There is no absolutely “objective” scientific analysis of culture… All knowledge of cultural reality… is always knowledge from particular points of view. … an “objective” analysis of cultural events, which proceeds according to the thesis that the ideal of science is the reduction of empirical reality to “laws,” is meaningless… [because]… the knowledge of social laws is not knowledge of social reality but is rather one of the various aids used by our minds for attaining this end.
—Max Weber, “Objectivity” in Social Science, 1897.
By shifting to a virtual world, we go beyond alienation, into a state of radical deprivation of the Other, or indeed of any otherness, alterity, or negativity. We move into a world where everything that exists only as idea, dream, fantasy, utopia will be eradicated, because it will immediately be realized, operationalized. Nothing will survive as an idea or a concept. You will not even have time enough to imagine. Events, real events, will not even have time to take place. Everything will be preceded by its virtual realization. We are dealing with an attempt to construct an entirely positive world, a perfect world, expurgated of every illusion, of every sort of evil and negativity, exempt from death itself. This pure, absolute reality, this unconditional realization of the world—this is what I call the Perfect Crime.
Things, appliances, entire houses suddenly come alive, bristling with menace. In later novels, the focus shifts to schizophrenia. Dick’s interest in abnormal psychology led him to the work of Ludwig Binswanger, a Swiss psychoanalyst who believed that schizophrenia involved a disturbance in the patient’s orientation toward time. In his famous paper, “The Case of Ellen West,” Binswanger described the “tomb world” that his subject seemed to inhabit, a realm of “moldering and withering” in which time no longer moved forward and West felt like “a nothing, a timid earthworm smitten by the curse surrounded by black night.” For Dick, the tomb world connoted a kind of interior entropy, a sentiment that the world and oneself are inexorably “moving toward the ash heap.” The process of decline is all-embracing: people, places, things, time and space themselves all seem caught in a great storm of regression.
The two worlds, the divine and the human, can be pictured only as distinct from each another – different as life and death, as day and night. The hero adventures out of the land we know into darkness; there he accomplishes his adventure, or again is simply lost to us, imprisoned, or in danger; and his return is described as a coming back out of that yonder zone. Nevertheless – and here is a great key to the understanding of myth and symbol – the two kingdoms are actually one. The realm of the gods is a forgotten dimension of the world we know. And the exploration of that dimension, either willingly or unwillingly, is the whole sense of the deed of the hero. The values and distinctions that in normal life seem important disappear with the terrifying assimilation of the self into what formerly was only otherness. As in the stories of the cannibal ogresses, the fearfulness of this loss of personal individuation can be the whole burden of the transcendental experience for unqualified souls. But the hero-soul goes boldly in – and discovers the hags converted into goddesses and the dragons into the watchdogs of the gods.
There must always remain, however, from the standpoint of normal waking consciousness, a certain baffling inconsistency between the wisdom brought forth from the deep, and the prudence usually found to be effective in the light world. Hence the common divorce of opportunism from virtue and the resultant degeneration of human existence. Martyrdom is for saints, but the common people have their institutions, and these cannot be left to grow like the lilies of the field; Peter keeps drawing his sword, as in the garden, to defend the creator and sustainer of the world. The boon from the transcendent deep becomes quickly rationalized into nonentity, and the need becomes great for another hero to refresh the world.
How teach again, however, what has been taught correctly and incorrectly learned a thousand thousand times, throughout the millenniums of mankind’s prudent folly? That is the hero’s ultimate difficult task. How to render back into light-world language the speech-defying pronouncements of the dark? How represent on a two-dimensional surface s three-dimensional form, or in a three dimensional image a multidimensional meaning? How translate into terms of “yes” and “no” that shatter into meaninglessness every attempt to define the pairs of opposites? How communicate to people who insist on the exclusive evidence of their senses the message of the all-generating void?
Many failures attest to the difficulties of this life affirmative threshold. The first problem of the returning hero is to accept as real, after an experience of the soul satisfying vision of fulfilment, the passing joys and sorrows, banalities and noisy obscenities of life. Why re-enter such a world? Why attempt to make plausible, or even interesting, to men and women consumed with passion, the experience of transcendental bliss? As dreams that were momentous by night may seem simply silly in the light of day, so the poet and the prophet can discover themselves playing the idiot before a jury of sober eyes. The easy thing is to commit the whole community to the devil and retire again into the heavenly rock-dwelling, close the door, and make it fast. But if some spiritual obstetrician has meanwhile drawn the shimenawa across the retreat, then the work of representing eternity in time, and perceiving in time eternity, cannot be avoided.
– Joseph Campbell. (1949, P 217-8) The Hero with a Thousand Faces.