Radio Free Albemuth (the movie)


This movie has been a long time coming. Filming started in 2007, it was shown at Sedona in 2010 and I have been waiting for it to be released, which didn’t happen until June 27, 2014, which I completely missed and just saw it on demand and watched it last night.

The movie is the first of the four novels of Philip K. Dick’s VALIS “trilogy” to be adapted to film. While it is often said that PKD’s books are great and the movies never live up to them (and perhaps that could be said of this movie as well), this is an important movie for several reasons.


Firstly, as mentioned, it is the first of PKD’s late books to be adapted to film (Blade Runner, Minority Report, The Adjustment Bureau, as well as many others being adaptations of PKD’s earlier work). In February of 1974, Phil had his first vision/hallucination. He continued to have these experiences over the next months and his late career revolves around his attempt to understand these experiences. He picked up and set down many different explanations for his visions: God; extraterrestrials so advanced that they may as well be God; mental illness; Russian mind control experiments; beams of energy from a satellite; attempts by extraterrestrials to intervene to save the earth; an over-lap in parallel universes, as well as many other theories. In 2011 PKD’s 976 page Exegesis was published posthumously, containing many pages of his attempts to understand his experiences, as well as ideas for his late novels. It should be mentioned that Radio Free Albemuth was written in 1976 as a draft of what later was published in 1981 as VALIS. RFA was published posthumously in 1985. The two novels are similar only in the fact that they have a character named “Philip K. Dick” who is a science fiction writer. In both novels, PKD is a kind of foil, a straight man to either Horselover Fat (VALIS) or Nicholas Brady (RFA). Phil creates a split having one character experience the visions and the pink phosphene beam and receive communications from VALIS, while the “Philip K. Dick” character is initially skeptical, but gets pulled into the metaphysical action.

Valis Satellite

Secondly, the movie is important because of its political themes. In this universe, the United States is ruled by four-term President Fremont, who has declared war on the subversive organization Aramchek, which may or may not be a real organization. The characters in the movie are visited by FAP (Friends of the American People) who are young, Hitler Youth types with unquestioning patriotism. At one point, Nick and his wife, Rachel, have to complete tests after watching President Fremont’s speech. The question is: “If the American people have to give up liberties in order to fight Aramchek, are they gaining or losing ground?”


The movie features

Nick goes through a series of visions, which are very close to the visions that PKD described having in real life. At one point he becomes convinced that current reality is an overlay of Rome in AD 70, the time of persecution of Christians by Nero, “The Empire never ended,” which means that PKD/Nick believes that the US government at the time was equated with the Roman empire, and President Nixon can be seen as a kind of Roman emperor.

The movie stays close to PKD’s novel and has all of the many twists and turns of the plot, including visions of messages from an alternate reality from someone in the Portuguese States of America – while this entity can give advice, it cannot answer the question, “Who are you?” It presents PKD’s spiritual beliefs, which are a mixture of science fiction, Gnosticism, Christianity, and Neoplatonism. The movie has lines, like “No one ever truly dies” and “Our minds are being invaded by an alien life form, for our benefit.” (PKD particularly developed the concept of the Paraclete as an alien life form that cross-bonded with the early Christians who accepted it in. Phil often spoke of “Firebright,” which is what he called the light he sometimes communicated with.

The question of what exactly happened to the real PKD is an interesting one and he spent the last 8 years of his life trying to decipher this, considering all possibilities. I have started work on this question as well, looking at PKD’s experiences and personal journal (The Exegesis) and Carl Jung’s visionary experiences and personal journal (The Red Book). I have a draft for a book length project called Every Thought Leads to Infinity, which is a line from The Exegesis. The link leads to the abstract from my 2012 presentation of that name.

The movie seems to have all the right ingredients, other than a big special effects budget. The actors are believable in a PKD world. Knowing the back story as I do, it is difficult to say how well the movie stands on its own, apart from PKD’s stories and life. (The movie has just had limited release and has only made $8,493 at the box office). It could serve as an introduction to his later works and it also has a theme that is relevant in today’s society of a decade of war against terror. Before Nicholas Brady is executed without a trial, the last thing he says is, “I am an American citizen, I have rights!”


The tagline on the official movie website reads, “A message of hope from the stars.” In the end, PKD was always hopeful that the little guy, who takes the morally right stance against totalitarian political regimes and institutions of thought control, would come out on top. He also made arguments that are consistent with the Recovery Movement in mental health, a kind of human rights movement. I have summarized PKD’s views of humane mental health treatment in a presentation, “What Does it Mean to Be Human?” Philip K Dick believed that there was reason to hope, and in his worlds that hope often was supported by metaphysical/science fiction intervention from God or VALIS (Vast Active Living Intelligence System).


[A quick mention about the music featured in the film. Much of it is by Robyn Hitchcock, and has a few old songs by his earlier band, The Soft Boys. However, I can’t find the soundtrack and it looks like Hitchcock wrote a song, “To Be Human” for the film that is not available elsewhere at this point. Neither does Alanis Morissette’s song, “Professional Torturer” appear to be available.]

[John Alan Simon, the director and co-producer of Radio Free Albemuth, also obtained the rights to VALIS. In an interview in Bleeding Cool, Simon talks about VALIS, and also about his own long-standing interest in visionary experience, having studied and written on Yeats and Blake’s visionary experiences. I have always thought that VALIS would make a great movie. It has more of a sense of humor, as well as darkness, it has the movie within a movie theme, as well as it just seems like the best PKD novel containing a little bit of everything from his life’s work].


Re-humanizing Medicine is available for pre-order on Amazon!

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It is very strange to see something I have been working on for so long posted on Amazon. You can even look inside the book. The publication date is still set for November 28, 2014, but you can now pre-order the book.

It is difficult to say when this journey began, particularly as I distill my professional life’s work in the book. I think it was probably around 2006 where the book started to take shape as Creating A Holistic Medical Practice. I had written a draft of a book I was calling Being Your Self, but it was kind of diffuse and unfocused, gradually I realized I wanted to write about my views on holistic medicine and my work in creating a holistic medical practice. My earliest memory of working on this book was when I was at the American Holistic Medicine Association conference in 2006 in St. Paul, Minnesota. I remember sitting at a café and distilling some of my thoughts about how the structure of a holistic practice differed from a conventional practice. I had started my private practice in 2005, so I had been spending a lot of time thinking about and creating systems that supported genuine human connection in a psychiatric setting. I had set out some time in my private practice for writing, but clinical and then teaching demands intervened and the book languished. I wrote material for the classes I taught, Finding Your Self and Being Fully Human.

I moved to New Zealand as part of the culmination of a long-term dream and compulsion. I became busy there at my first job, realized I was partly living my dream, but that I needed dedicated time for my book, so when I took my second job there, at Buchanan Rehabilitation Centre, I went down to 4 days a week, so that I had Tuesdays set aside for what was most important to me. It was then that things really started happening! The book really started to take shape. I started looking into agents and publishers, eventually landed a contract with Ayni Books through John Hunt Publishing. In the process of getting book endorsements, Vincent Di Stefano mentioned the phrase “re-humanizing medicine” and that really clicked. That is where my passion was, not just in a book on creating a practice, but on challenging the dehumanization in contemporary medicine and setting out a program of re-humanization. Phrases like “counter-curriculum” and “compassion revolution” came together and the book took on its current shape, after an extensive re-write. Also, I figured out how to bring myself into the book, or the book out of me. Instead of giving facts and information, I felt the book was a part of me and I of it. At this stage, the writing of the book served an integrative process for myself, bringing together the first research project I worked on with Deb Klamen (who wrote the foreword to the book) as well as the many side projects I worked on along the way.

Eight years later, the book is now going public and I am shifting into a new phase with it. It is very exciting and I hope that the book resonates with an unmet need for physicians and clinicians and helps re-chart an inner direction that leads to outer transformation and reform. What will happen next?

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click here to go to Amazon to pre-order the book

Text from Back Cover of Book:

What starts as personal dissatisfaction in the workplace can become personal transformation that changes clinical practice and ultimately changes the culture of medicine.

Physicians and professionals train extensively to relieve suffering. Yet the systems they train and practice in create suffering for both themselves and their clients through the neglect of basic human needs. True healthcare reform requires addressing dehumanization in medicine by caring for the whole person of the professional and the patient.

Re-humanizing Medicine provides a holistic framework to support human connection and the expression of full human being of doctors, professionals and patients. A clinician needs to be a whole person to treat a whole person, thus the work of transformation begins with clinicians. As professionals work to transform themselves, this will in turn transform their clinical practices and healthcare institutions

“Modern medicine is engaged in a struggle to find its heart, soul, and spirit. This task must begin with physicians themselves. Dr. David Kopacz’s Re-Humanizing Medicine is an excellent guide in how this urgent undertaking can unfold.”

Larry Dossey, M.D., author of One Mind, Reinventing Medicine and Healing Words; executive editor of Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing.

“Dr. David Kopacz bears exquisite witness to medical dehumanization and puts his heart and soul into a thoughtful, reflective, yet practical guide for countering its contemporary ills. This book can change lives, careers, and systems.”

Stevan M. Weine, M.D., author of When History is a Nightmare and Testimony after Trauma; director, International Center on Responses to Catastrophes, University of Illinois at Chicago.