Through a Fractured Glass, Darkly
What are we to make of the strange case of Whitley Strieber?
Already well-known for his horror fiction (Wolfen, The Hunger, both made into Hollywood movies), Strieber underwent some extremely unusual personal experiences back in 1985 and wrote a book called Communion, after which his name became more or less synonymous with alien abduction. Yet Strieber is far more than just a guy who claims a bunch of aliens did some really weird things to him. Looking at his work so far, from Communion to 2012, a picture emerges of Strieber as the John the Baptist of the alien paradigm—the “chosen one” of a race of preterhuman, apparently ancient, unimaginably advanced beings. Crying in the wilderness of 21st century civilization, mocked and derided by orthodoxy (in this case science rather than religion), he is nonetheless regarded with awe and fascination by a growing number of devoted followers, all eager to partake of his strange baptism. (Between his website and his radio show “Dreamland,” Strieber’s followers number in the hundreds of thousands.)
While many people dismiss Strieber as a liar out for a fast buck (Communion was a best-seller), others, more charitable, merely suggest he is deluded or insane. In Communion, Strieber himself claims he was willing, even eager, to believe his experiences were the result of a brain tumor or some undiscovered form of mental aberration, but that eventually he had to face up to the fact that what appeared to be happening really was happening to him. Even back in 1986, Strieber was not alone in his claims of alien abduction. Whether collective hallucination, hard cold fact, or something that is neither one nor the other, reports of the phenomena became widespread throughout the ’80s and ’90s (especially in the US), to the extent that a Harvard professor, John Mack, even wrote two books about it. Mack lost his chair at Harvard as a result, however, and orthodox science continues to regard the subject as beneath its contempt, unworthy even of the time it would take to contest it.
Strieber started out as a writer of horror novels, a somewhat dubious pedigree that made it considerably easier for his debunkers to dismiss him. Strieber, they said, was a spinner of yarns, pulling the oldest trick in the book and boosting his flagging sales by claiming his latest yarn really happened. Yet, comparing Strieber’s horror fiction to Communion and its sequel, Transformation, one can’t help but be struck by the difference. Strieber’s horror novels are passable pulp, but his supposedly true experiences are powerfully disturbing works; reading them, there can be little doubt Strieber is sincere in his belief that these events actually occurred. No less discerning an intelligence than author William Burroughs—who was curious enough to pay a personal visit to Strieber—spoke out in Strieber’s support. “I am convinced that he’s telling the truth,” Burroughs said after his visit, “no doubt about it.”
To dismiss Strieber as insane doesn’t work, either. There were plenty of other witnesses to testify to the strange goings-on around his New York cabin during the period he supposedly underwent his experiences. (Ed Conroy even wrote a whole book on his investigations, called The Communion Report.) So if Strieber is neither insane nor lying, if what he says happened actually happened, the question becomes: how accurate are his accounts, and why, exactly, did these beings choose a well-known author of horror fiction to introduce their presence to humanity?
“Remember this: earth has given birth to something we call the human mind. But the visitors view it as a precious resource of innovation and, ultimately, of ecstasy. They are indifferent to power, but willing to use dark appearances to give lessons.”
—Strieber, “Summer of Promise, Summer of Danger,” July 12th, 2003.
Rather than trying to sum up Strieber’s experiences, and his interpretation of them, it is simplest to let his words speak for themselves:
“The close encounters I had between 1985 and 1994 were scary, but only because they were so unusual. The people—or beings—I met were complex and, in the end, gentle. They had a wonderful, subtle sense of humor. There were many personalities involved, obviously many different individuals. My life with them was spiritually and intellectually rewarding. They responded with deep understanding to the path I was on, and worked with me as true masters work with a student on the journey toward higher consciousness.”
Strieber lived with the visitors for many years. “This was an extremely subtle, paradoxical and complicated experience. I encountered many different levels of being, some of them openly terrible, others more neutral, others sublime. I have no way of knowing if they were all the same or different creatures entirely. . . . The message of my contact experience is, therefore, clear: face the fear and you will get rewarded by breaking down natural barriers to perception that impede you from interacting completely with the world in which you live.”
Strieber describes the beings as emanating from “a world that reaches across space and time, that penetrates not only this universe and its secrets, but many others as well, that is ancient beyond belief and, in a way that I can hardly even begin to explain, impeccable. I’m not saying that they’re pleasant. They’re as tough as nails, as mean as snakes and as dangerous as plutonium. . . . You cannot be with them without also being with your own truth. Then you see what you really are, a little fragment in a vastness so great, so various and so shockingly, unimaginably conscious that it completely swallows you.”
This more or less sums up Strieber’s “objective” (mostly impartial) view of his alleged experiences with the beings: there is a dark side to them, but one that seems to provide context, “shading,” for a far larger experience which includes both positive and negative aspects. Overall, Strieber seems convinced that the effects of his “close encounters” have been beneficent to him.
Although Strieber is unsure just how many different beings—and kinds of beings—he has interacted with over the years, he is sure about one of them: “The woman whose portrait is on the cover of Communion . . . was without a doubt the greatest master I have ever known. Her being projected devastatingly powerful knowledge. . . . She has been with me for longer than life itself. I am one of her many projects. In the world of the soul, she’s rich, on a big journey in the direction of ecstasy, and seeking to travel there the only way you can, in a great chorus of free souls.”
The Dark Side
“Ultimately, as a species, we have no escape from this. . . . In fact, no amount of struggle is going to dislodge them. For whatever reason, I think we have been left to the exploiters and the scum. Who knows? Maybe the good guys gave up or lost a war. Maybe those of us who got good treatment were simply being deceived.”
—Strieber, “Shedding Light on the Dark Side, Part Two,” December 7th, 2003.
In the past few years, however, Strieber has become increasingly preoccupied with what he refers to as “the dark side” of the alien experience. This preoccupation has colored his writings to a disturbing degree, and at times his morbid fascination with the darker undercurrents of spiritual experience seems to border on obsession. Strieber had hinted at this dark side from the very beginning (his original title for Communion was “Body Terror”); but his general take on it was that whatever darkness or negativity he encountered was sourced in his own fear. More recently however, he has begun to present a more traditional picture of evil, and consequently (perhaps unconsciously), begun to return to his roots as a horror writer. “Some of them are not like the woman I met and her staff. Some of them qualify as what we would call monsters, in every sense of that word. . . . What is happening now is absolutely terrifying, so much so that I have kept it to myself in hopes that I was wrong, or that it would change.”
By 2003 he had this to say: “I’m a realist and what is now real is that the only thing that appears to be left of the contact experience is the dark side. So that’s what we have to face now. … In any case, the experience I had and what happens now seem to me to be very different things, almost as if somebody good has left and somebody surpassingly evil has remained here. . . . There are beings here who are hostile to one another, and some who hate us with a passion so great that it would be considered psychotic if it was displayed by a human being. There are some in a very complex and parasitical relationship with our minds, and some of these seem to me to be close enough to the human to suggest that they are hybrids of some kind. . . . I believe that this presence is what keeps us trapped here on earth, what prevents mankind from becoming a cosmic being, and what has been maneuvering us toward the earliest possible extinction. . . . something so profoundly evil that it is almost beyond imagination.”
Beyond the imagination even of a writer of horror fiction? Apparently not. Strieber’s most recent novel, 2012, provides perhaps the most chillingly convincing depiction of spiritual evil in the annals of occult literature. So the question is: has the shift from positive to negative aspects of the “alien experience” occurred in some actual, objective realm, or only in Strieber himself?
A Writer Divided
“We are part of a symbiotic relationship with something which disguises itself as an extra-terrestrial invasion so as not to alarm us.”
In my book The Lucid View, I described the many pitfalls of translating experiences of Imaginal realities into actual, nuts-and-bolts events and phenomena. The process of transferring “data” from Imaginal to actual reality is how the psychic elements of the collective unconscious become conscious, and thereby concrete “fact.” This occurs via individual experiences that gradually amass and find a foothold in the consensus. Ufos—and most especially alien abduction—are perhaps the most profound illustration of this process, and of the dangers inherent within it.
The nature of Imaginal reality is fluid, subjective, ever-changing. It shifts to suit the needs of the moment (and the percipient). The nature of actual reality is fixed, unchanging, objective, a take-it-or-leave-it, like-it-or-lump-it proposition. While actual reality is always a question of either/or, Imaginal truths are quite happy to remain as both/and. (For example, in Transformation, when Strieber’s young son begins to have his own visitor experiences, Strieber asks him if he thinks the beings are real. His son replies, “They can be.”) Just as religious and political organizations grow increasingly tyrannical, soulless and mechanical the more established they become, so it is with Imaginal realities. Alien “grays” are considerably less protean or magical beings than faeries. This appears to be the result of being reduced to an almost physical, literal presence that can be understood, encapsulated, and restricted by the human mind, and by its most cherished faculty of reason.
Whether the Imaginal “beings” resent being limited and literalized in this fashion and become faintly malevolent as a response, or whether (as seems more reasonable) they have no such qualities as benevolence or malevolence to begin with (any more than ball lightning or thunder clouds do), and merely reflect back at us our own psychological tendencies, the fact remains that alien and Ufo phenomena has always had a sinister edge to it. This dark edge comes less from the phenomenon itself than from a distortion that occurs once it is filtered through the minds of individual researchers and experiencers. Faery lore was also dark, but dark in a primal, sorcerous fashion. Ufo lore, on the other hand, tends to be heavy, oppressive, and laced with despair. There is a soulless—one might even say sickly—quality to it that results when writers and researchers suck all the magical essence out of the Imaginal by imposing their own rigid (and neurotic) personalities onto it. This usually happens without their even being aware of doing so, which is basically the problem: it is an unconscious distortion, and it is unconsciousness that distorts.
The best Ufo commentators—Jung, John Keel, Jacques Vallee, Robert Anton Wilson, Terence McKenna, Kenneth Grant—have been aware of this pitfall, and so managed mostly to avoid it. Freely acknowledging the unfixed, mythical nature of the Ufo beast, they have treated it accordingly, allowing it to remain an essentially unknown, possibly even an unknowable, quality. Yet as a general rule (McKenna and Grant being partial exceptions), these writers have not been recounting their own personal experiences but simply interpreting data provided by others; hence they have had the luxury of distance.
If his accounts are true, Strieber has had no such luxury. He has not only had direct experience of alien abduction, he has been transformed and to a large extent “created” by it; as such, his position as a “researcher” is severely compromised. He is closer to St. Paul, struck blind by a divine presence and instantly converted to its frequency. Strieber talks a lot about objectivity, but for all his insight and intelligence, he is clearly a man with a mission (as he himself freely admits). His mission, as ambassador to otherworldly beings, is to help humanity prepare for contact and communication with them. As such, he is obliged to present these beings as actual, concrete, literal fact, with nothing airy-fairy, pie-in-the-sky, subjective or Imaginal about them. That this is plainly impossible is testified by the glaring inconsistencies of his descriptions, and his own almost constant see-sawing as to whether the beings are benevolent or not.
At times, Strieber seems like a man caught in a mental conundrum, trying to talk his way out of it, yet never daring to admit that he doesn’t know if he’s coming or going. Strieber presents so many different points of view, at varying times on his website and in his books, that there almost seems to be more than one of him. And perhaps this is indeed the case?
Angels or Demons?
“Do you see how complex this is? Are you following the forked moral path I am treading along? How can an ‘angel’ rape and kill? Of course, they must be demons. I’ve got it all wrong!”
—Strieber, “Shedding Light on the Dark Side, Part Two,” December 7th, 2003.
Although Strieber’s attempts to define the beings he has encountered are constantly shifting, even contradictory, this in no way invalidates his experiences; on the contrary, such uncertainty only confirms that whatever he has undergone is beyond his ability—maybe anybody’s—to categorize. Strieber seems almost deliberately oblivious to how his theories conflict and even cancel each other out, yet paradoxically, the lack of consistency to his accounts might actually be construed as evidence for their veracity. If Strieber were undergoing initiation into an alien paradigm, we would expect it to confound our every expectation!
In Strieber’s first book, the famous cover image is of a yellow or tan-skinned being, and Strieber never once describes the beings he encounters as gray. Yet he has been repeatedly referred to as a “gray” abductee and has gone along happily with this designation; in 2006, he even wrote a novel called The Grays (a somewhat clumsy work with some remarkable ideas in it). But if the beings he described in Communion are synonymous with the infamous “grays,” then what’s with the skin color? This seems an odd discrepancy never to have even referred to.
More disturbingly, in The Key, Strieber refers to the beings who visited him in 1985 as “demons.” Yet, in Transformation and elsewhere, he writes of being in the presence of angels. Strieber’s explanation for this (in Majestic) is that the beings are empaths, reflecting back at us whatever we have inside of ourselves. But if this is the case, why designate them either way? In The Grays, he describes the aliens as a dying race with atrophied DNA, using humans to regenerate their species. At other times, he describes the visitors as nonphysical beings, “midwifing” humanity into a new existence beyond the realm of the flesh. Back and forth he goes, rarely if ever attempting to explain—or even acknowledge—his polarity of opinion.
This may be deliberate. Strieber may be leaving it for us to join the dots and crack the riddle without his help; in which case, he knows exactly what he is doing. Yet I can’t help but suspect that, in his profound ambivalence, even confusion, Strieber is torn at a deep level. If so, this can only be the result of a certain psychological inflexibility.
(Despite it all, the initiate clings to his old system of beliefs, his intellect and reason. But as is well known, the initiate cannot cross the Abyss until he has relinquished every last trace of belief or personal self, or madness or destruction will result.)
Strieber’s accounts of the beings in Communion and Transformation are not only terrifying; they are delightful and enchanting, full of twinkling humor, mischief, and love. They are the rarest kinds of works: fairy tales for adults. How could the author reach the conclusion he was writing about demons?
To give an example of Strieber’s inconsistency that may seem minor, but which I think is telling: in Transformation, he describes how, after the publication of Communion, a bookseller he knew, Bruce Lee, encountered two apparently alien beings, clumsily disguised in human clothing, who came into his bookstore. The beings picked up a copy of Strieber’s book, tutted and made a comment about how Strieber had got some things wrong, gave Lee a fierce stare, and left without further ado. As he reported in Transformation, Strieber was enormously impressed by this event, which he considered tantamount to proof of his experiences. He expressed admiration for the humor of the visitors, who he felt had let him know—via this playful piece of theater—that his interpretation of events was flawed, but that at least he had got some of it right. Many years later, at his website in 2004, he expressed a very different point of view: “as you may remember, two of the grays showed up in a bookstore with Wm. Morrow & Co. editor Bruce Lee and let him know that Communion was a load of mistakes. Naturally, they were lying. It is not a load of mistakes. It is accurate, and people sensed that, which is why they responded to it.”
This defensive remark is not only lacking in humility but also inaccurate (according to his early account, the beings didn’t call the book “a load of mistakes” but merely pointed out that it contained mistakes). In fact, it almost seems to come from another person altogether—someone considerably less sure of himself who feels a need to defend his position even if it means calling his alien benefactors liars. To add insult to injury, he dismisses the beings as “grays,” even though one of them—or so Strieber believed at the time—was the same woman he referred to (later) as “the greatest master I have ever known.” This goes beyond inconsistency into mental confusion.
The contradictions to be found in Strieber’s writings are legion, but perhaps most glaring of all are his occasional lapses into political conservatism, such as when he expressed support for the Iraq war in 2003 , or, even more bizarrely, when he defended President Bush after 9/11, and declared himself a patriot. In this post, Strieber indignantly dismisses any suggestion the Bush administration had prior knowledge of the attacks on the twin towers (or a hand in them) as a “crazy imaginary conspiracy theory . . . bizarre and impossible [to suggest] our current president is evil on a Hitlerian scale.” In the same post, without mentioning David Icke, he derides a belief in Reptilian beings disguised as world leaders as belonging to the same class of “crazy ideas.”
This seems odd, to put it mildly, coming from someone who has railed so bitterly against the derision, arrogance, and ignorant dismissal which his own experiences have met with. But it becomes even more peculiar when, without making any overt retractions, Strieber performs a complete turnaround in the following years. Just six months after defending the Iraq war, Strieber described the US government as “in effect, the tool of an occupying power that seeks to sterilize this planet of humanity.” In late 2005, he admitted how, over the years, he “began to see government as a machine for the killing of souls.” In “Was 911 a Hoax?” (February 2nd 2006), Strieber finally came clean and admitted that his dismissal of 9/11 conspiracy theories as “nonsense” had been premature, and speculated how “I might live in a country run by a bunch of mass murderers.”
Has it taken Strieber twenty years and God knows what kind of shamanic initiations and evolutionary engineering to figure this out? The question is not merely rhetorical. It is meant to point out what I perceive as a drastic split in Strieber’s worldview. On the one hand, he appears to possess a rare ability to see behind the façade of consensus reality, into the abyss beyond; on the other, he continues to “vote Republican”!? (I speak figuratively, though for all I know Strieber is, or was, naïve enough to actually vote.) What this suggests is that a great deal of Strieber’s knowledge, insight, and apparent wisdom is entirely theoretical, and that, for all his eloquent explorations into Imaginal realms, he is still (at times at least) shackled to a distressingly mundane perspective.
2012 & the Need for Secrecy
“In all of this, there is only one thing that we do, and that is that we deny contact. It is not the visitors who hold back, it is us who make the process impossible.”
—Strieber, “Christmas Joy: Mankind is Awakening,” December 14th, 2001.
By the time of 2012 (released last year), the author seems to have stolen a page out of David Icke’s books and decided he is writing about Reptilians. 2012 is a dark, intensely disturbing work that depicts evil as real, terrifying, and blackly understandable. Strieber’s forecast for the coming apocalypse—the “war of souls”—reestablishes him as a leading spokesperson for the eschaton: John the Baptist of the Alien Presence. But Strieber’s descriptions of the aliens here (which he calls Seraph) are almost entirely negative. There are no angels to speak of, and—what’s even more worrying—no fairies, imps, goblins, sprites, or trickster spirits. For the most part, the book is unrelentingly dark, which is perhaps appropriate for the subject matter (and considering the times); but even so, the spirit of play is almost entirely absent, and this seems less appropriate, even slightly dubious.
If Strieber is unable to decide whether his nocturnal visitors are angels or demons, it’s hardly surprising if he feels profoundly ambivalent about his task as bellwether for the alien paradigm. In his early books, Strieber suggested that, since these beings appeared to emerge from a nonphysical realm, their reality (for us) might depend on our belief in them. In 2012, Strieber states unequivocally that the “aliens” can only enter our realm once they have assumed sufficient “solidity” via our collective belief. To emerge from the dark well of the collective psyche, he says, they require a foothold in our conscious minds. Strieber even states that the government cover-up (which he once railed so bitterly against) is a means to protect the world from this emergence. The day public awareness of the alien presence reaches consensus, alien “invasion” will not be far behind. This is another example of Strieber contradicting himself, since for years he has been denouncing the secrecy and denial shrouding the visitors as the great evil of our times. Although he admits that their undisclosed presence among us would be catastrophic, he has generally argued for full disclosure; at times he has even suggested that awareness of the beings is the only thing that will protect us from them!
“If the people who know the truth told the truth, we would, at a stroke, be free. I have written before in these columns about what they fear—that official disclosure would lead to profoundly unpredictable and unexpected consequences, even to a change in the nature of our world. The truth is, if they had the courage to make the official admissions that would lead the average man to know for certain that there was a presence here, that presence would become unable to do its will in our world.”
So which is it? Both, or neither?
Perhaps his most persuasive theory is that of a complicity of secrecy and denial between humanity and the visitors, based on a mutual desire to avoid an overly traumatic encounter. Strieber suggests, I think astutely, that most humans would be utterly overwhelmed by religious awe in the presence of something as utterly incomprehensible as alien beings. “That’s the problem that the visitors are having here. If they intervene openly, our culture totally refocuses itself toward them and all human innovation stops. We end up locked in a state of profound disempowerment that will take many generations to recover, and that will leave a permanent scar. The visitors cannot reveal themselves to us. We must reveal ourselves to them.”
All well and good. But in 2012, Strieber presents the invasion as a satanic emergence and nothing short of global apocalypse. There is little if any mention of a positive or divine alien presence. Has Strieber’s allegiances shifted to the dark side also? Why is he so busy writing books to persuade people these beings are real, if he firmly believes they are evil and that our belief in them only empowers them further? To his credit, Strieber raises the question himself, indirectly, by including a thinly disguised self-portrait in the novel—Wiley Dale, a horror writer who has written about his own real-life alien encounters—and then revealing him as a Reptilian in disguise! Having thrown us for this tangential loop, he then reveals that Wiley is one of the “good” Seraph (Reptilians). Phew!
With almost sinister cunning, Strieber toys with the reader’s fears and doubts and creates a shifting, kaleidoscopic meta-fiction of parallel universes in which life imitates art and fiction bleeds into fact, a world where nothing is quite real and reality is like nothing we have ever imagined before. Yet if, as a writer, Strieber is comfortable enough with his own ambivalence to play mind games with the reader, one can only suspect that he is wrestling with far deeper doubts at a personal level. Who can blame him? If he were not, we would be forced to doubt either his sanity or his authenticity.
2012 is an intensely personal work that reveals a depth of psychological self-exploration unusual (to say the least) for genre fiction. It reveals so much about its author, in fact, that it takes the reader beyond mere darkness into chthonic realms of madness worthy of Edgar Allan Poe. Were it not so lucidly composed and so finely balanced a work, one might suspect it was the creation of a madman (albeit an inspired one). Is Whitley’s sanity hanging in the balance? Based on the kind of experiences he has had, and the kind of knowledge with which he lives on a daily basis, it would probably be stranger and more worrying if his sanity weren’t in question. If anything, Strieber’s weakness may be that he is not insane enough. Through it all, he remains stubbornly lucid and reasonable, and this is not necessary an advantage when navigating the sorcery kingdoms. In such realms, the stronger and more resistant the intellect, the more likely it is to bring about the traveler’s downfall.
I would wager that the burden of knowledge (and foreknowledge) weighs heavily on Strieber’s spirit, and may be threatening to crush the “play” out of him. If so, he might remember to take a leaf out of his own book: “Childhood is the kingdom.”
The Pinchbeck Debate
“Our species is in the process of making a deeply spiritual decision about whether to enter the cosmos or go extinct.”
—Strieber, “Communion 20 Years On,” 26th December, 2005
Last year, Strieber got into a heated debate with writer Daniel Pinchbeck (2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl), whom Strieber invited onto his radio show, “Dreamland.” The argument centered around Strieber’s conviction that humanity is about to undergo a massive “dieback” as a result of its aberrational activities on the planet, and Pinchbeck’s assertion that Strieber was projecting a negative scenario due to his own hang-ups. Pinchbeck also suggested that Strieber was unwittingly being controlled by alien beings “that do not have the best interests of the human species at heart.” Reporting on the event later, Pinchbeck commented: “On a subliminal or subconscious level, Strieber appears to have made a Faustian pact with these Mephistophelean entities, and unfortunately he is helping disseminate their negative and destructive frequency into human culture and consciousness, at this point in time.”
Although Pinchbeck mostly kept his cool (and even had the dignity to apologize), Strieber became quite indignant and professed to have been wounded in is “very being” by Pinchbeck’s attack. It seems incredible that, after two decades of being heckled by doubters and mocked and reviled by the mainstream media, Strieber should be so deeply vulnerable to criticism as this. After all, Pinchbeck’s perspective is easy to understand, and is probably shared by lots of people (among those who take Strieber’s claims seriously). Strieber admits to having been implanted by the beings, and eulogizes over some of the siddhis he has developed as a result of the implant—powers that include interdimensional travel, time travel, and reading people’s minds. If his accounts are even half true, Strieber’s capacities verge on the Ubermenschian. Yet Strieber’s public persona, as evidenced by his radio show, is of a typical, brash American talk show host. His delivery struck me as glib, facile, and painfully inauthentic, totally belying the apparent perspicacity of his writing (as did his rather hysterical behavior with Pinchbeck). So much so, in fact, that I was left wondering if this could really be the same person behind much of Strieber’s writings. Evidently, there is much more to Strieber than meets the eye—or the ear.
Of course, whether Strieber is being controlled and whether the forces controlling him are benign makes not the slightest difference to his writings, which can only be judged on their own merit and meaning. What is relevant to them, however, is Strieber’s own character and integrity, since this tells us how fully he embodies his teachings, and clues us into how much we should value them. If Strieber doesn’t walk his talk, we are naturally less inclined to put stock in what he says. Unfortunately, astral Ubermensch or not, Strieber appears to lack the personal development to deal with attacks like Pinchbeck’s, making it clear that alien initiation and a vast storehouse of esoteric knowledge have done little to provide him with much by way of inner peace, detachment, or equanimity. On the contrary, they seem to have unbalanced him to a disturbing degree. This throws into question everything Strieber has had to say until now.
Whitley As Victim of Mind Control?
“I have really and truly been outside of mankind, insofar as I have treated with nonhuman intelligent beings. I have seen what they are, and therefore now see my own kind to a degree as an outsider.”
—Whitley Strieber, “Communion 20 Years On,” 26th December, 2005
Recently, somewhere around 2003, Strieber introduced an astonishing new element into his personal saga, one that both deepened and darkened the waters, while at the same time offering a profound clue to understanding them—perhaps even the key to the mystery. This revelation centered around Strieber’s buried memories of having suffered traumatic abuse as a child at the hands of the US government.
Strieber reported at his journal: “I strongly suspect that the United States has for years been experimenting on children, among other things subjecting them to extreme trauma in order to split their personalities and create secondary personalities who can be accessed by controllers and used as agents, but without knowledge of the first personality.”
A few months later he added more background: “Recently, the Central Intelligence Agency released another 18,000 declassified documents about its mind control experiments, which included an attempt to induce multiple personalities in two 19 year old girls. Before the 1973 Congressional investigation that led to the disclosure of the CIA’s notorious MK-ULTRA mind control project, [CIA director] Richard Helms destroyed thousands of documents. My belief is that what he destroyed was documentary evidence of such experiments being performed on much younger children.”
There is indeed a great deal of evidence that such experiments did in fact occur (and may be still occurring). Strieber’s claim to have been part of them, to have suffered abuse expressly intended to create sub-personalities through trauma, opens a whole new can of worms regarding his other experiences. According to Strieber, the “visitors” were actively involved in his life from an early age, and selected him at least partially as a result of the ritualized and systematized abuse he suffered as a child. “They took advantage of a devastating intelligence program that was leaving some children emotionally maimed, but was also opening the minds of others to new possibilities.”
What I wish to suggest is that, as a result of this early trauma (to say nothing of possible later traumas at the hands of nonhuman agencies), Strieber may have experienced a splintering of his psyche that to this day has not fully healed. Whether or not he is suffering from multiple personality disorder, it may be that he is not fully cognizant of the various shattered portions of his psyche, and that, through the act of writing, Strieber is attempting to bring these fragments into harmony. This would explain the many contradictions in his writing, the endless see-sawing points of view, the abrupt shifts from guru-like wisdom to wounded annoyance and childish assertions of ego. Strieber may literally be divided, making his writings a painfully honest, alternatively inspirational and infuriating description of his attempt to come to grips with the broken shards of his psyche, as he struggles to put “humpty” back together again. As accounts of the slow and agonizing process of individuation by which Strieber seeks to arrive at the totality of himself, his writings may be some of the most profoundly significant we have, albeit not quite in the way they at first appear (or were intended by Strieber).
Is “Whitley Strieber”—the writer—merely the dominant personality that has taken charge of a multitude of selves, at least one of which is an alien being (“the greatest master I have ever known”)? If so, it may be only through the act of writing that Strieber manages to maintain a semblance of order, integrity and coherence. It may also be that his dominant ego-self is only partially privy to the wisdom and insights of “alien” selves considerably more enlightened than he is. The dominant position of his everyday ego self, then (always an extremely precarious thing), would depend on a sense of consistency and continuity which writing, above all, provides him. The price of this literarily imposed order, however, is that Strieber remains fragmented. For all the knowledge, wisdom, and spiritual insight which his writing contains, Strieber may be the very last person to benefit from it.
The Gray Agenda and Whitley’s Mission
“No doubt, I won’t be believed, and that’s all right, because, in a sense, it leaves me free in ways that belief would not.”
—Whitley Strieber, “New Thoughts,” 10th Sept 2005
Strieber’s contention is that a small number of the child victims of government mind control abuse were selected by the visitors (for their own mysterious agenda) and that he was one of the chosen. “There were only a few thousand of these children worldwide, but they were enough to form the nucleus of what is essentially a communications device made up of human minds that has been, in effect, ‘implanted’ in our culture. It takes the form of millions of close encounter witnesses whose experiences are brought into focus by these few thousand, who comprise the great majority of the witnesses who speak out publicly about what has happened to them.” If this is the case, then Strieber is beyond doubt the most vocal, well-known, and influential of these “witnesses,” placing him at the very heart (or head) of the “communications device” which he posits.
A year or so previous to this revelation, Strieber made the following admission: “I have failed to link us to the visitors. I have failed to break the bondage of official secrecy, or to save the souls of the keepers of the secrets. I have failed to raise the eyes of the average man.” Despite his sense of failure, however, Strieber has not given up. In 2006, coincident with the release of The Grays (which he claims the aliens helped him to write), he posted the following statement: “I will be frank with you about what I am trying to do with my life: I am trying to create a relationship between us and the grays. Right now, we do not have a relationship, for two reasons: our attitude toward them is dysfunctional; and they do not know how to reach into our culture without destroying it. My ambition is to make the relationship fruitful, and to enable them to interact with us openly without wrecking our lives.”
Finally, in 2007, Strieber made what is in many ways his most revealing observation, at least in respect to his own work with (for?) the visitors: “They will not at first address the species’ various religious ideas except in very general terms, by communicating with us in triads, with a positive thrust and a negative thrust, leaving us to evolve the message by reconciling its two parts. [My italics.] I know that this is very, very different from the way we communicate, but it works and if they do show up it will become familiar enough.”
Is Strieber, by his constant pendulum-like swings from a positive to negative “thrust,” making us familiar with the visitors preferred method of communication? Regarding their strange truths about good and evil being not an either/or proposition, but both/and? And does this mean that the disorientation, fragmentation, and conflict which Strieber displays in his attempts to come to grips with his experiences is itself an integral part of the meaning which “the visitors” wish to communicate to us?
Strieber believes the visitors intervened to rescue him from abuse at the hands of malevolent government agents. He writes, “the close encounters were real . . . they involved literally breaking through into another level of reality in order to escape the hell I was enduring in this one. Modern research suggests that parallel universes may be very real, and that they may exist all around us.”
As Strieber sees it, he escaped the clutches of evil by literally taking refuge in another reality. Yet, since these memories remained buried, under the domain of another aspect of his psyche, it seems fair to say that Strieber also created a parallel self by which to enter his conjectured “parallel universe.” I am not suggesting here that the one theory explains away the other—on the contrary—what I am suggesting is that both versions may be equally accurate. Psychotherapy would say that Strieber’s psyche splintered into many multiple selves and that he fled into fantasy to escape an unpleasant reality. Strieber would argue that his soul journeyed into other worlds and encountered nonhuman intelligences there. These two interpretations—so apparently at odds—may simply be two ways of describing the same event. Whether Strieber is enlightened soul-traveler or paranoid schizophrenic depends on whether or not he succeeds in integrating the various aspects of his psyche and so claiming the knowledge and power his experiences have made available to him.
As Strieber writes, “it is the foundation of all of my life at the edge of reality, and that I am presently in the process of rediscovering it [sic], and perhaps learning how to link my lives in different realities so that I can have a single, integrated set of memories that includes everything that I have done and known in the years of my life.”
What this implies is that Strieber’s experiences—if fully understood by us—have the potential to blow open the whole mystery-conflict of subjective/objective, inner/outer, actual/Imaginal, and to map the process of psychic individuation by which the two worlds (and the countless aspects of the human psyche) can be bridged, and so unified into a single, continuous whole. The creation of a soul-body continuum.
As it happens, this is exactly what Strieber claims to be doing: “I’m always getting people asking me not to write fiction. But it is through the fiction that I can gain access to the memories of the reality I have lived. My fiction, I think, contains a secret history of a secret life, and, when it is all written, will be a map, if read with objectivity and knowledge, for journeyers between the worlds.”
What is curiously exasperating about Strieber is that he still insists on making an arbitrary distinction between the idea of “fiction” and “non-fiction.” It is this incapacity to embrace the ultimate realization of Imaginal truth—that experiences do not have to be seen as either real or unreal, but must finally be accepted as both real and unreal—that may be the key to Strieber’s pathology. If so, it is a pathology that is shared by us all.
Agent Provocateur in the Dream
“Too much importance is given the writer and not enough to his work. What difference does it make who he is and what he feels, since he’s merely a machine for the transmission of ideas. In reality he doesn’t exist—he’s a cipher, a blank. A spy sent into life by the forces of death. His main objective is to get the information across the border, back into death. Then he can be given a mythical personality.”
When it comes to understanding the question of Ufos and alien abductions—and specifically that of “the Grays”—the essential thing to remember is that none of this is what it seems. And although I am quite sure Strieber would be the very first person to admit this (at least on a good day)—has been at pains for years to convey this very idea—for all of that he seems unable to resist the urge to talk and write about the phenomena as if it were, finally, apprehensible to reason. As a result, Strieber spends half his time arguing against simplistic, literal-minded, “good or evil, angel or devil” interpretations, and the other half either damning the beings as demons or advocating them as angels. Apparently, this is all part of the aliens’ chosen method of presentation: a positive perspective, a negative one, and finally a synthesis of both. Yet Strieber follows this approach in such a haphazard, slipshod fashion that at times he seems unaware of doing so. It is almost as if he has been programmed by his “visitors,” and that, in order to be effective, he must remain in the dark himself, at least until he reaches the third perspective, and achieves synthesis of his various, fragmented selves (assuming he ever does).
When Strieber is in negative mode, he seems wholly convinced by his own rhetoric, and as such, is entirely convincing. Ditto with his positive mode. The result is that his writings are alternatively disorientating, confounding, oppressive, uplifting, lucid, obtuse, a mixture of profoundest insights with the most garbled nonsense, all presented with more or less the same degree of sincerity and eloquence. In the end, Strieber begins to seem less a man than a living, breathing fairy tale, an eerie, unsettling amalgam of diverse perspectives and outlandish tales, taken from this world and from countless others, a sort of Frankenstein’s monster, a golem created by incomprehensible forces as a host intelligence for alchemical mysteries, in order to bring them “across the border,” into the land of the living.
In his last work (The Active Side of Infinity), Carlos Castaneda described himself as “an agent provocateur in the dream.” The author Paul Bowles, perhaps for similar reasons, once defined the writer as “a spy sent into life by the forces of death.”
I can think of no two better descriptions of Strieber than these.
© Aeolus Kephas, 2008