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the religious experience of philip k. dick

In 1974, science fiction writer Philip K. Dick experienced a series of mystical visions. They would greatly influence his writing, most explicitly in 'Valis', a philosophical exploration of gnostic, christian and other religious themes. They also inspired comic book artist Robert Crumb to adapt Dick's experiences, as recounted in interviews, into a short story: 'The Religious Experience of Philip K. Dick' (online in reasonable quality images).

Robert Crumb - The Religious Experience of Philip K. Dick - 1

The ancient Greek word for what Dick experienced was 'enthusiasmos' (enthusiasm), literally: possessed or inspired by a god. The term is often associated with the Dionysian Mysteries, in which trance-inducing rituals would bring participants to a state of 'ekstasis' (ecstasy). Other 'symptoms', which Dick also experienced, include 'anamnesis' (literally: loss of forgetfulness, or recollection of events outside one's own life) and 'xenoglossia' (speaking in languages unknown to the speaker).

Robert Crumb - The Religious Experience of Philip K. Dick - 2

In Dick's case, his prolonged drug use may have been a cause for his visions. He, however, interpreted them in terms of divine inspiration, believing at first that he was a persecuted Christian in Rome in the first century AD, and later that the spirit of the prophet Elijah had entered him.

Whatever one's verdict on the 'truth' of these experiences, it is no wonder his novels all deal with the fragile nature of reality - or the philosophical implications of the fact that we humans think too much. The question in Crumb's story sums it up in typical Dick style:

Was it the onset of acute schizophrenia, or was it a genuine mystical revelation, and then again, is there any difference?
Recommended:

a scanner darkly

Faithfully adaptated from Philip K. Dick 's novel, Richard Linklater 's animated 'A Scanner Darkly ' is a grim tale of drug-fueled paranoia. As with most P.K. Dick novels, the story is cloaked as science fiction to extrapolate trends i… Read the full post »

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