PKD + Religious Studies Blog
my purpose : PKD is of great literary interest, and his literary use of religious
ideas is of literary interest, but I will approach from religious studies angle--
although I hope to provide original RST data+theory I plan to try to make it
useful for literary studies people as well. I am interested in PKD's religious
experiences in themselves and his religious consciousness, and plan to
spend more time looking at them as religious ideas rather than literary ones.
I will look at the uses he makes of religion in the novels but focus on the
problem of understanding how these literary uses of religion reveal info
about the author's own religious life. Hoping to explain why he took such
an interest in religious ideas.
why I like reading the exegesis
why I liked it in college
Philip Dick does not lead his critics an easy life, since he does not so much play the part of a guide through his phantasmagoric worlds as give the impression of one lost in their labyrinth.
* Stanislaw Lem, "Philip K. Dick: A Visionary Among the Charlatans", March 1975
Exegesis introduction, summaries, excerpts, comments on structure and how to organize an approach/methodology
Religion in PKD Novels/Stories (non-phildickian religions in phildickian situations)
Eastern Thought in Man+High Castle
Reality Breakdown as a typical Mystical Experience (long before SF)
Theorizing VALIS + VALIS trilogy
Selected Letters - exp. of God on dope, etc.
Claudia Bush letters
Shifting Realities articles
Useful PKD websites
PKD and contemporary gnostic revivals
PKD and the new age (ufology- bro. blue)
Crumb comic (include thoughts on PKD and the comic form, how well it translates as a biographical sketch, need for visualizing--Rickman was glad Sutin included PKD drawings
# GOLUMBIA, David. Resisting the "World": Philip K. Dick, Cultural Studies, and Metaphysical Realism. #68, 23:1 [March 1996].83-102.
Philip K. Dick's Valis A Critique and Demystification by Scott Lawson
After reading McKee’s discussion, one might rethink or even reject Darko Suvin’s remarks about the banality of Dick’s theological ideas.
Gabriel McKee. Pink Beams of Light From the God in the Gutter: The Science-fictional Religion of Philip K. Dick. New York: UP of America, 2004. ix + 84 pp. $22 pbk.
PKD and C.S. Lewis: The Approach to Religion in Science Fiction...
Why his religiosity rubs some readers the wrong way. (looking for secular mindfuck)
What did PKD really think about drugs? Why his is not a "psychedelic" religiosity
(although it shares some elements with mindfuck and questioning and etc.)
In this sixth entry in the series of Dick’s letters, the great sci-fi author continues his metaphysical and religious quest initiated by the Valis visions of 1974. In these letters to friends, fans, agents, and other sci-fi writers, Dick speculates on the visionary and archetypal material that intruded into his novels in the latter part of his life, which marked a turning point in his literary career. These intensely personal letters express Dick's deepest thoughts on science fiction, human nature, philosophy, and more.
Philip K Dick: Exhilaration and Terror of the Postmodern - by Christopher Palmer
While I don't agree with approaching PKD as a postmodernist per se (he was clearly situated in modernist and humanist traditions, among myriad influences)
this is a good introduction to contemporary theory that helps explain the kind of
satire and social critique PKD was doing, especially in "questioning" mode.
extreme example of the mistaken impression of drug influence on PKD -"drugs undid him"
Philip K. Dick and Human Kindness
The Ethical Spectacle March 1996
another overblown example of crazy drugged out phil in review of "I'm Alive..."
unattributed PKD quote
"I was 12 when I read my first SF magazine: I was actually looking for popular science. I was most amazed. Stories about science? My view became magic equals science, and science of the future equals magic."
FCB: Once your interest in Philosophy was sparked, how did you then pursue this interest? What books did you at first read? What courses if any did you take in philosophy?
PKD: I dropped out of college very early and began to write, pursuing my interest in philosophy on my own. My main sources were poets, not philosophers: Yeats and Wordsworth and the seventeenth century English metaphysical poets, Goethe, and then overt philosophers such as Spinoza and Leibnitz and Plotinus -- the last influencing me greatly. Early on I read Alfred North Whitehead and Bergson and became well-grounded in process philosophy. I did take a basic survey course in philosophy at the University of California at Berkeley, but was asked to leave when I inquired as to the pragmatic value of Platonism. The Pre-Socratics always fascinated me, in particular Pythagoras, Parmenides, Heraclitus and Empedocles. I still view God as Xenophanes viewed him. Gradually my interest in philosophy passed over into an interest in theology. Like the early Greeks I am a believer in panpsychism. Of all the metaphysical systems in philosophy I feel the greatest affinity for that of Spinoza, with his dictum, "Deus sive substantia sive natura;" to me this sums up everything (Viz: "God i.e. reality i.e. nature.") After flirting with bitheism for years I've settled down to monotheism; I regard even Christianity and later Judaism as heavily dualistic and hence unacceptable. To me the truth was first uttered (in so far as we know) when Xenophanes of Colophon, an Ionian, stated, "One God there is…in no way like mortal creatures either in bodily form or in the thought of his mind. The whole of him sees, the whole of him thinks, the whole of him hears. He stays always motionless in the same place; it is not fitting that he should move about now this way, now that. But, effortlessly, he wields all things by the thought of his mind." My interest in Pythogaras came from reading Wordsworth's "Ode," and from there I passed on to neo-Platonism and to the Pre-Socratics. The German Aufkl@ rung influenced me, especially Schiller and his ideas of freedom; I read his "Wallenstein" Trilogy. Spinoza's views regarding the worth of democracy also influenced me. Especially I studied the Thirty Years War and the issues involved, and am sympathetic to the Protestant side, in particular the valorous Dutch. When I was twenty-one I wrote a piece on the superiority of the American governmental system of checks and balances, praising it above all other systems of governments either in modern times or in antiquity; I sent a copy to the then governor of California, Earl Warren, to which he replied, "It is a gratifying experience to receive such an expression of appreciation of the government for which all of us work and serve. And although it may be that many others have the same depth of feeling you expressed, few are so articulate. Certainly your letter is unique in my experience, and I have received many through my years in public office." That was in the year 1952, when my first stories were published. It coincides, therefore, with my appearance as an author in the world of SF. -interview "PKD on Philosophy"
Philip K. Dick liked nothing better than to toy with the fundamentals of human existence
"Gnostic Biography" of PKD (focuses on the mystical experiences)
The Ten Major Principles of the Gnostic Revelation
Paranormal Experiences of Philip K. Dick
A series of very interesting letters by well-known writer Philip K. Dick is a case in point. He once gave a detailed non-fiction account similar to that of similar to that of many U.F.O witnesses and abductees when he described his own encounters with an entity that first manifested by keeping him awake at night with "violent phosphene activity".
It did not seem bound by either time or space ... within my head it communicated with me in the form of a computer-like or Al-system-like voice, quite different from any human voice, neither male nor female, and a very beautiful sound it was, the most beautiful sound I ever heard. (February 10, 1978)
He added that he thought it was "an ionized, atmo spheric, electrical life form able to travel through time and space at will ... through camouflage (it) prevents us from seeing it. And he described the aftermath of his initial experience: "during the days following ... the imposition - that is the right word - the imposition of another human personality unto mine produced startling modifications in my behavior." He came to the conclusion that he experienced "not added perceptual faculties but restored perceptual faculties ... we are imprisoned by blunted faculties: the very blunting itself makes us unaware that we are deformed. (February 20, 1978)
Philip Dick wrote some 500,000 words of notes over a four year period concerning his "paranormal" experience and concluded that "I will never really know what did in fact happen. Some living, highly intelligent entity manifested itself inside me and around me, but what it was, what its purpose was, where it came from - I have tried a thousand theories, and all work equally well, but at the same time each theory leaves some datum unexplained ... and I know this is not going to change (PKD's emphasis). I have the impression that a master game player and magician and trickster is involved." (February 23, 1978)
By trying to force the UFO experience into the narrow mold of the extraterrestrial theory, we have lost sight of other, more profitable avenues of research. We have allowed abduction believers to drive us into a blind alley. We have wasted a valuable opportunity to open our minds to new models of reality.
Was PKD a Postmodern religious thinker? (talk about attempts at pomo theology/religion, RAW etc.)
Jason P. Vest on PKD+Kafka p.43
"Neither man creates a humanist utopia or a comfortable space for his characters to spend their uncertain days. Readers are left with the suspicion that, for Kafka and Dick, life comprises little more than conflict, sorrow, and pain. Such is the destiny of humanism's (perhaps naive) celebration of the individual's significance to the modern and postmodern eras. Humanistic verities surround Kafka's and Dick's readers no less than their characters. Freedom, autonomy, and self-determination hang in the air all around Gregor Samsa, George Munster, Boris the dog, the unnamed narrator of "Investigations of a Dog," and, finally, we readers. These values are always present. They insist on making themselves known. But they simply are not for us.
The fate of humanism, in the fiction of Franz Kafka and Philip K. Dick, is therefore unenviable. Humanism becomes untenable, unbelieveable, always just out of reach. It also remains crucial to preserving the humanity of Kafka's and Dick's characters, even when those characters are not human. This contradiction is not easy to comprehend or to resolve, but it animates the animal allegories and bureaucratic bestiaries that Kafka and Dick skillfully narrate. Both authors, with honesty, humor, and empathy, evoke postmodernism's fearful anxieties about human freedom, identity, and integrity. This accomplishment, more than any other, explains why each man's fiction has remained valuable long after his death.
[This strikes me as a somewhat naive reading, "obvious" on some level but missing a deeper point about PKD and postmodern/humanism. I'm interested in how focus is on the lack of the possibility of a specific style of expectation of comfort or certainty. I think that PKD's questioning has been much exaggerated when it comes to the highest levels of theology (i.e. that there is a God). Dick's theological uncertainty is rooted in his theism, which leads to problems of uncertainty just as great as those of an atheist "reality breakdown" author. We might profitably read Dick as a sort of postmodern theist due to his use of reality breakdown methods which remind us theoretically savvy postmodernists of our favorite continental philosophers, but it is important to keep in mind that PKD's "theory" was rooted in classical and enlightenment philosophy and (crucially) esotericism. There is enough questioning and reality breakdown in the "great books" tradition, mysticism, and the occult for PKD to generate "pomo lit" just as compelling as the French theorists he never read.]
The Postmodern Humanism of Philip K. Dick - Google Books Result
by Jason P Vest - 2009 - Literary Criticism - 240 pages
[disinfo review info on RAW's PKD]
Dick was intrigued by three questions: Is the universe benign? What denotes humanity? What is reality? For Gnosis Magazine editor and scholar Jay Kinney, the pivotal moment in Dick's fiction was a moment in Time Out of Joint when a character riding the bus realizes that everyone else is a prop. "It seemed to sum up a weird truth," says Kinney, "I couldn't quite put my finger on." When he met Dick in the late 1970s, Robert Anton Wilson recalls with joie de vivre, the two writers questioned each-other's sanity. Wilson later describes the 1994 Internet posting of his death as a very Phil Dickian situation. These weird truths were being propagated from Dick's fiction into the everyday lives of Dick's friends and readers. Dick's exploration of these three questions sensitized his readers to strange loops in the multiverse.
When journalist Paul Williams interviewed him for a 1975 Rolling Stone profile, Dick recounted a key event that induced a strange loop that led to self-questioning his personal identity. Dick's house was broken into on 17 November 1971, his safe blown open and his personal papers stolen. The Californian police wondered if Dick had destroyed the safe in an act of crypto-amnesia. Williams recalls that Dick was living on the fringes of Marin County's drug trade and that a dealer code-named "Mr. Connection" may have used him as an intermediary. Dick took Benzedrine and phoned the FBI. He was also scared, says Ray Nelson, that his story The Penultimate Truth might have been close to the secret government research. Jay Kinney believes that the story's context was influenced by the Watergate incident and COINTELPRO against political dissidents. Soon afterwards, Dick travelled to Canada for drug rehabilitation and attempted suicide in Vancouver on 23 March 1972. This period became the basis for Dick's poignant anti-drug novel A Scanner Darkly. And it showed how one event could have multiple interpretations.
"Like a Flashbulb Going Off . . ."
After visiting his dentist for ortho-molecular treatment, Dick experienced anamnesis on 20 February 1974. Maybe it was a mystical experience triggered by the dentist's sodium pentathol. Or maybe it was an early stroke. D. Scott Appel cites Jacob Boehme's visions as a historical precursor. Jay Kinney finds a parallel with Mormon founder Joseph Smith. But Boehme and Smith never considered the possibility, Miriam Lloyd recounts, that being hit by a "pink beam" was the result of Russian experiments in covert psychological warfare.
The weirdness accelerated. Dick received an unsigned letter on 30 March 1974, which he called "the Xerox Missive". He diagnosed a life-threatening illness in his son. Dick sought to discuss his spiritual awakening with other writers (notably Ursula Le Guin and Harlan Ellison) but faced criticism and denunciation. He channelled his analysis into the Exegesis, an 8000-page discussion of these experiences, influenced by Gnostic Christian and Neoplatonic themes.
The VALIS encounter has become the synecdoche of Dick's life: a cryptic and oblique legacy that still eludes dogmatic explanations. Robert Anton Wilson likens Dick's experience to H.P. Lovecraft's warnings about the Elder Gods. Wilson also observes Voltaire's test of spiritual breakthroughs: judge people by how sane they are afterwards. Jay Kinney also offers a penetrating synthesis of VALIS in the context of Western mystical transformation. Like earlier precursors, Dick's encounter was "disruptive of life, destabilizing of personality." The rational mind takes hold of noesis, Kinney warns, and interprets the experience in reductionist terms. Dick was lucky, claims Wilson, because he wasn't dogmatic: ". . . he doesn't offer one explanation." Dick's spiritual transfiguration occurred, Wilson observes, in the era of MK-Ultra mind control experiments, LSD suicides and fears of Russian ESP research. Dick's fiction had foreshadowed some dark truths, indeed.
the gospel according to philip k. dick (review)
by Alex Burns (firstname.lastname@example.org) - April 19, 2002
L. Ron Hubbard vs. Philip K. Dick
A personal account of the writer's encounter with openmindedness to religion via PKD.
How Much Does Chaos Scare You?: Politics, Religion, and Philosophy in the ...
By Aaron Barlow
p.8 Though he had long used gods and the possibilities they represent as devices for political discussions, Dick, in his last years, turned to serious presentation of religious ideas and debates in his fictions. Though he had accepted the idea of God, he never let his belief shatter his previous conception of free human interaction and individuation. He could not see God as a totalitarian. His last books are a reflection of his own struggle to come to terms with his conception of his God and attempts to integrate his older beliefs into a new situation.
Science fiction quotations: from the inner mind to the outer limits - Google Books Result
by Gary Westfahl - 2005 - Fiction - 461 pages
"Being white; that's also a religion. I can tell you in just one word what the white religion is." "What?" Joan said guardedly. "Hypocrisy." -The Ganymede Takeover
4646 people collected and 358 reviewed Valis by Philip K. Dick i
retrieved aug 10
Umland seventy seven
The problem Dick faced in writing his short stories was that of reconciling metaphysical openness, or relativity (whereby all is fantasy, not merely the shape of the story but the shape of the society the story treats, which is not offered to us as "reality" within the story), with political or ethical closure (whereby the story is a parable treating what has been done to us and what we should do, or value, in recourse). The problem is not solved in the stories; their pattern, if you try to trace it across a set of realizations, makes an instability not subject to dialectical analysis.
[he goes on to say the case is different with novels from Dick's "best period"]
Dick can scarcely be held responsible for material he never mailed, and bears little more onus for material delivered in such an elaborate fashion to the trash bin. Nonetheless the mental state Dick was in when he wrote these letters is illustrative of his state of mind at the time of his (simultaneous) visions; for this reason alone the material demands both inclusion and extended comment. It is not sufficient for Williams to merely say, as he does, that Dick was an "unreliable narrator." It is the nature of his fantasies that is at issue.
Lawrence Sutin, even more than Williams, throws a blanket over Dick's political paranoia. In Pursuit of Valis omits most of the many examples of such paranoia in the Exegesis. Sutin's Preface explains that he felt this material shed "much heat but rather little light" on the material's "literary, philosophical, and spiritual significance" (ix). To this reader of the original manuscripts, however, Dick's political obsessions are a key to understanding the material, and is discarded at one's peril. This is clearly not the place for spelling out my reasoning, but Dick's discussion here of the gnostic "Hymn of the Pearl" suggests that it was the amnesiac author himself who sent himself the "Xerox letter" which so terrified him that it inaugurated many of Valis's key events, including the FBI letters.* [*"So it is he himself who sends himself the letter which restores his memory (Legend of the Pearl)."--Dick, writing in 1978, quoted in In Pursuit of Valis, 84. See my forthcoming Variable Man: The Lives of Philip K. Dick for an elaboration of my theories about this]
-Gregg Rickman- The Nature of Dick's Fantasies
amazon list - So You'd Like to Learn about the Life of PKD
Pink Beams of Light from the God in the Gutter: The Science-Fictional Religion of Philip K. Dick
Claudia letters for sale, with summaries of contents
“He was his own skeptic, always ready to dismiss and deride his theories when he saw flaws in them,” Powers says. “One day he’d think it had been God talking to him. The next day, he’d say it was just acid flashbacks. The day after that, he’d decide it was psychosis, or some sort of secret Soviet telepathy experiment. But he kept coming back to the idea that it was God.” He pauses. “I’d put money on it that it was God who spoke to him, crazy as it seems. His sort of ongoing, contentious dialogue with God does have the tone of Teresa of Avila [a 16th century Catholic mystic]. Or maybe it’s just a better story that way.”
Davis, Erik (December 2003). "The Metaphysics of Philip K. Dick". Issue 11.12 (Wired). http://www.wired.com/wired/
hostile and near-hostile accounts of PKD's religious aspect
the drugs did work
In February 1974, Dick first experienced his pink-light visions, which continued without interruption until his death. They revealed to him an entire cosmology. Sometimes he experienced the world as a persecuted Christian living in imperial Rome; at other times he felt he was receiving messages from some future superior intelligence, which he named VALIS (Vast Active Living Intelligence System).
Dick was never sure whether the pink light was the voice of God, a message from a space alien, or a drug-induced hallucination (among other possibilities he entertained). Yet despite the pink light's uncertain nature, he often acted under its direction. VALIS issued cryptic theological messages but also offered Dick practical advice on how to deal with his son Christopher's hernia.
The visions also expanded his conspiratorial fantasies, which became global in scope.
On March 22, 1974, the day after the vernal equinox, Philip K. Dick had a transcendental mystical experience, which he described as "an invasion of my mind by a transcendentally rational mind." This experience caused Philip K. Dick to begin recording his thoughts and experiences into a journal, which he referred to as the Exegesis. The Exegesis contained a phenomenal amount of Gnostic religious thought and philosophy. The majority of his experiences and philosophies formed during this period can be found in the VALIS trilogy", which includes VALIS, The Divine Invasion, and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer. An alternate accounting of the events of Philip K. Dick's VALIS encounter can be found in more accessible form in the novel Radio Free Albemuth, which was discovered among Dick's notes after his death.
PKD + Philosophy (find quote on plotinus)
One long-past innocent day, in my prefolly youth, I came upon a statement in an undistinguished textbook on psychiatry that, as when Kant read Hume, woke me forever from my garden-of-eden slumber. "The psychotic does not merely think he sees four blue bivalves with floppy wings wandering up the wall; he does see them. An hallucination is not, strictly speaking, manufactured in the brain; it is received by the brain, like any 'real' sense datum, and the patient act in response to this to-him-very-real perception of reality in as logical a way as we do to our sense data. In any way to suppose he only 'thinks he sees it' is to misunderstand totally the experience of psychosis."
* "Drugs, Hallucinations, and the Quest for Reality" (1964) quoting an unknown psychiatric text
* reprinted in The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick (1995) Lawrence Sutin, ed.
In one of the most brilliant papers in the English language [David] Hume made it clear that what we speak of as 'causality' is nothing more than the phenomenon of repetition. When we mix sulphur with saltpeter and charcoal we always get gunpowder. This is true of every event subsumed by a causal law - in other words, everything which can be called scientific knowledge. "It is custom which rules," Hume said, and in that one sentence undermined both science and philosophy.
* "The Day the Gods Stopped Laughing," unpublished article written in the late 60's
* quoted by Gregg Rickman in To The High Castle: Philip K. Dick: A Life 1928-1962 (1989)
My major preoccupation is the question, 'What is reality?' Many of my stories and novels deal with psychotic states or drug-induced states by which I can present the concept of a multiverse rather than a universe. Music and sociology are themes in my novels, also radical political trends; in particular I've written about fascism and my fear of it.
* Statement of 1975 quoted in the Dictionary of Literary Biography (1981) vol. 8, part 1
* Whom the gods notice they destroy. Be small...and you will escape the jealousy of the great.
Man in the High Castle
"If You Find This World Bad, You Should See Some of the Others" (1977)
A speech published in the collection The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick.
* A novelist carries with him constantly what most women carry in large purses: much that is useless, a few absolutely essential items, and then, for good measure, a great number of things that fall in between. But the novelist does not transport them physically because his trove of possessions is mental. Now and then he adds a new and entirely useless idea; now and then he reluctantly cleans out the trash -- the obviously worthless ideas -- and with a few sentimental tears sheds them. Once in a great while, however, he happens by chance onto a thoroughly stunning idea new to him that he hopes will turn out to be new to everyone else. It is this final category that dignifies his existence. But such truly priceless ideas... perhaps during his entire lifetime he may, at best, acquire only a meager few. But that is enough; he has, through them, justified his existence to himself and to his God.
(especially interesting for our purposes due to the invocation at the end)
In Pursuit of Valis: Selections from the Exegesis (1991)
Edited by Lawrence Sutin.
* I am a fictionalizing philosopher, not a novelist; my novel & story-writing ability is employed as a means to formulate my perception. The core of my writing is not art but truth. Thus what I tell is the truth, yet I can do nothing to alleviate it, either by deed or explanation. Yet this seems somehow to help a certain kind of sensitive troubled person, for whom I speak. I think I understand the common ingredient in those whom my writing helps: they cannot or will not blunt their own intimations about the irrational, mysterious nature of reality, & for them, my corpus of writing is one long ratiocination regarding this inexplicable reality, an investigation & presentation, analysis & response & personal history. My audience will always be limited to those people.
The peculiarities of Dick's worlds arise especially from the fact that in them it is waking reality which undergoes profound dissociation and duplication. Sometimes the dissociating agency consists in chemical substances (of the hallucinogenic type—thus in The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch); sometimes in "cold-sleep technique" (as precisely in Ubik); sometimes (as in Now Wait for Last Year) in a combination of narcotics and "parallel worlds." The end-effect is always the same: distinguishing between waking reality and visions proves to be impossible. The technical aspect of this phenomenon is fairly inessential—it does not matter whether the splitting of reality is brought about by a new technology of chemical manipulation of the mind or, as in Ubik, by one of surgical operations. The essential point is that a world equipped with the means of splitting perceived reality into indistinguishable likenesses of itself creates practical dilemmas that are known only to the theoretical speculations of philosophy. This is a world in which, so to speak, this philosophy goes out into the street and becomes for every ordinary mortal no less of a burning question than is for us the threatened destruction of the biosphere.
* Stanislaw Lem, "Philip K. Dick: A Visionary Among the Charlatans", March 1975
Philip K. Dick: In an essay that he wrote two years before he died, Philip K. Dick wrote ("Introduction: How to Build a Universe that Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later" in I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon, Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc., pg. 9-10):
In 1974 the novel [Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said] was published by Doubleday. One afternoon I was talking to my priest -- I am an Episcopalian -- and I happened to mention to him an important scene near the end of the novel in which the character Felix Buckman meets a black stranger at an all-night gas station, and they begin to talk. As I described the scene in more and more detail, my priest became progressively more agitated. At last, he said, 'That is a scene from the Book of Acts, from the Bible! In Acts, the person who meets the black man on the road is named Philip--your name.' Father Rasch was so upset by the resemblance that he could not even locate the scene in his Bible. 'Read Acts,' he instructed me. 'And you'll agree. It's the same down to specific details.'
I went home and read the scene in Acts. Yes, Father Rasch was right; the scene in my novel was an obvious retelling of the scene in Acts . . . and I had never read Acts.
The rest of this introduction (pages 10-23), as well many of his other writings, make clear Philip K. Dick's Christian affiliation and background, although his religiosity is highly idiosyncratic.
"Philip K. Dick: The Other Side" by Paul Rydeen (source):
The Religious Affiliation of Science Fiction Writer
Philip K. Dick
For a while Phil thought the spirit of Elijah had come upon him, much as the followers of John the Baptist felt about their Master. He even identified with a certain first-century Christian he called Thomas, whose thoughts Phil heard while falling asleep. There's someone inside of me, and he's living in another century. This Thomas was eventually garroted, which provides the connection to John the Baptist. "Thomas" is a Greek name meaning "twin"; whose twin was he if not Phil's? (Mani's twin was also called "tawm"; extant Greek Manichean texts refer to him as "syzygon".) Phil saw fit to baptize and confirm his infant son at this time (he was Episcopalian). Phil then gave his son a secret name which has never been divulged. In the posthumously-published Radio Free Albemuth (17) - the first version of what finally became VALIS - "Nicholas Brady" christened "Johnny" with the secret name "Paul". Since Phil saw himself as Elijah or John the Baptist, my best guess is that Phil told his son he was the Savior incarnate, and named him "Emmanuel", a Hebrew name meaning "God with us". His son's birth name was in fact Christopher, from the Greek for "Christ-bearer". Indeed, Radio Free Albemuth ends with the imprisoned Phil taking consolation in the knowledge that the Message has gone out after all - to the children. The importance of this assertion in light of the child-saviors in VALIS and The Divine Invasion cannot be underestimated. No wonder it hurt so badly when Phil's wife left with his son. It would have been interesting to see how Phil's son would have turned out under his father's tutelage. As it is, he may yet surprise us as he comes of age.
Dick also wrote extensively about, and appears to have been influenced by, gnosticism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, Zen, and the I Ching (often associated with Confucianism). He spent time in Utah and mentioned Utah and/or Latter-day Saints in half of his books. "In 1975... Dick had one of his mystical experiences that explain the almost divine nature of his last novels." [Source]; "PKD had a number of strong religious experiences on 2/3/74 that colored his subsequent work. 'An Exegesis' is a huge set of handwritten notes that he would work on at night to try to make sense of these experiences. After a subsequent religious experience on 11/17/80 he finally fashioned a title page... 'THE DIALECTIC: God against Satan, & God's Final Victory foretold & shown'". [Source] Jeff Rubard has written an excellent article on this subject: "The Mystical Experience in Science Fiction: Philip K. Dick's Radio Free Albemuth and Valis." The book jacket of The Man in the High Castle says that PKD "lives, with wife and children, in... the country north of San Francisco with a library of Jung and Zen Buddhism..."
Reality, Religion, and Politics in the Fiction of Philip K. Dick
by Aaron Barlow email@example.com
"Religion Chapter" --summaries of religion-related moments in stories
"Our Friends From Frolix 8 provides a clearer picture of what was becoming Dick's central thesis: God cannot save; only the individual, acting on the assumption that he or she is less worthy than those around that individual, can achieve salvation...
Though Dick was aware of the importance of apocalyptic visions early on, his changing attitude toward them brings them a new significance in the later novels. In The Man Who Japed he still held the idea that man himself can change things for the better, can bring about an earthly millennium. Later, he has changed his belief in the competence of man. He still believes man can change things, but now the "things" are only himself."... Those who are, in fact, equal, Dick believed, should never attempt to rise above that equality. Such attempts, given the weaknesses of equality, must lead to coercion if they are to succeed. But the outside actor, the god, has no such restraints. Still, the god, too, must remember to respect the individuality of the humans—or the integrity and individuality of each human might be compromised and their ability to accept the god on a purposive and positive basis lost.
Thus Dick's belief that his own god desired no general apocalypse or salvation. The individual must make his or her own decision based within their own personality and not on external forces. The external savior is impotent if the individual rejects him or her. The apocalypse passes without changing anything—unless it occurs within the individual.
By VALIS Dick's vision of the savior had devolved slightly. That is, the savior no longer comes to man, offering himself or herself to man. Man, if desiring a savior, must seek that savior. But that savior is elusive, purposely so, for easy salvation would be none at all. At the end of VALIS, he or she is the object of a search that may well cover a thousand islands. Yet the searcher, faced with knowledge of probable futility, keeps searching. Even though he knows that his quest might well become meaningless as soon (if ever) as it becomes successful."
[interesting stuff but I don't agree with all of it or even see where some is coming from]
Beyond Lies the Wub
"The passage that begins, 'Behold, I tell you a mystery—' it is set all in caps. And it repeated the lines, 'Death, where is thy sting? Grave, where is thy victory?' ten time straight; ten whole times, all in caps." (Stories 5; 179)
"As a matter of fact I've already tried an experiment. I had a one-sentence text printed up, a single line reading: 'The wub, unlike every other living creature, is immortal.'
"I then had it bound in wub-fur; then I read it again. It had been changed. Here." He passes a slim book, handsomely appointed, to Masters. "Read it as it is now."
Masters read aloud: "The wub, like every other living creature, is immortal."
Returning the copy to Snead he said, "Well, all it did was drop out the un; that's not much of a change, two letters."
But from the standpoint of meaning," Snead said, "it constitutes a bombshell." (179-180)
If the wubs are to be believed, every creature lives eternally. Snead is asked what other books he bound in wub-fur:
"The Britannica. It didn't precisely change anything, but it added whole articles. On the soul, on transmigration, on hell, damnation, sin, or immortality; the whole twenty-four volume set became religiously oriented." He glanced up. "Should I go on?"
"Sure," Masters said, listening and meditating simultaneously.
"The Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas. It left the text intact, but it periodically inserted the biblical line, 'The letter killeth but the spirit giveth life.' Over and over again." (181)
religion in an interview
AQUARIAN: Religion and religious inquiry also occupy a very prominent place in your writing.
DICK: I've always been interested in religion. In man's relationship with is god, what he chooses to worship. I was raised a Quaker but converted to Episcopalianism very early in my life.
The new novel I'm currently working on for Bantam Books has its basis in theology and what I've had to do, in short, it to create a new religion right from scratch.
It reminds me of something a girl said to me a couple of weeks ago. She said, "You're really smart, too bad you're not religious." (Laughs) And here I am doing nothing all day but reading the Bible, the Apocrypha, the writings of Gnosticism, histories of Christianity. I'll tell you, I could go out and get a degree in theology right now!
It seems like a natural progression of sorts. I got badly burned in the political arena. I was hounded by Mr. Smith and Mr. Scruggs. I would literally get thrown out of Socialist and Communist Party meetings when I was in college for disagreeing with party doctrine. And so I turn to religion, and I find incredible bigotry. Two thousand years of history and the names change but the activity remains the same. Somebody was always throwing someone else into prison for his beliefs or burning him at the stake.
I believe that the establishment churches have lost the keys to the kingdom. They don't even know what the Kingdom of God is.
It's like some guy who loses the keys to his car. He knows he had them a second ago but now they're gone. The churches, however, don't even know what the car looks like anymore. They can't even give a description of it to the cop.
Organized religion is crooked, dumb, and it's lost the keys. I mean, it's OK to be crooked and dumb, we're all crooked and dumb. But the tragedy is that they've lost the keys. They can't even point us in the right direction much less take us there.
The whole question of religion is very melancholic. It makes me very sad really. I mean, I've read so much and still, I haven't found God. We have a "deus abscondatus," a hidden God. As Plato says, "God exists but He is hard to find."
I've spent the majority of my life studying and reading and seeking God, but, of course, the thing is you can't find God. God has to find you. I've learned that.
[post a "does anybody know about this?" type post, talk about what I have thought in connection with the topic -- PKD became a major source for pop gnosticism and while he conveyed some of the shock and intellectual power of the religion known as gnosticism he also helped with misinterpretation... I don't think postmodern is the right approach for PKD but it's true that he was an apt commentator on the postmodern world -- he just refused to go down the antihumanist road at the same time that he recognized the dehumanizing fx of the postmodern condition (and speculated brilliantly on the future dehumanizations of the posthuman condition, if it's not already here yet)
Conference Paper: Jessy Carter: "The Novels of Philip K. Dick: Mainstreaming Gnosticism in the Postmodern World"
It was either Phil [Dick] or [Ace editor] Terry Carr who came up with the idea of an Ace Double edition of the Holy Bible. One of these days Ace will print the Holy Bible as a Double, back to back, the Old Testament and the New Testament each cut to exactly 30,000 words, the Old Testament titled Master of Chaos and the New Testament titled The Thing with Three Souls.
* Poul Anderson, posthumous appreciation of Philip K. Dick in Locus magazine #256 (5/82)
In February and March 1974, Dick experienced a series of visions and auditions including an information-rich "pink light" beam that transmitted directly into his consciousness. A year after the events, in March 1975, Dick summarized the 2-3-74 experiences that would pervade his writing for the final eight years of his life:
"I speak of The Restorer of What Was Lost The Mender of What Was Broken."
"March 16, 1974: It appeared - in vivid fire, with shining colors and balanced patterns - and released me from every thrall, inner and outer.
"March 18, 1974: It, from inside me, looked out and saw the world did not compute, that I - and it - had been lied to. It denied the reality, and power, and authenticity of the world, saying, 'This cannot exist; it cannot exist.'
"March 20, 1974: It seized me entirely, lifting me from the limitations of the space-time matrix; it mastered me as, at the same time, I knew that the world around me was cardboard, a fake. Through its power of perception I saw what really existed, and through its power of no-thought decision, I acted to free myself. It took on in battle, as a champion of all human spirits in thrall, every evil, every Iron Imprisoning thing."
There are those who are eager to create a "Saint Phil" who emerged from this experience. In that regard, it is wise to remember that Dick himself always bore in mind what he called the "minimum hypothesis" -that is, the possibility that all that he had undergone was merely self-delusion.
On the other hand, there are those who regard Dick as a charlatan who foisted upon his readers a pseudo-mystical revelation fueled by mental disorder. But surely a charlatan is one who insists on the seriousness and accuracy of his claims. This Dick never did. One has only to go and read VALIS (1981) to find a piercingly knowing humor in Dick's portrayal of himself as Horselover Fat:
"…Fat must have come up with more theories than there are stars in the universe. Every day he developed a new one, more cunning, more exciting and more fucked."
Those who insist on the "truth" or "falsehood" of Dick's experience of 2-3-74 are missing the central point: that those experiences provided him with the means to explore, with integrity, insight, and humility, the difficulties of making sense of any spiritual path in a relentlessly secular and cynical Western culture in which even apparent revelations can be instantly repackaged as popular entertainment.
(site has links to bootleg pdf of PKD stories and NF)
"Pink Beams" is one of the best single volumes to go to for a summary of the religious experiences. It is much preferable to the web articles that are out there for its academic rigor and clarity, and the wealth of notes. Before "Pink Beams" Sutin's biography was the best starter volume for information about PKD's religious life and experiences, and remains a vital source.
"Pink Beams" p.8 Dick's religious writing is ultimately heterodox and syncretistic, because he accepted, at least temporarily, every theory that offered him some form of insight into his experiences.
This isn't exactly heretical. I might bring up Pico - speculation isn't heresy without malice--errors of Origen example.
do a post about theory and method in PB
PB8 Dick's theoretical explorations must be viewed in the context of the Exegesis as a whole. No statement can be taken at face value; rather it must be considered in reference to the countless other statements Dick made--and usually rejected--in his eight years of nightly journal-keeping.
PB 61 Zebra, Teilhard, "What if Brahman is a computer?"
St. Paul said, "If I have not love then I am jack shit." ... or something like that
PKD in D. Scott Apel. PKD: The Dream Connection, Second Edition. San Jose, California: The Impermanent Press, 1999, 27
Philip K. Dick on STAR WARS
While I was there in Metz we saw the French premiere of STAR WARS and I was amazed at the theological implications of what, in the film, is called "the force". Have you seen the film? I then bought the novel. Beyond doubt there is a profound theological theme to it, and the audience is reacting to it. Also (and I tell you this witha certain hesitation) the description of "the force" in STAR WARS for unaccountable reasons resembles the entity or force which took me over during my religious experiences in March of 1974. That which I saw then, which I call VALIS or Zebra was a plasmatic energy. Read this quotation from the novel STAR WARS (p. 120):
"Remember, the force is omnipresent. It envelops you as it radiates from you. A Jedi warrior can actually feel the force as a physical thing."
"It is an energy field, then?" Luke inquired.
"It is an energy field and something more," Kenobi went on, almost mystically. "An aura that at once controls and obeys. It is a nothingness that can accomplish miracles. No one, not even the Jedi scientists, were able to truly define the force. Possibly no one ever will."
Now page 121:
"I've seen a lot of strange things. Too many to believe there couldn't be something like this 'force.' Too many to think that there could be some such controlling one's actions. I determine my destiny - not some half-mystical energy field."
"Let us say simply that the force is something a Jedi must deal with. While it has never been properly explained, scientists have theorized it is an energy field generated by living things. Early man suspected its existence, yet remained in ignorance of its potential for millennia. Only certain individuals could recognize the force for what it was. They were mercilessly labeled: charlatans, fakers, mystics - and worse. Even fewer could make use of it. As it was usually beyond their primitive controls, it frequently was too powerful for them. They were misunderstood by their fellows - and worse."
Eugene, this is as good a description of what I experienced taking me over and guiding me; actually controlling me, in March of 1974 as I myself could write. Also, the character Luke hears the voice of the dead Jedi knight Kenobi, just as, when the plasmatic field which I call VALIS took me over I, too, heard a voice - that of my dead and resurrected leader, Jesus Christ. Whether George Lucas knows it or not, he in his film and novel is making the mystery of our religion real to literally millions of people, by using new names, new descriptions. I have no idea how conscious Lucas is, how deliberately he acted ... or whether he was acted upon by God in his writing, as I think we all are to some degree.
Well, I am very tired from my trip and must sign off. Please write again soon, and forgive me for having mislaid your recent letter.
With warm regards,
P. S. To clarify - I have no doubt that it was the Holy Spirit, the Third Member of the Trinity, which took me over in a theolepsy in March of 1974, but in my notes and novel VALIS I am striving for new formulations, new and fresh ways of expressing what I believe to be the eternal truths, just as I did in MAZE OF DEATH and other earlier novels. As St. Augustine said, there is no end to the wonderful mystery of the Trinity; one can contemplate it for all eternity and yet not know it completely. I do think George Lucas has done something of sensational importance and value for man in STAR WARS: I honestly believe that the Word and Hand of God guided and informed him, whether Lucas is aware of it or not. What I myself have done is a mere tittle in comparison to what Lucas has done - and my audience is a tittle compared to the audience he is reaching, for which I also thank our God, and I realize that our God knows how to reach into the mass of mankind, that mass of mankind being secular now and drawn away from religion. Did I not show this in my own novel UBIK, where the intermediary personality of Glenn Runciter, who stands between man and God, promotes the Word Itself of Ubik to appear in the garbage and rubble and trash of TV commercials, and in vulgar ads in general? I foresaw - and saw - that the Word would come to us not so much down from above, now, in these secular days, but up, so to speak, from the gutter. STAR WARS confirms me. I am sure of this. God speaks to us from popular novels and films; here is a supreme example. Names and creeds and doctrines and dogmas and formulations are not important; what is important is the living Word. And it is that which Lucas depicts and describes in "the force," as he calls it. And people everywhere are responding.
(p. 101-103, The Selected Letters of Philip K. Dick vol. 5)
Confessions of a PKD biographer
Post Topic: PKD's I Ching Dependency
Schizophrenia and the Book of Changes