AQUARIAN: Since drugs have cropped up in the discussion, it's no secret that many of your novels have been seen as "drug-oriented" or as outgrowths of your own drug experiences. Since one of your most enduring themes has been the breakdown between illusion and reality, has drug taking been a positive influence in this regard?
DICK: No, absolutely not. There's nothing good about drugs. Drugs kill you and they break down your head. They eat your head. In "White Rabbit," Grace Slick says, "feed your head." But I say, "What are you really feeding it?" You're feeding it itself. Drugs cause the mind to feed on itself.
Look, I'll be honest with you. There was a time in my life when I thought drugs could be useful, that maybe if you took enough psychedelics you could see beyond the illusion of the world to the nature of ultimate reality. Now I think all you see are the patterns on the rug turning into hideous things.
A friend of mine had a shower curtain with tigers on it. You know, one of those prints. During an LSD trip once, the tigers started moving and tried to eat him. So he ran outside into the back yard and burned the shower curtain.
That epitmoizes drugs to me = some guy in his back yard burning his shower curtain.
I used to think that drugs put you in touch with something. Now I know that the only thing they put you in touch with is the rubber room of a psychiatric hospital.
My drug experiences have not manifested themselves in my work. Many critics have said that The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (1965) was the first "LSD novel." I wrote that after reading a magazine article on hallucinogenics by Aldous Huxley.
Drugs have taken the lives of some very, very dear friends of mine.
AQUARIAN: Then what is the major influence on your work?
DICK: Philosophy and philosophical inquiry.
I studied philosophy during my brief career at the University of California at Berkley. I'm what they call an "acosmic pan-enthiest," which means that I don't believe that the universe exists. I believe that the only thing that exists is God and he is more than the universe. The universe is an extension of God into space and time.
That's the premise I start from in my work, that so-called "reality" is an mass delusion that we've all been required to believe for reasons totally obscure.
Bishop Berkely believed that the world doesn't exist, that God directly impinges on our minds the sensation that the world exists. The Russian science fiction writer Stanislaw Lem poses that if there was a brain being fed a simulated world, is there any way the brain could tell it was a simulated world? the answer, of course, is no. Not unless there was a technological foul-up.
Imagine a brain floating in a tank with millions and millions of electrodes attached to specific nerve centers. Now imagine these electrodes being selectively stimulated by a computer to cause the brain to believe that it was walking down Hollywood Boulevard chomping on a hamburger and checking out the chicks.
Now, if there was a technological foul-up, or if the tapes got jumbled, the brain would suddenly see Jesus Christ pass by down Hollywood Boulevard on his way to Golgotha, pursued by a crowd of angry people, being whipped along by seven Roman Centurions.
The brain would say, "Now hold on there!" And suddenly the entire image would go "pop" and disappear.
I've always had this funny feeling about reality. It just seems very feeble to me sometimes. It doesn't seem to have the substantiality that it's suppose to have.
I look at reality the way a rustic looks at a shell game when he comes into town to visit the fair. A little voice inside me says, "now wait just a second there..."
AQUARIAN: Religion and religious inquiry also occupy a very prominent place in your writing.
DICK: I've always been interested in religion. In man's relationship with is god, what he chooses to worship. I was raised a Quaker but converted to Episcopalianism very early in my life.
The new novel I'm currently working on for Bantam Books has its basis in theology and what I've had to do, in short, it to create a new religion right from scratch.
It reminds me of something a girl said to me a couple of weeks ago. She said, "You're really smart, too bad you're not religious." (Laughs) And here I am doing nothing all day but reading the Bible, the Apocrypha, the writings of Gnosticism, histories of Christianity. I'll tell you, I could go out and get a degree in theology right now!
It seems like a natural progression of sorts. I got badly burned in the political arena. I was hounded by Mr. Smith and Mr. Scruggs. I would literally get thrown out of Socialist and Communist Party meetings when I was in college for disagreeing with party doctrine. And so I turn to religion, and I find incredible bigotry. Two thousand years of history and the names change but the activity remains the same. Somebody was always throwing someone else into prison for his beliefs or burning him at the stake.
I believe that the establishment churches have lost the keys to the kingdom. They don't even know what the Kingdom of God is.
It's like some guy who loses the keys to his car. He knows he had them a second ago but now they're gone. The churches, however, don't even know what the car looks like anymore. They can't even give a description of it to the cop.
Organized religion is crooked, dumb, and it's lost the keys. I mean, it's OK to be crooked and dumb, we're all crooked and dumb. But the tragedy is that they've lost the keys. They can't even point us in the right direction much less take us there.
The whole question of religion is very melancholic. It makes me very sad really. I mean, I've read so much and still, I haven't found God. We have a "deus abscondatus," a hidden God. As Plato says, "God exists but He is hard to find."
I've spent the majority of my life studying and reading and seeking God, but, of course, the thing is you can't find God. God has to find you. I've learned that.