Hello friends of Philip K. Dick & Religion! Teddy asked if I would like to guest blog about incorporating “religion” into fiction. YES!, she answered immediately, because honestly this is how I discovered PKD. (Who is this she? ZenWoman? aka ej Morgan, PKD Otaku contributor and author of the novel, A Kindred Spirit.)
At the end, I’ll link to a piece I wrote about my own PKD “Big Bang” for those who are interested, but let me cut straight to the chase. When I read VALIS, my mind was blown. I guess because that was my first encounter with transrealistic writing. I didn’t know of that genre or concept when I read VALIS (or as I wrote AKS), but Philip K. Dick’s style completely resonated with me.
Fiction which incorporated so many weird, yet personal, and “religious”—philosophical, I would say—concepts, yet presented in such a straightforward factual way… well, it just drove me wild. I was literally up in the middle of the night, before I had even finished reading VALIS, pacing around. I knew I would write a sequel to it. This was really a far-fetched thought, considering I had never written a novel, or even any fiction, really. I was a journalist and had dabbled in what I called “rant writing” (pre-blogging essays.) I might have written one or two short stories, but a novel? Didn’t matter. I knew I had to. (I’ll explain the italics soon.)
For one thing, I wasn’t a life-long Phil fan (Dickhead) like many of you reading this blog. VALIS was my first exposure to Philip K. Dick, and that was 1996. Honestly, I knew nothing about the “break-in” (the actually one in 1971, where Phil’s house was ransacked and the cause of at least one suicide attempt.) And, only by reading VALIS, then D.I. and especially, The Transmigration of Timothy Archer, did I get the big picture, about the pink beams, the Exegesis, and perhaps most importantly, Phil’s own struggle with the impulses that had taken over the latter part of his life.
Those impulses (motivations or compulsions), his hypergraphical style [defined as: communicating through the union of various forms, as an "ensemble of signs capable of transmitting the reality served by the consciousness, more exactly than the former fragmentary and partial practices…”] combined with his hypergraphia (fanatical, frenzied, non-stop writing), that was the mind-blower. I understood all that after reading In Pursuit of VALIS.
Clearly, I’m not alone in my reaction to the final Phil-phase, or there wouldn’t be a blog like this, or readers of Phil’s Exegesis. But to answer your question about why incorporate “religion” in fiction, neither Phil nor I could help ourselves. And, once Patrick Clark (Otaku Editor) introduced me to Rudy Rucker’s Transrealist Manifesto, I knew why. “The Transrealist novel grows organically, like life itself,” Rucker says. “Although reading is linear, the writing is not.” Like a maze, he says. Absolutely! (I used the maze on the cover of my novel, because Phil also frequently used that metaphor.)
I didn’t know what all was going to emerge in my novel, I just knew I had to start writing it. I think if Phil were here, he would say the same about VALIS, or at least about Radio Free Albemuth (his original Vali-system draft.) Why? Because once you’ve had inexplicable experiences, as a writer you think you can explain them. That, my friends, is the conundrum in a nutshell! Both mine and Phil’s, and why we simply could not escape writing about our synchronicities, anomalies, and insights.
So, while reading VALIS, and seeing that Phil knew some of the same things I knew, well, it wasn’t a choice to write about A Kindred Spirit, it was an obsession.
I don’t think I have to explain what I mean by KNEW to this audience, but in case I do, then perhaps you will want to read my PKD “Big Bang” (especially the last few Phildickian paragraphs.)
The final point I want to make about my novel is that it consists of two parts: my story (HerStory, as I call it) told in an embellished, transrealist way and the “rest of the story” about Phil, my fictionalized account of his afterlife. That was the concept that came to me that first night, while reading VALIS. Along the way, in writing AKS, I sort of riffed, if you will, on several of the weird topics Phil used in the VALIS “trilogy.” The anokhi was one of these. Phil mentioned it fifty times in TToTA. I spent most of yesterday analyzing this subject again, since these days I often forget what I “knew” when I knew it ;)
Per the previous posts on anokhi, Phil first refers to it as “pure Self-Awareness” in Chapter Five. But, in Chapter Six he actually refers to what John Allegro wrote in (and actually mentions Allegro) The Sacred Mushroom and The Cross: A study of the nature and origins of Christianity within the fertility cults of the ancient Near East. I did not re-read Allegro’s book this week, but essentially this is the source material for the exchange between Kirsten and Angel Archer, “You mean Jesus was a dope dealer?” And Tim Archer’s (aka Bishop Pike) ideas that the Zadokite’s were “a mushroom cult” and the Eucharist a left over sacrament from eating the bread, or the anokhi mushroom. Phil’s fifth and final wife, Tessa, confirmed Phil’s intrigue with Allegro in an interview I did with her. Bishop Archer was quick to remind Angel the mushroom would not have been used as dope, “they would have considered it medicine.” (You can search TToTA for every reference of anokhi, as I did, with a Kindle or online using Google books.)
I can’t go on about this any further without writing a book, which I already did ;)
ej “jami” Morgan