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VALIS (acronym of Vast Active Living Intelligence System from an American film): A perturbation in the reality field in which A spontaneous self-monitoring negentropic vortex is formed, tending progressively to subsume and incorporate its environment into arrangements of information. Characterized by quasi-consciousness, purpose, intelligence, growth and an armillary coherence.


-Great Soviet Dictionary, Sixth Edition, 1992 (Philip K. Dick VALIS 1981)




When I was introduced to the realms of Philip K Dick, I was a young, charismatic sophomore, with a passion for destruction. I hated everything about my world and needed it broken down so I could really take a good look at it. Philip K. Dick taught me to do so. He showed me that at any point in time, for one reason or another, ANYTHING could happen. But, he explains that this is not just pure randomness. There is order in the chaos that ensues. Dick explains this over a career of work, beginning with short stories of space age thought and leading to quests for god, awards for seeing what others could not, distortions of reality, encounters with god, lots of drugs and many lovable characters that the reader sympathizes with as everything fall apart. Dick is a master story teller who gave life to the inane by making it important. By uniting it with the universe. But what is his writing? Can it clearly be placed in a set category or categories for explanation? Or is it something new and different?


It seems easy to place science fiction in the post modern category. With irrational occurrences and thought which are “symptomatic of our escape from the claustrophobic embrace of fixed systems of belief” (Barry. Beginning Theory p84). Philip K. Dick’s work delves into the impersonalized reality. Characters are left alone in the universe. They search for god and wait for god. Eventually, they find god and therefore seek out meaning. This is combined with a large dose of deconstructing reality. Dick builds up a universe where the characters are looked at and their world view is seen, sometimes. All the while, Dick points out little intricacies like pink toenails and details to clothing. Then, the world’s faults are exploited and chaos is brought in. In How to Build a Universe That Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later,” Dick discusses the post modern world. The essay begins with Dick “whirling around in one of the giant teacups while discussing the rise of fascism with Norman Spinrad” (Suitn. Shifting Realities p259) at Disneyland. The unreal in the real.


Dick once said “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away” (Sutin Shifting Realities p261). Dick’s characters are searching for that answer. They let go of what appeared true in their universe and just focus on what they know to be true, because they have seen it up close and impersonal. Because it is there, it IS. They realize that the universe is massive and microscopic all at once. And there can be any amount of information passing through any time at any given point. In that cluster of code patterns emerge. These patterns can be followed and can lead to many things, mostly this point: Ockham’s razor? Everything that happens has happened and will happen again.


Can reality be impersonal? Isn’t it meaningless to exist without personal achievements that are recognized in the vast network of the Universe? I took a look in the not so trustworthy, but sagely, Wikipedia for the meaning of impersonal. Impersonal Verb came up and told me “In linguistics, I am a verb that cannot take a true subject, because I do not represent an action, occurrence, or state-of-being of any specific person, place, or thing.” That fits this idea very well. If someone’s reality were to “misrepresent” actions and occurrences and that person therefore misinterprets what they are seeing, they would be a character in a Philip K. Dick novel. This reality could not sustain consciousness. Without consciousness nothing is real. Such a catastrophe would destroy psychoanalytic theorists. There may even be a reality created by Dick in which some theorists actually break down into nothingness due to entropy properties brought on by a lack of ego. The balance of being would be disrupted and reality would cease to be and a new reality would be born from the ashes. The characters in VALIS encounter this, I wouldn’t classify them all as “theorists” but all of them do talk a lot of…


See Horselover Fat. See him as the character and as the narrator and as a real live person. See how his novel and world are turned upside down by an encounter with the sacred. How he delves into mental illness as a cause for a destructive reality. “The first thing to depart in mental illness is the familiar” (Dick. VALIS p24) Fat experienced amnesis, a loss of forgetfulness, when VALIS shot information in the form of pink light into his brain. He remembered what he had forgotten from his other selves. By seeing symmetry in the irrational, Fat’s world is destroyed and rebuilt over the course of ventures into the sacred and unstable. Somehow Fat repressed his memories and only by having contact with god could he see this world for what it really is. A dream work full of archetypes used to achieve sacred levels of information.


“Dreams…like literature, do not…usually make explicit statements. Both tend to communicate obliquely or indirectly, avoiding direct or open statement, and representing meanings through concrete embodiments of time, place, or person” (Barry p98.) Dreams don’t say, they show. Dick dreamt up worlds in which the characters sought out an absolute truth. Most of the time this truth is very frightening. “Fat later developed a theory that the universe is made out of information” (Dick. VALIS p23). If this is true, we are nothing more than patterns of code placed together to form and object. Our thoughts are just coding that we try to interpret.


(Journal Entries from Horselover Fat’s tractate will appear in Bold)

“Journal Entry 37. Thoughts of the brain are experienced by us as arrangements-

change-in physical processing which we substantialize. We do not merely see its thoughts as objects, but rather as the movement, or, more precisely, the placement of objects: how they become linked to one another. But we cannot read the patterns of arrangement; we cannot extract eh information in it- i.e. it as information, which is what it is. The linking and relining of objects by the Brain is actually a language, but not a language like ours (since it is addressing itself and not someone or something outside itself).” (Dick. VALIS p23)


Dick was what we could call rationally insane. His madness was caused by a blast of information. His mind could not handle it. One could say this madness was the fault of language. Dick had so much in his mind, but had no way to communicate it . It took him years to do so, mostly through a work of notes and pages of thought he entitled his Exegesis. There are 9000 pages to this masterpiece and very few have had the chance to view it in it’s entirety. This loss of words when translating ones thoughts is a terrible process which has driven the greatest thinkers into madness. They try to find meaning in their words and realize that “meanings are attributed to the things by the human mind, not contained within them” (Barry p39). What they claim to think and write on is only true in the mind and can only be reached through understanding. Perception is what allows this understanding and varies from person to person. Meaning, any work ever written can be viewed from a specific theory. It doesn’t have to be accepted by every person reading said text, but it must be understood that everything is different to everyone. Just as a color blind person’s world is different from someone with near perfect vision.


Dick writes that “arrangement of parts of the Brain is a language. We are parts of the Brain; therefore we are language” (VALIS p234). This is why we are so confused and chaotic. We are something that we do not understand. We can’t because that understanding lies within and not in our perception. Therefore, any answer provided cannot be sufficient enough since it really would not mean anything.


“Journal Entry 32. The changing information which we experience as World is an unfolding narrative. It tells about the death of a woman. This woman, who died long ago, was one of the primordial twins. She was half of the divine syzygy. The purpose of the narrative is the recollection of her and of her death. The Mind does not wish to forget her. Thus the ratiocination of the Brain consists of a permanent record of her existence, and, if read, will be understood this way. All the information processed by the Brain-experienced by us as the arranging and rearranging of physical objects-is an attempt at this preservation of her; stones and rocks and sticks and amoebae are traces of her. The record of her existence and passing is ordered onto the meanest level of reality by the suffering Mind which is now alone.” (Dick. VALIS p233)


Furthermore “the universe is information and we are stationary it, not three-dimensional and not in space or time. The information fed to us we hypostatize into the phenomenal world…the phenomenal world does not exist; it is a hypostasis of information proceeded by the Mind” (Dick VALIS p.230 & 233). We try to move through the information but cannot since it does not exist in our world. The info world exists without us but has created us. We are its children and therefore must honor it. It tells the stories of our lives while teaching us. If the universe is built on information, it is therefore a story strung out along a long listing of code. 1’s and 0’s. Eventually it is revealed to us what is trying to be taught through itself. The info speaks to us and tells us exactly what we want to hear. We all perceive the info differently but all do so to support what it is we want to achieve from understanding. “Information can save us” (Dick VALIS p 236).


“Journal Entry 35: The Mind is not talking to us but by means of us. Its narrative passes through us and its sorrow infuses us irrationally. As Plato discerned, there is a streak of irrational in the World Soul.” (Dick VALIS p234)


So the world is broken into two, the rational and the irrational. There are two parts, they are one, but at the same time separate. Well, they are alike, but different...and the same, but not. We experience this as conflict in our lives. It constantly shifts the balance we strive to acquire and chaos ensues We search for answers but end up with nothing, so we make it up as we go, like religion. Dick’s theories provide insight into the vastness of the Universe.

“The two-proposing self-canceling structure would appear like this:

1) God does not exist.

2) And anyhow he’s stupid.” (VALIS p29)

This is a conflicted statement that Dick shares. It suggests that the first point is rational but only on it’s own. while the second point is valid, when the two are read as one, they become a paradox . The statement as a whole then becomes irrational. Words cause this disorder in our world and “one of structuralism’s characteristic views is the notion that language doesn’t just reflect or record the world: rather, it shapes it, so that how we see is what we see” (Barry. Beginning Theory p61). Dick was a skeptic of what he could see and his words place us in a world of disbelief. We want to see what he is saying, but we have to look beyond what he is saying and see it as a façade for the real world. “The Empire Never Ended” he said and wrote many times. Meaning that there is still a body of control over us that has been in power for a very long time. We think that they fell centuries ago, but were just fooled and kept distracted from the truth. By use of his novels and thoughts, Dick provides for us all the information we need to surpass the black gates and reach our own personal freedom. “The truth- like the Self- is splintered up over thousands of miles and years; bits are found here and there, then and now, and must be re-collected” (Dick In Pursuit of VALIS. 111). We journey through life searching for these “bits” of truth and have to avoid the lies that are placed before us, covering our eyes to what is truly real.

Dick’s work does not follow a specific theory but several. Because his work is science fiction, it is enabled to partake of many different forms of theory. This may cause a disruption of reality for most people, especially theorists. Dick yearned to be accepted by the literary mainstream, but “he always regarded it as a kind of treason to deprecate the SF genre he grew up on and flourished in” (Sunit Philip K. Dick Official Site). By giving into the needs of what was expected of him, Dick would have sold out his genre. By focusing on one aspect of literature and using it to support any and all of his reasonings, Dick’s work would not be as appreciated and as useful as it is today. He used what he felt like using. Whether it was focusing on the use of language or the discontinuity of existence, it all fell into the Philip K. Dick category of theory. Clarity in the random. Patterns in our lives and world that may not seem important but link the universe together. This is mostly post-modern thought, but it doesn’t matter. His work doesn’t have to be placed under a set of rules of what it should mean or should tell us. It just is. The readers must accept his work for what it is to them. What it changes in their minds about how the world fluctuates. No one person can say exactly what a reader will get out of a Philip K. Dick story because the results may vary.


“The origin of the word “idiot” is the word “private.” Each of us has become private, and no longer shares the common thought of the Brain, except at a subliminal level. Thus our real life and purpose are conducted below our threshold of consciousness.” (Dick VALIS p234)


WE are in desperate need of involution. As much as we need to look inward for the answers, Dick can provide them for us. Dick’s writing is a tool we must us to find a way to create answers. To develop inside, in our minds and souls instead of the material, physical aspects of the universe. To fold ourselves in and accept what is there. We tend to block out the internal world and discredit its importance in the universe. We forget that the space within is just as big as the outside. The republic of heaven is in the clouds. The kingdom of heaven is within and is waiting to be discovered. Follow the bouncing ball.


“From Ikhnaton this knowledge passed to Moses, and from Moses to Elijah, the Immortal Man, who became Christ. But underneath all the names there is only one Immortal Man; and we are that man.” (Dick VALIS p241)








Dick, Philip K. VALIS . New York, Vintage, 1991.

Dick, Philip K. “How to Build a Universe that Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later.” The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick: Selected Literary and Philosophical Writings. Ed. Lawrence Sutin. New York; Vintage. 1995.259-280.

Barry, Peter. Beginning Theory. Manchester, New York; Manchester University Press. 2002.

Dick, Philip K. In Pursuit of VALIS: Selections from the Exegesis. Ed. Lawrence Sutin. USA; The Philip K. Dick Estate. 1991.

Philip K. Dick-Science Fiction Author-Official Site. 2003 Philip K. Dick Trust. November-December 2007. www.philipkdick.com/

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