This collection provides an unprecedented peek into the stream of consciousness of a great writer grappling with an examination of his own psyche and the enigma of his mystic/schizophrenic experience. It is part of the lore of Philip K. Dick that on the day of “2-3-74” in the Orange County suburb of Santa Ana, Calif., the science-fiction writer was contacted by a beam of pink light which he came to know as VALIS—Vast Active Living Intelligence System—which fundamentally altered his consciousness and inspired his last three novels now known as the VALIS trilogy. Dick then saw himself as a “homoplasmate” (a human host for living information), and began to be flooded with revelations, which he set down on 8,000 hand-written pages and termed the “Exegesis” (defined as an explanation or critical interpretation of a text).
Among a myriad of interconnected topics, in the Exegesis Dick explores Gnosticism, Zoroastrianism, the I Ching, Heidegger and Wittgenstein; sketches out plots for upcoming novels and looks back over his published works; deals with his feelings of being contacted from “the other side”; cites authorities from Plotinus to Hoyt Axton; and even deals with the possibility of his own mental illness in the form of a dialog with himself:
“Q: Why would I believe that my senses were enhanced, i.e., I could see for the first time?
A: Psychotomimetic drugs indicate this happens in psychosis.
Q: And Kosmos? Everything fitting together?
A: ‘Spread of meaning,’ typical of psychosis.
Q: Foreign words and terms I don’t know?
A: Long-term memory banks open. Disgorging their contents into consciousness.”
Like a psychedelic Céline, Dick plunges deep into the vortex of reality and consciousness in late 20th-century America, which he described in a remarkably lucid manner: “I, who was not a legitimate member of the ruling class (which is defined as, ‘those who get to define—control, generate—reality’) via my writing, subversively obtained a certain small but real power to control. Create & define reality; the next step is […] to enter (the ruling class) by the front door, officially welcomed. (& not infiltrate in by the back door as I did. But boy, what a good job I did; & VALIS is the best subversion so far… it deranges all (sic!) your learned preconceptions). Thus via my writing I can be said to be a revolutionary, & I carried with me into power, other people of my ilk. Many disenfranchised ‘misfits’—the quasi-insane, or pseudo (sic!) schizophrenics; ach! we are mimicking schizophrenia as a political tactic, in order to thrust the schizophrenic worldview onto the authorities as a tactic to infiltrate and vitiate them, ‘them’ being defined as those in power.”
In marked contrast to Dick’s humility and self-doubt before the mysteries of VALIS, this fascinating collection is marred by the trippier-than-thou hubris of Terence McKenna’s typically self-aggrandizing afterword, in which he proclaims himself the “PKD-inspired servant of the Logos” whose books and software (!) would have been embraced by Dick as the answer to his profound metaphysical inquiries.
Paperback: 278 pages