Robert Crumb Illustrates Philip K. Dick’s Infamous, Hallucinatory Meeting with God (1974)


“I saw God,” Fat states, and Kevin and I and Sher­ri state, “No, you just saw some­thing like God, exact­ly like God.” And hav­ing spoke, we do not stay to hear the answer, like jest­ing Pilate, upon his ask­ing, “What is truth?”

–Philip K. Dick, VALIS

In the months of Feb­ru­ary and March, 1974, Philip K. Dick met God, or some­thing like God, or what he thought was God, at least, in a hal­lu­ci­na­to­ry expe­ri­ence he chron­i­cled in sev­er­al obses­sive­ly dense diaries that recent­ly saw pub­li­ca­tion as The Exe­ge­sis of Philip K. Dick, a work of deeply per­son­al theo-philo­soph­i­cal reflec­tion akin to Carl Jung’s The Red Book. What­ev­er it was he encountered—Dick was nev­er too dog­mat­ic about it—he end­ed up refer­ring to it as Zebra, or by the acronym VALIS, Vast Active Liv­ing Intel­li­gence Sys­tem, also the title of a nov­el detail­ing the expe­ri­ences of one very PKD-like char­ac­ter with the improb­a­ble name of “Horselover Fat.”

LSD-trig­gered psy­chot­ic break, gen­uine reli­gious expe­ri­ence, or some­thing else entire­ly, what­ev­er Dick’s encounter meant, he didn’t let the oppor­tu­ni­ty to turn it into art slip by him, and nei­ther did out­sider car­toon­ist and PKD fan Robert Crumb. In issue #17 of the under­ground comix mag­a­zine Weirdo, Crumb nar­rat­ed and illus­trat­ed Dick’s meet­ing with a divine intel­li­gence in the appro­pri­ate­ly titled “The Reli­gious Expe­ri­ence of Philip K. Dick.” It was even­tu­al­ly col­lect­ed in the edi­tion, The Weirdo Years by R. Crumb: 1981-’93. (See the com­ic in motion in the awk­ward, ama­teur video above.) The com­ic quotes direct­ly from Dick’s telling of the event, which began with a wis­dom tooth extrac­tion and was ulti­mate­ly trig­gered by a gold­en Chris­t­ian fish sym­bol worn around the neck of a phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal deliv­ery girl. Most PKD fans will be famil­iar with the sto­ry, whether they treat it as gospel or not, but to see it illus­trat­ed with such empa­thet­ic inten­si­ty by Crumb is tru­ly a treat.

If you only know Crumb as the cre­ator of las­civ­i­ous Rube­nesque women and schlub­by, drug­gy horn­dog hip­sters (like Fritz the Cat), you may be sur­prised by these emo­tion­al­ly real­ist illus­tra­tions. If you know Crumb’s more seri­ous work, like his take on the book of Gen­e­sis, you won’t. In either case, fans of Dick, Crumb, or—most likely—both, won’t want to miss this.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Down­load 14 Great Sci-Fi Sto­ries by Philip K. Dick as Free Audio Books and Free eBooks

Philip K. Dick Pre­views Blade Run­ner: “The Impact of the Film is Going to be Over­whelm­ing” (1981)

The Con­fes­sions of Robert Crumb: A Por­trait Script­ed by the Under­ground Comics Leg­end Him­self (1987)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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Comments (11)
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  • Dennis C. McGrath says:

    Horselover Fat, far from being an improb­a­ble pseu­do­nym, actu­al­ly makes per­fect sense.

    Phillip means Horselover.
    Dick is Ger­man for Fat.

    Get it?

  • Josh Jones says:

    Thanks, Den­nis. I’m hip. I did­n’t write “improb­a­ble pseu­do­nym.” I wrote “improb­a­ble name.”

  • Frank Levine says:

    Dick denied EVER tak­ing LSD. His para­noid fan­tasies were fueled by metham­phet­a­mine. There are sev­er­al good biogra­phies — per­haps you should read one.

  • William M. Lever says:

    What get’s me is how this absurd & very sad tale of PKD’s wan­ing years is becom­ing “legit­imized” through repeat­ed telling’s in any num­ber of pub­li­ca­tions and/or webzines, etc., etc..

    He con­tributed so much more than this, and he should be remem­bered for that, rather than the psy­chot­ic episodes he strug­gled with.

  • C Prather says:

    P.D.s body of work is vast. Hooked by his ear­ly work, I don’t think it is pos­si­ble to know why he had psy­chot­ic episodes or whether he had reached some oth­er plane. His writ­ing def­i­nite­ly takes read­ers into a vari­ety of mindstates,depending on who is read­ing it. Any­thing else is not my busi­ness to guess.

  • M. Moore says:

    Dick claimed, in an inter­view with Charles Platt (pub­lished in “Dream Mak­ers”), to have tak­en LSD twice. He also said that the first acid trip was a major influ­ence on The Three Stig­ma­ta of Palmer Eldritch.

  • Marcus Aurelius says:

    Sounds a bit like pos­ses­sion. Maybe meth can cre­ate cracks in the mind for such a thing to hap­pen with­out the will giv­ing per­mis­sion.

  • Flores Richard says:


  • leo keohane says:

    What is the pur­pose of the asi­nine sound­track? In fact why is there a need to have a sound­track at all? Ele­va­tor music is a kind of plat­i­tudi­nous soma which is grad­u­al­ly begin­ning to per­me­ate the entire world. Ini­tial­ly it spread to restau­rants and shop­ping malls but now it is begin­ning to estab­lish itself in doc­u­men­taries and tv pro­grammes of some intel­lec­tu­al con­tent. As back­ground noise it can be tol­er­a­ble but when it fea­tures direct­ly behind the nar­ra­tor’s voice it is unac­cept­able. When it is as obnox­ious as this par­tic­u­lar piece of noise it deserves to be hosed down a drain.

  • leo keohane says:

    Just to say sor­ry — I know this post­ing is total­ly insignif­i­cant except maybe to the com­pos­er of the music and because of that it is impor­tant I write this. It’s not the music I’ve been rant­i­ng about, it’s the employ­ment of it in this par­tic­u­lar piece. The music is very good and in fact it cre­ates quite an atmos­phere but hav­ing it play while the nar­ra­tor is speak­ing is total­ly inap­pro­pri­ate.

  • Steve Bell says:

    Hear hear.

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