The Transmigration of Timothy Archer Critical Essays

Philip K. Dick


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

This is the last book in Dick’s VALIS trilogy, which includes VALIS (1981) and The Divine Invasion (1981), with all three books collected as The VALIS Trilogy (1989). Although its plot and characters bear little resemblance to those of the first two books in the trilogy, The Transmigration of Timothy Archer is framed by themes common to the other two books. The trustworthiness of the five senses is never enough to determine the truth of religious experience: If Timothy Archer indeed has transmigrated, it is into the body of a mentally ill young man; if not, then Angel is left to conclude that Timothy’s kindheartedness lives on in the form of Edgar Barefoot, a guru whose hundred-dollar seminars cater to the middle-class religious values of the Berkeley community.

Angel serves as the empirical standard against which one measures religious experience in this novel. She is skeptical, pragmatic, and concerned much more with the success of the record store she manages than with theological speculation. Angel does not accept entirely Timothy’s and Kirsten’s claims that Jeffrey’s spirit contacts them from an afterlife, nor does she conclude with certainty that Timothy transmigrated into Bill after his death.

Because the novel is told through Angel’s skeptical perspective, The Transmigration of Timothy Archer is less concerned with speculative science and technology than is the body of Dick’s...

(The entire section is 509 words.)