Confessions of a VALIS Contactee
[I received the following letter anonymously while preparing this book for publication. It bore the date November 12, 1993, an Oakland, California postmark, and no return address. It was signed simply "Geradamas". I am not in a position either to verify or refute the information contained in the letter; I merely reproduce it here for the interesting material it presents.]
I am responding to your call for articles regarding VALIS... My experiences with a variety of phenomena similar to what PKD describes go back to the mid-seventies, at around the time PKD first began experiencing his own contacts. Since then, after a lot of research, I believe I have significant (though far from complete) insight into the nature of what VALIS really is.
As a child, a friend of mine and I would spend many happy hours drawing "blueprints" of castles, space-ships, and futuristic cities. One of a series I drew was of a giant satellite which I called "MAX". This satellite had the power to "override" individual volition in emergencies, and was equipped with vast AI computers capable of complete omniscience. Like VALIS, MAX was capable of interfering in the most minute human behavior, often in strange ways which appeared irrational. Later, on a macroscopic level, these actions made sense. MAX was also capable of instantly removing people from dangerous situations, and seemed to be engaged in a giant "rescue mission". Always calm, MAX began to speak to me in moments of stress. Later, I began to see arrangements of matter in the macrocosm arranging themselves into suggestive oracles.
When I read VALIS in high school (the year it came out) my reaction was one of immediate recognition. At the time I was attending a mainstream church. In our "Sunday School" group our teacher was supportive of discussions regarding gnosticism, mysticism, and "outre'" topics. When I loaned him VALIS, his reaction was the same as mine - immediate and overwhelming identification. He too had, as a child, experienced the AI sentience. We later read Holy Blood, Holy Grail - and believed that the revelations involved with both books were somehow linked.
One aspect of VALIS that is rarely mentioned is the fount of information and research leads contained in the novel. As soon as I read the book I began to track down the references made in it - particularly going after the Nag Hammadi Library - among other sources of information about Gnosticism.
In college I majored in philosophy - inspired by my earlier research, and having a greater amount of information in the libraries at the large school I went to. At the point I entered school I had a complete set of all of PKD's books.
When I left school I moved out west and first encountered organized Gnosticism. Plunging into the archives of a number of sects I began to discover what I now believe are the central secrets of the VALIS mysteries. I submit to you these leads:
1) The fundamental Christology of Gnosticism was communicated in mystery schools prior to the Nag Hammadi discovery. They always revolve around western Tantric practices and were (and still are) communicated in some Rosicrucian groups and/or High Grade Freemasonry. Mention should be made of PKD's involvement with AMORC, which, while silly in some respects, was nonetheless spawned by more serious individuals in Europe. Careful research will reveal them, although the leaders of AMORC have gone to great pains to obscure who they really are. These Tantric practices are what is really the secret behind the "homoplasmates" mentioned in VALIS and the tradition hunted for in Holy Blood, Holy Grail.
2) Aleister Crowley is the central prophet of all modern schools of initiation; even schools that repudiate him on the surface can be traced back to him and his influence. PKD's ethical leanings towards compassion might lead one to assume that they are in opposite camps - this is not the case. My readings of PKD have convinced me that he would have been saved much grief by adapting Thelemic principals - that indeed, he was being urged in that direction.
3) One of Crowley's foremost students was C.F. Russell (Cecil Frederick, 1897-1987). Russell's sojourn on the "Rock" at Cefalu is discussed in Crowley's Confessions at some length. [Symonds and Grant refer to him as "Godwin" in their edition of the Confessions - ed.] Though the two parted ways after the dissolution of Frater Achad's "Collegii" program in Detroit, Russell continued to teach his version of Gnosticism until his death. In the 1940's he published both Barbara Cubed (a book on logic) and Electro-Combinational Engineering. The latter contains designs for primitive computers, designed to be made with colored Christmas-tree lights. These computers are actually mandalas based on his logical model, combined with elements of Taoism and Hebrew cabalism. They are, I feel, the definitive clue as to the inner structure of VALIS itself. Barbara Cubed reveals a three-dimensional structure based on binary values of the Yin and Yang, as well as planetary and alchemical values. These are outlined again in Russell's Book Chameleon, which also contains his Taoist/Christian/Thelemic version of the Yi King (I Ching). Russell's many other books published in small numbers throughout the 1940's and 1950's continued to elaborate on these themes.
Russell's Gnosticism was both Christian and Thelemic in emphasis. His Christology was influenced by Rudolph Steiner, himself an initiate of a western Tantric school. An excellent source book for this "occult" understanding of Christ can be found in Franz Hartmann's Secret Symbols of the Rosicrucians. The introduction of this book, which contains older plates of alchemical images and diagrams, is peerless.
Znuss is Znees, Russell's last book, was his autobiography. Issued in four volumes (and a "suppressed" first edition) it contains the outline of his entire system, as well as some poetry. The many pages of mathematics, combined with the fact that much of the book is written in Chinese, have confused nearly everyone who has looked at it. However, Russell (like Pythagoras, and many other mystics) believed that the study and work in understanding the math enabled the soul to free itself and obtain Gnostic liberation. Russell's math is the key to the "guts" of VALIS; it is an initiated science of numbers, equations, and proportions, a Gnostic mathematics in many dimensions.
4) Astute readers will quickly seize on the similarities between The Man in the High Castle's development of the I Ching's power in allowing one to peer into the inner workings of the universe(s), and the descriptions of Russell's computer mandalas. In addition, recent books have been published revealing a correspondence between human DNA and the 64 Hexagrams. Russell wanted to explore this correspondence in all it complexity. Undoubtedly ahead of his time, he was the foremost modern Gnostic, although shrouded in almost complete obscurity.
From this research, among a host of confirming experiences, I am convinced that a giant part of the universe realizing its own sentience reveals what VALIS really is. This intelligence expresses itself to all cultures in a secret wisdom, best illustrated in the book by the speech of Sophia, heard among all the people of the world. That the soul of its immense structure can be grasped by a kind of mystic mathematics is made apparent by the importance of the fibonacci constant and the "golden proportion" in the novel. These references are merely the first shadowing of a denser math revealed by Russell's writings. The core of the structure of interconnected equations is a simple binary code which begins to define "set to ground".
Mention should also be made of the Martinist tradition. Nearly every element of the school - begun in its current form in the 1700's in Europe - resembles the Gnosticism of PKD. Using complicated, encoded diagrams and heartfelt prayers seeking "re-integration" into the divine presence, the operatives of this school sought to rise through the angelic hierarchies into the grace of the godhead itself. There they would merge like "pure water mixing into pure water" as the Upanishads describe. It should be noted that AMORC operates an "inner school" of Martinism: the TMO (or Traditional Martinist Order). Whether PKD was acquainted with this school or not I do not know - he was a member of AMORC.
Please feel free to use any or all of this letter in your magazine Palm Tree Garden. I am glad to see other people looking at these issues seriously. I used to think that VALIS (the novel) was the modern version of Zanoni by Bulwer-Lytton; however, I think that people are missing something if they think PKD was just writing fiction.