Butterfly and Me
A Schizophrenic Spirituality Edward K Penny Chipmunkapublishing 2015 Pb, 105pp, £10, ISBN 9781783821884
A sincere and unsettling memoir of a diagnosis of schizophrenia following a period of regular cannabis use. An introspective teenager given to philosophical musings begins university feeling himself an outsider. Finding cannabis an immediate solution to his unhappiness, the heightened awareness and profound insights it induced were, he now believes, the initial stages of psychotic breakdown.
Later, in the grip of full-blown madness, believing himself an MI5 asset and Illuminati initiate, created in a test-tube from Ronald Reagan’s DNA and destined to lead a revolutionary social movement, he is sectioned and placed on anti-psychotic medication.
The twist to this guilelessly self-critical ‘cautionary tale’, told without artifice or even art, is that Penny regards his previous state of mind as psychotic, but one which resulted in something extraordinary. He now enjoys regular communication with an entity he calls ‘Butterfly.’ Butterfly, he believes, is responsible for supervising our reality, and possesses similar attributes to God.
Butterfly communicates not by voice but by touch: pressure above the left eye signifies ‘yes,’ whilst above the right indicates ‘no’; numerous other such tactile ‘signifiers’ constitute a sophisticated system. At other times, Butterfly will draw Penny’s attention to a word on his computer screen, by a “quick streak of whiteness.”
Here are echoes of Philip K Dick’s visionary experiences, which may or may not have been drug-induced. Certainly, PKD and Penny appear keen to distinguish between delusions that were the product of psychosis, and other supernormal states of mind.
The reader is left to ponder whether Penny is – in his own words – “a rambling schizophrenic or in touch with a higher power.”