Almost all of Philip K. Dick’s books and stories, from the 1950s to the 1980s, describe the human condition from a thoroughly Gnostic point of view in which the individual discovers that the world he is really facing is not the world he thought he knew.
As a child, Dick had a recurring dream. In the dream, he is in a bookstore, searching for an issue of a science fiction magazine that contains a story titled “The Empire Never Ended.” If he reads it, the secrets of the universe will be revealed to him, and the world will reveal its true nature. Each time he had the dream, the pile of magazines became thinner, but he never found the story.
Then, in his adulthood, beginning in the mid-1970s, he was struck by a series of mystical visions, on which he wrote thousands of pages in his diary. The visions revealed to him, among other things, that the oppressive and violent Roman Empire still existed and that the reality he thought was real, that of the 1970s United States, was far from what it seemed.
In a talk he gave in France following these visions, Dick stated that “we are living in a computer-programmed reality, and the only clue we have to it is when some variable is changed, and some alteration in our reality occurs.” In his most successful novel, The Man in the High Castle, this theme culminates in the form of a book that appears within the plot and reveals to the characters that the world they think they live in is not the real world. The state of affairs in the present, it turns out, is far from reality.
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