Orthodox America

  Bookshelf - Report on Communion

Report on Communion by Ed Conroy; William Morrow, 1989; 427 pps., illus., hardcv.  

In OA #88 we took a look at the subject of UFOs, with particular focus on the newest “guru” of this phenomenon, Whitley Streiber, whose books (Communion and Transformation) have become best-selling accounts of his own astonishing on-going contacts with “alien visitors.”

Because “the impact Communion has had on public awareness of [UFO] phenomenon is without comparison, and its effect on popular culture has yet to be measured,” journalist Ed Conroy decided to launch his own in-depth and independent investigation into Streiber’s books and experiences.  Approaching his subject with objectivity and without pre-conceived religious or psychological biases, this detailed study is the fascinating and disturbing outcome of that investigation.  Since our average reader is unlikely to pour through the four hundred-plus pages of this intense book, we feel it’s worthwhile to share, in more detail than usual for a book review, the author’s main points.

Noting that the strange, not to say frightening “image on the dust jacket and paperback cover of Communion, magnetically attractive with its huge, slanted eyes … is now well on its way to becoming something of an icon in American popular culture,” Conroy adds that Streiber’s books brought these “visitors” into “America’s homes with every copy … left open on a coffee table or bedside nightstand.  No doubt more than one reader had to pause while reading the book wondering whether he or she would meet a visitor while sleeping ...”

Aware of the fact that Streiber had already made a reputation for himself as a writer of gothic-horror fiction, and discovering (through interviews with his childhood teachers and friends) that he had always had a fascination for the occult and vampires, the author is not quick to dismiss the possibility that Streiber simply let his imagination run away with him – and this could be one possible explanation for Streiber’s experiences.  In fact, the author suggests that it is not “unreasonable to observe that in the face of the mysteries posed by UFO sightings and apparent visitor experiences, the human imagination rushes in to fill the gaps created by our own ignorance, aided by plenty of emotional longing for some kind of relief from life’s tedium.”

Since Streiber had been raised a Roman Catholic, Conroy asked him how his view of that Church had been changed by his experiences.  What he discovered was that Streiber now has an essentially “gnostic” view of Christianity.  He told Conroy:

“I think that organized Christianity is in a period of profoundly healthy evolution. In the Christian churches, the real Christian churches, there is a new determination to understand the words of Christ that has never really been there before [emphasis ours], and it’s very exciting to me … As far as the new paganism is concerned, I’m very excited by it.  I have participated in witch rituals, I have been very involved with people who are deeply  involved in the new paganism and I do not find them to be in any way demonic or evil [!] … I also don’t see a real schism between them and genuine Christians.  The two can certainly live together in harmony … I think that there is room for homosexuality in the church.  I think that there is room for a more feminine Church.  I think there is room for women in the priesthood.”

Elsewhere the author gives us a deeper look at the “theology” Streiber has now developed as a result of his “close encounters.”

“We literally are God – are God in the physical form [!].  And suddenly there is no guilt, there is no evil, there are no demons, there is only life itself, experience, the richness of search … We are at last, some of us, learning how to become conscious companions of God, which is what this species is all about.  That’s what man has been striving for since the beginning.  We seek to become such a companion of God that he’s not something incredible, not a bearded man in the sky, or a great awesomeness before which we prostrate ourselves, but a friend, as ordinary as you or me – a dear friend.  This is what is being looked for by those of us who are in this process of demythologizing the emergence of sacred consciousness into the physical world.  The visitor experience is part of this effort …”

Conroy, sticking to his objectivity, is not taken aback by any of this, thought he does make an intriguing – but unfortunately completely undeveloped – reference to Malachi Martin (the respected ex-Jesuit author of an important book about exorcism, Hostage to the Devil) who, when he first learned about Streiber and his “visitors,” became very agitated and disturbed and seemed to see these “entities” as clearly demonic.  But even Streiber himself accepts that there may be a connection here when he tells Conroy that his most frequent “visitor” is his own “quite real” succubus and adds that he is now “sharing her with many other people.  Maybe that’s because our incubi and succubi have always been real” but we have mistakenly interpreted them as “evil”!*

Without doubt, one of the more interesting chapters is “Little Green Men:  From Ireland – or the Pleiades?”  Here, Conroy suggests that Streiber’s experiences may be explained as psychological phenomena.  He quotes an expert who compared countless stories and concluded that in every case “he or she was undergoing a life crisis at the time or was recovering from a psychological trauma.”  This seems to apply to Streiber too, who now suspects that his “visitors” are probably not real aliens from another planet at all but are a “mode of perception” -- in other words, a state of consciousness such as can be induced by drugs (although Streiber says he has never taken mind-altering drugs).

But -- and this is very significant – Streiber does admit to having been trained in consciousness-altering techniques during his years of affiliation with the Gurdjieff Foundation in New York – and he adds that “the techniques I learned in that training – particularly a form of double-tone chanting” are what have probably prepared and then opened him up to these experiences.

On his own, the author makes a startling connection with what he calls “the world of Western ceremonial magic, where can be found a formidable tradition of reported communication and/or interaction with nonhuman entities of many descriptions.”  Noting that “some contemporary occultists, particularly those working with the Ordo Templi Orientis, a magical order founded by the controversial Aleister Crowley**, have claimed that there is a relation between the entities with which they are in contact and some UFO phenomenon,” he cites the not-perhaps-surprising fact that in 1919 Crowley summoned a demon “whose resemblance to the image on the cover of Communion is remarkable”!

Also, in a careful textual analysis of Streiber’s books – both the earlier fiction and the non-fiction – Conroy sees a strong behavioral resemblance between Streiber’s chief “visitor” – a female entity with whom he enters into “communion”  -- and the “Queen of the Fairies” or the Great Mother goddess of WICCA (the pre-Christian “Old Religion” which is seeing such an astonishing revival in our society today).  In fact, he sees quite a number of curious parallels between the “Old Religion” and the experiences of Streiber and other “contactees” or “abductees”-- parallels that are not without deep significance.

Having explored these and other explanations for Streiber’s experiences, and having dismissed the probability that these are really extraterrestrial “visitors” (for lack of objective evidence), Conroy essentially comes down on the side of the psychological explanation, significantly adding that – whatever it is -- it is “moving more toward the creation of a New Age religious movement founded upon tenets of irrational belief [emphasis his].”

The Orthodox reader has the sense that Conroy comes very close to a complete and accurate understanding of these experiences, but somehow lacks the “key” that will reveal them for what they REALLY are:  unseen warfare with fallen angels of demons, known to Christ’s Church throughout the ages, prowling about the earth seeking whom they may devour.  Is it just a “coincidence” that as Conroy delved deeper and deeper into this phenomenon and came into frequent and close contact with Streiber himself, he (Conroy) and some of his associates also began to see strange and unexplainable things – not least of which were bizarre and humanly impossible “alien messages” on his telephone answering machine? -- to which his own response – a cry of bewilderment -- was:

“I have come to deal with the subject matter of my investigation not merely as a question of ‘What in the world is happening with Whitley Streiber?’ but also “WHAT IN THE WORLD IS HAPPENING TO ME AND TO MY FRIENDS?” [Emphasis added.]

We tremble for Ed Conroy, whose “objectivity” may just have led him, completely unprotected, into a Kingdom of Darkness from which he may not be able to escape.

Lord Jesus Christ, deliver us from the Prince of the Powers of the Air! Fr. Alexey Young


*”Incubus” – a demon that descends upon someone while they are sleeping;  “succubus” – a demon of sexuality.

**The self-proclaimed “Great Beast” of the Apocalypse.