Part One: Will the Real Whitley Strieber Please Stand Up? (Read Part Two here).
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 man who claims that aliens did some highly strange things to him. Looking at his work so far, from Communion to The Communion Enigma: What Is To Come (which I have not yet read), 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 large number of devoted followers, all eager to partake of his strange baptism. (Between his website and his radio show "Dreamland," Strieber's followers apparently number in the hundreds of thousands.)
While many have dismissed Strieber as a liar, out for a fast buck (Communion was a best-seller), others, more charitable, merely suggest that 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 eventually he had to accept that what appeared to be happening really was happening. 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 (who died in a hit and run accident in 2004) almost lost his chair at Harvard as a result of his research, however, and orthodox science continues to regard the subject as beneath 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 presenting his latest yarn as fact. 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, while his supposedly true accounts are powerfully disturbing; reading them, there can be little doubt Strieber is sincere in his belief that these events actually occurred. No less discerning an intelligence than the author William Burroughs -- who was curious enough to pay a personal visit to Strieber in 1989 -- 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, because there were plenty of other witnesses to testify to the strange goings-on around his New York cabin during the period in which he 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 to ask is: 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, I will 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. . . .[i] 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.[ii]"
Having lived with the visitors for many years, 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."[iii]
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, or "shading," for a far larger experience which includes positive and negative aspects. Overall, Strieber seems to believe that the effects of his "close encounters" have been beneficent to him. And although unsure how many different beings -- or 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."[iv]
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 more recent years, however, Strieber became increasingly preoccupied with what he has referred 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 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, it was sourced in his own fears of the unknown. Over time, however, he began to present a more traditional picture of evil, and consequently (perhaps unconsciously), 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."[v]
Two years later, in 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."[vi]
Apparently not beyond the imagination of a writer of horror fiction, however, as Strieber's recent novel, 2012, provided perhaps the most chillingly convincing depiction of spiritual evil in the annals of occult literature. So did the shift from the positive to negative aspects of "alien contact" occur in some actual, objective realm -- or only in Strieber's experience of it?
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." --Terence McKenna
In 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 elements of the collective unconscious become conscious, and thereby assume the semblance of 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 of the percipient. The nature of actual reality is fixed, unchanging, objective, a take-it-or-leave-it, like-it-or-lump-it affair. While actual reality is always a question of either/or, Imaginal truths are quite happy to remain in the twilight realm of both/and. In Transformation, when Strieber's young son has 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 were the faeries of previous lore. It is as if the same "beings" (aspects of the collective unconscious) are slowly reduced to an almost physical, literal presence that can be understood, encapsulated, and restricted by the human mind, and in tandem with its increasing reliance upon the 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 lack qualities of benevolence or malevolence to begin with 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. I believe that this dark edge comes less from the phenomenon itself than from a distortion that results from being 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 -- I 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: 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 have 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.
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 on a mission (a fact he freely admits). His mission as ambassador to otherworldly beings is to help humanity prepare for contact. 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 such a view is at odds with the nature of the contact experience 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 and rarely, if ever, willing to admit that he doesn't know what is going on. Strieber presents so many different points of view, at varying times on his website and in his books, that it is almost as if there is more than one of him. Perhaps, in a peculiar way, this is indeed the case?
A Tidal Wave of Novelty & Strangeness
"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, it is beyond his ability -- and maybe beyond anybody's -- to categorize it. Strieber often seems to be oblivious to how his theories conflict, and even cancel each other out. Yet paradoxically, that lack of consistency might be seen as evidence for the veracity of his accounts, because if Strieber were undergoing initiation into an alien paradigm, we would expect it to confound all expectations.
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 never corrected this designation. In 2006, he wrote a novel called The Grays (a somewhat clumsy work with some remarkable ideas in it), thereby cementing his association with them. But if the beings he described in Communion are synonymous with the infamous "grays," then why the incongruity of skin color? It seems an odd discrepancy never to have even referred to.
More strikingly, in his 2001 book 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. So then why designate them either way? In The Grays, Strieber 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 -- this polarity of opinion.
It 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. 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, made a comment about how Strieber had got some things wrong, gave Lee a fierce stare, and left. As he recounted it in Transformation, Strieber was enormously impressed by this event, which he considered tantamount to proof of the visitors' physical existence. He expressed admiration for their sense of humor, and he they had let him know -- via a playful piece of theater -- that his interpretation of the 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."[vii]
Strieber's remark is lacking in humility, but it's also inaccurate, according to his earlier account at least -- in which the beings didn't call the book "a load of mistakes" but merely pointed out that it contained mistakes. The writer seems defensive and unsure of himself, and to have no qualms about 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." Such contradictions 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[viii], or, even more bizarrely, when he defended President Bush after 9/11 and declared himself a patriot. In the post ("Conspiracy Theories: Should We Listen Now?" October 13th, 2001), 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."
Coming from someone who has railed so furiously against the arrogance, ignorance, derision and dismissal which his own experiences have met with, this seems an odd position to take. It became even more peculiar when, without making any overt retractions, Strieber performed 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."[ix] In late 2005, he admitted how, over the years, he "began to see government as a machine for the killing of souls."[x] 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." Admittedly, this is an example of Strieber admitting his error and so smoothing out the contradictions in his perception over time. But how many other contradictions or errors in judgment, perhaps equally obvious to everyone but himself, has he failed to notice?
That Strieber ever supported the Bush administration and the Iraq war at all is itself evidence of a drastic split in his worldview. While on the one hand, he appears to be blessed with a rare ability to see past the façade of consensus reality and into the abyss beyond, on the other, he continues to "vote Republican"? To me this suggests that a great deal of Strieber's knowledge, insight, and apparent wisdom is largely theoretical, and that, for all his eloquent explorations into Imaginal realms, he is still (at times at least) shackled to a distressingly mundane perspective. Not that this is unusual, and it is perhaps even the rule for visionary writers and spokespeople. Having profound insights into the hidden nature of existence doesn't alter the fundamentals of the personality, nor does it automatically erase decades of social conditioning. But in Strieber's case, the gulf in his psyche seems to be unusually wide. By his own admission, he is a very ordinary guy (he called himself a "doofus" on one of his audios) who has undergone a run of truly extraordinary experiences. The struggle to integrate those experiences without losing his sense of equilibrium (and of identity) in the process must be immense. One likely result of that struggle might be that Strieber has clung especially tightly to his old views, as a means to keep himself from being swept away on a tidal wave of novelty and strangeness.
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 in 2007), the author seemed to have stolen a page out of David Icke's books and begun writing about Reptilians disguised as movie stars and leading public figures. 2012 was a dark, intensely disturbing work that depicted evil as real, terrifying, and blackly understandable. Strieber's forecast for the coming apocalypse -- the "war of souls" -- seemed designed to reestablish him as a leading spokesperson for the eschaton: John the Baptist of the Alien Presence. But by now, Strieber's descriptions of the aliens (which he called Seraph) were almost entirely negative. There were no angels to speak of, and -- what was even more worrying -- no fairies, imps, goblins, sprites, or trickster spirits. For the most part, the book was unrelentingly dark (possibly appropriate for the subject matter, and considering the times), and the spirit of play was almost entirely absent.
If Strieber continues to be 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, he suggested that, since the beings appeared to emerge from a nonphysical realm, their reality, for us, might depend on our belief in them. In 2012, Strieber stated this unequivocally: the "aliens" can only enter our realm once they have assumed sufficient "solidity" via our collective belief, and to emerge from the dark well of the collective psyche, they require a foothold in our conscious minds. Strieber even stated that the government cover-up (which he once railed so bitterly against) was a means to protect the world from that emergence. The day public awareness of the alien presence reaches consensus, then, alien "invasion" will not be far behind. Yet for years Strieber has been denouncing the secrecy and denial shrouding the visitors as the great evil of our times. Although he has admitted that their undisclosed presence among us would be catastrophic, he has mostly 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."[xi]
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 has suggested, 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."[xii]
Yet in 2012, Strieber presented the invasion as a satanic emergence and nothing short of global apocalypse. There was little if any mention of a positive or divine alien presence. Had Strieber's allegiances shifted to the dark side also? Why was he so busy writing books to persuade people these beings were real if he firmly believed they were evil and that our belief in them would only empower them? To his credit, Strieber raised 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 the reader for this tangential loop, he then revealed that Wiley was one of the "good" Seraph (Reptilians). With almost sinister cunning, Strieber toyed with his readers' fears and doubts and created 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 had ever imagined before. Yet if, as a writer, Strieber is comfortable enough with his own ambivalence to play mind games with his readers, 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 was an intensely personal work that revealed a depth of psychological self-exploration extremely rare in genre fiction. It revealed so much about its author, in fact, that it took 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). Was 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 were not in question. Which raises the peculiar possibility that Strieber's weakness may be that he is not insane enough. There can be little doubt that the burden of knowledge (and foreknowledge) weighs heavily on Strieber's spirit, and that it may be threatening to crush the "play" out of him. Through it all, he has remained stubbornly lucid and reasonable, a writer's prerogative perhaps, but not necessary an advantage when navigating the sorcery kingdoms. In such realms, the stronger and more durable the intellect, the likelier it is to bring about the traveler's eventual downfall.
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
In 2007, Strieber got into a heated debate with the 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 was 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 because of his own personal hang-ups. Pinchbeck then 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."[xiii]
Although Pinchbeck mostly kept his cool (and had the dignity to apologize), Strieber became indignant and professed to have been wounded in his "very being" by Pinchbeck's attack. It struck me at the time that, after two decades of being heckled by doubters and mocked and reviled by the mainstream media, Strieber should remain so deeply vulnerable to criticism. Pinchbeck's perspective was easy to understand, and was probably one that was shared by plenty of people who took Strieber's claims seriously enough to be disturbed by them. Strieber has admitted to having been implanted by the beings, and has eulogized over some of the "siddhis" which he has developed as a result of the implant -- powers that include interdimensional travel, time travel, and reading people's minds. If such accounts are even half true, Strieber's capacities verge on the Ubermenschian. Yet his public persona, as evidenced by his radio show and many of his interviews, is at times rather unsettling, for me at least.[xiv] I had been reading Strieber's books for many years before I heard him on "Dreamland"; if I'd heard one of his shows before discovering his work, it's quite likely I wouldn't have bothered to look at it. Strieber often comes across as emotional, brash, facile, and even somewhat embittered, qualities that belie the depth and perspicacity of his writing (as did his rather hysterical behavior with Pinchbeck). So evidently, there is far more to Strieber than meets the eye -- or the ear.
Whether Strieber is being controlled, and whether the forces controlling him are benign, is, as already touched upon, a question that need concern Strieber far more than the rest of us, and one which is finally beyond the scope of this piece. It also makes no difference to the quality of his writings, which can be judged on their own merit and meaning. What seems to be to be both more relevant and easier to determine, however, is Strieber's own character and integrity. This relates to the question of how fully he embodies his teachings, and therefore how much we, as readers, should value them. If Strieber doesn't walk his talk, we should naturally be less inclined to put stock in what he says. Astral Ubermensch or not, if Strieber lacks the equanimity to deal gracefully with attacks like Pinchbeck's, it suggests that alien initiation and a vast storehouse of esoteric knowledge have given him little by way of inner peace or detachment. On the contrary, they seem to have unbalanced him to a disturbing degree. At base of this, I think, is the degree to which Strieber has assumed personal responsibility for communicating what he believes to be information of vital importance to the evolution, even the survival, of the race. Such a personal stake in being "the one" who delivers this vital information may be both the cause and the effect of a psychological imbalance in Strieber, and imbalance which, if we are to be fair to Strieber himself, must throw into question everything he has had to say until now.
In short, how reliable is a witness who is clearly strongly invested in making us believe his version of events?
Whitley & Mind Control
"I have really and truly been outside of mankind, insofar as I have treated with [sic] 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
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 -- and perhaps even the key to the mystery. The revelation centered on 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."[xv]
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."[xvi]
There is a great deal of evidence that such experiments occurred (and may be still occurring), and 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."[xvii]
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. Without doing him the disservice of premature psychiatric labeling, it may be that he is not fully cognizant of the multiple portions of his psyche, and that, through the act of writing, he is attempting to bring those fragments into harmony. This would explain the many contradictions, the endlessly see-sawing points of view, the abrupt shifts from guru-like wisdom to childish and petulant ego assertions, and so forth. If Strieber is seen to be literally divided, his writings become a painfully honest, both inspirational and infuriating description of the attempt to come to grips with the broken shards of his psyche as he struggles to put "Whitley" back together again. As accounts of the slow and agonizing process of individuation by which we seek to arrive at the totality of ourselves, his writings may be some of the most profound on offer in twenty-first century literature, even if not quite in the way in which Strieber intended.
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 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 those "alien" selves that are considerably more enlightened than he is. The dominant position of his everyday ego, then (always an extremely precarious thing), would depend on a sense of consistency and continuity which writing, above all, could provide him with. The price of that literarily imposed order, however, would be that Strieber remained fragmented. So 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 children who were subjected to government mind control and 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."[xviii]
In such a scenario, Strieber becomes beyond doubt the most vocal, well-known, and influential of the "witnesses," placing him at the very heart (or head) of the "communications device" which he describes. He becomes the human avatar of the visitors.
A year or so previous to this revelation, in 2005, 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."[xix] Despite this sense of failure, Strieber did not give up. In 2006, coincident with the release of The Grays (which he claimed the visitors 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."[xx]
Then in 2007, Strieber made what was in many ways his most revealing observation, at least in respect to his own work with, or 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. 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." [My italics.] [xxi]
So is Strieber, with his constant pendulum-like swings from a positive to negative "thrust," making us familiar with the visitors preferred method of communication? Is he adhering to their strange truths about good and evil being not a matter of either/or but of both/and? And could this make the disorientation, fragmentation, and conflict which Strieber displays in his attempts to come to grips with his experiences 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. "[T]he 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."[xxii] As Strieber sees it, he escaped the clutches of evil by literally taking refuge in another reality, which is what abused or neglected children do (it's called fragmentation). And since those memories remained buried, under the domain of another aspect of his psyche, is it fair to say that Strieber also created a parallel self by which to enter his conjectured "parallel universe"? I am not suggesting that the psychological theory explains away the mystical one -- on the contrary -- what I am suggesting is that both versions may be equally accurate. Psychotherapy would say that Strieber's psyche splintered into 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. The two interpretations -- while apparently at odds -- may simply be two ways of describing the same event. Whether Strieber is an enlightened soul-traveler or a paranoid schizophrenic would depend on whether or not he succeeded in integrating the various fragmented aspects of his psyche, and in claiming the knowledge and power which his experiences 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."[xxiii] This implies that Strieber's experiences -- if fully understood -- 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."[xxiv]
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." --Paul Bowles
When it comes to understanding the question of Ufos and alien abductions -- and specifically "the grays" -- the essential thing to remember is that none of this is what it seems. And although Strieber has himself 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. Strieber argues against simplistic, literal-minded, "good or evil, angel or devil" interpretations, even while many of his comments are 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 (Imaginal), followed by a negative one (actual), leading finally to a synthesis of both. Yet unless I have simply failed to see the method to his madness, Strieber follows this approach in such a haphazard, slipshod fashion that at times he seems unaware of what he is doing. It is almost as if he was following a hidden program, and that, in order to be effective as the scribe and spokesman for the visitors, he had been left in the dark until he achieves a synthesis of his various, fragmented selves.
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 garbled nonsense, all presented with more or less the same degree of sincerity and zeal. 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. After following his work (off and on) for over twenty years, he seems less like a man to me than a living, breathing fairy tale, an eerie, unsettling amalgam of diverse perspectives and outlandish tales, both of this world and the other. A sort of Frankenstein's monster, he appears both soulful and freakish, a miracle and an aberration, a mind as brilliant as it is confused. Like a golem created by incomprehensible forces, he acts as a host intelligence for alchemical mysteries, mysteries which he brings across the border, into the land of the living, yet apparently without ever fully comprehending them himself.
As such, the strange case of Whitley Strieber must remain, for now, unsolved.
For Part Two of this article click here.
 Burroughs to Victor Bockris: "I was very interested in his first books and I have convinced that this was somehow very authentic. I felt that it was not fraud or fake. . . . On the basis of that I wrote a letter to Whitley Streiber saying that I would love to try to contact these visitors. . . . I had a number of talks with Streiber about his experiences and I was quite convinced that she was telling the truth. . . . The strange thing about him is that this part of his face (from the forehead to below the nose) has a sort of mask like effect." Bockris: "Does he have a tranquil presence" Burroughs: "No it's not very tranquil at all although it's not disquieting. In the first place he's a man with tremendous energy and always busy. Since I've seen him he wrote a whole book, Billy, which is now going to be a motion picture and soon. He's always working, always busy, and walks around the property, a very active person you know, quite clear, quite definite. He seems a very hospitable and sensible person. I can't say that I experienced anything. And he told me this: when you experience it is very definite, very physical, it's not vague it's not like a hallucination, that they are there, is I didn't see anything like that."
See http://www.interpc.fr/mapage/westernlands/dr-burroughs.html for the full interview.
 "These others -- who appeared to us as aliens -- are empaths, but not because they lack experience. They have returned to the forest, they are not men, they are beyond that. . . . In the sight of God they are almost angels. . . . We called them terrible. . . We achieved absolute terror. . . . We have by our lies created the impression that an excursion of the pure is an invasion by monsters from the depths of our own psyche. . . . In the eyes of the others we who met them saw ourselves. And there were demons there." Majestic
 Strieber: "We're not friends anymore and we never will be. We never really were. . . But nevertheless, I literally really could not disagree with you more profoundly as you propose what looks to me like a kind of a miserable fascism on the human spirit and a future that is enormously dreary even in the unlikely event that it should unfold." Pinchbeck: "By the way, Whitley, I just want to say that I'm capable of having an argument with somebody and profound disagreements with somebody and still considering them friends." Streiber: "I'm telling you right now when you attack my very being and my spirit by saying that I'm in league with evil entities, as you did say, that's not, it's not possible to maintain a friendship under those circumstances. Because this is so outrageously untrue For those of you who are subscribers to this website, who listen to our meditations and who are involved in this you'll know how unfair and outrageous this attack that this man carried out on this radio program. It's just disgusting, and ignorant, absolutely ignorant, but I don't want to go on about it."
[i] All quotes in this article are from "Whitley's Journal," at www.unknowncountry.com. This one is from "The Coming of the Dark Side and How We Can Defend Ourselves," September 7th, 2002.
[ii] "Shedding Light on the Dark Side, Part Two," December 7th, 2003.
[iii] "Communion 20 Years On," 26th December, 2005.
[iv] "Christmas Joy: Mankind is Awakening," December 14th, 2001.
[v] "Christmas Joy: Mankind is Awakening," December 14th, 2001.
[vi] "Shedding Light on the Dark Side," December 3, 2003.
[vii] "Journey to Another World," March 12, 2004.
[viii] "The Coming War," 10th Jan, 2003
[ix] "Summer of Promise, Summer of Danger," July 12th, 2003.
[x] "Communion 20 Years On," 26th December, 2005.
[xi] "The Coming of the Dark Side and How We Can Defend Ourselves," September 7th, 2002.
[xii] "Communion 20 Years On," 26th December, 2005.
[xiii] A partial transcript of the discussion can be found at http://2012.tribe.net/thread/3a164efb-2bbb-4a46-9ec9-51e5020ea319 Both writers reported on the incident. Strieber's "War in Dreamland" can be found among his journal entries at his site; Pinchbeck's can be found at his blog, at www.realitysandwich.com
[xiv] I am thinking particularly of his appearance on "The Veritas Show," with Mel Fabregas, June 26th, 2009.
[xv] "The Boy in the Box," 14th March, 2003.
[xvi] "The Capture House," October 11th, 2003.
[xvii] "The Capture House," October 11th, 2003.
[xviii] "Communicating with the Grays," 7th June 2006.
[xix] "Communion 20 Years On," 26th December, 2005.
[xx] "Communicating with the Grays," 7th June 2006.
[xxi] "Are They Coming and If So, What Do We Do?" March 30th, 2007.
[xxii] "The Capture House," October 11th, 2003.
[xxiii] "The Capture House," October 11th, 2003.
[xxiv] "The Capture House," October 11th, 2003.