Secret School: Preparation for Contact


With the publications of Communion and Transformation, America was riveted by Whitley Strieber's strange and exciting stories of encounters with alien presences. And, with Breakthrough, Strieber continued the saga, giving readers an up-to-date account of these recurring visitations. Now, in what might be considered a prequel to all three books - and, in many ways, the conclusion of the journey he began in Communion - Strieber gives us The Secret School, his quest for the meaning of his encounters. Jumping between...
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With the publications of Communion and Transformation, America was riveted by Whitley Strieber's strange and exciting stories of encounters with alien presences. And, with Breakthrough, Strieber continued the saga, giving readers an up-to-date account of these recurring visitations. Now, in what might be considered a prequel to all three books - and, in many ways, the conclusion of the journey he began in Communion - Strieber gives us The Secret School, his quest for the meaning of his encounters. Jumping between a child's-eye view and an adult's hindsight, Strieber vividly re-creates an adventure that stretches across decades, landing (or rather, lifting off) at the place his new life started when he met extraterrestrials.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
April 1997

Whitley Strieber's newest release, The Secret School, details the summer he spent as a nine-year-old student of alien teachers intent on demonstrating to human beings the possibility of time travel, the power of prophecy, and psychic ability. The memory of this alien experience was suppressed deep in Strieber's subconscious, until he was abducted by aliens from his upstate New York home in December 1985. It was then that he began to recover the memory of his participation in the secret school.

"The central theme of The Secret School," he writes, "is that man can become free in time and space, and that by lifting our eyes, we can gain access to new powers and unlimited promise."

The lessons that Strieber learned from his extraterrestrial mentors prepared him for the chilling interactions with the unknown that he has chronicled in three previous bestsellers. In The Secret School, Strieber relates the nine lessons involving the manipulation of time that forever changed his life and his belief in the real presence of intelligent alien beings. There are real lessons to be learned about human capacity, and the future of the human race, if we are willing to learn them. "Taken as a whole," the author writes, "these memories suggest that we have tremendously undervalued ourselves and that we have incredible capabilities of body and mind that we have not yet addressed because we're not yet willing to believe that they're real."

Have you ever questioned the origins of a dream or contemplated a vision of the past or future? Are you willingtobelieve the notion of time travel and extraterrestrial life?

Kirkus Reviews
Strieber's ongoing narrative of his encounters with some form of higher intelligence—whether through actual visitations by aliens or a kind of altered consciousness—here becomes an increasingly incredible fable of time travel, prophecy, and visions of God.

As Strieber tells it, in the summer of 1954, as a nine-year- old in San Antonio, Tex., he was initiated by the aliens, or visitors, as he calls them, into a secret nighttime summer school in the woods of the nearby Olmos Basin. There a nunlike figure known as the Sister of Mercy gave Strieber and a group of other children a kind of virtual-reality helmet that allowed them to witness the cosmic collision that led to the creation of the Moon. He travels back in time to ancient Rome, where he finds that he is the tutor to the future emperor Octavius. Strieber says he learned nine lessons that summer, lessons in how we can free ourselves of the constraints of time and space, unite with the cosmos and with God, and experience true joy. Thus freed, Strieber claims for himself (and for all of us) the power of prophecy. He travels into the future and foresees a world devastated by political and economic upheaval, environmental destruction, and the US government destroyed by a nuclear bomb. He believes the calendar of the zodiac is a kind of warning system left by an ancient, advanced civilization that was destroyed by catastrophe—a warning that a similar catastrophe awaits us unless we act in time. Strieber jumbles together scientific mysteries, facts, and factoids, unanswered questions of ancient history, the myth of Atlantis, New Age spirituality, and fears of a meteoric collision with Earth to support his wacky theories.

UFOs and aliens are the least part of his story now. Having fallen victim, perhaps, to millennial madness, Strieber believes himself on a mission to save the world.

The Quiet Man steps into The Shoes of the Fisherman and goes for a long walk in the O'Learys' cow pasture—all in de Rosa's (Vicars of Christ, 1989, etc.) would-be apocalyptic parody of religious and political life.

If you thought the 20th century was bad, just hang on a bit. By 2009, the year that John Paul II finally gives up the ghost, the war between the Western nations and the recently convened Federation of Islamic Republics (FIR) has made even the Vatican nostalgic about the days of the Communist bloc. Ayatollah Hourani, the president of FIR, is an Islamic fundamentalist who has vowed death upon the infidels of Europe and America. And now that Saudi Arabia (and its oil) has fallen to the fundamentalists, Hourani is in a position to make good on his threat. The elderly Cardinals who have convened in Rome to elect John Paul's successor have this unhappy spectacle before them, along with more worries of their own: The faithful are no longer coming to Mass or confession, and Latin America (the most Catholic region of the world) is sinking into starvation. The circumstances that bring about the election of the obscure Irishman Brian Cardinal O'Flynn are as complex as the trials facing him in his new job. Quiet, unassuming, and none too bright, O'Flynn nevetheless puts his shoulder to the wheel. First, he abolishes celibacy as a condition of ordination, and he even presides over a mass wedding of thousands of priests in St. Peter's. Then he balances the Vatican's books by auctioning off the artwork. His first United Nations address condemns moneylending and orders the dissolution of banks. Who is this guy? It's hard to say, exactly, especially since de Rosa is so eager to write his story with one-liners that the larger tale comes across as little more than an excuse for cheap laughs.

Not terribly funny, nor wonderfully sharp, and occasionally downright irksome in its reliance on stereotype: a cartoon for grownups.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780830047864
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/15/1999
  • Pages: 245

Meet the Author

Whitley Strieber
Whitley Strieber
WHITLEY STRIEBER is the bestselling author of more than twenty-five books, including the legendary Warday, Nature's End, and The Coming Global Superstorm, the basis of the movie The Day After Tomorrow. His most recent books, The Grays and 2012: The War for Souls, are both being made into films. His website, Unknown Country, is the largest of its kind in the world, exploring the edge of science and reality.
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Read an Excerpt

First Triad
A Child Awakes
"There was a child went forth every day, And the first object he look'd upon, that object he became, And that object became part of him for the day or a certain part of the day, Or for many years or stretching cycles of years."
—Walt Whitman
Lesson One
The Coming of the Sisters of Mercy

The ninth is one of those years in which our lives seem to anchor. The furies of infancy have died by the ninth year, but the smiles remain; joy is easy to come by and sadness quickly fades. The center of the ninth year is its summer, which is the high summer of childhood.

In the nights of my ninth summer, storms marched, and in their fertile, thundering shadows I participated in the secret colloquies that have—for me—redefined the meaning of the world.

Life in the secret school was a double life, part lived in daytime and ordinary events, part by night and other rules. I remember those days . . .

Flying saucer stories filled the newspapers, science fiction movies were frequent fare at the Saturday afternoon matinee at the Broadway Theater, and my eyes were searching the heavens. I fell in love with the things of the sky, telescopes, and star maps and the curves of night.

My summer in the secret school did not begin with a trip to the Olmos Basin—in fact, it would be weeks more before these journeys actually began—but rather with another experience that is equally beyond explanation. I perceived it as an incredibly vivid dream, but it was far more than that. I would not say that it was a physical experience, but I cannot—incredibly—rule thatout. What I do know is that this experience is what lies at the deep, dark center of my being. It is what I remembered when I looked at the Mars face photographs. In that sense, it was like a buried bomb, ticking and waiting to explode into full consciousness.

It took forty years, but what an explosion!

The "dream" concerned Mars. In those days, the newspapers often speculated that the flying saucers might be from Mars, and my father had told me the story of the Orson Welles broadcast of The War of the Worlds.

Forty years ago, scientists considered that life on Mars was a serious possibility, and that was where I had focused my imaginings. I can remember making up a game that involved a voyage to Mars, played out in great detail with my friends in a bedroom that we had transformed into a spaceship by covering the windows with sheets. When the game ended, I ripped them down, hoping that our pretense had been so good that we had actually reached Mars. As I stared out across the familiar lawn, the pain I felt brought tears to my eyes. I went silently off by myself.

In the evenings, I used to lie on the roof and gaze with a longing that I could not explain at the shivering dot of palest red that was Mars in the light of the sun.

I just wanted to go.

I would look long at pictures of the planet—the vague, furry blurs that were all we had back in the fifties. When I looked, I would dream, and sometimes Mars rolled closer in these dreams and I would see past the fuzzy images into brief clear flashes of a desert plain.

I don't recall anything unusual about the evening of my Mars experience, but it remains the most urgent and extraordinary memory of all in a childhood that was crowded with wonders in the nighttime.

When my memory of it begins, I have succeeded in voyaging out into space, and have found myself high above the surface of Mars. Around me there were reefs and oceans of stars, and I was flying free, unharmed, unhindered, neither frozen by the infinite night nor broiled by the naked sun. Nor did the lack of air make me uncomfortable. Now that breath was gone, in fact, it seemed as if it had been a boundary.

My body sang with the sweet, fierce energy of childhood as I sailed above the empty red desert, regarding with wide-open eyes its remarkable vistas and tasting a delicious sense of great height. But it wasn't all ecstasy. The hollowness that fills children when they are far away tormented me. I could not let myself think about home: I was looking for something and I had to find it because failing would be very terrible. Still, I sure wanted to be home with Momma and Daddy.

The moment I wanted them, I fell. I rocketed toward the surface, the hard, frozen atmosphere billowing my cheeks and blurring my vision. I twisted and clawed and kicked, frantic for some hold, frantic not to lose contact with home . . . frantic to resolve the dream and return safe.

As I dropped, I saw a huge face glaring up at me. I watched for a few moments, transfixed by the glaring eyes, until it resolved into a tumble of low hills.

That one, terrible glimpse, hidden as it was in the depths of my unconscious, would leave me with a fierce obsession—but not with Mars. My obsession concerned Egypt, because what I had seen had looked to me like the face of the Sphinx.

Then the ground was rushing up at me so fast it seemed that I would be shattered. At the last moment, I jackknifed, my muscles howling, the air shrieking, and, with a combined effort of mind, body, and will, made my landing feetfirst and so softly that I barely raised any of the gloomy, dull red dust into the silence of the Martian midday.

I stood absolutely still—a frightened, listening animal. My own clicking breath was the only sound. I looked around me. The horizon was close, the land absolutely featureless, but strewn with sharp, ugly stones and boulders. I could see some hills in the distance, but could not be certain that they represented that terrible face.

When I glanced upward, I gasped, for the sky was tan, rimmed with blue and open at its center to the universe. It looked exactly like a gigantic eye with its pupil full of stars. Not knowing if any of those empty lights were my home, I uttered a whispered, involuntary moan.

All else was so quiet that my own small sigh sounded like the thunder of a restless giant. Such quiet was new to my experience, a soundless sensation completely different from Earth's solitudes. This silence seemed deeper, older, more at one with itself. Even a little boy could taste of it and be moved. It was not an absence but a presence, a noteless, living note.

I tried to find the huge face I had seen, but it was nowhere around. Silence or not, I came to sense that I was being called somewhere and there was not much time. I walked a little, my feet hardly disturbing the soil or the stones. But where to go? Which way? I inhaled the dry air, which smelled like the pulverized iron ore that I'd glued to a card for my rock collection.

Now I heard ticking, and was immediately put in mind of the crocodile in Peter Pan. I ran a few steps in no particular direction. Was this ticking a clock attached to some bomb? Had it something to do with Captain Hook?

I could see nothing at any horizon except this flatness and these stones. Feeling very helpless, I began to walk. I went straight ahead, stopping every so often to check my footprints and be certain that I was not circling. I kept hoping that the Sphinx would appear on the horizon, and it would turn out that this was a dream about Egypt.

I felt so far away.

Nightmare snarled along the edges of my journey, nightmare lived in this ticking. I moved faster, as fast as I could short of panic, but the horizon didn't seem to change at all. I felt awful far away and awful lost and this did not want to end.

Now I began to run, even though I feared that it would bring my old enemies, the nightmare men, up behind me with their gray-wrapped faces and long, long arms.

Soon I saw that the horizon was changing. What had been absolutely featureless now displayed a definite swelling. I realized that I was approaching a new tumble of hills, this one on the edge of the huge plain. There were two lines of stones leading straight there, and I was right between them. As I walked, shadows began to crawl out from under the ugly stones. I did not like those shadows, and I did not see how I could bear the Martian night. As far as I was concerned, this might be real outer space, and in Destination Moon the space suits needed heaters. I was in a pair of cotton pajamas with nothing on my feet.

My tears froze on my face and my skin seemed to get hard with frost. It certainly felt as if I were really here and I were being killed by this terrible place. But I was also a child, and a child's peerless hunger for life made me struggle even though there was obviously no hope. I fought with the only weapon I had, my mind. "You aren't cold, you are not. You can breathe, you can. You are not freezing to death and you are not going to die, because this is a damn dumb dream!"

The low hill ahead had very regular sides, like something that had been built. This caused me to stop and stare, all my concerns forgotten. The thing could be bigger than the pyramids of Egypt. It might be a pyramid itself.

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Interviews & Essays

On Tuesday, April 12, welcomed Whitley Strieber, author of THE SECRET SCHOOL
Preparation for Contact.

Bknappbn: Welcome, Whitley Strieber. Thank you for coming!

Whitley Strieber: Thanks for having me here.

Question: How do you reconcile your "encounters" with religious tradition?

Whitley Strieber: I don't have any problem believing that God would inhabit such a large universe with many different creatures.

Question: Do the Starborn teach you about reincarnation and karma?

Whitley Strieber: I don't know what "starborn" means. My whole experience is still in question.There perhaps has been some reincarnation-related material. I discuss it at length in THE SECRET SCHOOL. As far as karma is concerned, I suppose I'm still working that out.

Question: What other types of books do you plan on writing?

Whitley Strieber: I'd like to get back to fiction...I'm not working on any fiction currently, though.

Question: Do you think the Heaven's Gate cult members were very close to your beliefs?

Whitley Strieber: No, I don't have "beliefs." I have questions. I think it can be demonstrated that something unexplained is happening. Beyond that, there are no facts available, therefore, only questions.

Question: Mr. Strieber, how long did it take for you to write COMMUNION once you had decided to write it?

Whitley Strieber: Nine months, I believe.

Question: Do you have a comment about the farsight announcement? Thank you.

Whitley Strieber: I don't know about the farsight announcement.

Question: Good evening, Mr. Strieber. My question is, can we expect any open contact between the so- called "grays," and if not, do you foresee any disclosure in the near future from our government?

Whitley Strieber: Is there such a thing as "grays"? I don't know. I was told by high government officials there was a cover-up connected with the Roswell incident. It would seem to me that the discovery of what this was really about was almost inevitable. Beyond that, I don't know.

Question: Do you believe "the visitors" will ever make themselves universally known to us?

Whitley Strieber: I have no way of really answering that question. I don't know what "the visitors" are.

Question: I just started reading WILD, and I must say, I enjoy it so far. What persuaded you to write this novel?

Whitley Strieber: My enjoyment of wolves.

Question: Do you think there's any truly significant events that will happen in conjunction with the arrival of the new millennium?

Whitley Strieber: I would be very surprised to see that.

Question: I thought your COMMUNION was the most informative book on abduction ever printed for the public. Do you think that we will be able to accept the coming changes as a society of planet Earth?

Whitley Strieber: The significant changes are the human changes. The question is, Will we be able accept ourselves?

Question: I read WOLFEN first and loved it. In retrospect it seems a metaphor -- do you feel WOLFEN was inspired or influenced by your experiences with the "others"?

Whitley Strieber: I think influence runs throughout my work and is particularly strong in WOLFEN, THE HUNGER, and CAT MAGIC.

Question: What is one of your favorite books you wrote?

Whitley Strieber: EVENINGS WITH DEMONS, because it contains 30 years of work.

Question: Do you believe in reincarnation?

Whitley Strieber: I'm not sure. There's a certain amount of evidence for it, even in my own life. But the factual basis is very elusive. Without provable facts, how can we believe in anything?

Question: What is your opinion on the purpose of THE SECRET SCHOOL? Why would the aliens care about illuminating earthlings?

Whitley Strieber: Perhaps because we are illuminating ourselves. I assume that aliens are the answer when we actually don't know what is going on.

Question: What do you think of the way UFO culture seems to have permeated the mainstream? Nowadays the alien image can be seen on everything from cereal commercials to skateboards. Do you think that this draws criticism to UFOlogy or helps support it?

Whitley Strieber: We are integrating the image and the visitors into our version of reality. That process is bound to draw both criticism and support.

Question: Loved your book COMMUNION, but the movie was pretty bad. Did you have much influence on the outcome of the movie?

Whitley Strieber: For me, the movie was a grave disappointment. I was isolated from influence over the movie.

Question: How do you feel your experiences have changed your life?

Whitley Strieber: I have based it on versions of reality that I didn't think existed before, and discovered that the mind almost certainly has extraordinary untapped capacities.

Question: Mr. Strieber, I have not read THE SECRET SCHOOL but found BREAKTHROUGH very disturbing. Do you feel you know a little more of what the visitor's purpose will mean to you and your life? Do you see a definite direction that your experiences are taking?

Whitley Strieber: My experiences always go in the same direction -- toward more and more provocative questions. The experience as a whole I doubt will emerge into a cathartic moment of closure. What we are headed towards is an enormous question -- one that we will be unable to bear and unable to answer. When the public confronts this part of the situation, that's the next step.

Question: Your book COMMUNION was a godsend. I too have had very similar experiences but was afraid to talk about them. Are your experiences still happening, and are they increasing in frequency?

Whitley Strieber: My experiences reached their greatest frequency in 1995. Subsequent to my being forced from my cabin, the frequency has declined.

Question: Why were you chosen to interact?

Whitley Strieber: It's a not a question I can answer.

Question: Are you working on any new novels?

Whitley Strieber: No, I'm not.

Question: Why did you write WAR DAY?

Whitley Strieber: To address a dangerous political situation of that era. There was talk about "hardening" the United States against a limited air strike. This could have induced a Soviet first strike. The book was a warning.

Question: Do you have a favorite author?

Whitley Strieber: Many favorite authors. UFO related, Jacques Vallee. Fiction, probably my all-time favorite is Conrad. Recent interesting book -- Patrick Harpur, DAIMONIC REALITY.

Question: Mr. Strieber, why do they interfere in our lives without obvious permission to do so?

Whitley Strieber: We don't know what "they" are. Therefore we have no idea how issues like that actually relate to the experience. Next.

Question: Has your wife ever experienced extraterrestrial encounters similar to your own?

Whitley Strieber: No.

Question: Why are "they" so interested in our reproductive system? Why the experiments re our reproduction done on abductees? And why do they take eggs and sperm?

Whitley Strieber: Bear in mind that the only evidence we have that this is happening is anecdotal. That evidence must be respected, but at the same time, it is suggestive, not conclusive.

Question: In announcing you, the online host called COMMUNION a "novel." Would you please comment on that characterization?

Whitley Strieber: No comment.

Question: Have you had any interaction with other alien types other than "grays"?

Whitley Strieber: I've seen numerous different forms...for the most part variations on the human form. Gray creatures are the most alien looking that I have recognized.

Question: What good Web sites do you recommend for UFO news?

Whitley Strieber: The best Web site for UFO news is CNI. To get it, you will have to do a search on the letters CNI. I don't know the exact address.

Question: Do you personally believe that the government has knowledge of the existence of extraterrestrials?

Whitley Strieber: I feel sure that there is a secret, or was a secret, connected with Roswell. Whether there is current knowledge of extraterrestrials or not, I don't know.

Question: Do you believe, as Art Bell believes, that we are headed for a "Quickening" in the immediate future?

Whitley Strieber: Clearly we are. The rate of change in human society is accelerating about as predicted back in the '70s. This is because of increasing population, economic activity, and stress on the environment.

Question: Mr. Strieber, I wonder if you are as frightened of the inexplicable aspects of your experiences as you once were?

Whitley Strieber: I'm not frightened anymore. I got used to being astonished,and bored with being scared of things that didn't hurt. I guess I lost interest in my fear. That doesn't mean that I have decided that the experience is benign or even positive. I don't know how to interpret it. I move ahead cautiously.

Question: Shirley MacLaine has stated on national television that President Carter confirmed to her the government knowledge of extraterrestrial activity and authorized her to quote him. Have you had the same information from Carter?

Whitley Strieber: No, I have not.

Question: What do you think about life on Jupiter's moon?

Whitley Strieber: It would be fascinating to find life there. The moons of Jupiter, however, may be much younger than the Earth, though it's possible that life there will not be as evolved as marine life here.

Question: How do you feel about television shows such as "The X-Files," which deal with abductions and visitor experiences?

Whitley Strieber: They create an assumption that there is something to the whole cover-up business. It's not obvious that the situation is as bad as these shows imply. If it is that bad, then we need a new government, and we need it yesterday. If it isn't, however, these shows create a barrier of fiction between the people and the government that the government is helpless to break down, without revealinginformation that may be classified for important reasons that are irrelevant to UFOcontroversy. They're fun to watch, too.

Question: What positive effects would you like to see come from your work?

Whitley Strieber: In the long run, I would like to see society adopt the question of what is happening to us scientifically, so that it doesn't simply decline, as it is now doing, into a lot of worthless superstition. We need a solid scientific study of UFOs and abductions so that we can gain a clear understanding of what these things are and whether or not UFO sightings and abduction reports are related phenomena. In the very long run, I hope that my work, in some small way, contributes to the expansion of human consciousness and the expression of mankind into the cosmos.

Question: What would you like a reader to walk away with after reading THE SECRET SCHOOL? Is there an important message(s)?

Whitley Strieber: Yes, the following messages.1) It is suggested by the book that the mind may have access to a much larger-scale relationship with reality, including the ability to move through time, than we have allowed ourselves to believe. 2) Humanity has a future. 3) The nature of what is real is fundamentally in question. We don't know who we are. We don't know what the universe is. And we don't know the relationship between ourselves and the universe, but we can find out.

Question: What type of question do you foresee as unbearable -- have you been given any clues?

Whitley Strieber: There could come a question about our origins and destiny that would be incredibly provocative because it would relate to the meaning of every human life. It might be that such a question, and the implications surrounding it, would not be answerable with the information we had available at that time. This would place us in the position of having to make some kind of a leap into a superconscious state in order to bear the knowledge of what we really are.

Question: Have you read any theosophical books -- various levels of existence/heavens -- and if so, how do you relate them to your experiences?

Whitley Strieber: The human spirit, it seems to me, is directed toward ecstasy. Ecstacy is like heat. There is no highest temperature. There is no highest heaven.There is always potential for more. Evil is like cold. It comes to an absolute end like absolute zero. This is why the good -- as human history will attest -- in the long run remains after evil has passed away.

Question: What do you think of Dr. John Mack's book on abduction?

Whitley Strieber: I think John Mack is a very brave man. Every scientist who has addressed this issue seriously has taken a risk and suffered often very serious challenge, as Mack did. He met the challenge with great intellectual rigor and personal grace -- his book also reflects both of those qualities in abundance.

Question: Are you familiar with the work of Barbara Marciniak on/with the Pleiadians? If so, what do you think of it?

Whitley Strieber: Channeled material is fascinating to me, because we don't know where it comes from. It would offer us rich new insight into the human mind, if we could understand this. I like Barbara very much and respect her integrity and effort.

Bknappbn: Thank you for your books, Mr. Strieber. Any brief advice to people, both believers and non, who would like to learn more?

Whitley Strieber: Abandon belief in favor of question. Then you cannot fail to learn more.

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