Philip K Dick (1928-1982) was a prolific Sci-fi author whose works are so infused into popular culture that even if you’ve never picked up one of his books, you’ve likely still encountered his work. Screen adaptations include Blade Runner, (based on the book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep) Man in the High Castle, A Scanner Darkly, Minority Report and Total Recall. Dick wrote 44 novels and over 100 short stories throughout his short and tumultuous life, many of which are held to high acclaim.
In 1974, after a tooth extraction, Dick was plunged into what he called his ‘divine madness’- a period of time in which he found himself having a number of transcendental experiences, perhaps being connected to other entities, past lives, even a kind of God. One was a Christian Mystic named ‘Thomas’, living in the 1st Century AD Rome, whose reality he was able to sense simultaneously to his own and with whom he could communicate telepathically. The buildings in his modern neighbourhood became menacing columnar structures of the Roman Empire, and he believed himself to be an early Christian revolutionary, living in a state of constant paranoia that he would be discovered, caught and martyred. ‘Liquid fire’ inhabited his body and his surroundings, and interdimensional beings would emerge from portals made of pink light to reveal messages to him. His experiences were so frequent and overwhelming that he was forced to stop driving for a while.
Many attribute this period of Dick’s life to a mental health crisis potentially exacerbated by drug use- he had a particular fondness for amphetamine - well known to cause paranoia. However at this point in his life he had reportedly stopped using this substance, and moreover certain messages he received during this time did seem to come from ‘elsewhere’. On one occasion, Dick heard a voice urgently instructing him to take his son to the hospital, and upon doing so, discovered that his life had indeed been in imminent danger from an internal hernia. There are many other examples of Dick receiving information that seemed to come from an outside, omniscient source, during his life.
Dick spent the rest of his life trying to make sense of these experiences and wrote an 8000 page interpretation called his Exegesis. If that seems a little daunting to you, check out this 8 page comic-book version created by Robert Crumb.