domenica 29 novembre 2009
Charles Hoy Fort - Bibliomancer Extraordinaire
By Franklin Ellsworth Clarke
Conventional thinkers too often express the desire for "new science perspectives". In this theme, they lift up their voices in the midst of a present scientific vacuum, and profess their plea for a more complete scientific embrace of the world. But the persons from whom we hear these expressions are more frequently pandering to a more personal motive, where self gain is the theme. The narcissistic echoes of those who only wish to distinguish themselves amid the science vacuum are the ones who cry out for the "new science".
There are those professionals who cannot forge their way sufficiently in the scientific community, either by lack of talent or advantage, and who therefore choose a spotlight path in the mass media. Such personalities have always taken the role of spokespersons for the world of scientific intellectuals, champions of "the method". There are, of course, those who listen to these hollow voices. There will always be a following for every voice which speaks, and the science showpersons are no exception.
Those who follow the media science performers acquire some hopeful ideal, while gradually cultivating an emotional investment. The promise of a new science and a new world is the compelling aria from which sensitive hearts draw warmth in the vacuum. The sensitive followers find their heroic media speakers losing credibility when, after betraying their true prejudices and predispositions, fall short of their own promise. Young minds know that, while voicing the need for new science, the media science personalities remain completely ensnared in a deteriorating and failed scientific method. And they instinctively know that the method is the problem.
The modern scientific "big lie" is that it is forging new frontiers in our worldview. Nothing could be further from the truth. This perverse perspective is only a clever promotions attempt to stave off the extreme criticism harbored by science grant committees. The promise of a "new" science refers potential patrons to a possible "new world". This new world will be theirs if the monies are given. We who are consigned to watch the science show from the shadows take notice of the repetitive pattern. We note, with bored familiarity, the recalcitrant scientific advocates. Those who maintain their theatrical poise, who cry out the most for "new perspectives", are always the very ones whose power policies destroy every opportunity toward that professed goal. And so we observe the sad plight of science professionals who are locked in a prisonhouse of perceptions, ruled by the highly enforced dictates and well policed precepts of a few science hierarchs.
This decadent closure very fortunately does not apply to all who think and seek. There are scientific mavericks whose lives seem turbulent and wild by comparison, but whose thoughts remain unfettered by obligation and free of concern for loss of privilege. Harassed and beleaguered by the perpetual demands of a non-funded scholarly life, these impassioned persons live in the purity of a loving devotion to know. This is scholarship, this is science.
There are those science mavericks to whom the profession never held an iota of attraction, who likewise owe the profession not a single shred of respect. And it is in these persons that the greatest of scientific revelations often emerge as whole. There are highly qualified researchers who have foregone the respectable dignities of profession for more pressing demands of honor and of responsibility. There are luxuries gained only through the abdications of personal integrity, an often required first rule when entering the science profession. But, the revolutions which so many profess to seek are never gained in becoming party with the problem. And the professionals do not seem to be yielding the gems of genius which so many patrons await.
In these fiery vectors, one requires passion, love, devotion — that urgency which drives persons of passion forward. A few drive headlong, and without concern, directly into these regions. In the heat of discovery, of new revelation, one is never concerned with the paltry dictates of parochial requirement. The lives of professionals rarely know the fires of love, of mystery, or of urgency. Passion is the principle element of this scientific flame. The urgent inner fire which fuels these lives leap out at the windows, burning the heart and pouring forth at the eyes. There is no advantage like the passionate love of learning. Money cannot buy it. Education cannot confer it. Applause cannot increase it. And neither professions nor honorariums can cover its absence.
Only the fire of passion grants her seekers the creative intensity which is never seen among the professionals. The heart burns, the mind sees, the eyes penetrate, and the hands labor. These are the ones who forge the new science which professionals claim as their own, the purity which they wish to touch and cannot. Of the few such individuals, with whose work we are completely occupied, one produced a new revolution in thought which has never yet been equalled.
In keeping with the rules of professions and professional denials, this precious scholar was never crowned with either honorariums or accolades. He was never lifted with an award, was never granted a single entitlement, and was never offered a drop of subsidy. Yet his works remain unique, original, and pure in their devotions. He was one who effectively achieved that "new scientific perspective" which the prating contemporaries merely mouth. He belongs in the lineage of Goethe and Steiner, a genius of science in the metacognitive tradition. And his words burn, but do so with wonderful softness:
"In the topography of intellection, I should say that what we call knowledge is ignorance...surrounded by laughter."
This marvelous quote, by Charles Hoy Fort, forms the frame on which my essay will now begin. It is to this wonderful little man, his great ideas, the false intellection of those who call themselves "Forteans", and the cosmic laughter which derides those who have misunderstood his words that this article is dedicated.
From where do new ideas come? How do they emerge in the midst of a ruling thought structure, like bright and curious blooms in a lifeless desert? Where do we find the connective points from which human intellect might receive an enlightening signal? How do we escape the tautological prisonhouses which a closed scientific worldview seems habitually to produce? The answers to many of these questions are found in the writings of Charles Hoy Fort.
In the cognitive requirements of true scholarship, one must be possessed of superlative insight, sensitive intuition, and an uncommon openness to the world of experience. But cognitive ability is not the sole qualifying agent of personal transformation. It is certainly not the source of revelations. We find the single most important element of change in a peculiar openness and willingness to embrace completely new and apparently illogical revelation. Not one professional will stoop that deeply in the pool of truth. Those who do are completely ostracized and evacuated into our world.
There are those whose years of study brings only great familiarity with facts. These are the ones whose personal concerns do not extend beyond the collection and collation of factual knowledge. But, an unlikely few manage to absorb facts, learn the greater scope, and suddenly glimpse a whole new vision of the world. And, the scientific world, which stands only to benefit from such visions, often prefers to keep such persons unnoticed, unrecognized, and unremembered.
There was once such an unnoticed man. He loved everything magical and wondrous, and odd. And, he was himself not a little bit odd too! Out of the luminiferous atmosphere which surrounded the last decade of Sir William’s life, there was round little Charles Hoy Fort wearing a green eyeshade and trundling through the aisles of bracket chairs in the Municipal Library. His large eyes burned through the shining pince-nez glasses with a peculiar twinkle, highly reminiscent of that elvin smile exuded by Sir William Crookes.
There went the unnoticed Charles Fort, with pockets full of index cards, pencils, and magic. Perhaps he was thought to be a card dealer. If anything of that sort, he was indeed a gambler in the world of science and philosophy. What he later would have to say would eventually find response among a very small group of sensitive souls. His fame would reach out well beyond the confines of his modest perimeter of activity, an immense wave for such a small stone.
Fort was somewhat of a comic figure, and he enjoyed his simple scholarly life immensely. His modest apartment was graced by a caring wife, a cozy kitchen, several full rooms, and an overstuffed office which remained the principle focus of his intellectual delights. Riding the trolley uptown from the Municipal Library, into the forest which once was the Bronx (where also, years before, Edgar Allan Poe had his cottage), there disembarked Mr. Fort.
Fording through white snows, through honey-warm sunny afternoons, and through grey rains alike, the quiet Mr. Fort travelled home. He probably sang Methodist hymns as he went in a rich baritone voice. He climbed the stairs. Home to hearth, wife, and wonders. His files. Here he emptied the treasuries of strange facts which filled his day, his heart, and his pockets. Pencils, index cards, pince-nez glasses, two dozen strange facts, and a grand walrus mustache. Each day was like hunting in a free forest where the most prized and beautifully plumed exotic birds lingered to be caught and caged.
In his younger years Fort was a journalist by trade, and his income was a modest one. How had he afforded this relatively luxurious life at so young an age? On the passing of both his parents, Mr. Fort was left a small fortune. And it was with this that he managed to live, he and his wife, in their apartment north of Manhattan.
Just before dinner, just before the gas lamplights were turned down in his office, Mr. Fort stared out of the window and dreamed.
"All seeming things are not things at all, if all things are intercontinuous...only a projection from something else." Again and again, day after day, he found evidence...but evidence of what? What did it all mean? How did his strange facts fit into the world at all? Oh, he did not deny the existence of these reports. No one could. Mr. Fort sought accounts and eyewitness reports by only the most credible persons; sea captains and professional people having affiliations with The Royal Society and the like. These reports with which he was most amazed came from these highly credible sources. But it was the nature of these "events" and "anomalies" which most disturbed his then traditional sense of order in the world.
Frog falls, fish falls, lightning out of a blue sky, inscriptions on meteorites, circular markings on the mountains of different continents, black snow, green sun, red rain, blue moon, yellow wheels of light in the ocean, petrified giants, manmade artifacts embedded in archaeozoic rock, soaring sky saucers, white islands in a dark blue sea. It all seemed to be a world such as that found in the stories of Baron von Munchausen. But it was real!
Perhaps strange events were some kind of secret language, one whose whole meaning required a new perspective. A new way of knowing or of perceiving. Of this he was sure. Obscure and puzzling manifestations presented the sensitive observer with a never ending creative cavalcade, whose fabulous beauty seemed to hold reservoirs of deeper metaphors. He sighed, and rose, but not before jotting down his final thoughts on this matter. "Let everything be reported...then one day we may have a revelation," so he wrote in a note to a friend, and went in to dinner.
Fort learned of every strange and anomalous phenomenon in which natural lore is so very prolific. He knew where to look. He learned how to use the Library to his own curious advantages. His collection exceeded 25,000 separate index cards, a file of formidable volume. On these cards there rang 40,000 separate notes on rains of different kinds! The file collection grew in leaps and bounds after that first accounting — a well categorized register of the impossible, of the obscure, and of the unnoticed. One would think that Mr. Fort was expressing something of himself in his meticulous searches — the sense and savor of the obscure. But, of these friends, these obscurities and reports of the strange, he was chief expert in the world. A menagerie of wild facts, and a gallery of curios and mysteries. A connoisseur of the improbable, as unlikely a Marco Polo as one would ever find. Mr. Fort became a broker of wild talents!
With each perusal, with each accounting, his whole perspective shifted. He changed completely in his approach, reaching around and behind his every consideration of thought, perception, fact, and fancy. What was real and what unreal? Looking into his overstuffed office one day, Mr. Fort was smitten with a singular irritation. All these scattered facts, and no context. Their once sweet taste of mystery had lost the sheer delight which drove him each morning to strive with winds, rains, trolleys, bracket chairs, and critical librarians with tight lips and pince-nez glasses!
He had, after all, caught all the most beautiful birds in the forest, of plumage incredible and exotic. And now what? Would he simply display them in their cages? Was he to simply "play cards" with his collection? Vexed at his "viceful waste of time", he carted the lot of files to the fireplace...and burned them en masse. Watching the curling flames mingle with thick white smoke, he destroyed the work of years, countless days of searching, of writing, of pencil notes, of frazzled thoughts, of books and tomes and piles of dusty magazines. His mind turned, and he suddenly caught a glimpse of a new world. He peered through the fire and saw.
After the heat of this furnace had cooled, Mr. Fort proposed, of all things, that both he and Anna sail for England. Charles was finally out of his fires.
Fort’s intention to publish his works was not a small bit encouraging. The force behind the new move evoked portents of excitation. All things were arranged for the journey, including their return to New York. The couple was to take lodging in London, as close to the British Museum as could possibly be arranged. There was adequate money for the trip, and the usual bureaucratic problems worked themselves out with a unusual and seamless ease, normally the characteristic sign of good fortune.
They took up lodging at 39 Marchmount Street, in a section called Bloomsbury. In the Fortean tradition, no other two could have formed more auspicious (and humorous) names. Proximity to the Library gave him wonderful access to the most original documents from which his best New York entries had always been derived. A variety of English scholarly journals filled his eyes, mind, and heart once again. It was a much needed nutrition. After all, the world was stranger than most knew. Here was the proof of it, the countless pages and index cards of proof.
His new collection of facts was now far more resplendent than the one which he committed to the flames in his Bronx apartment. Obscure facts, like smoke, choke the vision. Seen in their proper perspective, facts are like windows through which the light and heat of a deeper world might be seen. How curious! That an act of desperation could result in so noble and transcendent an exaltation! He now knew what had to be done. To connect the facts, to associate them, to correlate and discover lines of connection. This would be the new task at hand. And, off he went, transformed. The eyes of the man now engulfed a grand and spacious vision of the metaphysical world process.
It was in London that Charles Fort took a huge and frightening leap into a larger perspective. To indulge his new notions no longer frightened him. What he first feared was now quite obviously the product of an overwrought imagination, the mere figment of shadow and intellectual restriction. The new reality which he indulged was no more dangerous to his sanity than the myriad other indulgences which seemed to be rocking the world. He had already become fused with the ideas.
Throughout all of this time period, he found a wonderful comfort in humour. This aspect of the cosmic drama was an unexplored facet. Where most chose beauty, even the aspects of somber gravity, Charles chose the humor of the cosmos by which to define world process. In this aspect, what he discovered shows him to be a true adventurer of the mind, a navigator of the mindscapes. Fort discovered that illogical schemes, improbable connections, and implausible correlations could be reasonably connected. No better place to learn this but in England, where mad Hamlet was to be exiled. For (in the words of their greatest poet) "they all be mad who live there". Indeed!
"The time has come", the Walrus said, "to talk of many things, of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings."
— L. Carroll
Of "cabbages and kings"! Two more dissociate items, one cannot imagine. And yet, Charles Fort showed a means in which any of the two (under the proper circumstances) would demand the necessary existence of the other! The preliminary concepts which he received evoked the writing of "New Lands" in 1923. Here was the first instance in which a nonlinear logic was being espoused in the western world, and the western world was scarcely ready for the accelerating change. He and Anna moved back to New York. Back to the New World, where they resumed their quiet lives.
When Fort began to write and publish, the reading public was taken aback. It was difficult to gain the cooperation of publishers for the printing of these curious new works. They were more like fragmented homours, and less like science. The now laughing eyes could not be hidden. The walrus mustache could not hide the laughter, the sheer derision. Of course, few would know how to categorize his work. His ideas frightened the minds of thinkers everywhere. Their fear was drowned in his laughter.
Theodore Dreiser, a friend, managed this feat against weighty refusals by acrid publishers. But Fort’s remarkable book Lo! was published in 1931, being followed by Wild Talents in 1932. In his modest pamphlets and pocketbooks, we find the writings of a true and original genius. Goethe, ever the mystical and sensitive naturalist did not choose to handle the plethora of strange events which flooded his world. This work fell to Charles Hoy Fort.
The now restored "catalog of the anomalous" grew and grew again. It suddenly became transformed into a massive puzzlebox, which when examined along distinct lines and angles, granted a sustained vision of a deeper world. A metaphysical world, where the stuff of which dreams are made very obviously pour into the physical world. Did some vast and coherent vision, some cosmic dream generate material reality? It was not the collection of individual facts which remained important. Oh, the individual facts were important enough. Yes, they were fascinating,alluring. But in the grand scheme of knowledge, they were but clues to a larger whole. One which he had discovered in his dark period.
"There is probably a connection between a rose and a hippopotamus." The connecting links, the associations, the view which considered the creativity in each of these strange manifestations; these were the important messages. Fort now realized that there were patterns in the chaos of his scattered records. Order, sequence, patterns, and hierarchies of awareness. There was meaning in the world. His recognition of connective links between events, and the manner in which they arrived in our world, unannounced and unexpected, now demanded much more than even associations could produce. And here is where Fort differs from all of his modern counterparts.
"I am a collector of notes upon subjects which have diversity...but my liveliest interest is not so much in things, as in relations of things."
"Sometimes I am a collector of data, and only a collector, and am likely to be gross and miserly, piling up notes, pleased with merely numerically adding to my stores...But always there is present a feeling of unexplained relations of events that I note, and it is this far-away, haunting, or often taunt ing, awareness, or suspicion, that keeps me piling on." — Charles Fort, Wild Talents
Charles Fort considered the ultimate scope of his work to be "experiments with the structure of knowledge". He had the credentials of the epistemologist, a pursuit which few modernists consider. In the vacuous world of contemporary science, the greatest population of its adherents cleave to a doctrine of proofs and apparent facts. But, while fewer and fewer value the wisdom of the arcane, the philosophical principles exceed the experimenter’s art, and rule experimental results. Fort knew this well, and saw that metaphysical realities govern every natural and experimental arrangement. After all, how were scientists going to approach a phenomenon as provoking as a fishfall?
In speaking of the transformation of scientific thought from linearity to holism, Fort declared that "no image can be too fanciful, no hypothesis too extreme; anything can be used to storm the fortress." The fortress of rigid thought. That had to go. He strove to open the minds of his readers, those who would abide his notions for awhile. When the gentle approach failed, he became threatening. "I’ll send you reeling against the doors that open onto ‘something other’."
When this attack failed to achieve its intended effect, he became bawdy, even raucous: "I am afraid that we shall have to give to civilization on Earth some new worlds...with white frogs in them".
This worked. He indulged his hilarious and comical side. Appealing to a deeper response, humor usually melted the intellectual defenses. "I cannot quite define my motive either, because to this day it has not been decided whether I am a scientist...or a humorist".
What Fort reveals is the folly of linear thought in a world where creative wholeness is perpetually acting, a world whose apprehension requires familiarity with a language of the metaphysical. Imagine a report of a new lake which forms in a desert area. And suddenly, on an auspicious day unexpected...the sky claps in a massive roll of thunder...and down unfolds a miraculous plume of fresh water fish, frogs, and green water plants simultaneously! "I have spent much time thinking about the alleged pseudo-relations that are called coincidences. What if some of them should not be coincidences?" His extreme delight in these numerous impossible circumstances, events reported by the humble and the credible, convinced him that divine creative works were yet very much in force throughout the world.
Fort urged humanity to peer beyond the facts — those "damned" by science. Fort is the herald of a new way of seeing the world. More than that. He directed us to see through the most outlandish medleys of world events. He did not make trite those spontaneous creations ex nihilo. In such miraculous spewings forth of fish and frogs, Fort called us to behold a process of creation. His view was more befitting a vitalistic approach, requiring a vital environment. Charles Hoy Fort used the facts, and the anomalies, as indicators of a world-permeating intent. He saw the message in the connections — an augury of natural wonders. The slithering spawn which fell in full sight of day, was obviously directed by a divine agency.
That the physical things are the material artifacts of a creative and living metaphysical space, is a contradiction which professional science cannot abide. Enjoying the comic incongruity of linear scientific thought, Mr. Fort wrote amazing statements on his conception of world reality. "We conceive of all things as occupying gradations, or steps in a series between realness and unrealness." In these considerations, the conceptions of Fort merge rather completely with those of Goethe, of Crookes, and of Steiner.
Fort never spoke of solid realities, never of fixedness in existence. All things were somehow plasmic, or more precisely "protoplasmic." The latter term invited the strong suggestion that all things were inherently possessed of a living characteristic. This is why his concept of beauty, of wholeness, and of individuality is important.
"Every attempt to achieve beauty is an attempt to give to that which is local the attribute of the universal." He repeatedly stated that the world was a finished product only in its ability to receive creative impulses. The world was a constantly created stageworks — an "intermediate stage." The accuracy of this concept was exemplified in the innumerable strange events which constantly occurred on Earth.
"All phenomena, in our intermediary or quasi-state of being, represent a movement toward organization, harmonization, and individualization...in other words, an attempt toward reality." There! In toto. An analysis of why it was possible for outrageous and unthinkable events to occur in our world. An explanation for true "strangeness", made obscure only by those who were fearful of its deific implications. The Fortean world received creative applications from a pre-existential stage. Creative ordinations called forth sudden manifestations, ex nihilo. Therefore — fishfalls, turtlefalls, seedfalls, and frogfalls!
Besides these thrilling creative acts, the world also was witness to countless destructive effects. Fort also saw that there was resistance to the act of becoming, resistance to the expression of seeking reality. There were those disintegrative waves which came from another direction. In this negative influence, created things lost their integrity, being forced down the rung of existence, back through our world into the place of yet-becoming, and held there by a pressure of decreative force. Ours was a world where "things becoming" and "things unbecoming" passed through our opened gaze. Only the truly honest could report everything, every event, which occurred on earth. This is why it was possible for sea captains of the Royal Fleet to report most of these strange and unexplainable phenomena.
The crawling, flying, foaming, surging, wriggling, creeping protoplasmic world reality! Here was the "world process" of Goethe once again! "Will it be admitted that there are vast viscous and gelatinous regions floating about in infinite space?" Metaphysical influences effected the intermediate existence of the world in which we were situated. For Mr. Fort, the present world was fixed only in its position on a gantry of worlds. With reality now understood as a spectrum of possible existences, there were also thrilling new explanations for the strange occurrences which seemed to "flow up or down" from some other dimension. When he spoke of "other worlds" he referred not simply to "other planets", but to whole world-stages which lay either "above" or "below" in order of reality.
"Intermediateness is quasi-existence. Neither real nor unreal. But expression of attempt to become real, or to generate for, or recruit a real existence." I was rather taken aback when reading these lines. How succinct a description of the Borderlands! A vision of such parallel worlds would explain the myths, the heroes, lands, nations, and events of old! The explanation of parallel worlds seemed especially poignant and vital to the English writers. Those who especially come to preserve and cherish the writings of Charles Fort in this respect included H. P. Lovecraft, J. R. R. Tolkien, and C. S. Lewis.
The extrication of mythos from the frozen ice of a growing materialist worldview was all-important to the Europeans. Their deep love of mythos betrayed an inherent world reality otherwise unexplained. What an idea! What a powerful thought! Events were "slipping through" our world from various metaphysical directions. There were "countless worlds", evidenced sometimes by the wild strangeness of certain bizarre happenings. And these included a greater variety of parallel worlds than astronomers could count. To Fort, the cosmos was not the apparent display which senses brought daily to experience. There were larger spaces contained in the metaphysical regions.
The apprehension of these metaphysical regions barred the foolish and insensitive from venturing toward their borders. But where were their borders? What borderlands opened the portals to their worlds? How were they able to slip in and out of our world, and we could not? The knowledge of their existence preceded any scientific explorations. Entrance into these "other worlds" first required sensitive understanding. In speaking more directly of these portals, Fort stated that "we have a sense of a stationary region overhead, in which this Earth’s gravitational and meteorological forces are relatively inert; or a region that receives products like this Earth’s products, but from ‘external’ sources."
The communications between such parallel worlds would be quite natural occurrences, though possessed of a distinct "strangeness". These events would be reasonably quite repetitive, and as bizarre as the worlds from which the "messages" hail. Since the compositions, realities, and creative expressions in those worlds were completely unfamiliar, one would require special understanding of the natural world in order to discern that which could not be construed as "of this Earth." Mr. Fort suggested that "beyond this Earth are other lands, from which come things, as from America, floating things to Europe..." This might explain the unintentional driftings between world realities, especially from their world to ours.
But the opposite drifting had also to occur, did it not? To this possibility, Mr. Fort added that "objects caught up by hurricanes or whirlwinds may be deposited in a region of suspension over this Earth," but he is not speaking of physical space, not of physical suspensions. These are regions where several worlds meet; as the doorways of apartments meet in vestibules, terraces, or plazas...however great in prominence each such world may be. What were the potentials which triggered these happenings of strangeness?
In the Fortean view, everything on our world might be from "elsewhere", and therefore has more than scientific significance, more than a linear potential, and not being capable of finding lineage in the world alone. The categorization of objects, such as rocks and living things, must now include their parent worlds. Charles Fort was a bold developer of extraordinary concepts. Assuming his premises of near worlds to be true, and assuming the accidental occurrence of "driftings" between such worlds, he then engaged the concept of deliberate signalling between metaphysical worlds. Messages from one metaworld to another! This was the riveting theme discussed in the great unfinished work of C. S. Lewis entitled, The Dark Tower. In speaking of "communications from other worlds" he means the sudden and unexpected occurrence of "events, messages, and visitors."
Fort makes clear the fact that the observation of such messages is simply missed by most scientific observers because of their notion that Earth manifestations are products of this world reality. To Fort, anything found in this world may hail from another dimension. A better description of eidetic interchange I have not seen expressed. "Other worlds are in communication with the Earth. Proofs of this exist...some external force has marked the rocks of Earth from a distance." Fort, the pure visionary, speaks when saying that "somewhere on earth there is a an especial rocky surface or receptor or Polar construction, or a steep conical hill upon which for ages have been received messages from some other world; but that at times messages go astray and mark substances perhaps thousands of miles from this receptor."
All of these wonders proceeded from the excited mind of a round, little, unnoticed man in pince-nez glasses, who lived in the Bronx. Unlikely? Strange? An event? Fort asked magnificent childlike questions. "Where to the whirlwinds go...of what do they consist? A supersea of Sargasso, derelicts, rubbish, old cargoes from interplanetary wrecks, things cast out into what is called Space by convulsions of other planets; things from the times of the Alexanders, Caesars, and Napoleons, of Mars, of Jupiter, or Neptune...things raised by this world’s cyclones...accumulations of centuries, cyclones of Egypt, Greece and Assyria.." On and on!
His writing and private publications now drew a small gathering. Charles was finally getting a little recognition for all the years of study. The original Charles Fort Society was founded on January 26, 1931. Its function was to serve Mr. Fort in matters of academic defense, and in the proliferation of his works, and consisted of ten founding members.
The Society published a review called Doubt! in which strange facts and their relevance in a larger scope were shared. In writing of himself on behalf of these few friends, Mr. Fort stated that "we are not Realists. We are not Idealists. We are Intermediatists."
Charles Hoy Fort passed from this earth in 1932, as quietly and unnoticed as he had lived. Except for the original writings, which were bequeathed to the Society, he remains unknown in both the worlds of professional science and philosophy. The volume of his epistemology, his worldview, is contained in 1000-odd pages.
The Fortean masterpieces offer certain physical proofs for both the Goethean world process and the more metaphysical musings of Sir William Crookes.
The Fortean notion of "intermediate worlds" seems best to support certain concepts expressed by Crookes in the late Nineteenth Century. I am sure that Sir William conceived of a world in which dreams gradually merged with physical reality. Being a scientific researcher however, he was hard pressed to explain such transitions in light of physical process. He was therefore inclined to examine and describe the workings of these transitions in terms of space plasma, by that meaning "ectoplasm". The phrase which he coined, some two decades before Charles Fort began his work, referred to that region of reality which lies between the dreamlike metaphysical worlds and the hard physicality of our own. He called it the "Borderlands".
The very use of the term "Borderland" in the world of science has a special place and meaning for some of us who look beyond apparent reality. Those who do not see evidence of horizons beyond the physical merely mock the notion of a Borderland. But this mystifying term has special import for those who have peered into the meaning of physical reality, and have realized a metaphysical world.
It is also the very phrase from which our original foundation’s name is taken. It remains an apt title for our consortium, who search the "Borderlands" in order to discover and secure those connection points which permit energetic, material, and communicative exchanges. In our study of each research realm, we are closely examining the processes which manifest during "metaworld transitions".
There are scholarly contemporaries who have taken the first steps toward acquiring personal experience of the Fort revelation. Of the possible many (we cannot now be sure how many unnoticed there may be), I know of two or three who are presently being published. One of the most notable scholars in the Fortean tradition, William Corliss, must be mentioned. His prolific "Sourcebook Project" is a true bibliomantic treasurehouse. As enormous a labor of love as that exhibited in the young Charles Fort, Mr. Corliss has devoted decades to the acquisition of natural anomalies and unusual phenomena. The Corliss collection includes a series of bound editions. These are collections, collations, and correlations of strange natural phenomena.
Urgent and intense in their presentation, Mr. Corliss has given back perhaps the single most valued gift to our contemporary community of natural philosophers. I know that Mr. Corliss has a specific goal in mind, and that he scans the old literature for "evidence" of his essential worldview. I have never read what that view might be, but I am sure it is much more than a mere collection of forgotten facts. The true work of Charles Fort exceeds the mere collecting of strange facts. Fort, you will remember, burned his formidable collection more than once.
Where then do we find the essence of Fortean revelation? How is he singled out against the scores of others who have simply followed these pedantic early steps? Fort became a visionary, the result of intensive and devoted preoccupation with the most bizarre forms of information. One might say that the information itself contained the messages of transformation. Fort did not rest in his facts. He used them to realize a larger, more stunning reality beyond a consideration of the physical. He was more an alchemist than most suppose, preserving the belief that worlds were actively being transmuted from one form to another, and that these transmutations also signalled their messages throughout the gantry of reality. Experience was the gate, the mind was the sense.
Several moderns put forth the pretense that they follow Charles Fort, and of those I can identify perhaps only one or two who are genuine, but realize that they are merely retracing the work of Fort. Fort remains, with Goethe and Steiner, a true original.
But any similarity between Fort and the new plethora of self-proclaimed Forteans loses all credence on closer examination. Less experts than frogfalls!
To equate Fort with anomalies only, is a complete misrepresentation. We have reviewed the fact that Fort was no mere collector of strange facts. He used facts as indicators of metaworld transitions, of messages between the mythic worlds. And, while this first step is the necessary one in following the Fort footsteps, strange facts alone do not complete the qualifying requirement. No indeed. The path toward achieving the kinds of higher expressions gendered by Charles Fort require much more extensive revelations. But, this knowledge demands a personal transformation, so much more than mere ownership of the Fortean titles and bibliographies. This is a strange fact which certain "dashing" publishing houses fail to recognize.
Fort would even now scoff at his modern day adherents, especially those who seek to make a small living from the exploitation of his labors. Perhaps he would categorize them along with his other unnatural freaks of nature.
With the arrival of flying saucer events and the social focalizing interest in that aerial phenomenon, the Charles Fort Society gradually lost its original direction and theme. Occupying themselves, not with the larger implications, but with very singular focal points, the Fortean Society began to lose its vision. Just as did Mr. Fort when he remained preoccupied with singular facts of strangeness. The transition in his life came when he stopped looking at the facts and their "strangeness", and began to realize that bizarre events were actually quite commonplace. The importance of this fact more nearly directed his vision toward his ultimate estimations and conclusions.
Those who have entered into an experience of the good world of Charles Hoy Fort, who have delved somewhat into his mind and heart, become pained to hear of the sheer idiocy which proceeds from the groups which now sling his name about like some trite little bauble. It never fails to amaze me that those who so closely cleave to the work of great minds are too often completely unprepared to assume the role which they so boast themselves worthy.
I now find that an increasing number of unscrupulous persons have undertaken the theft of our title, one in which we have priority under Law. Moreover, it seems that this disorganized conspiracy of greed has seized on a method by which they each hope to gain some quick and easy fame or fortune on our coattails. I have not been a small bit disgruntled and irritated by the very obvious and recent petty assault which has been waged against Borderlands. Among those who search the internet for signs of life, not a few persons have brought to our attention the fact that other publishers have begun a truculent infringement campaign. If you are a world wide web browsing aficionado (which I am not) you must have, no doubt, recently found an increasing number of "new science" brokers with the "Borderlands" title attached to their credit line. Very apparently our good name, thematic continuity, and sound experimental legacy has been espied and coveted by a few dilettantes overseas.
It is through the vulnerable climate of our times that these repugnant individuals have employed the mere "buzzword jargon" of conspiracy fanatics to make some fast and easy money. From its inception as an entity in 1945, Borderland Sciences Research Foundation has had a long and illustrious history. We do not intend to remain neutral about these recent assaults on our character, the relevance of our scientific approach, our methods, or our format.
Finally, we must bid adieu to Mr. Charles Fort, his pince-nez glasses, his menagerie of the odd, his hurtling fishfalls and regions of outer darkness. And it is indeed with a very dear and deep sadness that we relegate his life and life’s work to the other monuments of greatness. How thoroughly poignant. That he and his wife were childless, and that they lived out the whole of their lives in so quaint and so warm a little spot in the Bronx forever touches the heart. He rests his glasses down on a rolltop desk, flooded with pages, new index cards, fountain pens and pencil scrapings.
Of his like, there has been no equal. Charles Fort was an original. A true bibliomantic discoverer, whose ability to saturate the available literature of his day was given the gift of a new doorway, opening on a new and liberating dimension. It was in Charles Fort that humanity was offered a grand and connective view of the world process, that to which Goethe pointed.
New consciousness has its devotees, those who comprehend the essential Fortean message and meaning. There are those however who, without the least speck of understanding, have recently taken it upon themselves to become spokesmen of the great Charles Fort. Those persons who also, I may add, reveal their frail and spurious grasp of the Fortean theme, have not taken the humility and sweet humour of their namesake much to heart. Unable to pluck themselves out of the highly lucrative information complex enough, they insist on printing excessive copy on the trees rather than the forest! Oh, some are quite secure in applying the lacquer with a thick brush, their hands and works dripping with the pungent aroma. Scholars proclaim their worth in the sincerity of an ethical quietude, and do not seek to scully their colleagues across the sea.
Since there are now those publishers, whose weak grasp on the theme has let fall the glowing torch, we have decided to publish ongoing research to extend the work of Charles Fort. This effort, this labor of love, will soon take the form of a column "in memoriam perpetuum". Land Ho!
With my many thanks to Louis Pauwels and Jaque Bergier!
And thank you again my dear Eirene, who knows my thoughts and often speaks them aloud before I do.
The Book of the Damned, 1919.
New Lands, 1923.
Wild Talents, 1932.
Dream in Society: The Power of Archetypes, by Marion L. Daye, Groetter & Sons, Vermont, 1965.
Synchronicity: The Bridge Between Matter and Mind, F. David Peat, Bantam Books, Toronto, 1987.
Science Frontiers, William R. Corliss, Sourcebook Project, P.O. Box 107, Glen Arm, MD 21057. (see also next page)
Copyright © 1997 Borderland Sciences Research Foundation, Inc. All Rights Reserved.