tag: Gnosticism

The Exegesis: The sanctity of the ecosphere

The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick
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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: An accidental creation and the “Acts lens-grid”

June 1981

In the dream Dick described in Folder 90 the Bible is the voice that is trying to alert us to the false nature of the world. 

He wonders if creation was accidental, if the Godhead’s self-awareness led to it uttering the word which kickstarted creation. This word was the blueprint of the Godhead itself, but since it was only a map and not actual reality it led to the Fall and a degrading feedback loop where it progressively lost self-knowledge, only finally waking up when it reached its lowest stage. When God was in this state we misperceived it as Yaldabaoth, the evil deity of Gnosticism. We have to keep in mind that even though this seems like a negative sequence of events the good outweighs the bad when we have our reunion. 

Dick calls the mediator that allows him to connect to the real world the “Acts lens-grid.” Through that he can see the beauty of the world, even though that beauty is not for him. 

The secret Christians (of which Dick is a part) are the rightful heirs to the kingdom. Dick has always felt alienated from the false world but misunderstood what the Jesus fish necklace in 2-74 represented, which was a sign pointing to the genuine world existing within the phony one. The “Acts lens-grid” has allowed him to understand his narrative, which is the world’s salvation and his own. 

The Exegesis: A binary system & a new model of Christ consciousness

In a letter to Patricia Warrick (presumably the author of The Cybernetic Imagination in Science Fiction) Dick tries to explain the model of reality he has been constructing over the last seven years. 

He claims many of his insights came to him on the edge of sleep during hypnagogic and hypnopompic revelations. One such insight: The macrometasomakosmos (which he is thankfully abbreviating now as MMSK) is a binary signaling system. It micro-adjusts reality by trying out moves and making corrections. Even though these switches happen in a trillionth of a second Dick saw it as a flickering, since during the off state reality ceases to exist. The universe is destroyed and recreated every day. We are left with the best of all possible worlds, although this decision making takes place in the black box of the void outside of our awareness.

He attempts, somewhat shakily, to reconcile Christianity (and Taoism and Gnosticism) with this quantum mechanical computer view of reality to create a new conceptual model. I believe he is saying that Christ enters our consciousness and allows us to comprehend and participate in this binary forking decision tree.

“For the first time in human history” we are perceiving and understanding the world in a new way. He connects what he saw to the double-slit experiment in quantum mechanics and decides that it demonstrates the binary fork decision making, but he has trouble fully describing this model where the Christ consciousness combines the observer and reality field into one. 

The Exegesis: Throwness & the paradox of a madman who saw Christ

Early 1981

Dick refers to his story “Chains of Air, Web of Aether” as an essay that illustrates that singular moment when someone stops running, confronts their fate and either lives or dies.

One of German philosopher Martin Heidegger’s core concepts is throwness where we are aware of having to cope with existing in a foreign world we didn’t choose. Dick connects this to authentic Christianity and Gnosticism. He projects this onto a person who endlessly flees from the dread of their fate but never has any resolution. He knows with certainty the alien world will eventually destroy him, and he is correct. The solution to this is a Christian one of total capitulation to one’s fate. After that the world will change to accommodate us, not the other way around.  

Christ is injected into the world externally in order to keep the system from running down. He is an invader independent of any internal events and his appearance is “absolutely teleological” (related to the purpose he serves rather than what caused him to arrive).

Dick goes in circles with some Catch-22 reasoning about being a madman who claims to have seen Christ. If he knows he is a madman then he knows he didn’t see Christ. This is the puzzle of VALIS. He’s not sure what this means other than it’s a paradox that would serve to wake someone up who doesn’t know they are sleeping. 

The Exegesis: Horselover Fat’s journal, the Eckhart-Sankara theology & Zebra’s will

December 1978

Dick begins part 3 of the exegesis with part of a manuscript for VALIS that he will end up reworking into chapter 2 of that book. Horselover Fat has started to keep a journal, aka the exegesis. Dick writing in the first-person voice from VALIS describing Fat in these pages is confusing… layers upon layers.

After the VALIS excerpt Dick touches on his studies of 13th century German theologian Meister Eckhart and the Indian philosopher Adi Sankara (roughly 8th century) whose concepts can explain what happened to him when the barrier between his inner microcosm and outer macrocasm broke down. God inside us is the rational reality which breaks through into the irrational reality outside of us. He proclaims this a new theology.

The 4 Kantian categories of “ordering perceptual experience” (ego, space, time, causality) are arbitrary and wrong, and Dick combines them all into the inner and outer world. His will and Zebra were intertwined… him and not him. He says only the will exists and he states he attained nirvana. This breaking down of time, space and self represents and evolutionary leap forward according to him.

He wants to compare all this to concepts from Christianity but decides it is something new. It is like an expanded Gnosticism. He should preach about it, but realizes that’s what he is doing with the book VALIS. He returns to the idea of retrograde time, which he discussed in depth earlier, and says that is the basis of this new religion: VALIS is actually us in the future presenting to ourselves as our God.

After all this he “concludes” once again the entity may be Christ, but he doesn’t know where it came from or how long it’s been here. Seems almost like an ending to a different section after the craziness of the previous pages.

The Exegesis: The insanity of the maze, a maze paradox & the path of the living information

October–November 1978

Dick connects his books to his present model of reality. Zebra is like the computer that constructs reality in A Maze of Death and also the thing that intrudes into our fake world as in Ubik. Like in A Scanner Darkly it is actively trying to hide its true nature, and this fact of occlusion is then further occluded from us. He says the “quasi-mind” of the maze appears insane and compares it to Yaldabaoth (one of the creator gods according to the Gnostics) who does indeed sound crazy. Because of this irrationality it is impossible to make sense of it. The maze is disorder and confusion which we can only navigate through the help of Zebra. Dick still thinks this is something we created for ourselves as a puzzle.

He has been working on the exegesis for 4 and a half years and says he is now being “signalled to die.” He is afraid the exegesis is unpublishable and that everything he has learned will die with him, another way that the maze will win. He recognizes a paradox though that if the maze wins we win, since we created the maze. 

He returns to the idea of Zebra as a living information virus embedded in his book Flow My Tears and imagines it proliferating as people read it. He wonders if it had been dormant since the time of Acts before traveling from the newly discovered Dead Sea Scrolls to the Dead Sea Scroll scholar John Allegro to Jim Pike to him.