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APRIL 2003 - 08/04/2003

What is it about crop circles that results in researchers sometimes being unable to think straight within them? MICHAEL GLICKMAN looks into the strange experience of ‘befuddlement’, as well as taking a swipe at English Heritage’s continuing silence on their activities at Silbury Hill…


I want to talk about the befuddlement (not inevitable, but widespread) of people who try to carry out rational, left-brain activity in crop circles. I have been measuring formations for some years. Generally, the activity is concluded without problems of any sort.

However, looking back, I realise that, in circles, I have often been overwhelmed by a sense of lethargy, lack of focus, loss of memory, a repeated inability to count or do simple sums. In short, befuddlement! Now, the first reaction of any card-carrying earthling (one of which I am) is self-doubt. We have all been exquisitely trained in this for centuries, if not millennia. Why am I so tired? How could I have forgotten that? Were there ten or twelve lines? How could I be so DUMB?

Then you speak to others, many others, equally embarrassed others, who tentatively admit similar experiences. You look into it and find a widespread but little broadcast phenomenon. A modicum of research will confirm just how common this is.

It seems mainly to affect those engaged in counting, surveying or measuring – left-brain activity. Sensible researchers whose work I have come to respect have confessed their occasional, but total, inability to count features in a formation.

An example. A leading researcher visited the 1997 Barbury Castle ‘Tree of Life’ to measure it and – on entering – simply forgot what she had intended to do. She returned the next day and the same thing happened! It was successfully measured on the third visit.

Surveying the Avebury Trusloe pentagram of 1998, Andreas Müller (who I hold to be one of the most consistent and reliable surveyors the circles have ever had) took a compass reading literally 180° at variance with mine. We both revisited the site, checked our bearings and – four years later – have not reached a conclusion.

There are stories of the total confusion of surveying teams who were unable to reach agreement on a matter as fundamental as the number of elements in a formation. They could not decide whether there were ten or eleven circles. Similarly, people talk of an impenetrable muddle of dimensions: was it 6’ 4” or 4’ 6”?

There is a large list. There are people who have looked more closely than I into left-brain/right-brain activity and response in the formations and perhaps they can clarify this. The circles seem never to confuse those who enter in order simply to experience and enjoy them. It appears that only those undertaking a rational task are affected.

Where does this take us and what might we learn?

If my hypothesis is correct that right-brain intuitive experience is easy (indeed normal) within the circles, while left-brain reasoning activity is somehow difficult, then perhaps we have stumbled onto an essential component of the crop circle curriculum.

Is it possible that we are being encouraged to use and develop our intuition? Maybe a central part of the crop circle course is gently to wean us off our overwhelming dependence on rational, evidence-based enquiry. Perhaps we are being shown that this phenomenon responds more readily to our perception, our consciousness and our IDEAS than to our bean-counting skills. Certainly, the crop circles have shown a comprehensive resistance to “the scientific method” and, while tiny jewels of information have been released to certain courageous researchers, we should surely accept that, after ten or fifteen years, we must find a new posture with which to approach the circles.


News from Wiltshire - A:

I have been calling English Heritage to ask if we might expect the cheap metal fence to be removed from the top of the hill. The summer season will bring thousands of visitors to admire the hill and to marvel at the respect we show for the World Heritage Site of which we are custodians. The officer in charge never returns my call. English Heritage’s number is 0117 975 0700; perhaps you will have better luck.

And since I wrote this paragraph, the engineers and contractors have moved huts and machinery to the base of the hill. Clearly, not only is the fence to stay, but more elaborate and unsightly, and above all unnecessary, operations are to take place.

News from Wiltshire – B:

It is a lovely spring. A couple of days ago I noticed, in Alton Barnes, the first sprinklings of yellow rape flowers. The plants will grow an inch a day through April. Off we go. We are on the brink of another momentous season.



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