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The Divine Madness of Philip K. Dick

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The Divine Madness of Philip K. Dick by Kyle Arnold

Hardcover – Oxford University Press – Jun2016 – 234 pages

Widely recognized as one of the most inventive and iconic science fiction writers of all time, Philip K. Dick is an author whose literary sophistication elevated the sci-fi genre into the storytelling powerhouse it is today. His works, known for their portrayals of simulated realities interspersed with universal and philosophical themes, have become enormously influential among writers of all genres and have inspired numerous television and film adapations, including the 1982 cult classicBlade Runner.

Underneath the veneer of fame, Dick’s personal life matched the dramatic intensity of his most beloved works. Beginning with the tragic death of his twin sister, his life took on a fantastical, science fiction-like quality when, in 1974, he had what some consider to be a psychotic episode and what others believe to be a mystical experience of some kind. According to Dick, a pink light beamed psychic information into his brain, awakening memories of a past life as a Christian revolutionary and granting him contact with time-traveling extraterrestrials. He also had visions of ancient Rome superimposed over his neighborhood in suburban San Francisco, and later on, attempted to warn local police that he was a machine programmed to self-destruct. As a result, Philip K. Dick spent the rest of his life trying to fathom the meaning of what he called his “divine madness.” Was it schizophrenia? Or did he experience a genuine prophecy of the sacred order?

In The Divine Madness of Philip K. Dick, clinical psychologist Kyle Arnold probes the fascinating mystery at heart and mind, and shows readers how early traumas opened Dick to profound spiritual experiences while also predisposing him toward drug dependency and violence. By disputing allegations of schizophrenia, Arnold contends that Dick’s paranoia was instead caused by his addiction to speed, and that his mental illness was borne out of the powerful scenes of spirituality depicted in the sci-fi stories he helped to create.

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