Extrapolation

Coin-Operated Doors and God

A Gnostic Reading of Philip K. Dick's Ubik

Extrapolation (2015), 56, (1), 83–110.

Abstract

In this paper, I use classic scholarship on Gnosticism, as well as Dick's later works and Exegesis, to highlight the many Gnostic elements in Ubik. These include the lower realm of half-life, the battle between a benevolent force interceding from outside and a malevolent one controlling the realm from within, the strange forms of the "Manifestations of Runciter," and the nature of Ubik itself. I show how Dick forged a new worldview—postmodern Gnosticism—by calling attention to his medium and, unlike classic Gnosticism, never fully trusting any definite resolution of his perennial question, What is real? This discussion also sheds a surprising light on how Dick reflected on his own work as he reread his earlier books after his religious experiences of 1974. His shock at how well Ubik in particular had anticipated Gnostic ideas and his own epiphanies led him to entertain the possibility that it was "a form of scripture," hidden from the malicious rulers of this world and even from himself.

Access Token
£25.00
READ THIS ARTICLE
If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Canaan, Howard. "Time and Gnosis in the Writings of Philip K. Dick." Hungarian Journal of English and American Studies 14.2 (2008): 335–355. Print. Time and Gnosis in the Writings of Philip K. Dick Hungarian Journal of English and American Studies 14.2 335 355 Google Scholar

Dick, Anne R. The Search for Philip K. Dick. San Francisco: Tachyon Publications, 2010. Print. The Search for Philip K. Dick Google Scholar

Dick, Philip K. The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick. Eds. Pamela Jackson and Jonathan Lethem. Boston: Houghton Miffin Harcourt, 2011. Print. The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick Google Scholar

—. Radio Free Albemuth. 1985. New York: Vintage Books, 1998. Print. Radio Free Albemuth Google Scholar

—. The Selected Letters of Philip K. Dick: 1938–1971. Grass Valley, CA: Underwood Books, 1996. Print. The Selected Letters of Philip K. Dick: 1938–1971 Google Scholar

—. The Selected Letters of Philip K. Dick: 1972–1973. Novato, CA: Underwood-Miller, 1993. Print. The Selected Letters of Philip K. Dick: 1972–1973 Google Scholar

—. The Selected Letters of Philip K. Dick: 1974. Novato, CA: Underwood-Miller, 1991. Print. The Selected Letters of Philip K. Dick: 1974 Google Scholar

—. The Selected Letters of Philip K. Dick: 1975–1976. Novato, CA: Underwood-Miller, 1992. Print. The Selected Letters of Philip K. Dick: 1975–1976 Google Scholar

—. The Transmigration of Timothy Archer. 1982. New York: Vintage Books, 1991. Print. The Transmigration of Timothy Archer Google Scholar

—. Ubik. 1969. New York: Vintage Books, 1991. Print. Ubik Google Scholar

—. Ubik: The Screenplay. Boston: Mariner Books, 2012. Print. Ubik: The Screenplay Google Scholar

—. Valis. 1981. New York: Vintage Books, 1991. Print. Valis Google Scholar

Dick, Tessa B. Philip K. Dick: Remembering Firebright. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2010. Print. Philip K. Dick: Remembering Firebright Google Scholar

DiTommaso, Lorenzo. "Gnosticism and Dualism in the early fction of Philip K. Dick." Science Fiction Studies 28.1 (2001): 49–65. Print. Gnosticism and Dualism in the early fction of Philip K. Dick Science Fiction Studies 28.1 49 65 Google Scholar

Dumont, Jean-Noel. "Between Faith and Melancholy: Irony and the Gnostic Meaning of Dick's ‘Divine Trilogy.'" Rpt. in On Philip K. Dick: 40 Articles from Science-Fiction Studies. Eds. R. D. Mullen, Istvan Csicsery-Ronay, Jr., Arthur B. Evans, and Veronica Hollinger. Terre Haute & Greencastle: SF-TH Inc., 1992. Print. Between Faith and Melancholy: Irony and the Gnostic Meaning of Dick's ‘Divine Trilogy.' On Philip K. Dick: 40 Articles from Science-Fiction Studies Google Scholar

Edwards, Paul, ed. Encyclopedia of Philosophy. New York: Macmillan Publishing and The Free Press, 1967. Print. Encyclopedia of Philosophy Google Scholar

Fitting, Peter. "Reality as Ideological Construct: A Reading of Five Novels by P. K. Dick." Science Fiction Studies 10.2 (1983): 219–236. Print. Reality as Ideological Construct: A Reading of Five Novels by P. K. Dick Science Fiction Studies 10.2 219 236 Google Scholar

Golumbia, David. "Resisting ‘The World': Philip K. Dick, Cultural Studies, and Metaphysical Realism." Science Fiction Studies 21.1 (1996): 83–102. Print. Resisting ‘The World': Philip K. Dick, Cultural Studies, and Metaphysical Realism Science Fiction Studies 21.1 83 102 Google Scholar

Greenberg, Martin Harry, and Joseph D. Olander, eds. Writers of the 21st Century: Philip K. Dick. New York: Taplinger Publishing Company, 1983. Print. Writers of the 21st Century: Philip K. Dick Google Scholar

Jonas, Hans. The Gnostic Religion: The Message of the Alien God and the Beginnings of Christianity. 2nd ed. Boston: Beacon Press, 1963. Print. The Gnostic Religion: The Message of the Alien God and the Beginnings of Christianity Google Scholar

Lacarriere, Jacques. The Gnostics. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1989. Print. The Gnostics Google Scholar

Lem, Stanislaw. "Philip K. Dick: A Visionary among the Charlatans." Science Fiction Studies 2.1 (1975): 54–67. Print. Philip K. Dick: A Visionary among the Charlatans Science Fiction Studies 2.1 54 67 Google Scholar

Link, Eric C. Understanding Philip K. Dick. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2010. Print. Understanding Philip K. Dick Google Scholar

Lyotard, Jean-François. The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. Trans. Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993. Print. The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge Google Scholar

Mackey, Douglas A. Philip K. Dick. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1988. Print. Philip K. Dick Google Scholar

McHale, Brian. "POSTcyberMODERNpunkISM." Larry McCaffery, ed. Storming the Reality Studio: A Casebook of Cyberpunk and Postmodern Science Fiction. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1991. 308–323. Print. POSTcyberMODERNpunkISM Storming the Reality Studio: A Casebook of Cyberpunk and Postmodern Science Fiction 308 323 Google Scholar

Miller, Barbara Stoler, transl. The Bhagavad-Gita: Krishna's Counsel in Time of War. New York: Bantam Books, 1986. Print. The Bhagavad-Gita: Krishna's Counsel in Time of War Google Scholar

Mullen, R. D. Istvan Csicsery-Ronay, Jr., Arthur B. Evans, and Veronica Hollinger, eds. On Philip K. Dick: 40 Articles from Science-Fiction Studies. Terre Haute & Greencastle: SF-TH Inc., 1992. Print. On Philip K. Dick: 40 Articles from Science-Fiction Studies Google Scholar

Pagels, Elaine. The Gnostic Gospels. New York: Vintage Books, 1989. Print. The Gnostic Gospels Google Scholar

—. The Origin of Satan. New York: Vintage Books, 1996. Print. The Origin of Satan Google Scholar

Pagetti, Carlo. "Dick and Meta-SF." Science Fiction Studies 2.1 (1975): 24–31. Print. Dick and Meta-SF Science Fiction Studies 2.1 24 31 Google Scholar

Rickman, Gregg. Philip K. Dick: In His Own Words. Rev. ed. Long Beach, CA: Fragments West/The Valentine Press, 1988. Print. Philip K. Dick: In His Own Words Google Scholar

Robinson, Kim Stanley. The Novels of Philip K. Dick. Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1984. Print. The Novels of Philip K. Dick Google Scholar

Rossi, Umberto. "The Shunts in the Tale: The Narrative Architecture of Philip K. Dick's VALIS." Science Fiction Studies 39.2 (July 2012): 243–261. Print. The Shunts in the Tale: The Narrative Architecture of Philip K. Dick's VALIS Science Fiction Studies 39.2 243 261 Google Scholar

—. The Twisted Worlds of Philip K. Dick: A Reading of Twenty Ontologically Uncertain Novels. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2011. Print. The Twisted Worlds of Philip K. Dick: A Reading of Twenty Ontologically Uncertain Novels Google Scholar

Rudolph, Kurt. Gnosis: The Nature and History of Gnosticism. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1987. Print. Gnosis: The Nature and History of Gnosticism Google Scholar

Sutin, Lawrence. Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick. New York: Harmony Books, 1989. Print. Divine Invasions: A Life of Philip K. Dick Google Scholar

—, ed. The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick: Selected Literary and Philosophical Writings. New York: Vintage Books, 1995. Print. The Shifting Realities of Philip K. Dick: Selected Literary and Philosophical Writings Google Scholar

Williams, Paul. Only Apparently Real: The World of Philip K. Dick. Encinitas, CA: Entwhistle Books, 1986. Print. Only Apparently Real: The World of Philip K. Dick Google Scholar

If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Details

Author details

Braver, Lee