Thursday, August 24, 2017

Let's Blog VALIS! Part 8 of 14.

I was coming on to write an intermission and perhaps shrug, and say that it might be too late for me to pick up the broken cord and blog the rest of VALIS, but I find I already have written part 8. So there is nothing for it but to finish.

The hidden room in man’s house where God sits all the year,
The secret window whence the world looks small and very dear.



Chapter 8: In which Pore Sherri is Daid

The main external event of this chapter is that Sherri is dead. The main internal event is angry theodicy. Dick rejects the redemptive power of suffering; he angrily rejects these words from Wagner’s Parsifal:

Gesegnet sei dein Leiden,
Das Mitleids hochste Kraft,
Und reinsten Wissen Macht
Denn zagen Toren gab!

Pity has no power, Dick says. That is bullshit. But Fat is silent on the matter. In this chapter they seem very far apart: Fat beetling away on his exegesis, Dick swapping stories about Sherri and about dead cats with Kevin and looking on Fat from afar, analysing his search for redemption in terms of the grail story from Parsifal. The unreliable etymology of Parsifal as ‘pure fool’ is mentioned, directing us again (IMHO) to the fact that looking at what people’s names mean is key to unlocking the secret Kabbalistic meaning of VALIS.

This is the last chapter grounded in reality. From here on out, it will be event that Dick has made up. Who should we meet at this juncture as we leave reality behind, but that old clown, Schopenhauer? He is quoted as saying, more or less, that the law of conservation of matter should make us happy:

“Notwithstanding thousands of years of death and decay, nothing has been lost; not an atom of the matter, still less anything of the inner being, that exhibits itself as nature. Therefore every moment we can cheerfully cry, ‘In spite of time, death and decay, we are still together.”

Deedle deedle queep.

And Dick says that somewhere Schopenhauer says that the cat you see playing in the yard is the cat which played three hundred years ago.

Deedle deedle queep. 

I am with Kevin: every cat is unique. A unique arrangement of atoms and being in time and space that will never be repeated. What does it matter if the same atoms and inner being – whatever that means – are rearranged in different ways to form different cats? They are not the same bloody cat. Each unique irreplaceable cat is a unique and irreplaceable manifestation of the divine will and a contingent outcome of billions of years of decisions by innumerable entities.

In this chapter the exegesis continues to churn, throwing up model after model, adding lamina to lamina of Fat/Thomas/Elijah/Dick/Zebra/Uncle Tom Cobbley’s personality, never quite abandoning previous theories even as a new and almost entirely contradictory one is cobbled on. 

My take home message: it is dangerous to do your own exegesis. It is safer to be part of a community that can give a frame of reference to your experience.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Let's Blog VALIS! Part 7 of 14.

They rush in red and purple from the red clouds of the morn,
From temples where the yellow gods shut up their eyes in scorn;
They rise in green robes roaring from the green hells of the sea
Where fallen skies and evil hues and eyeless creatures be;

7: In which Phil narrates a dream about his Father’s house*, and the rest of the stuff that goes on is more or less batshit insane

Sadassa Ulna – that isn’t a Russian name. Those are the first words Philip K. Dick managed to enunciate from the verbal aspects of his phosphene hallucinations. [“How Much Does Chaos Scare You? Politics, Religion and Philosophy in the Fiction of Philip K. Dick”, Aaron Barlow] And this chapter is all pretty much straight reportage about his Theophany, which is why it is more or less batshit insane. And why it is so dense that I won’t even attempt to summarise it. It pretty much covers the same territory as the well known R. Crumb comic, which is much more entertaining than any plain text from me.

Barlow’s book equates the three-eyed creatures with claws with the Sibyl of Cumae, by the way.


The Empire never ended.

August 1974 wasn’t a crippling blow to the Empire at the hands of the immortal plasmate. It was a minor rearguard victory, coming between catastrophic defeats for the rebellion. The theophany isn’t exactly in between, but it is close enough, to those two defining evil dates of the second half of the 20th century: January 22nd 1973 and 17th April 1975.


On the other hand: credo sanctorum communionem.

The idea that the community of saints can assist one another across space and time is perfectly orthodox. ‘Thomas’ means ‘twin’, as you know, so it is a great name to call your personality living at another time and place.


I have had a dream of another place myself, a city that seemed to be in southern California, a sprawling gritty place where it seemed always to be twilight or night. In real life I was twelve, but in the dream, I was about seventeen and driving around the archetypal sprawling suburban California streets. My best friend in the dream was a girl with short grey-blonde hair and a cynical air, and I was completely at ease around her, whereas in real life the only girl I was friends with was my cousin Jessica and all the others made me tongue-tied and nervous. This girl was my best friend, but I was in love with another girl, a tall Hispanic girl with long black hair, and the other girl who was my best friend was helping set me up with her. The face of the grey-blonde-haired girl in my dream was a bit like the face of my wife, who I first met five years later, but crueller and not as pretty. The I in my dream was not a  supercompetent adult in a wish-fulfillment way, but more relaxed and competent than twelve year old me, in much the same way as real seventeen or eighteen year old me would be.

I never dreamed about being me that me again, or about those two girls. Of course all three of them must really be slices of me.


I didn’t say anything before about Sherri’s last name, Solvig. Is this related, perhaps, to the Solveig of Peer Gynt? This name can mean ‘strong house’, ‘daughter of the sun’, or ‘sun’s path’. In Peer Gynt it is etymologically linked to the sun. 

* In which there may be many mansions?

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Let's Blog VALIS! Part 6 of 14.

The North is full of tangled things and texts and aching eyes
And dead is all the innocence of anger and surprise,
And Christian killeth Christian in a narrow dusty room,
And Christian dreadeth Christ that hath a newer face of doom

In which Horselover Fat is given some good Jewish advice


Maurice isn’t a name that means very much: just ‘dark, swarthy’ and doesn’t seem to be very Jewish, but it is apparently a very common morphing of ‘Moshe’ into a less Jewish-sounding name adopted in the days when that was important. And in this chapter Maurice is loudly, simply, and with authority - not like the scribes and Pharisees, but like Moses on Sinai – directing Fat back to Torah.

His first commandment: “Go smoke dope and ball some broad that’s got big tits, not one who’s dying” echoes the first commandment of the 613 commandments of Torah, as listed by Moses Maimonides: “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it.”

And he calls out Fat’s gnostic bullshit.  Incredulous that Fat believes all this gnostic crap, he tells him what to do. “I want you to go home and study the Bible. I want you to read Genesis over twice; you hear me? Two times. Carefully. And I want you to write an outline of the main ideas and events in it, in descending order of importance[1]. And when you show up here next week I want to see that list.”

We are not told if Fat actually does this or not.

Those guys who carry the oil-smeared one have been reading ‘The First Book of Enoch’. It is not very good, they think. It is a fairly repetitive mish-mash that does not expand on Genesis 6:1-4 as interestingly as they had hoped. It may also have been the inspiration for “The Phantom Menace”, since another word for Nephilim, the monstrous beings begotten by the fallen Angels upon human women, is Anakim. Mind you, Darth Vader was not 3000 ells high, but that would have been difficult to harmonise with the original trilogy.

In the second half of the chapter Sherri complains about all the people she works with and all the other people she knows.


[1]: According to Moses Maimonides’ list of the 613 commandments by order of importance, the most important one in Genesis is ‘circumcise your boy children on the eighth day’.

London Calling

Loading Screen for 'London' zone of Funcom's "The Secret World"

The weird mistakes (?) in this image have always bugged me. In game, of course, the pub is "The Horned God", not "Thorned God". There is no shop with a looking-glass sign. I don't mind the car parked the wrong way on the one-way street - since we are imperfect beings - but the note on the pavement to 'look right' - away from oncoming traffic - when crossing the road is either vicious or incompetent. I wonder how many other deliberate (?) errors I have missed in this picture.

And I've found my notebook of VALIS notes, so I ought to get in and finish that ill-advised series of posts. ;)  Any day now...