The book John Locke brings Ben at the beginning of tonight is VALIS by Philip K. Dick. It’s difficult to summarize, or to overstate, the importance of Dick, and of VALIS in the modern occulture.
Philip K. Dick was a science fiction author, responsible for the stories that became Blade Runner, Minority Report, A Scanner Darkly, and Total Recall (amongst many others). His work frequently speculated as to the nature of reality, and frequently with the subjects of control, authority, and paranoia. VALIS was one of his final works, a semi-autobiographical book based largely on the mysterical experience/mental breakdown he experienced.
Notably, VALIS deals heavily with gnostic themes. Wikipedia on Gnosticism:
Gnosticism refers to a diverse, syncretistic religious movement consisting of various belief systems generally united in the teaching that humans are divine souls trapped in a material world created by an imperfect spirit, the demiurge, who is frequently identified with the Abrahamic God. The demiurge may be depicted as an embodiment of evil, or in other instances as merely imperfect and as benevolent as its inadequacy permits. This demiurge exists alongside another remote and unknowable supreme being that embodies good. In order to free oneself from the inferior material world, one needs gnosis, or esoteric spiritual knowledge available to all through direct experience or knowledge (gnosis) of God. Jesus of Nazareth is identified by some Gnostic sects as an embodiment of the supreme being who became incarnate to bring gnosis to the Earth. In others he was thought to be a gnosis teacher, and yet others, nothing more than a man.
Gnosticism could bridge the seemingly contradictory Buddhist and Catholic themes of the show.
The Religious Experience of Philip K. Dick, an online comic about Dick’s experience by Robert Crumb.
February 22, 2008 at 11:39 am
“Notably Dick throughout his life claimed to see ghosts of his twin sister who died five weeks after birth, i.e. ‘The Bad Twin'”
February 4, 2009 at 7:25 am
That’s a great exchange between Locke and Ben, too —
“I’ve already read it.”
“You might catch something you missed the second time around.”
There’s a lot to catch in that particular episode when you re-watch it. My respect for the show has definitely grown after all the weird mis-steps of Season 3.