The Exegesis

The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick
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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. 

Schizophrenia & causality

The bicameral brain

Jacob Boehme & a modified Gnosticism

A time-traveler named Thomas and a hypnagogic message – his first notes on Thomas

Hyperuniverses and our world as a hologram

Perturbations in the reality field – this is a phrase Dick will continue to use for the remainder of the exegesis

Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said as living information

Dialectics, an all-controlling computer & the counterculture – his first notes about the dialectic

Zebra mimicking Ubik

The mechanics of 3-74, a different universe for everyone & reality as a library

Infinity – his theophany

VALIS disguised as outsider art

The meta-abstraction

The true identity of Angel Archer and God’s evolution

A dream about “Ditheon” – his first notes about Ditheon

Negative entropy & VALIS as the key to the 10 volume meta-novel

Three letters about the savior – his first notes about Tagore

Dick’s true feelings about Blade Runner

Notes on The Owl in Daylight

Notes on Galactic Pot-Healer