The great question I have to keep asking myself about my last life (if indeed he was my last life) is this: was he just another crazy old stoner in California who thought he heard voices in Beatles records, or the recipient of a genuine miracle?
It’s known that Phil tended to look at things from a Gnostic sort of framework. He’d been previously involved with AMORC, one of the various rosicrucian societies that continued a Gnostic lineage going all the way back to the 30 Years war (though allegorically said to be a much older Gnostic lineage).
Having looked somewhat into Rosicrucianism and Hermeticism myself, I can tell you that if you don’t at least know a little bit about Western mystical systems then you’re pretty lost trying to decipher a work like Valis. I can easily see why someone not familiar with those things would see a very deranged man (just try describing the ineffable in a vernacular language that lacks a well-developed mystical vocabulary without sounding crazy some time).
However, although he had trouble getting his thoughts in order and never managed to zero in on an elegant way of describing his visions, he did leave us at least some clues about what the truth of our existence is.
My understanding of the text and its possible significance- whether the sad decline of a brilliant mind or the flowering of a Gnostic revival- is still evolving. I’m having to read and re-read, watch and re-watch, and continually review the various pieces of Gnostic literature. Some of them are in a growing “to read/watch” pile. Nonetheless, I’m still gaining some understanding of the sort of works one would need to be familiar with to really begin to grasp Philip K. Dick’s later work.
I would like to start linking to those resources here, for the benefit of anyone who has ever been curious. I won’t ask you to believe any of it because I’m not even sure if I believe it myself, but I’ll at least share resources with anyone who wants to know if there’s anything to it.
Please don’t take for granted the free and public availability of these esoteric works, by the way! For hundreds of years, you had to be an initiate in a secret society to know most of this. The teachings were handed down from master to student and strictly controlled. They remained scarce well past the end of the Inquisition and only became widely available in print after WWII, but they were still rarefied and expensive texts for academics.
We live in an age now when you can build a multimedia library of religious and esoteric texts, lectures, and commentaries that is more complete than most big city libraries right on your laptop. When Phil wrote his books, he was lucky to be living in California where such texts were relatively easy to come by compared to many parts of the country.
I’d like to start with a video lecture that explains the most basic concepts behind Jacob Boehme’s ideas. Boehme is said to have had an experience much like Phil’s. The cosmogony described in the Tractates Cryptica Scriptura from VALIS shares similarities with Boehme’s concept of the world springing from the action of two contending principles, and Phil was known to be familiar with Boehme, possibly from back to the 1960s:
“The World Within- C.G. Jung In His Own Words” is an excellent film. Carl Gustav Jung was one of Phil’s great inspirations, both a psychologist and a modern-day mystic who had some amazing insights of his own:
If I was indeed Phil, then I can tell you for sure that he intended for his personal copy of the Exegesis to be bound and illuminated like Jung’s book, once he had his notes in order to create a complete work. Sadly, the chance never came. Perhaps one day, I’ll write something worth committing to vellum but for now, it eludes me.