VALIS by Philip K. Dick

This post is in the theme “A Long Waltz Through Nerddom”. Read the first.

August 17, New York:

“10. Apollonius of Tyana, writing as Hermes Trimegistos, said, “That which is above is that which is below.” By this he meant to tell us that our universe is a hologram, but he lacked the term.” p. 104, VALIS

This is not your ordinary Philip K. Dick novel. Not that there is an ordinary Philip K. Dick novel, but if there was, this wouldn’t be it. VALIS is the first in a trilogy through which Dick tries to make sense of an encounter he had with an other-worldly intelligence or a diety or a higher self of some kind. VALIS is the most autobiographical of these accounts. In it, there is the first person “Philip K. Dick” and then there is “Horselover Fat” (basically also Dick). Fat spends years working on an exegesis based on his mind-altered experience and trying to figure out why it happened and what it means.

VALIS is a frightening book because so much of it is truth. There was this inexplicable thing that happened to this intelligent and rational man and the attempt to explain it was driving him crazy. But the book is so valuable, so important because who better than a science fiction writer to try to puzzle out this mystery. To follow all the different paths and pull on the different threads. Unlike The Invisibles, which starts from the premise that this secret world is true, the burden is on Horselover Fat to prove it.

I came to VALIS from The Invisibles. The story here is familiar because much of it is the blueprint for the comics (for example, the satellite BARBELiTH; like the satellite from VALIS, the film). It’s a similar experience to one that Morrison says he had— a theophanic encouter.

Dick digs deep into gnosticism in VALIS— this forgotten mystical Christianity that was left out of the canon and rediscovered at Nag Hammadi in the 20th century. Gospels that speak of secrets for the initiated. It’s a subject that follows me through many of my favorite texts. It’ll come back up again in Evangelion, with its many not-so-subtle references to early Christian themes. VALIS though is the one text that makes it real. It is sometimes sad and sometimes desperate, sometimes funny and often with a gallows humor, it is truly human experience which can be unsatisfying but is all we have in the end.


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