“Something is wrong. I don’t mean with you or me or with any person. I mean in general." --Ragle Gumm

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

EXEGESIS: Stumbling Around inside the Kingdom

“What it really means—to know this—enables the hearer to achieve what is achieved: eternal life. The how is contained, as well as the what. I think that in 3-74 at the height of despair and fear and grieving I stumbled into the Kingdom, stumbled around for a while and then stumbled back out, none the wiser as to how I got there, barely aware of where I had been, and no idea as to how I stumbled out, and seeking always to find my way back ever since. . . . Now I don’t see or understand anything. At that time I could even remember back to my origins. My real origins: the stars. What am I doing here? I forget, but I knew once. Amnesia has returned; the veil has fallen, back where it was. The divine faculties are occluded as before. Obviously I didn’t accomplish it; I was given it, since don’t know how to find it again. . . .  My soul, sunk down in ignorance again. Blind and deaf. Ensnared by gross matter, limited. The long dark night of the soul is a lousy place to be.” P. 201


  1. John, I think it important to note that there are dissenting views about this topic, and that some think the stumbling around has to do more with what the so called "Exegesis" isn't than with what it is. One such perspective would be my own, titled "On The Confusion Between Eisegesis, Exegesis and the Queen of the Fairies," which can be found in PKD Otaku, #23, pp. 5-7, at:

  2. Hi Frank, Thanks for the comment. It reminds me that rather than just dropping in a favorite passage from Exegesis that I should lay some ground work for my selection. I re-read your Otaku article. We are on the same page about what the Exegesis is. I did not mean to imply that “stumbling” referred to the Exegesis as a whole, only that that passage is a particularly cogent expression of his 2-3-74 experiences. The other day while reading, I got the image of Sisyphus pushing the stone up the hill. The passages that I have most noted are those in which Dick’s “eisegesis” seems to flirt with the top.

  3. John, you are quite right about the "image" of Sisyphus. Could
    apply to a lot of PKD's novels and short stories, if not most of the "academic" attention being given to his work. Then, we do have Mercer in Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? (with the question mark which most seem to overlook or neglect). But I do enjoy your blog. One of the FEW coegent and intriguing ones devoted to PKD.

  4. As a kind of follow up, it seems you are not alone when it comes to Philip K. Dick and "existential uncertainty," a piquant phrase I've yet to see succinctly defined with relevant examples.

    From a 3-14-08 book review by Adam Robert: "Dick, in a deft touch, makes plain that this alt-history is not the same as our one (in it the British liberated Berlin and put Hitler on trial, for instance), and the existential uncertainty it entails could, perhaps, have troubled the smooth surface of the rest of the novel a little more."

  5. And, from a 8-18-11 article by Joe Clickenbeard about the "Best Living Directors,":

    "Cronenberg is less concerned with Borgesian considerations of identity and memory as much as he is with the Philip K. Dick model of existential uncertainty, the inherent dangers of duplicity and questions about the substance of fundamental reality."

  6. I love the synchronicity! In the last few days I have viewed Eastern Promises and A Dangerous Method, both of which project taut existential uncertainties. In EP, Nikolai has captured the holy grail of spydom by becoming the head of the organization he was sent to spy on. In that position, his spy masters are never going to bring him in from the cold, and the only other way out of that office is likely death. In order to maintain that situation, he will have to emulate the very thing he is trying to negate. By revealing himself to Anna at the end, he has validated her moral reality (which he already had) and now has an opportunity to place a moral face on his existential dilemma. There is a problem, though. The universe may be at best “benignly indifferent” (Camus); nevertheless, that moral face cannot reach outside of itself for validation other than as an illusion with which to protect oneself from the existential horror. And that brings me to the stories of Philip K. Dick—just enough play to enjoy the illusion, and just enough power to dislodge the mind from its naïve perch in the world of things.