But­ter­fly and Me

A Schizophrenic Spir­i­tu­al­ity Ed­ward K Penny Chip­munka­pub­lish­ing 2015 Pb, 105pp, £10, ISBN 9781783821884

Fortean Times - - Reviews / Books - Chris Josiffe

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.”

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