tag: Gnosticism

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

The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick
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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.

The Exegesis: A dream of Siddhartha & beginning VALIS

October 1978

Zebra destroys the four deformations.

  • It abolishes the phony world
  • It abolishes the occlusion 
  • It frees us from enslavement
  • It restores our memory

The Gnostics didn’t have it quite right. It is the living information itself, not the content of the information, that saves us.

Dick counts 21 of his stories that deal with the idea of fake vs real. 

The Logos contains the totality of the macrocosm. Once it replicates in someone (through just a tiny piece as happened with Dick in 2-74) they become one with the whole. Zebra is in Dick and his purpose is to restore this knowledge (gnosis) to the world, which he does through his lowbrow sci fi, just as in Ubik.

He has a dream about Siddhartha (the founder of Buddhism) and believes this means another savior is being born. Dick covers how the savior dynamic is depicted in Stigmata, Ubik, Galactic Pot-Healer and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. The VALIS book he is working on will show the process of redemption, although he finds writing it very difficult.

He has a dream about a fish and from that concludes the secret Christian society does exist and he is a part of it. Time has not passed since Rome 45 A.D. It has only been made (by James-James?) to appear that way. Dick understood this in 3-74 when he woke up. His book VALIS (which he calls his maximus opus) will show the restored and redeemed man, but from the perspective of Gnosticism and Buddhism, not Christianity. 

The Exegesis: An occlusion & a combined narrative

September-October 1978

This is how the BIP occludes us: “it is the damaged mind trying (unsuccessfully) to monitor its own damage.” Dick finds that eerily similar to the ideas in A Scanner Darkly. It is impossible for us to assess this damage which makes it self-perpetuating, and the only way to clear the occlusion is through Christ. The fake world will need to be destroyed in order to save us just as the Gnostics believed.

Dick seeks comfort from his pain and feels he is running out of time. Again he thinks he has “solved it.” Zebra is trying to reach into the BIP and make us aware of it just as in Ubik.

This is the combined narrative of his books:

As Dick has just reread A Scanner Darkly he now sees that as the key book in the sequence. It is the interior side of Flow My Tears and it explains why we don’t see the world portrayed in that book. He extends his narrative list to include a dozen other short stories and novels (see related) that seem to just tangentially touch on his overall theme.

He’s really stretching trying to cram everything he’s ever written into his overarching concept and goes back to the idea that A Scanner Darkly and Flow My Tears are the two most crucial books. 

The Exegesis: Jacob Boehme & a modified Gnosticism

January 1978

Dick has come across the story of Jacob Boehme, and the parallels with his own experience are a little eerie. Boehme was a German shoemaker who had a vision in 1600 triggered by light glinting off a pewter bowl just as Dick’s vision in 1974 was triggered by light reflecting off a Jesus fish necklace. Afterwards Boehme wrote prolifically exploring and revisiting this initial vision that revealed the structure of the universe. Based on Boehme Dick decides his own model has been far too simple. 

In 1974 the cosmic balance between nature and the divine tipped slightly in God’s favor. Our own suffering may be a reflection of the greater suffering of the uppermost being (Christ/Logos) at a smaller scale, but we can’t comprehend this. Our choice is to be like Christ and transcend our suffering. 

Dick wonders about a modified Gnosticism where the world evolved without a creator but an omnipotent being showed up and is now pulling the strings. In this way we can do away with the idea of an inferior creator. He speculates that Zebra is not a creator God but one who has stepped in to add form to the chaos. 

The divine may enter our world from the bottom, from the unassuming, discarded trash just as in Ubik the messages come from commercials (and of course like Dick’s own revelations in his lowbrow sci-fi novels).

Dick seems to see humans as android-like beings who must break out of our mechanization to become whole and reveal the true world.

The Exegesis: Dick’s current state, recalling the pink light and a message in the exegesis

January 1978

Dick is committed to his in-depth studies of Gnosticism. God will eventually take his troubled past and use it to create something meaningful, but he admits at the moment he is happy with “snuff, music and cats, friends and my exegesis…”

The salvation God promises is to rescue us from the prison world that he did not design. Zebra is mimicking a phony world and so this fake of a fake world will end up being the real world.  

Dick recalls the moment when he was listening to the Beatles and he first saw the pink light which told him his young son had a hernia that needed surgery. He envisions us as part of a living organism controlled by an AI-like mind, and we are a glitch in the system which the AI is trying to repair. 

He falls asleep listening to Brian Eno’s Discreet Music which puts his brain in an alpha state. When he wakes up he realizes whatever visited him (and his wife Tessa in 12/77?) was an Extraterrestrial Intelligence. 

He decides Zebra is not the Holy Spirit but instead is likely Christ. He follows that with some circular confusing notes about his Exegesis all to conclude, I think, that the message is Christ loves us.