The Exegesis

The Exegesis: A narrative archetype

The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick
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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.

The Exegesis: A Third Age & Valis as the One

June–October 1980

A new third, post-Christian age is beginning, progressing from, but disagreeing with, the New Testament, the same as the relationship between the New Testament and the Old. If the first age was justice, and the second was love then what is the basis of this Third Age where man has direct communication with God without churches or priests? In age three information occurs inside of us avoiding the signal loss that occurs with intermediaries like institutions or men. We will produce the scripture directly. Instead of a human savior, the savior of the Third Age will be everywhere. This Christ will be a meta-organism, God inside and out.

Dick compares this revolutionary thought opposing the church to the way early Christianity fought dogmatic Judaic law. New scriptures and prophets are needed. He recounts a message from the AI Voice that told him a new savior, either God or one with the power/approval of God, is coming soon.

He describes how Valis (which he now calls a macrometasoma) inhabits our world with its memory-structure and grows more complex as it evolves. Our world is its brain activity / metabolism. Valis is the One. This understanding unites everything (Plotinus, Pythagoras, Sankara) that he has been studying.

The Exegesis: A model of God, components of a new theology & an obsolete viewpoint

June–October 1980

Dick describes a model of God where “the parts are subordinated to the whole, and can be understood only in relation to the whole.” If they could be understood alone that would mean there was no God, because “there would be no subordination of parts to the total design.”

Our past exists in Valis’s memory which operates in much the same way as human memory does.

He declares his work thus far is a new theology which combines:

  1. Plato’s account of creation in Timaeus
  2. elements from Zoroastrianism 
  3. the Cosmic Christ
  4. the meta-biology of Valis
  5. the AI system of Valis
  6. “process creation and divinity”
  7. Pythagoras’ kosmos
  8. “accretional laydowns from the phenomenal world to the real world”
  9. Spinoza’s pantheism

This reveals Valis to be a new, previously unknown God, although something similar to YHWH or the Zoroastrian creator deity Ahura Mazda. It’s possible Valis spreads by assimilating its environment. It can change the past because the past is part of its structure. Dick located it because it exists all around us instead of in the afterlife.

Valis unites units of information and is evolving and growing more complex. We are unable to see these meta-units. All we see is what constitutes them. Dick likes this view. He calls the Christ-centered model obsolete and is happy to finally get away from it toward a much more mechanical description of Valis working against entropy and making quantum leaps upward in levels of reality to where we cannot perceive it.

Immediately after abandoning a theological framework Dick goes on to describe Christ as a rebellious part of the Valis machinery that broke away and came to us two thousand years ago to clue us in to the secret of the prison we are trapped in and to heal us. 

The Exegesis: The mechanics of 3-74, a different universe for everyone & reality as a library

January – April 1980

Dick feels he is past the issue of what happened and has moved on to figuring out how it happened, equating himself to a mechanic taking a machine apart piece by piece. The condensed version is that he overran external time causing time to run backward relative to him which meant he subconsciously knew what was going to happen at least ten years before 3-74. When 3-74 arrived this latent “faculty” took over and he saw reality as the living brain it is. 

He rereads his notes about The Tao of Physics and confirms his idea of a unique universe for everyone created by the interaction of an individual with the macrocosm, a concept he has been promoting in his novels for a long time. He expended a great deal of energy into his own merger injecting many of his ideas from Flow My Tears and about Ubik into Valis.

It’s impossible to truly understand the universe you are a part of, but the advantage of being a participant is the ability to exert your will to shape reality. Dick concludes he was the source all along of the “perturbation in the reality field,” and he imagines reality as a library that he is able to retrieve information from while time stands still.

The Exegesis: The Groove Override and the New Free Merit-Deed

January – April 1980

Dick breaks down the process of his path to salvation into two parts: the groove override (GO) and new free merit-deed (NFMD). In the GO period the not-self self (Thomas in his case) freed him from his deterministic loop so he could perform his “good-karma” act in the NFMD period in order to escape from the afterlife cycle. Someone who follows GO with an evil act would gain bad karma and be judged again by Ma’at, although the ones working to help you (Christ, Buddha) have an omniscient view you will do good. Dick gets himself twisted up here trying to decide which is the cause and which is the effect, GO or NFMD, and decides it’s a paradox: in order to get out of the deterministic groove you already have to be out of it.

What needs to happen for GO is a psychological death which allows for rebirth, something illustrated by the crucifixion of Christ. Dick says this ability to escape from a preprogrammed groove is an evolutionary leap in mankind (which he dubs the meta-mind), since someone who achieved this would exist out of time and could create alternate worlds. Does Valis encourage this? Or are “angels” evolved humans who have already figured this out? He wonders if a future self outside of time could influence a past self (as the AI voice), becoming both cause and effect.