tag: Buddhism

The Exegesis: Explaining Tagore through Eastern and Western thought & the magic trick of 2-74

The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick
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September 1981

Dick realizes our spiritual lives are intertwined with the ecosphere, so rejecting the spiritual aspect of our existence means giving up on our physical lives. 

His vision of Tagore is based on a combination of Eastern and Western thought, beginning with the Western concept of man’s fall from the Garden of Eden and a need to return to that state, but with the Eastern solution of acknowledging suffering (which was caused by man in the Western view) and withdrawing from the world in order to repair it. 

He has a dream/hypnagogic vision of a stigmata on his own leg that represents Tagore’s wound. He identifies with Tagore who can only get relief from the self-inflicted pain when the injuries to the ecosphere have stopped. 

Dick admits he has a messiah complex and sees himself as one with the ecosphere. It is his body and mind which are being poisoned by humans who are not living in harmony with it. He understands that Tagore is a man, not a deity. Tagore is either the Buddha or a Buddha, and he represents the ideal we should all be striving toward.

In a “tremendous breakthrough” Dick realizes that his 2-74 experience was a “conjurer’s trick.” Because Dick believed in Christianity he attached the significance to the Jesus fish necklace, which led to the cascade of other events. It was all an illusion that pointed to the Buddhist truth about the nature of reality. For the following year he interpreted things through the lens of Christianity without seeing what was really there. 

With his vision of Tagore he seems to have anticipated the “no-nukes” protests going on in the 80s, turning his spiritual belief into a political one. 

The Exegesis: The sanctity of the ecosphere

September 1981

Dick summarizes what he stated in his letters. The ecosphere is Christ, which makes it holy and something we must protect. Christ suffers every time any creature in the ecosphere dies, and Christ will withdraw from the world if we don’t stop harming the planet. Dick’s vision of the savior is the only thing keeping him from going crazy when he hears about atrocities like Agent Orange and Soviet micro-toxins. He calls his belief his own private religion based on aspects of Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Gnosticism and modern science. 3-74 and his 9-81 vision are helping him accept his own eventual death and the context of his small part in the overall picture. 

He implies that Tagore, like Horselover Fat, may be another of his identities. He senses, like Tagore, that he is dying, somewhat eerily I would say, since he will die less than six months later. He finally has succeeded in his career, and instead of enjoying the money and recognition he is consumed with spreading the message of his vision. Collectively we are all responsible for protecting the ecosphere, and Dick sees it as a choice between spiritual life and physical death. 

He has a dream where he watches, on television, a white bird hunted for sport. He interprets the dream to mean all life needs to be sanctified and protected as part of the ecosphere. It is an interconnected system. If one part dies the rest cannot survive.

Dick says he had a hypnagogic vision where he mailed out Xeroxed copies of his Ed Meskys letter to 85 other people, and he imagines that could inspire a revolution. 

Trying to envision Tagore as someone or something else (Logos, Krishna, Buddha) misses the point. Tagore is Tagore.

The Exegesis: Three letters about the savior

September 1981

Dick writes three letters in September of 1981 attempting to explain his visions involving the savior. The first two are to his literary agent Russell Galen. He tells Russ that years ago the AI voice informed him a savior would be born, and two nights ago the voice filled him in on more details. The savior’s name is Tagore, he lives or was born on an island (modern day Sri Lanka south of India) and is either a Buddhist or a Hindu. 

This savior is crippled and burned by radiation, stigmata that are a result of taking on the sins of the world, which are represented by the nuclear waste we have been dumping in the oceans. Tagore’s message is that we must protect the ecosphere. If we don’t protect the planet then Tagore (Haiga Sophia / Christ) will die.

The ecosphere is the collective consciousness of Teilhard de Chardin’s noosphere, which is also the Cosmic Christ / Valis. It has become man in order to communicate with us. He ends the letter to Russ by saying he has “independently confirmed Teilhard’s vast theory.”

Dick’s third letter is to Edmund Meskys, editor of the sci-fi fanzine Niekas. Under the guise that it is his alter ego Horselover Fat who had the vision of the savior he tells Meskys what he has recently learned about Tagore and the message to protect the planet’s environment and the noosphere.

The Exegesis: Bible = world & creating Angel Archer 

June 1981

The Bible as information is the world. When you perceive the world you perceive the Bible, an interchange that occurs through “supra-temporal archetypal constants.” The Bible is not an account of a past time and place but rather is this time and place. Dick claims if someone attempted to write down a description of the world as they see it they would end up writing down exact passages from the Bible. He says this is what happened to him when he wrote Flow my Tears. He has combined ideas from Judaism, Christianity and Greek philosophy to come up with the notion of physical reality as information contained in a book for future retrieval. 

He makes a joke that it would be a “psychotic inflation of the ego” if he claimed to be Christ instead of saying he just saw him, although I think that is his belief. He rejects the concept of a sinful man and the idea of judgment after death that leads to heaven or hell. Instead we have the pursuit of Nirvana, or Christianity as Buddhism. 

Angel Archer is the other half of his soul, and he is glad he wrote Transmigration instead of the Blade Runner novelization that was offered to him, because otherwise she wouldn’t have been created. It took a great deal of energy to bring Angel to life, to the point where Dick says he could have died. She justifies his work by bringing it to a state of wholeness and completing it, similar to what God did with him through Thomas. It is the only way he knew it could be done. Dick created Angel (through Ditheon) and she came back to him as his soul, as the “spirit of [his] intactness.”

The Exegesis: Valis’s origin & overcoming the will

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.