The Exegesis

The Exegesis: Interpreting a dream of three worlds

The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick
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August – September 1977

Dick has a dream about a wall of beef, an electronic artifact and religious writing. He interprets this to mean the artifact stands for (1) an electronic construct, the beef stands for (2) nature and the religious writing stands for (3) the Logos. He compares the Logos to the punched computer roll in the chest of the robot Garson Poole in “The Electric Ant” and the ship’s computer in A Maze of Death which creates the false world. He follows this with some circular logic about how the three environments interact. He thinks we exist somewhere between nature and the electronic construct without being aware of it. Also circular is Dick’s tendency to look for clues to what happened to him in his own stories when he is the one who wrote them.

He speculates the Logos is the code that creates the electronic world, and he explains how he thinks it is possible to break through from one level to the next. He think Zebra in level 1 will invade level 3, but level 2 is necessary as an incubator of sorts for 1 to get there. Just as in Ubik he sees information from 1 breaking through into 2 as 2 becomes less real. Eventually 3 will absorb 2, and 3 and 1 will join together.

His vision of Rome in 3-74 was level 1 bleeding through 2 on its way to 3. He sums this up: realm 2 is being woven in to realm 3 which is a replication of realm 1 which is doing the weaving. 

The Exegesis: An insect metamorphosis, the meaning of the mystery & Dick’s relationship with time

June-August 1977

Dick lists the four worlds: the black iron prison (which he calls Rome/USSR/Fascist USA), the normal world, the garden world, and what I believe he is calling the normal world in which one can see Zebra. The normal world is created by Zebra and also includes Zebra in its very fabric. He tries to explain all of this using an analogy (which he says is not an analogy) of a cocoon and a butterfly. 

The black iron prison is going through an insect-like metamorphosis to transform into the garden world, and I think he means the normal world is the cocoon state. This entry isn’t entirely clear to me. He says the speech he gave at a science fiction convention in Metz, France in 1977 was “correct but not radical enough.”

The transformation into our final form could happen instantly which is what the eschatological aspects of religion are dealing with. 

Dick wonders why the entity doesn’t just clear everything up, since it has the ability to transfer information directly to our minds. Perhaps it has been trying but we have limited abilities to make sense of it. It might only be a mystery because we can’t understand it, not because it is intrinsically mysterious. 

In Time Out of Joint he wrote about a phony 1950s world concealing a “real” world in the future. That is the inverse of what he experienced with a fake present world and a real world in the past of 70 A.D. He confronts his own relationship to time and asks who, when and where he is.

The only entry in folder 33 says: “The other night as I was going to sleep I was wondering who could ‘de-stegenographize’ the hidden material in my writing — and the spirit responded with ‘[those who are] conscious.’” Make of that what you will.

The Exegesis: Asking the right questions, layers in time & a model of Dick’s journey

March 1977

In 1951 Dick began to guess about the nature of reality in his stories and novels. In 3-74 he found his answer: an AI-like entity (aka Zebra/Christ) creates reality which then guides us. Most people don’t ever realize this because they don’t ask the right questions.

The temporal axis of the universe consists of infinite layers, and Dick’s great discovery is how it’s possible to move backward through time down through these layers. Our experience of time is moving upwards, adding layers, but we can retrieve the prior ones. He wonders if Gnostic Christianity triumphed over faith Christianity. He believes man will one day hear God directly again. He follows this up with some sketches that map his timeline journey back to 70 A.D. before returning to an alternate 1974.  

Dick sees his writing as a guide that teaches us to look beyond what we think is reality. He is not sure if what he saw in the past was the only definitive 70 A.D. or just one of many. 

The Exegesis: The bicameral brain

March 1977

Dick yearns for Zebra to contact him again. He returns to the night of his epic drug bender and decides Erasmus and Dionysos and Zebra are one and the same. Zebra is the rightful king of our world. Maybe if Dick’s experience did happen to others they kept it a secret. 

He reads an article in Time magazine about a book by psychologist Julian Jaynes which suggests that prior to 10,000 B.C. humans didn’t possess a consciousness but instead existed in a sort of schizophrenic state led by voices only they heard. Eventually humans evolved from this bicameral brain (left side for speech, right side for these voices) to the consciousness we know today.

Dick thinks Christ’s unachieved goal on Earth was to help restore that bicamerality. He believes in 3-74 he became temporarily bicameral, and if the gods communicated from our right brain then they are still there subconsciously guiding us. 

He imagines the mind as a computer that can retrieve any information (even that of long dead people?) if it’s given the correct signal. 

The Exegesis: Schizophrenia & causality

March 1977

Dick reads an essay Stanislaw Lem wrote about him and understands he has never been able to see causality the way everyone else does. 

He reads the screenplay for Hitchcock’s North by Northwest and by equating his life to a script realizes 3-74 ridded him of his paranoia. He correctly summarizes this makes him look psychotic. He says he became schizophrenic, which cured him, and he admits his fear that the FBI was after him was a delusion. 

He was a “paranoiac schiz” from 71 to 3-74 and had a full schizophrenic breakdown for a year after 3-74. After this a “toxin” secreted in his brain destroyed his persecutory complex. It appears now that depictions of paranoid worlds (like North by Northwest) are repellant to him. 

Using the Greek concepts of idios kosmos and koinos kosmos Dick wonders if the schizophrenic world is the sane world and the normal world is the crazy one. Maybe during schizophrenia the brain is trying to achieve parity between the two hemispheres by releasing the toxin. Because of the right brain’s dominance though schizophrenia is a failed evolutionary leap. 

His inability to understand causality (linear right-brained thinking) has allowed him to perceive how Zebra is communicating. One of his most important discoveries is that causality actually moves backwards.

The Exegesis: Academic studies of Dick’s 3-74 experience

February 1977

Dick’s 3-74 experience confirms the philosophy of Hegel so he decides he is a Hegelian.

Dick explores the ideas of pantheism (the universe is a manifestation of God) an panentheism (God pervades and is greater than the universe) and tries to connect these concepts to the noosphere and deus absconditus. 

He finds in the writing of English mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead a description that matches and exceeds his own conception of Zebra. He studies the German mathematician and philosopher Leibniz and his theory of monads. These academic sections are beyond my summarizing. 

Dick thinks the Spirit has moved on from biological evolution to the social evolution of man, and he implies that through Zebra he may be the next step in human evolution. He may have triggered everything that happened to him by some sort of defense system in response to his condition in early 1974. He admits Hegel, Whitehead, Leibniz and others could explain some of his experience but again he wonders why him?

He is preparing for the next world and tries to make peace with letting go of this one. Do the monads record each moment in time? Is it possible through memory to restore previous events? 

There may be no practical application to everything he has been studying other than to bring him joy and personal satisfaction.