tag: Ursula Le Guin

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: Letter to Ursula Le Guin, September 23, 1974

Dick and Ursula Le Guin both attended Berkeley High School and graduated in 1947. Although they didn’t know each other at the time, and I don’t believe they ever met face to face, they did correspond in the 70s. 

Dick tells Le Guin that when he explained everything that has been happening to him to fellow sci-fi author Thomas Disch, Disch suggested Dick might have been possessed by Elijah. Dick is excited at the idea that it might very well have been the same spirit that filled Elijah, Elisha and reappeared as John the Baptist.