Whitley Strieber. The Path.

Front matter

Walker & Collier, Inc.

As Strieber explains in this interview, Walker & Collier is his own company, through which he also published The Key.

It's my own company, yes. "Walker" and "Collier" are two characters from my book Catmagic. Constance Collier, if you ever look into her life, was a very important figure in sort of the hidden world of the United States, and she's portrayed in my book Catmagic. And Amanda Walker is the protagonist in the book. So Walker & Collier. The company is owned by me and Anne. It's nothing fancy.

Constance Collier (1878-1955) was a film actress who is portrayed in Catmagic as being the secret leader of a Wiccan coven. Amanda Walker is an artist who is going to illustrate a book Collier is writing, but Collier is actually grooming her to be her successor as coven leader. I seem to recall Strieber saying somewhere that Walker was based on a friend of his who appears in one of the "visitor" books, but I don't remember who (Dora Ruffner?).

I should read Catmagic. Strieber seems to consider it one of his more important books.

Louis Steiner

The webmaster for Strieber's site, Unknown Country. He designed the cover of both The Key and The Path. I can't find any other information on him.


Philippe Camoin considers himself the heir of Nicolas Conver, though it's not clear exactly what the relationship is. In 1998 he collaborated with Alejandro Jodorowsky on a Tarot of Marseilles deck. Strieber uses Camoin's deck in The Path and seems to have gotten some of his dubious information about tarot history from him.

Joseph Stein and William Segal

People Strieber was involved with in the Gurdjieff Foundation.

Anne Strieber

Strieber's wife and the managing editor of his website.

The Value of the Path

As this is being written, scientists have just achieved teleportation of a laser beam across a room. (p. 2)

Other scientists expect to soon be able to send subatomic particles through quantum wormholes to distant parts of the universe. (p. 2)

Others still are designing quantum supercomputers (p. 2)

unimaginably powerful telescopes called interferometers (p. 2)

It was in the early seventies that the path appeared in my life. (p. 3)

In the next few pages he describes the path appearing in his life in December 1976, hardly the "early" seventies. But in this journal entry he describes something happening in 1971. Describing his 1998 encounter with the so-called Master of the Key, he writes:

There emerged an incredible promise: that an ancient path would again emerge. And suddenly I knew who this man was. Since I met one of them in 1971, I have known that there was an incredible secret group in this world, who knew the true path of the human soul. He told me then I would one day play a part in inducing this hidden path to resurface. He taught it to me, and I committed it to memory. I asked what I should do with it? He only shook his head.

I met this man on a path in Central Park. I was an innocent young man, just 27 and newly married.

… [The Master of the Key in 1998] gave me to understand all the missing pieces in the magnificent story about the hidden path that I was shown in 1971.

It's not clear whether this is a different version of the story or a separate event. Strieber says on p. 7 that in the past he has sometimes referred to the 1976 event as having happened in 1970 or 1973, and so mabe 1971 is just another mistaken date. But the circumstances are different, too; there is nothing in The Key or The Path about meeting anyone on a path in Central Park.

In 1976, my wife Anne and I had just moved to … Manhattan. (p. 4)

We were deeply involved in the Gurdjieff work at the time, attending a group every Thursday night at the New York headquarters of the Gurdjieff Foundation and spending many of our weekends on the Foundation's estate in Armonk, New York. (p. 4)

Thomas Jefferson's version of the New Testament, which eliminates all material referring to a resurrection. (p. 5)

The solar plexus is the body's center of gravity. It's located just below the navel (p. 5)

The deck of Tarot cards … lay on my desk beside my typewriter then. (p. 6)

I think I remember Strieber saying somewhere that the deck he had at that time was the Grimaud version of the Tarot of Marseilles, but I can't find my source for that information.

G. I. Gurdjieff … referred to the Tarot as a 'philosophical machine.' (p. 7)

Gurdjieff's disciple P. D. Ouspensky characterized the tarot thus in A New Model of the Universe (p. 210), who compares the cards to a "philosophical machine" described by Raymond Lully. Before Ouspensky, Eliphas Lévi, had also called the tarot a "philosophical machine" in The Science of the Prophets. I haven't been able to find any such quotes from Gurdjieff himself.

Strieber uses the phrase in Communion, p. 288

About fifteen years ago [i.e., around 1971] I became interested in the tarot when I was studying the rise of monasticism in Europe for a historical novel I never actually wrote. I came to realize that the tarot is much more than a deck of fortune-telling cards; it is a sort of philosophical machine that presents its ideas in the form of pictures rather than words.

The story it tells is an interesting one: The face cards of the tarot — the Major Arcana — can be arranged in such a manner that they work as signposts toward spiritual evolution.

So Strieber's basic idea of arranging the trumps in meaningful pattern is at least as old as Communion, and it's interesting that he again places his discovery in 1971 or so, not in 1976. As for the bit about studying the rise of monasticism, I suspect that the story in The Path — that he became interested in tarot cards as part of a general study of all things esoteric under the influence of the Gurdjieff Foundation — is closer to the truth.

The next Monday, I began my research into the Tarot by buying a book called The Tarot by Alfred Douglas. The receipt, which I still have, shows that I bought the book on December 13. The experience had thus taken place on Saturday, December 10, 1976. (In the past, I have variously referred to this date as 1970 and 1973, …) (p. 7)

I haven't been able to find any published references to a tarot-related experience in 1970 or 1973. Instead, the year that keeps popping up is 1971. Coincidentally, December 13 fell on a Monday in both 1971 and 1976 — but, unless December 11 and 12 were both Fridays, the experience must have taken place on the 11th rather than the 10th.

I find the confusion about the dates rather odd. 1970 was a big year for Strieber — the year he married Anne and joined the Gurdjieff Foundation (I'm not sure in which order) — and you'd think he'd be able to remember whether his experience happened one year or five years after those milestones. He also had a different job and was living in a different apartment in 1976 than in 1971; when he remembers sitting at his desk, walking into the living room, sitting down on the couch, which apartment is he in? (Or was he walking in Central Park?) And why on earth would he still have the receipt for a book he bought 26 years before?

The Tarot by Alfred Douglas (not Oscar Wilde's lover, some other guy) was published in 1972.

Why Now?

In 2003 … I'm hoping my life takes me back to New York and the [Gurdjieff] Foundation. (p. 12)

So far it hasn't, as far as I know.

It ended with a rumbling, glorious and ultimately terrible voice answering my howling protests with four appalling words: "We have a right." (pp. 12-13)

Five words, actually. Whitley narrates the experience while under hypnosis in Communion, p. 76

'I'm not going to let you do an operation.'

'We won't hurt you.'

'I'm not gonna let you do an operation on me. You have absolutely no right.'

'We do have a right.'

That was it, bang. There was nothing to it. I thought they were gonna cut my whole head open. There was nothing to it.

the prophecy of the Beatitudes: "and the meek shall inherit the earth." (p. 18)

This is closer to the wording of Psalm 37, "But the meek shall inherit the earth," than to that of the Beatitudes in Matthew 5, "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth."

The Mystery of the Tarot

Scholars agree that the cards were known in Italy and probably France by the late fourteenth century. (p. 21)

The earliest known decks (from around 1430 to 1450) are from northern Italy. The mainstream view is that tarot cards were not introduced into France until 1499.

This is an 11th century stone sculpture at the St. Cernin Basilica near Toulouse, of the 21st card in the Major Arcana, known as the World… . The sculpture is complete in every detail. This is not an 'early' card, but a fully evolved image (p. 21)

As I explain in detail here, the sculpture in question, while clearly related to the tarot card, is not the same thing. It is a "Christ in Majesty," a representation of Christ on his throne surrounded by the four living creatures as described in Revelation 4. The image makes perfect sense without any reference to tarot cards and is not evidence for their antiquity.

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