Part Two: Whitley's
Onion (Four Years Later)

For Part One of this article, click here.  


Two Keys

Part One of this article was eventually published in Paranoid Magazine as well as Alien Worlds. Before that it appeared at
Jeff Wells' Rigorous Intuition forum in March 2008, and it was praised by the late writer Mac
Tonnies, shortly before he died (not to suggest any connection), as "the most
devastating and articulate summary of Whitley Strieber and his works that I've
ever read." It was, so far as I recall, Tonnies' endorsement of the piece that
provoked Strieber to finally comment on it (I had sent it to him before
publishing, hoping for an interview, but received no response). Subscribers at
Strieber's Unknown Country website had been talking about the article, mostly
critically, and it was at that point that Strieber made a remark about the
author, myself, being a "clever disinformation agent." (Unfortunately all
traces of that discussion have been removed from the Unknown Country message
board, so I cannot provide the full quote.) Despite several attempts to sign up
for Strieber's message board, I was unable to join the discussion. Naturally I
was disappointed by Strieber's dismissal of the article, which I believed, and
still believe, was a genuine attempt to "sort through the seeds" of his
experiences and separate the live ones from the duds. I was aware of many
intelligent people with an interest in paranormal phenomena who stayed away
from Strieber and who even (somewhat ironically) considered him to be a
disinformation agent. So while Strieber and his devoted followers perceived my
article as an attack on his integrity, the skeptical wing saw it more as a
defense! In a way it was neither, but an attempt to get to grips with his work,
and with the man himself, in order to reduce some of the cognitive dissonance I
was experiencing. It was also a — perhaps misguided and so far unsuccessful — attempt
to open a dialogue with Strieber.

Eventually I let the whole subject go, and a
couple of years went by without any significant developments. Then, in May
2011, coinciding with the release of a new edition of The Key, I finally bit the bullet and became a subscriber to
Unknown Country (for a three months period, at a cost of $11.95). My reasons
were two-fold: I wanted to have access to some Strieber audio files that were
otherwise unavailable; and I wanted to post at the comments section and to try
once again to engage Whitley in a dialogue.

The original version of The Key had been released in 2001, in a short, self-published
imprint of a thousand signed and numbered copies. I had received one of them,
and read the book countless times over the years. In 2002, as preparation for a
"surrealist documentary" I was making (The
God Game: An Investigation into the Illusory Nature of Reality
), I even printed
and bound several photocopies and distributed them among my players. Strieber's
contention was that the book was a transcript of a dialogue he had had, on June
6th 1998, with a small Canadian man who barged into his hotel room in Toronto in
the small hours of the morning. Over the course of forty-five minutes, the
little man, whom Strieber eventually named "the Master of the Key," communicated
a series of profound metaphysical insights about the nature of reality, God, the
soul, life after death, and the fate of humanity and the Earth. Strieber allegedly
managed to retain most of the conversation and, over the course of two or three
years, he painstakingly recreated it for his book. That was Strieber's story,
anyway. While there were things about the book which struck me as dubious (the
opening claim that the Holocaust prevented mankind from developing the technology
to leave the Earth by killing the parents of an unborn engineering genius, for
example, seemed especially hokey), overall the depth and novelty of the ideas
supported Strieber's claim that it came from a source besides himself — his
conscious self, at least.

It was shortly after the first trade release
of his book, in May of 2011, that Strieber claimed there were in fact two
versions of The Key.[i]
He claimed that he had only realized this when a reader of the 2011 edition pointed
out some discrepancies with the first edition. Strieber insisted he had not
made any such changes. According to his own account, he referred back to the
2001 edition — for the first time since it had been released — and realized that certain
changes had been made without his awareness. He listed the "changes" at his
website, and argued point by point how the integrity of the book's original
message had been undermined. While admitting that he didn't know how it had
happened — whether at the printers or while the book was still on computer file — he
stated repeatedly that a "sinister" intelligence had sabotaged the manuscript. I
read the various comments at Unknown Country with interest, particularly
curious about a link to a long article online, called "The Key: A Minority
Report." (The author of which, in an irony fitting for this whole subject,
later attacked the 2008 version of this article, and in fact continues to do
so.) The overall gist of the article was that, contrary to Strieber's own
charges, the first version of the book was superior to the second, and that the
claims made by Strieber of an alleged "sinister hand" tampering with the work
were not supported by a close inspection of the two texts. The writer made a
solid, point-by-point case and suggested that the new version showed more
evidence of "tampering" (clumsy editing), and that it might be the one that
contained disinformation. I found myself agreeing with this point of view, and
increasingly doubtful of Strieber's. At best, the alleged "changes" which Strieber
claimed had been made to the 2001 edition didn't seem to merit the slightly hysterical
accusations he was making; and in some, if not most cases, they did seem to be
improvements (that is, the new edition seemed to be the inferior one).

Without naming "A Minority Report," Strieber
referred dismissively to it at one post, complaining about the conspiracies that
were ruining his life and all the "insensitive, stupid swine (or people with a
hidden agenda)" who dared to suggest that all of this was just a selling ploy
for the book. Strieber didn't deign to address any of the points in the
document, but only remarked contemptuously: "There is even one person out there
claiming that the ‘edits' make the book better."[1]
His diatribe continued:


"I am sick and tired of all this. . . . I
have achieved something truly magnificent, which is coherent, focused contact
with another level of reality. Instead of being honored for this, as I
certainly deserve, I have been ostracized, demonized and hammered almost to a
pulp. My books go completely unreviewed. It's as if I'm dead . . . I'm tired of
it and I want what I deserve from this society, recognition of the value of
what I have done, not this continual sinister response. It is a dreadful way to
treat anybody, let alone somebody who has worked as hard and as honestly as I
have and has, in fact, created something that could be the basis for a new
flowering of humanity, at a time when the powers that be have entirely failed
and have betrayed the human race, and have no further reason to be respected in
any way whatsoever."


Once again, as had happened three years prior,
I found myself being drawn into what I perceived as Whitley's paranoia and
confusion. Once again I was eager to somehow get to the bottom of it, and even,
if possible, to bring about a "healing crisis" for Strieber — or perhaps for
myself. My first post at Unknown Country suggested an alternative to Strieber's
belief that sinister forces were behind the edits, positing the idea that the
author himself had unconsciously altered the text, via some kind of psychic
interface with his software. Far — fetched as the idea was, it was something
which had almost certainly happened in my own experience, and it was at least a
way to challenge Strieber's version of events without accusing him of lying (or
being insane). Since I was hoping to get his attention, and because I knew from
personal experience how sensitive Strieber could be, and how easily offended he
was by criticism (as Pinchbeck can testify), my post was very carefully phrased.
I received no response from Strieber, however, and little of interest from the
other subscribers. Shortly after, I posted a response to his angry diatribe (the
one quoted above) and suggested that, as a best-selling author, he might be
overreacting. I warned him about the "love-bombing" of his loyal subscribers, many
of whom were showering him with praise and reassurance, thereby strengthening
(in my opinion) his feelings of indignation and entitlement. I wrote
that people who appeared to be his friends weren't,
and that, likewise, some people whom he perceived as being against him weren't
necessarily that either. Strieber did not respond.


Cult of Whitley (Is Strieber Advocating Implants?)

Frustrated with the lack of response, I returned
to the Rigorous Intuition board where it had all begun, hoping to open up a discussion
with a less loyalist crowd. At Rigorous Intuition, the general view of Strieber
was that he was either deluded, a charlatan, or a disinformation agent (or a
combination of all three), and so once again, I found myself walking the
tightrope between advocate and whistleblower. While at Strieber's site, I had
wanted to reassure both Whitley and his fans that I really was a Strieber
supporter, even if I felt duty-bound to point out the worms in his apple cart. While
at Rigorous Intuition, I ended up taking Strieber's defense, since many people
were dismissing him unfairly, based on their own prejudices. At Rigorous
Intuition, I wrote that I was pretty sure that The Key was not simply the product of Strieber's imagination and
that, ironically, his rather unstable public persona were arguments for and not
against that possibility. I questioned what kind of intelligence was informing
and directing his work, if not his own, and more specifically, what was behind
the confusion and controversy over the conflicting versions of The Key.

Rigorous Intuition hosts a "nuts and bolts"
kind of crowd and as such some of the regulars there tend to view alien
abduction and the surrounding phenomenon as a giant military mind control
operation. With this in mind, I pointed out some of the key differences between
the two versions of The Key that
pertained to the question of mind control and implants. For example, there was
an exchange in the 2011 version that had not been present in the first edition,
in which Strieber asks "Am I under mind control?" and the Master of the Key
replies, "The opposite. The technological intervention that has occurred in
your case has been done to make certain that general fields of control will not
affect you." So Strieber was now claiming, in the new version of the book, that
he was not susceptible to mind control
because of the implant he carried. (The
implant was something Strieber had talked about extensively before, and which
he claimed to have physical proof of.[ii]

As "A Minority report" stated:

"In this case of Whitley's direct
question: ‘Am I under mind control' — a question which he says he remembers
asking, the answer to the question states quite remarkably that he, perhaps
alone, is immune to the mind control more generally applied to others ‘enhanced
electrically.' But what about all the other alien abductees out there? Is
everyone with an implant under mind control? Are there two types of implants:
one for mind control, and another to resist mind control-from other implants? It
doesn't make sense. Either implants are the direct mechanism of mind control,
in which case those without them are not controlled, or implants are in those
who have had contact and for some reason are meant to be immune to the ‘mind

About the question of whether he was under
mind control, Whitley had this to say at his website:

"I vividly remember asking this question,
and thinking at the time that the ‘technological intervention' that he was
referring to was the implant in my left ear. I suspect that I am among a very
small band of people who are not subject to this general level of control, and
that my readers and I constitute the
great majority of people who are free of this general influence
. It is why
we see the world as it truly is, and why the vast majority of people around us
seem strangely blind to what to us appears to be obvious reality. They are
blind. They have been blinded. For whatever reason, we can see." [My italics.]

This audacious claim is based on very little
real evidence, and mostly on the contentions of Strieber himself. The new
version of The Key, combined with the
comments of its author, appears to be suggesting that the implant, commonly
believed to be a mind control device in parapolitical communities such as Rigorous
Intuition and even among some UFO groups, is actually a means to protect the carrier from mind control.
Strieber thereby claims that he (and for some reason his "readers" also, though
he doesn't explain why they should be included) is one of the few people on the
planet who is immune to mind control,
by virtue of the implant he received. He is telling his followers that this
special status allows him — and, as if by magical association, them — "to see the
world as it truly is." He is therefore claiming exclusive access to the truth, and
subtly inferring that all those who follow him ("my readers") will be granted
similar access.

Such was my argument at Rigorous Intuition
anyway, and it sparked a lively debate and received the input of a former
member of Strieber's Unknown Country community. She claimed that she had gotten
quite close to Whitley before saying the wrong thing and being "excommunicated,"
and her impression was that Strieber was suffering from trauma-based mind
control, that he had unwittingly created a cult of personality, and that his
website was being used as a "honey pot" to attract victims of mind control and experiencers
of — possibly real, possibly simulated — alien abductions so as to monitor them. Though
the idea seemed plausible to me, I was pretty sure Whitley would reject it out
of hand, not only as absurd but as an "attack [on his] very being and [his]
So back at Strieber's site, I took a more tentative and diplomatic approach.

I referred to the "Minority Report" document
and commented that, whoever had written it, they had gone to a great deal of
care and done a thorough, erudite, and balanced job of it. I invited Strieber
to comment on the subject, outside of his dismissive and defensive comment of
May 26th. I pointed out Strieber's tendency to respond to anyone who
questioned his version of things with emotional outbursts, either with moral
indignation or angry accusations. I noted how this appeared to satisfy many of his
followers, who rushed to his defense and offered the same sort of blind,
unquestioning support which he appeared to invite. It did not strike me as an
environment that allowed for open inquiry, constructive criticism, or for the
thorough examination (and evolution) of ideas. It struck me as closer to being a
"cult environment."

That made the present example a compelling — even
urgent — opportunity for everyone concerned. It was also why I felt driven to
speak up, knowing that I might incur Strieber's displeasure and be grouped with
the "insensitive swine" who dared to offer him anything besides slavish
agreement and unconditional support. I believed that Strieber's choice not to
seriously address the criticism around the two versions of The Key created the impression that he was trying to cover
something up. His argument was essentially based on the premise that, since he
wrote the book, he was the only person who could say which version was the true
one. That would be fair enough, except that, by Strieber's own account, he
didn't so much write the book as transcribe it, and unless I was mistaken,
quite a bit of it was assembled from memory. That allowed for a fairly large
margin for error.

So far, I had not found Strieber's own story persuasive;
his arguments for the book being censored by dark forces were emotional and
full of accusatory, inflammatory language ("censorship!" "sinister,"
"sickening," and so on), with very little logic behind them. He seemed to be
hoping that his fierce conviction would be enough to convince others,
regardless of how paltry the evidence was. And judging by the comments he was
receiving, he was largely successful. I was among the few who were not
persuaded by Strieber's logic, and despite my best attempts to approach him in
a rational and civil manner, I was aware of the likelihood of getting grouped with
the fools who were trying to discredit him; or worse, of being denounced as a
disinformation agent with a secret agenda.[3]


Momentary Dialogue

One day, in the process of listening to the
many audios which Strieber had recorded for the subscriber section of his
website, I came across an irrefutable anomaly. It was during the fifth part of
his series of audio files commenting on The
, dated January 1st 2004 but presumably recorded some time
before. At his website, Strieber had mentioned how, when he referred to The Key in the past, he had referred to a
computer copy or a manuscript and not the published version, and this was why
it took him ten years to realize what had happened. While listening to the
audios, however, it became clear to me that he was reading from the 2001 published
version of the book. To begin with, the differences were small enough and it
was easy to see how he could have failed to notice them. Yet I was struck by
how, while talking about the conversation with the Master, Strieber often referred
back to his thoughts at the time, as if
reliving it in his head
. Then, in the fifth audio, Strieber read a
particular passage about "creatures of the dark," a line which he had decried (at
his post about The Key being censored)
as a "lurid" and false addition. In 2011, Strieber insisted that the phrase had
been added to the book by some sinister invisible hand, in order to sow fear
and confusion. Yet in 2003, while making the audio (at most only two years
after the book had been published), not only did he not consider the line to be
inaccurate, he remarked how it had got his attention at the time because of his
own experiences with "the dark." Here was striking evidence that something was
wrong with Strieber's interpretation (or memory) of the events. Either Strieber
was confused, or there was something he was deliberately concealing.

I emailed Strieber with my findings and
finally received a response from him. He wrote, briefly, that he had sometimes been
using the book and sometimes using his manuscript, and that he had no way of
telling when he was using one and when the other. He had been left vulnerable,
he said, to the kind of analysis which I was engaged in because of what "was
done" to his work. He suggested that this had been at least partially the
intent, since it had the effect of discrediting The Key. As far as his commenting on my discoveries, he didn't see
any use in it, and invited me to draw whatever conclusions I wished.

Undaunted, I wrote back and assured him that,
whatever he might think, I was not a debunker but an admirer of his writings,
and that I would hardly be dedicating so much time and energy to this
otherwise. I suggested that the many hostile attempts to discredit him had made
him overly sensitive to criticism, which was no doubt partly the intent. I pointed
out that he still had not answered my question regarding his oversight, and
added that I doubted I could draw any conclusions without his help. I suggested
that we could both benefit from a dialogue, if only by reaching a better
understanding of what was behind the many inconsistencies in his work, and possibly
locating the source of all the confusion and misunderstanding.

Strieber responded promptly (the entire
exchange occurred in one afternoon) by saying that I was reading things into his
email that weren't there (looking over the exchange, I'd say he was somewhat
correct about that). He said that he didn't regard me as an admirer, debunker
or anything else; it was clear that I was interested in his work, but beyond
that he had no way of knowing my motives. He could not answer my question,
however, save to say that he had trusted his own work and had had no idea that
it had been tampered with, so he had reacted to what he was reading as if it
was correct. He lamented that "what was done to The Key" would be used to discredit it and destroy its message, and
expressed sadness and regret that he had inadvertently contributed to the state
of affairs by recording his commentaries about the book without noticing the
difference between the two versions. He had commented on things that had been
added to the published version without realizing that they were wrong, he said,
"thus discrediting the whole enterprise." As to why he had failed to notice the
difference, that was a question he could not (or would not) answer.

I replied with some encouraging words and
assured him that the energy behind The
was what counted, rather than the exactitude of the words. I invited
him to consider that what he was doing might also be having negative effects,
as well as positive, if there was any confusion or unconscious intentions at
work. I mentioned how, the previous year, I had shut down a
therapeutic/self-development workshop (SWEDA) I was running for precisely the
same reason, because I couldn't be sure that my motives were pure (in fact I knew
they weren't).

"As flawed creatures sharing and being
open about our flaws [I wrote] our confusion and our mistakes can be the most
valuable teaching we have to give. That's what I tried to do, and it is what I
have tried to communicate to others about your work: that the contradictions
and the confusion that runs through it don't lessen its value but increase it,
provided it is approached with compassion and not merely intellectual
curiosity. . . . For me, it's a miracle that someone could have gone through
half the experiences you have been through and still be lucid and coherent at
all. There's no need to conceal the cracks, if the cracks are part of Whitley's
coming ‘undone'-for something else to be born from that wreckage. It's trying
to cover up the cracks-the mistakes & the inconsistencies-that does harm to
and discredits the message, in my opinion, not the cracks themselves."


Is in the Eye of the Beholder

Like Carlos Castaneda (whom I wrote about here
), Strieber underwent some profound personal encounters with imaginal forces
and did his best to testify to the world by writing books about them. Just as
when I had read Castaneda's books at the age of twenty-one, Strieber's accounts
(which I came upon a year or two later) resonated profoundly with my own,
forgotten or fragmented experiences with the Imaginal (and/or my unconscious).
I recognized truth in them. I have always been a somewhat credulous,
impressionable person, and so, as was my wont, I took both these authors'
accounts literally, at face value — just as the authors seemed to — even knowing
(at least later on) that experiences of the Imaginal aren't so much "literal"
as metaphorical. Both Castaneda's and Strieber's accounts were filtered through
their authors' psyches, written out in linear, literal form, and it was those
versions of "Imaginal reality" which the reader was "fed." Insofar as I was likewise
a "left-brained," literal-minded creature, I could only take them at face value
or reject them in the same way. For the literally minded, an account must
always be either true or false — it cannot be both/and. This is our first mistake
when it comes to approaching the Imaginal, and when it comes to understanding individuals
like Castaneda or Strieber.

Imaginal writers share their particular truth,
but it is not the Truth. As readers,
if we identify with and relate to their stories (while taking them at face
value), we are naturally going to try and make it our truth because the idea that truth is largely subjective is one a
literal mind cannot allow for. It's more or less the same thing that happens,
in a more dramatic fashion, when people follow a guru and try to twist
themselves into the right shape to match their guru's "truth." Sooner or later,
they are going to get disillusioned, because however true another person's
truth might seem, it can't ever be our truth, because it's not our experience of the Imaginal. It cannot
reflect accurately the elements of our
, and so, sooner or later, something in the mix, some piece of
the puzzle, is going to fail to fit. The
only Imaginal reality that fits our psyches, that is true for us, is our own.

The test and the gift of encountering another
man's version of the Imaginal that resonates with ours — as both Castaneda's and
Strieber's resonated for me — is to save the baby and toss out the bathwater of that
alternate version. There is only one Imaginal realm, after all, and we are all
encountering the same truth, from subtly different angles or perspectives. If,
as so many have done with Strieber (and Castaneda), we reject a view of reality
that threatens or contradicts our own, we risk throwing out the baby with the
bathwater, losing the gift, and failing the test.

honest skepticism means learning to discern truth from delusion, starting with
that of our parents, our role models, our heroes and teachers, and ending with
our own. The "true believer" swallows the story whole (religion, democracy, aliens,
sorcerers, whatever it is), gets drunk on it (becomes fanatical), and in many
cases winds up sick and hung over from the excess (is disillusioned and feels
lost or abandoned). It is then that the "skeptic" comes to the rescue, tries to
vomit the whole "meal" back up, and swears never to touch the stuff again. Vomiting
up isn't real skepticism but cynicism, however, which is the flip side of
gullibility, a means to overcompensate for feeling like we have been suckered.
Such cynicism denies whatever it was in us (or in Strieber, or whoever) that
responded to truth, and focuses instead on how we managed to turn a little bit
of truth into a grand delusion. It's not lies that fool the true believer, it's
truth that's taken too literally, or too quickly to heart. When we emotionally invest
in a scrap of truth, we can build a whole edifice of delusion out of that one
little scrap.

The solution to being overly credulous isn't
to close one's mind but to learn discernment about what we let into our minds,
and above all, what we take to heart and what we adopt as our own truth. The
poet John Keats wrote, "The only means of strengthening one's intellect is to
make up one's mind about nothing, to let the mind be a thoroughfare for all
thoughts." To make up one's mind about nothing means to believe without
believing and to disbelieve without dismissing. In the words of Strieber, it entails
learning "to live at a high level of uncertainty." Yet in our present society,
certainty is power, and uncertainty is weakness. We are trained to identify
open-mindedness with vacillation and vagueness, and to regard conviction as
synonymous with integrity. We are taught and bred to make up our minds about
everything, and to dismiss anything which we cannot make our minds up about as
nonsense. We automatically respect, and even submit to, people who are more
certain than we are. We are susceptible to the spells cast by other people's
convictions and/or delusions. We allow ourselves to be swayed, subtly and even
subliminally, so that, when we think we are making up our own minds, we are
really giving over to someone (or something) else's influence.

Whether Whitley's "visitors" are aliens or
elementals, angels, demons, or government mind control operatives, the long and
short of it is that Strieber was abducted by the agents of his unconscious. That
is not a desirable state of affairs. When the Imaginal forces come to us
uninvited like that, it's all-but unavoidable for us to assign them an autonomy
and an independence from our own psyches that they do not, in fact, possess. We
cast ourselves in the role of either victim or chosen one, and the Imaginal then
plays the role of God or devil. But the actual nature of the experience is lost,
and judging by Strieber's case, no amount of informed hindsight or post-mortum
analyses can ever fully retrieve it. The damage has already been done.

That said, and whatever else Strieber's doing
and regardless of how aware he is of doing it, his work raises far more
questions than it provides answers, and that makes it worth paying close
attention to. Discussing his experiences, or the man himself, in terms of
whether he is a charlatan or a shaman, deluded or inspired, a puppet or a
prophet, is a conceptual dead-end. He is both, and neither. In the same way,
the broader question of whether "alien abductions" are really "mind control
operations," etc., is also missing the point, because the one leads to the
other and back again, making it a matter not of either/or but of both/and. The
challenge then becomes to map the existing lines between the two opposing perspectives,
and to trace the ways in which they overlap until there are no dividing lines. For me, the means to approach the strange
case of Whitley Strieber has been to keep in mind that, whatever may be
happening to him, it is a reflection and expression not only of his psyche but
of the collective psyche, and therefore, of
my own

Each time I return to this subject over the
years, I find myself a little closer to the nub of the mystery, and to the
emotional core of my own attraction to it. For whatever reason, I feel deep
affinity with Strieber, and because of that there is a desire to reach out to
him, to connect with him, and to somehow bring about reconciliation. But since we
have never met, and barely even had a dialogue, there is no rift as such to
reconcile. Presumably, what I am seeking is some sort of reconciliation within
myself, and I have hit upon Strieber as a convenient (symbolic) figure through
which to find it. As with Castaneda, my attraction to Strieber has to do with
the forces or intelligences which he claims to have had contact with, and with
a deep desire within me — a longing — to develop a relationship of my own with them.
Strieber became for me a connection,
a go-between, by which I hoped somehow to get closer to the contents of my own
unconscious, and to the hidden agents of the Imaginal or divine realms. Reading
his work was a means to strengthen that connection. Then, when having a direct
relationship proved not to be possible, that left writing about him. Deconstructing both his work and the man himself
became a means not merely to get close to Strieber, but all the way inside that mystery!

Each time I return to the task, I am therefore
more acutely aware of the sensitivity and delicacy of my undertaking, and of
the potential for invasion and trespass. I experience increased doubts about my
motives, and about the possible effects of submitting my subject to the
laser-surgery of intellect and pen. In the most obvious and simple terms, I am
concerned how Strieber will receive this piece, and anxious to present it in
such a way so as not to offend or wound him, and to ensure he doesn't view it
as hostile action. The more I work on his case study, then, the more I perceive
Strieber himself as my primary audience, just as if I were his therapist writing
the piece expressly for him. Yet all the while, I know that he is the last
person likely to appreciate it. Behind this is not only my affection and concern
for Strieber (which is based on my identification with him, via his writings) — which
is acute — but also my vanity and ambition as a writer-psychologist, harboring the
hope that I may reach agreement with — and receive confirmation from — Strieber
himself, as the final proof of my success. Since I am reasonably sure this will
never happen, perhaps what I am really trying to discover is: why do I care so much what Strieber thinks?

The answer to that question may be the final
layer of the Whitley onion.


the Imaginal

Some of the craziest and most fragmented
dreams are also the richest for analysis because they emerge from the deeper
levels of the unconscious. On the other hand, the mundane, down-to-earth,
coherent ones don't usually provide so much data about our psyches, because
they reflect a more superficial level of consciousness. A subject like Whitley
Strieber is rich for study, not despite
the possibility that he is deluded but to a certain extent because of it. Delusion is the human condition after all, and only
the enlightened (assuming such beings as the Master of the Key exist) are entirely
free of it. The question becomes more intriguing and urgent, however, when
ordinarily deluded individuals assume a role of authority and wisdom in our society.
This is not only the case with priests and politicians, but also musicians,
filmmakers, artists and writers. It applies perhaps especially to esoteric writers,
since they are trafficking in information about hidden or greater reality. The danger
is then that an ordinary delusion becomes an extraordinary one. Since such individuals
are claiming to have access to higher truths, the element of delusion becomes
more critical; at the same time, by persuading others to believe them and their
higher truths, their delusion can go "viral." A "delusional consensus" is then created,
also known as a cult.

In my last, unanswered email to Whitley, I
shared with him how I had closed down a shamanic therapy group because of
doubts I was having about my integrity and motivations. After hitting send, I
noticed that, in place of the word "workshop," I had accidentally typed "worship." I fired off a quick email
pointing out my Freudian typo, hoping that Strieber would recognize the
parallels with his own predicament. More and more, my interest in Strieber was
zeroing in on mapping the ways in which he might be allowing himself to be
co-opted, or corrupted, both by external agencies and internal power issues.
Because I had seen this process at work in my own life — had been guilty of it — I
felt like I knew all too well how an intellectual grasp, not only of esoteric
concepts but of the language to communicate them, could reinforce deeply rooted
delusions and allow them to assume dangerous proportions. In the case of
Strieber (and similarly with Castaneda), the potential for self-replicating and
self-propagating delusions was enormous, because the source of Strieber's
experiences and of the special truth he was conveying — just as with religious
authority figures and gurus — was allegedly not
of this world.
And of course, that was its primary appeal.

There were two major downsides to this: one,
it meant that no one else could corroborate or question the specially
"privileged" material without claiming a similar kind of access. Secondly, the
otherworldly or Imaginal nature of the experiences made them particularly
subject to misinterpretation, because we lack the necessary frame of reference
(the accumulated and shared data) to properly understand them. If Strieber's
"aliens" represented the non- (or post-/pre-) human portion of the collective human
consciousness, then, by definition, they were, like the gods, beyond our human
experience. It followed that such beings would need to assume a more familiar
form in order to interface with him, in the hopes of "communion" (i.e.
psychological integration). Did that mean they would be obliged use the rags of
his own disowned psychic material to
do so? Perhaps it was that interface between an unknown, disowned psychic
energy and the experiencer's unconscious which gave rise to the nightmare
abduction scenario which he and others have described.[4]

In a similar way, Strieber might be
literalizing and concretizing his own, deeply personal experiences by using
them as the basis for his "ministry." He might sincerely believe that his role was
to prepare humanity for contact with the Other, and be unwittingly luring other
people — most especially people struggling with their own, as-yet unintegrated experiences of the
imaginal/alien — into his own interpretation, thereby consolidating it for them.
Over time, he would be building a consensus model of what "the visitor
experience" really "is." As Strieber has written about, this would provide the "beings"
with a nexus by which to access collective human consciousness, a kind of
matrix-womb from which "they" could be born into our world. Based on my own
impressions, I had little doubt that Strieber was genuinely trying to help
others like him — fellow experiencers of "contact," whatever it was — by providing them
with a space to share their experiences. But the road to hell was paved with
good intentions, and Strieber could only be as effective as he was free from
delusion, and from personal wounds and trauma. Otherwise, despite himself, he was
going to use that space, unconsciously, for his own ends, as a means to feel
safe and in control, by surrounding himself with people who would look up to
him and confirm his own sense of authority and power. Strieber's unhealed wounds,
his deeply-rooted childhood neuroses, would be the "handles" by which outside
intelligences, whether human or non-human (or perhaps both) could control him,
and his conscious intentions would be largely irrelevant. They would be little
more than the means by which another, hidden agenda was being implemented.


Trust a Man on a Mission

While working on this latest version of the
piece, in November 2011, I re-subscribed to Unknown Country so as to catch up
on the audios. Besides readings of the first three chapters of Solving the Communion Enigma, there was
a Halloween reading of a new story he had written, called "Darkness Visible." Until
then, I had been unable to listen to Strieber's readings of his stories,
finding them stilted and overly dramatic. On this occasion, however, I was
impressed by how Strieber managed to read the story in a conversational tone of
voice, as if speaking directly to his listeners, rather than reading from a
page or computer screen. It seemed to be a deliberate device on Strieber's
part, similar to Orson Welles' famous "War of the Worlds" broadcast, which
presented a fictional work with the immediacy of a factual report. Strieber
narrated his tale in the context of his own life, and referred to people,
dates, and places exactly as he would in an ordinary address to his listeners.

The story described how Strieber and his wife Anne
were having breakfast one morning in their LA apartment when they realized that
they had been cut off from any kind of technological communication with the
world. Strieber initially believes that there has been some sort of "terrorist
attack," some "pulse weapon" that has taken down all the electrics in the country,
or even the world. When he and Anne leave the apartment, the first thing they
see is a "dragonfly drone" (strange craft witnessed by many people in 2007 and
2008, and captured on film) floating in the sky, announcing the presence of the
visitors. Strieber hears a voice directing him to the beach and telling him to
hurry up. The couple passes some chaotic scenes of people in terror and
confusion on the streets, but Strieber is told not to worry about it, that this
is "not for them." To cut a long story short, Strieber and his wife are miraculously
whisked away (he doesn't describe how) and find themselves on another planet,
similar in every way to the Earth but apparently uninhabited. Strieber doesn't
know how many others have also been raptured away, and for all he knows it is only
his own group (of fifty-eight people) who have been selected to populate the
new world. What these fifty-eight chosen ones have in common is an ability to
see and communicate with the dead. Strieber describes a feeling of peace and
well-being at being on the threshold of a new world and a new life. He mentions
in passing how he sensed a distant cry coming from the rest of humanity, as if
in the moment of their passing, but then thinks no more about it.

As I listened to Strieber's little Halloween
tale, lying in my hammock on a November night under the Guatemalan stars, I
found it vaguely chilling in its implications. On the surface, taken purely as
fiction, it seemed little more than a wish-fulfillment fantasy of being rescued
from the current planetary hell and starting afresh with a small group of close
friends and associates in a new world. (As a teenager, I used to play a similar
game with my sister, picking ten other people we would share our desert island
with.) But Strieber has repeatedly stated that his fictional works are usually
meant to convey more "sensitive" information, information he believes won't be so
well received as fact. And by making his audio for his subscribers, he is communicating
primarily to a large following who believe, with varying degrees of conviction,
that Strieber is an alien-elected prophet of the future.

The scenario presented in his story — that of
nonhuman intervention and the removal of a select few from the Earth in the end
times, to be relocated in a New Eden — is one which (I would guess) many of his listeners
may take as literal truth. Perhaps they now believe it all the more so, after
hearing this latest tale? The story outlines the procedure to expect in the
event of the rapture scenario: dragonfly drones hovering over your neighborhood
and a voice in your head telling you where to go. Without indulging in too much
paranoid speculation, how can Strieber be sure that he isn't preparing his
subscribers for an entirely different agenda, say, oh, for secret government
ships and radio-to-brain communications implementing a less "utopian"
relocation plan, for example? I cite this not as a literal possibility (though
it may be), but as an example of how (unbeknownst to him) Strieber's kind of "infotainment"
could be part of larger agenda of
social engineering, seeding memes in order to control and direct specific
groups of people in the future. And Strieber might not know anything about it.
The best tool is an unwitting one? Admittedly this is a bleak picture, and I
have plenty of reservations about making it. But even on the off-chance it's
true, isn't it worth upsetting the apple cart to be sure there isn't a bed of
maggots underneath it? (It might explain why Strieber reacted so emotionally
when Pinchbeck suggested something similar.)

Strieber strikes me as not only a sincere but also a decent
and compassionate man, and I doubt he would deliberately appoint himself as a
leader without the very best of intentions. I would guess that he believes he has
been "chosen" for a world-saving mission, and that therefore he has no choice
about it. He may even be buckling under the pressure of such a calling. In Communion, Strieber reported how one of
the beings told him he was their chosen one, and how he reacted angrily
(afterwards, during the hypnosis session), suggesting that they were trying to
manipulate him with flattery. Somewhere along the way, has he lost sight of that
possibility and come to believe in his status as a chosen-one? That might account
for his frustration and indignation at the world's indifference.

Never trust a man on a mission. Why? Because
the desire to change the world — or convert others to "the truth" — is almost
always a symptom of denial. Crusaders can feel like they are holy (whole) by
letting themselves get carried away by the zeal of doing "God's will." Slaughtering
infidels is a great way to avoid facing up to the darkness and savagery in
their own souls. A man on a mission has found a way not only to justify his
egomania but to feed it with self-righteousness disguised as altruism. As a
general rule, the greater the mission, the deeper the wound that's driving it,
and the bigger and more out of control the ego is likely to get. Messianic
delusion is something that many of the brightest minds fall prey to, and it may
be a universal mind-trap which any who access divine or Imaginal truth at the
very least pass by, and at worst fall into.[5]


the Onion: The Whitley I Wanted to Be

Before finally deciding to publish this article
(which I finished in late 2011), I sent it to Strieber and received a brief
response, as follows (I trust I am not taking liberties by sharing this, since
there is nothing private about it, or different from what Strieber has said
publicly): "I am not so sure that you are ever going to resolve the questions
that you ask about me. Nothing I have done is without intention. The aim of my
life has been to reflect with some accuracy the complex and contradictory
experience I have had. There are also other reasons, some of which you touch on
in your piece, and which are also explored in my story ‘The Open Doors.'"

I replied by asking Strieber if he thought the
piece was "fair." He did not respond and so I sat on the article for another
six weeks or so. It wasn't until Mike Clelland, an associate of Strieber and
fellow "experiencer," invited me onto his podcast that I finally decided to
submit the article to Reality Sandwich. I had plenty of reservations about it.
For one thing, I still wasn't sure about my motivations for writing — and
especially for going public with — the article, and so I couldn't be sure there
wouldn't be negative consequences (for Strieber and others, including myself)
of doing so. For another, I knew it might stir up controversy and criticism,
even hostility, and I wasn't keen to have to deal with some of Strieber's more
vocal defenders, or with my own more strident detractors (some of whom I had
already encountered at Reality Sandwich!).

Nonetheless, I submitted the article, and the
next day I did the interview with Mike Clelland. The interview went well, Clelland alerted Strieber about its existence, and a
discussion quickly began at Clelland's site. The initial objection to my
argument, both from Clelland and his readers, was my use of the term "cult
leader." I was aware that I only had myself to blame for using such a loaded
term. My policy is to always try to call a spade a spade, even knowing there is
the risk that others may have different definitions for their digging
implements. To most people, as I said on Clelland's show, "cult leader" means
Jim Jones, but in this article, I have used the term in a wider sense.

Here's an online definition of "cult":

1 :
formal religious veneration : worship

2 : a
system of religious beliefs and ritual; also : its body of adherents

3 : a
religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious; also : its body of adherents

4 : a
system for the cure of disease based on dogma set forth by its promulgator
<health cults>

5 a :
great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work (as a film or
book); especially : such devotion regarded as a literary or intellectual fad

b : the
object of such devotion

c : a
usually small group of people characterized by such devotion

It's clear, to me at least, that Strieber's
following fits into the fifth and last category. Since he is the one being
followed, he then fits under a wider definition of "cult leader." This is a
more benign use of the word of cult, however, and overlaps with cult films,
cult bands, etc. But the fact we use the same word for seemingly different
things shouldn't be overlooked, because clearly there is an overlap here.

Hearing people's objections, it struck me how
there is an across the board acceptance that "cult leader" = "bad," accompanied
by the assumption that there are certain telltale signs for recognizing a cult
and its leader(s). The idea that "cults are bad" and that they have specific
characteristics is propagated by the mass media, however, and the mass media
itself is (or sustains) a kind of cult, making those who uphold it — key figures
from anchor people to celebrities and politicians — "cult leaders" in a wider
definition of the term. As I have already suggested at this site (in
"Skywriters in Hades"), society itself is a cult; but since everyone belongs to
it, there's no one to point the finger and call it what it us. We can only
identify a cult if we are on the outside, i.e. before we join it or once we
have left it.

As described above, my concern that Strieber has
the makings of "cult leader" is based on observation at his website. Unknown
Country is basically a fan site, and fans, as we all know, behave "cultishly" — they
worship their "leader," and s/he can do no wrong. The first indication I had of
this was when my first article (which included no mention of cults) was
received at Unknown Country, and by Strieber himself, as an attack on Strieber
and as "disinformation — mostly, I felt, because it wasn't wholly supportive of
him. (Though I have since come to recognize a certain unconscious bias in the
writing of that first version, which is presumably still at work in this
current incarnation.) This impression was later confirmed by observing the
"love-bombing" of Strieber at his site. As unhealthy as love-bombing may be (in
my opinion), there's nothing especially sinister about a writer having a place
to talk with his fans and enjoy their praise and support. That is strictly in
the realm of the benign sort of cult (William Burroughs was a cult writer, for
example, though I highly doubt he appreciated being love-bombed!) in which a
small group of followers exhibit unusually strong admiration, even adoration,
for the object of their worship. Where it becomes more less benign, I think, is
when the "fan base" has religious, spiritual, or political dimensions to it and
takes the form of some sort of social movement, however small. This is the case
when the writer/leader is offering seeming truths about reality — teachings,
practices, instruction, prophecy, and so forth — instead of merely entertainment.
(There's no clear dividing line here, however.)

The measure in such cases is what sort of
following does the writer or spokesperson attract, how much does s/he encourage
(or allow) blind devotion, slavish agreement, credulity, and so forth, thereby
failing to encourage independence of
; and how concerned is s/he on increasing the size of the following,
and so on. Questions such as this are essential to determining whether or not a
person is abusing their influence and authority, consciously or not. As already
described, Strieber has repeatedly implied that subscribers to his site are in
an exclusive bracket of people who are tuned into higher, deeper truths and
reality, and that, because of this, they are on the front line of evolution, with
a more or less guaranteed place on the Mother Ship. He has even suggested that
they have been specially implanted with devices to make them immune to mind
control. Isn't it naive at this point to argue that Strieber is just a very
good writer with an especially devoted fan base?

A man is more than just the sum of his
stories, and so those stories can only be understood in the deeper context of
the man. To the degree that Strieber has used his stories to hide behind, that
desire to conceal and to self-aggrandize becomes the hidden meaning of those stories. The medium is the message.

So then what of myself? I seem to have made it
my literary mission of late to expose authors I perceive as being on a mission.
How do I square that circle? Transparency has become the primary focus of
everything I write. Regardless of who or what the subject may be, I am, in the
end, only holding a mirror up to myself. There's the desire that others might
see themselves in that mirror, but above all my hope is of eventually running
out of masks to hide behind. If total transparency is my aspiration as a
writer, it's also my deepest wish for the writers I'm inspired by — in this case,
the strange case of Whitley Strieber, and whatever lies behind that particular
mask. Strieber, Castaneda, Sebastian Horsley,
John de Ruiter, all the exposés I have written in the past few years may only
be a way for me to send out a distress signal, in the hope of receiving an
echo-response and getting the same treatment I am dishing out. For my old
outworn beliefs and deepest-rooted delusions to be gently and lovingly busted
wide open by the pressure of truth, leaving me exposed, like a newborn baby with
nowhere left to hide.

Perhaps the strange case of Whitley Strieber
is not so strange after all? Perhaps it only appears strange, because of the
exaggerated elements it contains, those of aliens, mind control, ascended
masters, and abductee cults. Maybe what makes it so interesting is that
Strieber — being a public figure with a large following — is just a bigged-up
version of all of us; or at least, a significant portion of us. Don't we all go
through a similar experience as Strieber did, and don't we all react and
compensate in similar ways? To illustrate, I will outline Strieber's story in
miniature, as follows:


  • Traumatic childhood
    abuse at the hands of unethical government agents resulted in a fracture in his
    psyche — and his reality — by which Whitley came into contact with Imaginal (divine
    and/or demonic) beings.
  • As an adult, Whitley became
    a writer of horror fiction and channeled his experiences (including suppressed
    memories of trauma) into his books, which then became best-sellers and were
    made into Hollywood movies.
  • Some years later, once
    Whitley was fully established as a novelist, he unexpectedly re-accessed the
    Imaginal realm — also in a traumatic manner — and re-established contact with
    Imaginal beings. His experience also indicated that the beings were working in
    tandem with unknown human agencies,
    either military or government, or both.
  • Whitley used his
    writing abilities to process his experiences and share them with the world, and
    once again he became a best-selling author. He graduated thereby from a fiction
    to a non-fiction writer, and from mere "entertainer" to disseminator, teacher,
    proselytizer, philosopher. Most crucially, he became a spokesman for the
    "contact" experience, and a leader to an unofficial community of "abductees."
  • Later on, he
    encountered "the Master of the Key" and became a mouthpiece for an enlightened
    being (and by association, for God), and potentially a prophet-leader for


It's a great story, classic, archetypal stuff.
The twist which I have added to Strieber's own version of events is that it is
only the surface narrative, underneath which a darker, more subconscious current
runs, represented in the narrative by the shadowy government agencies and
agendas that set the ball in motion to begin with. Strieber's handlers. The
wrinkle I have added to the tale says that those agencies, having "implanted"
Whitley with specific psychological "handles" by which to control him, have
been doing just that throughout his life, in tandem with the Imaginal forces.
That they have been subtly steering him and his work down previously laid
tracks, towards the formation of a sophisticated "mind control cult" designed
to keep potential psychics dancing to an intelligence tune, to prevent a real awakening from happening. (This last
part of the story is a little murky, but I think the narrative more or less
holds together.)

So what happens if we generalize the elements
of the story and apply them to the average person with no (conscious) experience
of aliens, government agencies, or ascended masters? What then?

Our parents are our handlers. They program us
and shape us according to their own agendas, and inevitably do us psychological
damage in the process, by instilling us with values and beliefs which stem from
their own conditioning. These values become the "handles" which make us acceptable — and
controllable — members of society. In the midst of this trauma-based conditioning,
as children we all take refuge in Imaginal realms. We find "imaginary friends"
to hang out with, and as we move into adolescence, we generate elaborate
fantasies to escape into, fantasies of being a super-hero, a prophet, a rock
star, a Casanova, a best-selling author, and so forth. As we near adulthood, those
fantasy realms and imaginal/imaginary characters become ambition-drives that
provide us with a sense of purpose, meaning, and destiny. As full-blown adults,
we then attempt to find a respectable (self-supporting) niche that will allow
room for our fantasy-based values to express and take root. (Strieber became a
successful fiction writer.) If all goes well, we will eventually develop a
philosophy (belief system) by which to live, and through it rediscover a sense
of personal destiny that is now linked to "higher" principles which we believe are
anything but fantasies, that represent truth, justice, democracy, divine law,
and apple pie for all (but Paradise just for the few).

Strieber's tale of making contact with aliens
and writing books about it is like a dramatic representation of this process.
It mirrors the desire and tendency in all of us to believe we have accessed
higher truth and are adopting the correct principles to live by — not only for
ourselves but for everyone. The
average person isn't abducted by aliens; the average person joins a
corporation, a Church, a political party, a sports club or all of the above,
and thereby gains a sense of purpose and meaning that is dependent on their participation. The natural next step is
to convert others to the "cause" and increase the reach and scale of their "club."
Church-goers prove their devotion by seeking new members for the congregation;
corporate climbers improve their company standing by bringing in new recruits;
party members enlist new volunteers and bring in more voters, and so on.

The desire to find a higher purpose that
transcends oneself is the same desire that draws people, from football
supporters to religious fanatics, to join cults of whatever kind. If an
individual is more inclined to lead than to follow, he can even start his own
following. Although Strieber's case is extreme, it is also typical. It is as if
he is magnifying collective conditions, collective patterns, so as to make them
visible to anyone with an eye to see. The patterns laid down in childhood by
trauma and neglect lurk beneath all such pursuits, spiritual, political,
artistic, sexual, or financial, and it's those handles and gears, working away
beneath the surface and behind the scenes, which ensure that, whatever we set
out to achieve, it will lead to a very different outcome.

So perhaps here is the final skin of Whitley's
onion, behind which there is no more onion? We are all doing a Whitley, though some of us more than others. If I was
drawn to Strieber, it was not only from a desire to connect to the knowledge
and mystery which his books described. It was because I wanted to be Whitley. I wanted to be a
best-selling author with aliens for friends, to be pitted against the hypocrisy
and ignorance of the world, with an adoring readership behind me, for whom I
could say or do no wrong, and a loyal wife by my side to keep me on the
straight and narrow. That's pretty much all I could ever ask for out of life. Following Strieber's work has led me to a
deeper and more intimate — uncomfortably so — knowledge of that propensity and
desire in myself, and to the certainty that I too have the makings of "a cult
leader," if only the opportunity would present itself in time! I have learned more
from Strieber and his work than even he
could have guessed: far more in fact than if he had been what he appeared, or
what he aspires to be — which is the Whitley that I wanted (him) to be.

That brings me full circle, and, I hope, out. No more deconstruction pieces!? Even
if everything I have asserted about Strieber is true, it really doesn't make
any difference now that I know it. There's no harm in mis- or disinformation,
any more than there's harm in works of fiction. Cults only attract people
already programmed to succumb to cult mentality — which in the end is all of us
anyway. If Strieber is deluded, an unwitting puppet-shill for sinister
forces — human or otherwise — and if he has created a personality cult to attract
and deceive people-what else is new? He's only doing what all of us are doing
in smaller ways. The only harm in it, finally, is to Whitley himself. For
others, who knows? I can only use myself as an example, in which case Strieber
has helped me immeasurably. He has helped me to see the harm I have done to
myself by following false prophets and misguided leaders, and by seeking a
connection to the divine outside of my own heart, body, and mind.

Right or wrong, it is entirely up to us which
we choose to do. And the prophet, by being false, becomes true.



In "Sinister Forces in My Life," May 26th, 2011, Strieber wrote: "There is even
one person out there claiming that the ‘edits' make the book better. Sure, get
rid of anything about mind control. Stick in things about evil aliens that don't
exist to confuse people about who the sinister forces around here really are.
That's great editing! The book was CENSORED."

The words he used when he accused Pinchbeck of doing the same, for suggesting
that he, Strieber, was "in league with evil entities."

Shortly after expressing these thoughts, I listened to Strieber's talk with Jim
Marrs, from the 19th of May, and discovered that Strieber did address "A
Minority Report," and even acknowledged some truth to it. His overall
position — that of a sinister hand of censorship — remained unchanged, however, and
Marrs never once questioned it.

One example of this (suggested to me by Cary McCoy on an early Stormy Weather
podcast): if the Imaginal "beings" were trying to birth us into a new
consciousness, they might be naively reenacting our own birth experiences to do
so, thinking that this was how we "did" birth here. They would either not
realize or not care how nightmarish and traumatic our own (hospital) births
were for us, and simply be giving us what we were culturally conditioned to

Aleister Crowley and Adolf Hitler are two of the more
outstanding examples of this. Less dramatically, John Lennon, Jim Morrison,
Carlos Castaneda, and, in current times, David Icke and Whitley Strieber come
to mind: all men with a mission aspiring, openly or otherwise, to be world
avatars. And unless they actually are that (i.e., fully enlightened beings),
the gulf between their aspirations and their abilities will invariably swallow
them up. They will become possessed by the shadow of their calling, tragic
heroes, cautionary tales. Castaneda's final years and his ignominious end, for
example, became the capstone for his wisdom teachings and the context in which
they must be forever framed.

"The Old Edition of the Key was CENSORED, the New One is Not," May 15, 2011

Also:  I also found this bizarre news story at
the site: "The implant in Whitley Strieber's left ear that uses mind control to
force him to continuously talk about it burst into flames on Monday and burned
to the ground. Now it's gone and he has no further reason to mention it in any
way whatsoever for any reason. Strieber was once again telling friends over
dinner about the implant when it made a crackling noise, then went up in a puff
of smoke. As all of his dinner guests were asleep, none of them witnessed the
event, and his camera had just been eaten by the dog, so he got no photographs."