The Prisoner of Infinity

Trauma, Transformation, and Transhumanism: A Psycho-History of Whitley Strieber
Crucial Fictions, 2013

V: The Secret Guardian
“When innocence has been deprived of its entitlement, it becomes a diabolic spirit.” —J. Grotstein, “Forgery of the Soul”

A life full of holes. A cluster of fragments, swirling, roving, seeking a place to fit, seeking coherence, seeking meaning. A wound in the soul; a psyche in mortal peril. What was Whitley’s secret? And why did I need so badly to uncover it? I had felt compelled to probe his work again and again throughout my adult life, like a tongue that can't stay away from an infected tooth. Whatever Whitley’s secret wound, finding it would mean—would depend on—finding my own. But how do you seek a secret that you are keeping from yourself?
“I fought with the only weapon I had: my mind.” “His mind was a desperate nest of rage and tension.” “The visitors appeared to be using our distorted perception as a vehicle.” “You’re chained to the ground.” “I wondered if mind in its disembodied form is not wise and old but wise and young.” “I no longer doubted the existence of a soul.” “There was a strange darkness. I did not want to look; I didn't even want to be near it.” “You may be irretrievably lost.” “An energetic level that is completely detached from the physical.” “I would have laughed in the face of anybody who claimed contact.” “Whitty, it’s not all right! It’s not all right!” “I can imagine no greater honor than to be called human.” “The vision of the box drew me so powerfully that I literally left my body.”

” “Mars was murdered by you. and by the sounds of these highly formative memories. In Transformation. and the young Whitley is reassuring him. . but I couldn’t do that. 126). It also seemed to add up: for Whitley to have been subjected to such traumatic incidents in his childhood. When Whitley is being subjected to strange procedures as a child. Later on in the book he adds more detail: There was a sort of confused recollection of my father crouched at the back of an upper berth in our drawing room [on the train]. making him spread his fingers and shake his arms.” One of the fragments that stood out for me. I could identify with that. he describes being in a moment of terror and despair: “I wanted to give up.”4 Evidently. to sink down and just scream. his father must have been remiss. his father appears only as a powerless and frightened figure.” “He would say only that something had gone wrong. was Strieber’s various descriptions of his father. I find them useful. a muffled shrieking. He tells his father that it’s all right. Nothing 2 came up but bile. My illness was violent. surrounded by soldiers lying unconscious in beds.” “I do not now find the small. or both. the stronger I became. either at the hands of alien beings or human ones. He is twelve and his father is there. ineffective. But I’ve always assumed that was a nightmare brought on by the fact that I was so sick on the trip. Then he was screaming. but I could hear it only faintly.” “I acquired an effective coping tool: The more frightening they got. he was speaking from painful experience. he describes the effect of seeing his father’s terror in starkly visceral terms: “his fear just seemed to pour into me like a freezing torrent. afraid. neither did Strieber. another fragment from his childhood describes the father in a similarly terrified (and terrifying) light: Almost in slow motion [my father’s] face simply broke up. gray beings terrible. I vomited until I thought I would die. My little boy was in there and he might wake and he mustn’t see his dad like this. and for no apparent reason. but the spasms simply would not stop. his lips twisted back from his teeth. or absent in some way. “Whitty. his eyes bulging. and his father replies.“This is the trigger for intervention.”3 A child growing to manhood badly needs a strong father to identify with. since it puts the son in the role of the father. Elsewhere in the same work. His eyes bulged and his mouth flew open. it’s not all right! It’s not all right!”1 The picture of a twelve-year-old boy trying to comfort his father is a strange one to say the least. while I was looking over the Strieber material with freshly fueled zeal. the destruction of a living world. his follow-up to Communion. and vice versa. In Communion. full of terror and despair (p. He threw his head back and something like an electric shock seemed to go through him. Strieber describes a memory of being on a train. I certainly didn’t have that. In The Secret School.

In Solving the Communion Enigma. seeing his father as a corpse must have had a profound impact on his psyche. I remain for what seems like hours at the edge of suffocation. I see angels. Strieber recounts a strange memory. A box. they have probably reached its limits. It keeps on and on and on. Taboo. is of waking up and finding that I am in a coffin. 71). I wake up when I try to move. clear image of a closed coffin. published twenty-five years later. is as an absence. Among my worst memories. The earliest memory I have of my father is from when I was around six or seven. He first went public about his traumatic “schooling” experiences in a post at his website titled “The Boy in the Box. I cannot get out. I can see the claustrophobia that would attend to the realization that one was trapped in an infinity that could never be escaped. matter the tomb in which the divine is forever buried? Like Kurzweil. In fact. who tore it up. flushed it down the toilet. his eyes closed and his arms crossed. Soon. of course. “What does the universe mean to you?” Instantly. one that has come back to me again and again and again over the course of my life. then I see a long 6 horizon. my breathing is agonizing. Strieber seemed to be projecting his own unhealed trauma onto infinity. and it’s the only one I have of him while he was still living with us. . or a prison (p. when Strieber mentally asks one of the visitors. I scream. the sun either rising or setting. also when he was twelve. . and taking it as ultimate truth. and incapacitation (maybe even death. why had Whitley’s father been so careless with it? Was his son meant to find the photograph at that precise time? For a boy on the brink of adolescence. the desk in which he finds the photograph had recently been given to him by his father. perhaps? Has Whitley’s whole universe become the casket in which his absent father is concealed. then. or worse. if I didn’t understand what had happened to him?). I see demons staring at me. could infinity be compared to a prison? The logic of trauma. No doubt the shocking nature of it seared itself onto my consciousness and I would forever after associate my father with unconsciousness. specifically by the photograph. My clearest impression of him. an impact that would only have been deepened by his father’s demonstration of the forbidden nature of the image. . . would seem to be confirmed by repeat mentions of coffins. In Solving the Communion Enigma.5 As Strieber recounts the incident. But it doesn’t end. He showed the picture to his father. He found a photograph of his father lying in a coffin. and my head bounces against the top of the thing. discovered that reality has no limits. there appeared in my mind a bright. powerlessness. the coffin image recurs in a more cosmic context. He is half naked and unconscious—dead drunk—on the bedroom floor. I can feel it. I wondered. boxes. and never spoke of it again. That Strieber was impacted in a similar way. By what strange logic. It’s a little like being in a room you can never leave. I see my grandfather Strieber there. and confined spaces throughout his writings. I wondered how anyone could think of our mysterious universe that way? But then I realized that. The silence is absolute. So if the photograph was so sensitive. I’m in torment.” describing memories of being confined in a small space for long periods of time. I’m trapped. The air is heavy.

in February of 2007. He eventually comes to refer to the being as “the guardian. He goes to investigate the being but is met with a ferocious look and a guttural growl that discourages him from further attempts. saying it is a picture of the main character’s uncle. but the stress was so great that my immune system shut down and I was treated in the autumn and winter of 1952 at Brooke General Hospital with gamma 8 globulin injections. he was approached and his patriotism was appealed to. he had been participating in doing this himself. which Strieber is allergic to.”7If. Strieber comes to see the weird man-child as his protector. during the great German inflation. as he seemed to be implying. I was isolated from other children at that time. The narrator speculates how the Vril society performed a magical working to “raise a demon” to possess Adolf Hitler. Strieber’s immune system broke down and he fell ill. The death of the white king relates to the semi-historical practice(famously described by James Frazer’s The Golden Bough) of slaying the father in order to replace him. Transformation One of the stranger encounters which Strieber recounts in Solving the Communion Enigma is with a weird. The narrator describes how his uncle lived in Munich in the 1920s. After the war. a secret occult order behind the Nazis’ rise to power.” the final end of which was the detonation of the atomic bomb. except that it was important cold war work. As Strieber describes him: “He looked like somebody who had ceased to age before puberty. paced the room. where this money would be used to buy gold to send to Germany. after which he was apparently taken out of the secret school (the non-alien one). and how the photo is a record of his initiation into the Vril society. I have had the impression that they think of themselves as family. who singled us out because of his war work. but now I am beginning to think that is a misnomer.” .” —Whitley Strieber. keeping an eye on Strieber and his family. but “would say only that something had gone wrong. He did not know what it involved. their ultimate goal being to perform an alchemical ritual called “the death of the white king. how much had the father known about what would happen to his son? Strieber has not talked about it much. * “I call them visitors. Prior to the war. Strieber first becomes aware of its presence due to the smell of cigarette smoke. in essence: During the war. but certainly never for the Nazis. The strange creature seems to live in the forest behind Strieber’s house and to be constantly lurking in the vicinity.At seven. He did not know that I was going to be harmed. in response to a comment about Ty Brown’s research: Here is what I believe happened. I think that he was the victim of Paperclip scientists. In his short story “Pain. the myth of Oedipus. and perhaps that is exactly what they are. feral creature that lived outside his house for several years. my father was involved in a program to prevent US dollars going to Mexico from the Texas German community. and was now not a man but a sort of weathered child”9 (emphasis added). chain-smoking cigarettes. his father (and possibly even both his parents) had inducted young Whitley (probably around age four) into the secret school of traumagenesis. keeping him safe from hostile (probably human) agencies who wish to harm him. In other words. Strieber’s father was upset. I was enrolled in this program. but he did address the question at his website forum.” Strieber describes the incident with the photograph but fictionalizes it.

” So why not the little shriveled guardian which he finds so distasteful? Maybe the answer is in the question?* It was a crazy idea. the “guardian” describes the aspect of the psyche that comes into being in order to protect the conscious mind from re-experiencing the original trauma. Strieber describes his feelings for the female being represented on the cover as similar to how he might feel about “my own anima” (p. and at one point we [sic] were able to briefly share his experience. In a sense the secret is the guardian. He could hear thoughts. It is the way “the secret guards itself. . partly in feelings. Maybe it could even be seen as Strieber’s “alter”? Psychologically speaking (in Kalsched’s model). * In Communion. and they were primitive in the extreme. towards the creation of a de-eroticized transhumanist scientific religion: just say). deliberately arrested prior to adolescence as part of an inner-outer “archetypal traumatogenic agenda. Strieber describes a kind of “mind-meld” with the being: His mind was a desperate nest of rage and tension. But in Strieber’s world.”10 If the creature somehow embodied Strieber’s own traumatized inner child. was this weathered pre-pubescent what his traumatized psyche might have looked like? A lot more than “the Master of the Key. He then makes a surprising statement—“I have wanted to hold him. On an audio he aired in Feb 2005. 106).unknowncountry. Part 2.Like so many of Strieber’s encounters.” he implies that his “guardian” resembled the Master of the Key! http://www. the guardian is an almost spell-binding blend of the real with the . . things were rarely as simple as either/or. Once the secret is exposed. and they were all roaring and snarling and wailing. it makes perfect sense. He wonders. and there was the evidence of the cigarette butts (it seemed unlikely Strieber could be smoking them himself without his wife noticing). by whatever means. They were savage but they were also in a strange way wonderful (p. to bring him some kind of comfort. Could the creature be an objectively real being (at least some of the time?) while also in some strange way an aspect of Strieber’s psyche? Strieber has suggested something similar about the other fantastical beings he has encountered. and vice versa.” possibly designed to harvest his psychic energy and redirect it down specific channels (i. “Can anything other than a part of oneself know one so well?” (p. In Strieber’s world. I wondered—like the daimonic guardian described by Kalsched—the creature was an aspect of Strieber himself? Admittedly Strieber had suggested that other people saw the being.. the “guardian” no longer has any reason to exist. I found myself considering an even more peculiar possibility than that of an objective being “out there. but what wasn’t crazy about all of this? If Strieber’s own psychological development was.” at any rate? Towards the end of Solving the Communion Enigma. cigarette butts. 105).” Part of the individuation process.” What if. and speculates on several occasions that the Master of the Key is his “future self. An unconscious mechanism. creatures that would seem to belong exclusively to the realm of myth have an unsettlingly mundane reality to them: bad smells.199-200). perhaps even the central goal. entails getting past this defense mechanism and discovering the secret which it exists to protect. which was among the most appalling things that has ever happened to me. “Unpublished Close Encounters. I could suddenly hear a great number of voices. partly in words.e. dirty ships. While I was looking over the descriptions of this strange withered child.

Strieber was attributing “messages” to the visitors. Without this realization. rather than correctly tracing it back to the past and thereby integrating it. through exposure to consciousness.”11 I understood the statement to mean that the visitors were drawing Strieber into forms of interaction that would allow him to see his own distortions. Or. I would question Kalsched’s use of the term “re-traumatization” here. As archetypal dynamism it “exists” in a form that cannot be recovered by the ego except as an experience of retraumatization. “More than that. Truly distressing as the therapeutic process is. if the individual recognizes the “incarnation” of trauma for what it is. is “changed by the filter of our experience. or even to exist. Strieber touches on this in Transformation. she says. an image from the past being personified in the present as a means to be understood and assimilated. while re-traumatization is what must be avoided. or analyst—and attributing both the “transformation” and the trauma to that outside agency. the visitors appeared to her to be using our distorted perception as a vehicle through which they could transmit messages of importance to the inner growth of the individual participant. Ideally. This interaction is an opportunity to repeat. but the nature of the therapeutic process was that all such messages were finally seen as coming from the patient’s own psyche. Re-traumatization is the result of misattributing the distress that arises during the therapeutic process to a present cause. while stemming from an objective reality. This is the collective or “magical” layer of the unconscious and cannot be assimilated by the ego until it has been “incarnated” in a human interaction [emphasis added]. in a new way. or dissolved. By definition. . however. to put it another way. the unconscious repetition of traumatization in the inner world which goes on incessantly must become real traumatization with an object in the world if the inner system is to * be “unlocked” This appears to be the underlying dynamic and drive behind the kind of experiences which Strieber describes: an unconscious attempt to translate an archetypal (“screen”) memory of early trauma into more human form. in order to interact with it and recognize its true nature. the projected distortion * P. to bring it all the way into consciousness. thereby dissolving the defense mechanism (that of the false self or “guardian”) created by the early experience of trauma. This can only happen. when he reports his wife’s suggestion that the contact experience. ceases to operate. Semantically.once it is brought into consciousness.26. as I think a re-experiencing of trauma is a more accurate description of the desired outcome. not from any external source. most individuals prefer to experience re-traumatization by projecting their autonomy onto the other—whether alien. the original trauma. this is what occurs in the psychotherapeutic process through transference. Donald Kalsched describes it this way: the original traumatic situation posed such a danger to personality survival that it was not retained in memorable personal form but only in daimonic archetypal form.” Expectations distort the ability to see or understand. spouse. Transference is when a safe space is created by the analyst for the analysand to re-experience an original trauma with a minimal risk of re-traumatization. The alternative is to go willingly back into the original trauma and re-experience it with full body awareness. this is the most terrifying thing there is.

Emphasis added. 62. 4 Transformation. But since he has repeatedly attributed these promptings to an “outside” 7 Solving the Communion Enigma.html?1171148896 9 Ibid. 3 The Secret School. 118. 37.unknowncountry. .unknowncountry.* 1 2 Communion. p. p. p. 11 Transformation. 6 http://www. 8 http://www. there would be an experience of retraumatization. 206. 25. Tarcher/Penguin. p. 232. p. p. 1998. Avon Books. he has been re-traumatized (by an unconscious mechanism within his own psyche) and is thus plying distortion upon distortion. without the resulting breakthrough. pg. HarperCollins. Ibid. 200. emphasis added.would remain in place. 45 10 Ibid. New layers of trauma would then be added to old. * As a reader of this piece helpfully put it: Whitley’s adult “visitor” experiences are unconscious promptings for him to reexperience childhood trauma and thus integrate. p. p. 23. 5 Solving the Communion Enigma. 2011. and instead of unlocking the defense system and reintegrating past trauma. and move forward. 1997.

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