The Exegesis: Folder 11

The Exegesis: Dialectics, an all-controlling computer & the counterculture

The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick
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December 1979

Valis is outsmarting and swallowing up the irrational. Dick throws around the word dialectic a lot in this section referring to contradictory concepts. Valis is self-generating. Dick is not part of it but also it. He says he continually programs himself for self-punishment. Without the pain he would give up and die. 

The dialectic process is self-perpetuating and the exegesis is an example of this back-and-forth. Stasis = death. 

He speculates (seemingly under the influence of drugs) about how the early Christians, under cover of their religious doctrines, were actually a revolutionary political group. They still exist today and use some sort of computer left on Earth by aliens (aka Valis) to beam out an energy field that controls humans and their history. The aliens, which Dick has decided are 3-eyed, want us to think in this binary, dialectic way, what he calls paratruths rather than one unitary truth. He makes a list of these contradictory paratruth pairs about Valis:

  • it’s evil / it’s good
  • it’s occluding / it’s educating
  • it’s alive / it’s a machine
  • it’s serious / it’s playful
  • it created our reality / it evolved out of our reality
  • it’s human / it’s non-human (God or alien)
  • it’s objectively real / it’s all in his head

He suspects it is some kind of (tender, loving) ship-board computer but admits he can’t prove that.

Dick says the counterculture was what got the U.S. out of Vietnam and thus prevented World War III. He gives himself some credit for this because of his early stories with anti-war themes (see related). He says he might be the sole Marxist S-F writer, and he is still going strong into the 1970s.

The Exegesis: Exploded time, a key in Parsifal, & acosmism and gnosticism combined

December 1979

Dick is having a hard time wrapping his head around what it means if he is Zebra. Does he exist in two places at once, as himself in 1974 and as Thomas in 45 A.D.? Did he cause the “perturbation in the reality field” that he saw? He envisions a parabolic orbit where we acquire a separate identity and then return in a loop back to the whole.

When Buddha achieved his enlightenment he converted time into space. Dick imagines time as a series of superimposed “laminations” added to, rather than replacing, the ones that come before. Ubik correctly represented this spatially. Ubik showed the beginning of enlightenment and VALIS is its logical successor. 

Dick says the line “here, my son, time turns into space” from Wagner’s opera Parsifal is the key to everything that helped him unite Buddha’s enlightenment, Paracelsus, Plato, Ubik and his 3-74 experience. Without that line in the opera he couldn’t have written VALIS. I always assumed the Valis and Ubik entities were one and the same but Dick here says he is only just realizing that.

Dick makes a connection between acosmism (the result when Zebra frees the body physically?) and gnosis (the freeing of the mind).

“I can come to no other conclusion. Reality is a field onto which our senses have falsely locked and which now coerces us and must be demonstrably broken from outside in a way in which we can witness (‘a perturbation in the reality field, a vortex’).”

Dick stands by his assertion that Valis did not create the universe but is a product of it or its antagonist. It is reordering the chaos of the universe. It doesn’t just use language but is language, which fits into his idea of Valis as living information.

He summarizes what he believes up to this point: just like in the cold-pac in Ubik we are surrounded by a hologram reality. Valis/Ubik breaks through into this maze (which they built?) in order to test us.