The Exegesis

The Exegesis: Valis’s true identity & a successful exegesis except for one outstanding question

The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick
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October-November 1980

If someone put a gun to Dick’s head and forced him to give an answer about the nature of Valis he would say it is the Tao, since that represents the mastery of the dialectic through the Yin and the Yang.

After six and a half years he says the exegesis has finally become successful as he can now perceive, within the flux, ordinary daily reality. He feels old and misses the energy of his youth, but takes comfort in the fact that nothing from his past is truly lost and that his writing will “permanently affect the macrometasomakosmos” and survive in the structure of the world order.

What he really wants an explanation for is the “perturbation in the reality field,” a tug that he compares to the moon’s effect on the Earth’s tides. He has circled back to where he started. What does it point to?

3-74 was a heroic act, but it didn’t happen because he was a hero, given his history. A new self was born in him when Thomas took over. Perhaps Thomas wasn’t a lost part of himself but energy transferred from the world.

Valis is the Tao, YHWH, Cosmic Christ, Brahman, Shiva, Krishna or a quantum mechanic phenomenon. Or maybe there is nothing in the last mystery box, just God creating existence out of nothing. Paradoxically it has existed here all along in the ephemeral trash. The final great reversal. So the mystery is there is no mystery. This means Ubik is true, something Dick didn’t realize when he wrote it.

The Exegesis: The splintered soul and the splintered truth

October-November 1980

Dick thinks that perhaps Rome 45 A.D. and USA 1974 are not in fact superimposed but rather through metamorphosis Rome has changed into the USA.

By linking together all the different concepts he has been talking about he has destroyed religion’s hold over us and allowed the soul to understand its divinity and immortality. 

Dick’s intellect synced with his emotions and he saw the bleakness of the world, just like Buddha’s view of absolute suffering. He decides to face this stoically. We are all trapped in the cycle of birth-suffering-death because we made the mistake of believing the spatiotemporal realm is real, and only a few of us will discover the way out. In 2-74 Dick saw the spatiotemporal realm was not real and his soul “literally exploded through time and space,” leading to the terrible realization of everyone’s condition. 

We must recognize Tat tvam asi (“thou art that,” one of the four great sayings of the Upanishads expressing a relationship between an individual and the absolute) in order to reverse the primordial fall (when we took the spatiotemporal realm as real) and reassemble the splintered parts of our soul.

Dick admits he is rediscovering things he already knew and needs to rest.

The truth itself has been splintered up over the years, and bits of it can be found in all religions and philosophies. Alone none of them can be accepted as a total belief system, but Dick sees it as his task to reassemble them into one. He understands it is impossible to come up with the unified complete answer by only studying one of these bits of the whole. That would explain why he has never been able to match his 3-74 experience to any one religion or philosophy. 

The Noös (what Dick seems to be calling Valis in these pages) also appears exploded within the spatiotemporal realm, but in “the great reversal” we will see the Noös unified as it truly is. 

The Exegesis: The 2-74 trigger, God in the trash & straightening out his confusion

October-November 1980

Dick tries to figure out what the trigger was in 2-74 that started his whole experience. The Christian symbology of the Jesus fish necklace was just a clue, but once he had a glimpse of how reality was arranged he “could not halt the involuntary chain of mental hypotheses” which led him to further and further abstractions.

Space and time are not real, no time has passed and the world only exists in God’s memory as the book of “Acts.”

“The secret is to view something ‘from the other side’ and not as it is.” Because everything is backwards God is in the trash (or like Ubik in throwaway commercials) and Satan exists in the cathedrals. It isn’t until the end times when they will assume their rightful shapes. Dick lets us know that he thinks Deus Irae is his worst book (“My worst book, Deus Irae, is my best”) while naming these reversals. In all the random junk and ephemera is where we will find God.

Dick hasn’t been trying to figure out what the TV drama is about for the last six and a half years but rather how the TV set works. Christianity is not the answer but instead content within the system.

It took that initial abstraction set off by the sodium pentothal followed by witnessing the Jesus fish necklace that led to him understanding the hierarchy of realms in reality. One spatiotemporal continuum (USA 1974) is the same thing as another (Rome 45 A.D.). They are two ways of looking at the same thing superimposed. He admits he can’t convince anybody of this and is afraid no one will believe him.

He has been trying to understand what happened to him through the framework of Christianity which doesn’t really fit with everything he now knows, unless he settles for the idea all of it was a miracle performed by God. Instead he accepts that Christianity is his narrative within the Neoplatonist structure. 

The Exegesis: Disinformation & Valis’s self-generating creation

June–October 1980

After six and a half years of obsessive notes Dick reflects on the Exegesis thus far. He knows he repeats his arguments “like a stuck LP,” but the important thing is getting everything down in order to preserve the memory of what he went through: Valis is YHWH / Christ and the Holy Spirit as Thomas inhabited him. He has been attempting to document in a rational way a mystical experience that can’t truly be expressed in words. 

The Empire uses disinformation as a tactic against the Christians. Since reality is information you can tell which side is which in the battle by paying attention to who is generating information and who is suppressing it. 

Using concepts from quantum mechanics Dick speculates on Valis’s mode of operation. It only comes into existence after being observed by a participant. Someone has to be aware of Valis in order to perceive it, but Valis doesn’t exist until it is observed. Valis does this through a use of time we don’t understand. After creation it retroactively sends messages back to give a participant the understanding necessary to see Valis and therefore create Valis. This makes it self-generating using “physics about which we know nothing.”

Valis is simple, like a single-cell organism, but it is made up of billions of complex forms (humans). Since Valis is reality this makes our world a coherent unit of purposefully interconnected parts. Through the dialectic (the forces of the Empire acting against it) it is constantly evolving to maintain equilibrium.  

In all this Dick realizes he has come back around to the Yin and Yang of Taoism, but decides it is non-sectarian since it combines Christian, Brahmanist, Platonist and Taoist ideas all at once. 

The Exegesis: A narrative archetype

June–October 1980

The wars we fight today between communism and capitalism mirror the wars fought throughout history between the middle-class and the elites, between Protestants and Catholics, between the early Christians and Rome, etc, back through time. Dick had been trying to see the true world and when he finally uncovered it what he found was that narrative archetype which he had correctly depicted in Flow My Tears. Valis is always on the side of freedom, and the only way for enslaved people to be victorious is by overthrowing the Empire, not merely escaping it.

The AI voice who addressed him is YHWH who he realizes is Valis. Dick recognizes he has declared “he has figured it out” too many times and is hesitant to say that again (since it seems to doom him to uncovering more questions), but he does feel that Valis = God / Christ and that he saw and experienced him in 3-74. 

The Exegesis: Sacred rites and mythic time

June–October 1980

Perhaps our perception of reality causes it to change just as quantum mechanics suggests. We can cause things to be healed on the macro level by repairing them in ourselves. This could mean Dick self-generated the information that kicked off his 3-74 experience. It could also mean the “Acts” material in Flow My Tears was put there by Dick himself “due to principles of physics we simply do not understand.”

Dick accidentally entered mythic time through his interaction with the girl with the Jesus fish necklace. He compares the Xerox missive (a coded letter of unknown origin he received as a warning right before 3-74) to the Gnostic legend of the pearl. He took part in this mythic ritual which unlocked his memories, but his participation came down to chance when he saw the necklace and received the letter.

He recounts the New Testament story of Paul’s imprisonment as told in the book of “Acts.” Unlike the crucifixion story Paul is eventually released, which demonstrates the Empire’s waning power. 

Dick performed his sacred rite and encountered God as the world, not as an anthropomorphic figure. The mythic ritual is a key into one of many sacred narratives. Dick “punched into” his by accident. He compares this to different computer programs running simultaneously. Reenacting a different rite would have put him into a different program.