Saturday, April 20, 2013
A Review of The Exegesis of Philip K Dick
In the last post, I gave my review of the alchemical travails of "The Brotherhood of The Screaming Abyss" which is a biography of a search for The Philosopher's Stone through the eyes of Dennis McKenna, the ethnobiologist brother of the notorious counter-culture philosopher,Terence McKenna, whose quest was fueled by naturally occurring hallucinogens, or, if you will, mind altering chemicals.
This review on the other hand reflects an identical quest by the intellect and mind on it's own, fueled by a series of experiential anomalies as they occurred to Phillip K Dick, the dean and author of what are arguably, the last century's finest science fiction novels, loaded with intriguing themes and metaphors.
It strikes me, at times that the relationship between the author of any book and the reader is akin to weightlifting in the sense that some authors delve into light subjects that one can skim through, or read without straining to lift the intellect and while entertaining, are often difficult to recall a week later. These notes and ruminations from the private letters and journals of Phillip K Dick definitely do not fall into this category of a light read and are the finest example of the rational intellect wrestling with an anomalous experience I have ever read. The flurry of theories, correspondences, self skepticism revelation and doubt have no peer in attempting to make the inexplicable understandable, while all along, pushing as hard as anyone I have ever read to derive a theory of everything that is coherent. Phillip wonders if he is, at times, psychotic, or prone to epilepsy, or some other malady, and the best I can say about the late author is that he is relentless. If there ever was a narrative that describes in first person, the journey between madness and brilliance, this is it.
This is not an easy read that one can digest in a single evening, even a week. As far as challenging this dense material ranks alongside William Chittick's translations of Ibn Al Arabi, or G.I Gurdjieff's "All and Everything" All of these can test one's own patience and at the same time, lure you into an alternative universe, foreign, provoking and very challenging in the sense that one has to think deeply with a modicum of focus to even begin to unravel what is presented, and this book is, as they used to say, a "heavy" read.
Dick mixes every possible combination of physics, psychology, Christianity, gnosticism, biology, psychology etc in his obsessive search for his own truth as it relates to a series of paranormal experiential realities he was assaulted with that haunted him till the end of his life. It somewhat recalled H.G Welles "The Mind At The End of Its Tether." as the metaphor for VALIS is God for Phillip K Dick......... and Dick, in his solitary journey through reverse causation, leaves no stone unturned as he struggles to move forward with any sense of certainty, lost between mysticism and science, madness and the insanity of reality as sold by culture's incessant messaging of cross purposes.
“There is no route out of the maze. The maze shifts as you move through it, because it is alive. ”
― Philip K. Dick, VALIS
As life itself can be, this journey through the mind of Phillip K Dick can be exhausting and frustrating yet fascinating.. if we are up to the challenge of a heavy lifting exercise. Not for all tastes as his internal focus of the mind studying the mind has an echo in what I have read about Einstein's friend, Godel, who, at one time vanished much to the concern of Einstein who found that Godel had rented a small cabin. Upon reaching the cabin, Einstein found Godel walking along intently focused on a ordinary stick he carried with him as he walked as if in a daze.
"What are you doing, are you alright?" he asked.
"I am calculating how many points of intersection could be found in this stick" Lunacy? Brilliance? Self absorbed? Take your pick in penetrating the workings of such a mind, that at times, seems as much of a affliction as it does a gift. And so it is with Phillip K Dick through the perils of his journals.
I highly recommend this book .