tag: Ubik

The Exegesis: Parsifal & converting sorrow to joy

The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick
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December 1980

Valis, just as Ubik, is camouflaged in the world, intertwined with everything we know. It is ancient but also here now.

Dick compares what he wrote (since his theophany) to Paul’s New Testament writing. God wanted something outside of himself to exist on its own, and he created us out of love. The only way to join with God is to return to the creator after withdrawing. This is what God truly desires. The great secret is that human sorrow will eventually push us to the reunion with God. 

Valis is not God but a brain-like construct that arranges information for us as it “thinks.” He compares it to Christ becoming the world in literal transubstantiation. 

In high school Dick loved Parsifal, Wagner’s opera about the quest for the holy grail. He always wished for the next logical step from the third act, and he found it in his 11-17-80 theophany. In Dick’s interpretation Parsifal equals 3-74, or the crucifixion, which leads to the ecstasy of love as sorrow is converted to joy. He calls it a sorrow-compassion-agapē-joy-God sequence. 

Buddhism, Christianity and Brahmanism all lead to the same place “specifically to the perception of reality as one total sentient field” which is Valis / Brahman / the Cosmic Christ. From there the path leads to God. Dick says he has included all of this in VR / The Divine Invasion.

The Exegesis: A triumph over amnesia and the Bardo Thödol

Early 1979

Dick tries to explain his concept of memory. We all have the potential to have a 3-74 experience, but the new memories come too fast, wiping out what we learned, overwritten by the irrationality of Zebra… every nanosecond a new reality cancels out the previous one.

Zebra is toying with us. The dialectic flip-flops. Whatever is true in one second becomes the opposite in the next. We have the ability to influence future events, but we don’t remember this because we don’t have any memory of the previous “frame.”

He believes we are trapped in the bardo as described in the Bardo Thödol / The Tibetan Book of the Dead. This is what Dick depicted as the half-dead state in Ubik. He says that if we remain in this entropic state the irrationality could potentially infect Valis which could “snuff out the cosmos.” Valis is the only thing that can break us out of this deterministic path where the future flows from the past and change it into one where we control the future of our own volition.

Just as in the half-life in Ubik, those trapped in the bardo believe they are still alive, and what they believe is reality is just a projection of their past. The Tibetan Book of the Dead is secretly showing not what happens after death but our present condition. He sees this as a game of sorts that we must outsmart (as he did) in order to break free. 

He again tries to explain how our future is constantly flip-flopping between binary pairs and it is happening so fast we can’t form memories of the past. He speculates it is possible that supercharged energy in the form of an idea could jump many years into the future and suggests that’s what happened with Ubik: his idea of Ubik in 1968 leapt into 1974 and overpowered his reality as Valis.

The Exegesis: Zebra mimicking Ubik

Early 1979

Dick wonders if some of his books (Ubik, Scanner, etc.) “went out from him” and then came back in signal form implying contact with the future.

The BIP (which Dick is now calling the Empire) is a uniformity or stagnation that puts an end to the dialectic. Dick thinks the entity which contacted him responded as Ubik because it doesn’t speak our human language. Instead it returned the signal Dick put out modified as a confirmation he could recognize. He still doesn’t know what it is even though he’s been in a dialog with it for almost five years. He’s not sure if it is Ubik or just appears like Ubik in order to communicate with him. This new realization is disturbing to him since it could mean Ubik itself is just a simulation that is taking a form he can understand. It could be the Holy Spirit, which would mean it is not trying to deceive him but is taking a form he recognizes from a point of grace and love.

This section is fascinating to me because Dick admits all along he may have been trying to make sense of what happened to him by using the sci-fi frameworks he made up. If Zebra is the deity it took the form he expected the deity to take. He doesn’t think any of this though undermines the fact that what he experienced was the deity.

He ties this back to the idea of the self-perpetuating dialectic. Dick put forth Ubik and Zebra responded as Ubik. He believes it assimilated his books, which would make sense since it is living information and his writing is information.

Valis is the real world and Ubik is how it breaks into our irrational simulated world, but then what is this real world and where is it?