Sunday 15 December 2019

More wisdom of PKD - Infinite regress...

From Exegesis by Philip K Dick (2011): November 17 1980.

Do not try to know; you cannot know. Guess on the basis of the highest pile of computer punch cards. There is an infinite stack in the heap marked INFINITY, and I have equated infinity with me. What, then, is the chance that it is me? You cannot be positive; you will doubt. But what is your guess?”

I said, “Probably it is you, since there is an infinity of infinities forming before me.”

“There is the answer, the only one you will ever have,” God said.

“You could be pretending to be God,” I said, “and actually be Satan.” Another infinitude of thesis and antithesis and new synthesis, the infinite regress, was set off.

God said, “Infinity.”

I said, “You could be testing out a logic system in a giant computer and I am—” Again an infinite regress.

“Infinity,” God said.

“Will it always be infinite?” I said. “An infinity?”

“Try further,” God said.

“I doubt if you exist,” I said. And the infinite regress instantly flew into motion once more.

“Infinity,” God said. The pile of computer punch cards grew; it was by far the largest pile; it was infinite.

“I will play this game forever,” God said, “or until you become tired.”

I said, “I will find a thought, an explanation, a theory, that does not set off an infinite regress.” And, as soon as I said that, an infinite regress was set off.

God said “Over a period of six and a half years you have developed theory after theory to explain 2-3-74 [February-March 1974; PKD's first mystical experience]. Each night when you go to bed you think, ‘At last I found it. I tried out theory after theory until now, finally, I have the right one.’ And then the next morning you wake up and say, ‘There is one fact not explained by that theory. I will have to think up another theory.’ And so you do.

By now it is evident to you that you are going to think up an infinite number of theories, limited only by your lifespan, not limited by your creative imagination. Each theory gives rise to a subsequent theory, inevitably.

Let me ask you; I revealed myself to you and you saw that I am the infinite void. I am not in the world, as you thought; I am transcendent, the deity of the Jews and Christians. What you see of me in world that you took to ratify pantheism—that is my being filtered through, broken up, fragmented and vitiated by the multiplicity of the flux world; it is my essence, yes, but only a bit of it: fragments here and there, a glint, a riffle of wind ... now you have seen me transcendent, separate and other from world, and I am more;

I am the infinitude of the void, and you know me as I am. Do you believe what you saw? Do you accept that where the infinite is, I am; and where I am, there is the infinite?”

I said, “Yes.”

God said, “And your theories are infinite, so I am there. Without realizing it, the very infinitude of your theories pointed to the solution; they pointed to me and none but me. Are you satisfied, now? You saw me revealed in theophany; I speak to you now; you have, while alive, experienced the bliss that is to come; few humans have experienced that bliss. Let me ask you, Was it a finite bliss or an infinite bliss?”

I said, “Infinite.”

“So no earthly circumstance, situation, entity or thing could give rise to it.”

“No, Lord,” I said.

“Then it is I,” God said. “Are you satisfied?”

“Let me try one other theory,” I said. “What happened in 2-3-74 was that—” And an infinite regress was set off, instantly.

“Infinity,” God said. “Try again. I will play forever, for infinity.”

“Here’s a new theory,” I said. “I ask myself, ‘What God likes playing games? Krishna. You are Krishna.’” And then the thought came tome instantly, “But there is a god who mimics other gods; that god is Dionysus. This may not be Krishna at all; it may be Dionysus pretending to be Krishna.” And an infinite regress was set off.

“Infinity,” God said.

“You cannot be YHWH Who You say You are,” I said. “Because YHWH says, ‘I am that which I am,’ or, ‘I shall be that which I shall be.’ And you—”

“Do I change?” God said. “Or do your theories change?”

“You do not change,” I said. “My theories change. You, and 2-3-74, remain constant.”

“Then you are Krishna playing with me,” God said.

“Or I could be Dionysus,” I said, “pretending to be Krishna. And I wouldn’t know it; part of the game is that I, myself, do not know. So I am God, without real¬ izing it. There’s a new theory!” And at once an infinite regress was set off; perhaps I was God, and the “God” who spoke to me was not.

“Infinity,” God said. “Play again. Another move.”

“We are both Gods,” I said, and another infinite regress was set off.

“Infinity,” God said.

“I am you and you are you,” I said. “You have divided yourself in two to play against yourself. I, who am one half, I do not remember, but you do. As it says in the GITA, as Krishna says to Arjuna, ‘We have both lived many lives, Arjuna; I remember them but you do not.’ ”

And an infinite regress was set off; I could well be Krishna’s charioteer, his friend Arjuna, who does not remember his past lives.

“Infinity,” God said.

I was silent.

“Play again,” God said.

“I cannot play to infinity,” I said. “I will die before that point comes.”

“Then you are not God,” God said. “But I can play throughout infinity; I am God. Play.”

“Perhaps I will be reincarnated,” I said. “Perhaps we have done this before, in another life.” And an infinite regress was set off.

“Infinity,” God said. “Play again.”

“I am too tired,” I said.

“Then the game is over.”

“After I have rested—”

“You rest?” God said. “George Herbert wrote of me:

Yet let him keep the rest,
But keep them with repining restlessnesse.
Let him be rich and wearie, that at least,
If goodness leade him not, yet wearinesse
May tosse him to my breast.

“Herbert wrote that in 1633,” God said. “Rest and the game ends.”

“I will play on,” I said, “after I rest. I will play until finally I die of it.”

“And then you will come to me,” God said. “Play.”

“This is my punishment,” I said, “that I play, that I try to discern if it was you in March of 1974.” And the thought came instantly, My punishment or my reward; which? And an infinite series of thesis and antithesis was set off.

“Infinity,” God said. “Play again.”

“What was my crime?” I said, ’’that lam compelled to do this?”

“Or your deed of merit,” God said.

“I don’t know,” I said.

God said, “Because you are not God.”

“But you know,” I said. “Or maybe you don’t know and you’re trying to find out.” And an infinite regress was set off.

“Infinity,” God said. “Play again. I am waiting.”


Bruce Charlton said...

Like PKD, I do not rest happy with an infinite regress.

But I do find it absolutely satisfying to get back to a few assumptions that Just Are taken to be the basis of all. This - so far as I recall - is spontaneous to me, and was a feature of my early childhood thinking.

I was then content when I could get back to a situation that I could regard as having been the case forever. And now too; I find myself satisfied by the idea that there is an end to asking why or how; and that some things Just Are.

Unlike PKD, then, I don't regard God as 'infinite' - indeed I regard infinite as valid only as a technical mathematical term; and when used in philosophy inevitably a source of actual-confusion/ fake comprehension.

Further, I regard recourse to infinites and 'omnis' as a major source of falsehood and distortion in the history of Christianity.

Otto said...

Thank you so much for posting this!

However, you believe that God is all-Good (omnibenevolent); hence you merely degree about which of the "omnis" are true! (If none of the omnis are true, then why even use the word God?)

Bruce Charlton said...

@Otto - The way it works is that God is the creator; within whose universe we dwell (that is what makes God God) - and by Good I mean that creation comes from love. Love is what makes creation 'cohere'. Good = Loving Creation.

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

Otto, the all-goodness of God can be thought of as purity rather than infinity, just as pure water is “all water” but not “infinitely water” (whatever that might mean!). God can be called omnibenevolent (“all-good-willing”) because all that he wills is good — not because he wills all conceivable good things, or an infinite number of good things, or whatever other incomprehensible formula you might care to use.

Nicholas Fulford said...

The Abyss entails a meeting point between zero and infinity, between creation and destruction. It is what I call, "The Pregnant Absence". To be sitting at its edge to be at an event horizon. Inside is negation, and outside is time. Infinite regression exists on the event horizon if I look tangentially. That is the tunnel, the place of magic mirrors of the self in infinite variation. It is like Hermann Hesse's Magic Theatre - for mad men only! It is, however a bounded infinity. It has a cardinality of Aleph-null. Now the interesting thing is that our Aleph-null infinity is very much like the natural numbers which have this characteristic, only time is the thing that advances the sequence of our moment to moment movement. The magic theatre is a series of rooms and fractal. Open a door, and there is a variant or an instance of the Aleph-null set, and we can only experience one view from moment to moment, the commonality of which is to be standing upon a moment and progressing through a hall of mirrors. That is the constant. That and the proximity between existence and negation.

Death; it is the price of admission to life.

Am I afraid of death and non-existence?

I am more afraid of how I approach death than death itself. I let death remind me of the importance of the day; to not get bent over inconsequential things, and to spend more time doing those things which I derive meaning from - including spending time with loved ones. Death is like a hot spice that gives life extraordinary verve. I made a friend of death years ago, and have never regretted that. Awareness of death being as close at hand as my next heartbeat helps me to parse through the dross of idiocy to arrive at the kernel of vitality.

As for negation, I have visited the edge of the Abyss and find that from that mind-space I can experience some incredibly beautiful things - on the borderland strung between being and nothingness.

Beauty is my addiction.
I am drawn to her as to a 7% solution.
I am abused, I am beaten,
I am more alive than a hanged man just before the drop.

She is fickle, and draws me to the threshold of annihilation.
I am her slave, and I regret not a damn thing.
She outwits me at every turn, but one,
And now I stand with her at oblivion’s edge, regretting nothing.

Bruce Charlton said...

NF - Now, you need to continue thinking, honestly and rigorously, to recognise that what you just wrote is incoherent (except as the desription of a temporary psychological state) - self-contradicting at a deep level.

Don't be satified with partial and distorted half-understandings. PKD was not!