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Pulling the Cosmic Trigger: The Contact Experiences of Philip K Dick & Robert Anton Wilson

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Pulling the Cosmic Trigger: The Contact Experiences of Philip K Dick & Robert Anton Wilson

by AK Wilks

This article will look at some of the similarities between the contact experiences of two American writers, Philip K Dick and Robert Anton Wilson. In the 1973-1974 time frame, both would have unusual experiences that they thought could be contact with an extraterrestrial civilization. Or some undefinable something that wanted them to think it was extraterrestrial. And as incredible as it sounds, some of their experiences are confirmed by other people, and include verified transmission of knowledge that it seems they could not have obtained from any human source. We will also look very briefly at some other possibly related contact experiences involving musician and cultural icon John Lennon, researcher into human-dolphin communication and consciousness Dr. John Lilly and the Swiss scientist and inventor of LSD Dr. Albert Hofmann.

NOTE: William Burroughs first told Robert Anton Wilson about the “23 Enigma”.  Wilson and Kerry Thornley incorporated it into their ideas and created the related concept of the Discordian Law of Fives (2+3=5).  The number 23 and the numbers 2 & 3 & 5 recur at multiple points in this article.  In most cases I do not note them but the interested reader may wish to note how many times they recur and if it is more than expected by chance.


Philip K Dick was a science fiction writer with a prolific output from 1953 to 1981 of 121 short stories and 44 novels. Since his death in l982 he has become even better known. His stories have been made into major films like “Blade Runner”, “A Scanner Darkly,” and “Minority Report”. He has also been acknowledged as a major influence on other films, including “The Matrix”.

PKD had themes that recur over and over again throughout his stories – What is real? What is human? How do we know that what we think of as reality is actually real? What defines humanity? Will humans be replaced by machines? PKD also had political themes and religious themes. Though he turned 40 in l968, he identified with the youth counterculture of the l960’s. He was against the Vietnam War and the Nixon administration. He refused to pay federal taxes in protest of the war, and his name appeared in published ads of writers and artists involved in the protest. The federal government confiscated his car for back taxes.

A typical PKD hero was a writer, small businessman, a TV repairman and/or a backyard inventor. He finds his life turned upside down when he discovers that reality is not what it seemed. He wages a fight against vast evil empires of heartless corporations, fascist governments, robots posing as humans, and alien invaders. He is often assisted by a beautiful and intelligent dark haired girl.

Starting in 1971, Phil was no longer just writing about government conspiracies, alternative realities, and struggles against an empire. He started living it. His home was broken in to. Things were damaged, papers were taken, but little of value was stolen. It did not seem like a traditional burglary. Strangely, part of Phil was actually relieved. He thought, “See! I’m not some crazy paranoid. They really are after me.” But he was also horrified and scared of what they would do next. It also validated him however. He must be getting through and having an impact if he was enough of a threat to have this done to him.

His wife Tessa confirms that in 1969 Phil got a phone call from a fan, Dr. Timothy Leary. She wonders if that call was wiretapped by Feds trailing Leary, and if Phil came on their radar screen then, if he had not before. When Leary escaped from Folsom prison, she wonders if Phil got attention because of the Leary connection. Phil claimed that he also talked to John Lennon as part of this same phone call. The connection was probably Rolling Stone writer Paul Williams, who knew PKD well and wrote about him in Rolling Stone magazine, and Williams was with Lennon and Leary in Canada.

President Nixon had called Leary “the most dangerous man in America”, a label he only used for one other person, Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg. Nixon had authorized a break in at Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office. The FBI, BNDD(DEA) and the CIA were involved in the hunt and recapture of Leary. Did one of those agencies do the break in looking for clues to where Leary was hiding? Nixon was also using the pretext of a marijuana conviction to try to get Lennon deported. The real reason was his anger over Lennon’s support of the anti-war movement, both lyrically and financially.

Phil obsessed over who did the break in – the FBI? CIA? KGB? Local police? A right wing group like the Neo-Nazis? A criminal gang? But eventually something else even bigger would come along to obsess over.

In February and March of l974, Phil had amazing contact experiences that changed his life. He would spend the rest of his life trying to figure out what exactly happened, and who or what was responsible. His theories included mental illness at one end, to direct contact with God at the other end. In between were the theories of contact with an alien race, time travelers, an AI (Artificial Intelligence) computer from the future, a government agency or a secret society.

     Eventually he came to call what contacted him VALIS, for Vast Active Living Intelligence System. Phil would have different ideas on what VALIS was – a satellite beaming information to him from an alien world or just a manifestation of God? He came to think VALIS was a satellite from advanced entities perhaps from the Sirius double star system. One of the missions of VALIS was to fight the Empire,(“The Empire never ended”) the continuation of the Roman Empire in the evil power elites in the East and West, who were secretly connected in their desire to keep their populations enslaved. The second mission of VALIS was to enlighten people with information and knowledge, to spark creativity, invention, art and innovation. This was also partially done through the true hidden and suppressed gospels of Jesus Christ which were revealed to the world in the Gnostic Gospels found at Nag Hammadi in 1945. This information is a living plasmate that comes alive in every person who reads the gospels or who reads about VALIS in the stories of Philip K Dick. The final mission of VALIS was to show Phil that this is a fake world, a “Black Iron Prison”, a “criminal virus” that occludes people from seeing that the world is alive. In fact the world that we see is fake, and we may be living in a computer simulation or a hologram. Now you can see why the creators of “The Matrix” acknowledge PKD as a major influence.

He would write what he called his Exegesis to investigate and explain what he came to call the “2-3-74” experience, meaning February and March of 1974. His Exegesis would grow to over 8,000 pages. Recently a 900 page version was published. Phil increasingly came to favor theological interpretations of VALIS, but at one point, after reading Arthur C. Clarke’s novel “Childhood’s End”, he expressed his experience in Clarke language and classic Sci-Fi terms:

(1)We are not only being watched; we are being controlled, but don’t know it; they remain beyond our threshold of vision.

(2) They work for a higher purpose, one we can’t understand but which fits our concepts of spiritual, moral purposes.

(3) We are instruments, therefore, of an invisible spiritual force which causes us to grow and develop in certain arranged directions.

  • Some of us are either part of their race or can be elevated to their level, as they work through these individuals.
  • The probable reason for their concealment is our evil qualities. We cannot be trusted, individually or collectively (man qua beast).
  • A critical moment has approached or is approaching; this is a unique period in their work, therefore in our use-purpose.
  • The extent of camouflage and delusion induced in us is extraordinary in amount and degree


Understand that the above formulation was not Phil’s favorite. As I stated he increasingly came to favor a more theological interpretation, bringing in elements from Buddha, Dionysus, and mysticism, but primarily Gnostic Christianity as revealed in the Nag Hammadi scriptures uncovered in 1945. But I like the formulation above because it is clear and concise and perhaps fits best with some of the other experiences we will look at later.  Section #5 about concealment deals with a subject Phil talked a lot about, which was the fate of men like Socrates, Christ, Bruno, JFK , MLK and his friend Bishop Jim Pike. Given that history, VALIS must conceal itself most of the time, and rather than announce itself on the lawn of the White House, and be sent to federal prison or worse, it would reveal itself gradually in scattered trash, pulp magazines, rock music songs, comic books, B movies, episodes of “Star Trek”, sci-fi paperbacks and through an imperfect odd California science fiction writer.

In part of the 2-3-74 experience Phil saw a cartoon cat that appeared in the pink light of a rectangle that reflected the “Golden Ratio.” The Golden Ratio of 1.618 occurs throughout nature, and is seen in everything from galaxies to sea shells to flowers to the human face. Phil’s cat had just died and he said the cartoon cat came over to him and put his paw on his shoulder, as if to console him and tell him it will be all right.

In another part of the2- 3-74 experience, Phil said he experienced hundreds of abstract and expressionist art paintings.   They were as vivid and colorful and real as anything he had ever seen in his life. He mentioned Kandinsky and Klee as the type of art that he saw.

Then throughout 1974 he experienced strange events, some seemingly “good”, and some seemingly “bad”. Strange synchronicities, “coincidences” that seemed to have underlying connections. If VALIS was a positive moral aiding Phil and humanity, there were also other dark forces wanting to keep humanity enslaved and blind, and Phil feared these dark forces. He gave his son Christopher an improvised Christening with chocolate milk and a bit of hot dog bun, as a way to protect him from these dark forces.


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