Sunday, November 6, 2011

Top Ten things I've been looking forward to Discovering in the Exegesis

Now that the Exegesis has finally arrived in print,

I will at long last be able to learn some things about
Philip K. Dick--and discuss these things publicly--
that I have long wondered about. Here is a short list:

1. More about Dick's Gnosticism. There is a wonderful
Gnostic strain in PKD's writing. He understood Gnostic
writings as well as any mystic of his age, and was able
to deliver the gnostic message in powerful writings of
his own. I'm looking forward to seeing his notes on the
philosopher Hans Jonas, author of The Gnostic Religions,
especially, but I'll be eating up many PKD gnostic gems.

2. More "Dear Claudia" letters. There are plenty in the
Selected Letters of PKD volumes, but I want to read them
all. The Dear Claudia letters encapsulate an early and
importantly formative period of Dick's religious writing
and philosophical speculation. I hope to one day track
down everything that's missing, but David Gill tells me
that the Exegesis will at least fill in some of the gaps.

3. More on Dick's notion of alchemy. I put up a post with
some of the most tantalizing tidbits of "phildickian neo-
alchemy" which can be found in the appendix to VALIS. I
hope to read more about what Dick was reading that led him
to his notion of the alchemists searching for the text
made of information that is the key to the homoplasmate.

4. More on Dick's reading of Giordano Bruno. At this point
I have no idea where Dick gets his notion that Giordano
Bruno should be lumpted in with the plasmate-seeking
medieval alchemists, but I can see why Dick might have
been attracted to Bruno the philosopher, who was working
on a post-Neoplatonist "sorta pantheist" cosmos which is
clearly highly resonant with Dick's own cosmological views.
I suspect that Dick got a large chunk of his idea of Bruno
and the "Hermetic Alchemists" from Frances Yates.

5. More on Dick's Neoplatonism. I have already posted many
of the juiciest tidbits. I'm still haunted by that place in
the Selected Letters where Phil is about to explain "where
I differ from Plotinus" and the carbon ends. I have no doubt
that there will be PKD notes on Neoplatonism than can be
digested without taking more graduate level courses in
philosophy and religious studies.

6. More on Dick's interest in Kabbalah. I have posted a
brief, tantalizing mention he made of reading that made a
connection between Spinoza and Kabbalah. I hope to find
more on Dick's encounter with Kabbalistic materials. Where
did he get his ideas about how Kabbalah is defined? Did he
read much of Gershom Scholem, and did he read any texts of
Kabbalah in English translation? He claims in a later letter
that he had written an 80-page essay comparing Heidegger and
Jewish mysticism. Is this informed by much actual Kabbalah
or is Dick's idea of Judaism drawn more from his reading of
the Old Testament and weird Christian mystical notions.

7. More on Dick's understanding of Heidegger. Here is an
area where Dick's philosophizing is of interest beyond the
doman of "PKD and Religion." Dick seems to have known the
work of Heidegger, as well as the greek sources of Heidegger,
very well, or at least engaged with it in a particularly
intensive way. I don't know if they had room for the whole
"80 page essay" on Heidegger but maybe that will one day see
the light of day as well.

8. More weird physics. It has been a long time since I did
much serious thought on some of Dick's more intellectually
demanding theories, such as his rethinking of the concept
of Time. I am looking forward to getting back into these
more difficult theories, which were difficult to study
without having access to a more complete text.

9. More on Dick's reading of William S. Burroughs and the
concept of "language as virus." Dick's understanding of
various theories in computer science, information science,
psychology, and brain science all come into play on this
issue. The metaphor of language virus is still of interest
to contemporary media theorists and even certain linguists.
There will be a few new remarks on Burroughs, but it will
take careful reading to discover phildickian insights on
media theory that can be applied to these issues.

10. Whatever else I have forgotten to mention here. Please
leave a comment and remind me about what mysteries I miss.

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