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Aside from the apparent downturn in crop circle numbers, some recent reports about the state of the circle research world itself seem unnecessarily apocalyptic. Do these accounts say more about those writing them then it does about the actual reality, asks ANDY THOMAS..?

This summer I came across a piece being circulated on e-mail from a slightly disaffected ‘croppie,’ from which, if I were to have read it without any of my own experience, I might have concluded that the UK circle scene was now a morass of in-fighting and unpleasantness. The e-mail spoke of not being able to enjoy the crop circle scene in the same way anymore, and of people no longer gathering together in harmony because of supposed divisions in the circle community.

This has not been my experience at all this year. Most I met or spoke to about their time spent at various crop circle gatherings, or in the Silent Circle café, seemed quite happy. Good nature and excited enthusiasm seemed to be in perfect abundance everywhere I went. Perhaps I’m just being blinkered or over-optimistic, but one has to suspect that the disillusioned writer in question was displaying a case of what is known as ‘projection’, from a presumably partisan perspective. Stripped of any direct involvement with any of the (indirectly) cited squabbles in the circle world, which is quite easy to do if you just concentrate on the phenomenon and not the people, it seems to me there is little now that is any different to recent years.

It is true that there has been an increase of sectioning-off into factions in a few camps – the parting of the ways two years ago between those of us who used to run the Glastonbury Symposium is now done and dusted and largely accepted, for instance, and there have reportedly been some power struggles over control of the circle café, but in both cases things seem to have essentially settled. Aside from some misguided campaigning from a few individuals – which one can expect in any field of human interest – this splitting into camps seems merely to be a process of natural selection which should maybe not be resisted. If people no longer find it comfortable or progressive to work together, what merit is there in staying together in unworkable atmospheres? As long as the new camps keep themselves to themselves and continue to focus on crop circles and not any residual resentments, what’s the real problem? If the above disaffected writer were not to take a side, there would presumably be no problem and they could go anywhere they wanted in peace and harmony with everyone else.

Indeed, it could be argued that the division of the camps actually increases, rather than decreases, useful diversity and variety. The diverging of the Glastonbury Symposium organisers, for instance, has actually resulted in two crop circle events taking place (aside from the Wiltshire Crop Circle Study Group gathering) where once there was only one. The Glastonbury Symposium continues to be a wonderful event, and those who fled the nest have now formed their own annual event which sounds like it’s doing fine. Is this a bad thing? Despite an unfortunate (and accidental) clashing of dates for 2007, what we should hopefully have in future is an increase, rather than a decrease, of opportunities for interaction and discussion.

I look around me and see nothing more than what has been going on for years – personalities doing interesting and valuable things around the crop circle phenomenon while learning to live with each other or going their separate ways as necessary. One flick through Jim Schnabel’s 1993 book ‘Round in Circles’ or a glance at my own recent Swirled News article about the unnecessary demise of the Centre for Crop Circle Studies reveals that the world of croppiedom was ALWAYS rife with intrigue and personality clashes. It’s just human nature. And it goes without saying that the eternal spitting and scratching between sceptic and ‘believer’ was ever part of the fabric. Yet the croppie world always survived, and it always will, as long as new designs continue to arrive in the fields – and we all keep a sense of perspective.

While a few long-established researchers may suffer disillusion and try to spread this to others, on the whole there is in fact lots of great work going on in the cerealogical world (witness the recent rise of enthusiasm from the Medway crop circle group and their new website, for instance), and there are lots of intriguing things going on in the fields, downturns in numbers and claimed increases in human circlemaking not withstanding. Controversial things? Of course. The odd personality clash? Of course. It was ever the way.

Even reaction to the diminished numbers of formations is over-wrought. People seem to be forgetting that we have had circle famines before, only for the trend to be reversed again in following seasons. 1995 was a year in which Wiltshire was bereft of all but a few formations, for instance, and even 2001 is only now fondly remembered largely because of the huge 800ft Milk Hill wheel and the Chilbolton ‘Face and Message’ formations – up until their arrival, many had expressed disappointment that year. The memory cheats.

And if next year it does becomes clear that there is a definite downward trend, what of it? Until the day the fields are totally empty, we still have a phenomenon. It’s also a phenomenon that continues to change people, whatever the increase in man-made percentages or otherwise. This is perhaps the most important thing. Those long-in-the-tooth forget that newcomers are still finding themselves moved in the same way we once were, asking the same questions, feeling their heads bursting with new thoughts and expansive lines of enquiry the same way we did – inspired by CURRENT formations. The same formations that some old-timers now dismiss with their rose-spectacled talk of bygone ‘Golden Ages’.

Aside from imploding depressed croppies, there’s another thorn in the side of current circle enthusiasm, though it’s an old one, admittedly. Debunkers often accuse the circle research community of keeping something going which it supposedly ‘knows’ is no longer worth claims of the paranormal, alleging that the mystery is connivingly kept bubbling along either for commercial purposes or through sheer bloody-mindedness. They cannot seem to grasp for a moment why someone might still see worth in something they and their fellow cynics have condemned purely from their own narrow perspective (and who apparently have some god-like way of ‘knowing’ they are right). In a recent plough through masses of archive research for a current project, I was reminded clearly of just why there is a phenomenon still worth studying, for all the aspersions cast on it. And, if anything more were needed, just looking in the faces of newcomers and seeing the obvious unjaded delight they feel, based on the evidence they are seeing NOW, says it all.

There’s no fraud at work on the part of the circle community – all the sceptical views are clearly out there for anyone to find as soon as they arrive on the scene. How could a ‘believer’ even hope to hide the widely-circulated information on human circlemaking or avoid the endless debunking of the press? The unpalatable fact for the debunkers is that even with all their material instantly available to any Google-forager, still certain people see beyond it and find themselves drawn into the ongoing mystery of the crop circles despite everything. Why? Because there’s no smoke without fire.

In short, the state of croppiedom is far more buoyant than some would have you believe – to the annoyance of those still waiting for it to curl up and die. They’ll wait a while longer yet. Likewise, rumours in the press of the demise of the crop circle enigma have been greatly exaggerated – see my Swirled News companion piece this month (“2006 Review of the Crop Circle Season”) for the lowdown on that.

So next time you read a piece which purports to record the death of a) the phenomenon, or b) the healthy scene surrounding it, ask yourself something about the person writing and what their motives, personal hang-ups or projections might be. And then look up and choose your own reality.

Here’s looking forward to 2007.


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