The Man in the High Castle

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Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets:

Ecclesiastes 12:5

The late Philip K. Dick, paranoid, left-leaning, mentally ill and drug abuser, was nevertheless a science fiction writer of pure genius.  His book The Man in the High Castle (1962) introduced me as a boy to the genre of alternate history, with his unforgettable evocation of a United States divided by the victorious Axis powers of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.  One of the main plot devices in the book is a novel The Grasshopper Lies Heavy which posits an alternate reality in which the Allies won World War II.  Like most of Dick’s work, the book suggests that the dividing line between alternate realities can be very thin.

“The Nazis have no sense of humor, so why should they want television? Anyhow, they killed most of the really great comedians. Because most of them were Jewish. In fact, she realized, they killed off most of the entertainment field. I wonder how Hope gets away with what he says. Of course, he has to broadcast from Canada. And it’s a little freer up there. But Hope really says things. Like the joke about Goring . . . the one where Goring buys Rome and has it shipped to his mountain retreat and then set up again. And revives Christianity so his pet lions will have something to—”


Dick’s novel brings out the contingency of history, a factor overlooked by many people.  History is what has occurred.  While we are living it, making our contribution to what will be the history of our times, we understand that what will be is the result of many factors and predicting the future is a fool’s game.  The past seems rock solid by comparison.  Understanding however the events and circumstances that shaped the past, and also comprehending that different paths could easily have been followed, gives us a different view of the past and the present.    It is one thing to go through life with the philosophy that “what will be, will be” and quite another to appreciate that the future depends upon what we and our contemporaries do now.

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  1. Regardless of which line of history man’s free will takes, and regardless of how the dice of the Heisenburg Uncertainty Principle falls, God’s sovereign will cannot be thrawted and will be accomplished.
    PS, what is the substantive difference in the end between a fictional Nazi oppression of the United States and the actual coming liberal progressive oppression? The same thing will have happened, and God’s response will be the same.

  2. LQG, the substantive difference is that progressives don’t like to see suffering and blood, unless of course they are the high priests of abortion. They prefer their mass killing of the post-born with painless narcotics rather than bullets or choking gasses.

  3. Yes, yes. So now let us consider the alternate scenarios of a Trump vs. Hillary Presidency. I wonder how Phillip K. Dick would handle that? Personally, I see Hillary as the Nazi element. See, don’t we live in interesting times?

  4. Phjilip K Dick was blackballed by the entertainment industry, and even received death threats, for publishing a pro-life short story shortly after Roe v. Wade: The Pre-Persons. He saw immediately that preborn children had no voice and he wanted to be a voice for them. check it out- free online now- and check out the industry – publishing and hollywood-intolerance of him and his views. Some of what is in the story is eerily identical to what has transpired since Roe. Guy McClung, San Antonio Texas

  5. TomD, it’s true that “progressives don’t like to see suffering and blood”. And that reminds me of something about the new barbarian who wears a tweed suit and kills with his fountain pen. I don’t clearly remember the source. Anyone?

  6. William P. Walsh , I hadn’t heard the line about “the new barbarian who wears a tweed suit and kills with his fountain pen”. I do recall an unattributed quote about Josef Stalin being Genghis Khan with a telephone in one hand. I suppose eventually we will have a new version of this line with a new murderer using the internet.

  7. TomD, An old friend now passed on said it years ago. I think it might have been Chesterton or Belloc. Tweed suits and fountain pens put one in mind of the early Twentieth Century so maybe.

  8. Guy McClung,
    Thank you for the info about The Pre-Persons. I had not heard of that story by Philip K. Dick but looked it up and read it yesterday. It is very powerful. Too bad no one will ever adapt it for the screen as many of his other stories have been.

    For anyone interested, here is a link. It is a quick read but it stays with you.

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