Friday, February 17, 2012

Unconscious Contact: COMMUNION (1989)


The great Taoist Lao Tzu said "Without looking out of my window I can know the ways of heaven." What if the reverse is also true, that without leaving heaven, aliens can look through our window and know all things on earth? Surely it's quid pro quo, and perhaps no coincidence that our final year of 2012 marks the 25th anniversary of the publication of Communion, Whitley Streiber's groundbreaking true story novel about his own experiences as an alien abductee.

I read this book as soon as it came out in paperback, as a sophomore in college, and it changed my life forever, so to speak. Before Communion there were no aliens or internet as far as we in suburbia knew. He brought the dialogue into the popular consciousness and best of all, since he is a fiction writer first and an abductee second, he brought real acumen to the 'fictional' or cover memory aspect of the experience that few have been able to bring since. He made the madness of cover memories and nightmare glimmers of the real so tangible it felt like a Stephen King story was leaking out of the book all over your pants. Was it all really true? That was the wrong question, what is true has to change, to smarten up, to extract itself from the delusional pool filter of earth's generic orbit.

While some abductees say that the greys are living breathing beings, Streiber has  always felt they were more robotic, insectoid puppets usually controlled by some taller single being. In the 1989 adaptation ('highly' recommended) these aliens appear as toys, goblins, balloons, masks within masks. And who could capture the way the nearly insane genius writer struts and jives his hour upon the stage in order to not fall off into Bellevue other than Christopher Walken? A very odd but inspired choice to play Streiber for the film, he masterfully makes Streiber into a man who doesn't believe his own eyes half the time, even as his unconscious starts jerking him around like a puppet. The highlight is his triumphant face to face meeting with the alien intelligence, who chooses to appear to him as both a grey, an alien lizard behind the grey, and Walken himself (in black eye liner and tux, so we can tell them apart), a decision on the part of the aliens that eerily foreshadows the appearance of Jodie Foster's dead father in Carl Sagan's Contact (right) but which I don't recall ever being in the book.

 If the aliens can appears as people either known by the subject or the subject himself, as the film seems to suggest, can we even see the aliens as they truly are with our puny earth-made eyes? Communion and Contact think no, so they give us replicas and masks to help us cope, the way we might give a dog a narcotized chew toy rather than let him hunt real rabbits that might be rabid. These beings may represent a truth so far out humanity's ken it can only be gazed it indirectly, like Medusa in a foggy pocket mirror. And that's perhaps why there is no tangible 'evidence' for direct non-classified perusal --the aliens don't want us to see them, and it's as easy to avoid leaving evidence behind after their visitations as it is for us to clean up our trash leaving a picnic ground. They take only sanity, leave only cover memories.

Below is a slice of the climactic dialog between Streiber and the alien intelligence, which elaborates on this:
Alien / Walken (to Whitley / Walken ): I'd like to say a few things. First I'd like to season's greetings. Then I'd like to say keep your hands on the table at all times. Heh? Boo!...Boo. I wanna go home. I'd like to go home. You've broken my mind! I'm gonna kill you. Can we talk this over? I can't wake up. I am the dreamer. You are the dream. Look. The only thing that really matters here is what I am about to show you.
(The gray alien's face cracks open; it turns out to be a mask with a reptilian face underneath.)
Streiber: (staring at the face) "That's... not it. I didn't come all this way... for you to tell me that's that what it is. Is there something under that, because I don't believe that one... It's like a box, a Chinese box... You open it, there's another one inside and another one inside and another one inside...(pause, realization) You're not gonna let me see you, are you?"
Alien: It is just like a Chinese box and you're not going to be allowed to see. Okay? Just to make that clear.

Streiber: You are not gonna let us see you... That's a good idea.

The thing about the dialogue I'm quoting above is that, on one level, Walken is talking to himself inside a spaceship near his upstate NY vacation home, but the other self is a version wearing eye-liner who presumably is an alien intelligence talking to him in the form of yet another mask, mimicking or repeating all the real Whitley is saying or has said previously or would like to say in the moment ("you've broken my mind!"). It becomes difficult to tell which version of him is really the dreamer and which the dreamed and I think that's no accident of bad editing, but rather a point about aliens that is impossible to make in any 'clearer' way. 


The first clear message seems to be that "season's greetings" part, Walken's kinetic hustler delivery bringing out the surrealist edges in all their warped definition. I remember not really liking the film too much when I rented it, drunk, a decade or so ago, but it works much better a second time after I've done a lot more research because it reads as a meditation on the trickster nature of the UFO abduction phenomenon rather than a straight horror story like The Fourth Kind (see my 2010 article "Take us to Your Benzos") or Fire in the Sky.


In this way, Communion's use of obvious masks, phoniness and Bugs Bunnyism is spookily admirable and correct. Instead of a gleaming white light round room, for example, the abductions occur in what looks like an abandoned psych ward hydrotherapy room equipped with that old flood light and fog machine and why not, if that's what the budget and unconscious of the abductee masking over deeper layers will allow? I also think of the opening scene of Kubrick's Lolita, with Sellers as Quilty trying to spin the situation with murderous Mason into something more cartoonish and hip, and slowly giving in to dread as the previous night's liquor wears off and his evasion tactics fail one after the other. In Communion's case though, which Walken is Quilty, and which is Humbert?

Exactly right.


So the thing is, then, where is the line between hallucination / cover memory and the 'real'? How much of the Whitley Streiber story is "true" in a concrete sense vs. the bleeding of dream reality into the real via, say, a hyperactive pineal gland? Again that's like asking what's more real, the top of Mount Everest or the bottom of the deepest part of the ocean? You've never been to either, so what the hell do you know about it? We confuse our TV nature shows with direct experience so why not the reverse? Perhaps our dream lives are the real reality, the only one any self-respecting alien wants to log into. Do sharks dream of being on dry land? Might not aliens look at our waking life like we look at the shark's ocean floor? A nice place to scuba dive, but if we want to do some serious marine biology investigation we have to hoist them onto the boat, as briefly as possible, then tag their dorsal fin and put them back in the water.... which as far as the shark is concerned is like being pulled by aliens into a dream, but that doesn't make us aliens... or does it?

This shark keeps dreaming about small alien bipeds.
The real life Streiber had already written a book made into a movie starring Albert Finney, Wolfen, before being conscious of his alien visitations. And that begs the question: did he write horror because his unconscious knew things his consciousness didn't? As I write this I can feel an alien intelligence looming over my shoulder, but my unconscious could easily be just fucking around and pretending to be an alien intelligence looming over my shoulder. So is the drive to write a way to create a 'cover memory' even as our unconscious-- knowing the whole terrifying truth --only spoon feeds us little tastes of what is really out there/inside us? What if our entire time-space imprisoned notion of three-dimensional truth is just a cover memory for the far ghastlier truth of our multiverse's terrible 'eternal now' omnipresence? Is the alien abduction somehow less an intrusion into our reality than a removal of illusion? Do aliens manipulate time as well as space? If so they may abduct a human for years all while he's sleeping or meditating for only a few minutes in our time. And what's the difference between, say, an alien probe scar on the back of one's neck, and the sudden manifestation of the stigmata, or the way people die for real when they die in The Matrix?


Can the alien abduction phenomena be separated from that unconscious, and why would we assume an alien would think our conscious mind was the 'real' mind to visit? Why wouldn't an alien prefer to make unconscious contact rather than the conscious variety. My unconscious is far more literate and witty than my conscious one - I'm sure it's a lot better company. How else could it blow my mind every night with crazy dreams? When I try to get involved with my unconscious mind's creative process, my tongue ties almost instantly. I'm the editor, trying to translate its rantings, clipping the more negative tirades, but I can't control the actual ideas and flow (and the negative tirades are all conscious ego in disguise). Surely that unconscious connection is even more true of Walken, who has a rare gift wherein every line he speaks sounds like it's coming straight from his unconscious rather than a script, and that's true even when he is clearly reading from cue cards (as on his many SNL appearances).


So while his hipster affectations may bug 'serious' UFO scholars, I think Walken is ideally cast, for no one else could so gamely tread the edge of a straight razor, like a dosed Marx Brother, to convey the realization, via hypnosis, that all the things that happened in his childhood didn't 'happen' but are still happening, now, right in the hypnotist's office, that the African figures on the mantle (below) are simultaneously the greys standing in the distance watching him do the herky jerky in the grungy space ship. (Look close in the right quadrant of the bottom picture).


Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but in my own astral travels I've experienced the 'synchronized' reality effect wherein an alien, if it wishes to appear in your room while you're sleeping, would first sneak into your subconscious and influence you to buy a bunch of primitive statues for your nightstand, so they could, in a sense, materialize through your midnight hallucination so you see that statue as 'moving'. You have to ask yourself - why do we want statues of human figures, figurines, representatives of bipedal life forms, scattered around our homes and yards? Why does GB want that spooky one-eyed alien mascot all over their Olympic games? What better way to launch an invasion than for all the images of that figure to loom i\out of 4-D and into 3-D existence at the psychological moment?


While there has been mention in alien abduction lore about cover memories, outside the surrealist movement or David Lynch I can't think of a single 'fact-based' film other than Communion that actually dares to address the line between dreams and reality so head on: the intentionally bizarre creatures, masks, show biz parodies, and roll reversal instances are where Communion really comes alive. If you can imagine Christopher Walken playing all the non-dwarf roles in a sequel to Phantasm directed by Dario Argento, Communion is your nightmare. One crazy moment finds Walken investigating strange noises at night, looking in a closet and finding this bug-eyed teddy bear.


It's never spelled out, but there's something not quite right about what that bug eyed bear is doing there, or if it would still be there in the morning or would paralyze him with a nerve wand if he tried to touch it. That's pretty Argento-Phantasm-level stuff.

Arguments against the validity of alien abduction hinge a lot on the nature of hallucinations, sleep paralysis, and vivid dreaming, but neither the skeptic nor the believer sees the whole picture, the way it's perceived by actual abductees or string theory physicists, or those of us who have truly hallucinated or understood the full terrifying breadth of Jung's collective unconsciousness. The truth is this: both arguments--mere mirage/illusion and 'more real' than reality-- are terrifyingly correct. Dreams are as real as anything else and our five senses are just feelers into the physical realm. We have a whole other feeler, the third eye, which we've been conditioned to belittle by mainstream science, but which also 'hears' and 'feels' and 'sees' in a whole separate way from the external senses, even more vividly.... at times.


This third eye is actually the projected energy of the pineal gland, located in the center of the brain, and it can be felt burning a hole in the middle of your forehead if for example, you drink too much Robitussin or have activated your Kundalini through deep chakra work (or like me, both at the same time). The pineal gland is where the soul allegedly enters the body on the 22nd day after conception.... and it's where I would enter if I was an alien on the outside looking in. Who cares if another soul is already in there? You're just passing through. Your unconscious is probably much more welcoming of these spirits than you 'consciously' know.


Let this idea in and feel the terror of the awful realization of alien immediacy-- its presence beyond real or illusion; its presence in all aspects of our lives; our past, present, future--feel how it brings with it a boon, enlightenment, the understanding that everything is connected to everything else on every level--so you can visit the other side of your hand on Mars in 1937 and find your watch inside a Chinese box found on the bottom of the ocean unopened since the Ming Dynasty, and find your grandfather alive in the microscopic villages along the ear hair of your grandson. And the sun is just a reflection of your iris. And without looking out of your door you can know all things on earth and even if you never look farther than your own backyard maybe one day you'll notice that the very farthest reaches of outer space are right at your fingertips and the vacation you will take this summer is being remembered right now in the bathroom you just walked out of three months ago. And the cares of tomorrow / must wait / til this day is done.


 But how do you define a day when you have no earth to spin?



4 comments:

  1. Great post, learned a bit of shit I didn't know! That's what blogging is all about, 4 me atleast. Been revamping my stuff like crazy... I was following your site, but forgot about it till today when i saw it on my dashboard, perfect timing to... My mom and i have been talking about Aliens, she thought she was abducted and implanted and I have so much to unravel for myself there, Thanks for this! Anyways I added you to my side bar, http://mycosmicstardust.blogspot.com/

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  2. How cool. I didn't know there was a Communion movie!

    I read the book many years ago, in a trailer next to a lake in the middle of nowhere. At night.

    It caused problems.

    I'm probably going to see the movie now, assuming I can find it. Writer Robert Anton Wilson always seemed to think that if the alien phenomena were real, they are on a psychological level rather than actual space travelers.

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  3. Thanks Quark, and thanks Katy, I hear you about the late night jitters. I had a job for awhile checking grain-train cars at a Seattle port around the time the sequel to Communion came out, and I would read it on break in the middle of the night and get super creeped out. I think you're half right on the alien phenomena though, they are both psychological / unconscious projections AND genuinely real and actual space travelers.

    There's no reason why aliens should have the weird dream-waking split that we do, 16 hours awake and 8 asleep - they might be all awake or always asleep / dreaming ... and from their standpoint our dream world/s may look more collective and concrete, more welcoming to a visitation, than our suspicious, overcrowded, noisy waking life. Once you start examining cover memories and the veiled nature of total consciousness vs. repression it's a pretty slippery slope... right into the gaping maw of Lovecraftian madness!

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  4. great post erich.... i was looking for the little blue men from both movies and my ideas about communion was zackly as you wrote in your post.... every word you typed was in my head before it was on this post.... so was i dreaming it or did my dream spread into your dreams....the awake asleep thing just gets better each time i think of it.... now im thinking might m.i.b.s also be an unconscious dream thing.... perhaps?

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