Philip K. Dick’s Exegesis
From Simon Critchley at the NYT:
On Feb. 20, 1974, Dick was hit with the force of an extraordinary revelation after a visit to the dentist for an impacted wisdom tooth for which he had received a dose of sodium pentothal. A young woman delivered a bottle of Darvon tablets to his apartment in Fullerton, Calif. She was wearing a necklace with the pendant of a golden fish, an ancient Christian symbol that had been adopted by the Jesus counterculture movement of the late 1960s.
The fish pendant, on Dick’s account, began to emit a golden ray of light, and Dick suddenly experienced what he called, with a nod to Plato, anamnesis: the recollection or total recall of the entire sum of knowledge. Dick claimed to have access to what philosophers call the faculty of “intellectual intuition”: the direct perception by the mind of a metaphysical reality behind screens of appearance…
Suffering from what we might call “chronic hypergraphia,” between 2-3-74 and his death, Dick wrote more than 8,000 pages about his experience. He often wrote all night, producing 20 single-spaced, narrow-margined pages at a go, largely handwritten and littered with extraordinary diagrams and cryptic sketches.
The unfinished mountain of paper, assembled posthumously into some 91 folders, was called “Exegesis.” The fragments were assembled by Dick’s friend Paul Williams and then sat in his garage in Glen Ellen, Calif., for the next several years. A beautifully edited selection of these texts, with a golden fish on the cover, was finally published at the end of 2011, weighing in at a mighty 950 pages. But this is still just a fraction of the whole.
I once had a similar experience after being administered a powerful antibiotic for treatment of periodontal disease. For the next three months I had powerful insights and did some of my best programming.
Dick was an amateur philosopher or, to borrow a phrase from one of the editors of “Exegesis,” Erik Davis, he was that most splendid of things: a garage philosopher.
I read somewhere that if you practice a craft for 10,000 hours you develop a mastery which allows transcendence to a higher level of functionality. So it was with my programming and I am attempting that with my writing. I think this is what actually happened to Dick. He had so completely mastered the creative art that his mind simply opened up to immensely greater possibility.
I submit that only a person such as Dick, given his career of mental rigor, could gain access to these insights. However, the rest of us only need read Exegesis or any of his seminal fiction to access the great treasures he has found. This will undoubtedly be on the List of Books I’ll Never Read, but I look forward to Part 2 of this article.