tag: Mental Illness

The Exegesis: Notes on Galactic Pot-Healer

The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick
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February 1982

Dick wanted to depict a theophany in Galactic Pot-Healer when everyone encountered the god-like alien Glimmung. Looking back on that book he realizes how little he knew at the time, since he wrote it before 3-74 and his own subsequent theophany experience. It was easy for him to write about a theophany in Divine Invasion, but while working on Pot-Healer he had reached his end creatively and spiritually. Whatever signs of psychosis that show up in Pot-Healer are there because he did not yet know God. 

Dick says “Glimmung is absurd and in fact a travesty and I knew it at the time.” He was trying to show finite creatures encountering the infinite, but he hadn’t yet experienced that himself. That attempt, within the writing, sent him out of control. It’s impossible for the human mind to generate the infinite. “The infinite must break in!”

He admits he was psychotic, but it wasn’t caused by drugs or his family or schizophrenia. It was caused by a hunger for the infinite that was only quelled by 2-3-74. 

The human mind’s endless loop of only its own thoughts causes a sort of madness in us all, since we can’t truly know the infinite or “other.” Dick’s psychosis was an awareness of this. His failure in Pot-Healer was trying to represent the infinite when it can only be known directly.  

Evidently Ursula Le Guin felt Pot-Healer was a success while VALIS showed signs of insanity. Dick points out that someone who hasn’t broken out of the prison of the self might see Pot-Healer as safe and VALIS as threatening even though it is the opposite. 

He reviews the “Tractates” that he outlined years before. He notes he now understands the system and that it was revealed to him by the AI voice and meta-abstraction, which makes all of it Gnosticism.

The Exegesis: The AI voice’s narrative loop, symbolism in VALIS & social justice in the Age of Aquarius

Transmigration is a narrative told by St. Sophia. She can peer into the future and witness events, which she then causes to occur by reading them as the AI voice. This causes a deterministic loop as she is bound to narrate things just as she saw them, which also happens to be as she read them. Nothing truly causes the world, since the effect of the cause is the cause. Dick calls this tragedy as one has to confront the thing they wrote “and thus ordained for oneself.”

He addresses the incident in 1974 when he found out about his son’s birth defect while listening to the Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever” and notes there is no way to tell whether that information came from him or from an external source. 

He digs into the significance of the vase and pot in VALIS. He calls it the code or cypher of that book. He connects the symbol to Gnosticism and pre-Christian times as a sign of the Age of Aquarius. This next epoch, one of community and sharing instead of competition, is the 5D world taking over the 4D (Pisces) world. 

The 60s counterculture could have been the result of Aquarius breaking into the Age of Pisces. He compares that revolution to that of the early Christians. 

Much of this is inspired by Benjamin Creme, an author who predicted the second coming, who Dick recently heard on the radio. The “World Teacher” (according to Creme), who may already have been born, will be known by many names (Buddha, Krishna, Messiah, etc…) and communicate in every language. 

If he is schizophrenic, he wonders, how could his delusions match up exactly with Creme’s? And after questioning his own mental health Dick goes on to claim secret government agents with paranormal talents are controlling his every move. Luckily their goal is to usher in the Aquarian age. 

The key takeaway is the “philanthropia” of the upcoming age, rational sharing that has more in common with the Torah than Christianity. 

The Exegesis: The mind as Valis & belief in God

Dick describes what sounds like a bipolar illness where he bounces back and forth between mania when he thinks he has figured things out and depression when he has lost his belief. 

He has been engaged in scientific research the last seven years trying to figure out what the perturbation in the reality field was in 3-74, but the whole time he’s been afraid he is insane, especially with regard to hearing the AI voice.

He has a dream about someone who lived in a void and whose mind created a world in order to keep him from going crazy. The more this person scrutinized the world the more real it appeared. The only thing letting him know the world wasn’t real was a preprogramed voice which failed to do its job due to the increasingly convincing nature of the false world.

Dick’s takeaway from the dream is that what he knows as Valis (and the binary computer) is actually his own mind creating this imprisoning world.

Now that he seems to know for sure what is going on and that he was right that the world presented to us is not the real world, he wonders what the “utility” of the delusion is. We can either see the phony world (understand it but not believe it is real) or see the world as it truly is and be unable to make sense of it. Both approaches look like mental dysfunctions to him. Is the false world a gift from God? God might be the only way out of the “solipsistic trap,” so does this whole thing lead to him? Dick is embracing belief. He can’t prove God exists (it may well be a hallucination), but he is choosing to believe that God exists beyond himself. 

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. 

The Exegesis: A doomsday device, paranoia & mental illness

Dick has a dream: the KGB contacts him and shows him the “doomsday device” the U.S. Army has created. He interprets the dream to mean Valis is this doomsday device. The U.S. put information about Valis into Flow My Tears as a trap in order to draw out the KGB and get them to contact him. 

He decides to take the dream literally, but realizes humans didn’t let the weapon loose. It escaped. It is an anti-Soviet weapon that worked as designed by promoting love of God and country. He calls it capitalist mind control. It creates a personality that seeks bourgeois comforts and fears the left wing. He is afraid of all authority as a result.

He had been desperate in 1974 but now he feels guilty about the comfortable life he is living, one of financial security that he achieved by cooperating with the state. In a moment of reflection he admits his belief that the Soviets would contact him was a paranoid, psychotic fantasy.  

He has a memory of a parallel world that phases in and out of reality. He tries to makes sense of what have probably been schizophrenic episodes. His writing has been an attempt to create some kind of philosophical framework to deal with all of this. This is one of his clearest views of what he has been going through where he admits the puzzle he has embraced solving for so long exists mostly in his mind.

The Exegesis: Is the fake fake real?, information degradation, schizophrenia & St. Sophia

August 1978 or later

Based on situations in The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, A Maze of Death and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep Dick tries to decide if hallucination is reality or reality is hallucination. He settles on the latter. He follows that with some circular reasoning about the real becoming fake becoming real. 

I struggle to understand his notes on entropy within the brain, but I think he concludes that because of information degradation the hologram weakened and allowed the Acts material to show up in his book Flow My Tears. Because of entropy the Acts message itself that made it through was degraded.

Dick admits he probably had a schizophrenic episode in 3-74 and the stress and the breakdown of his relationships that led to it began as early as 1970. The psychosis he encountered is gone at the time of writing due to financial security and a new relationship. A bright spot of the whole ordeal was that it put him in touch with Holy Wisdom / St. Sophia which is now part of his soul.

In a third-person passage he recounts what happened to him and the intervention of St. Sophia communicating her message of love, wisdom and harmony.