It’s over thirty years since his death, but fascination for the work of science fiction author Philip K. Dick continues to grow with more than ten major Hollywood movies based on his novels and short stories, including Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report and The Adjustment Bureau. A new biography shines further light on the man himself, attempting to sift the details of his complex personal life and penetrate the unique inner life that fuelled his work with something that may have been more than merely imagination.
“What I wanted to do was get into the man’s head,” said author Antony Peake. “His psychology is as interesting as his novels [as is] his life itself.” A Life of Philip K. Dick: The Man Who Remembered the Future is the first biography to emerge following the publication of Dick’s Exegesis, the fabled million word, late-night diary, that was his attempt to fathom the bizarre visionary experiences of 1974, which he termed “2-3-74” and described as, “an invasion of my mind by a transcendentally rational mind, as if I had been insane all my life and suddenly I had become sane.”
Not every Dick biographer can lay claim to a back catalogue that includes such titles as The Infinite Mindfield: The Quest to Find the Gateway to Higher Consciousness and The Daemon: A Guide to Your Extraordinary Secret Self, books that weave neuroscience, quantum physics and esoteric lore in an effort to engender new insights into matter and mind. The consciousness theorist Anthony Peake therefore seems an ideal person to weigh the evidence of Dick’s claims within a rational framework that also allows for the emergence of the potentially fantastical.
“A part of him had always been aware of the future things he was going to encounter,” Peake told The Eternities podcast. “Phil stated many times that his earlier novels were based upon events that happened later in his life. He believes that he was drawing up his inspiration from future memory.” According to Peake, Dick had a sense of another consciousness accompanying him from an early age, and he speculates that this was something like a higher self – called by Peake ‘the daemon’ – which afforded Dick his intuitions and premonitions. And, yet, Dick’s own complex personality seems at times to confound these accounts, undermining their veracity, as if his prolific fictional output and drug use caused an intermingling of the real and imagined.
Nevertheless, Peake says, “There is no doubt in my mind that Phil did see his own future. The most powerful evidence of this is the letter he wrote to a lady called Claudia Krenz-Bush [where] he describes how he had had hypnogogic images [in which] he saw in absolute detail the body of a portly middle aged man lying faced down between a coffee table and a settee. Handwritten underneath, it says, ‘Claudia, I think I’m becoming precognitive.'” According to the friend who discovered Dick after he had collapsed from the stroke from which he eventually died, this was exactly the position in which he lay. In both Dick’s life and works, it seems, there may be much for us all to learn about our minds and the realities they create.