Charles Fort and the Book of the Damned:
A procession of the damned.
By the damned, I mean the excluded.
We shall have a procession of data that Science has excluded
With those words, Charles Fort opened his first successful book, which he titled The Book Of The Damned. This volume contained accounts of UFOs, bizarre things falling from the skies (including frogs), strange weather patterns, cryptozoology, and the sightings of mythical beasties. Sounds like something you might see on the History Channel – if Fort were alive today, they might interview him on Ancient Aliens.
The thing is, he was doing it way before there was a History Channel.
Hell, this was before there were any channels.
It wasn’t his first attempt at writing; he had tried his hand before, to no avail.
However, this time, he turned to his one, true passion:
Reports of the unexplained that he found in the libraries of New York City and the British Museum in London, mostly from newspaper clippings…
In 1919, Fort published his book. It made him famous enough to the point where eventually a Fortean Society was created, and exists to this day.
He refused to become a member, though he did interact with those who were…
Unlike his modern contemporaries, he never drank the proverbial Kool-aid; unlike Fox Mulder from the X-files, Charles Fort never really wanted to believe.
What he did want to do was report; he refused to be dismissive of the data he uncovered, but it was never an issue of faith in said data.
What he really wanted was for scientists to stop dismissing data outliers out of hand, merely because these data points didn’t fit in with their world views and/or predictive models.
In fact, it was his dismissal of faith that led him to believe that science and religious fundamentalism were both thought crimes of the same nature – both rooted in an unwavering insistence on being True, Real, Certain.
Religion is belief in a supreme being. Science is belief in a supreme generalization. Essentially they are the same. Both are the suppressors of witchcraft. (Book of the Damned, pg. 999)
A quasi-Fortean asides is the book Religion and Science In the Mirror of Buddhism by Francisca Cho and Richard Squire, which illustrates how Buddhism generally doesn’t make Capital “T” Truth claims – leaving asides the Four Noble Truths, which could be called the Four Noble Observations, and the more obscure Two Truths, which juxtapose Ontological Emptiness against Phenomenological Emptiness, and gives them equal validity.
Compare the Two Truths to following quote by Fort:
…in general metaphysical terms, our expression is that, like a purgatory, all that is commonly called ‘existence,’ which we call Intermediateness, is quasi-existence, neither real nor unreal, but the expression of attempt to become real…(Book of the Damned, pg. 15)
This – and this is just my own conjecture – might mean that Buddhist scientists suffer less cognitive dissonance than scientists of other – or even no – faiths.
But this is just a conjecture…
Charles Fort and the Super-Sargasso Sea:
Where do all lost things go?
The missing sock that vanished from the laundry?
The piece of paper on which you scribbled the Answer to the Question of the Meaning of Life? (42 doesn’t count!)
The Sargasso Sea surrounds the Bermuda Triangle…
Fort suggested that there was a Super-Sargasso Sea, which was an inter-dimensional sea into which all lost things go; he argued that this theory fit the data as well as any other.
So, did he believe in the Super-Sargasso Sea?
To quote Charles Fort:
I believe nothing of my own that I have ever written.
[sadly (intellectually), one parallel-modern equivalent, the so called Mandela Effect, receives faith from its adherents]
Charles Fort: at the End
It was as he reached the end of his life that Fort found himself at the center of the formation of a Fortean society.
As American researcher, writer and Folk musician Jerome Clarke reports:
Fort himself, who did nothing to encourage any of this, found the idea hilarious. Yet he faithfully corresponded with his readers, some of whom had taken to investigating reports of anomalous phenomena and sending their findings to Fort (The UFO Book, 1998, pg. 235)
And the take away?
A closed heart is cruel…
But a closed mind is dangerous,
Especially when coupled with a closed heart.
Is that the point that Charles Fort was getting at?
I’ll have to ask Charles Fort, if I ever find him,
(along with his beloved wife Anna),
Lost, but still sailing,
On the Super-Sargasso Sea…