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The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick Hardcover – November 7, 2011
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Based on thousands of pages of typed and handwritten notes, journal entries, letters, and story sketches, The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick is the magnificent and imaginative final work of an author who dedicated his life to questioning the nature of reality and perception, the malleability of space and time, and the relationship between the human and the divine. Edited and introduced by Pamela Jackson and Jonathan Lethem, this is the definitive presentation of Dick?s brilliant, and epic, work.
In the Exegesis, Dick documents his eight-year attempt to fathom what he called ?2-3-74,? a postmodern visionary experience of the entire universe ?transformed into information.? In entries that sometimes ran to hundreds of pages, in a freewheeling voice that ranges through personal confession, esoteric scholarship, dream accounts, and fictional fugues, Dick tried to write his way into the heart of a cosmic mystery that tested his powers of imagination and invention to the limit.
This volume, the culmination of many years of transcription and archival research, has been annotated by the editors and by a unique group of writers and scholars chosen to offer a range of views into one of the most improbable and mind-altering manuscripts ever brought to light.
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having some deep experiences with meditation and entheogens. Finding Dick's reflections was a great blessing, as the way he ponders on the ultimate nature of reality is extremely original, unique and unparalled.
The exegesis is a raw, unadulterated experience of philosophical genius. It's not a methodical and organized exposition of a system of thought, although there is one here through and through implicit in Dick's discoveries.
The amount of metaphysical insights contained in the Exegesis is simply amazing. The meaning of creation, the nature of evil, the ultimate goal of the universe - all the great themes are explored here.
It's also important not to approach the Exegesis as a work of pure speculation. It is not. Dick is trying to describe a direct realization of reality, and while his metaphysical flights may seem to be completely ungrounded at times, they always ultimately derive from the transformation of consciousness he underwent, and as such, must be treated as serious descriptive attempts of an ineffable state.
In regards to his cosmology, it essentially states that we are living in a Mind. That the universe we experience is an appearance, illusion, fabrication, simulation, hologram that is emanated and generated by this great Mind at the core of reality. What we see, feel and experience is information which is being endlessly rearranged within this living hypercomputer, what he calls Valis.
There are two dimensions of this classic idea in Dick's exposition. The first is gnostic in essence, and states that the world is some sort of forgery and consequently evil. The second view, which Dick matures as the Exegesis goes along, is that the illusion of the world is not negative, per se, but rather exists as it does for a good and bening purpose. The veil within or minds, the dokos, which affects our memories and makes us believe we actually are the people we believe we are, when in fact we are higher dimensional souls, exists in order for the human drama to be possible. To see through it, to remove the layers of consciousness, as Dick did,
entails and end to the human story, and the development into another kind of reality. The whole process of enlightenment, or attaining gnosis, is one of anamnesis, or remembering. We forgot something fundamental about ourselves. But the memory is within us, somewhere deep down our minds, and if we are capable of retrieving it, everything stands revealed and explained. The reason for why all is as it is will shine in consciousness.
I'd say that in order for a reader to appreciate what he is trying to do, one must have had a least a mystical glimpse of reality. By this a mean an alteration of consciousness to some degree in which the universe isn't seen anymore as a set of disjointed material objects, unconscious, unintelligent and without intention. In fact, this way of seeing the world is not a an immediate given of pure experience, but rather a superimposition that came upon western consciousness through the centuries, starting with atomists - Democritus, Leucippus and Lucretius. Since this is our unconscious mythology, the deep structure within our psyches from which all of our modern condition is derived, transcending it, even for a brief moment, entails seeing the universe in a radically transformed way, as the ancients did. Sentience, intelligence, life - these attributes are mapped into the whole field of experience, and not just to some physical bodies. The universe becomes a living organism, a living entelechy in which we are both part and whole. No longer hostile, alien, uncaring and unfeeling; but not because we wish it to be so, but because it is so.
The physical presentation is commendable, definitely worthy of the price and perhaps even the 29-year gap between PKD's death and the book's publication: the binding is attractive and gold beneath the dust jacket; the pages are light and crisp with 8 glossy photocopied entries from the Exegesis in the center; the type design is pleasantly minimal and unobtrusive. I found the editorial work to be only average; in particular, I was disappointed with several of the footnotes to the text. Although always historically informative, the editors frequently fail to illuminate any deeper meaning, which is what editorial notes traditionally are meant to do. Still, they have done a great service to PKD and the world by bringing together a lucid and presentable collection of the Exegesis material, a task that I'm sure was incredibly complex.
I would not recommend the Exegesis as a starting point for exploring PKD's work. At the very least, you should be familiar with Ubik, as its subject and themes are frequently referred to throughout the Exegesis; and PKD's final trilogy, VALIS. The Exegesis is connected intimately with the VALIS trilogy, both being a result of Dick's infamous '2-3-74' experience; indeed, the Exegesis is basically a 938-page appendix to the VALIS trilogy, the novels being mere poetic summaries in comparison (though brilliant, of course, in their own right).
The Exegesis, to me, is a philosophical 'tour de force', a cypher blueprint of reality waiting to be understood, a veritable 'feast of the mind', as another reviewer noted; it is an incredible thing to read and behold, something that has impressed me as a work of modern genius possibly more than anything else I have ever read. I would recommend it to anyone interested in PKD and the ideas reflected in his work.