VALIS                                    See also  The Tractates Cryptica Scriptura




{For the best bibliographic info in French goto: Thanks for the cover pix, Gilles}

"The Empire never ended." Until now; until August 1974 when the Empire suffered a crippling, perhaps terminal, blow, at the hands -- so to speak -- of the immortal plasmate, now restored to active form and using humans as its physical agents.

Horselover Fat was one of those agents. He was, so to speak, the hands of the plasmate, reaching out to injure the Empire.

Vote for your Fave PKD story! VALIS. One of the most important books written in the English language in the 20th century. -- Steve Walsh, WA

Vote for your Fave PKD story! VALIS. Hilarious and amazing. Dick tackles the big questions and if books like this are the result, then Life must have meaning -- even if we are just star dust. -- Greg Lee, CA

Vote for your Fave PKD Story!   Most Important Novel: VALIS. I agree with Stan Wolfe, "one of the most important books (of) the 20th century. -- Gregg Rickman, CA

Vote for your Worst PKD Story! By the way,  although you didn't ask, and I suspect this will get me in trouble -- for the life of me, I can't see what people get out of VALIS. Am I the only one? -- David Anonymous, CA

{The following is taken from Ken Lopez, Bookseller online catalog, May 1997. As far as I know this package is still for sale}:

4. Valis. (Published by Bantam, 1981). The original manuscript of a book that is widely considered to be one of his two greatest works the other being The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. 311 pages of ribbon-copy typescript, inscribed by the author on the top page "with love" to Tim Powers, and additionally inscribed to "the best friend I ever had" on the verso of a proof of the novel's paperback cover. With a letter from the publisher laid in returning this to Dick for his files, and a photocopy of a letter from Dick to the publisher requesting that the book's dedication be changed [it was]. "VALIS" stands for "Vast Active Living Intelligence System" and is an acronym for the pervasive unseen force that Dick saw as animating the universe; his entire body of work, and even his entire life, can be seen as an effort to penetrate and understand this force, and Valis stands as the most complete expression of that understanding outside of the unpublished diary and journals which he titled Exegesis.

Dick's writings influenced an entire generation of science fiction authors and helped move science fiction out of the realm of "little green men" once and for all, firmly establishing it as a genre for addressing serious philosophical and metaphysical questions. Dick was immersed in the drug use of the Sixties counterculture and his metaphysical explorations most often were conducted on his own psyche; he put himself at risk in the service of a spiritual and literary quest and he paid the price: by continually projecting himself into uncharted psychological territory, Dick made himself exceptionally vulnerable; he suffered ill health, devastating psychosomatic effects leading to a suicide attempt in 1976 and finally died of a series of strokes and heart failure at the relatively young age of 53.

The manuscripts from the first two-thirds of Dick's career have been institutionalized; other writings by Dick in manuscript form have shown up on the market only very occasionally a recent catalogue by a leading science fiction specialist dealer had a four-page short story typescript (with a letter of transmittal and tear-sheet of the story) for $2200, or roughly $500 per page of Dick manuscript. This manuscript 311 pages of his most important novel, warmly inscribed (twice) to a close friend represents the pinnacle of Dick's achievement, and the best possible association. A unique item that is a landmark in the career of one of science fiction's greatest authors ever. Top sheet a bit wrinkled, otherwise fine in a literary agency box. $22,000

Vote for your Fave PKD story! VALIS. No contest here. VALIS is the one I keep going back to. It wasn't the first one I read, but it was one of the first. I keep going over it in my head all the time, and have read it 6 or 8 times at least -- more than any other PKD book. It's unique and incredible. My choice for first place. -- Paul Rydeen, AL

PKDS-3 13:

The EXEGESIS represents the single largest body of unpublished PKD writing. Because of its direct relation to VALIS and The Tractates Cryptica Scriptura, it exerts a fascination for Dick fans, who are curious about how much of VALIS was "true" and whether their favorite author flipped out or had a genuine mystical experience. It is fitting, perhaps, that one can come away from day-long sessions with the EXEGESIS and be no wiser on either count.

Based on reading a few hundred pages of the journals covering a variety of years from 1974 to 1982, I do have the following tentative observations:

1). The experiences of 2-3/74 lend themselves to interpretation as either psychotic episodes or mystical interludes, depending upon your point of view. A convincing case can be made for either interpretation.

2). What the EXEGESIS makes clear is that whatever the case may be, the experiences obsessed Phil for the remainder of his life. His journal-writing was an ongoing attempt to forge a rational explanation for events which fell outside the boundaries of rationality. It appears that at the end of eight years' effort he was no nearer a satisfying answer than when he began. That he was able to wrest a novel of the calibre of VALIS out of the convoluted labyrinth of the EXEGESIS seems a blessing and a miracle.

3). For PKD fans to come to terms with the EXEGESIS will mean they'll have to directly confront his neo-Gnostic Christianity which bubbled beneath the surface of his work from the early 60s on but comes to the fore in his journal writings. While Phil entertained at times many far-retched explanations for the "pink beam" experiences, he consistently returned to Christian theology and Greek philosophy for his most serious interpretations.

4). A major portion of the EXEGESIS is taken up by Phil's reinterpretation on his earlier novels (esp. TEARS and UBIK) in terms of the VALIS universe. To dive into the EXEGESIS is to risk having your favorite novels discussed to death by their own author before your very eyes.

5). The recurring theme of Dick's work -- that of a false world overlaying the 'real' one -- can be both a metaphysical proposition and a paranoid fear. The ambiguity of 2-3/74 is that the VALIS events are a dramatic fulfillment of both. In exploring this fact, the EXEGESIS is equal parts mystical theology and paranoid ravings. It contains profound discussions of the Indian philosopher Sankara, Plato and Meister Eckhart, side-by-side with long-winded (and rather crazed) attempts to derive cosmic generalities from dream fragments, hypnogogic phrases, and coincidental occurances.

6). The "Tractates" appended to VALIS are not, as far as I can tell, verbatim passages dictated by VALIS (or St. Sophia or whoever) but mostly distillations of the more verbose and circular musings in the EXEGESIS. Sentences like "The Empire never ended," or "The Buddha is in the park," did originate as cryptic phrases uttered by the AI voice while in a near dream state, but the EXEGESIS (and Tractate) represent Dick's own theorizing on such phrases as well as on readings from The Encyclopedia Brittanica, the Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the Bible, his own novels, etc.

7). Finally, like any daily writing covering eight years, the EXEGESIS is not of consistent interest throughout. Some lengthy passages resonate with the thrill of discovery and with glimpses of vast truths. Other long stretches are boring and even painful excersises, akin to watching a good friend repeatedly bang his head against the wall.
The Philip K. Dick I discovered reminds me of two other unique visionaries: Antonin Artaud and Emanuel Swedenborg. All three delved into alternate realities with unique results. But Artaud was ultimately deemed mad, institutionalised and subjected to massive shock-therapy. Swedenborg died peacefully, respected (and feared) for his elaborate visions of heaven and hell; and after his death his followers founded a new church centered around his revelations.
Luckily, Phil didn't have to suffer Artaud's fate, but it remains to be seen whether the EXEGESIS lends itself to the creation of a new Dickian religion. The possibility is a little grotesque, but stranger things have happened -- many of them in PKD's own writings -- Jay Kinney

PKDS-4 5:

... As most PKD enthusiasts know, and any reader of VALIS can guess, Phil really did have a series of intense mystical experiences in tht month (March 74), followed by similar encounters that continued to occur, though less frequently, until his death eight years later (because Phil didn't choose to regard this as shamefull and therefore to conceal it, several critics have jumped to the easy -- and superficially colorful -- conclusion that he had lost touch with reality, was living in a fantasy world... had, in short, gone crazy; but people who knew him don't agree, and I can't see how anyone could read VALIS, with all of its humour, rational doubt, self-mockery and sheer objectivity, and conclude that Phil was crazy).

"I thought you favored the alternate universe theory," I said, surprised. "That was fifteen minutes ago," Phil said. "You know how I am with theories. Theories are like planes at L.A. International: a new one along every minute..." -- From VALISYSTEM A, a discarded first version of VALIS.

"In the last week of February, 1974, Phil began to have nightmares. He would wake me in the middle of the night screaming in some foreign language. Sometimes he would be sweating so much that he had to get up and take a shower at 4 a.m. Thus began a series of events so bizarre that I don't believe it myself, even though I lived through it. ..." Tessa B. Dick

PKDS-5    3:

Dear Paul,

    You mentioned the other day that D. Scott Apel and Kevin Briggs were thinking of publishing their interview with Philip K. Dick in book form. That interview, {...}, had an extraordinary impact on Dick's work, and was also the key event in my own career as a literary agent. {...}

    I'd been workin at the Scott Meredith Literary Agency for a couple of years. Dick had been a client of the agency since the early 50s, but was handled by another agent here {...}.I'd read a few of his novels but knew nothing about him.

    Apel and Briggs submitted a book-length manuscript of eight long interviews with science-fiction writers, of which Dick was one. I {...} rejected it.

    Seven of the interviews made no impression on me, but the Dick interview was another story. It was, and still is, the single most exciting first-encounter I've ever had with the mind of another person. I realized then, completely, that Dick was not just one of our interesting clients but one of the most important thinkers of the day, and then and there his ideas changed me and all of my assumptions about what it meant to be a human being.

    {... ...}

    A few months earlier I'd had lunch with Jim Frenkel,.then the science fiction editor at Dell, {...}So I wrote to Jim, describing my reaction to the Apel/Briggs interview and what I'd found in the files, suggesting that Dell publish a collection of Dick's non-fiction pieces. He wrote back a nice letter saying he'd like nothing better, but the realities of mass-market publishing made this impossible.

    I wanted Dick to know I'd tried, and sent him a copy of my letter to Frenkel and his reply. Dick's response took my breath away. I'd expected a polite letter of thanks, but what he wrote changed my life and his.

    {...} He told me he'd been blocked and for years unable to fulfill his contract for what was then called VALISYSTEM A, and was convinced he'd never finish the book to his satisfaction and never begin another. And this little letter to Frenkel, he said, had shown him that out there in New York, where he thought he's long since been written off, was a pro who believed that what he was doing was valuable, that he had accomplished significant things, that there was an audience for his work, that he was having an impact on readers and making a difference in their lives. That letter, he said, had convinced him that he could complete the novel, and in fact he had already resumed work after a hiatus of two years.

    I though he was being polite in an exaggerated way, nothing more. But only a couple of months after that first contact, a manuscript arrived on my desk. It was the completed manuscript of the novel, now titled simply VALIS. Not only had Dick not been kidding about having overcome his block; the manuscript, incredibly, had a page after the title page with these words on it: "To Russell Galen, who showed me the right way."

    And that, Paul, is how I came to represent Philip K. Dick

    {... ...}

All the best, Russ Galen

{Russ Galen>PKDS, Oct 25, 1984}{See: PHILIP K. DICK: THE DREAM CONNECTION  now out of print. Excerpts can be found here: An Interview with Philip K. Dick by D.S.Apel and K.Briggs}

Vote for your Fave PKD Story!    VALIS. The crowning achievement of weirdness. 'Tractates Cryptica Scriptura' indeed! Salvation found and lost, and then possibly found again. A surprisingly easy book to turn others onto PKD with. King Felix. -- Bernie Kling, CA

FDO:6 13

On Paul Rydeen's suggestion we ordered a copy of SECRET CYPHER OF THE UFONAUTS by Allen H. Greenfield (IllumiNet Press, 1994, tp, POBox 2808, Lilburn, GA 30226. $9.95 + $3 s+h). In this interesting book Mr. Greenfield, an eminent authority in UFO circles, presents the possible solution to the secret messages hidden in Aleister Crowley's THE BOOK OF THE LAW. He uses the New Aeon English Qabalah (NAEQ) -- a numerological system based on the English alphabet but which can be traced to the Ancient Hebrew Qabalah of the Nine Chambers -- for his explication. VALIS is referenced and the NAEQ cypher is applied to a few key words. The Dog Star figures into it as well as the Freemasons and a raft of modern mystical societies. -- Lord RC

Vote for your Fave PKD story!    My favorite three titles (at least for today) are CONFESSIONS, FLOW MY TEARS and VALIS, SCANNER DARKLY. No. VALIS. No. SCANNER. No. VALIS. VALIS it is (today) {...} VALIS is a grand symbol for the mystery and madness that is background to the question: What the hell are we doing here? Anyone with a passion for that question will get mystery and madness as a reward. -- Deborah Eley, LA

TDC 99

(PKD:) I really have no theory which will wrap this up. The book I'm working on for bantam, VALIS, is really an account of this, fictionalized. I assign the experiences to a nonexistent friend of mine, whom I call "Nicholas Brady". And in the book, I'm a character under my own name. And I know Nicholas Brady, and he's having all these weird experiences, and I keep ripping them off to put 'em in a novel. I'm completely cold-blooded about it, and I'm deceiving Nicholas Brady by using the experiences in my novel, and I'm deceiving my publisher, who wants a fictional work.

{For continuation see: TDC 108}

SF EYE #14, Spring 1996, p.38

(PKD:) ...I'm just becoming aware of myself, that my writing is progressively assuming more and more metaphysical implications. I got up in the middle of the night and reread it, {Dr.BLOODMONEY} I found it so interesting, because the book that I'm working on now, my Bantam novel in progress, is extraordinarily metaphysical.

(A & F:) Have you a title yet?

(PKD:) Well, they stuck a title on. There's an entity called VALIS, vast active living intelligence system. The initials would be V-A-L-I-S, so it will be called VALIS, and so that's the working title and that is probably the title that they will use when the book is actually published.

{Anton & Fuchs, Metz 1977. Tr. F.C.Bertrand}

IPOV 103:

Here is the puzzle of VALIS. In VALIS I say, I know a madman who imagines that he saw Christ; and I am that madman. But if I know that I am a madman I know that in fact I did not see Christ. Therefore I assert nothing about Christ. Or do I? Who can solve this puzzle? I say in fact only that I am mad. But if I say only that, then I have made no mad claim; I do not, then, say that I saw Christ. Therefore I am not mad. And the regress begins again, and continues forever. The reader must know on his own what has really been said, what has actually been asserted, but what is it? Does it have to do with Christ or only with myself? This paradox was known in antiquity; the pre-Socratics propounded it... {PKD 1980}

Ansible ,1981

    I'm gazing at a recent letter to me from Michael Bishop. Michael likes my new novel VALIS, but learned that Ursula LeGuin had been tremendously upset by it, {...}

{... ...}

{...} Ursula, VALIS is a picaresque novel (the first-person viewpoint, the wandering about of the protagonist, the very name he has: Horselover Fat, which is on the order of Smollett's Peregrine Pickle, the fact that the protagonist is decidedly an outsider, the style of the novel, which is vernacular English, not formal English -- but I digress). The female characters in VALIS like the male characters are picaroons and that is that. This is a type of novel that goes back centuries; it has been revived recently as a protest against the more formal bourgeois novel. It is, in fact, a protest on my part against what I regard as official art, official culture, especially that connected with or written to please the academic community. I deliberately made my protagonist a madman, the narrative style that of the street ... but as to your concerns for my sanity (God, it is weird sitting here defending my sanity to a person who has never met me!) especially in regard to the fact that I am examining unresolvable metaphysical matters -- well, have we now got a standard by which we determine the presence of dangerous ideas?


VALIS is by and large a work of fiction. It centers around a fictitious movie (called VALIS) and it ends with the protagonist going off to France, Luxembourg, Germany. Turkey, Japan and, finally, Micronesia (in the tradition of the picaresque novel). I've myself been to France and Luxembourg, but none of the other places. Horselover Fat is not a science fiction writer, and this is explicitly clear within the novel itself. Although on page three I say, "I am Horselover Fat, and I am writing in the third-person to gain much-needed objectivity" it is clear from internal evidence in the novel that Phil Dick and Horselover Fat are two people. Ursula, you have fallen victim to a fictional device by  which I establish at the beginning of VALIS that this is a picaresque novel. The fault is largely mine; I chose the device; I chose to blur the distinction between myself and Horselover Fat -- this is the penalty an author pays for writing in the first person.

(...) I am greatly influenced by Henry Miller, but my purpose was to achieve a new kind of prose, a new kind of blending of the ancient picaresque form with certain modern elements associated with Hunter S. Thompson and William S. Burroughs, as well as my own 1977 novel A SCANNER DARKLY, based on my experiences with the drug subculture.

    Now, in A SCANNER DARKLY, the protagonist is an undercover narcotics agent. I'm sorry, ursula, I wasn't that either. It would have saved me a lot of anxiety and trouble if I had been. But I am, after all, a writer of fiction. However, I will concede that VALIS is autobiographical (so was SCANNER; so was CONFESSIONS OF A CRAP ARTIST; so was FLOW MY TEARS, THE POLICEMAN SAID-- so are many, many novels). The fact that my protagonist, Horselover Fat, is a madman does not prove that I, the author am a madman even if I say, "I am Horselover Fat", because this is the way you write certain kinds of books. There are scenes of violent arguments between Phil Dick and Horselover Fat in the novel.

{... ...}

{PKD>Ansible, 20 Feb 1981 ( A Richard E. Geis zine?)}{GSM xerox collection}

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