Sunday 27 August 2023

Transtemporal Secret Christians versus "the Empire that never ended" (aka. the Black Iron Prison) - the Exegesis of Philip K Dick

Edited slightly (cuts, punctuation, expanding abbreviations) from from Exegesis by Philip K Dick

[18:84] I state: the passage of time since “Acts of the Apostles” is spurious. That is it. That is the premise derived from empirical experience. Whatever our senses tell us means nothing. Circular time, not linear time, is involved. 

When St. Sophia (Christ) returns it will be in apostolic times, as promised. The 1,900 intervening years are a spurious interpolation by the Black Iron Prison (BIP)... 

[18:86] What a realization! Transtemporal-constant secret Christians, originating in apostolic times, and lying within humans in succeeding generations — reactivated by external disinhibiting stimuli (but before this or without this can covertly direct the persons they inhabit, like the way Thomas secretly masterminded my writing). Hot dog! 

But this is exactly what I’m not supposed to talk about! These underlying, co-habitating, secretly still living apostolic Christians want to stay secret! 

What I must concentrate on is not the irreality of our world or worlds plural, but the absolute transtemporal-constant: the apostolic secret Christians still alive and at work. 

This fits-in with my flash of insight [in February 1974] upon seeing the golden fish sign: I saw the secret early Christians hurrying about their business

Then the answer is: Thomas is an immortal apostolic Christian, and Rome c. A.D. 45 is the real present world, and Thomas co-inhabits my head, locked into the real world. 

“Acts” is not a past world — v. Tears, it is the noumenal matrix of this world. We are not dealing with either the past or a past life and personality, but the urwelt lying under the Dokos. Thomas and his world is here and now, and he knows it. [. . .] 

So I am, so to speak, a front — a face — for an immortal, transtemporal secret early Christian who is operating — undoubtedly in conjunction with others like him — in contemporary history. 

This is behind-the-scenes stuff, thrilling and scary. I certainly see Thomas’ hand or mind in my writing. Yes indeed, he is with me, not is me — in my head. But “living in another century.”


In this exciting sequence of insights; Philip K Dick is looking-back, after several years, to his religious experiences of February and March 1974  ("2-3-74"). He has long since concluded that these experiences led him to realize that the Roman Empire, conceptualized as a Black Iron Prison of bureaucratic totalitarianism, never ended; but persisted through transformations and translocations to the USA - for PKD the Nixon administration in particular, and the civilized world more generally. 

In some way (he tried-out many theories) PKD believed that he had some kind of direct and experiential relationship with the time around AD 45, and the places of Acts of the Apostles; perhaps (in some way) via an alter ego-type person called Thomas who might be one of the named Apostles - or someone else. 

At that time and place (according to PKD's visions); the early Christians constituted a small, secretive and indomitable sect. These kept alive faith in Jesus Christ in their hearts, and (in some rather vague way) also operated cooperatively as a covert resistance against the Empire. 

(PKD's visions had been triggered, or his latent understanding disinhibited, by seeing a golden ICHTHYS fish-pendant catching the sunlight; and being told by the girl who was wearing it, that this was a symbol of the early Christians; a sign by which, PKD inferred, they recognized each other.) 

PKD regarded this basic situation as a continuing one: secret Christians versus the Empire (a hostile Empire who acted constantly to assimilate and neutralize, or else annihilate, the Christians). 

For Dick; the secret early Christians were, and are, the real Christians; the other kind being sometimes more-, sometimes less-, corrupted and assimilated to the Empire agenda of the Black Iron Prison. 

As Dick comments; this way of understanding is indeed both "thrilling and scary"! But, maybe, in some kind of overall and exact but approximate way; PKD was here expressing an essential truth for Christians; which is broadly as he states it. 

Real Christians always have been ("transtemporally") in something-like this situation - few, secret, seldom meeting, sustained by direct experience and knowledge; always opposed by The System, and most of the self-identified official Christians. 

Recognizing each other only by signs that flash-out briefly and intermittently; and reveal something they have always known. 

Note added: Of course; regular readers will have guessed that I am here thinking that PKD's vision, or fantasy, of the secret Christians; in its essence, matches the conceptual basis (if not so much the metaphysics or theology) of Romantic Christianity.  


whiteknight32be said...

Too few people know about Philip K Dick's major work, "Exegesis". So, thanks Bruce for bringing it up. Hopefully a few more individuals will be stimulated to get hold of this rather epic work and read it, attentively.

When PKD is mentioned, most will think about "Blade Runner", "The Minority Report", "Total Recall" and (maybe) "The Adjustment Bureau". Movies that are well known. "The Man in the High Castle" is a series worth watching (especially if you are interested in parallel existences), and all of the foregoing are based on one of his books.

How about VALIS? Another book, definitely worth reading; it is what is called "autobiographical fiction" and based on events from his own life (the "fish" symbol and others). "Vast Active Living Intelligence System" and in this book named (or physicalized in) Sophia .... Written in 1981, it is a kind of visionary story about what today would (or could) be "the holographic Universe".

Maybe he was the last of the real Gnostics; plenty of would-be ones are around and they too are searching for "the truth". Yet I think that PKD got more than just "a peak" out-of-Plato's-Cave.

2-3-74. It changed and got his life on a particular track. To know what it is about, you need to read "Exegesis". Not so much a sci-fi novel as it is a search for "the Truth".
There are more people that are familiar with the "beam"-experience PKD got. This can come in manifold forms and the effects are not always the same. But they are always life-altering.

"Whatever our senses tell us means nothing. Circular time, not linear time, is involved."

I tend to agree, and only personal experiences can prove that. What our senses tell us is mainly - if not only - the result of a sort of translation-interpretation system that our brains produce in order to "live" in this universe that is "only" Vibrational Energy. In It, time is non-existant or circular (just another word for it). To learn how to expereince every Moment as an Eternal One is getting one step closer to Truth (in my personal opinion). Past, Present and Future are "one", for those that are capable of experiencing it as such.

"Real Christians always have been ("transtemporally") in something-like this situation - few, secret, seldom meeting, sustained by direct experience and knowledge; always opposed by The System, and most of the self-identified official Christians."

Is this not happening - more than ever before - today, AGAIN? Blogs like this one are helping people recognize an eternal truth : "L'Histoire se répète" and hence "Repetitio est mater sapientiae." So when will Humanity learn?

Anyone else here who has come across "the golden Fish" in an unusual way?

Skarp-hedin said...

Fantastic. Thanks for posting this.

It brings instantly to mind two things:

Eliade's idea of "The Terror of History". So much so that I am almost unable to not read "time" as "history" in the quotes.

R A Lafferty's sci-fi book Past Master. A book where Thomas More is brought into the future to resolve what is thought to be societal collapse.

I have the feeling that I need to read Exegesis.

Thanks again. I always appreciate your writing and your spirit.

Bruce Charlton said...

@knight - PKD never settled on any particular theory - but he never gave up, and his motives were good.

@Skarp - Reading Exegesis is, for me, an intermittent but ongoing and cyclical thing. I often like listening to the audiobook version, which is really *superbly* read by Fred Stella (I would almost have supposed that reading aloud the Exegesis was an impossibility, but Stella does it!).