infobox Book |
name = VALIS
image_caption = Cover of first edition (paperback)
Philip K. Dick
language = English
Science fiction novel
release_date = 1981
media_type = Print (
pages = 227
isbn = 0-553-14156-2
The Divine Invasion
"VALIS" is a
1981 science fictionnovel by Philip K. Dick. The title is an acronym for "Vast Active Living Intelligence System", Dick's gnostic vision of one aspect of God.
"VALIS" is the first book in the "
VALIS trilogy" of novels including " The Divine Invasion" (1981), and the unfinished " The Owl in Daylight". " The Transmigration of Timothy Archer" ( 1982) is thematically related to the unfinished trilogy and was included in several omnibus editions of the trilogy as a stand-in for the unwritten final volume. Together with his thematically related final novel, "VALIS" represents Dick's last major work before he died. " Radio Free Albemuth" is considered an earlier version of "VALIS", and is not included as a component of the "VALIS" trilogy.
While living in Santa Barbara, Philip Dick is experiencing a philosophical crisis brought about by a combination of amphetamine use, compulsively helping the wrong people and a deep sense that there is something very wrong with the world. After starting with a fairly typical section dealing with his problems with other people, women in particular, strange events begin to happen around him. He begins to see two realities overlaid on one another. One being the world as he knows it, the other a man named Thomas living in the Levant and speaking Koine Greek circa 60AD. Shortly after, he is hit in the head with a beam of pink light (he later said that if he had ever seen a laser, that's what he would have called it) that 'beamed' information to him. The pink light tells him that his son has a herniated intestine and will die within weeks if it is not treated. Even more shocking, after convincing the doctors to look at his son, it turns out that the laser was right.
During this time he begins writing his 'tractate' which is a
commonplace bookof amalgamated philosophies and concepts Dick had compiled in an attempt to explain this experience.
Plot - Generic Information
The main character in "VALIS" is Horselover Fat, an
author surrogate. "Horselover" is English for the Greek word "philippos" (Φίλιππος), meaning "lover of horses" (from philo "brotherly or comradely love" and hippos "horse"); the German word "dick" is "Fat" in English.
Even though the book is written in the first-person-autobiographical, for most of the book Dick treats himself and Fat as two separate characters; he describes conversations and arguments with Fat, and harshly if sympathetically criticizes his opinions and writings. The major subject of these dialogues is spirituality, as Dick/Fat is/are ostensibly obsessed with several religions and philosophies, including
Christianity, Taoism, Gnosticismand even Jungianpsychoanalysis, in the search for a cure for what he believes is simultaneously a personal and a cosmic wound. Near the end of the book the messianic figure, incarnated by the child Sophia(a name associated with Wisdomin many Gnostictexts), cures him (temporarily), and the narrator describes his surprise that Horselover Fat has suddenly disappeared from his side.
Philip K. Dick
Dick, as narrator, states early in the book that the creation of the character "Horselover Fat" is to allow him some "much needed objectivity." In this particular work the narrator is also a fictional character provided as a cool, pragmatic counter-point to Horselover's slow disintegration.
VALIS has been described as one node of an artificial
satellitenetwork originating from the star Siriusin the Canis Majorconstellation. According to Dick, the Earth satellite used "pink laser beams" to transfer information and project holograms on Earth and to facilitate communication between an extraterrestrial species and humanity. Dick claimed that VALIS used "disinhibiting stimuli" to communicate, using symbols to trigger recollectionof intrinsic knowledge through the loss of amnesia, achieving gnosis. Drawing directly from Platonismand Gnosticism, Dick wrote in his " Exegesis": "We appear to be memory coils (DNA carriers capable of experience) in a computer-like thinking system which, although we have correctly recorded and stored thousands of years of experiential information, and each of us possesses somewhat different deposits from all the other life forms, there is a malfunction - a failure - of memory retrieval."
At one point, Dick claimed to be in a state of
enthousiasmoswith VALIS, where he was informed his infant son was in danger of perishing from an unnamed malady. Routine checkups on the child had shown no trouble or illness; however, Dick insisted that thorough tests be run to ensure his son's health. The doctor eventually complied, despite the fact that there were no apparent symptoms. During the examination doctors discovered an inguinal hernia, which would have killed the child if an operation was not quickly performed. His son survived thanks to the operation, which Dick attributed to the "intervention" of VALIS.
Another event was an episode of
xenoglossia. Supposedly, Dick's wife transcribed the sounds she heard him speak, and discovered that he was speaking Koine Greek-the common Greek dialect during the Hellenisticyears (3rd century BC-4th century AD) and direct "father" of today's modern Greek language- which he had never studied. As Dick was to later discover, Koine Greek was originally used to write the New Testamentand the Septuagint. However, this was not the first time Dick had experienced xenoglossia. A decade earlier, Dick claimed he was able to think, speak, and read fluent Latinunder the influence of Sandoz LSD-25.
The UK edition of "VALIS" also included Cosmology and Cosmogony, a chapbook containing selections from Dick's "Exegesis".
Dick's friends (and fellow science fiction writers)
K.W. Jeter(Kevin) and Tim Powers(David) appear as thinly disguised characters in the novel, and along with Dick, as members of the "Rhipidon Society", with the motto, "Fish Cannot Carry Guns!" It is also said that James P. Blaylockappears in the book.
* Phil: narrator, science fiction writer
* Horselover Fat: narrator
* Gloria Knudson: suicidal friend of Fat's
* Kevin: friend of Fat's, skeptic (based on real life writer/ friend K.W. Jeter)
* Sherri Solvig: Fat's friend, dying from lymphatic cancer
* David: Catholic friend of Fat's
* Zebra: pure energy, discorporate, the
Logos, living information, the "plasmate", " God"; communicates with Fat
* VALIS: title of an American science fiction film, appears as a satellite, controls reality, synonymous with Zebra (see "The Man Who Fell to Earth)". Essentially a
story within a story. It also forms the plotline of " Radio Free Albemuth", Dick's rejected (but posthumously published) original version of "Valis".
* Eric Lampton: rock star, screenwriter, actor, aka "Mother Goose",
* Linda Lampton: actress
Sophia: the child-messiah, incarnation of VALIS
* Brent Mini: electronic composer (based upon electronic/ambient musician
Philosophical and cultural references
Theologyand philosophy, especially metaphysical philosophy, play an important role in "VALIS", presenting not just Dick's (and/or Horselover Fat's) own views on these subjects but also his interpretation of numerous religions and philosophies of the past. The most prominent religious references are to Valentinian Gnosticism, the Rose Cross Brotherhood, Zoroastrianismand Buddhism, as well as Biblical writings including the Book of Danieland the New Testament epistles. Many ancient Greek philosophers are discussed, including several Pre-Socratics ( Pythagoras, Xenophanes, Heraclitus, Empedoclesand Parmenides) as well as Platoand Aristotle. More recent thinkers that are mentioned include the philosophers Pascal and Schopenhauer, the Christian mystic Jakob Böhme, the alchemist Paracelsus, the psychologist Carl Jung, and the author and psychologist Robert Anton Wilson. In Wilson's autobiographical " Cosmic Trigger" (released nearly a decade before VALIS), Wilson describes similar musings concerning the 'Sirius Connection', contemplating the idea that alien entities are sending out waves of information that we can tune in on.
The action of "VALIS" is set firmly in the American popular culture of its time, with references to the
Grateful Dead, Frank Zappaand Linda Ronstadtas well as the fictional rock musicians Eric Lampton and Brent Mini. However, the novel also contains a number of high culturereferences such as the poets Vaughan, Wordsworth and Goethe, and the classical composers Handel and Wagner. In particular, the novel contains several extended discussions about Wagner's metaphysical opera " Parsifal".
Black Iron Prison
The Black Iron Prison is a concept of an all-pervasive system of social control postulated in the "Tractates Cryptica Scriptura", a summary of an unpublished
Gnosticexegesis included in "VALIS".
The Black Iron Prison was the founding of a line of thought in Discordian philosophy. [ [http://www.poee.co.uk/bip/index.php?title=Main_Page Main Page - Black Iron Prison ] ]
In Popular Culture
The novel "VALIS" was adapted in 1987 as an electronic opera by composer
Tod Machover, and performed at Centre Georges Pompidou, with live singers and video installations created by artist [http://www.ubikam.fr/portes/val_main1.htm# Catherine Ikam] .
In 2004, on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of Philip K. Dick's alleged epiphany, described in the Exegesis and dramatized in "VALIS", an [http://www.pinklight.net/pub/Pinklight/ art exhibition] was organized in Vienna by multimedia artist's group XDV, which had several interactive artworks inspired by the descriptions of his experiences.
February 1, 2004, "Variety" announced that Utopia Pictures & Televisionhad acquired the rights to produce three of Philip K. Dick's works: " Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said"; "VALIS"; and " Radio Free Albemuth". [cite web|url=http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117899328?categoryid=13&cs=1&query=utopia+and+pictures&display=utopia+pictures|title=Variety.com - Utopia picks Dick works|date=2004-02-01|work=Variety.com|accessdate=2006-08-14]
Radio Free Albemuth"
Solid State Intelligence(SSI) - a malevolent form of VALIS. See John C. Lilly.
* [http://www.philipkdick.com/ Official Philip K. Dick site]
* [http://www.philipkdickfans.com Philip K. Dick Fans website]
* [http://pkdickbooks.com/SFnovels/Valis.html Valis book cover gallery]
* [http://www.philipkdickfans.com/weirdo/weirdo1.htm VALIS comics drawn by R. Crumb]
* [http://deoxy.org/pkd_tcs.htm Tractates Cryptica Scriptura] The appendix of "VALIS", an extract of the Exegesis
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