Philip K. Dick, High Castle, and the Book of Changes

ichingIn PKD’s acknowledgements for his Hugo Award winning novel, The Man in the High Castle, he lists the following reference works (plus a personal thanks to the Western writer Will Cook for his help with material dealing with historic artifacts and the U.S. Frontier Period):

  • I Ching or Book of Changes, Richard Wilhelm translation rendered into English by Cary F. Baynes, Pantheon Books, Bollingen Series XIX, 1950, Bollingen Foundation, Inc., New York.
  • Anthology of Japanese Literature, Volume One, compiled and edited by Donald Keene, Grove Press, 1955, New York – (Haiku by Yosa Buson, translated by Harold G. Henderson).
  • Zen and Japanese Culture, by Daisetz T. Suzuki, published by Pantheon Books, Bollingen Series LXIV, 1959, by the Bollingen Foundation, Inc., New York – ( Waka on  by Chiyo, translated by Daisetz T. Suzuki).
  • The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, A History of Nazi Germany, by William L. Shirer, Simon and Schuster, 1960, New York.
  • Hitler, a Study in Tyranny, by Alan Bullock, Harper, 1953, New York.
  • The Goebbels Diaries, 1942–1943, edited and translated by Louis P. Lochner, Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1948, New York.
  • The Tibetan Book of the Dead, compiled and edited by W. Y. Evans-Wentz, Oxford University Press, 1960, New York.
  • The Foxes of the Desert, by Paul Carell, E. P. Dutton & Company, Inc., 1961, New York.

iching02Of these, the I Ching merits special consideration. I picked up my personal copy of the 1990, twenty-fourth printing, in one volume, at the Strand in New York City, sometime around 1992.

It is an ancient Chinese divination text and one of the oldest of the Chinese classics. It possesses a history of more than two and a half millennia of commentary and interpretation.  Originally it was a divination manual in the Western Zhou period (1000–750 BC). Over the course of the Warring States period and early imperial period (500–200 BC) it was transformed into a cosmological text with a series of philosophical commentaries known as the “Ten Wings”. After becoming part of the Five Classics in the 2nd century BC, the I Ching was the subject of scholarly commentary and the basis for divination practice for centuries across the Far East, and eventually took on an influential role in Western understanding of Eastern thought.

iching07The I Ching uses a type of divination called cleromancy, which produces apparently random numbers. Typically Yarrow Stalks or Chinese Coins are used to produce the six random numbers between 6 and 9 that are turned into a hexagram, and which can then be looked up in the I Ching book, arranged in an order known as the King Wen sequence. “The interpretation of the readings found in the I Ching is a matter of centuries of debate, and many commentators have used the book symbolically, often to provide guidance for moral decision making as informed by Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism.”

Nowadays, the I-Ching is a well known Eastern classic in the West, and there are may websites or downloadable applications that can be used to consult the Oracle. This is one of my favorite sites to do so: I Ching

However, it was the High Castle that introduced the Book of Changes to mainstream Western Culture. According to Sutin, in his seminal PKD biography:

“High Castle holds the distinction of being the first American novel to refer to the I Ching and employ it as a plot device (and deviser). Many who, in the sixties, elevated the I Ching to cult status first learned of it in High Castle.”

Rickman posits that PKD’s use of literary tools (i.e., Game Theory serving as an ersatz precursor to the Book of Changes) to divine reality date back to his first novel, Solar Lottery. He also argues that the I-Ching served as the novel’s ‘spiritual rescuer’ in place of any overt resistance to Nazi and Japanese tyranny in High Castle.

“[T]here is something of Christianity (turning the other cheek) too.”

Anne R. Dick recalls that PKD studied Jung’s volumes: Alchemy and Transformation Symbols in the Mass.  Sometime before or during 1961, she–also inspired by Jung’s writings–bought the I Ching, The Book of the Golden Flower, and The Tibetan Book of the Dead  and some other volumes, including a book about the Hindu Vedas, The Bhagavadgita, and some about Zen Buddhism. PKD became interested in the I Ching and Linus Pauling’s Theory of Synchronicity, which Jung described in his introduction to The Tibetan Book of the Dead. According to Anne, PKD then began to use the I Ching as an Oracle several times a day. A strange new force had entered Phil’s life with roots extending back to three thousand years of China’s history; but PKD used and abused the Oracle. The Book of Changes became a valued touchstone throughout his life, but in later years he no longer consulted it for plot construction. During 1965 he wrote the essay “Schizophrenia & The Book Of Changes,” in which he argued that the Oracle could not predict the future:

“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 it for centuries.”

“But we can’t live by the damn book, because to try to would be to surrender ourselves to static time.”

Anne R. Dick also recalls a scene where PKD in an argument with a friend groused about using the Book of Changes to write his novel:

“Next time Maury Guy came out to visit us he and Phil had a falling out. Maury was studying the [New Age belief system] Subud and the I Ching. Phil told him, “The I Ching is a bunch of bullshit. I’m going to write a novel about it and show it up …”

high_castle_old_01What is certain is that he, in 1961, devised the plot for High Castle (considered to be one of his best) by consulting the I Ching. PKD in a later 1976 interview recounts:

“Without any notes I had no preconception of how the book would develop, and I used the I Ching to plot the book.”

Several of the novel’s characters also consulted the “divinatory text, making its debut in American fiction.” In this alternate history, the Allies lose World War II and the east is governed by the Nazis; while the more humane Japanese, who are less racist, rule the west and draw from the I Ching as a kind of Bible. Even the fictional author within High Castle, Hawthorne Abendsen, presciently uses the I Ching to plot his novel within a novel, The Grasshopper Lies Heavy; and the “results are impressive: despite the novel’s banned status, it circulates widely, read by everyone from Nazi leaders to fugitive Jews.”


Rickman, Gregg (1989), To The High Castle: Philip K. Dick: A Life 1928-1963, Long Beach, Ca.: Fragments West/The Valentine Press

Dick, Anne R. The Search for Philip K. Dick. Tachyon Publications. Kindle Edition.

Sutin, Lawrence. Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick. Kindle Edition.

Sutin, Lawrence. The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick, Selected Literary and Philosophical Writings, Philip K. Dick, Edited and with an Introduction by Lawrence Sutin, 1995, First Vintage Books Edition.

Dick, Philip K. The Man in the High Castle. Popular Library (1962).

Dick, Philip K. The Man in the High Castle. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

Disclaimer: this is an amateur attempt, and I claim no academic or inside knowledge.  I am only a fan, and in no way affiliated with PKD or his Estate. I’ll make sure to credit my sources, but errors will be made, and I will be solely responsible.  Feel free to correct me, but please do so with a gentle hand. Let’s talk first.






A Tale of Two Dedications

high_castle_old_01I own several copies of Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle.  The oldest is a battered used paperback copy that I found online of the Popular Library edition from 1962 and was published in arrangement with G.P. Putnam’s Sons.  At the time of that printing the cost for the book was sixty cents.  That’s not how much I paid for it.

The second version I have is the one I first read back around the summer of 1993. It is the First Vintage Books Edition, July 1992. Nowadays, however, I re-read it in electronic form, via the Kindle edition of the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt imprint.

In the older paperback edition, the dedication reads:


Anne R. Dick (PKD’s third wife) in her memoirs recalls:

“Phil dedicated the novel to me … I wasn’t sure I liked this phrasing. I never did quite understand it.”

Larry Sutin, however, in his PKD biography suggests it was a thank you to Anne for pushing PKD to rent the “Hovel,” a small hut up the road, from the house they lived in together, on a property belonging to the local sheriff:

“Phil had developed the habit of coming out of his study to read new passages to Anne. It wore her out, and she suggested that he find a work space away from the house.”

“It was a drastic break. But in the isolated Hovel, Phil the writer was not merely reborn, but transformed.”

Gregg Rickman recounts Anne saying:

“We were spending a lot of time together, but I needed a couple of hours without paying attention to Phil. I asked him to move his study outside the house.”

Rickman also says that:

“… [Phil] was telling Anne that he loved it there, and that it made him really comfortable.”

Thereafter, despite Anne’s entreaties PKD refused to move his writing back to their house. Larry Sutin writes:

“Anne regretted his absence at once, but Phil would not change his mind, though he too suffered from the separation”

Anne recalls:

“But although I urged him to, he wouldn’t move back. He said, ‘My mother taught me to take the consequences of my actions. I never chew my cud twice. Never look back. Something might be gaining on you.'”

Today, however, in the latest the editions, the dedication reads differently:


Tessa was PKD’s fifth wife. Anne, in later years, would remember when PKD wrote to Laura (their daughter):

“You might tell your mother that The Man in the High Castle is supposed to be republished here in the United States again, and it’s dedicated to her, although she didn’t like the dedication. I guess I could change it when the novel comes out again…. You might ask her if she wants me to. Love, Daddy”

She also emphasizes that PKD never talked to her directly about this and that she didn’t pay attention to the letter, believing PKD would never change the dedication; but later her:

“third daughter, Tandy, picked up a copy of The Man in the High Castle at a bookstore in order to show a friend Phil’s dedication to her mother. [Tandy] was shocked to see that the novel was now dedicated to Tessa. [Anne] felt bad and, as usual, couldn’t believe that Phil would do such a thing, but perhaps he’d thought he’d asked [her] if [she] still wanted the dedication—and [she] hadn’t bothered to answer. “


Rickman, Gregg (1989), To The High Castle: Philip K. Dick: A Life 1928-1963, Long Beach, Ca.: Fragments West/The Valentine Press

Dick, Anne R. The Search for Philip K. Dick. Tachyon Publications. Kindle Edition.

Lawrence Sutin. Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick. Kindle Edition.

Dick, Philip K. The Man in the High Castle. Popular Library (1962).

Dick, Philip K. The Man in the High Castle. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

Disclaimer: this is an amateur attempt, and I claim no academic or inside knowledge.  I am only a fan, and in no way affiliated with PKD or his Estate. I’ll make sure to credit my sources, but errors will be made, and I will be solely responsible.  Feel free to correct me, but please do so with a gentle hand. Let’s talk first.

An Update to PKDElectricDreams – Date: 20190630

Gather CoverFor those few of you who follow this blog, you are probably wandering what happened.  Did I lose interest? Of course not. I did go ahead with my original plan and continued to read PKD’s oeuvre in chronological order (as best I could and given what was available to me at varying price points). That is until I stumbled onto his mainstream novel Gather Yourselves Together.  After that arduous slow long  read I was awkwardly baffled.  This was not the PKD I knew. I could not reconcile this book with my (albeit limited) perception of the prolific and mind-bending sci-fi author I obsessively admired. It was not in any sense phildickian. My conclusion? I knew nothing about him; I’ve never even bothered to read any of his biographies (of which there are many). Corrective action was required.

anne_dickMy next step was to do some research. Through it I learned that although Gregg Rickman was PKD’s chosen biographer, Lawrence Sutin’s Divine Invasions is considered to be the official biography of PKD. After some more digging I settled on the following five accounts to start on (with ease of access and lower price points being the main determining factors) and begin the process of better understanding PKD the person-author:

  1. Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick by Lawrence Sutin – all my research suggests that this volume is considered the official PKD biography. In my opinion it is thorough and well researched, but still does not give a complete picture. Also, at the time of the writing of this biography, Anne Dick’s PKD biography remained unpublished; and in some places, it is evident that Sutin’s source material is Anne’s.
  2. The Search for Philip K Dick by Anne R Dick – a must read written by PKD’s third wife. Some consider it to be slightly biased. I don’t know enough to offer an opinion on that matter, but it does give critical insight into his most productive years. Nonetheless, despite her groundbreaking best efforts, it’s a fragment of his life.
  3. I am Alive and You are Dead: A Journey into the Mind of Philip K. Dick by Emmanuel Carrere – a solid psychological attempt, with fictional elements, geared towards an improved understanding of PKD the man. It is an easy read, but glosses over some periods of PKD’s life.  I don’t think he had a choice. A synthesis of PKD’s complex life is by its very nature encyclopedic. If Larry and Anne couldn’t do it, how could he?
  4. Philip K. Dick (NBM Comics Biographies) by Laurent Queyssi and Mauro Marchesi – a French graphic novel. One of the many things I learned from reading through these biographies is that PKD has a high standing in the literary world of France. This biography is by no means thorough, but it does offer a series of vignettes highlighting key moments of PKD’s life in an easy to read graphic format.
  5. Philip K. Dick, Wikipedia – the ubiquitous biographical online Wikipedia summaries always offer a bland factual summary. On occasion a good starting point, but I always assume they are incomplete and despite their ease of access, I consider them a lower level source.

sutin_diAlas, after reading these, I felt no closer to understanding PKD the man. At best, all I could conclude was that he was a complex individual, a prophetic ‘mad’ genius of sorts, who led a tumultuous financially distressed life with many tortuous relationships.  A life where he could be cruel and kind. I learned, that he had a twin sister named Jane who died soon after birth; that he wanted so badly to break into the mainstream, but perhaps recalcitrantly settled to be the unrecognized king of the sci-fi literary world; that his drug addiction was fueled by prescriptive drugs, not the leisure-pleasure drugs of the 1960s; and that although he was sickly, he projected a hypnagogic manipulative intellectual strength that bended people to his will. There is more. So much more.

In short, what I’ve read so far is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. There are many more biographies and archived PKD materials that I may never get a chance to read. I could spend multiple galaxy spanning lifetimes reading thru all of PKD’s work and related material, and nonetheless come no closer to a better empathic understanding of the reality of PKD the man. I now realized that I had to make some selective decisions and work my way outward thru his many biographies, writings, and adaptations if I was to have the barest glimmer of a chance to understand his rich output.

In addition to the four above biographies that I completed to date, I continue my studies by taking on Gregg Rickman’s To the High Castle, Philip K. Dick: A Life, 1928-1962 and Philip K. Dick: In His Own Words, and Paul William’s Only Apparently Real. If possible, I’d also like to access the Archives held by the Philip K. Dick Estate and the Philip K. Dick Papers held by California State University at Fullerton (no plan yet as to how I will accomplish that).

Furthermore, I’ve decided to amend my reading order of his fiction (both sci-fi and mainstream). Below is the latest list I settled on:

  1. The Man in the High Castle (written in 1961, published in 1962, won the 1963 Hugo Award).
  2. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, originally titled “The Electric Toad; Do Androids Dream?”; “The Electric Sheep”; “The Killers Are Among Us! Cried Rick Deckard to the Special Man” (written in 1966, published in 1968, nominated for the 1968 Nebula for best novel).
  3. Ubik, originally titled “Death of an Anti-Watcher” (written in 1966, published in 1969).
  4. A Scanner Darkly (written in 1973, rewritten in 1975, published in 1977, won the 1979 Graouilly d’Or award for best novel presented at the Festival de Metz in France).
  5. The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (written in 1964, published in 1965, nominated for the 1965 Nebula for Best Novel).
  6. Radio Free Albemuth, originally titled “Valisystem A” (written in 1976, published in 1985, a prequel of sorts to the Valis trilogy).
  7. Valis (written in 1978, published in 1981).
  8. The Divine Invasion, originally titled “Valis Regained” (written in 1980, published in 1981, a sequel to “Valis”).
  9. The Transmigration of Timothy Archer, originally titled “Bishop Timothy Archer” (written in 1981, published in 1982, considered to be a work of fiction, not a science fiction novel; but it is also the third and final book of the VALIS trilogy.)
  10. Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said (written in 1970, rewritten in 1973, published in 1974, won the 1975 John W. Campbell Award for best novel; also nominated for the 1975 Hugo for best novel and the 1974 Nebula for best novel).
  11. Deus Irae, in collaboration with Roger Zelazny; originally titled “The Kneeling Legless Man” (written in 1964-75, published in 1976).
  12. We Can Build You, originally titled “The First in Your Family” (written in 1962; published in November 1969 as “A. Lincoln, Simulacrum” in Amazing, with the final chapter written by editor Ted White; published in 1972 by DAW sans White’s final chapter).
  13. Martian Time-Slip, originally titled “Goodmember Arnie Kott of Mars” (written in 1962, published in August 1963 in shorter form as “All We Marsmen in Worlds of Tomorrow”, published in 1964).
  14. Bloodmoney, or How We Got Along After the Bomb (written in 1963, published in 1965. Phil had proposed two titles: “In Earth’s Diurnal Course” and “A Terran Odyssey”; nominated for the 1965 Nebula for best novel).
  15. The Simulacra, originally titled “The First Lady of Earth” (written in 1963, published in 1964; a portion of this novel was adapted for use in “Novelty Act,” a story published in February 1964 in Fantastic).
  16. Time Out of Joint (written in 1958, published in 1959).
  17. Now Wait for Last Year (written in 1963, rewritten in circa 1965, published in 1966).
  18. Galactic Pot-Healer, originally titled “The Glimmung of Plowman’s Planet” (written in 1967-68, published in 1969).
  19. Clans of the Alphane Moon (written in 1963-64, published in 1964).
  20. The Zap Gun (written in 1964, serialized November 1965 and January 1966 as “Project Plowshare,” in Worlds of Tomorrow, published in 1967 in book form).
  21. A Maze of Death, originally titled “The Name of the Game Is Death” (written in 1968, published in 1970).
  22. Solar Lottery, originally titled “Quizmaster Take All” (written in 1953-54, published in 1955). The U.S. published version differs from the U.K. published version entitled “World of Chance” (published in 1956). This is considered to be PKD’s first published full length sci-fi novel.
  23. The Cosmic Puppets, originally titled “A Glass of Darkness” (written in 1953, published in 1956 in Satellite, published in 1957 in slightly expanded form as half of an Ace Double).
  24. Eye in the Sky, originally titled “With Opened Mind” (written in 1955, published in 1957).
  25. Confessions of a Crap Artist (written in 1959, published in 1975).
  26. Puttering About in a Small Land (written in 1957, published in 1985).
  27. The Owl in Daylight. Phil’s last novel project. (Unpublished, perhaps I’ll be fortunate enough to read it in the next life).

high castleI also reserve the right to pepper this blog with supplemental material analyzing his inspirations, short stories and adapted works as I progress through it. Plus, I plan to produce a chronological bibliography—it will not be accurate–that will include where to source the specific listed reading items.  I had a difficult time finding any conclusive lists, and even those that I found relevant often failed to direct me on how to access or purchase any of his listed novels, short stories, or essays. As a matter of fact, I’m still on a quest for a digital copy of one of PKD’s earliest sci-fi writings: Stratosphere Betsy. Then, if and when I get through the above amended reading list, I’ll begin discriminatively reading his other works. But, I may on occasion deviate from the master plan.

For those of you who plan to join me on this journey, I hope these writings spur you to dig deeper into the meta-reality of PKD the man.  And please, feel free to comment, encourage, or even criticize.

Disclaimer: this is an amateur attempt, and I claim no academic or inside knowledge.  I am only a fan, and in no way affiliated with PKD. I’ll make sure to credit my sources, but errors will be made, and I will be solely responsible.  Feel free to correct me, but please do so with a gentle hand. Let’s talk first.

Gather Yourselves Together – An Intro

Gather CoverNo one knows for sure exactly when Philip K. Dick’s first novel, Gather Yourselves Together was written.  I picked up this First Mariner Books (a division of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) 2012 edition that I am currently re-reading at The Strand in New York City a few years back. In the afterword, Dwight Brown references dates suggested by Lawrence Sutin (between 1949 and 1950) and Gregg Rickman (sometime before 1952).  The PKD Fan site seems to have settled on a happy medium and puts the written date at 1951.  However, it was not published until 1994.

This first novel (and there is some debate as to whether Voices From the Street was written first instead1) does not fall under the genre of science fiction.  Dwight posits it is a semi-autobiographical fiction with Carl Fitter, the protagonist, “clearly an analogue” for PKD himself.  Also, he argues, it deals with some of the anxietal maladies that inflicted PKD at the time of his writing this novel (including agoraphobia and  conversion dysphagia).

The blog posts that follow will be divided across chapters as they are read.  Perhaps at some future date theses posts will be consolidated into one.

Disclaimer: this is an amateur attempt, and I claim no academic or inside knowledge.  I am only a fan, and in no way affiliated with PKD. I’ll make sure to credit my sources, but errors will be made, and I will be solely responsible.  Feel free to correct me, but please do so with a gentle hand. Let’s talk first.

1Dwight in his afterword offers alternative opinions of other publishers who argue Voices From the Street was PKD’s first novel.