“When he lay down to prepare himself for sleep, he no longer sought amusement, but printable and profitable tales; and after he had dozed off in his box-seat, his little people continued their evolutions with the same mercantile designs. [A]nd, for the most part, whether awake or asleep, he is simply occupied—he or his little people—in consciously making stories for the market. This dreamer (like many other persons) has encountered some trifling vicissitudes of fortune. When the bank begins to send letters and the butcher to linger at the back gate, he sets to belabouring his brains after a story, for that is his readiest money–winner; and, behold! at once the little people begin to bestir themselves in the same quest, and labour all night long, and all night long set before him truncheons of tales upon their lighted theatre.”
—Robert Louis Stevenson, “A Chapter on Dreams”
The next day I got up, thinking about finishing off part one of the opus that never ended. I wondered why I had included the detail of listening to Strieber’s audio in the bathtub. It occurred to me that I had unconsciously chosen a “safe,” womb-like space in order to let myself to see certain things I might otherwise not have been able to see. While all of this apparently related to Strieber, it was just as much about my own psychic formation, or deformation, and presumably a lot more so, since the secret subject of every written piece is always its author. Rather than going straight to work, I decided to read some more of Greg Mogenson’s A Most Accursed Religion while having my morning porridge. I began to read chapter two, “An Infectious Savior.” It begins with a description of a woman’s dream of being in a bathtub, a light shining out of her head. The woman takes batteries out of her head, after which she finds herself in her apartment, watching workmen replacing the glass from her windows with blank sheets of writing paper. I read these words: “He told her that he believed the dream was suggesting that writing could provide a container for what her life could not contain.”
The man in Mogenson’s narrative (who is interpreting the woman’s dream) describes how, after hearing the dream, he reads a book (by Northrop Frye) called The Great Code: The Bible and Literature. The day before, I’d had an email exchange with a spiritual teacher about this present work. He had asked me: “Have you got [Strieber] locked inside a punchbag?” I replied: “It’s more like The DaVinci Code, with the Strieber Body (of work) as the Mona Lisa.”
The man in A Most Accursed Religion (Mogenson’s stand-in?) finds a clue to the woman’s dream when the book he’s reading refers to the Leviathan, whom he identifies with the woman. Less than an hour after reading about Leviathan, I came across this among some Lloyd deMause material:
What I found was that the cartoons, past and present, of the enemy in war were dominated by an image that was even more widespread than that of the dangerous mommy: it was that of a seabeast, often with many heads or arms, a dragon or a hydra or a serpent or an octopus that threatened to poison the lifeblood of the nation.
The man in Mogenson’s narrative asks himself: “How is it that this modern woman in a bathtub with batteries in her head manifests the chaos monster?” The man goes to sleep and has a dream of his own, also with a bathtub in it, this one covered with crosses. He receives a telephone call; a male voice tells him “The anti-incarnational ideas you are now conceiving are very, very evil.” The dream continues some more, and then he wakes.
“Jesus,” he thought, “is it through you that the spirit of the flesh enters, that Leviathan enters bathtubs and persons? Your cross scales the non-human, archetypal world down into man. Are you the carrier of the contagion from which we suffer?”
The crucifixion, writing, Leviathan, and the killing mother were all being linked together by the image of a bathtub! The next passage in Mogenson’s book was about Gnosticism compared to psychotherapy:
Gnosticism is based not in holy writ, but in the holiness of writing itself. It is not the story of Christ that brings salvation; it is the storying Christ. The incorporeal (non-incarnate) Gnostic-Jesus is metaphor, and metaphor is the uncanonical solution for the Old Testament trauma, the Old Testament God. Gnosticism is healing fiction. The nailing of Christ to the wooden cross was, in the Gnostic view, the crucifixion of the capacity to make fiction, the nailing of metaphor, literalism (p. 78, emphasis added).
I realized that this might be a key to the whole project. What I was attempting with my ever-expanding psycho-history of Strieber was a gnostic kind of therapy, “healing fiction.” Perhaps that was even what Strieber was attempting? But, like Frankenstein’s monster or the sorcerer’s apprentice, it had all somehow gone horribly wrong, and the metaphor-maker had become the literalist, the storyteller the scientist, pinned to the cross of his own salvation story. (The fictional Strieber was even pierced in “Pain,” as part of his execution fantasy.)
The Gnostic idea of the Christ-Deity is very different from the Christian (or Catholic) one: Christ is the kingdom within us, the authentic self. He/It is eternally present, waiting for us to discover it. The Christian idea is that Christ was a Man who was also God, who died for our sins in a single historical act of self-sacrifice on which we are forever compelled to gaze. The difference between an external sacrificial event and an internal discovery is the difference between history and fiction, fact and metaphor. To take a psychic reality as a physical one is to take metaphor for fact, externalize it, and give it power over us. It turns trauma into God—which is when transference fails, and religion, accursed religion, triumphs over the soul.
I read on:
But the job of analysis, at least a Gnostic analysis, is to liberate spirit from the contingency of the patient’s life through metaphor. [It] does not aim to repeat the intercourse that has made for the patient’s first birth. Rather, by means of a subtler union, its aim is to reveal the primal scene, interrupt the parental coitus, and free the soul from its Oedipal bondage . . . Reclining in the repose of metaphor, the patient is released from the prose of his incarnational life. By restating in poetic terms the incidents of his life which the language of prose had preserved as trauma, the patient frees his soul to follow its desires (p. 78-9, emphasis added).
Strieber insists the contact experience is universal, and it may well be. What I have seen, however, and what he himself has described—while apparently unaware of the metaphors he has employed and been shaped by—is a psychotherapeutic theater of archetypes. It is a form of daimonic transference process by which Strieber—and by extension the whole of humanity—is being forced to re-witness the primal scene of his/our mimetic desire/Oedipal longing, and have it interrupted.
Strieber’s bondage is the human bondage: that of the infant who wishes to please his caregivers by doing what he is told but who is being told to go his own way. So far he has apparently been unable to reconcile that double bind—the oldest human dilemma of all, fate and free will—and obey the imperative of autonomy. He is forever falling back into the mother’s breast, even as he picks up the pen, the surrogate phallus of his emasculated manhood, to prove that he is free to write his own life story. Yet all the while, silently and in secret, he continues to receive dictation. Judging by the signs (that of his own fiction, intentional and otherwise), Strieber has yet to recognize the metaphor which the visitors have presented to him (that he was mothered and fathered by trauma), and so remains enslaved by the fantastic and horrifying fact of their existence.
“The familial metaphor is called into play as a basic model of propitiating any overwhelming event whatsoever” (p. 80). Whatever trauma we experience in later life, we must always refer back to the original family dynamics, inherent within our psyche, in order to make sense of it. Yet paradoxically, maddeningly, being aware that an original trauma has happened at all depends on our making sense of it. Not only that, but the re-enactment event (Strieber’s close encounter experience of 1985, for example) is likewise limited by our capacity to make sense of it. It is shaped by the sense-making apparatus which we inflict upon it. An early and formative experience of trauma will therefore turn all subsequent experiences that are beyond our comprehension into traumata. Since the nature of God is beyond our comprehension, God (and the psyche) inevitably becomes trauma.
To read full essay, order Prisoner of Infinity: UFOs, Social Engineering, and the Psychology of Fragmentation