The Exegesis

The Exegesis: Valis’s origin & overcoming the will

The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick
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Early 1981

The universe created the macromind, not the other way around as Dick previously thought. Valis at some point evolved from the physical universe, and according to Dick this point seems to be when his meta-abstraction generated it right before he perceived it. This makes Valis the “perturbation in the reality field.”

He claims to have been cut off from God for fifteen seconds the previous night, which was a period of absolute agony and despair. He points out the various modes of progression he has gone through: 

  1. Nonbeing 
  2. Being
  3. Consciousness
  1. Eternity
  2. Change
  3. Knowledge
  1. Timeless – space
  2. Time
  3. Memory

…etc, which all point to God.

He connects 3-74 to Beethoven’s music which enclosed space and converted space and time into space-time, the being inside the nonbeing, which we could then perceive. 

Living creatures with a will create reality in order to survive, which makes them God. Their will comes back to them as the world. The world defeats the creature, so the creature must then overcome its will through Christ by renouncing the self. This can only occur through joy and agape, not through self-denial and repression. The Buddha understood this, but the solution is not nonattachment. Instead someone must give away what is valuable while still maintaining its value. This process is still in progress in Dick’s own life. 

Dick claims to have seen the Ch’ang Tao and witnessed its self-sufficient dialectic changes. Because of all of this (3-74, Valis, his exegesis, seeing the Tao) his anxiety is gone and he understands his role in society as an artist / thinker. Everything exists as God. Nothing is truly lost and the people he loves are recovered when he recovers God. 

The Exegesis: Kathy’s beauty and failure to overcome pain

Early 1981

Dick ruminates on the beauty of Kathy, a young woman he had a relationship with in the early 70s in between wife number four Nancy and wife number five Tessa. How is it possible Kathy is more beautiful than the beauty of God? It’s a question he doesn’t have an answer for. He told the story of losing Kathy in VALIS, as Horselover Fat loses Gloria but finds God. He realizes he’s been writing this autobiographical story of heartbreak again and again (in Flow my Tears, Scanner and now VALIS) but unlike his novels the substitution of God for the women in his life was not an adequate replacement.

One constant in his stories, at least going back to Flow my Tears, is pain, or specifically the comprehension of pain. He calls it the basis of his writing. Loss and suffering are unexplainable and attempts to makes sense of them through philosophy or religion are an irrational sign of madness. This makes him insane of course, but this insanity in an insane world is a paradoxical form of sanity. He confronts the pain head on, unlike everyone else who goes mad while avoiding and denying pain. This circular reasoning doesn’t offer him any answers, and his failure to solve the problem of pain indicates a greater failure of all mankind. 

Dick calls himself a fictionalizing philosopher, not a novelist, as he is trying to express truth not art. Like him, the people drawn to his stories want to understand the irrational world, but unfortunately no answer is coming. 

Dick has shown that our entire worldview is false and reiterates he is a failure because he doesn’t know what to replace it with. He needs a Plato to his Socrates to come along and figure it all out. Plato though had it all wrong. Instead of the particular becoming the universal we need to look for truth in the particular. In a drug-inspired reverie he hopes that the particular of Kathy will one day become permanently distributed in reality. 

The Exegesis: Brainstorming for The Transmigration of Timothy Archer & Horselover Fat as the fool

Dick takes notes for what will eventually become The Transmigration of Timothy Archer. He brainstorms using previous ideas from the exegesis, and among other things covers sacred mushrooms, the Dead Sea scrolls, Zeus Zagreus, Orphic rites, Jacob Boehme and the bicameral mind.

In VALIS Dick depicted Christ as Horselover Fat (who had evolved from Confession of a Crap Artist’s Jack Isidore), which means Dick (as H. Fat) contains Christ. Again he puffs up VALIS as an unparalleled work of art. In real life Dick is consumed by doubt but as H. Fat in VALIS this doubt is converted into absolute faith. H. Fat is a fool who finds Christ, so Dick is curious if that makes Dick himself the fool. After seeing God he feels like he is stuck back in purgatory and wonders if he needs to model himself after the fool H. Fat / Jack Isidore if he is to be saved. 

The Exegesis: VALIS disguised as outsider art

Early 1981

Dick boasts about the literary style and content of his novel VALIS which had recently been published in 1981. He describes the book as a puzzle that deals with the maze of reality. Understand the book and you will understand reality itself. Dick’s “analysis of the logical paradox posed by VALIS is that the narrator is sane and therefore did see Christ: this is the solution to the maze VALIS…”

He paints VALIS as outsider art that questions the nature of the universe and the intentions of God. Its crude appearance though disguises its sophistication. He calls it an avant-garde artistic forgery that only pretends to be a “quasi-psychotic confession,” and one day it will be recognized for what it is.

The Exegesis: VALIS as a political handbook

January-April 1981

Flow My Tears contained two narratives: the political narrative and a “latent” religious one. These two parallel ideas were joined in 3-74 into a revolutionary whole that combined a sort of Marxism with Jewish millenarianism. Dick compares it to the conflict in the Old Testament book of Daniel. He poured this into VALIS, a novel he now views as political and a call to action to help usher in messianic rule. This line of thinking seems to come directly from the 1980 election and inauguration of Reagan who represents to him the Empire.

His political beliefs never changed but now they are bolstered by his religious and philosophical studies over the last seven years. All of this comes together in VALIS which gathers the politics of Flow My Tears, the theology of Deus Irae and the street view of A Scanner Darkly into a total vision.

The 60s revolution, post Nixon, failed after all the leaders in the counterculture had been killed. Dick expects a new savior that will lead the resistance against Reagan’s BIP regime. VALIS is a manifesto and the political playbook. Dick claims his vision of Christ gives him the authority to lead this political charge, and says he is coming out into the open as one of the secret true Christians who have been in hiding for so long.

Dick realizes something “obvious” after rereading Flow My Tears: it is a retelling of the Greek tragedy The Bacchae about the god Dionysus. He credits Dionysus’s “stoned magic” for enlightening him about what really happened in 3-74. He draws a line from Dionysus to Elijah to Jesus and imagines Dionysus as the Christians destroying the BIP. VALIS spells out this evolution from Dionysus to Christ and then further details Christ returning to the eleven grieving disciples. Dick didn’t understand any of this when writing the book and wonders if anyone else will figure it out.

The Exegesis: The next step in human evolution & the connection between A Scanner Darkly and VALIS

January-April 1981

Dick makes the distinction that Valis does not contain information but rather is made of information. We are on the evolutionary cusp of seeing Valis. It is something we subliminally pick up before we are consciously aware of it. 

Although we can only perceive time in 3d, it turns into space, a fourth dimension. This is why the past is preserved and doesn’t disappear. The next step in human evolution will be our ability to see this 4d space. This is what happened to Dick when he saw the temporal axis. The meta-perception came from his meta-abstraction. It was symbolized in his dreams as the 3rd eye. He places himself at the forefront of this evolutionary leap but admits Buddha experienced it through Dibba Cakkhu, or the divine eye enlightenment. Buddha (and Plato through his concept of anamnesis) didn’t understand what it signified though. Dick regrets including anything about religion in VALIS, which he calls “2-eyed thinking about a 3-eyed experience.”

He hits on the idea that Valis is an advanced life form that exists in 4d space, which is why we can’t see it with our limited 3d view. Dick returns to an idea he had years ago that the right hemisphere of his brain was somehow activated and that led to his perception of the temporal axis. 

He examines the various hidden messages embedded (but not by him?) in Flow my Tears which are only apparent to someone who can see time as space. With my limited 2-eyed perception I found this inscrutable. 

He traces a line from A Scanner Darkly to VALIS. VALIS is the redemption story follow-up to Scanner, and he goes so far as to say Bob Arctor is Horselover Fat.