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excerpts from

Schizophrenia & the Book of Changes

an essay by Philip K. Dick, 1965

...For a schizophrenic, any method by which a synchronicity can be coped with means possible survival; for us, it would be a great assist in the job of temporarily surviving . . . we both could use such a beat-the-house system.
This is what the I Ching, for the three thousand years, has been and still is. It works (roughtly 80 percent of the time, according to those such as Pauli who have analyzed it on a statistical basis). John Cage, the composer, uses it to derive chord progressions. Several physicists use it to plot the behavior of subatomic particles - thus getting around Heisenberg's unfortunate principle. I've used it to develop the direction of a novel (please reserve your comments for Yandro, if you will). Jung used it with patients to get around their psychological blind spots. Leibnitz based his binary system on it, the open-and-shut-gate idea, if not his entire philosophy of monadology . . . for what that's worth.
You, too, can use it: for betting on heavyweight bouts or getting your girl to acquiesce, for anything, in fact, that you want - except for foretelling the future. That it can't do; it is not a fortunetelling device, despite what's been believed about if for centuries both in China and by Richard Wilhelm, who did the German translation now avaiable in the Pantheon Press edition in an English version. (Helmut, Richard's son, who is also a Sinologist, has demostrated this in articles in the Eranos Jahrbucher and in lectures; also available in English from Pantheon. And Legge, in the first English version circa 1900, demonstrated that, then.) True, the book seems to deal with the future; it lays before your eyes, for your scrutiny, a gestalt of the forces in operation that will determine the future. But these forces are at work now; they exist, so to speak, outside of time, as does the ablative case in Latin. The book is analytical and diagnostic, not predictive. But so is a multiphasic physical exam; it tells you what is going on now in your body - and out of a knowledge of that, a competent doctor may possibly be able, to some extent, to predict what may happen in the future. ("Get that artery replaced, Mr. McNit, or next week or maybe even on the way home this afternoon you'll probably drop dead.")
By means of the I Ching the total configuration of the koinos kosmos [shared world] can be scrutinized - which is why King Wen, in prison in 1100 b.c., composed it; he wasn't interested in the future: He wanted to know what was happening outside his cell that moment, what was becoming of his kingdom at the instant he cast the yarrow stalks and derived a hexagram. Knowledge of this sort is obviously of vast value to anyone, since, by means of it, a fairly good guess (repeat: guess) can be made about the future, and so one can decide what one ought to do (stay home all day, go outside briefly, go visit the pope, etc.).
However, if one is schizophrenic to any extent, and it is now resignedly realized by the psychiatric profession that a hell of a lot of us are, many more than was once realized, knowledge of this type, this absolute, total presentation of a pattern representing the entire koinos kosmos at this Augenblick [moment], consists of total knowledge period, in view of the fact that for the schoizophrenic there is no future anyhow. So in proportion to the degree of schizophrenic involvement in time that we're stuck with - or in - we can gain yield from the I Ching. For a person who is completely schizophrenic (which is impossible, but let's imagine it, for purposes here), the derived hexagram is everything; when he has studied it plus all texts appended to it, he knows - literally - all there is to know. He can relax if the hexagram is favorable; if not, then he can feel worse: His fears were justified. Things are unendurable, as well as hopeless, as well as beyond his control. He may, for example, with complete justification ask the book, "Am I dead?" and the book will answer. We would ask, "Am I going to get killed in the near future?," and in reading our hexagram get some kind of insight - if we read the judgement, "Misfortune. Nothing that would further," we might decide not to shoot out into commuter traffic that evening on the way to North Beach - and we might thereby keep alive a few years longer, which certainly has utility value to anyone, schizophrenic or not.
But we can't live by the damn book, because to try to would be to surrender ourselves to static time - as King Wen was forced to do by losing his throne and being imprisoned for the rest of this life, and as present day schizophreniscs must, along with those of us nutty enough to belt down a draft of LSD. But we can make partial use of it; partial, as its ability to "forecast coming event" is highly partial - if not in the strict sense, as I just now said, nonexistent. Sure, we can tinker around and fix matters up so that it does depict the future precisely. But that would be to become schizophrenic, or anyhow more schizophrenic. It would be a greater loss than gain; we would have induced our future into being consumed by the present: To understand the future totally would be to have it now. Try that, and see how if feels. Because once the future in gone, the possiblity of free, effective action of any kind is abolished. This, of course, is a theme that appears in SF constantly; if no other instance crosses your mind, recall my own novel The World Jones Made. By being a precog, Jones ultimately lost the power to act entirely; instead of being freed by his talent, he was paralyzed by it. You catchum?
It occurs to me to sum up this observation by saying this. If you're totally schizophrenic now, by all means use the I Ching for everything, including telling you when to take a bath and when to open a can of cat tuna for your cat Rover. If you're partially schizophrenic (no names, please), then use if for some situation - but sparingly; don't rely on it inordinately: save it for Big Questions, such as, "Should I marry her or merely keep on living with her in sin?" etc. If you're not schizophrenic at all (those in this class step to the foot of the room, or however the expression, made up by you non schizophrenics, goes), kindly use the book a very, measured little - in controlled doses, along the lines of your wise, middle-class use of Gleam, or whatever that damn toothpaste calls itself. Use the book as a sort of (ugh) fun thing. Ask it the opposite sort of questions from what we partial schoizophrenics do; don't ask it "How can I extricate myself from the dreadful circumstances of complete decay into which I've for the fiftieth time fallen, due to my own stupidity?," etc., but on this line instead, "What happened to lost Atlantis?" or, "Where did I mislay the sporting green this morning?" Ask it questions the outcome of which can have no genuine bearing on your life, or even on your immediate conduct; in other words, don't "act out" on the basis of what the book hands you - comport yourself strictly as your should under LSD: Observe and enjoy what you see (or, if it's the hell world, observe and suffer through in silence and immobility), but let that be all, white man; you begin to act out in real life on basis of what you see and we put in Shanghai People's Democratic Funny Farm doing stoop lave at harvest time.

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