“They are forcing me to grow. Stressing me so much that my mind is evolving. Rats—there were tests of rats in the seventies. Stress tests. Rats were stressed with electrocution. Day after day they were made to suffer for long periods of time. They grew stronger, their brains got larger, they became better rats. . . . Their function is in some way to make us evolve.”
—Whitley Strieber, Transformation
While I was working on what became the first part of this exploration, I came across a used copy of Strieber’s Transformation in the local bookstore. I bought it and started re-reading. Like Communion, I read the book many times in the past; it has had a formative influence on me, and I was curious to see how it would affect me after more than ten years, in light of recent discoveries and my changed spiritual perspective. Many of the passages still impressed me with a genuinely “magical” flavor, and once again I was struck by how much Strieber had gone through and the degree of apparent “soul-growth.” At the same time, it drove home just how little, from my point of view, it seemed to have actually benefitted him in terms of personal development.
In chapter seventeen of the book, “Fury,” Strieber describes a disturbing series of incidents. He has already recounted how the visitors told him to give up sweets and that, if he eats chocolate, he will die. Strieber makes a couple of attempts to obey these unexpected demands, but he soon realizes he is addicted to sugar. He receives further admonishments and tries again. He wonders if the visitors are only attempting to show him how addicted he is to externals, or whether there is an actual, physical state they want him to enter into that can’t be accessed without giving up sugar. He continues to eat candy, however, and eventually the visitors react.
Strieber wakes to find one of the beings in the corner of his room. He feels “an indescribable sense of menace.” (All quotes from Transformation, p. 190-93.) The next moment, inexplicably, he feels “mothered. Caressed.” He experiences a “light, electric pressure” between his eyes and instantly finds himself on a stone floor with a stone table in front of him. There are iron shackles attached to it. A man is led up some steps by another man dressed in black. The first man is shacked to the table and the man in black begins to beat him violently with a whip, until he is “almost torn to pieces.”
Strieber is told that the man is being beaten because he failed to get Strieber to obey him. Strieber understands it is because he failed to give up sweets. The man continues to be beaten, coming in and out of consciousness. Strieber hears a voice in his head, the female visitor, telling him: “It isn’t real, Whitley” over and over. Strieber writes that the voice doesn’t help, that he had “never felt such raw humiliation and guilt”; he would have done anything, he writes, to have taken the beating in the man’s place. The next thing, he is back in his bed and the female visitor is smiling at him sardonically. He hears his son screaming in another room. The being tells Strieber, “He is being punished for your transgression.” Strieber closes his eyes. “The sense of being infested was powerful and awful. It was as if the whole house was full of filthy, stinking insects the size of tigers.” The screaming stops. He tries to get out of bed but is hit in the face and falls back.
The next day, his son appears to be unharmed, and Strieber expresses love and gratitude for the visitors and what they have done for him.
I had the sense that they had on my behalf turned away from perfect love, and that they had done this to help me. If they are an element of the divine, to come into our world would be like penetrating perfect darkness. I realized that I was isolated in myself, turned away from the light that surrounds us. I suspected that the ugliness I had seen last night was not them, but me. I was so ashamed of myself that I almost wretched (p. 193).
Previously, when I’d read this book and Communion, I had fully accepted Strieber’s view of the visitors’ harsh treatment of him as a kind of cosmic tough love. I had even tried giving up sweets: I wanted access to that “place.” Now it seems more as if Strieber unconsciously found a way to interpret the events in a favorable light, because (as he admitted) he desperately needed to see the visitors as benevolent. The alternative would be intolerable. This isn’t necessarily as simple as rationalization, because it might be a pre-rational process. There is an exact match for it when a small child is abused or neglected by a parent or other adult caregiver: since the child’s survival depends on the adult, it can’t allow the possibility that the caregiver is anything other than perfect and benign (“an element of the divine”). The child then sees itself as bad, as deserving the punishment it receives. As Kalsched writes, “It is an almost universal finding in the literature of trauma that children who have been abused cannot mobilize aggression to expel noxious, ‘bad,’ or ‘not-me’ elements of experience, such as . . . hatred of an abusive father.” Because the child is unable to hate the parent and sees them as good, “the child takes the father’s aggression into the inner world and comes to hate itself and its own need.” (Kalsched, p. 17.)
For alien beings to enforce a strange, seemingly random discipline—getting Whitley to give up sweets and punish him when he failed—is like a grotesque caricature of bad parenting. If Strieber is unconsciously protecting these “visitors” by blaming himself for their abusive treatment of him, then all the “spiritual evolution” he is supposedly undergoing becomes part of that same unconscious cover-up: evidence of his own complicity with the abuse. It is the irrational, or pre-rational, circular logic of the child: since they are good, what they are doing to him is for his good; since their harsh treatment of him is for his own good, they must be good.
The appliance of control and discipline can be parental and it can be a form of love. But it can also be done for very different ends, as is the case when such discipline crosses over into abuse. In a 1988 interview, Strieber discussed the incident:
I mean, like the business of eating sweets, which is so stupid. How dare they do that? And yet it became finally so terrifying that I was sort of forced into doing something about it because of my child and now as time has passed what happens when I eat sweets is that I . . . I go into a decline. I mean I just can’t do it and it’s because—I’m convinced it’s psychosomatic but still it’s—I’ve just lost that ability. I can’t do it because of what happened, and I don’t understand why it happened; there isn’t any explanation for that anywhere in my understanding of what I’ve experienced. It’s almost as if by forcing me to do something that was apparently difficult for me in the physical world, this force gained strength.
The statement is chillingly concise.
To read full essay, order Prisoner of Infinity: UFOs, Social Engineering, and the Psychology of Fragmentation