Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Review of Whitley Strieber's Communion

Communion: A True Story
I have always shied away from this book, largely, I think, due to my very Orthodox Christian background. I always knew it was an in-depth account of alien visitation that might confuse me a little, challenge some dearly-held beliefs. (Not that it isn’t healthy for a faith to be challenged.) But as unexplained phenomena is one of my passions, and I had slowly, through other media, been broken into the world of abduction stories with my faith still intact, I finally read it. Besides, I have long had the impression that Communion is canon for any UFO enthusiast – much like Enders Game or Dune might be for a Sci-fi fan – and I didn’t want to be caught not having read it.

Communion is the story of Whitley Strieber’s experiences as a possible abductee of otherworldly visitors. I say “possible” because he never boldly answers the question of what his experiences are; he only believes they are real, whatever they are. His experiences are bizarre, to say the least. From childhood to present, they are spattered with seemingly unrelated images: a skeleton on a motorcyle, small figures in blue jumpsuits, a blurry “white thing.” Likewise, the sum of his experiences resists any theme or cohesive pattern: missing time, a exploding seltzer bottle, a mysterious voice in the speakers, and abductions resulting in everything from a cut on the finger to unexplained implants.

Strieber first suspected that he had been a recipient of some strange activity in 1985, but hypnosis regression therapy suggested prior anomalous events. As he explored his memories – both conscious and unconscious – he began to piece together a pattern of strange experiences starting as early as age two. His stories would evoke incredulity at best if certain elements were not corroborated by credible witnesses, medical proof, and similar stories from experiencers ignorant of Strieber’s own. Just a few reoccurring reports among experiencers include some type of implant, sexual procedures, disappearing pregnancy, and the ability to affect electronic equipment. The reported entities look the same as well, with the now familiar large, black eyes and nearly non-existent mouth.

Because Strieber recounts his experiences in the order that he remembered them in his regression therapy (or otherwise), and due to regressions that unpredictably interrupted other regressions, any sense of chronology becomes extremely convoluted, walking the reader along Strieber’s own mental labyrinth. To get a better sense of the timeline of Strieber’s experiences, I have logged the events by order of occurrence. (See below.)

In his theorizing about the exact nature of these entities -- during which he charges down long paths of speculation about ancient mythological figures and religious conventions – Strieber takes broad leaps, and I found myself wishing for more narrative and less conjecture. He seems to lean toward a positive view of the entities, but relays no experience to justify this feeling. He admittedly feels a certain affinity for the consistent female visitor, but the terror and sense of invasion which accompanies most of his experiences overshadows anything positive for the reader.

As for reading this from the perspective of an Orthodox Christian, I can see how one might conclude the entities are demonic. However, regardless of what they are, I read this book with the respect I would give anyone who wanted me to hear him out. I was moved more than once to empathy and compassion. I did not approach the book with any preconceived notions about what he experienced or about his motives. I was disappointed to read, in the new preface, how Strieber was treated with such contempt by “the religious right and the intellectual left.” I believe it take guts for a man like Strieber, an intellectual and professional, to write such a book. He presents his case with the vulnerability of a child, and one would be remiss to exploit that trust by ridiculing or condemning him.

I am glad I read this book. If nothing else, it gave me insight into the very real trauma of one who has encountered something inconceivable and unacceptable to much of society. By default, such a person – who needs more than anything to be heard – is alienated. Books like Communion help overcome that alienation, if only for the moment that we are listening.

Timeline of Whitley Strieber’s Experiences

1947 – age two – at Grandmother’s: memory of “a terrifying, round object” in the sky and “a crowd of big, gray monkeys” breasting the hill.

[1954] -age 9 - sleeping outside with a boyhood friend. Some noise wakes them up and they explore around the yard in the dark for awhile, then they hear someone approaching and they run. He runs right behind his friend, but then finds his friend fast asleep as if he’d never been awake. Same friend also saw, with Whitley, a “huge object” in sky one night along with a black car with no lights on that raced by.

July 1957 – age 12 – train trip from Madison, Wisconsin to see aunt and uncle: on the Texas Eagle from Chicago to San Antonio. During trip he becomes violently ill. Someone shoves a bladder thing down his throat. A “nurse” puts a drop on his tongue to keep him from throwing it up. Father is crouched, looking in agony. Later remembers soldiers in fatigues lying unconscious in craft. He is excited, then sees father (who is standing by his sister) look at something in terror and he himself becomes terrified. He tells his father it is alright and his father says not it is not alright.

1958: announces to friend that he has built an anti-gravity machine under the tutelage of “spacemen.” Friend recounts that when Whitley plugged it in, “there was a great buzzing, the electromagnet in the core of the thing whirled madly, and the lights in the house began to pulsate.” Lots of noise, sparks, house lights go haywire and some burn out… He pulls plug. Parents exclaimed in alarm initially, but he never told them what had caused it.

1967 – college age - Austin: Has just moved to Austin from San Antonio. He experiences, over a period of twenty four hours, several consecutive chunks of missing time. Weeks later, visits grandmother in San Antonio, is lying in bed reading Time, then suddenly transported back in time to a few weeks earlier. He hurries into his car and tries to drive away, but a demonic face peers in the window and speaks to him in a high squeaky voice. He tells entity that they cannot leave the car in the street. Keeps trying to drive away, but has an overpowering urge to go back into his apartment. (In real life, is lying in bed at grandmother’s during flashback, fighting the urge to get out of bed and rush outside.) Comes to as if from a nightmare and is still at Grandmother’s. (Afterward this incident, becomes obsessed with getting out of Texas and out of the U.S. This started his lifelong “running.” Desires a big city with lots of people and lights.)

Jan, 1968: Moves to London to attend London School of Film. One night, goes to sleep at a friend’s flat and, after a blurry memory of what he has always called a “raid” during which he crossed rooftops (looking down into chimneys), he wakes up in his own flat with no idea of how he got there. (He never says if his flat was able to be reached from his friend’s flats via rooftops.) The next day, he desires to leave England for another continent. He goes to Italy, and meets a woman on the train. Then his memory gets fuzzy and he recalls going to Rome, hitting Florence on the way, and has always reported that he stayed in Florence for six weeks. (However, when he went to Florence in 1984, he realized he had never been there. ) He left the female friend in Rome, hopping from city to city, eventually going broke and remembers “nights of terror,” being afraid to turn out the light and wanting to keep the door and window locked. He sought comfort in large crowds. He lost weeks of time. He remembers a “noisy, smelly airplane with someone who called himself a coach, and something about taking a course at an ancient university.” He saw “little adobe huts,” and mentioned to someone how simple they were. He returned to London “weeks later than..planned” and his aggravated landlord, having not heard from him nor received any rent, had rented out his apartment, packing all his things up and putting them in the basement. He had originally told his landlord he would only be gone two weeks. He “simply accepted all this” and stayed with a friend until he found his own place.

1972 or 73: He and wife in San Antonio visiting his family, sleeping in sister’s old bedroom on second floor. In middle of night, suddenly awakens and feels he had heard a loud noise, leaves to get a glass of water, smells something like smoldering cardboard. On way to bathroom, sees a small, dark figure w/ a red light in it hand burst out of his old bedroom and run down the stairs. Despite its very short stature, he dismisses it as a family member.

April 1977: he and wife are sitting in LR listening to the stereo, when right after a record is finished playing, a voice begins speaking to them through the speakers. It holds a conversation with them. He can only remember the last words “I know something else about you.” They report the experience to Federal Comunications Commission. A man explains that what he reported was impossible, as they had no microphone nor cassette deck. He and Anne move.

June 1978: Something “terrible” occurs in the middle of the night but the memory is of nothing more than a “phone call followed by a menacing visit” and “a series of menacing phone calls.” The police are called and they check the premises but find nothing. He and Anne move again.

Early 1979: He is awakened by the “bizarre impression” that people are “pouring into the house through the windows.” Some nights later they hear screams. He and Anne call the cops but they cops never show. They move again.

Jan 1980: sees strange streak of light in sky, son wakes up screaming as if from a nightmare, then a small, dark figure rushes out onto their balcony, then there is an explosion in the pantry, which was a seltzer bottle. “the glass was reduced to beads, to dust” with no “trace of the water that had been inside.” They move again the next January.

About a year after they have moved (which would make it two years from the Jan 1980 incident), Anne wakes up hollering that she has been “poked in the stomach” by a white thing. This thing strikes him on the arm the next night and a few nights later his son reports that “a little white thing” poked him repeatedly. The following Sunday the babysitter calls them reporting a “child in a white sheet” has startled her by peaking into the kitchen from the fire escape. He and Anne move again, this time to the Upper West Side.

March 1983: he goes outside for a breath of fresh air and ends up losing 3 hours.

Oct. 4th, 1985 – “explosion” in house; Jacque Sandulescu sees light and Annie Gottlieb hears explosion and hears little feet scurrying. A small hooded being enters Whitley’s rooms and touches his head with a silver wand, making images appears in his head. He sees his father dying and mother just looking on, an image of the world blowing up…

Dec. 26th 1985 – taken from bed naked into woods, then up into craft, probed, finger cut, he asks to smell entities. Entities in blue coveralls.

Feb. 7, 1986 – he is frantic, can feel entities’ presence, he and his wife could smell them (smoldering cardboard, cheese, cinnamon). Loses four hours of time, finds self naked. Next morning, finds two little triangles inscribed on left forearm. Remembers that the odors he and his wife had smelled night before were odors he had smelled in 1972 or 1973.

March 1, 1986 – First hypnosis - w/ Dr. Klein. Regresses to Oct. 4 incident.

March 5, 1986 – second hypnosis – w/ Dr. Klein – Regresses to Dec. 26th incident. (During this session, he regresses to being abducted with father and sister from train at age 12.)

March 10, 1986 – hypnosis with Dr. Klein – they explore incident that took place in Oct. or Nov. of 1984: W. encounters two entities in a fogbank while driving his truck on the highway. He sees a white truck with a black windshield. Finds himself in a “long, gray room.” He is sitting on floor, dressed, being watched by someone with “big, black eyes.” Sees this female being who shows him pictures in his mind that calm him. Pics are of triangles, circles, etc.

March 11, 1986: begins to see female being – the one that has continually visited him – in his mind’s eye. So clear it is living. It moves so he can see whatever part of it he needs to describe when he discusses it with Hopkins and Klein later.

March. 14, 1986 – hypnosis - regresses to night at grandmother’s house in 1967 when he had been lying in bed: suddenly there is an entity there that slaps him in the side of the head with a ‘big, flat-headed silver nail.” He changes “into something else…heavy and big.” He is scared to death. Entity has a face like a giant fly. He walks out of room, then is suddenly back in the bed again looking at the same page of his magazine. During this hypnosis session, he regresses to age 12 incident: he and sister see a fireball, then he sees a “skeleton” like being that grabs his shoulders. He is terrified, then finds himself calm on the grass, while the being works something into his hair. They go inside and report fireball to parents. He then regresses – at doctor’s suggestion to Jan. 1980, age 36: sees a meteor, then there are six figures at bedside and they get closer every time he closes his eyes. He can’t wake up Anne, and the dog won’t wake up. Andrew screams and when they run to him, his diaper is pulled down around his knees. They discover the Seltzer explosion. W. returns to description of beings around the bed: “dark blue uniforms…gray [skin]……mushroomy-gray. Smell funny, too…Two big round eyes and a round mouth…” and possibly no noses.


susan said...

Hi nice Blog.We think it's possible that self hypnosis scripts, in your own voice will speed the process of learning new thought patterns.

No One said...

Interesting post.

I would highly encourage everyone to check out the following resources:

1) LA Marzulli's "alien interviews"
2) "unholy communion" by joe jordan
3) www.alienresistance.org/ce4.htm
4) a look at Betty andreasson's abduction from a Christian perspective. It's a multipart series. http://dontaskthatinchurch.blogspot.com/2011/01/alien-abduction-autopsy-betty.html