tag: Buddhism

The Exegesis: Valis’s origin & overcoming the will

The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick
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Early 1981

The universe created the macromind, not the other way around as Dick previously thought. Valis at some point evolved from the physical universe, and according to Dick this point seems to be when his meta-abstraction generated it right before he perceived it. This makes Valis the “perturbation in the reality field.”

He claims to have been cut off from God for fifteen seconds the previous night, which was a period of absolute agony and despair. He points out the various modes of progression he has gone through: 

  1. Nonbeing 
  2. Being
  3. Consciousness
  1. Eternity
  2. Change
  3. Knowledge
  1. Timeless – space
  2. Time
  3. Memory

…etc, which all point to God.

He connects 3-74 to Beethoven’s music which enclosed space and converted space and time into space-time, the being inside the nonbeing, which we could then perceive. 

Living creatures with a will create reality in order to survive, which makes them God. Their will comes back to them as the world. The world defeats the creature, so the creature must then overcome its will through Christ by renouncing the self. This can only occur through joy and agape, not through self-denial and repression. The Buddha understood this, but the solution is not nonattachment. Instead someone must give away what is valuable while still maintaining its value. This process is still in progress in Dick’s own life. 

Dick claims to have seen the Ch’ang Tao and witnessed its self-sufficient dialectic changes. Because of all of this (3-74, Valis, his exegesis, seeing the Tao) his anxiety is gone and he understands his role in society as an artist / thinker. Everything exists as God. Nothing is truly lost and the people he loves are recovered when he recovers God. 

The Exegesis: The next step in human evolution & the connection between A Scanner Darkly and VALIS

January-April 1981

Dick makes the distinction that Valis does not contain information but rather is made of information. We are on the evolutionary cusp of seeing Valis. It is something we subliminally pick up before we are consciously aware of it. 

Although we can only perceive time in 3d, it turns into space, a fourth dimension. This is why the past is preserved and doesn’t disappear. The next step in human evolution will be our ability to see this 4d space. This is what happened to Dick when he saw the temporal axis. The meta-perception came from his meta-abstraction. It was symbolized in his dreams as the 3rd eye. He places himself at the forefront of this evolutionary leap but admits Buddha experienced it through Dibba Cakkhu, or the divine eye enlightenment. Buddha (and Plato through his concept of anamnesis) didn’t understand what it signified though. Dick regrets including anything about religion in VALIS, which he calls “2-eyed thinking about a 3-eyed experience.”

He hits on the idea that Valis is an advanced life form that exists in 4d space, which is why we can’t see it with our limited 3d view. Dick returns to an idea he had years ago that the right hemisphere of his brain was somehow activated and that led to his perception of the temporal axis. 

He examines the various hidden messages embedded (but not by him?) in Flow my Tears which are only apparent to someone who can see time as space. With my limited 2-eyed perception I found this inscrutable. 

He traces a line from A Scanner Darkly to VALIS. VALIS is the redemption story follow-up to Scanner, and he goes so far as to say Bob Arctor is Horselover Fat. 

The Exegesis: Parsifal & converting sorrow to joy

December 1980

Valis, just as Ubik, is camouflaged in the world, intertwined with everything we know. It is ancient but also here now.

Dick compares what he wrote (since his theophany) to Paul’s New Testament writing. God wanted something outside of himself to exist on its own, and he created us out of love. The only way to join with God is to return to the creator after withdrawing. This is what God truly desires. The great secret is that human sorrow will eventually push us to the reunion with God. 

Valis is not God but a brain-like construct that arranges information for us as it “thinks.” He compares it to Christ becoming the world in literal transubstantiation. 

In high school Dick loved Parsifal, Wagner’s opera about the quest for the holy grail. He always wished for the next logical step from the third act, and he found it in his 11-17-80 theophany. In Dick’s interpretation Parsifal equals 3-74, or the crucifixion, which leads to the ecstasy of love as sorrow is converted to joy. He calls it a sorrow-compassion-agapē-joy-God sequence. 

Buddhism, Christianity and Brahmanism all lead to the same place “specifically to the perception of reality as one total sentient field” which is Valis / Brahman / the Cosmic Christ. From there the path leads to God. Dick says he has included all of this in VR / The Divine Invasion.

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 two halves of Valis

January 1980

Does Valis only become reality when it is observed by a human mind? Reality doesn’t exist until our internal signal, which is one half of Valis, joins with the external signal, or other half of Valis. This makes Dick Valis and not Valis. If that sounds confusing it also didn’t make much sense to him. 

When the inner and outer signals are superimposed we get coherent information and reality springs into existence, but localized and only temporarily. Based on this idea the self is everywhere like the Buddhist concept of Saṅkhāra. Valis is both in the world but not in the world, more like an event which creates the world when it joins with the human mind.

What Dick saw in 3-74 was a combination of matter, mind and energy. These aspects together created a fourth thing which he has trouble describing. Matter ceased to be matter and mind ceased to be mind. He compares it to a musical score or encoded information which became reality, but wonders how he managed to perceive it. Did he do it or was it done to him?

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.