Black Iron Prison

The Black Iron Prison is a term Philip K Dick used to describe the delusional reality that grew out of the diseased Roman Empire. It is a prison without walls, or whose walls are at least invisible. In a vision, PKD saw early Christians attack and destroy a castle, that was emblematic of the Black Iron Prison itself. The destruction of the Black Iron Prison happened outside of linear time, which is to say the castle has been destroyed utterly. But its remains live on in our negative attitudes, our habitual tendencies, and self-delusions. The black crystaline castle in Jim Henson’s 1982 movie the Dark Crystal, which houses the dark crystal itself, is an archetype of the Black Iron Prison.

Art by Sean Hillen.

Another way to describe the Black Iron Prison is that of a great shifting maze or labyrinth. The alchemists spoke of this maze, which was the size of a solar system. It was their belief that in order to attain liberation from the maze they would have find their way to the centre, and after having done battle with the beast that resides there, make their way back out again. This is equivalent to achieving enlightenment and then renouncing it so as to see all things as offering enlightenment. This pertains to The Labyrinth, another of Jim Henson’s fantasy movies, in which a young girl must navigate a maze all the way to the castle of the Goblin King Jared (played by David Bowie) and once there incant a spell, a spell which ends with the line; You have no power over me. Similarly, the invisible walls that persist, even though the Black Iron Prison has been destroyed are walls of our own making. If we constructed those walls they serve our bidding, and can have no dominion over us.

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