Saturday, January 1, 2022

How the Nazis changed the future, according to The Key

The Key (originally self-published in 2001; I quote from that edition) is Whitley Strieber's account of his conversation with a mysterious man he met in Toronto on June 6, 1998. Near the beginning of their conversation (p. 13), the man -- given by Strieber the rather grandiose title Master of the Key -- says that the Holocaust was the most important event of the last 2,000 years. When Strieber seems incredulous, he elaborates.

You were meant to have acquired the ability to leave the planet by now. But you are still trapped here. You may be irretrievably lost. This is of absolutely fundamental importance, because the earth will soon be unable to support you, and yet you will not be able to leave. This is because of the Holocaust. The destruction of six million may well lead to the destruction of six billion. So it is the most important event, by far, of the age.

Why has the Holocaust prevented us from leaving the planet?

The Holocaust reduced the intelligence of the human species by killing too many of its most intellectually competent members. It is why you are still using jets seventy-five years after their invention. The understanding of gravity is denied you because of the absence of the child of a murdered Jewish couple. This child would have unlocked the secret of gravity. But he was not born.

You're saying that the catastrophe we're facing now -- too many people and no ability to leave the planet -- is punishment for the Holocaust?

What is happening is consequence, not punishment. The Holocaust was triggered when economic disorder combined among the Germans with a feeling of being trapped due to over-population. The resultant explosion drove the German tribe to lash out against other tribes, especially the one that lived in its midst. Unfortunately, they murdered the bearers of the intellectually strongest genes possessed by your species.

I note in passing the emphasis on sixes here -- "The destruction of six million may well lead to the destruction of six billion," in a message delivered on the sixth day of the sixth month of 1998, which is 666 times three -- but the main thing I am interested in is what it implies about time and contingency.

On the one hand, there is a strong indication that human life is highly predictable. The child referred to was, it seems, fated to unlock the secret of gravity, just as Oedipus was fated to kill his father and marry his mother. Had he been born, he would have gone through his life, making countless choices and thus unpredictably following one of an enormous number of possible life paths -- but still all roads, or at least the vast majority of them, would lead to his becoming a physicist and solving the riddle of gravity.

On the other hand, this otherwise inevitable fate was averted when the unborn physicist's parents were murdered by the Nazis -- which was apparently not a foreseeable event, since it apparently threw a wrench in the works and stymied the plans of whoever it was that had "meant" for us to expand off-planet by the end of the 20th century. This is strange, because one would have thought that large-scale sociopolitical developments would be much more predictable than the actions of any particular individual, especially those of a world-historical genius. There is no indication at all that Hitler was some unforeseeable "Mule" figure; on the contrary, the Master goes on to explain how the Holocaust, rather than being attributable to any person's act of free will, "was triggered" by economic and demographic factors and thus should -- one would have thought -- have been broadly predictable. How could the same predictive techniques accurately foresee the specific future scientific discoveries of a particular unborn Jew and yet fail to foresee the Holocaust?

But perhaps the expectation that a Jew would solve the mystery of gravity was not as personal as I have been assuming. After all, the Master does seem to say that it was the Holocaust as a whole -- not the death of one particular couple -- that has prevented us from leaving the planet, and that this was because it "reduced the intelligence of the human species by killing too many of its most intellectually competent members." Perhaps, given a critical mass of highly intelligent Ashkenazim in a highly developed country like Germany, one or another of them was bound to figure out gravity -- but then the Nazis went and essentially wiped out that whole population.

Where do any of these predictions come from, anyway? Elsewhere in the conversation, the Master that he and others like him have the ability to "exit the time stream" and see past, present, and future as a single "present" object. However, the fact that they are able to enter and exit the time stream -- that is, to change -- means that they are not truly atemporal but live and move in a Dunnean meta-time. And if their predictions are based on literally seeing a future that (from their meta-temporal perspective) already exists, the only way for those predictions to fail is for the future to literally be changed, as I discuss in my post "Changing the future and changing the past."

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Give me an O


My recent experiments with Googling Christopher Walken (chosen for no particular reason) led me to an article by Chris Evangelista called "The Quarantine Stream: 'Communion' Is One Of The Weirdest Alien Movies You'll Ever Watch." (Walken plays Strieber in the 1989 film version of Communion.) Here's an excerpt.

And we get to see the aliens here, and boy, some of them are not what you expect. There are two types of aliens that Streiber encounters. There's a species that looks like the more familiar "grey" aliens – skinny, long-limbed creatures with almond-shaped heads and big black eyes. Only these aliens are not grey, they're pink. Also, they seem to be made of rubber? Or latex? In any case, they flail around like they don't have bones, and flap their hands as if they're dancing. Then there is a group of squat, round aliens with huge heads. At first, they're expressionless. But late in the movie, these aliens – which are nicknamed "Little Blue Doctors" –  suddenly have rounded lips that appear as if they're constantly puckering up for a kiss. I don't know if this is intentional, or just a case of the film not having a big enough budget to make aliens with more expressive faces. In any case, it's weird as f***, and looking at those big puckered alien lips kind of made me want to die.

Yes, it was intentional, not a budget issue, and reflects a dialogue between Whitley Strieber and his young son Andrew in Communion. Andrew is relating some of his dreams, which his father suspects are actually distorted memories of real close encounters.

"I was in the middle of the air when I switched to this dream where I was in the hospital in the future where they were trying to cure some kind of disease. I'm not sure what it was. And I was taken out of my bed and onto a cot and out on the porch."

"Who took you out of your bed and onto the cot?"

"Some kind of doctor."

"What did he look like?"

"Oh, he was a very short and fat man with glasses that came out pointed upward like that. [Gestures as if eyes have a pronounced slant.] And he always has a big fake smile on him. [Smiles from ear to ear with his mouth closed.] He kind of kept it there except when he was asleep."

"How did you know he was asleep?"

"Well, he had -- well, that's because he worked in the night and slept in the day."

"What did his eyes look like?"

"He was wearing regular glasses. His eyes were a kind of greenish-blue color. Dark. The only two faces he had was this. [Again demonstrates smile.] And then a small one when he was sleeping. [Makes an O.]"

"Mouth open?"

"Yeah."

"When his mouth was opened, it was round?"

"Yeah. Puckered. Big puckered."

Evangelista seems not to have read Communion, so his use of the exact phrase that appears there, 
"big puckered," is interesting. (The word puckered does not occur in the Communion script.)

Today I was reading the 1989 "Satanic panic" book The Edge of Evil by Jerry Johnston. It includes a tapescript of an interview with a possessed teenager called Ann, and of her subsequent exorcism. Here is Ann discussing her depression, which began at the age of 8 or 9 when she "spoke in tongues."

"I was depressed even before. Yeah, I guess it started about the time I started speaking in tongues . . .  it's still there. And sometimes I can feel this screaming inside of me. And sometimes sort of like baby talk is coming out. It's different from the tongues."

"Garbled, sort of?"

"Yeah. It's not the same all the time. There's variation in it. Well, the tongues is I guess more or less the same. But then as well as the tongues, I get feeling really funny sometimes. It starts right here, just like the tongues, and my mouth goes tense and it starts to go funny."

A Mrs. Sibble from the girls' home adds, "It goes sort of round, too. The other night when you spoke in tongues it almost sort of went round, like a fish's mouth."

"Yeah, it does that. Ooh, it's awful. . . ."

The exorcism itself follows, performed by Archie Huewright.

"Now. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, tell me your name."

"My name is Greyer," the girlish voice sings. "Greyer had a little pony once --"

"All right. I rebuke you in the name of Christ. Do you have associates?"

"Two of them. Grayer, and G-R-A-Y-E-R-E; give me an O, give me an E --"

"Three of you," Archie says.

Three demons called Greyer, Grayer, and Grayere. The entities Strieber writes about are typically called "Grays" despite the fact that (as Evangelista notes) they aren't actually described as being that color. After spelling out the name of one of its demonic associates, Greyer says, "give me an O, give me an E," even though none of the three names has an O in it.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Two alien vegetable sellers


In my recent post "Cucurbits from an alien land," I quoted this passage from Whitley Strieber's book Breakthrough (1995). Strieber is writing about an incident that occurred at his cabin in August 1991. He had invited a group of houseguests for the weekend, including the writer Michael Talbot (who would die less than a year later). Strieber wakes up at about five a.m., hears Talbot's voice, goes downstairs, and sees him at the door.

There was a shadow out there. I could see it clearly. It shocked me, because the likelihood of a stranger appearing at our door in this rather isolated area at five in the morning was vanishingly small. Then I saw that the figure was very thin, and seemed to have a huge head.

The idea that this was a visitor certainly hadn't crossed Michael's mind. . . . Then I heard him say, "are you trying to sell those vegetables?"

It stunned me practically senseless. Then I saw that the visitor was holding a big paper shopping bag full of squash.

In Ed Conroy's Report on Communion (pp. 77-78), the author reproduces a letter, dated 30 July 1988, sent to Strieber (in care of his publisher) by his childhood friend Bill Mebane. Mebane jokingly writes in the voice of Strieber's alien visitor and refers to himself in the third person. He hints at further "Elizabeth Road adventures" (where Strieber grew up) in addition to those recounted in Communion. The ellipsis and brackets are in the published version.

Dear Whitley,

The one chosen to commune with the cosmos. Last Saturday afternoon I have mistakenly landed (flying too low) on the Matterhorm. Carefully climbing down to Zermatt, I was very shocked to find our story on sale in the local bookstore. Without my permission, and most importantly, without my point of view! And what is this Transformation already announced? Have you had other visitors?

Yours jealously
Slant-eyed Sally

P.S. I also visited in Zermatt a certain Signor Mebane (Italo-Texano) who claims his own version of the Elizabeth Road adventures. For example, he does confirm the sighting of a long cigar-shaped "ship" in your back lot, but he also asserts that we had previous contacts in the numerous games of night hide-and-seek around the Flowers' mansion. That was not always Patricia hiding with him! And what about that time your grandfather chased him and Mike Ryan out of the house, who was really to blame? And the old "vegetable wagon" that used to come to Elizabeth Road, who was that mysterious seller? And all the towers and treehouses that you all constructed; those in Mike's backyard, even near his pool; that wooden platform near Bill's bedroom; and all those tree outposts in your front yard. Were you establishing, unconsciously, bridges to the sky? And all the weather balloon and rocket experiments. . . .

This Italo-Texano, a shady character, could go on and on. Perhaps you should establish a direct contact: [address in Rome, Italy listed here].

P.P.S. It's a great book. Congratulations,

Bill

Mebane's letter is obviously tongue-in-cheek, so it's impossible to know how seriously he is proposing that the "vegetable wagon" and its "mysterious seller" had something to do with the visitors. Still, the parallel with the Talbot story is interesting.


Note: I found the illustration at the top of this post by running an image search for ufo vegetables (because, you know, you can find anything on the Internet). It turns out the same artist recently posted a birdemic cartoon.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Whitley Strieber's "new vision" of Jesus


Whitley Strieber is a one-of-a-kind thinker, and his book Jesus: A New Vision, published in January of this year, brings his unique approach to bear on the question of who Jesus is and what he did. It is a very exciting and stimulating book to read, full of surprising interpretations and insights. Unfortunately, in the end I don't think it really adds up to the coherent "new vision" of Jesus promised in the subtitle.


Jesus the man

Strieber's foundational assumption is that Jesus was a man, and that everything he did is therefore within the range of human capabilities and would in principle be possible for others to do as well. This does not mean that Strieber tries to explain Jesus away as "just a man" in a secular way. He accepts many of the extraordinary things attributed to Jesus, including the resurrection -- but where a conventional Christian would see these as proof that Jesus was God incarnate, a sort of being fundamentally different from ourselves, Strieber sees them as proof that human beings have undreamed-of potential. Jesus did things no human being could do, says the conventional Christian, and therefore he was no mere human being but God. Jesus did things no human being could do, says Strieber -- and that proves that human beings can do such things after all.

This is broadly similar to my own assumption, that Jesus was a man who became divine, and that others may follow him and do what he did. He told his disciples on numerous occasions that they could be like him, even that they would work greater miracles than his own. The idea that Jesus was like Superman -- human in appearance but actually fundamentally different in origin and nature -- is incorrect. Jesus was not a God disguised as a man; nor did he have (as per classical theology) "two natures," human and divine; rather, he was and is living proof that human nature and divine nature are one and the same -- that "now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be" (1 John 3:2).

Strieber doesn't go this far. As I will discuss below, he holds onto the idea of an impersonal monotheistic God and therefore prefers to say that Jesus was not a god.


Miracles

Strieber's approach to Jesus' miracles is a strange mixture of belief and secular explaining-away.

Jesus didn't literally turn water to wine because "that's impossible"; the story is symbolic. (By the way, Strieber reaches the same conclusion of Bruce Charlton, that the wedding at Cana was Jesus' own marriage to Mary Magdalene.) Most of his healings were probably just the placebo effect. When Jesus raised someone from the dead, what probably happened was that he revived a seemingly dead person with smelling salts, a trick he may have learned from the magicians in Egypt. Strieber accepts the apocryphal Infancy Gospel of James but goes Jefferson Bible on it -- "once the miracles attributed to him are stripped away," he says, it probably offers a pretty accurate account of his childhood.

Walking on water, though -- yeah, that probably really happened. There are many accounts of levitation, with multiple witnesses, in the historical record, and so gravity-defying miracles are credible. What Strieber does not mention -- he's trying to be Whitley the scholar here, not Whitley the weird-experience-haver -- is that he himself has experienced levitation and knows firsthand that it is real, and that that is his real reason for finding this particular miracle more credible than the others.

One reason for Strieber's seemingly inconsistent approach to miracles is his assumption that miracles are "not supernatural, but caused by natural forces that remain to this day little understood, but which [Jesus] did understand, at least well enough to make use of them." Jesus was not God, and his miracles are not proofs of his omnipotence. He didn't have the power to do anything, only some specific things, for specific reasons. Therefore, his working one miracle is in no way evidence that he could also have worked another, entirely different miracle.

For Strieber, Jesus' miracle fall into three categories: (1) those we can explain away, at least in principle (healings via placebo effect, smelling salts, etc.); (2) those we cannot yet explain away, but which are well enough attested that they probably did happen (walking on water, the resurrection); and (3) those which we can dismiss as "impossible" (turning water to wine, making clay sparrows come to life, etc.).

I guess I'm in broad sympathy with this approach, but I think Strieber is a little too quick to put things in the third category. As someone who has sometimes experienced six impossible things before breakfast, he really ought to be more willing to suspend judgment even on some of the less believable miracle stories.


Hidden helpers

One interesting point Strieber raises is that Jesus seems in the Gospels to have had a group of people -- distinct from his disciples -- secretly helping him behind the scenes. He mentions, for example, that on Palm Sunday there was already a colt waiting for him to ride on, and someone had provided the people with palm branches in preparation for his entrance. Other mysterious figures -- the man in white who runs away in Mark, the woman who anoints him in Luke -- are also tentatively connected with this group. I made a similar speculation in my notes on John 1:

When John says, "he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me . . . ," I wonder if he is describing a direct communication from God himself, or John had some human master or teacher out in the desert, lost to history, who gave him these instructions.

Strieber reaches no conclusions about who these people may have been, but it's an interesting hypothesis.


The sacrificed god

Many (beginning with Frazer in The Golden Bough) have noted the parallels between Jesus' story and those of other "sacrificed gods" who rise from the dead, such as Osiris and Tammuz. Believers see this as God inspiring the pagans to create myths that foreshadowed Christ; skeptics see it as evidence that the story of Jesus is fake, cobbled together from myths and not from history. Strieber's own take is unusual.

I think that there is another way to look at it, which is that Jesus was re-creating these earlier passions, using the same theory of sympathetic magic that had inspired the would-be messiahs who had come before him to recreate the Moses entry into the Land of Canaan. Having seen that this method had failed, he was attempting another.

Strieber elaborates on this at great length, explaining how Jesus "goaded the Romans into executing him" and deliberately did it in such a way as to echo various myths about "scapegoat gods," even when this had little to do with fulfilling the messianic prophecies of Judaism.

Strieber is not clear on what purpose this served -- or if indeed it served any purpose at all. He describes it as another instance of the same sort of "sympathetic magic" that had failed in the past. Did Jesus' resurrection somehow depend on enacting this mythological drama? Was it done to ensure that his story would resonate with the Greeks and Romans and be remembered? Strieber never really reaches a conclusion here; he merely proposes that Jesus was consciously attempting to be a second Adonis as well as a second Moses and David.


The resurrection

Strieber discusses the Shroud of Turin extensively, seeing it as very strong evidence that Jesus' corpse was transformed in a blast of radiant energy into -- something else. 

When there is proper testing of the Shroud, what we are almost certain to find is that Jesus turned into a version of himself made of light. He may have appeared human to those who saw him, but he was no longer an organic being. What happened was that a rare energetic event occurred that projected him back into the world for a time.

This misses the whole point of the resurrection, which is that it was a resurrection of the body. There's nothing revolutionary about people living on after death as spirits or "beings of light," but the resurrected Jesus made a point of demonstrating that he had a body of flesh and bone. Strieber's weird non-explanation, that he "may have appeared human" because "a rare energetic event occurred" (what?), does not make it clear how Jesus' post-resurrection appearances were anything other than ordinary "ghost" apparitions. Ghosts, whatever they are, are commonplace and were accepted as such in the ancient world; appearances of the ghost of Jesus would not have led to the belief that a dead man had come back to life.

Strieber says that Jesus showed that resurrection is possible for all of us but isn't clear on how. At times he seems to suggest that we can find the key to resurrection by further scientific examination of the Shroud of Turin. At others, he says we can transcend death by "following the Jesus path" -- meaning, uh, living by the Beatitudes or something. At any rate, he doesn't think we need to actually follow Jesus or believe in him; the book's closing sentence is, "Belief or faith or none, it does not matter: Jesus is there." How he got that message from the Gospels is anyone's guess!


God

Focusing on the burst of radiant energy evident in the Shroud of Turin, and on Jesus' appearance to Saul of Tarsus as a blinding light, Strieber connects these with other "incidents of light" such as the burning bush, the Transfiguration, and so on.

I think that there was a consciousness with high intelligence behind the resurrection event and all the other incidents of light that I have discussed. . . . I think that part of the message of the Shroud is that, by following the Jesus path, we all have the potential to enter the same state of light that he did.

Basically, he identifies this conscious light with God -- or rather, with his typical hedging, "a higher entity that, for want of a better word, we might as well call God." In what seems to me to be a remarkably obtuse misreading of the message of Jesus, he says that this God is entirely unlike a human being and that we need to stop anthropomorphizing it.

This conscious energy -- this light -- is concerned about us or it would not intervene in our lives. . . . But how can we relate to a consciousness that does not have a nature that we can understand or even a form that we can detect? . . . We have never in all our history had a concept of god that is not sentimentalized in some way like the vague idea of "God the Father," or personalized like the old gods of the Romans and the Egyptians. There is every reason now for that to change.

Strieber somehow fails to notice that the "idea of God the Father," far from being some "vague" and "sentimentalized" holdover from the infancy of our species, is in fact one of the central, and most revolutionary messages of Jesus. Even the notoriously skeptical Jesus Seminar (which Strieber references with depressing credulity) lists Jesus' calling God "Father" as one of his most undeniably authentic teachings. And this was a radical new doctrine, not a traditional Jewish idea. Jesus called us not to abandon anthropomorphism but to take it seriously. The vague idea which we really need to move beyond is the Hellenized view of God as an abstraction "that does not have a nature that we can understand."

When Saul asked the blinding light, "Who art thou, Lord?" the answer was, "I am Jesus whom thou persecutest" (Acts 9:5). If, as Strieber says, the "conscious energy" behind these "incidents of light" is to be identified with God, then Jesus had become God without ceasing to be Jesus, without ceasing to have a human nature. 

Moved by this experience, Paul was later to preach:

Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent (Acts 17:29-30).

We are the offspring of God, and therefore God is not like unto gold or silver or stone. What is he like, then? Like us. The impersonal, "non-sentimentalized" God promoted by Strieber is just another example of the ignorance that God winked at in the past, but which is no longer so excusable now that Jesus has come.

As so often, William Blake put it best: "God appears, and God is Light, to those poor souls who dwell in Night; but does a Human Form display to those who dwell in realms of Day."

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Synchronicity: A butterfly Mason?


Sometimes I write something I think is just too bizarre to publish -- and then I usually publish it anyway, and as often as not I soon get an email from some stranger saying, "You too? What an amazing coincidence!"


Early this afternoon, I was sitting in my living room. We have a large window in the front, but it was a very sunny day and the curtains were drawn. Suddenly, my tomcat Geronimo (a highly accomplished jumper) got between the window and the curtain and started jumping up on the glass again and again like a maniac. My wife said there must be a bird or something outside, so I popped out to take a look.

It wasn't a bird; it was a white cabbage butterfly, steadily beating its wings and flying directly into the windowpane. The glass was of course an impassable barrier, but it wouldn't alter its course in the slightest, and the result was that it just sort of hovered there. Now everyone knows that a normal butterfly's flight path resembles that of a drunken skywriter. Straight lines are simply not in their repertoire; nor is this sort of persistence when confronted with an impassable obstacle. Nevertheless, it persisted.

As I looked at the butterfly, a question suddenly popped into my head out of nowhere: Are you a traveling man? -- quickly followed by the rest of this stock Masonic dialogue: Yes I am. Traveling where? From west to east. (I'm not a Freemason, but one picks up these things.) The feeling that I was somehow having this dialogue with the butterfly -- ridiculous on its face! -- was unmistakable. The whole time, the butterfly kept flying persistently straight into the windowpane, and on the other side of the glass, a highly neurotic tomcat kept bouncing up and down like a superball.

Finally I snapped out of whatever passing trance the butterfly had put me in and gently shooed it away from the window. It immediately resumed normal butterfly behavior, and the cat settled down.

Checking a compass later, I found that it had indeed been flying at a perfect 90-degree azimuth, from west to east.


The weird feeling that I had been "communicating" (if reciting a stock dialogue can be called that!) with the butterfly made me remember that last year I had experienced a synchronicity in connection with the idea that the spirits of the dead can appear as moths -- I had read about this in Whitley Strieber's Afterlife Revolution and then heard the same thing shortly thereafter from a Taiwanese associate. Well, I thought, this was a cabbage butterfly, not a moth, but it's close anyway.

When I looked up my old post about the moth synchronicity, though, I found something that I had forgotten. The post showed the cover of The Afterlife Revolution -- illustrated with a picture of a white cabbage butterfly!


I ended the post thus:

I wonder how common this association is? I know Aristotle used the same Greek word to refer both to the soul and to the cabbage butterfly. (By coincidence, this same species of non-moth appears to have been chosen by Strieber's entomologically confused cover illustrator.)

I had forgotten that about Aristotle, too, but he does in fact use the word psyche ("soul"), in History of Animals 5.19, as a name for those insects that arise "out of those caterpillars which arise on leaves of green, especially on those of the cabbage-plant."


Coming back to the ridiculous idea of a butterfly being a Mason, I remembered that Freemasonry's central symbol is the building of the Temple of Solomon, and that in the Rudyard Kipling story "The Butterfly That Stamped," a butterfly stamps its foot and makes King Solomon's palace (close enough!) disappear and then reappear. (It is actually Djinns that do this, but Solomon has arranged for them to make it look as if the butterfly is making it happen.)

Suleiman-bin-Daoud laughed so much that it was several minutes before he found breath enough to whisper to the Butterfly, "Stamp again, little brother. Give me back my Palace, most great magician." . . . So he stamped once more, and that instant the Djinns let down the Palace and the gardens, without even a bump.

Then I thought about the song "Build Me Up Buttercup" by the Foundations.


Building up foundations sounds like a mason's work, does it not? Buttercup is a bit like butterfly, but not quite close enough to be satisfying. Ah, but what's the very first thing Wikipedia has to say about the Foundations? "The Foundations were a British soul band." Soul = psyche = cabbage butterfly.


Since Whitley Strieber had entered into this synch-stream, I thought of his "nine knocks" incident, documented in Chapter 11 of his book Transformation (a synonym for butterfly-style metamorphosis). Strieber recounts how he was at home, reading an essay by John Gliedman about quantum entanglement, when he noticed that his two cats were beginning to behave strangely, as if they are terrified.

The cats' fear didn't make sense to me at all. I decided there must be some animal outside, perhaps a deer. I returned to Dr. Gleidman's essay.

I read the following sentence: "The mind is not the playwright of reality."

At that moment there came a knocking on the side of the house. This was substantial noise, very regular and sharp. The knocks were so exactly spaced that they sounded like they were being produced by a machine. Both cats were riveted with terror. They stared at the wall. The knocks went on, nine of them in three groups of three, followed by a tenth lighter double-knock that communicated an impression of finality.

In his book A New World, Strieber refers back to this incident and connects it with Freemasonry.

I cannot know if this was intended, but the knocks reflected a tradition in Masonry where when someone is elevated to the 33rd Degree, they knock in this way on the door of the hall before being admitted.

He repeats this assertion in The Super Natural.

Also, when entering the thirty-third degree, a Mason must knock on the door of the lodge nine times in three groups of three.

I know basically nothing about the higher degrees of Masonry, but certainly "three distinct knocks" is a thing, and it wouldn't be surprising if they sometimes did three groups of three. Anyway, the point here is that Strieber, just like me today, (1) saw his cats behaving strangely, (2) assumed it was because of an animal outside, and then instead (3) observed something which he connected with Masonic ritual.

Friday, April 23, 2021

UFO conclusively identified

From Communion:

As it happens, the eighteen-year-old son of one of our neighbors saw something hovering near a road not five miles from our cabin at approximately nine-thirty on a night in late December. He described it to me as "huge and covered with lights," a typical description. He watched it for some time. Being the son of a former state trooper and pilot, he did not claim that it was a "UFO," but simply told the truth: He did not know what it was, but it appeared to be a solid structure, and as it hovered for a substantial period, more than fifteen minutes, it could not have been a flight of planes. I telephoned the Goodyear Corporation and found that their blimp was not in the area at the time.

The only thing I thought it could have been was some unknown blimp, but even that appeared hard to believe in view of what more I discovered about it.

Something that looked like an "unknown blimp" and was "covered with lights"? Isn't it obvious? What the kid saw was clearly an LED Zeppelin!

Thursday, March 18, 2021

To the ones . . .

M. C. Escher, Hand with Reflecting Sphere

Communion is subtitled A True Story, and almost the first words out of the author's mouth are "It is a true story, as true as I know how to describe it." Elsewhere in the book, he states flatly, "I don't lie." (Note: This statement may not be strictly true!) But the book begins with a curious dedication in verse, culminating in a dedication to "the ones who must lie."

To the ones who have slipped into the mirror,
And the ones who reflect it in their eyes.
To the ones who must hide everything,
And the ones who lose what they hide.
To the ones who cannot be silent,
And the ones who must lie.


Let's go through this line by line.

To the ones who have slipped into the mirror,

Slipping into the mirror recalls Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-glass, in which this is Alice's way of entering a sort of dream-world.

"Oh, Kitty! how nice it would be if we could only get through into Looking-glass House! I’m sure it’s got, oh! such beautiful things in it! Let’s pretend there’s a way of getting through into it, somehow, Kitty. Let’s pretend the glass has got all soft like gauze, so that we can get through. Why, it’s turning into a sort of mist now, I declare! It’ll be easy enough to get through --" She was up on the chimney-piece while she said this, though she hardly knew how she had got there. And certainly the glass was beginning to melt away, just like a bright silvery mist.

In another moment Alice was through the glass, and had jumped lightly down into the Looking-glass room.

In Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, she enters the magical world by falling down a rabbit-hole. Here, while talking to her cat, she begins pretending or imagining, and then somewhere along the line what was pretend becomes real, and she is in a mist, and suddenly -- she hardly knew how she had got there -- she is in another world. The parallel to Strieber's own story is obvious, and at one point he directly suggests that his visitors have something of Looking-glass Land about them.

A visitor once said to an abductee, "On is off and off is on. We confuse the language." There is something of the mirror image in all this . . .

When Strieber reports his hypnosis sessions with Dr. Donald Klein, he titles that section of the book "Hypnosis: The Uncertain Mirror" -- presumably because hypnosis is an unreliable way of looking into one's own mind, and the risk of "slipping into the mirror" of delusion is non-negligible.

"What had my life really been," Strieber asks, upon discovering that he had long been living a secret life with the visitors, "and how many other lives have been lived like mine, skidding the surface of this dark mirror?" The dark mirror suggests St. Paul's famous lines: "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known" (1 Cor. 13:12). Given Strieber's evident interest in and knowledge of Aztec mythology (extensively referenced in Communion), perhaps there is also a hint of Tezcatlipoca, "Smoking Mirror," and the obsidian mirrors used by Aztec shamans to gaze into other worlds.

Why does the human mind wink back from the dark? Because there is something truly human about it, or because we are being fooled by our own reflection? When you look through a window, you see what is outside -- but when it is dark outside, the window becomes a mirror, and you see only yourself. Actually your reflection is there on the glass all the time but is drowned out by the much brighter stimuli coming in from outside, just as the stars shine all day but are visible only when the Sun has withdrawn.

When you study most things, you learn about the object of your study. But when you study a true unknown -- like the visitors, or God -- so little unambiguous information is coming in from "outside" that the bulk of what you learn is about yourself.

And let's not forget Anne Strieber' assessment of the visitor experience -- "this has something to do with the dead" -- and how that ties in with the window/mirror imagery with which Nabokov opens Pale Fire. (I'm sure Strieber is exactly the sort of guy who read Pale Fire at the age of 17, when it first came out.)

I was the shadow of the waxwing slain
By the false azure in the windowpane;
I was the smudge of ashen fluff -and I
Lived on, flew on, in the reflected sky.
And from the inside, too, I'd duplicate
Myself, my lamp, an apple on a plate:
Uncurtaining the night, I'd let dark glass
Hang all the furniture above the grass,
And how delightful when a fall of snow
Covered my glimpse of lawn and reached up so
As to make chair and bed exactly stand
Upon that snow, out in that crystal land!


And the ones who reflect it in their eyes.

Very clever double meaning here. One reading is "the ones who reflect in their eyes the fact that they have slipped through the mirror." When Dante walked the streets, passersby in their naïveté used to whisper to one another -- not, "There's the man who wrote the Comedy!" but, "Look, there's the man who's been to Hell!" People swore they could see it in his eyes. Some even said his hair had been preceptibly (and apparently permanently!) singed and curled by the heat. When someone has spent time in other worlds, it shows.

Look, there's the man who's been . . .
uh, someplace really strange.

The other possible reading is "the ones who reflect the mirror in their eyes." Imagine putting on a pair of mirror shades and looking into your bathroom mirror. You'd see your reflection in the mirror, and in the reflection's shades a reflection of your reflection, and in that reflection's shades . . . well, you'd have an infinite series of reflections, like one of those Yaoi Kusama "infinity room" installations. (Strieber is exactly the kind of guy who would have gone to see those when they first appeared, the same year as Pale Fire.)

Now take off the shades. You may not have all-natural mirror-shade eyes like a Gray, but your pupils are dark. They reflect. Look closely, can you see your face in there? Stare as hard as you can. You might want to get a little closer to the mirror -- closer -- careful now, don't slip!


To the ones who must hide everything,

This is presumably referring to those of Strieber's fellow close-encounter witnesses (surely a large majority) who feel that they can never reveal their experiences ever, to anyone, for any reason. Thinking you've been abducted by aliens is a byword for kookiness. Reveal that particular fact about yourself, and you permanently brand yourself as a laughingstock, never again to be taken seriously by anyone who counts. You can see a ghost, you can have a near-death experience, you can experience astral projection, whatever, and still not take as severe a blow to your credibility as you would should you ever be so gauche as to be taken aboard a flying saucer. (If I were an abductee, I would deny it. And no, I'm not one.)

Another possibility is that this refers to the government and the military -- who, according to some popular theories, are being forced to cover everything up by what they view as credible threats from the visitors if they do not.

Or it could be the visitors themselves. They certainly do hide. Is that what they want to do, or do they accept it as an unfortunate necessity.


And the ones who lose what they hide.

It's probably just a coincidence that I was reading a Whitley Strieber book -- his novel The Grays -- when my attention was drawn in a seemingly paranormal way (related in detail here) to this passage in Helaman 13 in the Book of Mormon:

O that we had remembered the Lord our God in the day that he gave us our riches, and then they would not have become slippery that we should lose them; for behold, our riches are gone from us. Behold, we lay a tool here and on the morrow it is gone; and behold, our swords are taken from us in the day we have sought them for battle. Yea, we have hid up our treasures and they have slipped away from us, because of the curse of the land. O that we had repented in the day that the word of the Lord came unto us; for behold the land is cursed, and all things are become slippery, and we cannot hold them. Behold, we are surrounded by demons, yea, we are encircled about by the angels of him who hath sought to destroy our souls. Behold, our iniquities are great. O Lord, canst thou not turn away thine anger from us?

(Do people still say "probably just a coincidence" non-ironically?)

One also thinks of the parable of the talents in Matthew 25.

Then he which had received the one talent came and said, "Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine."

His lord answered and said unto him, "Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents."

Yet another scriptural resonance is with the candle under the bushel (Luke 5, Matt. 11). If you try to hide a candle's light by covering it up, the light will go out.

Why do people lose what they hide? Well, in the simplest analysis, to hide something is deliberately to make it hard to find, and that also makes it harder for you to find. You might lose they key, forget the password, lose track of where you buried it. In Helaman 13 and Matthew 25, what is hidden is not so much lost as taken, by the Lord, as a punishment.

What is lost by close-encounter witnesses who hide their experiences? Do the experiences cease to occur? Do they lose their memories of the experiences they have already had? Or do they simply lose the thread? By hiding something away, compartmentalizing it, refusing to connect it with anything else you know or have experienced, you make it impossible to understand. Even more impossible, I mean.


To the ones who cannot be silent,
And the ones who must lie.

You just have to say something, but you can't tell the truth -- largely because you can't admit it, even to yourself. Strieber describes this in Communion. He wakes up with "a very improbable but intense memory" of having seen an owl at his window during the night -- a memory he doesn't really believe himself but feels a compulsion to share.

I remember how I felt . . . when I looked out onto the roof and saw that there were no owl tracks in the snow. I knew I had not seen an owl. I shuddered, suddenly cold, and drew back from the window, withdrawing from the night that was falling so swiftly in the woods beyond.

But I wanted desperately to believe in that owl. I told my wife about it. She was polite, but commented about the absence of tracks. I really very much wanted to convince her of it, though. Even more, I wanted to convince myself. So intent was I on this that I telephoned a friend in California for the specific, yet unlikely, purpose of telling her about the barn owl at the window.

I have had a somewhat similar experience myself, which even involved a confabulated bird of prey. When I was perhaps 12 or 13, I was walking to Hell Hollow (a park near our home), going down a country road that gets very little traffic, when a Cadillac pulled up beside me and rolled down its window. Inside, an old woman with sunglasses held up her hand and beckoned with one finger. She looked really extraordinarily old and thin, and her fingers seemed unnaturally long, like those of an aye-aye. I was absolutely terrified and sprinted all the way home without looking back, running as fast as I have ever run in my life. Later I told everyone that while I was walking to the park, I had seen a red-tailed hawk perched on a telephone pole, and that it had flown down and landed on my shoulder. No one, including me, believed the story.

Later Strieber relates some improbable anecdotes he used to tell about his travels through Europe in the late 1960s, anecdotes that he now believes were never true, but may have served to cover up something even more improbable.

But why do I need these absurd stories? They are not lies; when I tell them, I myself believe them. I don't lie. Perhaps I tell them to myself when I tell them to others, so that I can hide from myself whatever has made me a refugee in my own life.

The apparent psychological purpose of this confabulation is to replace something deeply confusing and therefore distressing with something that, however improbable it may be, is at least clearly defined. Even after the fact of a close encounter has been admitted, the temptation remains -- the temptation to force the infinite strangeness of it all into some comprehensible frame, such as that of teams of alien scientists flying around in spaceships conducting experiments, or representatives of a galactic federation come to save us from global warming.

Among witnesses, Strieber is notable for his determination to resist all such temptations and to let the unknown be the unknown.


Note added: On March 21, three days after writing this post, in which I tell a tangentially relevant story about a Cadillac I saw about 30 years ago, I was in Taichung with my wife (who doesn’t read this blog and has never heard the story), and a very old Cadillac drove past us. She said, “Wow, a Cadillac! I think the last time I saw a Cadillac was 30 years ago. From the looks of it, that might even be the same one!”

Incidentally, I never consciously thought of the car in my own story as a Cadillac until I wrote this post. I’ve never had the slightest interest in motor vehicles (except tanks), and I’m quite sure my 12-year-old self couldn’t tell a Caddy from an Olds. My visual memory of the car is still clear enough, though, that I can now say with confidence that a Caddy is what it was.

How the Nazis changed the future, according to <i>The Key</i>

The Key  (originally self-published in 2001; I quote from that edition) is Whitley Strieber's account of his conversation with a mysteri...