Saturday, August 7, 2010
Whitley Strieber Revisited
Coming back to this stuff after 25 years or so, it is striking how the whole alien contact/abduction thing has become normalized and at the same time, bracketed off, more or less put on the shelf indefinitely.
Aliens? Oh, that. Aisle 5, right next to the werewolves.
I think U.S. government intelligence helped this mainstreaming process along, but it's also a function of the enormous tension the topic generates. It's hard to stay hyped up forever.
At some point, there's the dog and the wife and the electric bill.
Life goes on.
UFO interests today subdivide into odd but passionate little factions: the religious contactee New Agers, the dark Malleus-wielding 'investigators' and their victim devotees (a la Hopkins and Jacobs), the MUFON folks and other mechanistic pseudoscientists, the annoying and often woefully un-credentialed debunkers (if you're going to ridicule and be snotty, shouldn't you yourself have a leg to stand on?), the consciousness gurus, the neurologists and psi researchers... it's quite the circus, and you have to pick your act, straight up.
Declare your bias or bug off.
Strieber is almost unique in being a direct experiencer who not only has no axe to grind, he refuses to pick any specific bias or declare it. Instead, he insists on the importance of not pretending to know more than we really do. This is refreshing coming from anyone talking about UFOs these days, since most folks seem to want to impress you with their credentials immediately (or at least slam someone else's credentials and then compare themselves favorably by contrast).
Strieber on the other hand talks repeatedly of the importance of not choosing a box and not putting this stuff on the shelf prematurely, of allowing the mind to stay open and admit, "I don't know what this is or why it is happening."
That's really hard to do.
It's SO hard to do, in fact, that I think it may well be the whole point of the experience--at least from the human side. Can you let go of certainty? Can you stop yourself from forming an explanation that nails it to the wall? Can you stop yourself from labeling it evil OR good and just let it be what it is?
Most people can't. Not for long.
As a culture we value knowledge and authority, but personal experience we discount ruthlessly. I believe we've paid a high price for this highly selective epistemology. In fact, I personally think it is killing us.
This is not to say that Strieber's 'greys' are trustworthy--if anything they are the penultimate tricksters--but only to say that perhaps the medicine for runaway rationalism and its ill effects involves openness and a willingness to dream--no matter how strange the dream, no matter where it takes you.
Strieber's current website is called Unknown Country, his broadcasts Dreamland, and he refuses to even use the word, 'paranormal' because it doesn't mean anything.
There is no normal versus paranormal experience. There is only experience. Experience is what it is. If we don't edit it, sometimes we are utterly amazed at what we find.