Thursday, February 12, 2015

Literary, Theological, Philosophical, and Artistic References in VALIS

“The mentally disturbed do not employ the Principle of Scientific Parsimony: the most simple theory to explain a given set of facts.  They shoot for the baroque.”

—Philip K. Dick, VALIS

VALIS was the fourth novel Philip K. Dick wrote while living in Orange County (which is also set in Orange County, mainly Santa Ana).  In this novel, PKD re-worked the story of his previous novel Radio Free Albemuth, about a man who had a profound religious experience while living in Fullerton, and then spent several years trying to figure out what it meant.  This was based on a real experience the author himself had.  In VALIS, PKD weaves together a dizzying array of literary, theological, philosophical, and artistic sources to understand what happened to him.  For this post, I’d like to simply list PKD's references (with quotes from the novel and images), to show the dense and eclectic array of the author’s influences.  In a future post, I will try to show how PKD ties these references together to form his ultimate theory of time, the universe, God, everything.  In the meantime, dig on this...

1.) Angela Davis (black power activist/writer): “The day they moved Angela Davis, the black Marxist, out of the Marin County jail, the authorities dismantled the whole civic center.  This was to baffle radicals who might intend trouble.” (p. 4)

Angela Davis

2.) The I Ching (ancient Chinese religious text): “There is a line in the I Ching reading, ‘Always ill but never dies.  That fits my friend.” (p. 12)

I Ching

3.) C.S. Lewis (British author): “It maddened him when David turned to C.S. Lewis to booster his straight-down-the-pipe orthodoxy.” (p. 24)

C.S. Lewis

4.) George Frideric Handel (British composer): “’Tis this that racks my brain, and pours into my breast a thousand pangs, that lash me into madness…’  It’s from an Aria by Handel.” (p. 25)

George Frideric Handel

5.) Plato (Greek philosopher): “As Plato discerned, there is a streak of the irrational in the World Soul.” (p. 34)


6.) Carl Jung (psychologist): “It has to do with phylogenic memory, the experience of which has been reported by Jung: he terms it the collective or racial unconscious.” (p. 35)

Carl Jung

7.) Heraclitus (Greek philosopher): “That the entire universe—as we experience it—could be a forgery is an idea best expressed by Heraclitus.  Once you have taken his notion, or doubt into your head, you are ready to deal with the issue of God.” (p. 36)


8.) Richard Wagner (German composer): “Here time turns into space.  Wagner began Parsifal in 1845.  He died in 1873, long before Hermann Minkowski postulated four-dimensional space-time (1908).  The source-basis for Parsifal consisted of Celtic legends, and Wagner’s research into Buddhism for his never-written opera about the Buddha to be called The Victors (Die Sieger).  Where did Richard Wagner get the notion that time could turn into space?” (p. 38)

Richard Wagner

9.) Hermann Minkowski (German mathematician): see above.

Hermann Minkowski

10.) Gautama Buddha (religious figure): see above.

Gautama Buddha

11.) The Tibetan Book of the Dead (religious text): “That’s described in The Tibetan Book of the Dead; that’s the trip across to the next world.  You were mentally dying!  From stress and fear!  That’s how it’s done—reaching into the next reality!  The dream-time!” (p. 45)

Tibetan Book of the Dead

12.) Parmenides (Greek philosopher): "The two realms are, upper and lower.  The upper derived from hyper universe I or Yang, form I of Parmenides, is sentient and volitional.  The lower realm, or Yin, Form II of Parmenides, is mechanical, driven by blind, efficient cause, deterministic and without intelligence, since it emanates from a dead source.  In ancient times it was termed 'astral determinism.'  We are, by and large, in the lower realm, but are, through the sacraments, by means of the plasmate, extricated."


13.) Tao Te Ching (ancient Chinese religious text by Lao Tzu): "Its upper part is not dazzling; its lower part is not obscure.  Dimly visible, it cannot be named and returns to that which is without substance.  This is called the shape that has not shape, the image that is without substance.  This is called indistinct and shadowy.  Go up to it and you will not see its head; Follow behind it and you will not see its rear." (p. 59)

Tao Te Ching

14.) Apollonius of Tyana (Greek philosopher): "Time does not exist.  This is the great secret known to Apollonius of Tyana, Paul of Tarsus, Simon Magus, Paracelsus, Boheme, and Bruno." (p. 60)

Apollonius of Tyana

15.) Paul of Tarsus (early Christian writer): see above.

St. Paul

16.) Simon Magus (Samaritan magician): see above.

Simon Magus

17.) Paracelsus (Swiss German physician): see above.


18.) The Nag Hammadi Gnostic Library (collection of gnostic Christian writings found in 1945): "Oh, the Gnostic library...found and read in 1945 but never published.  Living information?  Living information.  The Logos." (p. 61)

Nag Hammadi Library

19.) The Dogon people (west African ethnic group): "Then you believe that the Dogon People of the western Sudan are the source of Christianity." (p. 62)

Dogon People

20.) Xenophanes of Colophon (Greek philosopher): "Xenophanes of Colophon. 'One god there is, in no way like mortal creatures either in bodily form or in the thought of his mind." (p. 63)

Xenophanes of Colophon

21.) The Epistles of John (New Testament books): "Perhaps a more important statement shows up in a book of the New Testament which most people don't read; they read the gospels and the letters of Paul, but who reads One John?: 'My dear people, we are already the children of God but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed; all we know is, that we shall be like him because we shall see him as he really is.'" (p. 69)

St. John the Evangelist

22.) John the Baptist (preacher): "Do you think John the Baptist was an Essene?" he asked Sherri. (p. 79)

John the Baptist

23.) Theodor Reik (Austrian psychoanalyst): "In his study of the form that masochism takes in modern man, Theodor Reik puts forth an interesting view." (p. 81)

Theodor Reik

24.) Valentinianism (2nd century Gnostic Christian movement): "Yaldaboath is a monster spawned by Sophia who fell from the Pleroma.  He imagines he's the only god but he's wrong.  There's something the matter with him; he can't see.  He creates our world but because he's blind, he botches the job.  The real God sees down from far above and in his pity sets to work to save us...Basically, my doctrine is Valentinian, second century C.E." (p. 90)


25.) Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (German writer): "That's the existential question based on the concept that we are what we do, rather than, we are what we think.  It finds its expression in Goethe's Faust, part 1, where Faust says, 'Im Anfang was das Wort.'  He's quoting the opening of the Fourth Gospel; 'In the beginning was the Word.'  Faust says, 'Nein, Im Anfang war die Tat.' 'In the beginning ws the deed.' From this, all existentialism comes." (p. 92)

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

26.) The prophet Elijah (Hebrew prophet): "The Immortal One was known to the Greeks as Dionysos; to the Jews as Elijah; to the Christians as Jesus.  He moves on when each human host dies, and thus is never killed or caught.  Hence Jesus on the cross said, 'Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani' to which some of those present correctly said, 'The man is calling on Elijah.'  Elijah had left him and he died alone." (p. 104)

The Prophet Elijah

27.) The Sibyl of Cumae (Greco-Roman priestess): "The Sibyl of Cumae protected the Roman Republic and gave it timely warnings. In the first century C.E. she foresaw the murders of the two Kennedy brothers, Dr. King and Bishop Pike.  She saw the two common denominators in the four murdered men: first, they stood in defense of the liberties of the Republic; and second, each man was a religious leader.  For this they were killed.  The Republic had once again become an empire with a caesar.  The empire never ended." (p. 106)

Sibyl of Cumae

28.) Martin Luther King Jr. (civil rights leader).  See above.

Martin Luther King Jr.

29.) Shiva (Hindu god): "The sibyl said in March 1974, 'The conspirators have been seen and they will be brought to justice.'  She saw them with the third or anja eye, the Eye of Shiva which gives inward discernment, but when turned outward blasts with desiccating heat.  In August 1974 the justice promised by the Sibyl came to pass." (p. 106) note: August 1974 is a reference the resignation of Richard Nixon.


30.) Apollo (Greek god): "The head Apollo is about to return.  St. Sophia is going to be born again; she was not acceptable before.  The Buddha is in the park.  Siddhartha sleeps (but is going to awaken).  The time you have waited for has come." (p. 106)


31.) Ikhnaton (Egyptian king): "Fat found a hymn by Ikhnaton and copied parts of it out of the reference book and into his tractate: 'When the fledgling in the egg chirps the egg, Thou gives him breath therein to preserve him alive.  When thou has brought him together to the point of bursting the egg, He cometh forth from the egg, to chirp with all his might.  He goeth about upon his two feet when he hath come from therefrom." (p. 108)


32.) A Scanner Darkly (novel by Philip K. Dick): "In my novel A Scanner Darkly, published in 1977, I ripped off Fat's account of his eight hours of lurid phosphene activity." (p. 114)

33.) Pablo Picasso (Spanish artist): "For about six hours, entranced, S.A. Powers had watched thousands of Picasso paintings replace one another a flash-cut speed, and then had had been treated to Paul Klee, more than the painter had painted during his entire lifetime.  S.A. Powers, now viewing Modigliani paintings replacing themselves at furious velocity, had conjectured (one needs a theory for everything) that the Rosicrucians were telepathically breaming pictures at him, probably boosted by micro relay systems of an advanced order; but then Kandinsky paintings began to harass him, he recalled that the main art museum at Leningrad specialized in just such nonobjective moderns, and he decided that the Soviets were attempting telepathically to contact him." (p. 115)

Pablo Picasso

34.) Paul Klee (Swiss German painter): see above.

35.) Amedeo Modigliani (Italian painter): see above.

Amedeo Modigliani

36.) Wassily Kandinsky (Russian painter): see above.

"Several Circles" by Wassily Kandinsky (1923)

37.) Jesus (Jewish preacher/alien): "We are talking about Christ.  He is an extra-terrestrial life form which came to this planet thousands of years ago, and, as living information, passed into the brains of human beings already living here, the native population.  We are talking about interspecies symbiosis." (p. 120)

Painting of Jesus by Carl Bloch

38.) Arthur C. Clarke (British science fiction writer): "A sufficiently advanced technology would seem to us to be a form of magic; Arthur C. Clarke has pointed that out.  A wizard deals with magic; ergo, a 'wizard' is someone in possession of a highly sophisticated technology, one which baffles us." (p. 128)

Arthur C. Clarke

39.) Blaise Pascal (French mathematician/philosopher): "Pascal said, 'All history is one immortal man who continually learns.'" (p. 129)

Blaise Pascal

40.) Mircea Eliade (Romanian historian of religion): “It all had to do with time.  ‘Time can be overcome,’ Mircea Eliade wrote.  That’s what it’s all about.  The great mystery of Eleusis, of the Orphies, of the early Christians, of Sarapis, of the Greco-Roman mystery religions, of Hermes Trismegistos, of the Renaissance Hermetic alchemists, of the Rose Cross Brotherhood, of Apollonious of Tyana, of Simon Magus, of Asklepios, of Paracelsus, of Bruno, consists of the abolition of time.  The techniques are there.  Dante discusses them in the Comedy.  It has to do with the loss of amnesia; when forgetfulness is lost, true memory spreads out backward and forward, into the past and into the future, and also, oddly, into alternative universes; it is orthogonal as well as linear.” (p. 130)

Mircea Eliade

41.) Sarapis (Greco-Egyptian god): see above.

Sarapis (or Serapis)

42.) Greco-Roman mystery religions.  See above.

Greek vase depicting mystery religions.

43.) Renaissance Hermetic alchemists.  See above.

The caduceus is a symbol of Hermetism.

44.) Asklepios (Greek god of medicine).  See above.


45.) Dante Alighieiri (Italian poet). See above.


46.) Pythagoras (Greek mathemetician/philosopher): “Siddhartha, the Buddha, remembered all his past lives; this is why he was given the title of buddha which means ‘the Enlightened One.’  From him the knowledge of achieving this passed to Greece and shows up in the teachings of Pythagoras.” (p. 131)


47.) Zoroaster (Persian religious figure): “Being eclectic in terms of his theology, Fat listed a number of saviors: the Buddha, Zoroaster, Jesus and Abu Al-Qasim Muhammad Ibn And Allal And Al-Muttalib Ibn Hashim (i.e. Muhammad).  Sometimes he also listed Mani.” (p. 133)

Zoroaster (also called Zarathustra)

48.) Muhammad (prophet of Islam).  See above.

It is forbidden to depict Muhammad.  Here is his name in Arabic.

49.) Mani (Persian gnostic prophet).  See above.

The prophet Mani

50.) Osiris (Egyptian god of the afterlife): “Ma’at had put her feather in the balance to be weighed against the heart of each man in judgment, as Osiris the Judge sat.  It was a busy time.” (p. 133)

Head of Osiris

51.) The Book of Daniel (prophetic book from the Bible): “Fat intended to be present, perhaps to hand the Book of Life to the Supreme Judge, the Ancient of Days mentioned in the Book of Daniel.” (p. 133)

Daniel's vision of the Four Beasts.

52.) The Holy Grail (Object of quests in Arthurian literature): “By the time Fat took off on his sacred quest he would be searching for two dead girls: Gloria and Sherri.  This updated version of the Grail saga made me wonder if equally erotic underpinnings had motivated the Grail knights at Monsavat, the castle where Parsifal would up.” (p. 134).

Holy Grail in Vanencia, Spain

53.) The Veil of Maya (idea in Hinduism): “The leader of the Grail knights, Amfortas, has a wound which will not heal.  Klingsor has wounded him with the spear which pierced Christ’s side.  Later, when Klingsor hurls the spear at Parsifal, the pure fool catches the spear—which has stopped in midair—and holds it up, making the sign of the cross with it, at which Klingsor and his entire castle vanish.  They were never there in the first place; they were a delusion, what the Greeks call dojos; what the Indians call the veil of Maya.” (p. 141)

Maya, the mirror of illusions.

54.) Arthur Schopenhauer (German philosopher): “In spite of time, death, and decay, we are still all together!” (Schopenhauer)

Arthur Schopenhauer

55.) William Wordsworth (British Romantic poet): “Wordsworth’s ‘Ode’ carries the sub-title: ‘Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood.’  In Fat’s case, the ‘intimations of immortality’ were based on recollections of a future life.  In addition, Fat could not write poetry worth shit, despite his best efforts.  He loved Wordsworth’s ‘Ode,’ and wished he could come up with its equal.  He never did.” (p. 149)

William Wordsworth

56.) Francis Crick and James D. Watson (molecular biologists): “Then the Christian fish sign is Crick and Watson’s double helix.  The DNA molecule where genetic memory is stored; Mother Goose wanted to make that point.  That’s why—“ (p. 160)

Crick and Watson discovered the structure of DNA.

57.) Meister Eckhart (German theologian/mystic): “You know of Meister Eckhart, then…He was the first person to conceive of the God-head in distinction to God.  The greatest of the Christian mystics.” (p. 191)

Meister Eckhart

58.) Adi Sankara (Hindu philosopher): “Sankara in India, in the ninth century; he taught the same things Eckhart taught.  It’s a trans-Christian mysticism in which man can reach beyond God, or merges with God, as or with a spark of some kind that isn’t created.  Brahman…VALIS.” (p. 191)

Adi Sankara

59.) Nommo and Yurugu (African deities): “But the divine and the terrible are so close to each other.  Nommo and Yurugu are partners; both are necessary.  Osiris and Seth, too.” (p. 196)

Nommo and Yurugu

60.) Osiris and Seth (Egyptian gods): See above.

Osiris and Seth

61.) Yahweh and Satan (ancient Hebrew god and devil): “In the Book of Job, Yahweh and Satan form a partnership.” (p. 196)

Satan going forth from the presence of the Lord.

62.) Brahma (Hindu god of creation): “It is not God nor the gods which must prevail; it is wisdom, Holy Wisdom.  I hoped that the fifth savior would be that: splitting the bipolarities and emerging as a unitary thing.  Not of three persons or two but one.  Not Brahma the creator, Vishnu the sustainer and Shiva the destroyer, but what Zoroaster called the Wise Mind.” (p. 196)

Brahma, the creator

63.) Vishnu (Hindu god): See above.


64.) Dionysos: “You worship a god and then he pays you back by taking you over.  This is called ‘enthusiasmos’ in Greek, literally ‘to be possessed by the god.’  Of all the Greek gods the one most likely to do this was Dionysos.  And, unfortunately, Dionysos was insane.” (p. 197)


65.) Pan (Greek god): “…the demigod Pan was the basis of panic which is the uncontrollable urge to flee, and Pan is a subform of Dionysos.  So in trying to flee from Dionysos you are taken over anyhow.” (p. 197)


66.) Fibonacci (Italian mathematician): “Or we use Fibonacci numbers…1,2,3,5,8,13 and so on.  That doorway is to the Different Realm.” (p. 201)


67.) Cabala (Jewish mysticism): “It’s the encoding system which VALIS uses; all its verbal information is stored as Cabala.” (p. 202)

68.) Horus (Egyptian god): “What is VALIS?  Which deity or demiurge is he?  Shiva?  Osiris?  Horus?  I’ve read The Cosmic Trigger and Robert Anton Wilson says—“ (p. 204)


69.) Robert Anton Wilson (American futurist author): See above.

Robert Anton Wilson

70.) The Maze at Minos (Greek myth): “We are in a maze, here, which we built and then fell into and can’t get out.  In essence, VALIS selectively fires information to us which aids us in escaping from the maze, in finding the way out.  It started back about two thousand years before Christ, in Mycenaean times or perhaps early Helladic.  That’s why the myths place the maze at Minos, on Crete.” (p. 206)

The maze at Minos

71.) T.S. Eliot (American poet): “David sat reading a book of T.S. Eliot.  Kevin seemed tense.  ‘We’re almost there,’ I said, ‘Orange County Airport.’” (p. 228)

T.S. Eliot wrote the famous poem "The Waste Land"

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