(NOTE: The quotes below are from the Sacred Texts version of Charles Fort's New Lands. A link to the rights-free version of the book is below.
Charles Fort's New Lands)
One of the biggest frustrations for me with Charles Fort's classic of paranormal studies, Book of the Damned, was that it ended with a discussion of phenomena that seemed very much like they could point to the existence of bigfoot. However, Fort seemed to relate these phenomena to us as an illustration that bigfoot didn't exist and that, in fact, the chances of the actual living presence of strange creatures, either from this world or other worlds, were rather slim.
It seemed to me that Fort was trying to resist the idea of the existence of beings other than natural, earthly beings on earth because he was afraid of the force that could be embodied in paranormal beings. So I hoped that, as Charles Fort's work progressed, he would accept the actual presence of beings into his work.
Throughout New Lands, Fort seems to do this, from time to time. He does this, though, in the form of what he calls "mirages," or phantom forms appearing in the sky. These phantom forms are mainly of soldiers -- sometimes of entire troops of soldiers. But there still isn't a real feeling that we are looking at living presences in the sky. Fort himself is very dodgy on what the phenomena of the sky-mirages could actually be. Reflections? Imaginations? Disguised worlds?
But finally, at the end of the third to last chapter of New Lands, an alien finally appears on earth. This alien is -- that's right -- a space-pig. It's a very strange-looking creature, especially for a pig.
Now, those who have read the book will be quick to remind me that the space-pig Fort has parading down Broadway at the end of his book is "just" a product of Fort's imagination. That is true. Fort structures his book with three main elements: data, in the form, usually, of notes from journals; philosophy, in the form, either of Fort's arguments against the scientists or Fort's own Neo-scientific arguments; and imagination, in the form of Fort's own poetic expressions, inspired by, as opposed to deduced from, the data and philosophy.
But I would also argue that Fort's use of data is more like -- well, like how Joseph Cornell might cut pictures out of magazines and put them into his dioramas; or, again, how Henry Darger might trace pictures of little girls out of coloring books, put tiny, little penises on half of them, and throw them all into adventures the likes of which had never been seen, this side of Japan's magical-girl anime.
Fort's data is used as a kind of "found footage." And Fort uses his data to express, not just his genuine philosophical beliefs about the universe, but -- I really believe this -- his own personal psychological development, from crisis to conversion.
So the fact that Fort sometimes uses his own imagination alongside the data, when it comes to the aspect of psychological development, isn't of much concern to me. And -- it has to be noted -- Charles Fort is extremely thorough in discriminating between the data and his own imagination. His data is always very clearly stated as data. And his imagination is... hard to mistake for anything else.
But the simple fact that Fort would allow, even in his imagination, an alien finally to touch the earth, means that he's probably made a huge step in his psychological development. Finishing the Book of the Damned, I had an idea of where New Lands would go. But I'm not sure how Fort's next book, Lo!, will go, in terms of Fort's own psychological development.
Now, the people who have read my previous posts know that I'm a part-time paraphilic infantilist, or an adult baby. That means that my personal fetish, i.e. what turns me on, is pretending I'm a baby, or a little child.
So, as I finished the first third of Fort's New Lands, I was actually really excited by a passage where he speaks of our so-called Solar System (which Fort eventually begins calling a Geo-System) as a Super-Embryonic System. In other words, the Solar System is just a gigantic womb!
At first, finishing up the first third of the book, I thought that this would simply be another one of Fort's whimsical imaginings, that my adult baby sensibilities had a bit of play, and that I'd go on with the rest of Fort's book. But it turns out that Fort's embryonic analogy continues all throughout the book, forming, I believe, the real substratum to his whole philosophical approach to the book.
I think the obvious reason for the embryo analogy is the fact that if you have hope for the world, you usually believe that the world's coming to consciousness of itself, it's getting smarter. You hear people say things like "dawn of consciousness" all the time. Our world is dawning, or, as the old philosophers may have said, "nascent," or, in the process of being born. So it's easy to imagine the world as fetal or embryonic, if it's nascent, or dawning.
But I think Fort had his own personal reason for making this choice. Fort's Blakean imagination was so strong that, if he had given it enough power, it would really carried him away. Even with the protective measures Fort puts upon himself, he still often risks being carried away right to the skies by his imagination. For instance, he almost explodes with prophetic ecstasy in this Whitman-esque passage:
"Char me the trunk of a redwood tree. Give me the pages of white chalk cliffs to write upon. Magnify me thousands of times, and replace my trifling immodesties with a titanic megalomania -- then might I write largely enough for our subject."
Plus, I believe, Fort was such a sensitive man -- probably psychically sensitive, as well as emotionally sensitive -- that he could easily have been carried away by the psychic and emotional influences of the world.
If that was the case, and I believe it was, Fort needed as much tying down and binding in as possible. He needed containment -- as *my own* psychiatrist might say. He needed a womb-like atmosphere of security and seclusion, so that his own psychological structure could develop. And this, I believe, is why Fort made the embryonic analogy the real backbone of his theory.
I think there are two really interesting passages that point to the fact that Fort saw himself, in his sensitive condition, as being as vulnerable as an unborn baby or a little child, and in need of either containment or some kind of rational, parental protection. In the first instance, Fort imagines the scene of the rushing, towering, thundering Niagara Falls. But he imagines this scene -- from inside the womb of a pregnant woman!
"A pregnant woman stands over Niagara Falls. There are sounds, and they are vast circumstances; but the cells of an unborn being respond, or vibrate, only as they do to disturbances in their own little environment. Horizons pour into a gulf, and thunder rolls upward: embryonic consciousness is no more than slight perturbances of maternal indigestion. It is exclusionism."
Fort believes that exclusionism, which is the real structure of current science, is necessary, to a degree. It keeps things out of the system which would be too much for the system, at its current stage of development, to process. If the system received too much information at once, it wouldn't be able to process. It would fail. Thus exclusionism, though harmful if overdone, is necessary, to a degree.
Fort likens exclusionism, in its different degrees, as science develops, to the convention parents and teacher have of giving kids certain amounts of knowledge as they develop, and as they are more and more able to process the information given to them. Again, it's easy to imagine Fort, in the following passage, imagining himself in the vulnerable role of the child in need of protection and restraint.
"The story of every industry tells of inventions that were resisted, but that were finally admitted. ... Early astronomers could scarcely have systematized their doctrine had they been bewildered by seven or eight hundred planetary bodies; and that, besides the functions of the astronomers, according to our expressions, there was also their usefulness in breaking down the walls of the older, outlived, orthodoxy. We conceive that it is well that a great deal of experience should be withheld from childrean, and that, any way, in their early years, they are sexually isolated, for instance, and our idea is that our data have been held back by no outspoken conspiracy, but by an inhibition similar to that by which a great deal of biology, for instance, is not taught to children."
In the second to last chapter of New Lands, Fort develops his idea of the embryonic condition of the Geo-system very beautifully. Fort thinks of this so-called Solar System, or Geo-system, as Fort calls it, as an "incubating organism, of which this earth is the nucleus."
Fort makes it clear that the analogy of an embryo is just that: an analogy, and that the Geo-system is "strongly characterized by conditions and features of its own." But it's a good enough analogy, and Fort continues to employ it.
If this Geo-system, of which the earth is the center, while the sun and the planets either revolve around the earth, around the sun, or in other strange orbits, is like a womb, then the meteors act as part of an umbilical system, bringing in nutrition from the outside, the nutrition generally being a form of electricity. Meteors enter the Geo-system through holes in the womb, which we think of as distant stars, which are the other part of the umbilical nutrition system.
Fort expresses his disagreement with the doctrine of evolution. He rather believes this Geo-system, and all of its components, including living organisms, are developing according to a design. But this design is, again, like the "design" that causes an embryo to develop the way it does. There is a "genetics," one might say, to all of the development of our Geo-system. Fort says of this system:
"It is not altogether anti-Darwiniam: the concept of Development replaces the concept of Evolution, but we accept the process of Selection, not to anything loosely known as Environment, but relatively to underlying Schedule and Design, predetermined and supervised, as it were, but by nothing that we conceive of in anthropomorphic terms."
There is a regulating force in the Geo-system, Fort believes, just as there is a regulating force in the development of an embryo, which allows certain actions and materials to increase in harmony with the current development of the embryo, while, at that specific stage, other actions and materials are held back, or inhibited.
Thus, everything has its time. Fort believes that even inventions and ideas, in this Geo-system of ours, have their time.
"There are data for the acceptance that all things, in wider being, are held back as well as protected and prepared for, and not permitted to develop before comes scheduled time. Langley's flying machine makes me think of something of the kind -- that this machine was premature; that it appeared a little before the era of aviation upon this earth, and that therefore Langley could not fly. But this machine was capable of flying, because, some years later, Curtiss did fly in it. Then one thinks that the Wright Brothers were successful, because they did synchronize with a scheduled time."
Now -- two things about this passage really quickly. He mentions the idea of a premature technology. Earlier on in the book, he also talks about premature ideas. So Fort is really talking about premature theory! That's pretty exciting to me, for obvious reasons.
But the other thing about this passage -- even though I *know* Fort knew Marx' and Hegels ideas, I'm pretty sure that he also knew Freud's ideas, and probably Jung's. But I'm sure, in spite of what Fort knew of Jung, Fort came up, in the passage above, with a basic idea of synchronicity, before Jung came up with the developed idea.
Fort then compares the development of human ideologies with the development of the embryo, in that the embryo uses different types of cells in order to reach different levels of development, but that these cells are destryoed by the next phase of cells, which signify the next level of development. Reflecting on this analogy, Fort says:
"Human reason is tropism, or response to stimuli, and reasoning is the trial-and-error process of the most primitive unicellular organisms, a susceptibility to underlying mandates, then a grouping in perhaps all possible distortions until adjustment with underlying requirements is reached.
"The mind that responds, perhaps not to stimulus, but to requirement, which seems to be a negative stimulus, and so conceives, is in adjustment, and reaches the state known as success."
Fort then repeats his belief that isolation is just as important for the healthy development of an embryo -- be it human embryo or Geo-systemic embryo -- as is the process of expansion:
"It is our expression that temporary isolations characterize embryonic growth and super-embryonic growth quite as distincly as do expansions and coordinations. Local centers of development in an egg -- and they are isolated before they sketch out attempting relations. Or in a wider being -- hemisphere isolated from hemisphere, and nation from nation -- then the breaking down of barriers -- the appearance of Japan out of obscurity -- threads of a military plasm are cast across an ocean by the United States."
Fort concludes his embryonic theory with a very beautiful passage -- although I believe that this passage, once again, distorts his ideas regarding the sky-mirages:
"Embryonic heavens that thave dreamed -- and that their mirages will be realized some day. Sounds and an interval; sounds and the same interval; sounds again -- that there is one integrating organism and that we have heard its pulse."
Fort's view of the universe is obviously different from the current scientific view of the universe -- the one which just today, I believe, released documents regarding the probable non-viability of the Kepler planets. One might tend to think of Fort's view of the universe as medieval. But I think if Fort tried to push his view of the universe on the medieval people, he'd suffer a worse fate than Giordano Bruno suffered in enlightened times.
But Fort's ideas are based on three very pre-Copernican ideas. One: the earth is at the center of the Geo-system. Two: the earth neither revolves nor rotates. And three: the force of gravitation either doesn't exist or else is very weak.
It's easy enough to see, from a psychological standpoint, why Fort would be interested in arguing for these three ideas. If the earth is the fetus, it would, hopefully, be the center of the womb, and the most important thing in it. If the earth neither revolves nor rotates, there is less movement to be constantly concerned about. In other words, the fetus can brood in one still place. And if gravitation doesn't exist, but one is in the womb, one could imagine oneself floating in a limited space, but secure within that space.
But I think there's another, less psychoanalytic, reason that Fort would argue for these somewhat archaic seeming ideas. This would be based on an idea I first got from my favorite writer of all, George Bernard Shaw -- to whom, by the way, Fort refers in New Lands, pointing out that Shaw believes the moon is only thirty-seven miles away from the earth!
Shaw said that human technology is outpacing human morality. We are developing technologies at a wildly fast rate. We have the weapons to wipe out civilization in an instant, nowadays. But, Shaw says, we still have the morality of the medieval times. Why aren't we working on improving our morality, Shaw asks, as hard as we are on improving our technology?
Well -- I'm sure that Fort saw the same passage of Shaw that I read. God knows, both Fort and I have spent hours and hours at the New York Public Library -- although Fort's hours dwarf mine. But I think Fort put his characteristic spin on the idea. What I think he did, actually, was put a Forto-Hegelian spin on the idea.
I believe that Fort thought that our morality must, in order to catch up to our technology, first go back, to the point where our morality and our technology separated from each other. And I believe that Fort thought the way for our morality to do that was by taking the science of that time as a basis for the morality of the time. From this point, we, as scientific moralists, could build up a new morality, allow it to make a new progress.
This would be -- I think -- a version of Hegelian sublation: simply put, it would be dropping down a level, in order to go up two levels.
But I also think that, plain and simply, Fort was building a universe out of genuine data, and was building a universe for his imagination. The data, which was genuine and honest, if nothing else, provided evidence for Fort's imagination of the universe. And Fort's imagination of the universe could really expand, could probably expand way beyond the bounds, even, of what a modern conventional scientists would currently think were the bounds of our universe!
So Fort, in order not to get carried away, had to tie himself down to a smaller universe, a systematic universe that his imagination could work with.
But, moving from these ideas, there are some other theories to Fort's work that are very interesting. One is Fort's idea of "difference of potential," which kind of replaces the law of gravitation as a major effective factor in the Geo-system.
Fort takes his idea of difference of potential from the basics of electricity. Very basically, voltage in an electrical system is the measure of difference in electrical potential in a system. One could also think of it as the ability that one end of a system has to receive the flow of electrons from another end of a system.
Fort believes that difference of potential doesn't just have to be electric. If any two systems are placed in proximity, and if they be very similar, with some differences, the differences will create a difference in potential, which will create interaction between the two systems. This interaction will be a flow of whatever elements have created the difference of potential. Fort says:
"Let two objects be generically similar, but specifically different, and a relation that may be known as a difference of potential, though that term is generally confined to electric relations, generates between them. ... Given proximity, we conceive of relations between [objects] other than gravitational."
Fort's objects are generally planets, meteors, or spaceships which approach the earth. When these ships approach the earth closely, Fort claims, phenomena like earthquakes, as well as more anomalous phenomena, such as rains of strange objects down on our earth, or large objects from our own earth being pulled up into the air, occur. This is not due to the gravitation of the two planets, Fort says, but to the interaction of the two systems, as a result of their difference of potential.
Fort believes that Mars passes close enough to earth almost to graze us. The moon is only a couple hundred miles away from us. And these two bodies occasionally take chances to communicate with us. The communications we receive from Mars occur when Mars is closest to us.
One large body of communications we receive from Mars are blinking lights seen to flash on the very surface of Mars. But another series of phenomena we receive are actual concussions in the sky, huge crashings in the sky that sound like cannon fire, or even earthquakes. These sounds usually come in some sort of rhythmic way. Fort knows that these rhythms have been recorded. And he believes that the rhythms can be analyzed, to reveal the messages of the communications. In fact, Fort himself has attempted to analyze some of these rhythms.
Venus, in its passage through the Geo-system, also has moments of close approach to the earth. However, when Venus approaches the earth, it doesn't communicate with the earth. Instead, it actually sends out spacecraft, to visit the earth. These visitations, interestingly enough, according to Fort, don't occur at the closest points of Venus to earth, but usually five weeks before and after that point, when Venus is brightest in the sky.
These visitations are, though, often accompanied by the phenomena usually described as earthquakes. The phenomena usually run -- I think -- in this order: a sighting of an object in the sky, a loud, crashing sound in the sky, and earthquake-like phenomena, as well as events such as rains of strange objects.
But these phenomena aren't just limited to visitations from Venusian spacecraft. They can occur when other celestial bodies pass near us. The difference of potential creates an interaction in the system. And these cataclysmic effects occur.
In the passage below, Fort mentions an event in Michigan, in 1919, and then broadens his statment out to discuss similar occurrences.
"There was a shock in Michigan, November 27, 1919. In many cities, persons rushed from their homes, thinking that there had been an earthquake. But in Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan, a 'blinding glare' was seen in the sky. Our acceptance is, that this occurrence is, upon a small scale, of the type of many catastrophes in Italy and South America, for instance, where just such 'blinding glares' have been seen in the sky, data of which have been expressed by scientists, or of data which have not impressed conventional scientists."
Fort, in his Book of the Damned, provides some powerful illustrations from his data, of transfers of material between the earth and the spaceships or celestial bodies approaching it. And the theory of a difference of potential as the driving factor is one way of expressing this process.
But I think Fort also provides a more whimsical expression in the passage below, which seems reminiscent to me of the connection romance, I mean passionate romance, has with the exchange of genetic information between two bodies during the reproductive process. Fort imagines an ancient visitation from a spacecraft to earth, which led to a material interaction between the bodies. Fort, by the way, believes that very ancient interactions actually were powerful enough to cause rains of *dinosaurs*.
"If poetry is imagery, and if a flow of images be solid poetry, such a recitation was there in three-dimensional hyperbole that was probably seen, or overheard, and criticized in Mars, and condemned for its extravagance in Jupiter. Some other world, meeting this earth, ransacking his solid imagination and uttering her living metaphors: singing a flood of mastadons, purring her butterflies, bellowing an ardor of buffaloes. Sailing away -- sneaking up close to the planet Venus, murmuring her antelopes, or arching his periphery, and spitting horses at her --
"Poor degenerate times -- nowadays something comes close to this earth and lisps little commonplaces to her --"
Such as, I would suppose, rains of blood or rains of frogs.
I'd like to end this post with a few of the more interesting pieces of data that Fort presents -- including the space-pig episodes.
In my last post, I mentioned two women who were actually injured by matter that had apparently fallen from space. In this final section of New Lands, Fort actually gives a number of instances of men being injured by, and even dying from, contact with these extraterrestrial phenomena.
In this instance, from 1875, a man was struck, and injured, by something he assumed was a musket ball, though he never found the missile which had injured him.
"A man was trundling a cart from Schaffhausen, near Beringen, Germany. His right arm was perforated from front to back, as if by a musket ball. Thisman had two companions. He heard a whirring sound, but his companions had heard nothing. At one side of the road there were laborers in a field, but they were not within gunshot distance. Whatever the missile may have been, it was unfindable."
Fort also lists an instance similar to this, from 1886, where a man, walking toward Pall Mall, in England, had his jacket sizzled on the shoulder -- as if, we'd nowadays think, a laser beam had cut it. He never found out what had done the strange thing to him. But scientists assumed it had been a very small meteorite.
In this instance, from 1886, Fort lists some rather disturbing deaths and disorientations which resulted from a supposed lightning strike.
"A man and his three sons were pulling corn on a farm. Nothing is said of meteorologic conditions, and, for all I know, they may have been pulling corn in a violent thunder storm. Something that is said to have been lightning flashed from the sky. The man was slightly impaired, one son killed, the other seriously injured -- the third had disappeared. 'What has become of him is not known, but it is supposed that he was blinded or crazed by the shock, or wandered away.'"
In the instance below, an entire troop of soldiers was struck by an "unknown force."
"It is said that in 1893, nineteen soldiers were marching near Bourges, France, when they were struck by an unknown force. It is said that in known terms there is no explanation. Some of the men were killed, and others were struck insensible. At the inquest it was testified that there had been no storm, and that nothing had been heard."
Another man, in 1895, attempted to shield himself from the blast of something he saw falling:
"In the period of primary maximum brilliance of Venus, a luminous object, it is said, was seen in the sky, in day time, by someone in Donegal, Ireland. Upon this day, a boy, Robert Alcorn, saw a large luminous object falling from the sky. It exploded near him. The boy... put his hands over his face: there was a second explosion, shattering his fingers."
In 1891, one of these explosions caused a commotion, very near to where I live nowadays!, in Brooklyn:
"Two men, Smith Morehouse and William Owen, were walking in Vanderbilt Avenue, Brooklyn, about 2 o'clock, afternoon of March 16th, when a terrific explosioun occurred close to the head of Morehouse, injuring him and stunning Owen, the flash momentarily blinding both. Morehouse's face was covered with marks like powder-marks, and his tongue was pierced."
It was the first, but not the last, pierced tongue in Brooklyn. But let me continue the story.
"With no one else to accuse, the police arrested Owen, but held him upon the technical charge of intoxication. Morehouse was taken to a hospital, where a splinter of metal, considered either brass or copper, but not a fragment of a cartridge, was removed from his tongue. No other material could be found, though an object of considerable size had exploded. Morehouse's hat had been perforated in six places by unfindable substances."
Among the many instances of lights in the sky, either as communication or visitation, there are a few where a really interesting kind of spacecraft is made visible. I'll take this one as a good example, since it kind of relates to the imagery of the space-pig. This sighting occurred in Benton, Texas, in 1897. It was seen at first as a dark object that crossed the moon. But a closer look was obtained:
"It was shaped like a Mexican cigar, large in the middle, and small at both ends, with great wings, resembling those of an enormous butterfly. It was brilliantly illuminated by the rays of two great searchlights, and was sailing in a southeasterly direction, with the velocity of the wind, presenting a magnificent appearance."
This spacecraft was thought to have similarities with a spacecraft seen around the same time, first in Kansas City, Missouri, and then in Chicago, Illinois. The spacecraft was also described as having red, white, and green lights.
And now to what Fort calls the "tragedy of the space-pig," an event that occurred in Llagollen, Wales, in 1905.
"It is an intensely black object, about two miles above the earth's surface, moving at the rate of about 20 miles per hour. [Later, the object was] examined through powerful field-glasses. We are told that it had short wings, and flew, or moved, in a way described as 'casually inclining sideways.' It seemed to have four legs, and looked to be about ten feet long. According to several witnesses it looked like a huge, winged pig, with webbed feet."
After this flying pig (that'll be the day!) passed, Llagollen was showered with a red-purple-colored rain.
So, this is the tragedy of the space-pig, wandering through space. But how does Fort meet tragedy? With triumph! Or... so I believe. Read this poetic passage by Fort, and see if the description of the alien being paraded through the streets of New York City doesn't sound like the space-pig who had been spotted floating over Wales.
The passage relates to one of the pioneer space-explorers Fort imagines will discover the phenomena of the worlds he has posited. The space-explorer is something of a prospector, something of a prophet, and something of a pariah:
"Insulted and abused and finally hounded to his death. But, in the procession, he will lead by the nose an outrageous thing that should not be: about ten feet long, short-winged, waddling on webbed feet. Insult and abuse and death -- he will snap his fingers under the nose of the outrageous thing. It will be worth a great deal to lead that by the nose and demonstrate that such things had been seen in the sky, though they had been supposed to be angels. It will be a great moment for somebody. He will come back to New York, and march up Broadway with his angel."