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Dear Phil an Epistolary Discourse No 2

Dear Phil an Epistolary Discourse No 2

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Published by Frank Bertrand

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Published by: Frank Bertrand on Aug 04, 2011
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Dear Phil: An Epistolary Discourse #2By Frank C. Bertrand[
NOTE:
This first appeared at the original philipkdickfans.com website,created and so ably administered by Jason Koornick, in the second half of2001. Please see Discourse #1 for an “Introduction” to the series of six thatwere completed]
Dear Phil,You’re probably right, Phil, I am being a bit harsh on those academic critics who focuson just your so called
VALIS 
trilogy to the detriment of ,say,
The Man Who Japed 
, oneof my personal favorites. Or, those who try to make you into a day-glow poster child forGnosticism or postmodernism. But damn, what is one suppose to make of somethinglike this: “…Dick was transformed from an exemplary satirical visionary into the oracularschlemiel of the postmodern condition”? I’m still not sure what this means in English.Anyways, I don’t think we should ever become resigned, nor give unquestioningallegiance, to such obfuscating academic writing.It seems to me these academic critics would be better off engaging in a weekend retreatstyle fireside chat about this sentence from your interview with me: “The GermanAufklärung influence me, especially Schiller and his ideas of freedom; I read his“Wallenstein” trilogy.” After all, you have indicated in various interviews and letters yourstrong interest in German poetry, music, philosophy, literature and history; no wonder,then, that the German Aufklärung would have influenced you.It’s certainly an intriguing historical/philosophical phenomena, in that it was differentfrom the Aufklärung in France and England. Seems that in those countries it was amovement characterized by sensation, empiricism and skepticism, whereas inDeutschland it was primarily thought and idealism. German thinkers, in particular Wolff,Jacobi and Kant, questioned the culture-ideals of the French/British Enlightenment andended up instead seeking the reasons for their culture in the creative powers of themind.The operative word here is, of course,
reason
, as the Age of Enlightenment is alsoknown as the Age of Reason. Central to it is the concept that human reason could andshould be used to challenge tyranny, ignorance and superstition. It was, though, aparticular kind of human reason, combined with logic, based on experience and theanalysis of observed facts. As Gotthold (not Doris!) Lessing apparently said, the realpower of reason lay not in the possession but in the acquisition of truth. This was incontrast to the darkness of superstition and irrationality that characterized the MiddleAges.
 
A good gloss on this is given by someone else you’ve alluded to in your work, ImmanuelKant, of Königsberg, Prussia. Yes, I know, we Kant let ourselves be fooled again! In theopening paragraph of his infamous 1784 essay, “An Answer To The Question: What IsEnlightenment,” he writes:
“Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposedimmaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one’sunderstanding without guidance from another. Thisimmaturity is self-imposed when its cause lies not inlack of understanding, but in lack of resolve and courageto use it without guidance from another.
Sapere Aude!
 “Have courage to use your understanding!” – that is themotto of enlightenment.”
This motto,
Sapere Aude 
, is certainly one that anyone reading your stories and novelsshould keep well in mind. As you’ve stated, Phil, in a 1981 letter, “…the conceptualdislocation – the new idea, in other words – must…be intellectually stimulating to thereader…[so] it sets off a chain-reaction of ramifications – ideas in the mind of thereader; it so-to-speak unlocks the reader’s mind so that that mind, like the author’s,begins to create.” As for the “conceptual dislocation” that certain of your academiccritics engage in, we can only hope that eventually others will counteract them,eventually.Regards ideas of freedom, Kant also writes in this essay, “Nothing is required for thisenlightenment, however, except freedom. And the freedom in question is the leastharmful of all, namely, the freedom to use reason publicly in all matters.” He doescontrast, however, this public use of reason with a private one, “that which a personmay make in a civic post or office that has been entrusted to him.”Now, I wonder how we might apply this to Ragle Gumm and Bill Black in
Time Out Of Joint 
. Who, would you say, exemplifies “the freedom to use reason publicly in allmatters,” and who privately? And how would Kant view, in terms of “ideas of freedom,”what the government therein does to Gumm in the name of winning a civil war with theLunatics?But Kant is just a precursor here, one that is not easily excerpted or summarized in asingle letter. I mention him because Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller spent agood part of three years, in the early 1790s, studying Kant’s philosophy, mainly his
Critique Of Judgment 
. And in the first of his
Letters Upon The Aesthetic Education Of Man 
(1794), Schiller writes, to the Duke of Augustenburg, “In truth, I will not keep backfrom you that the assertions which follow rest chiefly upon Kantian principles.” Just fouryears later the three parts of
Wallenstein 
were first performed at Weimar, Germany.These would be, as you know,
Wallensteins Lager 
(Wallenstein’s Camp), a prologue inone act;
Piccolomini 
, a drama in five acts; and
Wallensteins Tod 
(Wallenstein’s Death),a tragedy in five acts. In this grand work we find an incisive portrayal of Albrecht WenzelEusebius von Wallenstein, the commander-in-chief of the Holy Roman Empire’s armies
 
during the Thirty Years’ War, as an ambitious general driven by impulses. Perhaps youdon’t know that Goethe once said Schiller’s
Wallenstein 
is “so great that nothing else ofits kind exists a second time,” or that Thomas Carlyle described it as the “best” drama ofthe 18
th
century.Coincidentally, Phil, you mention Goethe in the same interview as you did Schiller, thatis, “My main sources were poets, not philosophers; Yeats and Wordsworth and theseventeenth century English metaphysical poets, Goethe, and then overt philosopherssuch as Spinoza and Leibnitz and Plotinus…” Even more coincidentally, Schiller andGoethe knew each other. In fact, in 1799 Schiller moved to Weimer and there he andGoethe were involved with forming, along with Heinrich Meyer, the
Weimar Friends Of The Arts 
. And it’s in Weimar that one can find a “Goethe-Schiller” monument sculptedby Ernst Reitschel. Their friendship apparently started in 1794 via a livelycorrespondence and continued in person when they met at a
Society For Scientific Research 
symposium in Jean on July 20, 1794. In an August 23
rd
letter of the sameyear, Schiller writes to Goethe:
“Your observing mind which rests so quietly and clearly uponthe things, never puts you into any danger of “going away” inwhich speculation as well as deliberate and merely self-relyingimagination may all too easily lead….Minds of this nature seldomknow how far they have come and how little they have reason toborrow from philosophy, which could only learn from them. Thelatter can only take apart and analyze what is given ot it, butgiving itself is not the prerogative of the analyst, but of geniuswhich under the dark but sure influence of pure reason strivestowards more objective laws…”
This is a good example of
Sapere Aude 
, Schiller might have added. As for his ownpursuit of it, and your mention of his ideas of freedom, there are several essays andreflective poems written during the latter 1790s wherein Schiller develops his aesthetic,critical and philosophical thinking. In particular his essay, “Über da Erhabene” (“On TheSublime”) is notable for a detailed analysis of why “The morally cultivated man, and onlyhe, is wholly free.”According to Schiller such a man becomes superior to nature as a force, something hedescribes as “the savage bulk of nature” and “wild incoherence of nature.” But to do sorequires more “clarity of thought” and “energy of volition” than we are accustomed toexercise. To help this we need to cultivate our moral and aesthetic tendencies, theformer developed by understanding and the latter aroused by certain sensible objects.Of the two Schiller evidently feels the aesthetic is more important, or perhapsprominent, being comprised of feelings for the beautiful and feelings for the sublime. Forit is the sublime that a majority of his essay is devoted to.Schiller writes that “…the sublime is a mixed feeling” composed of melancholy and joyousness. More importantly, “by means of the feeling for the sublime, therefore, we

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