tag: Black Iron Prison

The Exegesis: VALIS as a political handbook

The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick
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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: Elijah & Torah

Dick believes the personality that has inhabited him is Elijah (or the same spirit that took over Elijah), and this is reinforced by several dreams he has connected to the Bible.

The way YHWH tries to break through to us is like how sounds from the world are able to work their way into our dreams when we are asleep. They are either incorporated or jarring enough that we wake up. Most of us remain in Purgatorio because we are afraid of risk. It’s a gamble. We could make it to the Palm Tree Garden or end up in the BIP.

When Dick watched 3 Women he realized if he didn’t believe in YHWH he would end up in a cosmic nothingness… a terrible thought. Again he reiterates that Plato made an error. The two realms don’t exist in space but rather all around us. Since this is the case the upper realm can be accessed in life, like what happened to him in 3-74, and not just after death. The erroneous view of spatial realms affected Christianity but not the Israelites who recognized God was in nature. 

Torah is living information created by God. What we call reality is just our way of interpreting this information signal. Valis is the “machine” that turns the Torah into reality. Torah as info is trapped in reality, so to truly understand all of this we would need to see Torah in all living things and retrieve it.

The Exegesis: The Divine Comedy, a Satanic church, St. Sophia as the AI voice & YHWH

Dick continues his comparison of our world to Dante’s Divine Comedy. Just before entering Paradiso memory is restored. The mid-realm (Purgatorio) is a combination of signals from the irredeemably bad BIP and the entirely good top realm. Moving into the upper realm is akin to time travel, encountering Satanic voices from Inferno and angelic voices from the future. 

If he saw God while he was alive then Spinoza’s monism model is correct, but it’s also possible Dick is in the afterlife, which would mean a transcendent God. Based on the Paradiso canto “God is the book of the universe” he thinks of his experience as moving through a book where the pages are the layers of phosphene graphics he’s talked about before.

He has a dream that Satan has taken over the church and Christians are worshiping the wrong God. The true church, those with the full knowledge, exist apart from this evil which has been kept secret.

Dick wonders if he saw Valis because the analytical left hemisphere of his brain took over from his dominant intuitive side. This is how St. Sophia manifested herself, analyzing reality. He calls it a psychosis, his unconscious invaded although by a rational being. He decides this would explain the AI voice since the speech center is located in the left brain. This woman (who is also Sibyl, Athena, Diana and the Fairy Queen whoever that is) is a part of him, in syzygy with Valis, but he wishes she would take over and run things.

He has a hypnagogic vision that YHWH is the one who has been instilling knowledge in him. The AI voice tells him it’s the same being that contacted Elijah. The significance here is the name YHWH, aka “I am who I am,” God’s personal name. Could it be that the Christianity doctrine of the trinity is Satanic and blasphemous since it leads away from true monotheism? Perhaps Satan already won when the temple fell in 70 A.D. (with the aftermath revealed in Flow My Tears) but now YHWH is returning. 

The Exegesis: History as a brain, being as thought & different spacetimes

October – November 1979

“A playful God can ape the solemn, but a solemn God is not going to ape the playful (music, dance, etc.), especially tricks and paradoxes and riddles.”

In 2-3-74 Dick stripped away the layers and saw Valis… after Valis is the abyss. He imagines history as a great brain cannibalizing its environment. Valis operates within human history in order to evolve. Just as pre-Socratic man Dick saw thought and being combined into one. The spiritual isn’t a separate realm but rather Valis’s physical thoughts that exist outside of our senses. He recognizes this is like Spinoza’s monism which doesn’t see a distinction between God and world.

Religions like Christianity reintroduced the concept of an anthropomorphic God as separate from the world and Christians as “in and not of the world” which served to devalue the world and our place in it. Dick has found the absolute being in Ubik/Valis.

Two worlds with different spacetimes exist, one within the other, locked together but running at different speeds. The fast one is the one we perceive as we are hurried to our deaths. He has a hypnagogic thought that he, as Thomas, fell asleep and ended up trapped in high-speed time.

Dick was rendered innocent by Christ, joined God in the garden and had his name written in the book of life. He didn’t earn his innocence though, Christ guided him. 

He recalls a hypnagogic state in 3-74 when he saw a map of stars. Using Dante’s Divine Comedy as a model he compares the BIP to Inferno, the Palm Tree Garden to Paradiso and Purgatorio to the world we are aware of. 

The Exegesis: Adam Kadmon, Beethoven and another concept of the Christian universe

October – November 1979

In 3-74 Dick was restored as Adam Kadmon, one of the first entities who came into being in the Kabbalah, a man filling the entire universe, subject = object and microcosm = macrocosm. Dick compares the spatial reality created by the two systems of intersecting information to the music, and similar non-temporal reality, Beethoven created. He relates the expansive music to Paracelsus’s inner firmament, and Beethoven’s music is another trigger for the transfiguration that will free us from the BIP.

Memory is converted into a spatial volume, which is what he experienced as the world of Acts in 3-74. The hologram (reality) is created from this space, not time, so what we have is layer upon layer of the past.

Beethoven’s music was politically subversive because it expanded the mind of the individual. Dick’s writing is politically subversive because he explores the inner space, much like the psychedelic movement of the 1960s. He hopes his writing can help others expand their inner space and break through into absolute space, just as Adam Kadmon. Beethoven’s music can free us and show us there is a world outside, a lot like the one portrayed in Ubik and A Maze of Death.

He says the Christian universe is its own universe, a compressed, 2000-year span that starts with the death of Christ and ends with his return. In trying to understand the connection between that universe and ours he hits on relativity where the events of that universe viewed here (or by him in 3-74) would fly by in a blur. More importantly, in 3-74, when he slowed down and was in phase with that Christian world, our world “sped up.” And in that moment he was able to discern Valis, no longer camouflaged in its environment. When this happened to him his present “stretched out millions of years.” He says this is the opposite of drug intoxication where you get smaller and the world gets bigger, and instead in this enlightenment you grow to fill up time and space. 

The Exegesis: A Q&A about psychosis

In 3-74 Dick came to understand that reality could be tweaked through subtle interactions to be anything you want it to be due to the mimicking nature of whatever reality really is. He calls it a push-pull relationship.

Charles Platt interviewed Dick for his book Dream Makers, a collection of interviews with science fiction authors. Afterwards, based on that conversation, Dick suspects Valis must have come from his collective unconscious, which meant he went through a psychotic breakdown. Dick follows this with a long series of questions and answers to probe this idea like:

  • Q: What about external events?
    A: Coincidence
  • Q: Why were his senses enhanced?
    A: Drug-induced psychosis
  • Q: What about the perceived time dysfunction?
    A: Nothing but disorientation

He eventually admits to himself he must be a manic depressive, saying he went through a borderline psychosis. Soon though the answers begin to contradict themselves, and he decides the psychotic diagnosis “does not compute.” Why did his anxieties remain during this period and why were his behaviors problem-solving instead of bizarre? He concludes it could not have been a psychotic break and in the end says “we have learned nothing.”

He interprets a hypnagogic message to mean he has been adopted by God just as Jesus was. He reads about how the Torah was regarded as a living being and realizes that is identical to his concept of Acts as living information. He imagines the BIP as an ossified iron complex and reiterates that it’s his job to dissolve it.

Another hypnagogic voice suggests Dick has died and returned to life, which means Dick lived on after Christ/Thomas died.