Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Crop Circles. Part 3: Fragments of the Invisible Text.

I also liked to think that founders of religions, prophets, saints and seers had at moments been able to read a fragment of the invisible text; after which they had so much padded, dramatized and ornamented it, that they themselves could no longer tell what parts of it were authentic.
Arthur Koestler.

The point I was trying to make, before being overtaken by nostalgic digression, was that crop circles are a relatively new phenomenon. Many cerealogists point to a woodcut and pamphlet, The Mowing Devil, or, Strange News out of Hartford-Shire, published in 1678, which would seem to depict a proto-typical crop circle incident. This pamphlet, which I suspect may resonate a note more of contemporary agrarian unrest than timeless cosmic mystery, recounts the tale of a farmer who becomes enraged at the price a labourer demands to mow his field, and swears that he would sooner suffer the Devil himself to mow his corn. That night the farmer observed his field engulfed in an obsidian flame, and awoke the next morning to found a perfect circle mysteriously sown in the field. (The tale may indeed be true, but the casual student of folklore will instantly recognise a characteristic expression of the rash promise motif, common in folk yarns since the time of Chaucer.)

Some theorists will go back even further along the timeline, and cite the infamous Nazca lines, carved in antiquity into the arid deserts of the Peruvian Pampas de Jumana, as an ancient precursor to the modern crop circle. A perennial staple in the serious study of ancient astronaut theory, the Nazca lines do share many common characteristics with the crop circle: both, roughly speaking, are geoglyphs, or motifs which are worked into the natural constitution of a given ground area. Both are so massive as to necessitate a elevated, aerial perspective in order to become fully sensible as images. While our modern technology allows us to take stock of the crop circle with relative ease, no such provision existed for our Nazca brethren in the years before 700 BCE; consequently, we are none the wiser as to who these massive hummingbirds, spiders, llamas, and lizards were addressed to, to say nothing of what sense they were designed to convey. They are an example of an untranslated, non-verbal language, of which history provides us with countless scattered fragments. These languages are the subject of this post.

It is immediately apparent that, even by stretching the generosity of analogy in this fashion, we can find few genuine precursors to the crop circle phenomenon in our history. Why then do they provoke that peculiar ripple of the ancestral memory-pool which I referred to earlier? A partial explanation is found in the seasonality of the practise. The modern and the pre-modern sensibility are set apart by as many cultural canyons as there are drops of water in the ocean. Nevertheless, I believe the most pervasive and significant of these lies in the perception or experience of time. (Time, whatever it may be, is the great kernel of all mysteries. I believe that identity itself, be it of the individual or the species, is constituted entirely in the active demarcation of temporality. It is for this reason that the seasoned mystic and psychonaut experience as a simultaneous phenomenon the collapse of standard temporal demarcation, and the dissolution of individual, egoistic consciousness, into the apprehension of atemporality and universal identity/non-identity.)

The pre-modern experience of time, like the mandala and the flying saucer, was circular in character. More than this, it was intrinsically connected to seasonal growth cycles of the earth. The earliest expressions of religious ceremony and artistic performance, the two virtually indistinguishable in their nascent forms, were strictly aligned to the change of the seasons. The modern, urban sensibility, though it may experience a rise and diminution of its passions in tandem with the march of the months, or some meagre Pavlovian excitement at the prospect of officially allotted holidays, has for the most part thoroughly lost this seasonal, Gaian consciousness. Crop circles, being an artform of an entirely earthy, evanescent and seasonal character, restore to us something of that sense of endless cyclic return, of constant mutability which is in actuality algorithmic sameness; the grand, slow time of our ancestors.

Yet this mystery runs much deeper. The real allure of the crop circle is that they actualise two interconnected, and apparently perennial longings in the human psyche: the need for an intricate code to crack, and a strange, ubiquitous longing for a pre-verbal, pre-linguistic, visual medium of communication. This fascination expresses itself in an endless variety of forms: our vain attempts to recapture the meaning of the entopic and therianthropic iconography our pre-historical ancestors painted on the caves of Lascaux, Pech Merle, and Altamira; the strange, runic scripts produced in automatic writing by channelers of every persuasion; the self-actualising sigils of ritual magick; various dead, mythic, invented, and allegedly extraterrestrial languages; the arcane symbology associated with alchemy, occultic societies, and glimpsed on the exterior of UFOs and on the uniforms of their occupants; right down to the asemic writing of Brion Gyson and the contemporary avant-garde.

A few brief examples, to get the ball rolling: it is said that in Italy in 1539, a man called Ludovico Spoletano contacted the Devil, and asked him to respond to a question in writing. Ludovico claims that once the question was asked, a pen was taken up by “an invisible power which seemed suspended in the air”, and rapidly wrote the following:

In 1583, Edward Kelley, the alchemist/charlatan and close compatriot of John Dee, allegedly channeled the ur-language of the angels, which was spoken prior to the fall of mankind and the linguistic cataclysm of the Tower of Babel. He called the angelic language Enochian:

In 1985, another Ludovico, this time Granchi, witnessed a massive UFO hover over his home in Rio de Janeiro. As Granchi watched the craft, a brightly lit panel covered with black symbols, resembling a holographic projection, was revealed to him. Granchi felt a peculiar compulsion to copy down the symbols, and a sense of “dire” importance that he be as accurate as possible. To date, the alien symbols of Ludovico Granchi have not been decoded:

While it is clear that there is much of charlatanry in these arcane symbols, and more of a kind of meaningless subconscious scribbling, they nevertheless exercise a peculiar fascination over the imagination. We can never be sure when the medium, shaman, or schizophrenic has merely brought back scraps from the refuse bin of the mind, or whether, among his travels in this trash spectrum, he has chanced onto some higher frequency of possibly genetically encoded or extraterrestrial information; some fragment of the invisible text, the great, alchemical unravelling of the mystery of ourselves, which wants only to be pieced together. Witness the example of the Swedish artist Hilma Af Klint. At the turn of the century, Miss Klint presided over a circle of women who claimed to receive messages from “ascended masters.” Klint produced many paintings derived from the etheric messages she was receiving, but two years before her death was told: “Protect your drawings. They are pictures of drenching waves of ether that await you one day when you're eyes and ears can apprehend a higher summoning.” The following painting was called “What a Human Being Is”, and was produced some fifty years before the discoveries of Francis Crick and James Watson:

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