 15

Claudia, this stuff could change our world. And I'm beginning to think that it is true. For me it has become a series of inner revelations, night after night.

God is head of the Communist Party. He is evil. You see him not when you take psychomiminetic drugs, but when you don't. As long as you're spaced out on LSD and other psychedelics it's okay; you see standard reality; it's when you sober up that you see this awful clacking, clanking horror which is God,

July 16 (2nd letter that day)

...I realized something I'd never realized before.....my adversary...was the lies she told...If I could penetrate the lies, there would be no problem...Any system which says This is a rotten world, wait for the next, give up, do nothing, succumb--that may be the basic Lie and if we participate in believing it and acting (or rather not acting) on it we involve ourself in the Lie and suffer dreadfully...Meanwhille, I am trying to bring back an affirmative view of life, as was stamped out furiously wherever it appeared in history, and all I can hope is that I won't get caught. Well, I will be, but hopefully not too soon. It's a nice world and I'd like to stick around and enjoy it for a long time...but I got to say what I think is so, right? Whatever the consequences.

July 19

Please forgive me for rattling on to you along the same dim lines, but I tried to tell all this to the checkers...where we shop, and they cancelled my check-cashing privilege. Since no one else in Fullerton talks to me, that leaves only those whom I write to....It is only the mind which survives, in our words--the psyche, which carries on its acquired knowledge rather than its characer or personality into a reborn life on this world...Feelings, views, memories and experience and learning in the general sense would not qualify and so would not be retained; it would be mainly what we would call philosophical wisdom. The Pythagorians believed this doctrine.

July 20

Your letter tore me apart...it really shocked me, that drawing of the head hanging in the sky; it is a Gorgon head, beyond doubt, much like I saw Palmer Eldritch as, except this is a woman. You have drawn my ominous inner vision...I can't believe it, and I nearly went totally nuts when I saw it; couldn't move or talk for half an hour. Don't know where I was, except that I was out of my tree completely....A real jolt but a real tonic, a shock, which pierced me through, but woke me up to where I've been at: on a journey, down into the depths of my soul, a journey forced on me by the horror and dismay of learning, back in March, that I'd missed seeing my little daughter once again...it was needess, needless; I was here in town, so was my daughter; a ten cent phonecall would have abolished the distances between...I couldn't handle it except by journeying down and down into my unconscious, but you brought me a long way back up, maybe far enough up to stabolize me. Not only that, I like your refrigerator. ...Well, my stylus is getting cold and the wax is hardening, not to mention the fact that my feathers are falling off and are piled all over the floor in an unsightly mess, so I will sign off for today mea amica.

July 24th (2nd letter that day)

Claudia! ANOTHER LETTER! GUESS WHAT ABOUT! I forgot--how could I--to relate to you a dream I had the other night; see, the purpose of relating it is to show how many myth elements from Antiquity can, with a little effort, be disclosed....[handwritten] P.S. The ACLU just phoned--they are going to look into the rip offs of my papers in '71 and '72 & report back to me and to the local chapter. Wow! A glimmer of light at last!

July 26

Last night at five a.m. the cat peed all over the bed. I leaped up, tore off the sheets, discovered no matress pad (sp) and began scrubbing with thousands of Kleenexes, to little avail....I had been dreaming that I was in Rome, as usual, and they were showing me ...but the cat peeing on the bed had not been anticipated by the all-knowing spirits, so their message was lost in the confusion..Because of the tomcat stench (actually from the Cowpter's Gland, which the world could do without) I lit my votive candle...to cover it up...The glass burst after awhile...The next morning ...I stepped on the broken glass from the candle jar and almost cut off my big toe...So I have no occult or psychic news for you....I burst into tears and said I couldn't take it any more ...My typing desk is right by where the tomcat peed an so my office is fully of the effluvium (sp) of tomcat pee as I sit here writing about the non-transcendental.There is nothing like being peed on at five a.m. by an old tomcat and then the next morning stepping on broken glass before you even have your coffee to bring you down. I guess God decided I needed to be brought down. He sure knows how....It's hard to believe that just last night before bed I was thinking about metaphysical matters. I recall a bookclerk I knew once saying, "Every time I think I have an immortal soul I get a stomach ache." ...I'll make up a short theory just to show I'm still hanging in there....My reason for having all these nocturnal experiences is to give me an excuse for writing you and writing you and writing you and writing you and [right off the page]....Since I can't stand long enough to fix lunch I had the rest of the chocolate milk and some of the cat's sardines. I tried to watch the impeachment (sp) hearings on TV but they depressed me and I discovered that Askelepios or someone, surely not me, had fixed a Scotch and soda and placed it beside me in the middle of the day, so I came in here to write to you so I wouldn't become a common drunk. Want to buy a nearly new kingsize mattress with an exotic smell about it that's probably some expensive perfume from Ancient Samarkand? Or from Cowpter's Gland, Pa.?....P.P.S I may have mentioned the night I stepped on the three-inch darning needle and two inches broke off inside my foot, and when we got...to ground level there was a flat tire on the car...On the way to the hospital the cab driver explained to me how to button my shirt. In the hospital the nurse told me I had my hair parted wrong. The doctor--oh well. (James Thurber, where are you NOW?)....[handwritten] P.P.P.P.S. Please don't tell me I folded this letter wrong--my morale is low...I hope they impeach everybody.

July 30

I guess I'm the first person ever to be peed on by my guru. But that was just the start of my troubles...The spirit(s) have now left me, for sure: everything bad has happened to me and I am the same miserable thing I was....It's shit to be without the spirts...The contrast is between a sacred chalice and a dog turd...And now next week I've got to undergo an operation. I've got circulatory problems (hypertension).. Even when my guru (the shitass) peed...I thought, They're setting up a chain of circumstantial events which will seem to explain how come I croaked...if, as I said morosley above, this is the end-end, then anyhow I've seen a lot and done a lot and have no regrets. I've known some good people and had some good laughs. What more can one ask? Oh yes--one thing more. I've seen little ordinary people do things which bring tears and bursting pride to the heart; that's the most of all.

Nov 30

[handwritten] P.S. So get your ass in gear, Claudia. Fire! The megadose w.s. vitamins startled my brain into working right, like when you kick a radio that's malfunctioning. DO IT!

December 9

....the best explanation yet of my experiences. And if this explanation is the correct one, then it would ratify beyond doubt the validity of the experiences and take them forever out of the realm of the freaky.*....[handwritten] *which I would appreciate with much relief.

Jan 7, 1975

Somehow those who win the games we play here somehow lose, which immediately told me that there had to be more than the game...I watched people strive and compete and win and the moment I passed from envy of them to an undestanding that they had foiled themselves...It's a double loss, Claudia, this game, in both means and end. We do evil to obtain dogshit...But behind all this glimers a real world, with real beauty and love. A lot of that, the latter.

Attacking the problem from one standpoint after another I always arrive at the same answer: what we see is not only not real, it is somehow a fraud against us and we are injured by accepting it....What I feel is a longing, a nagging need for something other than what is, and also a sense that what is somehow merely fills in to obscure the truth that this is wrong, all this. We don't belong here. The music on the radio is the wrong music. The walls are the wrong colors, painted by someone else....As in Ubik, we are actually dead now, and lie in graves row on row. Dreaming delusional dreams in our mass graves, these plastic apartments we live in. It is not life; life lies ahead as we recover our senses and wake up.

Feb 16

People like you and me are forever and will forever wander into town with our cow, and some glad-handing, back-patting grinning dude will come gliding up with his neat suit and tie and briefcase, and from that briefcase he'll bring forth a sample package of Magic Beans, and a signature will be obtained, and off he'll go....There is one born every half-second now. One guileless fool and at the other end of the corridor, the con artist waits. He wears many hats, Claudia. Many hats. And most of those hats are respectable.

Feb 20

I am sure depressed. After much soul-searching I have instructed my attorney to tell Probation that I will waive custody of my daughter in favor of my ex-wife's sister...I wish doing the Right Thing and Getting What Your Heart Loves and Yearns for were the same thing. If King Soloman were here to decide he would have thought it over and finally shaken his head and uttered: "Fuck it." Although that would have looked funny in the Bible....I've got to stop feeling sorry for myself. I went to Dr. Quack for some tranks and his nurse took my blood pressure and it turns out the new medication isn't working...that exhausts the possibilites of tested medication...Also, Dr. Quack said I have post nasal drip and gave me some free nosedrops.

Feb 22

About the sour cream in Ubik which in your ignorance you suppose to have decayed forward. No, it is some sour cream of the week before. (What is really involved is form-support more accurately than reality support...we are seeing at least two time flows at once and confusing them together in our head(s)...this custody thing has messed up my head.

Feb 25

Here are nine pages further notes for my new novel...I wish to point out another and almost always there element in my novel plotting per se: what I do is:

(1)I think up a novel in my head and take notes (in this case ValisystemA...based on my life....and also based on my ideas about my March experience....
(2)Then I forget the whole thing, motivated by not being motivated.
(3)Then I am bopping around...trying to combine them--with no idea about the book or any book--and a NEW plot idea comes (see the enclosed pages.... on To Scare the Dead).
(4) I combine ValisystemA and To Scare the Dead. Every novel of mine is at least two novels superimposed...It is two novels into a sort of 3-D novel.

Feb 26

I saw a vast truth about the world: all views and all truths just scratch the surface; there are a million truths and views and realities as there are freeze frames whenever a single cat walks across a single backyard--i.e., an infinity and all beautiful. I saw that each different truth which I had held was beautiful, but that for each that I had held there were a billion more...it is dazzling...."Das Irrlight" is one of my favorite German poems...

Into deep and rocky gorges A false light lured me down. I neither care not worry How I shall get out again. I have often lost my way, And every path has had its goal. Our pleasures, our sorrows, All is game to the will-o-the-wisp. Down the dry bed of the stream I wind my way quite calmly. Every stream will reach the sea As every path will find its grave.

March 4

P.S. Am I not real to you via my letters? Is Pascal not real to me via the "Provincial Letters"? Is not the universe itself language, communication, a dialog, as Martin Büber told us?

March 5

Let me offer some further notes on the plot basis I mailed you... Nicholas Brady is depressed and suicidal...his job requires him to fake what he is, to be inauthentic...he leads a typically modern inauthentic schismatic existence--note existence, not life. There is no growth, just the constant revolution of the wheel of lineal time which produces only dust.

March 5, 1979

I sent off my new novel in December called Valis, which is not a novel and not s-f, and yet is both. It's autobiographical and depicts ...my experience of March 1974 which I am still trying to understand...All my book titles have been or will be restored to print...I think I will travel all over the world, except I can't the fuck figure out what to do with my two cats.

Aug 8, 1981

Do write me now and then, Claudia. You knew me when I was ...confronted by the stark specter of my own mortality, and you helped pilot me through that moment, which Heidegger speaks of as the great ontological confrontation of a person's life. In 1974 I realized on the deeprest level possible that I was going to die, but now I am happy and possess (I do believe) what Heidegger calls authentic being. I have few fears these days. I love and am loved. You are one of those I love.


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