Something new has entered into the picture. I haven’t posted here for over a week, mainly because I got sidetracked by something that caught my attention and so far has refused to let go.
Last Friday, I did an interview with one half of the duo behind the strange website mother.strangled.info. I found out about this site from a friend, who pointed me to two audios which discuss me and my work in less than favorable terms. I recognized some of the material at the site from a previous altercation I’d had with someone over my article on Whitley Strieber.
I first became aware of this someone when I discovered an article they wrote in 2011, called “Changes to The Key: A Minority Report” about Strieber’s book, The Key, and the alleged “changes” that had been made to the original version, unbeknownst to Strieber. I had been impressed by the report and tried to contact its author. The piece was uncredited, but posted on the internet (at a filesharing site), and linked at Strieber’s site, under the user name of “heinrich66.” I tracked a user with this name to a YouTube account and messaged them, but received no response.
Later, I discovered that this same person had, in 2008, written an article called “Old Balls On Fire: In Defense of Whitley Strieber,” in which they criticized the first version of my piece on Strieber, written in early 2008. I eventually read the piece and found it unconvincing. It seemed like an attack on me (and a defense of Strieber) more than a valid piece of criticism, and so I disregarded it. Meanwhile, in early 2012, I did an interview with Mike Clelland about a new version of the Whitley piece, which was published on Reality Sandwich soon after. I then had a chance to interact with “Heinrich” for the first time, in the comments section of Mike’s website. Heinrich was posting as “Lord Jim.” I found our exchange fruitless. (See the full exchange here)
Lord Jim described my piece on Strieber as an “attack,” and since I had never written it that way, I felt defensive and expressed a lack of interest in reading his own riposte. I did eventually read it, however, as well as a single page blog site “Kephas and Strieber: A Love Affair” (and follow post/site, here.)
I found what I read unreasonable, vitriolic, and unnecessarily provocative (not in a good way). It did not strike me as being a well-intentioned (as my own piece had been) or thoughtful critique. At one point in my exchange with Heinrich, I suggested that “if Strieber had searched the yellow pages for an industrious spin-doctor to help save his image, he could have done a lot worse than Lord Jim.” Lord Jim responded by pointing out the irony that Strieber had responded to my piece (first version) by suggesting that I was a “disinfo agent,” and now I was reacting in a similar way to Heinrich’s article. I acknowledged his point and apologized. Lord Jim saw my apology as disingenuous and continued his harangue, whereupon I declared the conversation over.
Back to the present (i.e., yesterday). I listened to the mother.strangled audios (the ones specifically about me, dated September 26 and October 9) with a mixture of interest, irritation, and impatience. While the younger of the pair seemed willing to criticize me with an at least somewhat detached gaze, the older one, who I guessed to be Heinrich/Lord Jim, framed me as psychotic, deluded, and insane. I sent the link to a couple of people, including Doug Lain. Lain said he’d listened to some of the first audio but quickly lost interest. They weren’t actually presenting any arguments, he said, but merely launching a personal attack. Another friend, Keith Zavatski, found the audios more interesting, and he took it on himself to contact the mother stranglers and suggest they do an interview with me, hoping to spark a dialogue that might lead to some kind of resolution. He let me know about his idea, and I agreed to participate, if the MS team were open to it.
In the meantime, I had already put a link to the strange site at my new website. I noticed that a significant percentage of hits at my site were coming from people searching for “mother-strangled.info.” Most surprising of all, I received an email from Whitley Strieber expressing interest in my new site. It turned out he was referring to the mother strangled site, which for some reason he’d taken to be mine!
The interview was set up with the younger of the team, who hid behind the name “Gefunden Trouve” (a mix of German and French words for “found”). It lasted two hours, at the end of which we agreed to arrange a follow-up discussion. I would have been more than content to have left it at that, but I could tell that Gefunden hadn’t managed to complete his own arguments, and so I offered to pick our talk up later. I sent a recording of the discussion to Keith, who listened to it and shared his thoughts. Mostly he expressed his frustration with Gefunden’s rigid intellectualism and lack of open responses, and thought it made the interview “draining” to listen to.
I agreed. Gefunden had only asked me one question, at the very start: why I’d agreed to have a dialogue with him. He hadn’t appeared to listen to anything I said but only to be concerned with presenting his own arguments as lucidly and persuasively as possible. The gist of these arguments came down to: you’re doing it wrong and here’s why.
I began to question my reasons for agreeing to a second meet. While I’d enjoyed talking to Gefunden, I didn’t feel as though there’d been a meaningful connection between us or that it had been a real dialogue. Practically speaking, it was a way to graciously meet and counter some of the charges leveled at me, so there would be a more balanced representation of me at their site. It was also an opportunity for me to engage with seemingly hostile elements and test my equanimity, to give an ear to them and see if they had something meaningful to say to me (as opposed to the vitriol of the audios, none of which I’d found pertinent).
I recorded a conversation with Keith about the affair, thinking that we might make our own audio in response to theirs. By the following day, I was having more misgivings. Did we really want to be giving time and energy to these two intellectual clowns, helping generate interest around their site? Was this all just a distraction from what I really wanted to be focusing on? Perhaps my lingering desire for a resolution around the Strieber mystery—and my desire to be recognized by him—was clouding my judgment?
Despite enjoying my “conversation” with Gefunden, I had felt drained and dispirited afterwards. For several days later I continued to feel out of sorts. I felt like I had been pulled into something by my own unresolved issues, and it was now hampering my freedom of movement. It was a bit like being a fly caught in a web, or finding myself engaged in an elaborate game of chess without knowing what moves had been made before me, without even being able to see the whole board. I didn’t feel like I could simply let it go, however, because there might be something of real meaning there, some gold in the dirt. At the very least, I did feel a connection to Gefunden, or at least compassion over what I saw as his predicament. I saw him as being stuck in the intellect, locked into a pursuit of knowledge and power that, I knew from experience, would only lead him in ever-tightening circles of self-referential delusion. (Ironically, this was seemingly how the pair of them saw me.)
I decided to listen to the other audios to get a better idea of them both and find out if there was anything of real merit to what they were doing. As a result of my decision to look more closely at “the ground,” a new element entered the picture that changed everything.
While listening to the mother strangled audio of Sept 6th, I discovered that, like Strieber, Gefunden considered himself an alien contactee. He described meeting Strieber and sharing his experiences with him, then recounted a more or less “standard” (i.e., convincing) abduction (or pre-abduction)-type narrative. This was the first thing I noticed. The second was that, during the same audio, Heinrich cited my article (specifically a quote from Strieber, from an email Strieber had sent me) to support his argument. In the same breath, Heinrich referred to my piece as “an obscenity” and “inexorable,” yet apparently his distaste was insufficient to prevent him from using it to prop up his own arguments. This happened on a couple of other occasions too—a citing of my article that was either preceded or followed by a derisory remark about the piece or myself.
I noticed that some of both Heinrich and Gefunden’s arguments around Strieber were, as often as not, strikingly similar to some of my own. On occasion it almost seemed as though they had borrowed my theories and adapted them; at the very least, they’d reached similar or the same conclusions as I had. I wondered why, if this was the case, Heinrich and Gefunde were so violently opposed to the piece and to my work in general. Here was a more local mystery to the larger one of Strieber, mother.strangled, and Kephas and the varying degrees of misunderstanding, contention, and hostility between us. It was a mystery that seemed worth getting to the bottom of, and, since such puzzles tend to be holographic or fractal in nature, it might even hold “the key” to the whole thing.
On the way to the river to continue my gold-mining apprenticeship, I listened to the Sept 26B mother strangled audio. This is the one following directly after the team’s first, sustained attack on me. While I was listening to it, I found myself identifying with Gefunden’s naïve optimism and credulousness around Strieber, since it closely matched my own, in the past. Hearing his thoughts helped me to see my own prior perspective from the outside, in a new light, and begin to question it. At that point, Heinrich interjected, saying that he couldn’t agree, or that Gefunden was missing something, Suddenly, I found myself agreeing with Heinrich! Perhaps as a result of such an unexpected shift in my own position, I began to see the mystery of The Key from a new angle.
I felt excited. It was like I had hit bedrock. It was like I panned the dirt and found enough gold in it to confirm that the pay streak was near. Funnily enough, that was exactly what happened when I got to the river: we found bedrock, and a little gold in the pan. It was the first dirt I had ever panned.
As within, so without.
The last and most striking development was as follows. Last night, after another conversation with Mr. Zavatski, I re-read Heinrich’s attempted evisceration of my 2008 article on Strieber. While I certainly couldn’t agree with his criticisms entirely, the article no longer read only like a vicious, mean-spirited obtuse attack. It still had the same vitriolic edge I recalled, but I now felt it had some merit as well. Perhaps it would be worth the trouble to disentangle the gold from the dirt?
I was struck then by a sobering realization (especially since it came right before bedtime). Just as Strieber (and Heinrich) had reacted to my piece, misunderstanding it, ignoring the good and focusing on the perceived bad, interpreting it as disinfo, an attack, a “hit piece,” had I done roughly the same with Heinrich’s piece about me?! If so, perhaps some of the charges Heinrich leveled against me weren’t as far from the mark as I had believed? It was a distinctly unpleasant possibility, but I decided to let it be there and to follow it dispassionately, wherever it wanted to take me—even if it led to a realization of my own irresponsibility or lack of integrity as a writer.
As I settled into a new feeling of uncertainty and self-doubt, more than merely disturbed, I began to feel excited. After all, enlightenment can only come about by exposing and removing every last thread of our delusion and every remaining blind spot. All the dirt of our misconceptions has to be shoveled away to clear the ground for the real shape of the bedrock to be identified. Then, when you put the last of the dirt into the pan, and see how much gold there is in the black sand, you have a better idea of how close you are to the pay streak.
Put differently: it’s relatively easy to find truth in the words of a spiritual master, a literary luminary, a mentor, or someone you admire and look up to. It’s easy enough to grin and take it when they offer you some unpalatable, ego-crushing truths about yourself, expose your deficiencies, weaknesses, and so forth. But how about finding truth and taking criticism from someone who despises you? There’s a Zen challenge: to look at the dirt as closely as possible, but keep your focus exclusively on the gold.
The dirt I am about to look at—Heinrich’s “attack” on me and on my intellectual, literary integrity—isn’t only dirt. Insofar as there is some truth in it, however microscopic, since it comes from a totally unsympathetic, profoundly less than enlightened quarter, it’s likely to be the kind of truth that I am heavily invested in not seeing. The deeply buried kind, the kind that lies close to bedrock. The kind I am looking to find.
Today, I didn’t find much bedrock (or gold) at all. It was mostly just a whole lot of backbreaking work, moving mounds of dirt and rocks from one spot to another.
Welcome to the alchemical trail. Welcome to the dirt pile of the real.
(To be continued)
[Edit: this rabbit hole eventually lead to here.]