The Transmigration of Timothy Archer

The Transmigration of Timothy Archer

infobox Book |
name = The Transmigration of Timothy Archer
title_orig =
translator =

image_caption = Cover of first edition (hardcover)
author = Philip K. Dick
illustrator =
cover_artist =
country = United States
language = English
series =
genre = Novel
publisher = Timescape Books/Simon and Schuster
release_date = 1982
english_release_date =
media_type = Print (Hardcover & Paperback)
pages = 255 pp
isbn = ISBN 0-671-44066-7
preceded_by =
followed_by =
"The Transmigration of Timothy Archer" is a 1982 novel by Philip K. Dick. As his final work, the book was published shortly after his death in March 1982 following a series of strokes, although it was written the previous year. The book was originally titled "Bishop Timothy Archer".

The novel was nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1982.

Plot introduction

Set in the late 1960s and 1970s, the story describes the efforts of Episcopalian Bishop Timothy Archer, who must cope with the theological and philosophical implications of the newly-discovered Gnostic Zadokite scroll fragments. The character of Bishop Archer is loosely based on the controversial, iconoclastic Episcopalian Bishop James Pike, who in 1969 died of exposure while exploring the Judean Desert near the Dead Sea in the West Bank.

As the novel opens, it is 1980. On the day that John Lennon is shot and killed, Angel Archer visits the houseboat of Edgar Barefoot, a guru, and reflects on the lives of her deceased relatives. During the sixties, she was married to Jeff Archer, son of the Episcopalian Bishop of California Timothy Archer. She introduced Kirsten Lundborg, a friend, to her father-in law, and the two began an affair. Kirsten has a son, Bill, from a previous relationship, who suffers from schizophrenia, although he is knowledgeable as a automobile mechanic. Tim is already being investigated for his gnostic, allegedly heretical views about the Zadokite scrolls, which reproduce some of Jesus Christ's statements about the world, but have been dated to the second century "before" the birth of Christ.

Jeff commits suicide due to his romantic obsession with Kirsten. However, after poltergeist activity, he manifests to Tim and Kirsten at a seance, also attended by Angel. Angel is sceptical about the efficacy of astrology, and believes that the unfolding existential situation of Tim and Kirsten is akin to Friedrich Schiller's German Romanticism era masterpiece, the Wallenstein trilogy (insofar as their credulity reflects the loss of rational belief in contemporary consensual reality).

The three are told that Kirsten and Tim will die. As predicted, Kirsten loses her remission from cancer, and also commits suicide after a barbiturate overdose. Tim travels to Israel to investigate whether or not a psychotropic mushroom was associated with the resurrection, but his car stalls, he becomes disoriented, falls from a cliff, and dies in the desert.

On the houseboat, Angel is reunited with Bill, Kirsten's son, who still experiences Aspergers syndrome and Schizophrenia. He claims to have Tim's reincarnated spirit within him, but is soon reinsitutionalised. Angel agrees to care for Bill, in return for a rare record that Edgar offers her.

"Transmigration" is one of Dick's most overtly philosophical and intellectual works. While Dick's novels usually employ multiple narrators or an omniscient perspective, this story is told in the first person by a single narrator: Angel Archer, Bishop Archer's daughter-in-law. Dick's work was often criticized for its flat, stereotypical female characters, so Angel may represent his effort to prove he could create a rich and believable feminine voice.


*Angel Archer: narrator, manager of a Berkeley record store, widow of Jeff Archer
*Timothy Archer: Bishop of California, father of the late Jeff Archer and father-in-law of Angel. Dies in Israel, searching for psychotropic mushroom connected with Zadokite sect. Based on James Albert Pike (February 14, 1913 - September 1969) who was an American Episcopal bishop
*Kirsten Lundborg: Timothy Archer's secretary and lover. Dies from barbiturate overdose after loss of remission from cancer.
*Bill Lundborg: Kirsten's son, afflicted by Asperger's syndrome and schizophrenia and obsessed with cars
*Edgar Barefoot: Houseboat guru, radio personality, lecturer, based on Alan Watts
*Jeff Archer: professional student, Angel's deceased husband, romantically obsessed with Kirsten, son of Timothy Archer

Other works

"Transmigration" is thematically related to Dick's unfinished VALIS trilogy of novels:

* "VALIS" (1981)
* "The Divine Invasion" (1981)
* "The Owl in Daylight"

The novel has been included in several omnibus editions of the trilogy as a stand-in for the unwritten final volume. "Transmigration" was not intended by Dick to be part of the trilogy; however, the book fits comfortably with the two finished volumes and Dick himself called the three novels a trilogy, saying "the three do form a trilogy constellating around a basic theme." []

ee also

*"Radio Free Albemuth"

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