Thursday, November 9, 2023

"Tim" and The Key

In today's post "Well, that didn't take long," I reported two verbal dreams, in each of which a sync fairy appeared as a man and delivered a speech:

The speaker was a slim white man who looked to be in his fifties, neatly dressed in smart blue clothing, with very short white hair and a demeanor that gave the impression of high-ranking military brass, though I don't think his clothing was a uniform. It was just a sweater and slacks, I think, but still came across as "very smart." He spoke extremely quickly but with extremely clear enunciation, as if his delivery were precisely calculated to deliver the maximum amount of information as efficiently as possible. He never introduced himself, but I thought of him as "Tim" and understood that it was in this form that one of the sync fairies had chosen to appear to me.

Describing his clothing as "smart" -- as I did twice in the above paragraph -- isn't really my natural idiom. That sense of smart is really an Anglicism; I would more naturally say sharp. Nevertheless, it was the word that came to mind. I also have no idea why I thought of him as being called Tim. No names were used in the dream, nor did he remind me of any real-world person by that name. When I tried to jot down as much of the dream as I could remember, though, I found myself writing Tim.

The two "Tim" dreams were on Monday night and in the early hours of this (Thursday) morning, respectively. This evening I taught an English class for children. I was preparing them for an assignment in which each of them was going to write a brief book or movie review, and their textbook had an example for them:

"Tim. He's very smart" -- in the American sense of that word, but still! I've taught this textbook probably three or four times with different cohorts of students, so at some subconscious level I already knew that a "smart" boy called Tim was coming up, but I hadn't reviewed these pages in preparation for the class until this afternoon, well after the dream. The details are all different -- a well-dressed middle-aged military man vs. a nerdy kid -- but the juxtaposition of "Tim" and "very smart" (the very words I had put in quotation marks in my dream report) was still striking. Jacqueline Wilson herself appears to be British, so I suppose her use of smart would follow mine in the post, not that of the textbook.

"He hates sports" is also a sync. The post about my "Tim" dreams begins with a reference to "the last time I told the sync fairies to take a hike," with a link to my November 2020 post "Coming up for air." Just as I did this time, I illustrated my "take a hike, sync fairies" post with something from Dr. Seuss:

Several hours after posting about "Tim," I realized that he reminded me of someone -- the anonymous visitor who barged into Whitley Strieber's Toronto hotel room in 1998, starting the conversation that formed the basis of Strieber's 2001 and 2011 book The Key.

Why two dates? Because The Key has a bizarre and controversial publication history. The 2001 version, which I bought when it came out, was self-published (Walker & Collier) and had a gold key on the cover. The 2011 reprint was published by Penguin and had black-and-white cover art making the key look gray or silver:

Readers soon noticed that there were several significant differences between the two versions, each of which claimed to be a transcription of a conversation that took place in 1998. The position Strieber has staked out is that the silver-key version is the original, and that the gold-key version differs from it because the manuscript was sabotaged after he sent it to the printer by malicious actors for the purpose of discrediting Strieber. The manuscript on his computer remained unmodified, and it was this version that he sent to Penguin 10 years later. Only after readers noticed the differences did Strieber himself become aware that the gold-key version had been tampered with. The skeptical position is that Strieber inadvertently sent Penguin an older draft and then -- realizing that the manuscript shouldn't have "evolved" like that if it had been a simple transcript of a 1998 conversation -- tried to cover his tracks by making up the absurd story about malicious tampering. The definitive guide to the controversy is the book-length Problems with Strieber and The Key by the pseudonymous Heinrich Moltke.

Part of what makes Strieber's story seem absurd is that the differences between the two versions are minor and mostly editorial in nature, and none of them seems calculated to make the gold-key version look bad. (In fact, several readers maintain that the gold-key version is superior in literary terms.) Why would the baddies go through all the trouble of sabotaging the manuscript only to make such trivial changes? On the other hand, they (supposing they exist) did successfully discredit The Key -- not by the specific content of their changes, but by the very fact of them.

Although I didn't make the connection until just now, this closely parallels the "lost 116 pages" incident in the history of the Book of Mormon. When Joseph Smith's unfinished translation manuscript was lost and presumed stolen, he was instructed not to retranslate that portion of the book, since unspecified "wicked men" were planning to discredit him by modifying his original manuscript and then showing that the retranslated version differed from it. As with The Key, the point would not be the specific content of the sabotaged manuscript but rather the fact that two mutually inconsistent versions existed.

Coming back to how The Key may relate to my "Tim," here is how Strieber describes the stranger he would later dub the Master of the Key. I quote from the silver-key version, but both are essentially the same:

His hair was white and close-cropped, and his eyes were light blue. He wore a dark gray turtleneck and charcoal trousers. He seemed rather slight to me, perhaps five foot eleven, weighing maybe a hundred and seventy to a hundred and eighty pounds.

Except for the color of the clothing, this is a good description of "Tim." If we go beyond The Key itself and look at some radio interviews Strieber did back in 1998, shortly after the experience itself, the parallels are even more striking. I quote from transcripts in Problems with Strieber and The Key:

He wore black clothing. I thought it was a military type outfit. It was unusual clothing, more like a leisure suit but not military enough to say this was a uniform. . . .

It wasn't exactly like telepathy, but some of the words he said, I can’t repeat. I don’t know how. He would say a sentence like, "There is going to be a series of events that take place," and then this other word would come out. And this word seemed to contain enormous amounts of information. It was not like an ordinary word. It had a rough kind of garbled sound to it, like he was choking. Fantastic words. They gave meaning, to me, to the phrase "words of power," because I’m telling you, I've never heard the like, and I could never make sounds like that. If that involved telepathy, then he was telepathic as well.

Tim, too, looked "military" even though his clothing didn't seem like a uniform. Like Strieber's visitor, he delivered his information in very unusual way:

I can report very little of the specific content of these lectures. They were not delivered in English, nor, I think, in any other known language. I was left with the impression that the man had been speaking Latin, but I don't think he actually was, and I have no memory of any Latin words he used. Another impression was that he had been using something which, while still verbal, was more direct than human language -- something that stood in relation to our English or Latin as assembly language does to LISP or C. (Sorry, I know my computing references are just a bit dated!)

Finally, the only ordinary English I saw in my dream was the phrase "directing your attention" in large white italics. Compare this to the following exchange in The Key:

[Strieber]: What is God?

[Stranger]: An elemental body is a mechanism filled with millions of nerve endings that directs the attention of God into the physical.

I've read The Key four times -- twice in each version -- with my most recent reading being in 2022. (Since 2000, I've kept a record of every book I read and when.) Obviously, there's not necessarily anything noteworthy or "paranormal" in my having a dream that borrows elements from a book I know well. It feels potentially significant, but I'm going to need something more objective than a dream to establish it as a genuine synchronicity.

It also occurs to me that "Tim" may have taken his name from a story I wrote as a child about a man called William Alizio who is visited by two extraterrestrials named Tim and Patrick. I'll have to see if I still have a copy of that somewhere.

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