The Book of the Damned
Chapter 20
By Charles Fort (1874-1932)
Noded by panamaus

THE New Dominant.


In it we have a pseudo-standard.

We have a datum, and we give it an interpretation, in accordance with our pseudo-standard. At present we have not the delusions of Absolutism that may have translated some of the positivists of the nineteenth century to heaven. We are Intermediatists — but feel a lurking suspicion that we may some day solidify and dogmatize and illiberalize into higher positivists. At present we do not ask whether something be reasonable or preposterous, because we recognize that by reasonableness and preposterousness are meant agreement and disagreement with a standard — which must be a delusion — though not absolutely, of course — and must some day be displaced by a more advanced quasi-delusion. Scientists in the past have taken the positivist attitude — is this or that reasonable or unreasonable? Analyze them and we find that they meant relatively to a standard, such as Newtonism, Daltonism, Darwinism, or Lyellism. But they have written and spoken and thought as if they could mean real reasonableness and real unreasonableness.

So our pseudo-standard is Inclusionism, and, if a datum be a correlate to a more widely inclusive outlook as to this earth and its externality and relations with externality, its harmony with Inclusionism admits it. Such was the process, and such was the requirement for admission in the days of the Old Dominant: our difference is in underlying Intermediatism, or consciousness that though we're more nearly real, we and our standards are only quasi —

Or that all things — in our intermediate state — are phantoms in a super-mind in a dreaming state — but striving to awaken to realness.

Though in some respects our own Intermediatism is unsatisfactory, our underlying feeling is —

That in a dreaming mind awakening is accelerated — if phantoms in that mind know that they're only phantoms in a dream. Of course, they too are quasi, or — but in a relative sense — they have an essence of what is called realness. They are derived from experience or from sense-relations, even though grotesque distortions. It seems acceptable that a table that is seen when one is awake is more nearly real than a dreamed table, which, with fifteen or twenty legs, chases one.

So now, in the twentieth century, with a change of terms, and a change in underlying consciousness, our attitude toward the New Dominant is the attitude of the scientists of the nineteenth century to the Old Dominant. We do not insist that our data and interpretations shall be as shocking, grotesque, evil, ridiculous, childish, insincere, laughable, ignorant to nineteenth-centuryites as were their data and interpretations to the medieval-minded. We ask only whether data and interpretations correlate. If they do, they are acceptable, perhaps only for a short time, or as nuclei, or scaffolding, or preliminary sketches, or as gropings and tentativenesses. Later, of course, when we cool off and harden and radiate into space most of our present mobility, which expresses modesty and plasticity, we shall acknowledge no scaffoldings, gropings or tentativenesses, but think we utter absolute facts. A point in Intermediatism here is opposed to most current speculations upon Development. Usually one thinks of the spiritual as higher than the material, but, in our acceptance, quasi-existence is a means by which the absolutely immaterial materializes absolutely, and, being intermediate, is a state in which nothing is finally either immaterial or material, all objects, substances, thoughts, occupying some grade of approximation one way or the other. Final solidification of the ethereal is, to us, the goal of cosmic ambition. Positivism is Puritanism. Heat is Evil. Final Good is Absolute Frigidity. An Arctic winter is very beautiful, but I think that an interest in monkeys chattering in palm trees accounts for our own Intermediatism.


Our confusion here, out of which we are attempting to make quasi-order is as great as it has been throughout this book, because we have not the positivist's delusion of homogeneity. A positivist would gather all data that seem to relate to one kind of visitors and coldly disregard all other data. I think of as many different kinds of visitors to this earth as there are visitors to New York, to a jail, to a church — some persons go to church to pick pockets, for instance.

My own acceptance is that either a world or a vast super-construction — or a world, if red substances and fishes fell from it — hovered over India in the summer of 1860. Something then fell from somewhere, July 17, 1860, at Dhurmsalla. Whatever "it" was, "it" is so persistently alluded to as "a meteorite" that I look back and see that I adopted this convention myself. But in the London Times, Dec. 26, 1860, Syed Abdoolah, Professor of Hindustani, University College, London, writes that he had sent to a friend in Dhurmsalla, for an account of the stones that had fallen at that place. The answer:

"...divers forms and sizes, many of which bore a great resemblance to ordinary cannon balls just discharged from the engines of war."

It's an addition to our data of spherical objects that have arrived upon this earth. Note that they are spherical stone objects.

And in the evening of this same day that something — took a shot at Dhurmsalla — or sent objects upon which there may have been decipherable markings — lights were seen in the air —

I think, myself, of a number of things, beings, whatever they were, trying to get down, but resisted, like balloonists, at a certain altitude, trying to get farther up, but resisted.

Not in the least except to good positivists, or the homogeneous-minded, does this speculation interfere with the concept of some other world that is in successful communication with certain esoteric ones upon this earth, by a code of symbols that print in rock, like symbols of telephotographers in selenium.

I think that sometimes, in favorable circumstances, emissaries have come to this earth — secret meetings —

Of course it sounds —


Secret meetings — emissaries — esoteric ones in Europe, before the war broke out —

And those who suggested that such phenomena could be.

However, as to most of our data, I think of super-things that have passed close to this earth with no more interest in this earth than have passengers upon a steamship in the bottom of the sea — or passengers may have a keen interest, but circumstances of schedules and commercial requirements forbid investigation of the bottom of the sea.

Then, on the other hand, we may have data of super-scientific attempts to investigate phenomena of this earth from above — perhaps by beings from so far away that they had never even heard that something, somewhere, asserts a legal right to this earth.

Altogether, we're good intermediatists, but we can't be very good hypnotists.

Still another source of the merging away of our data:

That, upon general principles of Continuity, if super-vessels, or super-vehicles, have traversed this earth's atmosphere, there must be mergers between them and terrestrial phenomena: observations upon them must merge away into observations upon clouds and balloons and meteors. We shall begin with data that we can not distinguish ourselves and work our way out of mergers into extremes.

In the Observatory, 35-168, it is said that, according to a newspaper, on March 6, 1912, residents of Warmley, England, were greatly excited by something that was supposed to be "a splendidly-illuminated aeroplane, passing over the village." "The machine was apparently travelling at a tremendous rate, and came from the direction of Bath, and went on toward Gloucester." The Editor says that it was a large, triple-headed fireball. "Tremendous, indeed!" he says. "But we are prepared for anything nowadays."

That is satisfactory. We'd not like to creep up stealthily and then jump out of a corner with our data. This Editor, at least, is prepared to read —

Nature, Oct. 27, 1898:
A correspondent writes that, in the County Wicklow, Ireland, at about 6 o'clock in the evening, he had seen, in the sky, an object that looked like the moon in its three-quarter aspect. We note the shape which approximates to triangularity, and we note that in color it is said to have been golden yellow. It moved slowly, and in about five minutes disappeared behind a mountain.

The Editor gives his opinion that the object may have been an escaped balloon.

In Nature, Aug. 11, 1898, there is a story, taken from the July number of the Canadian Weather Review, by the meteorologist, F. F. Payne: that he had seen, in the Canadian sky, a large, pear-shaped object, sailing rapidly. At first he supposed the object was a balloon, "its outline being sharply defined." "But, as no cage was seen, it was concluded that it must be a mass of cloud." In about six minutes this object became less definite — whether because of increasing distance or not — "the mass became less dense and finally it disappeared." As to cyclonic formation — "no whirling motion could be seen."

Nature, 58-294:
That, upon July 8, 1898, a correspondent had seen, at Kiel, an object in the sky, colored red by the sun, which had set. It was about as broad as a rainbow, and about twelve degrees high. "It remained in its original brightness about five minutes, then faded very rapidly, and then remained almost stationary again, finally disappearing about eight minutes after I first saw it."

In an intermediate existence, we quasi-persons have nothing to judge by because everything is its own opposite. If a hundred dollars a week be a standard of luxurious living to some persons, it is poverty to others. We have instances of three objects that were seen in the sky in a space of three months, and this concurrence seems to me to be something to judge by. Science has been built upon concurrence: so have been most of the fallacies and fanaticisms. I feel the positivism of a Leverrier, or instinctively take to the notion that all three of these observations relate to the same object. However, I don't formulate them and predict the next transit. Here's another chance for me to become a fixed star — but as usual — oh, well —

A point in Intermediatism:

That the Intermediatist is likely to be a flaccid compromiser.

Our own attitude:

Ours is a partly positive and partly negative state, or a state in which nothing is finally positive or finally negative —

But, if positivism attract you, go ahead and try: you will be in harmony with cosmic endeavor — but Continuity will resist you. Only to have appearance in quasiness is to be proportionately positive, but beyond a degree of attempted positivism, Continuity will rise to pull you back. Success, as it is called — though there is only success-failure in Intermediateness — will, in Intermediateness, be yours proportionately as you are in adjustment with its own state, or some positivism mixed with compromise and retreat. To be very positive is to be a Napoleon Bonaparte, against whom the rest of civilization will sooner or later combine. For interesting data, see newspaper accounts of the fate of one Dowie, of Chicago.

Intermediatism, then, is recognition that our state is only a quasi-state: it is no bar to one who desires to be positive: it is recognition that he can not be positive and remain in a state that is positive-negative. Or that a great positivist — isolated — with no system to support him — will be crucified, or will starve to death, or will be put in jail and beaten to death — that these are the birth-pangs of translation to the Positive Absolute.

So, though positive-negative, myself, I feel the attraction of the positive pole of our intermediate state, and attempt to correlate these three data: to see them homogeneously; to think that they relate to one object.

In the aeronautic journals and in the London Times there is no mention of escaped balloons, in the summer or fall of 1898. In the New York Times there is no mention of ballooning in Canada or the United States, in the summer of 1898.

London Times, Sept. 29, 1885:
A clipping from the Royal Gazette, of Bermuda, of Sept. 8, 1885, sent to the Times by General Lefroy:

That, upon Aug. 27, 1885, at about 8:30 A.M., there was observed by Mrs. Adelina D. Bassett, "a strange object in the clouds, coming from the north." She called the attention of Mrs. L. Lowell to it, and they were both somewhat alarmed. However, they continued to watch the object steadily for some time. It drew nearer. It was of triangular shape, and seemed to be about the size of a pilot-boat mainsail, with chains attached to the bottom of it. While crossing the land it had appeared to descend, but, as it went out to sea, it ascended, and continued to ascend, until it was lost to sight high in the clouds.

Or with such power to ascend, I don't think much myself of the notion that it was an escaped balloon, partly deflated. Nevertheless, General Lefroy, correlating with Exclusionism, attempts to give a terrestrial interpretation to this occurrence. He argues that the thing may have been a balloon that had escaped from France or England — or the only aerial thing of terrestrial origin that, even to this date of about thirty-five years later, has been thought to have crossed the Atlantic Ocean. He accounts for the triangular form by deflation — "a shapeless bag, barely able to float." My own acceptance is that great deflation does not accord with observations upon its power to ascend.

In the Times, Oct. 1, 1885, Charles Harding, of the R.M.S., argues that if it had been a balloon from Europe, surely it would have been seen and reported by many vessels. Whether he was as good a Briton as the General or not, he shows awareness of the United States — or that the thing may have been a partly collapsed balloon that had escaped from the United States.

General Lefroy wrote to Nature about it (Nature, 33-99) saying — whatever his sensitivenesses may have been — that the columns of the Times were "hardly suitable" for such a discussion. If, in the past, there had been more persons like General Lefroy, we'd have better than the mere fragments of data that in most cases are too broken up very well to piece together. He took the trouble to write to a friend of his, W.H. Gosling, of Bermuda — who also was an extraordinary person. He went to the trouble of interviewing Mrs. Bassett and Mrs. Lowell. Their description to him was somewhat different:

An object from which nets were suspended —

Deflated balloon, with its network hanging from it —

A super-dragnet?

That something was trawling overhead?

The birds of Baton Rouge.

Mr. Gosling wrote that the item of chains, or suggestion of a basket that had been attached, had originated with Mr. Bassett, who had not seen the object. Mr. Gosling mentioned a balloon that had escaped from Paris in July. He tells of a balloon that fell in Chicago, Sept. 17, or three weeks later than the Bermuda object.

It's one incredibility against another, with disregards and convictions governed by whichever of the two Dominants looms stronger in each reader's mind. That he can't think for himself any more than I can is understood.

My own correlates:

I think that we're fished for. It may be that we're highly esteemed by super-epicures somewhere. It makes me more cheerful when I think that we may be of some use after all. I think that dragnets have often come down and have been mistaken for whirlwinds and waterspouts. Some accounts of seeming structure in whirlwinds and waterspouts are astonishing. And I have data that, in this book, I can't take up at all — mysterious disappearances. I think we're fished for. But this is a little expression on the side: relates to trespassers; has nothing to do with the subject that I shall take up at some other time — or our use to some other mode of seeming that has a legal right to us.

Nature, 33-137:
"Our Paris correspondent writes that in relation to the balloon which is said to have been seen over Bermuda, in September, no ascent took place in France which can account for it."

Last of August: not September. In the London Times, there is no mention of balloon ascents in Great Britain, in the summer of 1885, but mention of two ascents in France. Both balloons had escaped. In L'Aéronaute, Aug., 1885, it is said that these balloons had been sent up from fĂȘtes of the fourteenth of July — 44 days before the observation in Bermuda. The aeronauts were Gower and Eloy. Gower's balloon was found floating on the ocean, but Eloy's balloon was not found. Upon the 17th of July it was reported by a sea captain: still in the air; still inflated.

But this balloon of Eloy's was a small exhibition balloon, made for short ascents from fêtes and fair grounds. In La Nature, 1885-2-131, it is said that it was a very small balloon, incapable of remaining long in the air.

As to contemporaneous ballooning in the United States, I find only one account: an ascent in Connecticut, July 29, 1885. Upon leaving this balloon, the aeronauts had pulled the "rip cord," "turning it inside out." (New York Times, Aug. 10, 1885.)

To the Intermediatist, the accusation of "anthropomorphism" is meaningless. There is nothing in anything that is unique or positively different. We'd be materialists were it not quite as rational to express the material in terms of the immaterial as to express the immaterial in terms of the material. Oneness of allness in quasiness. I will engage to write the formula of any novel in psycho-chemic terms, or draw its graph in psycho-mechanic terms: or write, in romantic terms, the circumstances and sequences of any chemic or electric or magnetic reaction: or express any historic event in algebraic terms — or see Boole and Jevons for economic situations expressed algebraically.

I think of the Dominants as I think of persons — not meaning that they are real persons — not meaning that we are real persons —

Or the Old Dominant and its jealousy, and its suppression of all things and thoughts that endangered its supremacy. In reading discussions of papers, by scientific societies, I have often noted how, when they approached forbidden — or irreconcilable — subjects, the discussions were thrown into confusion and ramification. It's as if scientific discussions have often been led astray — as if purposefully — as if by something directive, hovering over them. Of course I mean only the Spirit of all Development. Just so, in any embryo, cells that would tend to vary from the appearances of their era are compelled to correlate.

In Nature, 90-169, Charles Tilden Smith writes that, at Chisbury, Wiltshire, England, April 8, 1912, he saw something in the sky —

"— unlike anything that I had ever seen before."

"Although I have studied the skies for many years, I have never seen anything like it."

He saw two stationary dark patches upon clouds.

The extraordinary part:

They were stationary upon clouds that were rapidly moving.

They were fan-shaped — or triangular — and varied in size, but kept the same position upon different clouds as cloud after cloud came along. For more than half an hour Mr. Smith watched these dark patches —

His impression as to the one that appeared first:

That it was "really a heavy shadow, cast upon a thin veil of clouds by some unseen object away in the west, which was intercepting the sun's rays."

Upon page 244, of this volume of Nature, is a letter from another correspondent, to the effect that similar shadows are cast by mountains upon clouds, and that no doubt Mr. Smith was right in attributing the appearance to "some unseen object, which was intercepting the sun's rays." But the Old Dominant that was a jealous Dominant, and the wrath of the Old Dominant against such an irreconcilability as large, opaque objects in the sky, casting down shadows upon clouds. Still the Dominants are suave very often, or are not absolute gods, and the way attention was led away from this subject is an interesting study in quasi-divine bamboozlement. Upon page 268, Charles J. P. Cave, the meteorologist, writes that, upon April 5 and 8, at Ditcham Park, Petersfield, he had observed a similar appearance, while watching some pilot balloons — but he describes something not in the least like a shadow on clouds, but a stationary cloud — the inference seems to be the shadows at Chisbury may have been shadows of pilot balloons. Upon page 322, another correspondent writes upon shadows cast by mountains; upon page 348, some one else carries on the divergence by discussing this third letter: then someone takes up the third letter mathematically; and then there is a correction of error in this mathematic demonstration — I think it looks very much like what I think it looks like.

But the mystery here:

That the dark patches at Chisbury could not have been cast by stationary pilot balloons that were to the west, or that were between clouds and the setting sun. If, to the west of Chisbury, a stationary object were high in the air, intercepting the sun's rays, the shadow of the stationary object would not have been stationary, but would have moved higher and higher with the setting sun.

I have to think of something that is in accord with no other data whatsoever:

A luminous body — not the sun — in the sky — but, because of some unknown principle or atmospheric condition, its light extended down only about to the clouds; that from it were suspended two triangular objects, like the object that was seen in Bermuda; that it was this light that fell short of the earth that these objects intercepted; that the objects were drawn up and lowered from something overhead, so that, in its light, their shadows changed size.

If my grope seems to have no grasp in it, and, if a stationary balloon will, in half an hour, not cast a stationary shadow from the setting sun, we have to think of two triangular objects that accurately maintained positions in a line between sun and clouds, and at the same time approached and receded from clouds. Whatever it may have been, it's enough to make the devout make the sign of the crucible, or whatever the devotees of the Old Dominant do in the presence of a new correlate.

Vast, black thing poised like a crow over the moon.

It is our acceptance that these two shadows of Chisbury looked, from the moon, like vast things, black as crows, poised over the earth. It is our acceptance that two triangular luminosities and then two triangular patches, like vast black things, poised like crows over the moon, and, like the triangularities at Chisbury, have been seen upon, or over, the moon:

Scientific American, 46-49:
Two triangular, luminous appearances reported by several observers in Lebanon, Conn., evening of July 3, 1882, on the moon's upper limb. They disappeared, and two dark triangular appearances that looked like notches were seen three minutes later upon the lower limb. They approached each other, met and instantly disappeared.

The merger here is notches that have at times been seen upon the moon's limb: thought to be cross sections of craters (Monthly Notices, R.A.S., 37-432). But these appearances of July 3, 1882, were vast upon the moon — "seemed to be cutting off or obliterating nearly a quarter of its surface."

Something else that may have looked like a vast black crow poised over this earth from the moon:

Monthly Weather Review, 41-599:
Description of a shadow in the sky, of some unseen body, April 8, 1913, Fort Worth, Texas — supposed to have been cast by an unseen cloud — this patch of shade moved with the declining sun.

Rept. Brit. Assoc., 1854-410:
Account by two observers of a faint but distinctly triangular object, visible for six nights in the sky. It was observed from two stations that were not far apart. But the parallax was considerable. Whatever it was, it was, acceptably, relatively close to this earth.

I should say that relatively to phenomena of light we are in confusion as great as some of the discords that orthodoxy is in relatively to light. Broadly and intermediatistically, our position is:

That light is not really and necessarily light — any more than is anything else really and necessarily anything — but an interpretation of a mode of force, as I suppose we have to call it, as light. At sea level, the earth's atmosphere interprets sunlight as red or orange or yellow. High up in the mountains the sun is blue. Very high up on mountains the zenith is black. Or is it orthodoxy to say that in inter-planetary space, where there is no air, there is no light. So then the sun and comets are black, but this earth's atmosphere, or, rather, dust particles in it, interpret radiations from these black objects as light.

We look up at the moon.

The jet-black moon is so silvery white.

I have about fifty notes indicating that the moon has atmosphere: nevertheless most astronomers hold out that the moon has no atmosphere. They have to: the theory of eclipses would not work out otherwise. So, arguing in conventional terms, the moon is black. Rather astonishing — explorers upon the moon — stumbling and groping in intense darkness — with telescopes powerful enough, we could see them stumbling and groping in brilliant light.

Or, just because of familiarity, it is not now obvious to us how the preposterousnesses of the old system must have seemed to the correlates of the system preceding it.

Ye jet-black silvery moon.

Altogether, then, it may be conceivable that there are phenomena of force that are interpretable as light as far down as the clouds, but not in denser strata of air, or just the opposite of familiar interpretations.

I now have some notes upon an occurrence that suggests a force not interpreted by air as light, but interpreted, or reflected by the ground as light. I think of something that, for a week, was suspended over London: of an emanation that was not interpreted as light until it reached the ground.

Lancet, June 1, 1867:
That every night for a week, a light had appeared in Woburn Square, London, upon the grass of a small park, enclosed by railings. Crowds gathering — police called out "for the special service of maintaining order and making the populace move on." The Editor of the Lancet went to the Square. He says that he saw nothing but a patch of light falling upon an arbor at the northeast corner of the enclosure. Seems to me that that was interesting enough.

In this Editor we have a companion for Mr. Symons and Dr. Gray. He suggests that the light came from a street lamp — does not say that he could trace it to any such origin himself — but recommends the police investigate neighboring street lamps.

I'd not say that such a commonplace as light from a street lamp would not attract and excite and deceive great crowds for a week — but I do accept that any cop who was called upon for extra work would have needed nobody's suggestion to settle that point the very first thing.

Or that something in the sky hung suspended over a London Square for a week.

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