Philip K. Dick’s innovative science fiction is best-known for its portrayal of characters trapped in Gnostic false realities which they may unravel by way of divine or god-like helpers, mystical experiences, and active paranoia. As his career progressed, his novels became increasingly bizarre—and increasingly autobiographical. By the time he died in 1982, he had come to regard his collected work not as the production of his own fertile imagination, but as a kind of Scripture; the novelization of essential truths revealed to him in a series of visionary experiences with a higher intelligence.
A new window into the intense process of dizzying introspection by which Dick struggled to explicate his mystical experiences has recently opened with the publication of a 900-page collection of his private papers. As Daniel Karder of The Guardian puts it, “…if you want to know what it’s like to have your world dissolve, and then try to rebuild it while suffering mental invasions from God, Asklepios or whomever, you should read The Exegesis:”
Philip K Dick rewired my brain when I was a mere lad, after I plucked Clans of the Alphane Moon at random from a shelf in my local library. This was in the 1980s: PKD had not yet become a multi-million dollar industry and his best endorsements came from counterculture figures such as Timothy Leary or fellow denizens of the SF ghetto such as Michael Moorcock.
It was exciting to be a PKD reader back then. Lots of secondary material was being published, such as Paul Williams’s interview book Only Apparently Real, or Lawrence Sutin’s excellent biography Divine Invasions. Soon it was obvious that not only were PKD’s books – with their combination of metaphysical speculation, social satire, bad relationships, and fantastic ideas tossed out as mere afterthoughts – bizarre and wonderful, but that Dick the man was Seriously Weird.
Sure, there was the paranoia, his prodigious appetite for amphetamines, his obsession with Linda Ronstadt and his fear that either the Black Panthers or FBI had raided his house – enough eccentricity for any lifetime, you might think. But that was all eclipsed by what happened on 20 February 1974, when a pink laser beam filled his mind with arcane and beneficial knowledge.
Where had it come from? God? Aliens? A healthy vitamin solution he had quaffed hours earlier? Dick loved to speculate, so much so that this event inspired not only his late “VALIS Trilogy” but also a private work he called The Exegesis. When he died in 1982 it ran to approximately 8,000 pages of analysis, hypothesis and self-questioning…
[More at The Guardian]
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