239 of 257 people found the following review helpful
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I am compelled to write this based on the extraordinarily misleading review below. If you don't already know what this is, DON'T buy it. Not only is it not a novel, it's not even a story. Come to think of it, it ain't even, strictly speaking, a "book"! So if you're looking for an introduction to Philip Dick, you should really try something else. Most of us start with Blade Runner.
To explain, toward the end of his writing career, Philip Dick had a visionary/religious/mystical experience. Like all such experiences, it was exceptionally difficult to verbalize, rationalize, or explain. If the experience itself didn't drive Dick mad, the task of making sense of it clearly did, at least for a time. Dick entered a period of heightened creativity, struggling to give voice to his religious experience through writing. Dick called this process, and the body of text it produced, his "Exegesis." Traditionally, the word signifies the process of expounding upon and interpreting a work of literature, typically a religious text; here, the object of Dick's literary critique was his own mind.
This book is a relatively narrow selection of pages from that effort. It reads like a philosophical journal, and consists of outlines, correspondence, doodles and rambling essays on science, creativity, ancient history, religion, death, and drugs. This is the raw ore of genius, but it is extremely unrefined. Worse, it has an eerie "tinfoil hat" feel to it; one gets the strong sense that Dick was flirting with mental illness. The casual reader is certain to be alienated, and unnecessarily, since the Exegesis formed the basis for several excellent works of narrative fiction. VALIS, Dick's crypto-autobiographical novel recounting the same events is infinitely more accessible.
But, if you, like me, are more than a casual reader - if you have read Valis and Ubik (and possibly Cosmic Trigger I: Final Secret of the Illuminati to boot) - if you take seriously the possibility that Dick contacted a divine intelligence in February of 1974, then this book is for you. And if that's you, then the content will speak for itself.
But the editing? In my view, it's above average. Since I have never seen the file cabinets from which these pages have been selected, I can't attest to their completeness. However, the stuff that's here is consistently engaging and seems to have been selected with care. Better still, the text has been annotated by a multidisciplinary team of editors, ensuring that the reader has a guide for some of Dick's frequent digressions into brain science, Biblical hermeneutics, and pharmacology.
This is much better than I'd hoped and the serious fan/student will be very, very happy.
[UPDATE: In a previous version of this review, I complained about the absence of explanatory material on Bishop James Pike. A comment below pointed out that there is in fact a detailed entry on Pike at the back of the book. My mistake. My gripe is withdrawn.]
48 of 49 people found the following review helpful
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I became interested in Dick's work for philosophical and mystical reasons, after
having some deep experiences with meditation and entheogens. Finding Dick's reflections was a great blessing, as the way he ponders on the ultimate nature of reality is extremely original, unique and unparalled.
The exegesis is a raw, unadulterated experience of philosophical genius. It's not a methodical and organized exposition of a system of thought, although there is one here through and through implicit in Dick's discoveries.
The amount of metaphysical insights contained in the Exegesis is simply amazing. The meaning of creation, the nature of evil, the ultimate goal of the universe - all the great themes are explored here.
It's also important not to approach the Exegesis as a work of pure speculation. It is not. Dick is trying to describe a direct realization of reality, and while his metaphysical flights may seem to be completely ungrounded at times, they always ultimately derive from the transformation of consciousness he underwent, and as such, must be treated as serious descriptive attempts of an ineffable state.
In regards to his cosmology, it essentially states that we are living in a Mind. That the universe we experience is an appearance, illusion, fabrication, simulation, hologram that is emanated and generated by this great Mind at the core of reality. What we see, feel and experience is information which is being endlessly rearranged within this living hypercomputer, what he calls Valis.
There are two dimensions of this classic idea in Dick's exposition. The first is gnostic in essence, and states that the world is some sort of forgery and consequently evil. The second view, which Dick matures as the Exegesis goes along, is that the illusion of the world is not negative, per se, but rather exists as it does for a good and bening purpose. The veil within or minds, the dokos, which affects our memories and makes us believe we actually are the people we believe we are, when in fact we are higher dimensional souls, exists in order for the human drama to be possible. To see through it, to remove the layers of consciousness, as Dick did,
entails and end to the human story, and the development into another kind of reality. The whole process of enlightenment, or attaining gnosis, is one of anamnesis, or remembering. We forgot something fundamental about ourselves. But the memory is within us, somewhere deep down our minds, and if we are capable of retrieving it, everything stands revealed and explained. The reason for why all is as it is will shine in consciousness.
I'd say that in order for a reader to appreciate what he is trying to do, one must have had a least a mystical glimpse of reality. By this a mean an alteration of consciousness to some degree in which the universe isn't seen anymore as a set of disjointed material objects, unconscious, unintelligent and without intention. In fact, this way of seeing the world is not a an immediate given of pure experience, but rather a superimposition that came upon western consciousness through the centuries, starting with atomists - Democritus, Leucippus and Lucretius. Since this is our unconscious mythology, the deep structure within our psyches from which all of our modern condition is derived, transcending it, even for a brief moment, entails seeing the universe in a radically transformed way, as the ancients did. Sentience, intelligence, life - these attributes are mapped into the whole field of experience, and not just to some physical bodies. The universe becomes a living organism, a living entelechy in which we are both part and whole. No longer hostile, alien, uncaring and unfeeling; but not because we wish it to be so, but because it is so.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
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I knew almost nothing about PKD last year, unusual since I have been reading and writing for fifty years, but science fiction I had avoided. Then I encountered Valis and other books and read them with great interest, some reservation because I was a stuffy English major in college. Mr. Dick was not on our reading lists in college. But I became intrigued by Mr. Dick, and ventured to purchase Exegesis--first reading excerpts on his websight. At first it seemed overwhelming, if not over the top, the product of a deranged mind. However, that cliche, genius, soon became apparent. Slowly--the only way, I think--I read the massive book, so brilliantly (and respectfully) put together by a team of devoted writers and editors.
After reading many of the great books of history, from the East and West, I have come to the conclusion that Philip K.Dick's Exegesis is not only unique but it is one of the best--in the field of philosophy and theology. I stand by that astounding estimate with great confidence. The book's wisdom, searching questions, and convoluted thinking--based not on nonsense or "clever ideas" but Reality--is profoundly impressive. Mr. Dick thought and studied for many years, delved deeply into the Greeks, mysticism, early Christianity, German philosophy, Hindu thinking and much much more. The depth and brilliance of his thinking, also the compassion, is astouding--and very alive, not like some of the PHD philosophers. The book is not disciplined, it is not neat and tidy: it is rambling and challenging--but deeply rewarding. PKD, in my mind, was not loopy or deranged: he had tapped into essential truths about reality, himself and life. And, incredibly enough,he touched the source which Plotinus called the One, and this experience fueled the sincerity and depth of the great Exegesis. In his own inimitable way he explored the same truth of all the great thinkers and wise men: from Heraclitus to Lao Tzu, to St. Paul and Christ, to Boehme and Blake in the late Middle Ages, to the modern era with such stellar minds as Simone Weil and Franklin Merril. Strange, but really not so strange, that America, and California, would produce one of the lights of deep philosophy, and that this person would have a relatively humble background as a writer of pulp science fiction-- in his early days. One caveat: as said by others, read Valis, Ubik and others first. Exegesis is a product of Mr. Dick's whole life and career, the magnificent culmination of a remarkable career.
A brief addition: since writing this review I have gone back to Exegesis many times and have still not finished it. It does take time. But there are some real holes in the book that I now see better: Dick repeats himself extensively, he gets into ruts, and veers into pages of what I think is nonsense. He is extremely clever,he is a philosopher right on the edge of the abyss, and he had some powerful revelation, an enlightenment experience, but lacked an inner discipline, not something rigid or formal, but a sense of Self with a capital S. Other luminous genius' of great distinction like William Blake and Boehme still had their feet on the ground. I cannot quite explain my reservations, but they remain. The book is still, I said it before, unique in the annals of Western civilization and that is a remarkable accomplishment.