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THE LAST WORD (OR THE FIRST?) - 15/05/2001

To get some idea of where Swirled News is coming from, readers may like to absorb this, an address to the croppie nation from ANDY THOMAS and the very final article to appear in our journal SC, hence its title ‘The Last Word’. We have left in the direct SC references (this was written as parting words to the SC readership, after all), but the piece has relevance to all…

A phenomenon of beauty to a few, a pointless blot on the landscape to most others. An enclosure of sacred space or a human folly. A symbol of hope? A meaningless joke?

Yes, the Millennium Dome, Tony Blair’s bequeathed gift to the British nation, generated critical dismissal like no other public happening in living memory. Except perhaps crop circles.

There are certainly many cerealogical lessons to be learned from looking at the treatment metered out to the Dome from the ever-negative British public. It was intended as a symbol of humankind’s achievements, a place of celebration to unite technology and the soul – and, of course, prove Britain was still ‘Great’, by the demonstrative ability to build such a monumental edifice. How proud we would all be!

Anyone on this side of the Atlantic knows the overwhelming reception the Dome actually had – scepticism, cynicism, dark critical reviews bordering on hatred, and public indifference. For one long year, the Dome was the ultimate media cannon fodder, portrayed as an unhideable empty symbol to the squandered resources of a government the press had been just waiting to pounce on after the initial euphoria of New Labour’s landslide election in 1997. The Dome was the perfect chink in the armour.

The Dome, as an attraction at least, was to be open for just a single year. As autumn 2000 came and the much desired demise of ‘Blair’s folly’ drew ever closer, I found myself wondering whether I had been told the truth about it. Should I check it out myself, just to formulate my own opinion? Everyone seemed to have an opinion on the Dome, after all – despite the fact that only a handful of those mouthing them had actually been there. My cue to go came when attending a live audience debate with Michael Grade, one-time controller of the Channel 4 TV station and well-known media mogul. As a director of the Dome, he was grilled as to his real feelings about it – but his support remained firm. I sensed a light behind his eyes when he spoke of his charge – it was clear he genuinely believed in it.

So, with just weeks to closure, my family and I set off one early December weekday to explore the Dome for ourselves and make up our own minds.

And it was, of course, wonderful.

Flawed in places, yes, and clearly financially mismanaged, but a towering achievement all the same, in more ways than one. The Dome itself was a thrilling structure, more impressive in reality than in pictures, its great gantries thrusting upwards into the east London skies. But only inside did the scale of the place hit – a massive enclosure, filled with a fantastic assortment of colourful architecture which dazzled and dizzied, enducing a euphoric vertigo as one gazed up at it. Rainbow auras of light were splashed liberally onto the inside of the tent-like surface, creating shifting atmospheres and moods as you walked around the perimeter. The central auditorium itself was perhaps the most breathtaking aspect, a vast spacious womb, enclosed by draped blue curtains which soared upwards to radiating petals of steel. Some indoor structures entomb and deaden, but not the Dome – this truly felt like a sacred space had been created, a vibrant, tingly interior, where magic could happen.

Some who could agree with this might feel the educational exhibits, running the gamut of human experience, didn’t live up to the magical space created for them, and there is some truth here. Too much of it had a whiff of corporate exhibition, a sense that something profound was being reached for by some of the ‘zones’, but compromised by well-publicised bad management, lack of time (the Dome was rushed into existence) or true commitment – though given its press even before it opened, the collective mind hardly aided this.

But the Dome had heart. Its flaws were more than made up for by the structure itself – and the Millennium Show, which took place three times a day, every day. A vast auditorium demands a big show to fill it, and the temptation to mount a crowd-pleasing empty spectacle to keep the kiddies happy must have been great. Instead, something far deeper was presented, a beautiful, stunning ballet of high-wire dance and acrobatic mime, with sound and light, telling a story of the struggle between nature, technology and the spirit, as the sky-people meet the earth-people and try to meld their cultures and skills. Backed by Peter Gabriel’s moving and totally appropriate music, the show brought genuine tears to the eyes and I can still feel a lump in my throat when I recall it now.

But in the weeks after my visit, I was troubled. Was I being delusional? Had I kidded myself? Was I just playing Devil’s Advocate, sympathetically backing the poor loser by voicing support in the face of abusive cynicism? I had to find out, and that meant going back. With just three days to its doom, the day after Boxing Day, I returned to the Dome with my family. I was reassured – my memory hadn’t lied. For all its faults, I was in love with the Dome. I watched the show twice more, each time equally enrapt, and walked around the edifice with the same sense of awe. My task there was now complete and I returned home content, even as the bidding vultures began to move in to downgrade the Dome into mundanity.

Now, you may think all this over the top. You may even have visited the Dome yourselves and disagree with me. You may think I am a sad sycophant playing with flowery language. But are you going to deny the reality, for me, of what I experienced?

Seeing the crop circle metaphor yet? Of course.

I was not alone in my support for the Dome. My sometime colleague Barry Reynolds had also been impressed, and after my first visit, we urged attenders at the December SCR meeting to get down to Greenwich while the chance was still there. Rolling eyes and amused tuts came from some. We asked if they had been – sheepishly, they admitted they had not. Shame on you if you have ever found yourself doing the same, because by this you commit the very crime which has condemned and stigmatised the crop circle phenomenon to the outer fringes of ridicule.

The negative attitudes projected from positions of total ignorance which condemned the Dome’s reputation to a slow, agonising death are exactly the same as those which have dogged the crop circle phenomenon since the days of Doug and Dave. The public forever give their powers of discernment and observation away to others. Many croppies do, too.

You are reading this publication and presumably don’t stand on the ignorant side of the fence when it comes to the circles, whatever your opinions of them, so why do you need to know this?

For my very last SC piece, I mused for a while over what thought I should leave you with. SC has been a prop for many readers over the years, helping them through times of the most hideous lies and misperceptions about our pet phenomenon from the media and public opinion. Always we have sought to counter this by actually informing and daring to speak out against sometimes mischievous, sometimes simply misplaced pronouncements and assertions, often from within our own cerealogical community. We know from the numerous letters and comments we have received over the last decade that we have been a great encouragement, particularly in those darker moments of doubt which some can’t help themselves almost succumbing to in the face of huge media scams. Now, for those without access to Swirled News, we are no longer going to be there for you and you will need to stand on your own feet from today! You must keep yourselves informed now, and remain steady in your chosen positions against all the flak which will surely come. The strength will be there, if you really believe something of importance is happening out in the fields.

Note, “something of importance”. We at SC (and other groups besides) have often been portrayed and dismissed by outside foes as delusional ‘believers’ – that word! We have been accused of trying to set up a “pseudo-religious” cult from which no fall from blind faith into hoax heresy can be countenanced, promoting celestial circlemakers as spiritual saviours and waiting for the little green men to come down and save us all. Not one of these accusations is remotely true, as anyone who has ever read SC properly, attended an SCR gathering or met its members as individuals is already aware. The fact is, nobody knows what makes the crop circles, nor why, if there even is a why. That is the honest truth. We accept that there are some man-made formations, as we always have done. We do not accept that explains the whole phenomenon. We simply believe something of importance is occurring, wherever it comes from. We don’t need to go over the theories and their pros and cons here. There are 93 previous issues, together with books and videos from various SC contributors, which have neatly taken care of that.

So why our continued venom against hoax theorists? The big problem we do have with the continual promotion of hoaxing as being the answer to the mystery from the media and some alienated sections of the crop circle community itself, is that, even apart from displaying often massive ignorance, sheer stupidity and another kind of self-delusion, it trivialises the reality of people’s personal experiences.

There are many, many folk out there who have had their lives transformed by the presence of these strange glyphs in their lives, had epiphanies that might forever have eluded them without the catalyst of the circles, and experienced weird and wonderful phenomena. Each time the media, the sceptics or hoax claimants carp, criticise and attack with the usual sneer of self-satisfaction, they are spitting in the faces of those who have seen the doors to some kind of heaven. Why should these people’s experiences be denied or ridiculed?

Increasingly aware, perhaps, of this jarring point, there have been feeble attempts by the hoax claimants and the more numerous hoax apologists, particularly of late, to change their claimed rationale, stating that the crop circles are made as ‘spiritual machines’ to stimulate the soul, or ‘phenomena attractors’ to generate strange effects by the power of shape alone, intended to harm or fool no-one. This attempt at saintly self-presentation might wash if this attitude were borne out by their behaviour, but it so obviously isn’t. Too often, we see instead clear attempts at mischief, dark deception and lies, and the betrayal of friends. The sheer relish at the fun of robbing the faithful of their vision of a mysterious and wonderful Universe is all too obvious as claimants unveil their one or two ‘human-facilitated’ efforts and imply authorship of the rest thereby. The recent antics of Matthew Williams are a fine example – his unexpected criminal conviction has seen him produce endless e-mails of self-justification and martyred bleeding heart testimonies to media and researchers, stating how he only wanted to show that man himself could create phenomena-attracting beauty in the fields. But this cannot offset all the deception, aggressive e-mails, written threats to “destroy” the credibility of the circles, and obnoxious behaviour which so obviously rob his statements of any sincerity. Most ‘human facilitators’ simply do not generate the light around them that one would expect if their intentions were spotless, nor do they treat the phenomenon with the sense of the sacred you would feel their position would demand if claimed motivations were true.

In my book ‘Vital Signs’, I wrote of hoaxers: “For a few, perhaps art and the need to create really does play a role in their motivation – but the messages they give out in their behaviour suggests less integrity. Too many opportunities have been missed to demonstrate either their commitment to inspiring beauty or the exact abilities with which to pursue it”. I accept that a good man-made formation can affect someone as much as one of another origin if the undiscerning visitor doesn’t know which is which - but to the discerning eye, man-made demonstrations continue to fall far short of what these people should be capable of if their claims are true, and I still stand by that paragraph.

The sadness is the amount of people who fall for the apparent charisma of these ego-fired claimants, and the catchment of researchers who have allowed their initially genuine work to be diverted and mutated, from a fear of being ‘caught out’ in public. Better to be seen to accommodate the hoax community in the name of balance, they protest – but of course, there is no balance; the habit of accommodating becomes an obsession, over-exposure to weasel words eat into their brains and they always fall permanently into the sceptic camp in the end.

The debunk scams of Doug and Dave and then Jim Schnabel and company in the early ‘90s began the rot, as the big researchers of the day suddenly became reluctant to show their true opinions for fear of being humiliated by the media. We at SC had a baptism of fire and came in just as the Doug and Dave furore was at its height, actually starting from a position of being under attack, never knowing any (totally mythical) ‘golden age’ of harmony and balance. Consequently we had nothing to lose and were not embarrassed to declare our belief in a real phenomenon – there were no pedestals to be toppled from.

It’s easy now to underestimate the impact SC had on the old ways of cerealogy. We rattled the old established ‘names’ and actively campaigned against some of them as was necessary, as their failure to ‘solve’ the mystery (as some of them had clearly expected to) turned to rampant scepticism and bitter resentment of the optimistic new croppies. SC was denounced several times from live platforms for its troubles, but each time it just reinforced the growing significance of our little A5 booklet, which quickly became the underground champion of the ‘believers’. And where are the denouncers today? Largely gone or rendered impotent by their own devices. Yet we remain, unjaded (partly why the disaffected hate us so much), campaigning still, our longevity now far exceeding the active interest periods of most of our predecessors.

One advantage the SC crew always had was that we didn’t all live too close to the main action and avoided falling prey to the traps lying in wait at The Barge and all the traditional croppie haunts which can snare after over-exposure to constant hoax rumour and innuendo. A nice place to visit… but a better one to stand back from and evaluate with a clear head from time to time. There is no doubt that our geographical distance helped SC become very influential in forwarding crop circle research by balancing centralised disinformation with steadier assessments.

Stand back, then, and assess with your own clear heads from now on. Listen carefully to all that is said and done in the name of crop circle research and see how it feels to you. Above all, do not give your powers of evaluation away to those who may simply APPEAR to be in the know. Remember the Millennium Dome.

The world of cerealogy has been filled with very BIG pronouncements and claims from charismatic figures over the years, both non-sceptical and sceptical. Of those pronouncements, only a few have ever turned out to have any substance. Beware those who use phrases like “I do assure you…”, but won’t then give you the evidence. Claims made without evidence are as a riverbed without water; dry, arid and useless.

Use your brains! What do YOU think of a formation? Does its beauty or structure speak to you? What do YOU think of a cerealogical assertion or theory? Does it seem to have validity or substance to you? If you have a viewpoint, then congratulations, you are as informed as any other person on the planet. Other researchers may have more facts and figures than you, but the truth is everyone is in the dark when it comes to explaining this phenomenon; it’s all speculation. So when you hear someone state that 95% of formations are man-made, ask how they KNOW. When you hear that 35% of formations are made by kinetic mass-energy vectorisers or whatever, ask for evidence. If Joe Bloggs tells you he knows that this formation is man-made but that one isn’t, ask him why he’s so sure. You’ll never get a straight answer, because rumours in the crop circle world are hardly ever verified and ‘litmus tests’ will forever be argued over. So walk away from all these people, go to the pub, have a chat with your friends and invent your own ideas. They’ll be of equal worth. But don’t then impose them on others. Offer them, perhaps, but don’t pronounce. Similarly, listen to what other researchers have to say, read their books, enjoy their lectures, whatever, but keep your own counsel and powers of judgement.

The best and purest thing we can do is simply inform those who will listen of what is going on in the fields. Show them the photos and watch them gasp. Take them to the fields and see the jaws drop. And then leave them to it. It’s the only responsible thing to do.

The mission to inform is not always a smooth path, of course – sometimes you have to fight for your beliefs when foes threaten. As Ian Macdonald writes in his Beatles book ‘Revolution in the Head’; “For better or worse, it is impossible to conduct a revolution without picking a side and pointing out the drawbacks of its rivals.” But, fights over truth aside, even the power and ego struggles which have afflicted the cerealogical community since the earliest days, or the eternal conflict between sceptics and believers (let’s call them ‘positivists’ - there’s a new term for you) have not been wasted. I don’t see these cerealogical tussles, as some do, as being an aberration in what was ‘meant’ to be a perfect and pure phenomenon. If anything deliberately planned the crop circles, and the ‘sky people’ are attempting to meet the ‘earth people’, they must have known what would result and how human nature would react. I used to be Chairman of a Brighton opera company and the in-fighting and back-stabbing there was much worse, I can tell you. No, the slagging and slating of views and characters must always have been anticipated to be part of the scheme from any intelligent mind.

The epic sci-fi TV series ‘Babylon 5’ had an interesting slant on this idea; the galaxy is being torn apart by a vast struggle between the Vorlons (apparently angelic beings) and the Shadows (apparently evil, insect-like demons), each sponsoring different races to support them in their eternal strife. After endless battles and disasters on a planetary scale, a representative of the Shadows finally sits down and explains the reason why all this is kept going. It turns out that the Shadows and Vorlons have a joint agenda – to stimulate the evolution of galactic life through the innovation and needs created by conflict.

This is not to justify the continuing need for such conflict in our real world, but it at least gives some sense of reason as to what these comparatively mild cerealogical wranglings might have been about. In the croppie arena, we choose our sides and fight our battles according to what feels best, and the ultimate realities, which no-one can seem to pin down on either side, neither sceptics, positivists, scientists or New-Agers, are almost irrelevant. And maybe that’s okay. If it feels good to believe something, then believe it. Author Richard Bach uses the phrase “believing in things because they’re fun to believe in”. It’s as valid a template for living life as any other. The resulting whirlwind of opinion in the middle isn’t always fun to be in, mind, but maybe it drives processes which ripple their cause and effect outwards into a wider system we can’t yet see. It’s certainly stimulating us… This doesn’t mean next time I see some stupid hoaxer on the telly that I’ll be thanking him for raising the public profile of crop circles once again and creating some good old educational conflict, but we can at least rest easy that out of all this maelstrom, something positive, on some level, whenever, WILL come. Whether an answer will ever come is another matter. Quite possibly not.

But while you’re waiting for those elusive answers, don’t forget to keep a sense of humour about it all. One SC trait has always been the inability to take anything too seriously for long, as SCR meeting attenders know. So have a laugh too, even as you take the subject seriously, and make the very most of this amazing phenomenon while you can.

How long we will have the formations with us, no-one knows – I suspect only a few more years, if you want my o-p-i-n-i-o-n, before the curve of all this moves on to something else, or turns downward again, leaving the wildly elaborate, stunningly beautiful crop formations an obscure, strange curiosity of the late 20th, early 21st Century. Will it be a footnote in history, or a whole chapter? Maybe you will help decide that. Your vote counts.

Chin up, then. This piece is just about over now and so, finally, is SC. This is not my nor SCR’s last word, of course, but it is as far as this little stapled journal, which has caused so much fuss over the years, is concerned. We will live on in new guises - join us for our new web site incarnation if you can. Each of the individuals who have given of their time and heart to produce SC will go on to pursue their own new avenues of crop circle investigation and understanding or move away to pastures new, perhaps into other subjects far beyond. Indeed, part of the rationale for ending SC is that it feels like time to take some of what we have learnt from this phenomenon and apply it to other areas of life which need equal attention, whilst never losing affection for those glyphs which first fired us up.

There’s a whole world of wonders out there just waiting to be explored – do it on an informed basis with compassion, discernment and integrity, avoiding second-hand opinions, and you can’t go too wrong. As long-time readers know, a simple television programme, ‘Dr Who’, was my first childhood obsession, so you’ll forgive me for ending with the very last phrase from the very last episode of the series…

“There are worlds out there where the sky is burning, and the sea’s asleep, and the rivers dream. People made of smoke and cities made of song. Somewhere there’s danger, somewhere there’s injustice, somewhere else the tea’s getting cold. Come on, we’ve got work to do.”

Enough said. Bless you all.



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