The Exegesis

The Exegesis: Explaining Tagore through Eastern and Western thought & the magic trick of 2-74

The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick
Buy it on Amazon

September 1981

Dick realizes our spiritual lives are intertwined with the ecosphere, so rejecting the spiritual aspect of our existence means giving up on our physical lives. 

His vision of Tagore is based on a combination of Eastern and Western thought, beginning with the Western concept of man’s fall from the Garden of Eden and a need to return to that state, but with the Eastern solution of acknowledging suffering (which was caused by man in the Western view) and withdrawing from the world in order to repair it. 

He has a dream/hypnagogic vision of a stigmata on his own leg that represents Tagore’s wound. He identifies with Tagore who can only get relief from the self-inflicted pain when the injuries to the ecosphere have stopped. 

Dick admits he has a messiah complex and sees himself as one with the ecosphere. It is his body and mind which are being poisoned by humans who are not living in harmony with it. He understands that Tagore is a man, not a deity. Tagore is either the Buddha or a Buddha, and he represents the ideal we should all be striving toward.

In a “tremendous breakthrough” Dick realizes that his 2-74 experience was a “conjurer’s trick.” Because Dick believed in Christianity he attached the significance to the Jesus fish necklace, which led to the cascade of other events. It was all an illusion that pointed to the Buddhist truth about the nature of reality. For the following year he interpreted things through the lens of Christianity without seeing what was really there. 

With his vision of Tagore he seems to have anticipated the “no-nukes” protests going on in the 80s, turning his spiritual belief into a political one. 

The Exegesis: The sanctity of the ecosphere

September 1981

Dick summarizes what he stated in his letters. The ecosphere is Christ, which makes it holy and something we must protect. Christ suffers every time any creature in the ecosphere dies, and Christ will withdraw from the world if we don’t stop harming the planet. Dick’s vision of the savior is the only thing keeping him from going crazy when he hears about atrocities like Agent Orange and Soviet micro-toxins. He calls his belief his own private religion based on aspects of Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Gnosticism and modern science. 3-74 and his 9-81 vision are helping him accept his own eventual death and the context of his small part in the overall picture. 

He implies that Tagore, like Horselover Fat, may be another of his identities. He senses, like Tagore, that he is dying, somewhat eerily I would say, since he will die less than six months later. He finally has succeeded in his career, and instead of enjoying the money and recognition he is consumed with spreading the message of his vision. Collectively we are all responsible for protecting the ecosphere, and Dick sees it as a choice between spiritual life and physical death. 

He has a dream where he watches, on television, a white bird hunted for sport. He interprets the dream to mean all life needs to be sanctified and protected as part of the ecosphere. It is an interconnected system. If one part dies the rest cannot survive.

Dick says he had a hypnagogic vision where he mailed out Xeroxed copies of his Ed Meskys letter to 85 other people, and he imagines that could inspire a revolution. 

Trying to envision Tagore as someone or something else (Logos, Krishna, Buddha) misses the point. Tagore is Tagore.

The Exegesis: Three letters about the savior

September 1981

Dick writes three letters in September of 1981 attempting to explain his visions involving the savior. The first two are to his literary agent Russell Galen. He tells Russ that years ago the AI voice informed him a savior would be born, and two nights ago the voice filled him in on more details. The savior’s name is Tagore, he lives or was born on an island (modern day Sri Lanka south of India) and is either a Buddhist or a Hindu. 

This savior is crippled and burned by radiation, stigmata that are a result of taking on the sins of the world, which are represented by the nuclear waste we have been dumping in the oceans. Tagore’s message is that we must protect the ecosphere. If we don’t protect the planet then Tagore (Haiga Sophia / Christ) will die.

The ecosphere is the collective consciousness of Teilhard de Chardin’s noosphere, which is also the Cosmic Christ / Valis. It has become man in order to communicate with us. He ends the letter to Russ by saying he has “independently confirmed Teilhard’s vast theory.”

Dick’s third letter is to Edmund Meskys, editor of the sci-fi fanzine Niekas. Under the guise that it is his alter ego Horselover Fat who had the vision of the savior he tells Meskys what he has recently learned about Tagore and the message to protect the planet’s environment and the noosphere.

The Exegesis: Negative entropy & VALIS as the key to the 10 volume meta-novel

June 1981

Someone who doesn’t “achieve the Ditheon state” of wholeness progresses toward entropy and death. Dick says the physicist Erwin Schrödinger has said that biological organisms can postpone death by maintaining order, and one way to do this is by absorbing “negative entropy” from their environment. This is a strategy an organism takes when it is approaching death and knows it. Dick frames this as a working relationship between an entity and its surroundings, as it is often a last ditch effort to incorporate the external as the internal. 

He realizes “the real purpose of this exegesis has not been to find the answer but to preserve the experience.” He has to let go of perfectionism in his quest. He accepts the Protestant idea of God’s grace saving him, because he is unable to save himself. To forget this is to endlessly worry his life away. 

Philip K. Dick’s ten volume meta-novel

I believe I said earlier that Dick never stated which books are in his ten volume meta-novel, but I am wrong if I understand this doodle to represent the ten books (technically nine and one short story) with VALIS in the center. They are: The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Time Out of Joint, Ubik, The Game-Players of Titan, A Maze of Death, The Man in the High Castle, Eye in the Sky, Martian Time-Slip, Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, and “Frozen Journey” (aka “I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon”). They surround VALIS, which he says is the key. “VALIS in itself means nothing! Its only significance is as the code book to the 10 volume meta-novel.” VALIS, written after the others, is necessary for decoding the meta-novel.

He has a dream in which a girl realizes the universe is made of our prior thoughts. Dick interprets it to mean he is frozen in his own mind, and the revelation is depressing.  

The Exegesis: Bible = world & creating Angel Archer 

June 1981

The Bible as information is the world. When you perceive the world you perceive the Bible, an interchange that occurs through “supra-temporal archetypal constants.” The Bible is not an account of a past time and place but rather is this time and place. Dick claims if someone attempted to write down a description of the world as they see it they would end up writing down exact passages from the Bible. He says this is what happened to him when he wrote Flow my Tears. He has combined ideas from Judaism, Christianity and Greek philosophy to come up with the notion of physical reality as information contained in a book for future retrieval. 

He makes a joke that it would be a “psychotic inflation of the ego” if he claimed to be Christ instead of saying he just saw him, although I think that is his belief. He rejects the concept of a sinful man and the idea of judgment after death that leads to heaven or hell. Instead we have the pursuit of Nirvana, or Christianity as Buddhism. 

Angel Archer is the other half of his soul, and he is glad he wrote Transmigration instead of the Blade Runner novelization that was offered to him, because otherwise she wouldn’t have been created. It took a great deal of energy to bring Angel to life, to the point where Dick says he could have died. She justifies his work by bringing it to a state of wholeness and completing it, similar to what God did with him through Thomas. It is the only way he knew it could be done. Dick created Angel (through Ditheon) and she came back to him as his soul, as the “spirit of [his] intactness.”

The Exegesis: A third-stage organism

June 1981

The plasmate formed by the cross-bonding of two human minds is a new kind of non-biological life form. It has no body, and to it reality is an idea not a physical thing. It’s possible the combination of the two human psyches happens spontaneously as a random event. Dick ties this concept back to Teilhard’s noösphere that he wrote about many years before. Because this life form has no body it “floats” and might be using the human mind as a way to connect to physical reality. 

He saw footage from the upcoming Blade Runner movie and recalls his time in Purgatorio when he had a vision of hell before ascending to Paradiso. 

The New Testament is the “secret narrative” of the Old Testament. It contains the living info that is Christ which cross-bonds with a human mind, capable of infinite combinations in a form of evolution. The Scripture that is generated (a new phenomenon) is unique to each person and situation. The third stage progresses from the Torah (OT) to Christ (NT) to this, but Dick doesn’t yet have a name for it. 

He claims his later books like Scanner and VALIS were written by a Ditheonic brain. No one, not the Jews nor Paul, connected the Torah and the NT this way as earlier stages of a third-stage organism. 

Based on his Ubik idea of God in the trash, the mundane and the divine are two stages of the same thing. The mundane is a slow stage of the divine (or the divine is a faster stage of the mundane) but there has to be unity, a coming together of discrete things, before it can make that leap to divinity.

Dick believes that the infinite beauty which exists in the world is the benchmark that points to God.