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What the PK Dickens?

Thursday, November 26th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — conceptual echoes in a PK Dick bio-flick ]

PKD covers 600


I have just been watching Mark Steensland’s movie, The Gospel According to PK Dick, and a couple of fine parallelisms – echoes, really – struck me.

I’m going to start with one quote from the Chuang Tzu which is so often quoted it has been dulled for me, like a few other very great very over-celebrated works, Beethoven’s Fifth, and Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor BWV 565, among them. Finding its echo in the words of Robert Anton Wilson in this film breathes new life into it, at least for me, for this moment.

Chuang Tzu, then, from The Complete Works Of Chuang Tzu translated by Burton Watson:

Once Chuang Chou dreamt he was a butterfly, a butterfly flitting and fluttering around, happy with himself and doing as he pleased. He didn’t know he was Chuang Chou. Suddenly he woke up and there he was, solid and unmistakable Chuang Chou. But he didn’t know if he was Chuang Chou who had dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was Chuang Chou. Between Chuang Chou and a butterfly there must be some distinction! This is called the Transformation of Things.

DoubleQuote that with Robert Anton Wilson in the movie:

In 1994, I think it was, somebody put up on internet a report of my death, and no matter how much I’ve denied it, it seems most people accept that I’m still alive, but there’s a die hard minority who insists I’m dead and the CIA has replaced me with an android. And I’d be much happier if I’d never read Philip Dick, because I would just think, “Well, I know I’m not an android,” but having read Philip Dick I realized if I was an android who’s properly constructed, I’d think I am Robert Anton Wilson. So that leaves me perpetually in a predicament of not being sure that I’m Robert Anton Wilson or an android programmed to think it’s Rob– to think, talk, and write like Robert Anton Wilson. I guess I’m really grateful to Phil for that, it gives me a certain agnostic detachment, which I think is necessary for mental health.


The echo of Chuang Tzu in the words of Robert Anton Wilson occurs towards the beginning of the movie. Towards the end of the movie, we have Paul Williams, the “father of rock criticism” also talking about his friend PK Dick, who was also the subject of his celebrated 1974 Rolling Stone article:

That particular, unique personality this is Philip K Dick arises, when you and I or the three of us, or any two or three readers of {Philip K Dick, or friends of his, or whatever, get together, then we have the opportunity, as in the ends of those stories, to actually experience his presence, and it’s uniquely him. And, uh, I appreciate that, and I appreciate that in that way, I still have him in my life. And that’s definitely quite a gift.

DoubleQuote those words of Williams with these, from Matthew 18.20:

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.


Gospel, indeed. and Tao, too.

Islamic State, Etat Chrétien

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — breaking news, and I hope it stays broken ]

Here’s the breaking news in French, followed by my comments, then back to the document in question:


There’s a symmetry to the names, Etat Chrétien and Islamic State — and a considerable asymmetry as to the size of the two groups — but here we have my (poor) translation of the Etat Chrétien’s message to a mosque in Molenbeek, Belgium — a Brussels municipality much in the news recently:

In the name of Christ our Lord!
Tremble, Muslim that you are!
The Christian State will avenge our brothers fallen in various attacks!
No mosque and no business of yours will be sheltered!
Your brothers will be slaughtered like pigs and crucified as our Lord was in order to convert their souls!

I’m not clear on whether the import of that last line is that the EC will slaughter and crucify Muslims to convert their souls, or that Christ was crucified to convert their souls. Either way, for those who claim to be Christians to crucify anyone under any circumstances seems a seriously aberrational act in light of what was done to Christ himself.

Crucifying others is not the Imitatio Christi.

It’s as if these people want to prove that the propaganda narrative of IS, AQ and the rest is right, and Christianity truly is at war with Islam — which in itself is a gift to IS propaganda and recruitment.

The asymmetry I mentioned, BTW, is pretty much evened out by the old saw phrased by the RAND corporation thus: Terrorists Have to Be Lucky Once; Targets, Every Time. In the present case, both sides are terrorists, and each only has to be lucky once.


I’m ashamed of my rusty French skills — in case yours are better, here’s the missive:


Reminders, and other signs

Sunday, November 22nd, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — the camps, theirs and ours, and nuking Mecca, with a pinch of Lynch ]

Here are the reminders..

SPEC DQ reminders


These DoubleQuotes arose in the context of comments by Georgetown Syria specialist Marc Lynch, better known on the web as the blogger Abu Aardvark, on a recent On the Media podcast:

The kinds of ideas that you are seeing espoused by presidential candidates right now are the sorts of things that you would have seen on obscure right-wing blogs twelve years ago, and now they’re being taken seriously on the op-ed pages. The idea that you would have a religious test for Syrian refugees to let Christians but not Muslims in, or that you would create a national registry to track Muslims, or to shut down mosques – I mean, these are radical fringe ideas, and yet they’ve insinuated themselves into the mainstream.


Here’s the evolution of an idea, from 2005 to the present. You’ll note that the rhetoric has gained intensity (the qualification “if they nuke us” has been dropped), but in this case the earlier source (Fox) was more mainstream, and the current one (WND) way deeper into the fringe..

SPEC DQ nuke mecca



  • Raw Story, Trump crosses the Nazi line: Maybe Muslims should wear special ID badges
  • Raw Story, Rhode Island Republican wants Syrian refugees held in ‘centralized’ camps

  • Fox News, Tancredo: If They Nuke Us, Bomb Mecca
  • World NetDaily, Bomb Mecca off the face of the earth

  • On the Media, Lessons Unlearned
  • The “refugee” koan

    Wednesday, November 18th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — considering both sides, while tilting one way or the other ]

    I call it a koan because you can flip it — there are two sides to it, and very possibly a serrated edge that it can balance on, foiling your best efforts to come up with a yes-no answer:

    On the one side, Tsarnaev:

    Not a Christian, BTW..


    Okay, before the second shoe drops…

    Consider this, from Benjamin Wittes, In Defense of Refugees today on Lawfare:

    It is worth reflecting at least briefly on the security risks of turning our backs on hundreds of thousands of helpless people fleeing some combination of ISIS and Assad. Imagine teeming refugee camps in which everyone knows that America has abandoned them. Imagine the conspiracy theories that will be rife in those camps. Imagine the terrorist groups that will recruit from them and the righteous case they will make about how, for all its talk, the United States left Syria to burn and Syrians to live in squalor in wretched camps in neighboring countries. I don’t know if this situation is more dangerous, less dangerous, or about as dangerous as the situation in which we admit a goodly number of refugees, help resettle others, and run some risk—which we endeavor to mitigate — that we might admit some bad guys. But this is not a situation in which all of the risk is stacked on the side of doing good, while turning away is the safe option. There is risk whatever we do or don’t do.

    Most profoundly, there is risk associated with saying loudly and unapologetically that we don’t care what happens to hundreds of thousands of innocent people — or that we care if they’re Christian but not if they’re Muslim, or that we care but we’ll keep them out anyway if there’s even a fraction of a percent chance they are not what they claim to be. They hear us when we say these things. And they will see what we do. And those things too have security consequences.

    And, from a very different area of the political spectrum, this:

    There’s a reason that hospitality is actually a religious virtue and not just a thing that nice people do: it is sacrificial. Real hospitality involves risk, an opening of the door to the unknown other. There is a reason it is so important in the Biblical narratives, which were an ancient people’s attempt to work out what they thought God required of them in order to be the people of God. Hospitality isn’t just vacuuming and putting out appetizers and a smile — it’s about saying, “Oh holy Lord, I hope these people don’t kill me or rape my daughters, but our human society relies on these acts of feeding and sheltering each other, so I must be brave and unlock the door.” Scary stuff. Big stuff. Ancient and timeless stuff. “You shall welcome the stranger.”

    Now: is that wisdom, or foolishness?


    Aha, the second shoe..

    Besides Tsarnaev, who else do we know who came here as a refugee?

    albert einstein non christian refugee

    Einstein, no less.

    And Einstein was not a Christian either, FWIW.

    Two wrongs make a right or wrong — in theory?

    Sunday, November 15th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — on the (Pythagorean) arithmetic of morals ]

    Extermination_of_Evil_Sendan_Kendatsuba 600

    Sendan Kendatsuba, one of the guardians of Buddhist law, banishing evil, Tokyo National Museum


    What’s right is generally supposed to be positive, while what’s wrong is seen as negative — and as they saying goes, two wrongs don’t make a right.

    In effect, that’s saying two negatives don’t make a positive. And if you add them, that’s correct.

    But if you multiply two negatives, you get a positive — hunh?

    So two wrongs can indeed make a right — that’s the mathematics of vengeance — multiplicative:

    And thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

    — Deuteronomy 19.13

    And it is also true that two wrongs don’t make a right — that’s a mathematics that denies vengeance — additive.

    And then there’s the mathematics of forgiveness :

    Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

    — Romans 12.21

    Patient men, desirous of the Face of their Lord, who perform the prayer, and expend of that We have provided them, secretly and in public, and who avert evil with good — theirs shall be the Ultimate Abode

    — Qur’an 13.22

    And what’s most interesting to me in all this, is that the mathematical formulations, additive and multiplicative alike, don’t make a feature of time — where as their moral equivalents tend to introduce time into the equation / situation — in each case, it’s the response to evil, real or potential, that is considered.

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