The Transmigration of Timothy Archer

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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.[1]


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 has schizophrenia, although he is knowledgeable as an 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).

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