Manual The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch

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The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. Description In the overcrowded world and cramped space colonies of the late 21st century, tedium can be endured through the use of the drug Can-D, which enables the user to inhabit a shared illusory world. When industrialist Palmer Eldritch returns from an interstellar trip, he brings with him a new drug, Chew-Z, which is far more potent than Can-D, but threatens to plunge the world into a permanent state of drugged illusion controlled by the mysterious Eldritch.

Review Text One of the most original practitioners writing any kind of fiction, Dick made most of the European avant-garde seem like navel-gazers in a cul-de-sac Sunday Times show more. About Philip K. Dick Philip K. Dick was born in Chicago but lived in California for most of his life. He went to college at Berkeley for a year, ran a record store and had his own classical-music show on a local radio station. He published his first short story, 'Beyond Lies the Wub' in The other colonists also felt that presence in their altered states. Barney labels it God.

Anne and Barney discuss the nature of the being that possessed Palmer Eldritch. Barney believes that it was God, but not as we know him, and while God may be understanding and want to help, his power to do so is limited. Anne replies that, as the map is not the territory, that creature in Palmer Eldritch is not God. Barney states that the artificial hand, the Jensen eyes and the steel teeth are symbols of inhabitation, similar to the stigmata of Christ, and Anne compares Chew-Z to the apple in the Garden Of Eden. Barney realizes that the fact that the creature tried to substitute a man for its own death, rather than die for mankind, made it at least inferior to the God of Christ, and perhaps even evil.

Alone again in his garden, Barney confronts a telepathic predator that calls him unclean and unfit to eat, because he displays the stigmata. Later, Eldritch stops by, and Barney recounts that event. Eldritch responds that the primitive mind often confuses the unclean with the holy. He say that after three centuries of contemplation, he decided to let Barney go. The whole scheme with Palmer Eldritch and Chew-Z was an attempt by the creature to perpetuate itself. En route back to Earth, Leo Bulero and Felix Blau start to plan the attack that will eventually result in the death of Palmer Eldritch.

Leo sees the stigmata on Felix, and considers the possibility that he is still under the effect of Chew-Z. Felix tries to reassure Leo by telling him that he also sees the stigmata, even though he has never taken the drug. Leo thinks that he will defeat Eldritch because there is something inside him not touched by the alienation, blurred reality, and despair that came with the creature. Despite these thoughts, he mistakes himself for the creature in a moment of confusion.

Rare 1979 Philip K. Dick interview

There are two substantial challenges that must be addressed in any interpretation of this work. The first is the frequent shifting between objective reality and the often indistinguishable experience achieved through the drug Chew-Z. Two of the focal characters, Leo Bulero and Barney Mayerson, sample Chew-Z over the course of the tale in chapters 5 and 10, respectively and the veracity of all subsequent scenes told from their perspective is somewhat suspect.

Layouts, which is explicitly revealed to be just another facet of the drug experience.

And was it really Eldritch, or did Barney hallucinate that explanation for his own benefit? Deep within a drug-induced vision, Barney is given the explanation that Chew-Z causes phantasms in the future but, unsatisfying as it may be from a storytelling perspective, there is a consistent interpretation of the book where neither Barney or Leo ever return to sobriety. It is difficult to extract a coherent statement from the outcome of the story when the outcome itself is not clear, other than to say that Dick holds drugs, religion and confusion as integral parts of the natural human state.

The second difficulty is that, with respect to religion, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch is something of a Rorschach test. Dick provides sympathetic characters at both ends of the spectrum, in the devout Anne Hawthorne and the derisive non-believer Barney Mayerson.

As an atheist with libertarian leanings, I was more sympathetic to Barney than to Anne, and had to strain to keep from assigning more relevance to her descent into drug use than to his reevaluation of his atheist beliefs, even though those two events are similar in many ways. Despite these confounding factors, however, some conclusions can be drawn. It is clear that Dick is claiming that religious experience and drug use are, if not interchangeable, fundamentally similar at some level.

In the book, this is true not only to the Buddhists who control the United Nations, who saw Chew-Z as the realization of the karmic circle, but also to the more rational Barney, who starts off considering both of them as merely escape mechanisms, necessary only in the harsh world of the colonies, and winds up a grudging believer in their power.

In the final chapter, Leo Bulero plots to kill Eldritch, and winds up unsure about whether he is himself or whether he is now Palmer Eldritch. By dethroning god, man creates a vacuum, and nature abhors a vacuum. This statement can be read to imply that a supreme being must exist even if that role is not filled by a supernatural force, because in the absence of a supernatural force, we will fill that gap with whatever is handy.

Although, in light of the rest of the book, the depiction of Leo assuming the role of Palmer Eldritch is overly optimistic; in the future of Philip K. Dick, we have not filled the gap with ourselves in an uplifting humanist manner, we have filled it with commercialized clutter, dolls and totems and psychoactive chemicals.

These two possibilities bookmark the extremes of human nature, and in this work, Dick is nestled in his traditional home, near the extreme that is most dark, pessimistic and bleak. I finished the book today. I loved your article. You identify yourself as an atheist and you try to give Anne a fair hearing. To me, this is the genius of this and my other Dick favorites: his ability to paint sympathetic portraits of Christians, cultists, atheists, agnostics, hedonists, Buddhists, and to give them all a reasonable voice in the discussion of the biggest ideas.

I remember another crucial potter in Flow My Tears, and the Biblical image of the potter is freely used near the end of 3 Stigmata. Any thoughts? Do you think Eldritch is human? Why or why not? How and why would a god try to interface with humans? Could it ever work? So, I have an overall theory about why Dick wrote the book, and for my theory to work, we have to believe that Eldritch is a superbeing, an alien very different from human who strives to create a relationship with humans.

I look forward to lots more discussion when anyone has time… Paul. I was happy to see a relatively current discussion going on this novel. I discovered Dick a few months ago and have been working through the ones I can find. I finished this novel last night and ever since have been puzzling with what Dick might have meant with the final paragraphs. Part of the fun of reading Dick is puzzling away until you find something that makes it all tick in a way you like.

I finally broke down and googled for a second opinion and this article helped immensely — thanks. Got it?

More books by Philip K. Dick

My favorite Dick character would be Tagomi from The Man In The High Castle; in particular the scene where he ponders a shapeless piece of art in order to discover if there is anything of value or comfort in it. Only I try to take care not to stare too hard as he did or, at the opposite end of the spectrum, to be like Juliana from the same novel who is too impetuous and full of life not to mistake her first impression with concrete reality.

If people believe that humanity needs God, they should also realize that God needs humanity to exist. I was also particularly intrigued by the few times that communion or transubstantiation is mentioned. I think in the book, the body and blood of Christ idea is equated to Eldritch as well.

The form God is taking so to speak. This is explained metaphorically in the Cat joke that Anne tells towards the end. But that living entity from intersystem space may, like us, be shaped in his image. A way he selected of showing himself to us.

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch : Philip K. Dick :

If you agree with Anne, Palmer Eldritch is no more God than we are or could perceive ourselves to be. I think this paints the portrait that Palmer Eldritch is not God, but it would also be hard to make the argument that he is human either. I also focused on the idea of reality being a shared event. When Eldritch is first explaining Chew-Z to Leo, he makes reference to the fact that there are no layouts and that the user is more in control of their own experience rather than sharing it with others except for Eldritch of course.

Title: The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch

I end up degrees from where I started sometimes. Great question Jenny, great response Paul. This is a very informative and rewarding group of messages. Davies you did a great job with your explanation of the story, thanks everyone! I think this is a really interesting point.


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In a sense, God needs to exist in the really real that humanity occupies. Next year SF celebrates a fairly significant anniversary. It was a watershed year, if you like, when SF rediscovered its visionary roots and began creating new conventions which rejected both modernism and American pulp traditions. Perhaps best representing that cusp, Dick's work only rarely achieved the stylistic and imaginative coherence of those other writers.

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch

His style and characters are indistinguishable from those of a dozen other snappy pulpsters. Even his questioning of the fundamentals of identity and reality is largely unoriginal, preceded by the work of the less prolific but perhaps more profound Charles Harness, who wrote stories such as "Time Trap", "The Paradox Men" and "The Rose" in the 50s. It's hard to judge from this book which was promoted enthusiastically by me and many others when it first appeared. Palmer Eldritch's three stigmata are his artifical arm, steel teeth and electronic eyes.


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He is a merchant adventurer lately returned with something valuable from Proxima Centauri to a globally overheated Earth. The UN a regulatory body replacing government as such is protecting him like a state secret. Corporate boss Leo Bulero is the head of the Perky Pat empire, which employs "precog" telepaths to read the future and design business strategy. Bulero's business is the Barbie and Ken-type Perky Pat dolls and accessories used by planetary colonists to ease their misery and remind them of a materially idyllic Earth.

In conjunction with the Perky Pat toys, colonists chew Can-D, an illegal drug which allows them to imagine themselves as the main characters in the Perky Pat world. Bulero's company secretly controls Can-D and publicly sells endless accessories for the miniature twosome.