The Religious Affiliation of Science Fiction Writer
Philip K. Dick
Philip K. Dick: In an essay that he wrote two years before he died, Philip K. Dick wrote ("Introduction: How to Build a Universe that Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later" in I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon, Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc., pg. 9-10):
In 1974 the novel [Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said] was published by Doubleday. One afternoon I was talking to my priest -- I am an Episcopalian -- and I happened to mention to him an important scene near the end of the novel in which the character Felix Buckman meets a black stranger at an all-night gas station, and they begin to talk. As I described the scene in more and more detail, my priest became progressively more agitated. At last, he said, 'That is a scene from the Book of Acts, from the Bible! In Acts, the person who meets the black man on the road is named Philip--your name.' Father Rasch was so upset by the resemblance that he could not even locate the scene in his Bible. 'Read Acts,' he instructed me. 'And you'll agree. It's the same down to specific details.'
I went home and read the scene in Acts. Yes, Father Rasch was right; the scene in my novel was an obvious retelling of the scene in Acts . . . and I had never read Acts.
The rest of this introduction (pages 10-23), as well many of his other writings, make clear Philip K. Dick's Christian affiliation and background, although his religiosity is highly idiosyncratic.
"Philip K. Dick: The Other Side" by Paul Rydeen (source):
For a while Phil thought the spirit of Elijah had come upon him, much as the followers of John the Baptist felt about their Master. He even identified with a certain first-century Christian he called Thomas, whose thoughts Phil heard while falling asleep. There's someone inside of me, and he's living in another century. This Thomas was eventually garroted, which provides the connection to John the Baptist. "Thomas" is a Greek name meaning "twin"; whose twin was he if not Phil's? (Mani's twin was also called "tawm"; extant Greek Manichean texts refer to him as "syzygon".) Phil saw fit to baptize and confirm his infant son at this time (he was Episcopalian). Phil then gave his son a secret name which has never been divulged. In the posthumously-published Radio Free Albemuth (17) - the first version of what finally became VALIS - "Nicholas Brady" christened "Johnny" with the secret name "Paul". Since Phil saw himself as Elijah or John the Baptist, my best guess is that Phil told his son he was the Savior incarnate, and named him "Emmanuel", a Hebrew name meaning "God with us". His son's birth name was in fact Christopher, from the Greek for "Christ-bearer". Indeed, Radio Free Albemuth ends with the imprisoned Phil taking consolation in the knowledge that the Message has gone out after all - to the children. The importance of this assertion in light of the child-saviors in VALIS and The Divine Invasion cannot be underestimated. No wonder it hurt so badly when Phil's wife left with his son. It would have been interesting to see how Phil's son would have turned out under his father's tutelage. As it is, he may yet surprise us as he comes of age.
Dick also wrote extensively about, and appears to have been influenced by, gnosticism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, Zen, and the I Ching (often associated with Confucianism). He spent time in Utah and mentioned Utah and/or Latter-day Saints in half of his books. "In 1975... Dick had one of his mystical experiences that explain the almost divine nature of his last novels." [Source]; "PKD had a number of strong religious experiences on 2/3/74 that colored his subsequent work. 'An Exegesis' is a huge set of handwritten notes that he would work on at night to try to make sense of these experiences. After a subsequent religious experience on 11/17/80 he finally fashioned a title page... 'THE DIALECTIC: God against Satan, & God's Final Victory foretold & shown'". [Source] Jeff Rubard has written an excellent article on this subject: "The Mystical Experience in Science Fiction: Philip K. Dick's Radio Free Albemuth and Valis." The book jacket of The Man in the High Castle says that PKD "lives, with wife and children, in... the country north of San Francisco with a library of Jung and Zen Buddhism..."
Webpage created 25 July 2005. Last modified 25 July 2005.
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