(NOTE: The quotes below are from the Sacred Texts version of Lo!, by Chalres Fort. A link to a download of the rights-free version of the text is below
Charles Fort's Lo!)
Throughout Charles Fort's previous book, New Lands, the adult baby in me was pleased to see a philosophy which claimed that we were all part of some great cosmic embryo, living in a gigantic womb. I figured that that was about as close to my fetish as Charles Fort was going to get for me.
Then... Charles Fort basically opens his third book of paranormal studies, Lo!, with a naked man actually being put in a diaper! Here's Fort's scenario:
"An unclothed man shocks a crowd -- a moment later, if nobody is generous with an overcoat, someobdy is collecting handkerchiefs to knot around him.
"A naked fact startles a meeting of a scientific society -- and whatever it has for loins is soon diapered with conventional explanations."
Of course, in my mind, I'd be much happier for this naked man not to have received a cloth nappy, but a paper one.
My view nowadays would be that the unclothed man shocks a crowd. But a mommy pushing a stroller in the crowd says, "Hey, don't worry. Just pin him to the ground. I'll get one of my baby's diapers out of my bag and tape it onto him."
Of course, this would have to be a small naked man. Thankfully I'm small enough for baby diapers. I know this for a fact.
But -- why on earth would Charles Fort put a naked man in diapers right at the beginning of the book? Not to get my rocks off, I'm pretty sure.
Fort, as I've said in my earlier posts on him, collects all kinds of data regarding anomalous phenomena. He has found these data in newspapers, scientific journals, and other sources of information. Fort spend decades, in libraries in New York and London, reading articles from all over the world, collecting this data. And much of the evidence he relates to us regarding these strange, unexplained phenomena, include direct quotes from the sources.
However, Fort arranges his data with what I believe is something almost like a narrative structure. Actually, one might think of it more like a poem cycle, or a dream cycle. But poem cycles and dream cycles can be analyzed as if they were telling a story, or as if they had a narrative.
In this sense, even though I do regard the data Fort presents as having a basis in reality, I also look at Fort's works as a kind of narrative of his own psychological processes. These works can be seen as Fort's own search for his self.
And, in the sense that Fort's works share something in common with poetry, I think of Fort as a sort of Outsider Artist, like Joseph Cornell and Henry Darger. I also think of him as something like a found-footage filmmaker.
Thankfully, from Lo!, I was finally able to glean a quote which gives me the idea that Fort feels the same way about himself:
"I confess to a childish liking for making little designs, or arrangements of data, myself."
Now, my idea has been that in Fort's first book, Book of the Damned, Fort was trying to integrate the shadow side of himself, the dark side, or the side of himself he didn't want to admit existed, into his psyche. He may have done this. But what I found was that, as human-like images approached Fort's mental world, they were suddenly shot back -- all the way to the sun! They had to work their way back toward the earth.
But once these elements of Fort's personality returned to earth, they were as huge as planets. My idea changed, from there, to a belief that maybe what Fort was really trying to integrate was the collective unconscious. Fort gave some pieces of evidence that seemed to point to whole planets occasionally approaching the earth, causing an exchange of matter between the two bodies.
But the Book of the Damned ended with Fort still seeming to want to avoid any evidence of human-like creatures approaching the earth. And I believed that the human-like creatures would have to be seen in his second book, New Lands.
The human-like creatures did appear in New Lands. But they were all ghosts, part of a phenomenon Fort described as mirages up in the sky, of cities, forests, troops of soldiers, and so forth. However, finally, at the end of his book, Fort brought an alien creature down to the earth. But this creature wasn't a part of Fort's data -- it was a part of his own imagination -- a story he was telling as the hypothetical result of a space traveler's journeys.
This astronaut had brought back a space-pig with him, and paraded it up Broadway.
The space-pig does come back in Lo!, by the way. Only, in Lo! the space pig is a piece of real evidence. And it's not the grand, ten-foot long being that it was in New Lands. And his parade is not on Broadway, but on the road to the London Aquarium. This space-pig was found in the year 1878.
"Mr. Davy, a naturalist, who was employed at the London Aquarium, took a stroll with a new animal. ... The creature was about two feet high and two feet long, and was formed like nothing known to anatomists -- anyway to anatomists of this earth. It was covered with wiry hair: head like a boar's, and curly tail like a boar's. It was described as 'a living cube.' As if with abdomen missing, its hind legs were close to its forelegs. ... At the Aquarium, Davy told that an acquaintance of his, named Leman, had seen this creature with some peasants, in the South of France, and had bought it, but, unable to speak the patois of the district, had been unable to learn anything of its origin. At the Aquarium the only explanation that could be thought of was that it was a dog-boar hybrid."
Davy was followed back from the Aquarium to his house by a crowd of people who were curious to see the strange animal. But when Davy reached home, his landlord "ran to his room, and from behind closed doors, ordered Davy to take away the monster."
This is one of the cuter monstrosities Fort presents to us in his work Lo! The book is filled with many other instances of monsters -- most of them in the sea, but some of them on the ground. Some of the monsters are, actually, quite dangerous. And Fort gives us a couple grisly chapters regarding these monsters.
So Fort has gone from, in the Book of the Damned, being completely unable to fathom the idea of living beings on this planet, to, in Lo!, showing us quite a few monsters and humans having been here.
Most of these beings show up through teleportation. According to Fort, these beings have been transported from one part of this earth, or one part of our so-called Solar System (which Fort thinks of as a Geo System, since, in his cosmology, the earth is at the center). Human beings are often involved in the teleporation. Fort argues that many missing people may have been victims of teleportation.
Fort gives us whole chapters, toward the middle of his book, regarding teleported individuals. The really central character of these chapters, however, is the "Wild Man": a man who appears naked, sometimes with complete amnesia, in a completely unfamiliar area. Fort gives some cases where the man teleported was obviously from earth. But some instances Fort leaves open, I believe, to the possibility that this person came from another planet.
So finally, after three whole books, Fort is finally allowing human elements, as alien elements, to be a part of his psyche. The "Wild Man" is the really central character of this kind of alien element.
So why does fort have the "Wild Man" wearing a diaper at the beginning of the book?
Well, like I've said before, Fort has a huge imagination. He's liable to get carried away with his imagination. And, since Fort's work is, like the work of the alchemists, about developing the processes of his own psyche, if he gets too carried away with his imagination, he's liable to drive himself insane.
This is why, in my opinion, Fort is so adamant about a cosmology in which the universe is much, much smaller than conventional scientists say, and where the earth is stationary. Fort needs to have a small universe and a stationary world, to give his imagination stable coordinates to work with. If these elements are stable for Fort, then he can allow his imagination to expand into them.
I think some statements that Fort has made in Lo! do a really good job of pointing to this:
"If we can think of our existence as a conceivable-sized formation -- perhaps one of countless things, beings, or formations in the cosmos -- we have graspableness, or we have the outlines or the limits within which to think."
Which is basically Fort's way of saying right out that he's trying to give some grounding to his imagination, so that it can expand with some sort of order. Here's one along similar lines:
"All that is required for thinkableness, instead of bafflement, is to give up attempted notions upon Nature, as Universality, and conceive of one thinkable-sized existence, of shape that is representable in thought, and conceive of an organic orthogenesis within that."
But one of the more telling passages is in the final chapter of the book, when Fort gives us the idea of the great things we could do -- if only our earth were stationary:
"The searchlights of the sun play upon a celebration in the sky. It has been waiting ages to mean something. Just at present known as the Milky Way, it's the Broadway of the Sky, and some day explorers of this earth may parade it --
"If this earth is stationary."
A strange condition for a parade: the parade will only be held if the earth holds still. But this is Fort's condition. Interestingly enough, though, Fort again mentions Broadway. When Fort closed New Lands, he imagined an astronaut, back from the hunt, parading a space-pig down the Broadway of New York. Now, Fort closes Lo! with the imagination of an astronaut parading down the Broadway of the Sky.
But this passage really highlights, I believe, the conflict in Fort's mind between having an incredible expansive imagination and having the need to have his imagination stabilized, so it doesn't carry him away altogether. Psychologically, Fort really needs a solid earth.
But in the third to last chapter of the book, Fort has already stated that he's willing to compromise on the centrality of the concept of a stationary earth to the overall theme of his works. Fort says:
"I am thinking of an abstraction that was noted by Aristotle, and that was taken by Hegel, for the basis of his philosophy: That wherever there is a conflict of extremes, there is an outcome that is not absolute victory on either side, but is a compromise, or what Hegel called 'the union of complementarities.'"
"The idea of stationariness came first. Then, as a sheer, mechanical reaction -- inasmuch as Copernicus had not one datum that a conventionalist of today would accept as meaning anything -- came the idea of a swiftly moving earth. An intermediate view will probably appear and prevail."
Fort gives us, as a compromise, his idea of this intermediate view:
"This roundish earth is almost central, but is not absolutely stationary, having various slight movements. Perhaps it does rotates, but within a period of a year."
So Fort's earth gets moving in the third to last chapter of the book, then kind of stops moving again, at the end of the book, even though Fort admits that at the end of it all, his concept of a stationary earth, "according to a great deal in this book, ... may be a matter of no importance, or bearing."
It's interesting that he says "bearing," since the stationary earth is what has given him bearing in the past.
But the final passage of the book points, I believe, to why Fort may be willing to let the earth move in his cosmology.
In New Lands, Fort gave us a picture, as well as evidence to back up his picture, for a universe which was small enough so that the sun's light could occasionally bounce off the back wall, so to speak, of this womb-like system, and be seen on earth. At the end of Fort's Lo!, however, the atmosphere of the earth itself has this reflective capability. Fort says:
"According to data collected by the Naval Research Laboratory there is something, somewhere in the sky, that is deflecting electro-magnetic waves of wireless communications, in a way that is similar to the way in which sound waves are sent back by the dome of the Capitol, at Washington. The published explanation is that there is an 'ionized zone' around the earth. These waves are rebounding from something."
The "ionized zone" puts Fort, a man of many traditions, in touch with another tradition -- that of Nikola Tesla. Fort continues:
"A paper read by Prof. E.V. Appleton, at a meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. The 'ionized zone' is not satisfactory. 'The subject is as puzzling as it is fascinating, and no decisive answer to the problem can be given at present.' From Norway had been reported experiments upon short-wave transmissions, which had been reflected back to this earth. They had come back, as if from a shell-like formation, around this earth, not unthinkably far away."
Now, ever since Book of the Damned, Fort has imagined solid, gelatinous, or watery patches in the sky, floating over certain areas of the earth. However, this is, I believe, the first time that Fort has spoken of the entire earth as having something like a "shell-like formation."
And, since I believe that part of Fort's real tasks in his psychological development is the integration of the collective unconscious into his psyche (a very advanced task, in my opinion), Fort's earth is really Fort's psyche. So, if Fort is saying that he has enabled his earth to have a shell around it, like his universe was a shell around -- basically his entire existence! --, then, it seems to me that Fort has made a really incredible step.
But the shell which Fort's data has formed around his universe, and then around his earth, has been a container. Diapers are also containers. This idea -- I mean the more subtle aspect of it -- is not my own. My psychiatrist told me that one of the reasons I like wearing diapers is because I like having "emotional containment." She got her idea of containment from the psychological theories of Nathan Schwartz-Salant.
Fort's Wild Man doesn't show up, in the hard evidence of the book, in all his naked glory and confusion, until about a third of the way through the book. But Fort, as if striking the theme for his book, has his Wild Man show up right at the very beginning. The same thing can be seen to happen with themes, say, in the overture of an opera, or the opening poem of a poem cycle, or the first dream of a dream cycle.
But it also seems to me that the step Fort has taken has been pretty brave. This Wild Man is still full of force that Fort isn't yet strong enough to deal with yet. And so the crowd around this man dresses him in a makeshift diaper. They are putting the man into containment, until he can reappear, later in the story, with a bit more continence.
The diaper isn't necessarily put on the Wild Man to prevent the Wild Man from going to the bathroom all over the place, but to cover up the nakedness of the Wild Man. Nevertheless, I believe that what Fort is more worried about, in this case is, if not the flowings of evacuation, then, at least, the flowings of sexuality.
The diaper of the Wild Man is, I believe, a direct parallel to the lingerie that Fort puts on the goddess of destruction. But the goddess of destruction is all water -- her body really is all nothing but churnings and wetness and mud. And the Wild Man is still, for Fort, still so closely identified with the goddess, or the feminine, or Fort's mother-image, that he needs to wear a diaper to contain his force, as -- it seems -- the goddess of destruction wears her lingerie to adorn her force.
Fort describes the lingerie of the goddess as a means of illustrating the havoc created by an earthquake and flood that occurred in Peru, in 1868:
"Vast volumes of water fell from the sky. It was appalling providence: this water was needed. The waters soaked into the needful earth, and surplus beneficences made new rivers. In the streams there was a ghastly frou-frou of torrents of corpses, and the coast of Peru was frilled with fluttering bodies. Almost Ultimate Evil could be stimulated by such a lingerie. These furbelows of dead men, flounced in the waves, were the drapery of Providence."
Fortean lingerie? I could see it in a Pedro Almodovar film.
But, obviously, the feminine is really frightening to Fort. Fort does propose a sort of god all throughout his book. But I believe that Fort doesn't think of this god as a man, but as a woman. Yet Fort is afraid of calling this female god a goddess. So he takes the sexuality out of her name by calling her a "godness."
But I'm pretty sure that Fort thinks of this "godness" actually as a goddess, and that he's rather resentful at the fact that this goddess is feminine. I don't know why, but I'm having trouble finding the passage now -- but I'm almost certain that somewhere near the beginning of the book, Fort describes God as possibly being a female. He gives woman's cruelty and indifference as a reason for God to be a female.
This is just a joke. But Fort's book is full of jokes agains women. Fort claims, for instance, that the only people who don't believe in witches are unmarried men. In another passage, Fort states that Feminism only has to continue its triumph, before female Bluebeards show up in society alongside male Bluebeards.
Fort also has a weird passage in which he claims that, if feminism develops farther, women will likely try to show instances where they were impregnated without men. That's a wonderfully erotic idea, to me -- since it has lesbian overtones. But for Fort it's some kind of nightmare.
But the fact is that Fort still looks at this Geo System as a gigantic womb. And a womb -- other than, I suppose in Zeus' pregnancies -- is in a woman. So if there is a god over this womb, one would assume that this god is a goddess.
So I would argue that Fort's god is a goddess, and that Fort's goddess has so much power that he has to de-sex her. Thus she goes from being a goddess to being a "godness."
But this image of godness is an image of idiocy for Fort. Fort says:
"So many of our data are upon a godness that so much resembles idiocy that to attribute intelligence to it may even be blasphemous."
Fort, when first speaking of his god as a god, also speaks of its capacity for both good and evil:
"Let a god change anything, and there will be reactions of evil as much as of good. Only stupidity can be divine."
Fort eventually describes his god as an "automatic Jehovah": this is a force in the universe that responds to needs. If something is lacking, it will be replaced. But it might not be replaced until there is an extremely great need for the thing. And then, once it is replaced, it might be so overly replaced, that it causes just as much of a disaster as the lack had caused.
The transportation of things needed occurs through what Fort calls teleportation: the moving of things from one place to another. This movement may take place immediately, or it may take place in the conventional sense of things moving from one place to another. However, in this latter, case, things are usually moving from some planet or star near the earth, which has all these elements stock-piled -- so that the conventional concept of movement facilitates the very unconventional, Fortean concept of providence.
Fort says that this kind of teleportation is a "distributive force":
"In every organism, there are, in its governance as a whole, mysterious transportations of substances and forces, sometimes in definite, circulatory paths, and sometimes specially, for special needs. In the organic view, Teleportation is a distributive force that is acting to maintain the balances of a whole; with the seeming wastefulness sometimes, and niggardliness sometimes, of other forces; providing, or sometimes providing, new islands with vegetation, and new ponds with fishes: Edens with Adams, and Adams with Eves; always dwindling when other mechanisms become established, but surviving sporadically."
But this distributive force can be controlled, to a certain degree, by the desires and needs of the beings in the environment. These beings can be human, animal, plant, or even supposedly inanimate. Fort says:
"In the organic sense, I conceive of people and forests and dwindling lakes all expressing a need, and finally compelling an answer."
But Fort believes that the deadly need is often answered as severe as the conditions:
"Down upon monstrous need came relief that was enormous."
The cases Fort speaks of in this context are generally droughts that were so intense that a lot of people were dying. But when the need for water is finally satisfied -- there are usually floods that kill just as many people -- if not more -- than the droughts themselves did! Fort, reflecting on a severe drought, followed by an equally catastrophic flood, in Canton, says:
"At Canton, every pietist proclaimed the efficacy of prayer, and I think he was right about all that: but the problem is to tone down all this efficacy. If we will personify what I consider an organism, what he, or more likely she, has not, is any concept of moderation."
And I think that statement, right there, encapsulates my ideas pretty nicely. Fort then continues with another interesting passage:
"Show me a starving man -- I pay no attention. Show me the starving man -- I can't be bothered. Show me the straving man, on the point of dying -- I grab up groceries and jump on him. I cram bread down his mouth, and stuff his eyes and his ears with potatoes. I rip open his lips to hammer down more food, and bung in his teeth, the better to stuff him. The explanation -- it is the god-like in me."
So, from this angle of Fort's cosmology, there is a goddess that has no concept of moderation, that doesn't feed her children until they are on the point of death, and then overfeeds them, almost to the point of death! This, I would argue, would lead to exactly what Fort is suffering from -- a state of being completely overwhelmed by his passions.
Throughout his books, one of Fort's major arguments against conventional scientists is that, while they claim that the real value of their work lies in their ability to predict phenomena, they actually have not been able to predict any phenomena with a great degree of accuracy. And yet, Fort says, these scientists, who can, for instance, get a solar eclipse wrong by four seconds, have the ability to tell us what specific motions are taking place from particles of two stars that have crashed into each other millions of light years away from us!
So, it seems to me, the last third of Fort's book is entirely devoted to the formulation of a predictive cosmological system of his own. Fort cites very famous volcanoes, such as Vesuvius and Krakatoa. But he also cites less well-known, though extremely disastrous, natural events from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Fort claims that, by using his observations, he has formulated a way to predict these disasters.
These disasters are often foretold, Fort says, by the appearance of a new star in the sky. This new star, Fort claims, is actually a volcano igniting in some distant area of our womb-like Geo System. The next thing to happen, usually, is for a great spread of ash or rain of mud-like or ash-like material, to be seen on the earth. After that, Fort says, earth might experience some minor volcanic or seismic activity. And, finally, there is a great catastrophe.
So there seems to be a way to predict these catastrophes, and to save people from being involved in them. Nevertheless, Fort says, the goddess has seen to it that, for all the warnings she gives mankind, she will also put enough stupid people on earth to stop all the smart people from taking action on time. Fort says:
"Often before disasters upon this earth, there have been appearances that were interpretable as warnings.
"But if a godness places kindly lights in the sky, also it is spreading upon the minds of this earth a darkness of scientists. This is about the beneficence of issuing warnings, and also seeing to it that the warnings shall not be heeded. This may not be idiocy. It may be 'divine plan' that surplus populations shall be murdered. In less pious terms we may call this maintenance of equilibrium."
Fort gives a rather powerful instance of this, with one of the distasters he relates to us, of the eruption of the volcano of Mount Pelee, in St. Pierre. Plenty of people in town were certain that they needed to get out. But the officials of the town were so confident in the word of the scientists, who said the volcano wasn't going to occur, that they kept as many citizens in the town as they could -- by military force! But Mount Pelee erupted:
"There was a rush of flames. In the volcanic fires that burned the city, 30,000 persons perished."
Now, it's pretty easy to see that Fort has gone from the concept of a need expressed and an answer compelled -- which one would think would be the thing he would try to predict, if he were going to predict something scientifically -- and has ended up with the eruption of a distant volcano and its ravaging effects upon some part of the earth, regardless (as far as I can tell) of the needs expressed.
What I believe is happening here, psychologically, is that Fort has recognized a situation where he did express a need from his mother -- a need for nourishment and care. This need may not have been satisfactorily answered. So Fort's psyche now really has no sense of how to modulate his emotions.
So Fort's idea of need for nourishment has developed into an emotional life of what seem to him to be sudden inflows of rather catastrophic passions. These passions seem to be parallel with his needs for nourishment and care. Even if they aren't parallel with his needs, they are the elements of his life that are now of the most import.
When he's invaded by these emotions, he's really terribly frightened. So his idea isn't how to predict a flood by a drought. It's how to stop the distant rumblings in his psyche from creating horrible volcanoes and upheavals in his more immediate life. In order to do this, he needs to see those distant volcanoes, to be vigilant enough about them to recognize that they're occurring as soon as they're occurring.
In order to have this vigilance, Fort brings the character of the schoolboy-amateur into his narrative. For many of the catastrophes Fort lists, Fort also seems to find amateur astronomers, most of them teenage boys, who have found the new stars in the sky that would have, had anybody been thinking about it, heralded the coming disaster.
Fort believes that the amateurs will really be the ones to change astronomy:
"Back in times when little boys were playing hopscotch and marbles, and had not yet taken up the new sport of giving astronomers astronomical information, or in those times when only astronomers were attending somewhat to astronomical matters, and when therefore changes in stars were unheard of, arose the explanation of vast distances, to account for unobserved changes."
Fort, in another passage, ridiculing the astronomers for their use of "old news," gives an indication that what he's really looking for in the sky is a way to predict the emotional overflows of his own childhood:
"If newspaper editors were like astronomers, they'd send out photographers, rather busily, and, perhaps years later, if they could condescend from journalism into doing some newspaper work, they'd examine plates. They'd tell of a fire that had occurred long before. They'd write up some fashion notes upon the modes in their readers' childhood. Like dealers in stale stars, they'd wonder at a lack of public interest."
But in this passage, Fort implies that the astronomers are beaten by the schoolboys:
"We are beguiled by snoozers, who have been beaten time after time by the schoolboys."
Now, of course, in that passage, "beaten" simply means "beaten to the finish line," so to speak. But this idea of the schoolboys beating the "snoozing" astronomers connects this section of the book with the first section of the book.
Lo! is basically divided into two sections. The second section of the book is all about large-scale disasters, which Fort believes are caused by, and so can be predicted by, the eruptions of volcanoes on distant celestial bodies. I would equate this with the more cosmic sections that comprise the second half of Book of the Damned.
The first section is, rather, about visitations of beings to this earth. These beings first visit in the form that most people would think of as poltergeists. Fort gives various examples of stones thrown, loud rapping noises in houses, strange emanations of materials in houses, all of which would be attributalble, by the spiritualists, to poltergeists -- ghosts, in a sense.
Fort, however, claims that these phenomena are the effects of teleportations from one place in the Geo System to another place.
Fort then moves on to a discussion of strange monsters which have appeared in different places in the earth. Fort seems to claim, again, that these monsters are aliens to our planet, and that they have been teleported to our earth.
But from here, Fort begins to discuss the teleportations of human beings, or of human-like beings. From here, Fort moves into human adults (or adolescents, sometimes), who have suffered from amnesia due to their supposed teleportations. Fort also discusses the "Wild Men" and "Wolf Children," who seem to have been so affected by their experiences that everything about them was wiped out.
These people actually were reduced to the infantile state, Fort says. So -- in that case, the diaper image makes even more sense.
But, as a final chapter to all this discussion, Fort discusses the story of Kaspar Hauser, a young man who appeared in Germany, naked, barely able to walk, with the mentality of an infant. Hauser (like many of the people in the stories Fort mentions) learned very quickly, and was rather intelligent.
But, after a few years, Hauser began to be pursued by -- something. He ended up getting stabbed on a number of occasions -- rather mysteriously. The final time he was stabbed, he was killed. From this story, Fort moves into the cosmic discussion.
It seems to me that Fort has taken Kaspar Hauser as the alien man -- the Wild Man who has finally appeared on the earth of Fort's psyche. But something continues to attack the man. So the man must die, in my opinion, so that he can have a "cosmic dream" and face whatever it is that has been attacking him, stabbing him.
The result of this "cosmic dream," Kaspar Hauser's attempt to defeat the attacking force in his life, is, I believe, the birth of the schoolboy astronomer, who "beats" or "attacks" the professional astronomers.
But it would seem to me that what the schoolboy astronomer is beating is only one aspect of the conflict in Fort's psyche. He's defeating the astronomers, which have served, through all of Fort's books, as the masculine, conscious side of his personality. The astronomers have always been the observers. The schoolboy, taking on Fort's power, is able to beat his fear of the father, as it is embodied in the father.
But the mother -- the goddess -- the real force -- is still left! He must either reconcile himself to that force or defeat it.
And the schoolboy is, I believe, Fort's conscious answer to characters in the narrative of the first half of his book who eventually kind of dissolved away from his story: the psychic girls. These girls take a lot of abuse from society. They are usually tortured into "confessing" that they were actually just committing some kind of hoax, rather than that they were actually involved in a paranormal event.
In this passage, Fort gives his ideas on the phenomena, as well as an illustration of the tortures that the young girls go through:
"Nobody can investigate the reported phenomena that we're taking up, without noticing the number of cases in which boys and girls, but a great preponderance of girls, appear. An explanation by those who disregard a great deal -- or disregard normally -- is that youngsters are concerned so much, because it is their own mischief. Poltergeist-phenomena, or teleportations of objects, in the house of Mr. Frost, 8 Ferrostone-road, Hornsey, London, for several months, early in the year 1921, cannot be so explained. There were three children. Phenomena so frightened one of them that, in a nervous breakdown, she died. Another, in a similar condition, was taken to the Lewisham Hospital."
Fort gives another example, of a girl in Johannesburg, who was involved with poltergeist phenomena at a house where she served as a maid. She was allegedly beaten -- slapped and punched in the face -- until she "confessed" to having been involved in some kind of hoax. She later took back her confession. But by that time, nobody cared.
So I think that for some time, Fort actually tries to fix his focus, with the phenomena of teleportation, on human beings as agents of this force. He sees young people, mostly young girls, as the real agents of this ability. First he argues that this may be because, in line with his ideas on paranormal phenomena in general, teleportation is something atavistic, that manifests less and less as it is less and less needed in an existence of higher organization:
"My suggestion as to the frequently reported 'agency' of children, is that 'occult forces' were, in earlier times of human affairs, far more prevalent, and far more necessary to the help and maintenance of human communities than they are now, with political and economic mechanisms somewhat well-established, or working, after a fashion; and tht, wherein children are atavistic, they may be in rapport with forces that mostly human beings have outgrown."
But Fort counters his own argument by saying that these powers could be a sign of advance -- of an evolution to come:
"There are, of course, other explanations of the 'occult powers' of children. One is that children, instead of being atavistic, may occasionally be far in advance of adults, foreshadowing coming human powers, because their minds are not stifled by conventions. After that, they go to school and lose their superiority. Few boy-prodigies have survived an education."
I guess that shows that Fort's boy-astronomer was dead, in the first part of the book, and was still trying to be revived.
Interestingly, Fort even mentions a possible commercial use for teleportation:
"If teleportation exists, it may be used. It may be criminally used, or it may be commercially used. Cargoes, without ships, and freights, without trains, may be of the traffics of the future. There may be teleportative voyages from planet to planet."
But this is about as close as Fort can get to paranormal phenomena involving human beings as the actual agents for some time. In fact, from this point forward, Fort deals with his catalog of monsters, then works into basically two chapters worth of discussions of rather gruesome sheep-killings.
Interestingly -- these sheep killings are not very different from the sheep-killings that are mentioned nowadays in connection with UFOs.
But, in the second chapter of the discussion of sheep killings, I believe, Fort brings back the idea of humans as agents of paranormal events. Fort gives a real bloodbath -- tons of sheep killings in the years 1904 and 1905. And he says that, all this time, while these killings were going on, people were in the grip of religious revivalism, to the point of mania. Fort even quotes one paper in Wales as saying that Wales was "in the Grip of Supernatural Forces!"
Fort points out that, while people were in the grip of this religious mania, the sheep-killings were only one kind of paranormal phenomena occurring. There were a whole host of other phenomena, including luminous objects, flying objects, poltergeist-like phenomena, phantom sightings, and animals shape-shifting. "But," says Fort, "the outstanding phenomenon of this period was the revival." The religious revivalism -- the desires of humans -- was what caused this activity. Fort says:
"The grip was a grab by a craze. The excitement was combustion, or psycho-electricity, or almost anything except what it was supposed to be, and perhaps when flowing from human batteries there was a force that was of use to the luminous things that hung around. Maybe they fed upon it, and grew, and glowed, brilliant with nourishing ecstasies. See data upon astonishing growths of plants, when receiving other kinds of radioactive nourishment, or stimulation. If a man can grow drunk on God, he may usefully pass along his exhilarations to other manifestations of godness."
And it's at this point that people start spontaneously combusting.
It's kind of unbelievable how many different instances Fort gives of people spontaneously combusting between 1904 and 1905. But, from the perspective of Fort's narrative, I believe that this shows that Fort, as soon as he has brought that human element of agency back to his concept of teleportation, has found the passions involved in it so strong, that they actually manage to explode the people under their influence.
Fort steps back again, from this point, and begins relating stories that are about humans, but not humans acting as agents of this force, but rather as victims of it. In some of these instances, the human victims simply disappear from the earth altogether, as in the case of the passengers of the ship the Marie Celeste. Fort gives enormous records of significant numbers of people who had gone missing from specific areas in short spans of time.
But there are also the humans who suddenly appear in places. These people don't have to be from this earth. In fact, Fort even gives us this suggestion:
"If there ever have been instances of teleportations of human beings from somewhere else to this earth, an examination of inmates of infirmaries and workhouses and asylums might lead to some marvelous astronomical disclosures."
But these humans, earthly or alien, don't act as agents, either. They act as victims. They are dazed, disoriented. The humans may be very strange. They may speak different languages, like Princess Caraboo and Rinoldo Agostino. Or they may be completely reduced to an infant state. But they don't have the power, say, of the religious revivalists who, in Fort's narrative, transformed Wales and England into a paranormal maelstrom in 1904 and 1905.
However, even this image, the harmless human, in Fort's final narrative form, as Kaspar Hauser, is attacked by passion. The passion is the first half of the force behind Fort's concept of teleportation: it's the force of the religious revival, the force of prayer to a goddess, a mother-figure, to whom the infant or child is looking for nourishment.
Regardless of how Fort may try to disguise the fact, the fact still remains that humans can act as agents for Fort's teleportative force. But if they are so overwhelmed by passions that they associate to the mother-goddess, the teleportative forces will destroy them, rather than helping them.
It could lead to chaos, as in the maelstom of 1904 and 1905. It could even lead to the spontaneous combustion of individuals -- a complete fireball of passion exploding a person. Or it could lead to the mysterious stab wounds sustained by Kaspar Hauser.
It seems to me as if the human side of Fort's story had to end here, so that Fort could drop down into the deeper regions of his unconscious and face the more cosmic conflict. But -- now that he seems to have faced the cosmic conflict, will he rise back up into the realm of the human in his final book, Wild Talents?
Well -- the title seems to indicate that the answer is yes. Also, the little teaser paragraphs I've read from the Sacred Texts website seem to point to magical girls playing some part in the book. So it definitely seems that the answer is yes. Although... I'd be interested to see if the boy-astronomer has any interactions with the magical girls!
But there's also the fact that Fort, at the end of Lo!, gives us another glimpse into the possible constructive uses of teleportation:
"If we accept that Teleportation, as a 'natural force,' exists, and suspect that some human beings have known this and have used it; and, if we think that the culmination of a series of teleportations will be the commercial and recreational teleportation of objects and beings, we are concerned little with other considerations, and conceive of inhabitants of this earth willing themselves -- if that's the way it's done -- to Mars, or the Moon, or Polaris. But I take for a proposition that there is an underlying irony, if not sadism, in our existence, which rejoices in driving the most easily driven beings of this earth into doing, at enormous pains and expenses, the unnecessary -- the building of complicated telegraph systems, with the use of two wires -- then reducing to one wire, then the discovery that the desired effects could be achieved wirelessly."