Aliens, Predictions & the Secret School: Decoding the Work of Whitley Strieber

From New Dawn Special Issue No 4 (Feb 2008)

Anyone who knows anything about the subject of UFOs and alien abduction would have heard of Louis Whitley Strieber, the successful horror novelist, who, in 1987, published a book called Communion which still stands as one of the most terrifying, factual and powerful accounts of alien abduction ever written.

But far from being just an abductee and author, Strieber is also something of an undeclared mystic and prophet. It seems he has much to say about humanity’s spiritual, political and environmental future. Is he, as some have claimed, nothing but a prophet of doom, or do his words contain genuine wisdom and an important message?

Now a host of the online radio program Dreamland, which covers the latest news in paranormal phenomena, Strieber continues to write about the mysterious non-human beings he calls the ‘visitors’, and has recently been doing so in a fictional way. Within the last two years Strieber has published two new novels, The Grays and 2012: The War for Souls, both of which are soon to be made into big budget films.

The grays, says Strieber, are just one of the many different types of non-human being, or visitor, that he has been in close contact with. “These people were not androids or robots. They were complex, richly alive beings who were obviously incredibly and totally different from us,” he says. The grays feature commonly in accounts of alien abduction, and are believed to be behind much of the UFO phenomena witnessed in our skies. Strieber says he decided to write The Grays because the truth about these beings “is too elusive to bring to genuinely sharp focus in factual narrative.”

Strieber came up with the term ‘visitor’ to replace ‘alien’ because he does not necessarily believe that aliens, in the true sense of the word, are behind the close encounter phenomenon, preferring instead to leave the question of their origin open until further evidence comes to light. Plus, he considers the word ‘alien’ to have a negative connotation. The word ‘visitor’, on the other hand, could not be more neutral, and was chosen for this very reason.

Strieber was already a successful author before he decided to risk his reputation by publishing Communion. His previous books, of which there are many, deal with issues like nuclear war and environmental catastrophe. Along with childhood friend James Kunetka, Strieber wrote the 1984 New York Times bestselling novel Warday, which concerns the subject of nuclear holocaust. He also wrote a number of highly acclaimed horror novels, such as The Hunger and The Wolfen, both of which were adapted into films.

When Communion was first published, it quickly shot to number 1 on the New York Times non-fiction bestseller list. It then went on to become an international bestseller. Although Strieber allegedly received six figures from publishing company William Morrow (now an imprint of HarperCollins), it seems unlikely that Communion was a hoax, and that he wrote it for the money – which is what some critics have claimed. In a 1987 interview for the San Francisco Examiner, Strieber said: “I didn’t need to write it. I could have written another novel… Why would I hold myself up to the ridicule that a book like Communion brings? I felt that I had to write this book.”


Following the publication of Communion, Strieber went on to write four additional books about his intimate contact experiences, each one (with the exception of Confirmation) far more ‘spiritual’, and a little more ‘out there’, than the last. First came Transformation, then Breakthrough, then The Secret School and, lastly, Confirmation. Along the way, Strieber lost a few members of his readership – those who wanted to read about his bloodcurdling abduction experiences, rather than the spiritual significance of the contact phenomenon.

Referring to these books in a recent interview, Communion and Transformation in particular, Strieber described them as “texts about the articulation of certain questions.” What is important about these books, he said, “is the way they lead you to thinking about questions about the nature of perception and what exactly the physical world is.”

Considering that Strieber was a student of the Gurdjieff Foundation for more than fifteen years, it is perhaps not surprising that his work revolves around such matters. “Gradually I branched out from the readings from Gurdjieff himself and the people around him to much deeper studies,” he says. Speaking about his spiritual orientation in a recent interview, Strieber remarked that he was brought up a Roman Catholic, and has always considered himself one.

Those familiar with the deeper meaning of Strieber’s work would realise that each and every one of his non-fiction books, including some of his novels, are all connected in some way, and on a very deep and obscure level. One could describe them as pieces of a puzzle that make up a message – a message about mankind’s future. There can be little doubt, moreover, that all of his books about the visitors have been trying to push an agenda, beginning, of course, with Communion, which was largely responsible for catapulting the alien abduction phenomenon into public consciousness. According to journalist Randall Fitzgerald, Communion, along with Budd Hopkin’s Intruders (also published in 1987), “heralded, or helped initiate, a major wave of abduction stories continuing through the remainder of the 20th century.”

Given the nature of his writing, Strieber is a highly controversial figure, who’s been criticised by just about everyone, even by those in the UFO community. In his book Architects of the Underworld, UFO researcher Bruce Rux points out that Strieber’s numerous books about the visitors have earned him “well-timed millions of dollars,” having been published at very ‘suspicious’ times, when he desperately needed to be pulled out of debt. Rux even goes so far as to suggest that Strieber may be a member of the intelligence community, “a cat set among the pigeons by interested parties to keep a close tab on abductees, not to mention researchers.”

That Strieber is somehow a part of the secret government – possibly a CIA agent – is a rumour that’s persisted for some time. Budd Hopkins has implied as such many times in his lectures, saying that Strieber probably knows a great deal about what goes on inside the government. Referring to this accusation, Strieber said he “loathes the whole concept of insiders,” and considers “official secrecy a crime against the constitution.”

Although it’s highly questionable as to whether or not Strieber is a member of the intelligence community, the same cannot be said of his now deceased uncle, Colonel Edward Strieber. An Air Force officer, Edward Strieber spent much of his career at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, which, incidentally, is where the debris from the alleged Roswell UFO crash is supposed to have been sent. Edward Strieber was a close friend of General Arthur Exon’s, and a member of his command. Exon was the commanding officer at Wright-Patterson from 1964 – 1966.

According to what Strieber was told by Exon and his uncle, the Roswell incident was indeed caused by a crashed alien spacecraft. Furthermore, both men claimed to have first-hand knowledge of the incident. Among other things, Strieber was told by his uncle that “alien materials, artefacts and biological remains” had been delivered to Wright Field from the Roswell Army Air Base.

When asked about his uncle in a recent interview, Strieber had very little to say, beyond “mostly his career remains classified.”


By far the most ambiguous of Strieber’s books about the visitors would have to be The Secret School. Strieber claims to have been contacted by the visitors from a very early age, and it is in this book that he explores some of those childhood memories, many of which, he says, remained repressed for a very long time.

As a child growing up in San Antonio, Texas, in the 1940s and 1950s, Strieber says he lived a kind of double life, in which he and numerous other ‘child abductees’ belonged to a ‘secret school’, run by the visitors. While a member of this school, Strieber was taught nine important lessons, presented in three triads. The first lesson involved an apparently non-physical journey to Mars, where Strieber caught a glimpse of the so called ‘Face’, many decades before the first satellite photos of the Cydonia region were taken in 1976 by the Viking Orbiter.

In 1986 Strieber was shown a photo of the ‘Face on Mars’ by scientist friend Dr. John Gliedman, “an enormous event in my life, far larger than I could ever have imagined or even – until recently – understood.” He even suggests that the event may have triggered his first conscious meeting with the visitors on December 26, 1985, which eventually led to the writing of Communion. “The mystery of Mars and the secret school, it would turn out, were deeply bound together,” writes Strieber.

In Breakthrough, Strieber mentions having been acquainted with Richard C. Hoagland, whom he met through Gliedman in 1984, three years before the publication of Communion. Hoagland, of course, was involved in a group known as the Mars Anomalies Research Society (MARS), and has written several books claiming that ancient civilisations once existed on the Moon, Mars and on some of the moons of Jupiter and Saturn.

Hoagland believes that evidence of these civilisations, such as the ‘Face on Mars’, have been kept secret by NASA and the US government. Strieber donated money to Hoagland’s group, and soon became a member. The aim of the group was to conduct further research on the ‘Face on Mars’ photograph – which they succeeded in doing. Among those involved in the group were Dr. David C. Webb, a former member of Reagan’s National Commission on Space, astronaut and planetologist Dr. Brian O’Leary, physicist John Brandenburg, and an imagining specialist named Dr. Mark Carlotta, who, according to Strieber, was a contractor for an intelligence agency.

“It should be remembered,” insists Strieber, “that my encounters started after I became interested in the face, not before.”


The Secret School is primarily concerned with the subject of time-travel, and how this relates to prophecy. “The nine lessons,” writes Strieber, “involved the manipulation of time, because learning how to use time as a tool is the key to reaching higher consciousness…” Unbelievable though it sounds, Strieber claims to have physically journeyed through time on a number of occasions. According to him, the ninth lesson of the secret school involved such an experience, whereby, in the summer of 1954, at age nine, he found himself suddenly transported into the future.

During the experience, Strieber saw a flat-screen TV, obviously unlike any kind of TV available in 1954. The TV was switched to a news channel, and on the screen he saw a number of scenes that have “remained in my mind all of my life – not exactly as a conscious memory, but rather as a reservoir of visual images that I have come to draw on in my work.” Some of the scenes were of catastrophic events that appear to have since come true, such as the Great Malibu Fire of 1993.

The other scenes that he witnessed – most of them also catastrophic – were of events that have not materialised, but which, according to Strieber, could materialise in the not-so-distant future. Images from these scenes, says Strieber, feature in his 1986 book Nature’s End, written in collaboration with James Kunetka. Set in the year 2025, Nature’s End concerns the subject of environmental destruction and overpopulation.

Strieber says that he and Kunetka “prophesied effectively” during the writing of Nature’s End, “not because we were special, but because we tried.” Apparently, in 1985, Kunetka wrote a description of a nuclear accident that unfolded in exactly the same way as the one at Chernobyl in 1986, and which also took place in a similar reactor. But because the event was deemed too improbable at the time, this description was edited out of the published version of the book. As further proof of the book’s prophetic nature, Strieber cites the name of a Korean-made car that features in the book, called the Hunyadi, which he came up with long before the Hyundai was introduced.

At the end of The Secret School is a tenth lesson, involving another time travel experience, which Strieber says took place in late 1995. The significance of the way the book is structured, with nine lessons in three groups of three, followed by a tenth lesson, can be found in Transformation. In it, Strieber describes a visitor experience that occurred in 1986, in which he was sitting downstairs late at night reading a book on quantum physics, when suddenly there came, on the side of the cabin, nine loud knocks, “in three groups of three, followed by a tenth lighter double knock that communicated an impression of finality.” Strieber says the knocks could not have been produced by ordinary human means, but formed a cryptic message from the visitors.

Although Strieber makes no reference to it in his work, the nine lessons – or nine knocks – seem to be related to the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, with its ten holy Sephiroth. The first nine Sephiroth exist in groups of three, as equilibrated triangles. But the final Sephirah, Malkuth, the kingdom of the earth, does not. In The Mystical Qabalah, Dion Fortune describes it as a “fallen Sephirah, for it was cut off from the rest of the Tree by the Fall…” Considering that Strieber is very much a student of Western esotericism, it’s fair to assume that he’s familiar with the Kabbalah, and has probably studied it.

As for Strieber’s 1995 time travel experience, this involved a journey into the future, to the year 2036. Regarding the question of whether or not the experience was physically real, Strieber says it seemed to be, but that it “also bore some reference to dream.” He adds: “I would argue just as vehemently that it was no conventional dream and that we have not even begun to understand this state.”

Strieber was shocked to find his surroundings in almost total ruins. Because, he says, he was able to gain access to some of the memories of his future-self – the one living in 2036 – Strieber was aware of what had caused the destruction. Apparently it was due to an atomic bomb planted by terrorists. The bomb had been detonated in Washington, D.C., effectively destroying the government. As a result, the US had become a corrupt military dictatorship. Strieber offers few more details than this.

But no matter how bleak the future may seem, says Strieber, there is still hope, because one day time will “come to be a tool, and travel in time will become practical.” This, by the way, is just one of the many prophecies that Strieber has included at the end of The Secret School. In an interview concerning the subject of the book, Strieber said: “The purpose of prophecy is to warn us against negative events that will transpire if we continue on the path that we’re on at the time that the prophecy is made…” He explains this further:

“We need to unlearn the assumption that the future is in front of us, the present is where we are, and the past is behind us. That is a false view of time. The visitors offer a much better idea of time. They say the future is to the right, and it’s like water. The present is here and now, and it’s like a compressor. And the past is like ice. The water has now been turned into ice because the present has decided the shape the water will take, the shape the past will take. And this leaves room for entry into many different possible futures. We can change that water into any number of different shapes simply by the way we address it… What we have to learn to do – and this is as much an inner movement as an artefact of some potential technology – is to learn to move out of the time stream so that we can examine it more carefully and come to understand its real meaning.”


In his book The Uninvited, British UFO expert Nick Pope gives a humorous description of the time he met Strieber in London, in 1996. Pope mentions that Strieber “seemed so casual about the most bizarre experiences. Here was a man, I suspected, who would describe these [visitor] encounters in the same sentence as an account of a trip to the shops, and might well use the same tone of voice.” Slightly critical though these words sound, Pope says he did not find Strieber to be “a crank and an eccentric,” as he is commonly reputed to be.

It would be easy to dismiss Strieber’s paranormal experiences – particularly those that involve travelling through time – as nothing more than the delusions of someone with an over-active imagination. He is, after all, a horror/sci-fi novelist, and a highly acclaimed one at that. Strieber has even admitted publicly that some of his claims are rather difficult to swallow, and that he is not asking anyone to believe the things he says. In a 1998 journal entry, he wrote: “Who knows what a mind like mine might dream up? All I can say is this: I believe myself. But I don’t want that to convince YOU. You weren’t there, you didn’t see. So don’t believe me. Listen, observe, and keep the question.”

Provided Strieber is telling the truth about his experiences, it would not be a stretch to classify him as a kind of shaman, an intermediary between this world and the world of the gods – the gods being the visitors. In an interview with Sean Casteel, Strieber made a comment that seems to support this view. “You know, Sean, I wonder who the hell I am. I wonder who I am… There are many things that have happened that I’ve never even put into books. Just incredible. It’s like I live with my two feet in two different worlds. And they’re both equally real.” In the introduction to his book The Key, Strieber makes a similar statement: “I have had the incredible privilege of living between the worlds, in the sense that I have actually spent a substantial amount of time in my life with people who were not physical in the way that we know the physical.”

If Strieber is indeed a shaman of sorts, it might help explain an alleged incident that occurred in the pre-dawn hours of June 6, 1998, in which Strieber met an apparent human who claimed to “belong to many worlds.” Strieber says he was awoken by the man knocking on his hotel room door. As soon as he opened the door, the man burst into the room. They then proceeded to have a “remarkable” conversation about spiritual matters, with Strieber taking notes. Strieber describes the man, whom he has come to refer to as the ‘Master of the Key’, as he did not give a name, as someone “in possession of the most incredible knowledge that I’ve ever encountered in my life about the meaning of mankind. Where we came from, where we’re going, what’s happening to us and why.”

Strieber’s 2001 self-published book The Key is a transcript of this discussion, though not an exact transcript, because Strieber says his notes did not cover the entire conversation word for word. Some of it he committed to memory. Interestingly, he says the notes “had a strange quality to them, as if each word was capable of causing a whole spring to flow in my mind,” and that they “unlocked something in my mind.”

Among other things, the ‘Master of the Key’ spoke about sudden environmental change, and the ending of this current age. There is, he said, a great cycle of climate change, involving “sudden shifts back and forth from ice ages to temperate periods.” Although this cycle is natural, it has been sped up by human activity, and we are about to enter a new ice age, “that will lead to the extinction of mankind, or to a massive reduction in population.” To avoid this, he said, we must find a way to expand off the planet.

Strieber says that this information served as an inspiration for his 1999 book The Coming Global Superstorm, written in collaboration with Art Bell. It’s a little-known fact that the 2004 science-fiction blockbuster The Day After Tomorrow is a rough adaptation of this book. That Strieber’s work has had a significant impact on public thinking cannot be denied.

As regards the Mayan calendar end date of December 21, 2012, a topic that has received much attention of late, Strieber says he’s not sure if anything particularly special will occur on this specific date, but sees it more as a general marker for global and spiritual transformation. The Mayan 2012 end date seems to tie in with the information given by the ‘Master of the Key’ – which is something that Strieber acknowledges. In a 2007 journal entry, he wrote: “Just as the Maya predicted, an age is indeed ending now. No matter what happens, in 50 years, this world is going to be a radically different place…”

Strieber’s latest novel, 2012: The War for Souls, is an imaginative exploration of what might occur in 2012, when the Mayan Long Count calendar finally completes its cycle, and a new age is believed to begin. In the novel there are three parallel earths, one positive, one negative, and the other a balance between the two. As 2012 approaches, the barriers between these universes begin to collapse, and those from the positive side of the triad begin to attack those on the negative side of the triad, attempting to take over their world. “The harmonising side of the triangle becomes involved, when a man there has to balance between dark and light in order to take the whole species to a new level,” explains Strieber. Interestingly, the character in the story referred to by Strieber is a sci-fi author named Wiley Dale, and the only difference between the names ‘Whitley’ and ‘Wiley’ is the exclusion of two letters…

Throughout Strieber’s work there are countless references to triads. The visitors, he says, often present themselves in groups of three, while there have been numerous sightings over the years of triangular UFO formations, often appearing over large crowds. In Communion, Strieber devotes a whole chapter to the importance of triads, and how this relates to mankind’s relationship with the visitors. He writes: “We could be part of a triad that includes the visitors. They might be the aggressive force, entering us, enforcing our passivity, seeking to draw from the relationship some new creation.”

The importance of triads in Strieber’s work can be better understood when one considers the Kabbalistic Tree of Life with its two side pillars – the pillar of mercy and the pillar of severity, and, balancing these, the pillar of equilibrium. The two side pillars are opposite in polarity, “each of which is evil when carried to success, both of which give rise to evil if insufficient for equipoise,” explains Fortune. This proves, once again, that Strieber’s work is heavily encoded with rich esoteric significance.


Regular listeners of Dreamland radio would have heard the much talked about argument between Strieber and Daniel Pinchbeck, who appeared on the show in September 2007. A journalist, author and ‘psychedelic advocate’, Pinchbeck recently published a new book entitled 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl. It was the subject of this book that Strieber and Pinchbeck’s discussion centred around.

Pinchbeck’s view of the alleged transformation that will occur on, or around, the year 2012 is almost the complete opposite to Strieber’s, being unrealistically optimistic. This very marked difference of opinion is what caused the argument, especially after Strieber said that the supposed 2012 transition will lead to “a tremendous decline and dieback of the human species…”

Pinchbeck told Strieber that he “has a tendency to harp on the negative perspective.” And perhaps this statement contains a grain of truth. He even accused Strieber of being “in league with dark alien forces that do not have the best interests of the human species at heart.” He was, of course, referring to the grays. Pinchbeck writes: “On a subliminal or subconscious level, Strieber appears to have made a Faustian pact with these Mephistophelean entities, and unfortunately he is helping disseminate their negative and destructive frequency into human culture and consciousness, at this point in time.”

Having been told that his mind was being manipulated by so called evil entities, Strieber was rather offended – and understandably so. He responded by saying that Pinchbeck doesn’t know “jack shit about those entities, because you’ve never had any contact with them at all.” Later in the ‘discussion’, after much shouting back and forth, Strieber said: “Nature is numbers. There is nothing mysterious about it… There are too many human beings on the planet now. There will not be this many in 50 to 100 years… The environment cannot sustain the number of human beings who are here, living as they do now.”

Whoever ‘won’ the argument is simply a matter of opinion, and is probably of little importance. It should be borne in mind, however, that if Pinchbeck had come on the show with a much deeper understanding of Strieber’s work, the argument would probably not have occurred, because Strieber’s perspective of the alleged transition that is about to take place is far from pessimistic. Proof of this can be found in the following quote, taken from the final chapter of The Secret School: “Our moment in time, when population reaches its limit and the world as we know it ends, is not about death at all. It is about ascending into a new kind of life. Such is the message of the secret school, secret no more.”

These words can be better understood when linked to another quote of Strieber’s, taken from Transformation, which reads: “Perhaps our fate is eventually to leave the physical world altogether and join them [the visitors] in that strange hyper-reality from which they seem to emerge.”

This article was published in New Dawn Special Issue 4.
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Dion Fortune, The Mystical Qabalah, Williams and Norgate, Ltd., UK, 1935

Jim Marrs, Alien Agenda, HarperCollins, USA, 1997

Nick Pope, The Uninvited, Simon & Schuster, UK, 1997

Bruce Rux, Architects of the Underworld, Frog Ltd., USA, 1996

Whitley Strieber, Communion, Century, UK, 1987

Transformation, Century Hutchinson Ltd., 1988

Breakthrough, HarperCollins, USA, 1995

The Secret School, Simon & Schuster, UK, 1997

Confirmation, Simon & Schuster, UK, 1998

The Grays, Tom Doherty Associates, LLC, UK, 2006

The Key, Walker & Collier, Inc., USA, 2001

© New Dawn Magazine and the respective author.
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About the Author

LOUIS PROUD is a writer and researcher specialising in anomalous, or Fortean, phenomena. His articles have appeared in New Dawn, Paranormal, FATE, and Nexus magazines. He is the author of Dark Intrusions, The Secret Influence of the Moon, and Strange Electromagnetic Dimensions: The Science of the Unexplainable. Louis lives in Burnie, Tasmania, Australia.

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