The Exegesis Of Philip K. Dick

Philip K DickPhilip 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]

15 Comments on "The Exegesis Of Philip K. Dick"

  1. Calypso_1 | Jul 4, 2012 at 9:20 pm |

    ‘Within the armor is the butterfly & within the butterfly – is the signal from another star.’

  2. > It was exciting to be a PKD reader back then.

    one of the things i have noticed about the internet age
    is that it has taken away the excitement of discovery
    once upon a time one had to hunt through used book stores and obscure magazines
    in order to discover PKD and other rare thinkers
    now you just have to StumbleUpon it and Like it on FB
    along with the rest of the herd

    • Calypso_1 | Jul 4, 2012 at 10:42 pm |


    • Haystack | Jul 5, 2012 at 9:10 am |

      True, but by that same token, with everyone so focused on their FB feeds, there are fewer and fewer people who bother to go out into the real world and discover stuff that isn’t already being hyped on the internet. I still get that sense of excitement when I visit the local university library and wander the stacks, flipping through antiquarian volumes at random–I find something cool every time, something not indexed by Google. With so much stuff on the net, it’s easy to forget how much isn’t.

      I’m certain that there are other PKDs out there; remaining obscure, perhaps, because they’re too focused on their work to bother promoting themselves on Twitter. 

      • it seems to me
        there are fewer & fewer opportunities to discover new things the old ways
        and maybe because I’m older now that
        I find fewer ideas I haven’t encountered before

        I still recall the mind blowing experience
        of discovering The Course in Miracles in a used book store
        or stumbling onto the Collected Works of Carl Jung
        that was all before Amazon made it possible to get any book 3 days or less

        on the other hand, thanks to the internet
        I have been able to research many subjects in depth
        very quickly and at a very low cost
        I can see how to videos and read about the experience of others

        so like many people
        I am lamenting the effects of the internet
        while enjoying its benefits

        and as for PKD
        “Jesus–if Kilgore Trout could only write!” Rosewater exclaimed.
        He had a point: Kilgore Trout’s unpopularity was deserved.
        His prose was frightful.
        Only his ideas were good.”
        Kurt Vonnegut Slaughterhouse-Five

        • mannyfurious | Jul 5, 2012 at 12:57 pm |

          Right on. I’ve always gotten a kick out of Dick’s ideas and themes, but the prose and stories themselves just do not make me a PKD fan. I’ve tried. I really have. And I’ll probably continue to try, but….

          • Jin The Ninja | Jul 5, 2012 at 2:34 pm |

            his prose can be inaccessible at times. i think that the best way to really appreciate them is via copious amounts of the green herb.

          • mannyfurious | Jul 5, 2012 at 4:49 pm |

            Ha! I guess I won’t be appreciating them any time soon…

          • Jin The Ninja | Jul 5, 2012 at 4:51 pm |

             lol. well makes for interesting sunday if you can:P

          • Calypso_1 | Jul 5, 2012 at 7:55 pm |

            That, or you can tread just a little too far on the Path of Madness.  Watching A Scanner Darkly brought back way too many memories of my 20’s.

  3. chinagreenelvis | Jul 5, 2012 at 12:19 am |

    I actually own this. It’s very… thick.

  4. Monkey See Monkey Do | Jul 5, 2012 at 5:38 am |

    I’ve always been curious as to what drug he’s alluding to in A Scanner Darkly. Interesting character.

    • Calypso_1 | Jul 5, 2012 at 10:22 am |

      I try not to match it with any existent drug.  I think along with Melange, Substance D is one of the best Sci-Fi drugs concocted.

  5. Frank C. Bertrand | Jul 5, 2012 at 12:57 pm |

    True, up to a point. Philip K. Dick wrote a LOT more than just the so called “Exegesis” and so called VALIS trilogy, along with essays, interviews, and extant letters. You really shouldn’t stereotype him based on the Exegesis, if that is what it is. Better yet, read the variety of essays and articles about him the the serconzine PKD Otaku.

Comments are closed.