Images by Lucinda Horan, except where indicated
“[W]here the inner world is filled with violent aggression, primitive defenses are present also. More specifically, we now know that the energy for dissociation comes from this aggression. . . . It seems that as the unbearable (traumatic) childhood experience, or something resembling it in the transference [i.e., during psychotherapy], begins to emerge into consciousness, an intra-psychic figure or ‘force,’ witnessed in the patient’s dreams, violently intervenes and dissociates the psyche.”
—Donald Kalsched, The Inner World of Trauma
My aim with this exploration has been to uncover the self-protecting traumatic secret hidden behind Strieber’s narrative—and by extension my own—in order to unlock it. This inevitably runs the risk of being as invasive—and as uninvited—as an alien rectal probe. If Strieber has constructed a line of defense against seeing the true nature of his experiences—or at least a central aspect of them, one that changes everything about them—then he has done so for good reasons. Tearing down that psychological wall might prove harmful—to him, and therefore to me.
Chapel Perilous is not just any ordinary hall of mirrors; the mirrors are perfectly aligned to create an infinity of reflections, with nothing in between. To really see what’s (not) there does not mean to shatter the mirror—that would only leave us with a collection of dangerous fragments and a lifetime’s bad luck. It means to disappear from view, to become pure perception, without either subject or object because there is no perceivable difference between the two. The author, the subject, and the reader, all vanish into an infinite progression, leaving only the space behind. That is the picture I am trying to hold up to the light, without my shadow getting in the way. It is a picture of infinite space, not only out there but in here. The psyche, as within, so without.
When writing psycho-history, the meanings don’t make themselves available like ordinary facts and figures. They have to be teased out and then they need to be apprehended, not only with the intellect and the intuition, but with the total body. This exploration is attempting to present the “lost body” of Strieber’s work and of my own life simultaneously. With any luck, the vesica piscis of our two psyches as they overlap will act as an opening onto the collective psyche. But this will only happen through an accurate superimposition of material. If it is more than slightly off, the image will be fuzzy and blurred, and the reader will see only a double distortion.
To spell it out too much means losing the finer meanings that is the subtle body of the analysis. If I don’t spell it out enough, those meanings might never been recognized. It is like walking a razor’s edge, the razor’s edge that Strieber is walking: the edge between “worlds,” between the madness of denial and the insanity of going off the deep end. We are walking it together.
What I’ve done for this chapter is to take a leaf out of Whitley’s book. I have turned the focus around and taken it outward, to the stars, specifically to Mars, a planet which Strieber has shown a consistent interest in. Conversely, with fearful symmetry and not without hesitation, I will once again be probing into Whitley’s childhood experiences. In The Secret School, he describes his ninth year, in 1954, receiving nine lessons from a being, or beings, he later identified as the visitor(s), as part of a group of children being tutored in a sort of cosmic consciousness, beyond space and time. In the first of these lessons, he describes visiting Mars—in non-physical form—and seeing the (now famous) “face on Mars,” followed by an encounter with a Martian nun (whom he later identifies as the female visitor he was reintroduced to in 1985). This brings three elements together into a single narrative: Strieber leaving his body (dissociation) as a child; his encounter with the visitors; and his first being seeded with an interest in Mars. Strieber describes how, partially due to the influence of sci-fi movies, he became obsessed with the planet Mars as a child and staged fantasy enactments of being transported there. He recounts in great detail an out-of-body vision of flying above the surface of Mars. In it, he feels a great loneliness and a desire to be back with his parents:
The hollowness that fills children when they are far away tormented me. I could not let myself think about home: I was looking for something and I had to find it because failing would be very terrible. Still, I sure wanted to be home with Momma and Daddy (p. 5).
To read full essay, order Prisoner of Infinity: UFOs, Social Engineering, and the Psychology of Fragmentation