Well At World’s End: Pagan Themes in Speculative Fiction
“From dragons to spaceships, from unicorns to time travel, join me around this campfire blog to explore Pagan themes in fantasy and science fiction, and all the subgenres in between. Reading just got interesting.”
Do Witches and Pagans Dream of Electric Sheep?
Are we programed to do "wrong" things? That is the core question permeating Philip K. Dick's well-known novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? For this installment of Well at World's End, we'll explore the undertones of Pagan themes in this novel.
The story is about Decker, a futurist cop, who is in charge of tracking down androids that look and act like humans. He gets paid for each one he brings in and essentially retires. The society Decker lives in is one where reality is dosed at the flick of a dial on one's mood organ, a device that allows you to feel any emotion, from bliss to sorrow. It is also a place, not unlike today's world, where the pursuit of money and future success is often at the forefront of decisions and daily motivation for some.
As Decker tracks down several androids, he begins to question his own sense of being, his own humanity and purpose in life. In fact, he learns about his own humanity and capacity to care for others through the love he feels for an android.
One pivotal moment comes when one of the secondary characters, Rick, comes face to face with the TV personality, Mercer, who he has deified, and feels is pivotal to the success of his very existence. Rick begs Mercer to help him with his life, but Mercer has only words for him:
"You will be required to do wrong, no matter where you go. It's the basic condition of life, to be required to violate your own identity. At some time, every creature which lives must do so. It is the ultimate shadow, the defeat of creation; this is the curse at work, the curse that feeds all life. In every universe." (179)
It is a strong statement, and less a discourse just to Rick, but also to Decker, who realizes he has done "wrong" by retiring the androids, and now attempts to rediscover his place in the world. Both Rick and Decker are searching for the next best thing, and neither knows where to go for it. Mercer's words are less than comforting. In a sense, we can imagine this is the author's voice reigning in, pointing out to the reader that life, under certain circumstances, can end up just like Decker's.
Do we agree with Dick's philosophy? That as humans, part of our condition is to do "wrong" things? Do we live in a world where one side is always exploiting the other, like the one depicted in Do Androids Dream...?
As witches and pagans, it's an interesting question. We strive to walk compassionately, with regard and lovingkindness for others. What if no matter how hard we try to create a practice of doing "good," we're programmed to still do "wrong," as Dick would have us believe?
Life is a type of paradox. In order to have a "right," we must also have a "wrong." Perhaps what Dick is trying to say is that through "wrong" or "bad" things that happen in our lives, we might have an opportunity to see just how we're living it, and if we don't like it, there is still room to change.
In the end, Decker's life is transformed. He no longer hunts androids. He finds comfort in his wife. His dreams are a little less on what he doesn't have, but rather on what he has in the moment. Perhaps there is a little bit of hope after all.
--------Hunter Liguore is a blogger for PaganSquare. As a writer, her work has appeared internationally in a variety of publications. She is the editor of the print journal, American Athenaeum, which focuses on publishing voices that ultimately inform us about our times. She revels in old legends, swords, and heroes. www.skytalewriter.com
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