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Thursday, June 6, 2013

The I Ching in Illuminatus! and The Man in the High Castle

On page 24 of the Illuminatus! trilogy, the computer programmed with the I Ching and other forecasting methods and data issues Hexagram 23, Breaking Apart.

It was not the first time the I Ching has been used in a work of fiction. As Ted Hand has pointed out, it likely was first used in a novel in Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle, which I've been re-reading. (Just as when I first read it as a teenager, I'm struck by how great it is.) In the first three chapters, Dick's characters consult the I Ching several times. Hand has just posted a link to the text of the I Ching that Dick used. 

Just for fun, I decided to try the online version of the I Ching. I asked it, "What does the future hold for the blog?"

I got Hexagram 20, "Contemplation."

Cast Hexagram:

20 - Twenty
Kuan / Contemplation

The gentle Wind roams the Earth:
The Superior Person expands his sphere of influence as he expands his awareness.
Deeply devoted to his pursuit of clarity and wisdom, he is unconscious of the inspiring, positive example he is setting for others to emulate.

You have cleansed yourself; now stand ready to make your humble, devout offering.


The situation marks a rising to new heights.
As you climb for a better view of the panorama, you make yourself more conspicuous to those below.
This hexagram is also known as the Watchtower, because the shape formed by its lines resembles the ancient guardposts manned by Chinese soldiers.
These towers were placed on mountainsides to give a better vantage point.
To those below, the watchtowers served as landmarks to help them find their way.
The quality of your search for clarity in this situation serves as such a guidepost for others along the Way.

The "Dick text's" version of my hexagram is here.


michael said...

The quality of your search for clarity in all things Robert Anton Wilson and related has most CERTAINLY been a guidepost for me, Mr. Jackson.


Anonymous said...

For a while Dick believed that the I Ching had deliberately harmed the book and made it come out wrong.

michael said...

Of course PKD would believe that for awhile, eh?

What I like about using I Ching as a way to plot one's novel is the stochastic-ness of it. Has PKD outright said that John Cage influenced his 1962 experimentations? I forget.

At any rate, much of PKD's thought runs along the lines of, if this one little thing had not happened, things might have been different. A capricious god?

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

Supergee: I guess Dick had his comeuppance when he won a Hugo for the thing. Ancient Chinese Wisdom 1, Dick 0.

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...


That's a great question about Dick and John Cage. I will make inquiries.


Manic The Doodler said...

I heard Dick say in an interview once that the I Ching was "evil" & a "liar"... Guess he must have changed his mind about it...

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...


Following up on your John Cage question, I Tweeted Ted Hand, "Was Dick influenced by John Cage when he wrote 'The Man in the High Castle'?" Hand answered, "I'm not aware of any explicit reference to Cage in PKD. There was an Eno influence -- "Synchronicity Music" in VALIS."

I'll only add that Dick reputedly knew a lot about classical music, so I'll guess he was familiar with Cage.