Philip K. Dick Takes You Inside His Life-Changing Mystical Experience

Image by Pete Welsch, via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

Philip K. Dick’s mind was invad­ed in 1974.

It hap­pened fol­low­ing surgery for an impact­ed wis­dom tooth. While recov­er­ing, the author of Ubik and The Man in the High Cas­tle, received a deliv­ery of pain med­ica­tion. The deliv­ery girl wore a Jesus fish around her neck, which in Dick’s per­cep­tion was emit­ting a pink beam. Soon after, Dick­’s brain was invad­ed by… some­thing. Dick nev­er quite fig­ured out what.

He lat­er described the expe­ri­ence to inter­view­er Charles Platt as “an inva­sion of my mind by a tran­scen­den­tal­ly ratio­nal mind. It was almost as if I had been insane all of my life and sud­den­ly I had become sane.”

The expe­ri­ence pro­found­ly affect­ed him and it made up the core of his book VALIS. The title is an acronym for Vast Active Liv­ing Intel­li­gence Sys­tem, which pret­ty much describes how Dick thought of this mind.

In 1979, Platt inter­viewed Dick in depth for his book Dream Mak­ers. You can lis­ten to an extend­ed clip of Dick recount­ing his tran­scen­den­tal expe­ri­ence below:

“On Thurs­days and Sat­ur­days I’d think it was God,” he told Platt. “On Tues­days and Wednes­days, I’d think it was extrater­res­tri­als. Some times I’d think it was the Sovi­et Union Acad­e­my of Sci­ences try­ing out their psy­chotron­ic microwave tele­path­ic trans­mis­sions.”

What­ev­er it was, this mind took con­trol of Dick when he was at a low ebb and, like a lov­ing par­ent or an excep­tion­al­ly tal­ent­ed per­son­al assis­tant, cleaned up his life. “I was a spec­ta­tor,” said Dick. This mind, which Dick char­ac­ter­ized as female, fired his agent, tracked down edi­tors who were late send­ing checks and mod­i­fied his diet.

She also revealed that his young son had an undi­ag­nosed birth defect that was poten­tial­ly fatal. And the rev­e­la­tion proved to be true. The child’s life was saved.

That said, he did have a cou­ple minor com­plaints about the enti­ty: she kept call­ing his baf­fled wife “Ma’am” and she had a ten­den­cy to lapse into Koine Greek. Nobody, even a God-like vision, is per­fect. Above, we have a draw­ing by R. Crumb.

You can lis­ten to Platt’s full inter­view with Dick below:

Relat­ed Con­tent:

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

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)

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow.

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