The Exegesis is a lot to process. The published book is around 900 pages, and it took me just under three years to read the whole thing. Here are my full notes.
I did my best to make sense of his monumentally complex thoughts and tried not to editorialize too much. Hopefully I didn’t do a disservice by oversimplifying anything. You might be surprised to find that the book he attaches the most significance to (even more so than VALIS) is Flow my Tears, the Policeman Said. I’m no stranger to the Bible, but I’m not sure I understand enough about the New Testament Book of Acts to make sense out of everything. I admit I don’t know enough about Gnosticism either.
Fair warning, he does often sound paranoid, especially at the beginning in his notes to Claudia Bush, and he dwells a lot on his dreams and hypnagogic visions. He also engages in a healthy amount of what I call retconning where he revisits many of his novels written before 1974 and tries to inject meaning into them that probably wasn’t there when he wrote them. He desperately wanted his entire body of work to have a single overarching theme.
These are some of the sections that stood out the most to me.
A metal prison and the teachings of Meister Eckhart – the first reference to what will become known to Dick as the Black Iron Prison
Zebra & the noosphere – he first introduces Zebra, a name he would use regularly for the Valis entity. I believe the nickname comes from a zebra’s camouflaging stripes.
A time-traveler named Thomas and a hypnagogic message – his first notes on Thomas
Perturbations in the reality field – this is a phrase Dick will continue to use for the remainder of the exegesis
Dialectics, an all-controlling computer & the counterculture – his first notes about the dialectic
Infinity – his theophany
A dream about “Ditheon” – his first notes about Ditheon
Three letters about the savior – his first notes about Tagore