This year saw the 30th anniversary of the death of one of the most influential writers of all time, the iconic Philip K. Dick. Although virtually unknown outside of science fiction circles, during his lifetime Dick’s intriguing philosophy on the nature of reality has become a staple of the modern Hollywood movie.
Huge blockbusters such as Total Recall, Minority Report, The Adjustment Bureau, Blade Runner, A Scanner Darkly and Paycheck were loosely based directly on his novels or short stories, and movies such as The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Memento, The Matrix, The Truman Show and Inception all owe a huge debt to his vision.
One of the most intriguing themes of Dick’s writing was the concept of the “precog,” a person who could “see” the future before it happened. In 1954 Phil introduced the concept of precognition in his novel The World Jones Made.
In this novel the eponymous anti-hero Floyd Jones can see exactly one year into the future. From then on “precogs” occur regularly in his novels and short stories, most notably in his 1956 short story The Minority Report, his 1964 novel Martian Time-Slip, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch and many others.
What was it that made Philip K. Dick interested in precognition? It had not been a particular theme within classical science fiction nor had it been part of the books that the young Philip read during his childhood years and early teens.
The answer may lie in one simple fact: Philip K. Dick himself was a “precog.” He was not writing fiction but heavily disguised autobiography. Let us review the evidence. Like many of his schoolmates, Phil was expected to attend the University of California in his hometown of Berkeley. But in order to do so he needed to reach the entrance grades required.
This possibility started to fade rapidly when, during a crucial physics test, Phil couldn’t remember the key principle behind the displacement of water. As eight of the ten questions involved this principle, he was clearly in trouble.
And then it happened: a voice clearly and precisely explained to the surprised young man the scientific principles he so desperately needed to understand. All Phil had to do was write down the words in his head. Phil received an ‘A’ grade.
Although this “voice” effectively disappeared for many years, Phil continued to sense there was a part of him that was alien in some way. Throughout the 1950s the voice remained silent and then, under somewhat prosaic circumstances, it re-appeared. In an interview with his friend Greg Rickman, recorded in October 1981, Phil described how he had been watching a TV programme about the Galapagos turtles.
|Philip K Dick with his wife Leslie (Tessa) Busby (married between 1973-1977).
Photo courtesy of Tessa Dick.
The fight for survival of one particular female turtle had really upset him. After laying her eggs she had turned in the wrong direction and instead of going towards the sea she crawled inland. Soon the heat had brought about extreme dehydration. She was dying. As she began to fade her legs were still seen to be moving.
The film had been edited to give the impression that the dying turtle was imagining she was back in the ocean. He went to bed with this tragic image in his mind. He woke up in the night to hear a voice.
In careful and deliberate terms the entity explained to Phil that the turtle actually believed she was in the water:
“I was just terribly amazed and dumbfounded to hear that voice again. It wasn’t my own voice because one of the sentences the voice said was ‘And she shall see the sea’ and I would not use the two words ‘see’ and ‘sea’ in the same sentence. It tends to do that, use word choices I don’t use. One time it used the expression ‘a very poisonous poison’ which I would not use.” 
It is clear Phil recognised the voice as being the same entity that had helped him in his physics exam all those years before. It was back. He was to continue hearing this entity for many years, but only as a faint background whisper. In another 1981 interview he stated:
“I only hear the voice of the spirit when I am falling asleep or waking up. I have to be very receptive to hear it. It’s extremely faint. It sounds as though it is coming from a million miles away.” 
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