Sunday, November 13, 2016

Let's Blog VALIS! Part 5 of 14

Scarlet running over on the silvers and the golds,
Breaking of the hatches up and bursting of the holds,
Thronging of the thousands up that labour under sea
White for bliss and blind for sun and stunned for liberty.

5.  In which Fat becomes a doctrinaire gnostic and Sherri turns out to be evil.

‘’You would know,’ Dr Stone said, and then he said something that no-one had ever said to Fat before. ‘You’re the authority,’ Dr Stone said.

This is the chapter in which Sherri turns out to be evil. It was kind of depressing for that reason, which is why I think I have gotten stuck here. Fat has a go at Sherri for picking and chosing which parts of the Bible she likes, but he starts off the chapter by doing the same thing himself, identifying the ‘I AM WHO I AM’ of Genesis with the blind god Samael of the Marcionites and hence making the entire Old Testament meaningless. And, since the Jesus of the Gospels and Paul of the Epistles are constantly quoting the Old Testament corpus favourably, Fat is emptying out the existing biblical canon of *all* meaning – or all non-occluded meaning. And he does this at the guidance of Dr Stone, who had seemed to be fulfilling the historical role of Pope Leo the Great (CE 440-461) in chapter four.

I think the healing in this chapter is a lie: like the healings in later chapters are lies. Dr Stone gives Fat the erroneous idea that he is the authority – that he is qualified to interpret his theophany. Correctly, he is moved to speak, as he accepts these words of Dr Stone: ‘I’ll be goddamned.’ And as soon as he leaves hospital, he unerringly seeks out his fate: ‘Fat homed in on death more rapidly and expertly than he had ever done before.’

1 John 3:1-2 which PKD quotes in this chapter as possibly the most important piece of the whole Bible was one of the readings for All Saint’s Day this year: “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.”

And this bit a little further on is pure orthodox Christianity, about the inbreaking of the Kingdom: “Above everything else, outranking every other aspect, object, quality of his encounter, Fat had witnessed a benign power which had invaded this world. No other term fitted it: the benign power, whatever it was, had invaded this world, like a champion ready to do battle. That terrified him but it also excited his joy because he understood what it meant. Help had come. The universe might be irrational, but something rational had broken into it, like a thief in the night breaks into a sleeping household, unexpectedly in terms of places, in terms of time. Fat had seen it – not because there was anything special about him – but because it had wanted him to see it.”

So. Sherri turning out to be evil. Is this a change in the beneficently presented Sherri of the previous chapters? Or a change in Fat? Or a reflection that all characters are mutable allegorical fragments of the all and that consistent characterisation is not part of what this text is about?

Is this chapter meant to be read on a deeper level as a refutation of the gnostic doctrines presented on the surface? Is it meant, like Chapter 4, to metaphorically relate part of the history of the Church, in the classical Protestant understanding – as a conflict between the true ‘hidden’ Church of Fat and the conventional Church of Sherri, which is described as ‘Antichrist’, and as seeking death, but again and again as exhibiting all the traits of conventional Christianity of a sacramental type? 

Sherri’s priest’s name is Larry Minter.  Larry is probably from ‘Laurence’, which means ‘man from Laurentium’, which means – since Laurentium was pretty much a no-account village in modern, I mean 70 CE, times – ‘old school Latin of good Trojan blood’. And ‘Minter’, I think, means ‘someone who makes coins’. So it is a name steeped in classical traditions and the love of money, and hence a pretty good name for a Renaissance Pope in the historical/allegorical reading of this chapter.

Jim Pike seems to have started out Catholic and lost his way rather badly. He seems exactly like a character in a Robert Silverberg novel, poor guy. May God have mercy on his soul.

Today as I write this the first reading of the Mass is from the Prophet Malachi: "The day is coming now, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and the evil-doers will be like stubble. The day that is coming is going to burn them up, says the Lord of Hosts, leaving them neither root nor stalk. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness will shine out with healing in its rays." Those Guys who Carry the Oil-Smeared One feel rather exultant reading those words. If they were conducting a month of relentless optimism, they would have no trouble at all maintaining it.

And one more thing, slipping back to the surface reading of the text: Zebra, Fat’s name for the camoflauged alien emissary of God among us. I have always – or for the longest time, a quarter century at least – thought of the okapi whenever it is suggested that angels and demons can’t exist because we haven’t observed them with our penetrating modern ways of looking at things. 
A cute baby okapi.
 The okapi is not a small animal. But it took decades of looking for them for European researchers to see one, because okapi have good hearing and didn’t want to be seen. A fortiori, things with the intelligence, keen senses, nigh-massless bodies, and speed of movement attributed to angels and demons would only be seen if they wanted to be seen. We don't really have any evidence that such things don't exist, just a prejudice which is in conflict with the - probably equally evidence-free - prejudice of practically every society besides ours that they do.


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