Sunday, August 17, 2014

Gnosticism & Phillip K Dick

I have started the VALIS trilogy by Phillip K Dick. I've read articles and short stories by Dick, but never any of his books and as a science fiction nerd this is a huge gap in my pop culture experience. But I've shied away from Dick because I have always found dualism to be a temptation and Phillip K Dick is a hardcore, and convincing, dualist. But his dualism is a pure gnosticism and gnosticism as a whole does not attract me. The first book of the trilogy, with which I'm about a third of the way done, is VALIS, and it is a richly theological treatise that is really an advertisement for gnosticism. I have to say the book is engrossing in a way few fiction books are. I love fiction, but most of my fiction needs get met by comic books. One of my New Year's resolutions was to read more novels and this is part of me fulfilling that promise to myself. But I digress...

The book so far is about a man who has a lot of serious problems, particularly drug and depression problems, and is contacted by some strange alien beam that gives him knowledge of the future and of the fundamental nature of the universe. He comes to see all of reality as a delusion or distraction, and time itself as a lie hiding from us the fact that it is actually 70 AD and The True God is about to come and make us all one with Him. This God is not the creator of the universe, which Dick ascribes to the activities of satan, an irrational false god that hides from us our true divine natures, our oneness with God and by his time trap also our salvation in and through Christ Jesus. I've written in an unpublished book that all Christianity really forms a kind of spectrum, with extreme gnosticism on one end and Judaism at the other. This is as close to the extreme form of gnosticism as one can get.

I understand dualism and even the view that creation as we know it is the result of the clash between ultimate forces both good and evil. But I do not understand the view that this world is an illusion nor that all of creation is bad. The truth of the matter is that we encounter God through Incarnation, through the entering of the divine into physical realities. It is pretty clear to me, just based on the vast beauty of the universe, that most of the universe is 'good', in the way Genesis says it is. Genuine horror and suffering is only found at the level of advanced life, and that marks off the smallest sliver of the totality of the universe. Most of the universe, from the very small to the very large, is right, and beautiful, and working the way it seems like it should.

I love the universe as a whole. But sometimes I hate the evil created within it. I still find the process view of evil, which really is in line with the classical Christian view, to be most enlightening. There is rebellion against God. Not just at the human level, but at the level of the cosmic, because at all levels there is freedom. Evil can be gargantuan in size, but it is ultimately temporal, and temporary, and therefore is nothing against the eternity of Good, of God. If the universe were in its totality evil, it could not possibly exist, for evil is ultimately destined for nothingness. A purely evil universe would not be able to maintain its existence. Evil can only exist parasitically, on a world that is, for the most part, good.

The alternate view does make for some great science fiction, though.

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