Faith of Our Fathers
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|"Faith of Our Fathers"|
|Author||Philip K. Dick|
|Published in||Dangerous Visions|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
The story is a horrifying vision of a God that is all-devouring and amoral, and is a sharp depiction of religious despair that prefigured Dick's own later crisis of faith and mental breakdown.
The story's protagonist, Tung Chien, is a party bureaucrat in Vietnam in a future where Chinese-style communism has triumphed over the entire world. The atheist Communist Party rules absolutely over a population that is kept docile by hallucinogenic drugs.
Given an illegal drug by a street seller, he sees the Party leader's appearance on television as a horrific hallucination. He later learns that the drug is stelazine, an anti-hallucinogen, and that what he sees is the true reality of the Party leader: or at least one of them, because different people see any one of twelve different possible visions of the leader. Some (including Chien) see a machine ("the Clanker"), others see a biological monstrosity ("the Gulper"), yet others see a whirlwind, and so forth.
An underground movement, fearing that the leader is not human, contrives to place Tung at a party where the leader will be present. Tung meets the leader, who is apparently an undistinguished elderly man, and takes the anti-hallucinogenic drug.
He learns that all the visions are true, and far more besides; the Party leader is not only alien, he is an almighty, godlike being — perhaps a demiurge, perhaps God himself — and one that preys on all living things.
|“||The dead shall live, the living die. I kill what lives; I save what has died. And I will tell you this: there are things worse than I. But you won't meet them because by then I will have killed you.||”|
Chien, armed with this knowledge, reflects that "A hallucination is merciful. I wish I had it; I want mine back." The story ends with Chien mortally wounded, his life ebbing away, trying to regain his hallucinatory state through intimacy.
In many ways, this story prefigures Dick's later interest in Gnosticism. Dick later said about this story:
"The title is that of an old hymn. I think, with this story, I managed to offend everybody, which seemed at the time to be a good idea, but which I've regretted since. Communism, drugs, sex, God — I put it all together, and it's been my impression since that when the roof fell in on me years later, this story was in some eerie way involved."
"I don't advocate any of the ideas in Faith Of Our Fathers; I don't, for example, claim that the Iron Curtain countries will win the cold war--or morally ought to. One theme in the story, however, seems compelling to me, in view of recent experiments with hallucinogenic drugs: the theological experience, which so many who have taken LSD have reported. This appears to me to be a true new frontier; to a certain extent the religious experience can now be scientifically studied. . . and, what is more, may be viewed as part hallucination but containing other, real components. God, as a topic in science fiction, when it appeared at all, used to be treated polemically, as in OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET. But I prefer to treat it as intellectually exciting. What if, through psychedelic drugs, the religious experience becomes commonplace in the life of intellectuals? The old atheism, which seemed to many of us--including me--valid in terms of our experiences, or rather lack of experiences, would have to step momentarily aside. Science fiction, always probing what is about to be thought, become, must eventually tackle without preconceptions a future neo-mystical society in which theology constitutes as major a force as in the medieval period. This is not necessarily a backward step, because now these beliefs can be tested–-forced to put up or shut up. I, myself, have no real beliefs about God; only my experience that He is present. . . subjectively, of course; but the inner realm is real too. And in a science fiction story one projects what has been a personal inner experience into a milieu; it becomes socially shared, hence discussable. The last word, however, on the subject of God may have already been said: in A.D. 840 by John Scotus Erigena at the court of the Frankish king Charles the Bald. "We do not know what God is. God Himself does not know what He is because He is not anything. Literally God is not, because He transcends being." Such a penetrating--and Zen--mystical view, arrived at so long ago, will be hard to top; in my own experiences with psychedelic drugs I have had precious tiny illumination compared with Erigena."
- Dick, Philip K. (1977). "Afterthoughts by the Author". In John Brunner (editor). The Best of Philip K. Dick. Del Rey. p. 449. ISBN 0-345-25359-0.
- Dick, Philip K. (1987). The Collected Short Stories of Philip K. Dick, Vol 5: We Can Remember It for You Wholesale. United Kingdom: Orion Publishing Group. p. 391. ISBN 1-85798-948-1.
- The Fictional Pharmaceuticals of Philip K. Dick
- Themes of Reality, Divinity and Humanity in the Short Stories of Philip K. Dick: an essay which touches on the story
- Faith of Our Fathers title listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database