What is the Black Iron Prison? Philip K. Dick said that the perfect description is that of a timeforsaken place, blending past, present, and future, buildings cast in wicked black—where the “alien” from the sci-fi movies of that name might call home. As for my own vision of it, it was nothing like earth of the waking mind ever was, not at all; my memory of the place was distinctly of an otherworldly landscape. It had a consistent aesthetic, between each time I visited, though I think it may have been that the buildings and such details might have changed between showings. PKD also said that this was the true nature of the world, that we do not perceive the ’Prison has always had us caged within it. Which makes sense, why he thought of it in that light, for he saw it superimposed on our everyday reality. But like I said, I had a different tack: I looked out the window and I didn’t recognize anything, like I had been transported to… well, I wasn’t allowed to think it while I was there: I had been transported to Hell. No other word fits.
Was it just a hallucination? If it were purely one person’s imagination, that doesn’t explain why other people saw some version of it, too. Is it then something like an archetype, something hardwired into the human mind, if not brain—maybe the vision of it is hidden in everyone’s mental structure? Eternity seems to be some factor that is intrinsic in it: past, present, and future as one in the architecture, as Dick noted. I have described this elsewhere, that in Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights, in the third panel, “Hell”, there is in the far back a large building. I was in that building. That was where I was in the ’Prison, that exact place—what Bosch had entitled, “Hell”. If you look closely, too, you will notice that the building is partly in ruins, not a completely concrete object. How about that? It is a ghost building, a building only visible in a nightmare.
What do we make of Hell? Why is it that the world was supposedly locked behind the structures of it, then? As for it being the “bad place” of the afterworld, Hell wasn’t made by God. It is a perverse and twisted place, whose architecture is of pure evil; God has virtually no part in it, except for the fact that it originally was part of Heaven. Called the “ruined part of Heaven”, when Satan was cast from above, the place he and his angels had been residing they tore from greater Heaven and was given to the fallen angels as a separate realm. The reminiscence of Eternity is that timelessness one perceives. Even if, as it is written, it too shall one day have an end in the lake of fire. From the scale that Heaven operates on, it is my understanding that that ruined part of Heaven could easily envelop the whole of the world, whatever those dimensions might be as a noosphere, what I call the Halospace.
Is it real? If we understand reality as a shared experience, then it is real in that limited sense. Or perhaps in another limited sense, it is that archetypical representation of the dark side within human beings in general. If you will not allow a spiritual realm to exist, one might imagine it to be something like a place you go in dreams, or nightmares. Or could they be common hallucinations, like everyone seeing snakes when they take a specific psychoactive drug? It is a vision of darkness, in any case. It is a vision of all that is wrong in the world, if you ever do experience it, a merciless mood that makes up the stagnant air, the sensation: “abandon all hope ye who enter here”. But what if it were real, what would that mean? What if it is not completely in the eye of the beholder, but has separate existence apart from the observer? How does that affect the world? How would it affect your world?
If you wish deeper than what is writ here, faith is required of you, and reason. For it is not the end of faith when its object is plainly true; there will always be further that on that might be speculated upon, based on where reason seems to lead. And what is faith? “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” [Martin Luther King, Jr.] A leap of faith and a leap of insight are like fraternal twins. One may, in fact, use or confuse one for the other. Now, do we believe in the objective reality of the Black Iron Prison? For some, the question seems easy to answer: there is no place where it actually could exist, for it can only be a mental construct. But as we have said before, if it a shared mental construct—which at some level affects our psychology—if all of us follow the rails it puts down in our minds in a consistent way, then does it not in some way actually and really exist? Could we all of us fooled?
The ’Prison is made of iron. Why is it iron, when we’re talking about it being in a shadow dimension, with no true substance to it at all? Perhaps that it is specifically black is the clue. Iron was perhaps the most useful metal that human beings have ever found. In itself, there is no evil—but black iron, that which is put to dark purpose, iron would be then the opposite of that utility, being instead being wielded of nefarious mind. It is then become the all purpose material of evil. That is the Black Iron. And prison? Perhaps you have heard, of this life: you can’t win, you can’t break even, and there is no way out of the game. Even without a strictly physical form, the Black Iron Prison is so named correctly. But surely, there are parts of the world, both human and of nature, that are not elements of Hell, right? How is it that PKD said it is the true structure of the world? And others have said it, too, that we are completely enclosed by it, the whole of the world is imprisoned… It could be that it all is truly is in the eye of the beholder.
Philip K. saw the BIP, and then saw his freedom from it, the “real world’s” freedom from it, in 1974 when President Nixon resigned. The king deposed without violence by the work of two artisans—or were they modern day knights? Yes, the world was freed, but only from the point of view of PKD. For I know that I myself witnessed the BIP years after he had left the world. And one fine day in May, 1991, I saw the world freed of the ’Prison, myself, on the other side of the dream barrier: in my mind’s eye did I see all souls escape. The ’Prison is gone for everyone, from my point of view. That means, however, that other people may be able to see it still. The Halospace has a weird way of working. But let’s think about this: Phil said that the Black Iron Prison is, at the guts of it, a system of control, a means of power for the archons of this world. That would be the Devil and his own, for Satan once tempted Christ with the rule of all the world, and he couldn’t have offered what was not his.
Phil thought, after he saw the mighty king deposed, that the saw the ’Prison regroup and reformulate itself in the gap that had been left. But it was not that which he saw happen—not completely. The hole that had been punched in it was a permanent one, and cover it up as they will, it is still there. Walt Disney is God. Yea, verily. But again, not everyone is free of the ’Prison from their point of view. The Black Iron Prison, ultimately, is most rationally perceived as a psychological construct, which limits our actions and our perspective(s) on the world. (Thus its ultimate reality.) What Phil and I saw in visions, and others, can be compared to a nice visual graph of a mathematical function. The real work of such a graph is in the equations that define it. That’s where the numbers are crunched. What is the Black Iron Prison, down where the rubber hits the road, where the functions live? It’s Hell. Yes, what we initially started with. But more precisely, it is the idea of Hell. And everybody has one.
Therefore, the rule of Hell over the world was broken in the minds of Philip K. Dick and me (and most likely others). And if you are reading this right now, its hold on you, too, is being punctured. Understand that the freedom afforded you is not to go wild, party all the time, and not to do a speck of work. It is not a freedom of the hedonistic kind. As above, the ’Prison is a psychological construct: the freedom is to free your mind. It is a freedom from fear. It is freedom to love. There is no specific rule to follow, except maybe the one common to basically all religions: love your neighbor as yourself. Otherwise, it is a freedom from the rules, too. And if you hadn’t guessed, maybe give a shout-out to Jesus, since it was he who set us free… And listen, we’re all of us neighbors to each other, especially these days, when distance is no factor in how we are all just that. And to love? Don’t you know how? Love is so simple, we’ll never understand it. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.
If you like what’s written here, check out my book, Memoirs from the War in Heaven.
So it is, that something happens to you you don’t like, at least initially, then with a twist of fate, things go unexpectedly your way. You might say, as an appropriate response, that everything happens for a reason. Even agnostics may use this line. But do you really know what you’re saying? Is the meaning really there—reasons, reasons for the reasons, to search your idea of what seems likely until you are satisfied in its logic? Or indeed, is the reason for it all just a convincing illusion, which have no basis in what is concrete and steel, in whatever maybe called of the real? Perhaps we have sympathy for the Devil, for whom the light of such revelation is itself the enemy…
One thing I found in researching metaphysics is that there are always patterns to be had—you just need to look for them. Not many of them are fruitful, even if they be non-trivial, another thing I learned. This pattern matching, I believe, is at least part of the explanation of the psychological phenomenon of “everything happens for a reason.” Because things seem to fit together so well, we imagine they were made to be so conformed. Destiny. But this is an astonishing world, even just talking about the noosphere, the mental spaces we explore. Sometimes the words we put together are poetry, sometimes it is just a mess of unimpressive metaphors. And one might say that a person often views one as the other. So it is with reasons why.
Correctness—can we even talk about that when we talk about the patterns in the air? Is thinking what happened happened for a reason—how can we know that we have found the real reason? And what, exactly, would be meant by that: the real reason why things happen as they do? Here’s where religion seems to take a separate route than the agnostic. For we have it in the Bible where God Himself says He did such-and-such a thing or that such-and-such thing happened for a certain specific purpose. In this vein, there is the possibility that when you think you know why, you may actually be right. The agnostic may never be sure. Or be sure that there never is a “real” reason. In any case, we rarely go beyond if we are satisfied with the reason(s) we have discovered why something happened as it did.
Now, it is quite the case that what and how we know things is far beneath what and how God knows things; for indeed, we of abstract things can rarely deal with absolutes concerning them—such is the province of the Most High only. Not even angels fly in such stratospherics. But if we could have a God-given rationale, would we then listen to the “real” reason, or shall we stubbornly cleave to our own logics, of which we were satisfied? For then, we come to this empyreal question: what did Lucifer see, when he rebelled? I have been told that angels are not like people, that they have perfect knowledge. Did he see in the darkness of evil a pattern he could not be talked down from, shadow of his pride?
It was in the committing of his first sin (anyone’s first sin ever), that he broke his perfect knowledge. Lucifer had discovered something truly new… What is evil? Surely there is no mystery to it, now, is there? And in fact, Lucifer’s committing that first sin defines it quite succinctly: evil is the desire to do wrong. And perhaps throw in the desire to have one’s own way, which is the bad kind of pride. Some people say that in evil is the seed of its own destruction. Perhaps, but one acknowledges that Lucifer really had something when he discovered evil. It was indeed the “dark side of the Force”, that comes quickly and is applicable just everywhere. There are patterns in the evil, too, the schemes of every Bond villain just waiting to be conceived and made flesh. It is seductive, it is insidious, like the Watercourse Way—but to slip honorless through darkest deed, no enlightenment of love.
He must have seen a pattern in the madness, called that mess of unimpressive metaphors poetry. Perhaps because of this misreading, he incorrectly perceived that it would be his victory that was to come, and such is part of the nature of evil. This was his pride, and its blindness. In breaking from the Logos, from holy reason/holy logic, he did not precisely perceive the ultimate conclusions of his actions. His own logic was a poor substitute, formidable as it was. He took his own vision as the world’s, and was doomed. Whatever is in the mind of evil to do, God has always been prepared for it. And one might think with such occurrences as the Holocaust that things are not completely in His control, but that is the test of faith. For the most horrendous things that happen to us—it will be slight in comparison to the glory that will revealed in us, by the king of glory.
The fact is, great is the pain that some people suffer. Some of which certain persons survive, it seems to mine own self incomprehensible, unimaginable. If you told me that I would be the one to have to tell them, that their pain is nothing compared to how God will recompense them, I would tell you I am a coward and cowards say no such thing as that. But somewhere inside, there would yet in me be an unbreakable kernel that believes it to be true. Why did it have to happen? What possible reason could it have happened for? It would be in the opposite direction; the reason itself would have to be of light incomprehensible, purpose unimaginable. If we can, to make of things better than if the bad had never happened in the first place. (And thus, perhaps, is the kind of rationale we seek when we perceive the pattern of the reason why.)
Can we hold as hope that we need only believe there is a reason, and the cause seems sufficient? For I imagine that some of the stories we have made of why—from the point of view of eternity, how wrong we will have been in the mundane myths we have made. But for here, and for now: if they help us to hold on, is it not enough? If we have faith in a reason for everything, and if things make sense to us somehow, then we have something the Devil lost when he decided his own logic was better than the ways of Eternity. He gave up all sense, all meaning. His is that there is no reason why, and that in his courses would he make the universal law.
Even if we are wrong in our particulars, it is granted to us as courage to try and find the why. In seeing the duality of perceptible meaning, the polarity between good and evil is clear. It is why the afterlife is only divided in two, traditionally, for many fail to understand that it is so—one operates by light or darkness, and it is degrees by which we do so, but we truly carry our heart by a single song, that ultimately desires one or the other. In which you decide, at the end, of what you would make out of your life as a whole. All the reasons why: shall we commit light to the whole of it or bury the whole forever? Truth or nothing: that is the question. Truth or nothing: that is the choice.
If you like what’s written here, check out my book, Memoirs from the War in Heaven.
In vastest night, a stranded dream—
A stone to mark an endless stream;
I walked within its flight of doors
Where boomed the light a solid oar
To dredge my ship through Heaven’s floor.
Flowered there a sweetest breeze
Which sent through lost a tear of please…
To wander was the truest route,
And stories we’re to be about
Were inked by tears which God shed out.
Mountains formed of purest mist,
Hallways rose as angels wished,
Spoke the Lord, and cities lit,
Words the steel of buildings built;
Chairs of light where we will sit.
Opening a book of air,
I read a spirit resting there:
He turned a page of destiny
Where I was written as a tree
Whose every leaf an eye to see.
My ship grew tired, I grew near
Toward the weight of earthly here;
The stone sunk roots into the now,
The dream recalled the lonely crowds
Wherein its power is endowed.