tag: Taoism

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

The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick
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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: 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: Valis as the Cosmic Christ & Valis as the macrometasomakosmos

October-November 1980

It took a heroic act of will for Dick to break out of his programming even though it was the Tao that caused the perturbation in the reality field that let him know something wasn’t right. Dick’s effort to make a change caused the future to flow into the past, what he calls “real time.”

He concludes Valis is the Cosmic Christ who isn’t physically real but only exists as the tug of the perturbation. He only knows this after rejecting all other possibilities during his studies over the last six and a half years.

He compares the tug to a breath in the weeds or a magnet’s effect on iron fillings, a barely detectable weak field. This small attraction though can cascade until it causes a big change. He now believes it came into existence out of nothing.

The self-awareness achieved at the end makes the suffering endured during the journey worth it.

He wonders if he’s had it wrong all along. Instead of Valis camouflaged as the world perhaps Valis is the world which it purposefully assimilated in “dialectical combat” piece by piece to make up its body. Dick makes it clear he doesn’t mean an anthropomorphic human body but something that encompasses the universe.

He connects Valis to the macrometasomakosmos and realizes they are one and the same. He’s surprised he didn’t understand this before. This confirms Valis as the Cosmic Christ. We can’t see it since its structure is created out of the ordinary world around us.

The Exegesis: Valis’s true identity & a successful exegesis except for one outstanding question

October-November 1980

If someone put a gun to Dick’s head and forced him to give an answer about the nature of Valis he would say it is the Tao, since that represents the mastery of the dialectic through the Yin and the Yang.

After six and a half years he says the exegesis has finally become successful as he can now perceive, within the flux, ordinary daily reality. He feels old and misses the energy of his youth, but takes comfort in the fact that nothing from his past is truly lost and that his writing will “permanently affect the macrometasomakosmos” and survive in the structure of the world order.

What he really wants an explanation for is the “perturbation in the reality field,” a tug that he compares to the moon’s effect on the Earth’s tides. He has circled back to where he started. What does it point to?

3-74 was a heroic act, but it didn’t happen because he was a hero, given his history. A new self was born in him when Thomas took over. Perhaps Thomas wasn’t a lost part of himself but energy transferred from the world.

Valis is the Tao, YHWH, Cosmic Christ, Brahman, Shiva, Krishna or a quantum mechanic phenomenon. Or maybe there is nothing in the last mystery box, just God creating existence out of nothing. Paradoxically it has existed here all along in the ephemeral trash. The final great reversal. So the mystery is there is no mystery. This means Ubik is true, something Dick didn’t realize when he wrote it.

The Exegesis: Disinformation & Valis’s self-generating creation

June–October 1980

After six and a half years of obsessive notes Dick reflects on the Exegesis thus far. He knows he repeats his arguments “like a stuck LP,” but the important thing is getting everything down in order to preserve the memory of what he went through: Valis is YHWH / Christ and the Holy Spirit as Thomas inhabited him. He has been attempting to document in a rational way a mystical experience that can’t truly be expressed in words. 

The Empire uses disinformation as a tactic against the Christians. Since reality is information you can tell which side is which in the battle by paying attention to who is generating information and who is suppressing it. 

Using concepts from quantum mechanics Dick speculates on Valis’s mode of operation. It only comes into existence after being observed by a participant. Someone has to be aware of Valis in order to perceive it, but Valis doesn’t exist until it is observed. Valis does this through a use of time we don’t understand. After creation it retroactively sends messages back to give a participant the understanding necessary to see Valis and therefore create Valis. This makes it self-generating using “physics about which we know nothing.”

Valis is simple, like a single-cell organism, but it is made up of billions of complex forms (humans). Since Valis is reality this makes our world a coherent unit of purposefully interconnected parts. Through the dialectic (the forces of the Empire acting against it) it is constantly evolving to maintain equilibrium.  

In all this Dick realizes he has come back around to the Yin and Yang of Taoism, but decides it is non-sectarian since it combines Christian, Brahmanist, Platonist and Taoist ideas all at once.