I had lunch with James Burton at the conference and talked Exegesis, and enjoyed his talk. His work looks very promising. I couldn't agree more about the emphasis on Bergson and Paul, the political dimension of Dick's religious thought, and the central important of fictionalizing. Look forward to his book on SF and Salvation!
Machines Making Gods
Philip K. Dick, Henri Bergson and Saint Paul
- James Burton
This article addresses shared themes in the writing of Saint Paul and the work of the science fiction writer Philip K. Dick. Much recent philosophical interest in Saint Paul focuses on his contemporary significance as a radical political thinker, following Jacob Taubes' influential late work, The Political Theology of Paul. Assessments of Paul's writing in this context (e.g. by Agamben, Badiou, Milbank) highlight the various ways in which he uses fictionalizing, for example in setting up the tension between the present world and a messianic future, in the role he assigns to faith, and in the importance he assigns to the counter-factuality of resurrection. Yet the common thread of fictionalizing running through these themes has not been explicitly discussed. Meanwhile, the supposed `religious turn' in Dick's late writing has often been taken to have less political significance than his earlier science fiction. Considering Paul alongside Philip K. Dick, this article will attempt to bring out this central role of fictionalizing in the religious experiences of both. Like Paul, Dick experienced a visionary encounter with a God-like entity that shaped his interests and writing for the remainder of his life, and developed his own soteriology in response to what he perceived as the continued existence of (the Roman) Empire in modernity. Bringing out the mutual complementarity of Dick and Paul is facilitated by a framework derived from Henri Bergson's Two Sources of Religion, which theorizes the relation between mechanization as a human tendency characterizing both imperialism and industrialization, and fabulation as a human faculty for using fiction for the jointly immanent-transcendent purposes of survival/salvation. In this context, the diverse modes of fictionalizing employed by both Dick and Paul, including their unconsciously produced visions, may be understood as part of an ongoing, continually renewed strategy of revolutionary transformation of both self and world.