Thursday, August 16, 2007

Cereology, Ufology & Other -Ologies

Like most people, my first introduction to crop circles was by way of skepticism. Before I knew what crop circles, in all their complexity, were really like, I knew they were just hoaxes, made by bored men entertaining themselves with boards and some rope. Of course, given naturally to skepticism, it was easy to abandon the assumption that all crop circles were man-made upon discovering that the first and most famous of these hoaxers, Doug Bower and Dave Chorley, could not replicate even the simplest design to the same level of quality, even working publicly in daylight and taking hours longer than they'd claimed to have needed working secretly in the dark. Since their initial claims (made in 1991), plenty of other hoaxes--perpetuated both by individuals and by groups who, unbelievably, have even hired themselves out to corporations to incorporate company logos into their land-art--have come to light; however, the legitimate phenomenon has continued to outpace such hoaxed crop formations both in intellectual profile (e.g. the mathematical proportions and theorems included in even apparently simple designs) and in quality of work.

As one researcher, Paul Vigay, explained, "Hoaxers must be able to prove that all formations are hoaxes, for it is they that claim the subject to be a hoax. All the hoaxers have to do is stop hoaxing, that way there would be no more circles. The biggest problem for them is that of the genuine phenomenon. As they have no control over the 'real' circles, they cannot force the phenomenon to stop merely because they stop. Therefore, each year, as genuine formations start to appear, the hoaxers have to come forward and say, 'yes, we did them.' (emphasis added)" And, of course, if you're going to claim you did something amazing, people are going to ask you to do it again, to prove it was you and to demonstrate the marvels of your skill. That's where hoaxers run into trouble. My skepticism, so easily won before, gradually turned entirely towards the hoaxers themselves, whose shoddy imitations of the genuine phenomenon were as unconvincing as their spurious claims to be the makers of the real thing when it did appear. This meant, though, that I still needed some better explanation for who or what made these crop circles, not to mention how, and why.

Of course, I was never all that passionate about crop circles to begin with, and so for years I let my questions--what crop circles really were, how they were made, and who made them--rest gently among similar questions like, "Is time travel possible?" and "Who really shot JFK?" Intriguing ice-breaker questions for a party, maybe, but of no real urgency or significance to my personal life. As far as I was concerned, they could just be amazing works of anonymous public art which, given their complexity and the difficulties of the medium, were breath-taking even without any supernatural or extraterrestrial explanation. And so, I was as surprised as anyone when I felt randomly inspired to pick up Daniel Pinchbeck's recent book, 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl at the local bookstore one day (it was probably that gorgeously green cover, I admit) and discovered a wealth of spiritual and psychical relevance in crop circles I had never imagined.

This was when I first became seriously interested in crop circles, reading Pinchbeck's discussion of the phenomenon in connection with shamanism, world tribal customs, astronomy and astrology, the ancient Mayan calendar, Mayan and Aztec deities, and psychedelic drug use, among other things. This hit close to home for me, at a time when shamanism and tribal rituals especially had caught my attention in my academic work on social and religious ritualization and its connection to the creative process and the creation of "meaning." While some parts of Pinchbeck's book impressed me greatly, I was admittedly turned off by the promotion of foreign chemicals being used to induce unusual states of consciousness (as someone very much into the idea of self-reliance, I've always felt you should do the meditative work to reach those states yourself, instead of using a drug as a crutch or aid), as well as the chosen-one tone that he began to adopt towards the end of the text.

What I found most interesting, however, was his description of crop circles as a kind of postmodern art form meant (meant by whom, exactly, remains unclear) to push the human collective consciousness into higher states of understanding by continually challenging the boundaries of perception. After reading Pinchbeck's discussion of the consciousness-raising and healing effects of crop circles, I began to wonder if they weren't some kind of spontaneous manifestation of a Gaia-like natural will, something that welled up from within the human-earth interconnection itself, expressing visually and physically what we as natural creatures have already begun to understand at a collective-subconscious level. In the same way that dreams concretize concepts, ideas, conflicts and desires while we sleep, so that in analyzing their imagery and events we can gain insight into the inner workings of our own minds (if only into its chaotic randomness, at times), familiarizing ourselves with own personal psychical landscape.

This seemed a romantic, panentheistic and comfortable opinion of crop circles, avoiding silly and easily disproved ideas about little silver spaceships and Grays running around paying our inconsequential species so much seemingly undeserved attention. The idea that literal extraterrestrials would waste so much time buzzing and bothering our little rock-in-space has always struck me as a rather egotistical belief on our part. Not that I ever believed it was categorically impossible, really. As my uncle recently told me while on our family vacation, after asking me about the book on Celtic faery folklore that I was reading, "Everyone believes in something. For instance, I believe in UFOs." You have to know my uncle, but this comes as absolutely no surprise. I smiled at him and said, "O yeah, I believe in everything." Which in some respects is true--I believe that anything might as well be possible. So while I certainly couldn't rule out Grays and flying saucers, they remained, for me, rather unlikely an explanation for the very real and very baffling crop circle phenomenon. I looked, instead, to more mystical, spiritual explanations regarding energy patterns, creative collective will, and the interconnection between thought and physical coincidences in nature.

Until now.

I haven't thought much more about the topic of crop circles since reading Pinchbeck's book, though they've remained an area of interest to me. However, after the death of my friend, I found myself sitting alone in my apartment for a few days in a row and, having run out of DVDs to watch, to keep myself from feeling lonely and swallowed by grief, I went online and randomly began looking for documentaries and educational specials on YouTube and GoogleVideo. I stumbled across a two-hour documentary about the crop circle phenomenon, and suddenly I was hooked again. The next day, I went out to the local bookstore and bought the only book on crop circles they had: Freddy Silva's Secrets in the Fields: The Science and Mysticism of Crop Cirlces. Two chapters away from finishing the book, I find myself back at square one, questioning Pinchbeck's psychical, aesthetic explanation and seriously wondering if, just maybe, we aren't "alone" after all.

In my next post (once I've finished the book and had a chance to organize my notes), I'll go over some of the evidence that Silva discusses, and exactly what its implications might be.


  1. I have read a few of the papers by the BLT Research and they seem to be on to something. The changes to the plants in these circles are rapid and suggest high temperatures.

    I used to think that most crop circles were previously undiscovered archaeological sites, since I know that those are often detectable from differences in plant growth. While that may be true for some circles and crop marks, it is not consistent with these rapid changes seen by BLT.

  2. Don, That's one of the things Silva mentions in his book. Apparently, slight charring on plant stems are consistent with exposure to raised levels of microwave radiation (or possibly plasma), while burst nodes could be created by rapid, superheated water within the plant turning to steam and forcing its way out of the stem.

    In short, it's all kinds of crazy. I'll talk more about it in my next post, but with all things considered together, I'm definitely rethinking my stance on intelligent, purposeful, non-human (and possibly non-Earth-based) life.

    Also, thanks for the website. As I've read Silva's book (which was published in 2002), I've constantly found myself wondering what's been going on in the five years since it was written. Especially because each crop circle season seems to bring leaps in design and analysis. I'm sure I'll be able to find some of the latest developments somewhere out there on the internets. ;)

  3. Yow! Whatta teaser! I can't wait to hear the rest!!

  4. It was the "until now" that did it, wasn't it? ;)

  5. I have not read Silva's book, and it sounds like I should. My aunt lives in western North Carolina. There have been quite a few of these showing up in that area recently. She is pretty skeptical about this sort of thing, but convinced me that they are neither hoaxes nor anything archaeological. Here is a link where some of the North Carolina circles are discussed. I am not so sure about the source, but most of the circles were also reported by local news media in the area.