Lo!, by Charles Fort, , at sacred-texts.com
Besides the new star, which was an object so conspicuous that it was discovered widely, except by astronomers, there was another astronomical occurrence in the month of June, 1918—an eclipse of the sun. It was observed in Oregon. We can't expect such a check up as when Coogan's Bluff and the Consolidated Gas Company get into astronomy, but Oregonians set their alarm clocks, and looked up at the sky. See Mitchell's Eclipses of the Sun,
p. 67—the astronomers admitted an error of 14 seconds in their prediction.
Measurements of ordinary refinement are in hair-breadths, but a hair is coarse material to the ethereal astronomers, who use filaments spun by spiders. And just where do the astronomers get their cobwebs? This book of ours is full of mysteries, but here is something that is not one of them.
My own opinion is that an error of only 14 seconds is a very creditable approximation. But it is a huge and grotesque blunder, when compared with the fairy-like refinements that the astronomers dream are theirs, in matters that cannot be so easily checked up.
To readers who are not clear upon this point, I repeat that predictions of eclipses cannot be cited in support of conventionality against our own expressions, because, whether upon the basis that this earth moves, or is stationary, eclipses can be predicted—and Lo! come to pass. But Lo! if, looking on, there be an intelligent representative of the Consolidated Gas Company, or an Oregonian with an alarm clock, predictions aren't just exactly what they should be.
We have divided astronomers into professionals and amateurs: but, wherever there are differences there is somewhere the merging-point that demonstrates continuity. W. F. Denning represents the amateur-professional merging-point. He has never had a job—though it does not look to me that job is the right word—in an Observatory, but he has written a great deal upon astronomical matters. He is an accountant, in the city of Bristol, England. Has nothing to do with Observatories, but has a celebrated back yard. Upon the night of Aug. 20, 1920, Denning sat in his back yard, and, in surroundings that were touched up most unacademically by cats on the fences, though Observatory-like enough, with snores from back windows, he discovered Nova Cygni III. This is another instance of a new star appearing close to where there had been preceding new stars, as if all were eruptions in one region of especially active volcanic land. There were earthquakes in this period. In the United States, there were the sudden deluges that are called "cloudbursts." Upon the night of August 28th, a seismic wave drowned 200 persons, on the island of Saghalien, off the east coast of Siberia.
For four nights, astronomers of the so-called Observatories had
been photographing this star. Students of phenomena of somnambulism will be interested in our data. When Denning woke up the astronomers, they looked at what they had been unconsciously doing, and learned that from the 16th of the month, this star had risen from 7th to about 3rd magnitude. A star of 3rd magnitude is a conspicuous star. In the whole sky there are (photographic magnitudes) only 111 of this size. At any one time not more than 40 of them are visible. The limit of visibility, without a telescope, is somewhere between the 6th and 7th magnitudes. So it is said. According to our data, the limit of seeing depends upon who's looking.
I wonder what ironic fellow first called these snug, little centers of inattention Observatories. He had a wit of his own, whoever he was.
Discovery of the new star, if not a comet, of Aug. 7, 1921, has been attributed to a professional wiseman (Director Campbell, of Lick Dormitory). But it was a brilliant and conspicuous appearance. Most of the new stars that professionals have discovered, or have had discovered for them, by the not very eagle-eyed females of Harvard, have been small points on photographic plates. English Mechanic, 114-211—records of observations by four amateurs, before the time of Director Campbell's "discovery." One of these observations was twenty-four hours earlier.
Sometime ago, I read an astronomer's complaint against heavy traffic near an "Observatory." Though now I have different ideas as to an astronomer's dislike for disturbance, night times, I was not so experienced then, and innocently supposed that he meant that delicate instruments were jarred.
A convention of Methodist ministers—and how agreeable it would be to note, in the midst of preciseness and purity, one of these parsons standing on his head
Or see the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, 1922—upon page 400 there is a diagram.
Mistakes that I make—and errors of yours—
Contrasting with the much-advertised divinity of the astronomers.
Page 400—in the midst of a learned treatise upon "adiabatic expansions"
and "convective equilibrium" is printed a diagram. It is upside down.
I attended this convention of pedantries, of course inspired by a religious faith that is mine that I'd not have to look far for a crook in its bombast, or somewhere a funny little touch of waywardness in its irreproachability, but especially I attended to pick out something of which, in this year 1922, the astronomers were boasting, to contrast with something they were doing. I picked out a long laudation upon an astronomer who had received a gold medal for predicting the motions of a star-cluster for a term of 100,000,000,000 years, to contrast with—
Sept. 20, 1922—an eclipse of the sun—see Mitchell's Eclipses of the Sun, p. 67—and the predictions by the astronomers. They made one error of 16 seconds, and another error of 20 seconds.
There are persons who do not believe in ordinary fortune tellers. Yet, without a quiver in their credulities, they read of an astronomical gypsy who tells the fortunes of a star for 100,000,000,000 years, though, according to conventionality, that star is 60 × 60 × 24 × 365 × 100,000 times farther away than is the moon, motions of which cannot be exactly foretold, unless the observations are going to be, say at Bahia de Paranagua, or somewhere in Jungaria.
The eclipse of Sept. 20, 1922, was checked up by police constables, in Australia. But the eclipse of Oct. 21, 1930, was observed at Niuafou. This time the dispatches sent by the astronomers told of "a complete success." "The eclipse began exactly as predicted."
There are records of seeming new stars that have blazed up, like spasmodic eruptions, then dying out. For Dr. Anderson's report upon one of these appearances, May 8, 1923, see Popular Astronomy, 31-422. Upon the 7th, Etna was active; earthquake in Anatolia; extraordinary rise and fall of the Mediterranean, at Gibraltar. The "Observatories" missed Dr. Anderson's observation, but at one of them a small, new star was photographed, night of May 5th. I neglected to note whether, on a photographic plate, this was immediately detected. See Pop. Astro., 31-420.
Upon Feb. 13, 1923, an increase of the star Beta Ceti was reported. There was interest in the newspapers. Maps of the sky were published. If newspapers start first-paging astronomical occurrences, putting
down X-marks for stars, as well as for positions of bodies of the murdered, there will be more interest. This is dangerous to the astronomers, but so long as their technicalities hold out, they have good protection. Even so there might be inquiries into what the "Observatories" are doing, when, time after time, only amateurs are observing. The "Observatories" had of course missed this rise of Beta Ceti, but, when told by an amateur where to look, professionals at Yerkes and Juvisy confirmed the report. For the fullest account, see the Bull. Soc. Astro. de France, of this period. Upon February 22nd, a yellow dust, perhaps a discharge from an increased volcanic activity in Cetus, fell from the sky, in Westphalia (London Evening Standard, February 27). The amateur, this time, was a schoolboy, aged 16.
Night of May 27, 1925—the Rip Van Winkles of the South African "Observatory" were disturbed by an amateur. He told them that there was a new star in the southern constellation Pictor. When they were aroused, the Rips looked up and saw the new star, and then stayed awake long enough to learn that somnambulically they had, for months, been photographing it. For months it had been gleaming over the "Observatories" of four continents.
There are slits in the domes of Observatories.
The fixed grin of a clown—the slit in the dome of an Observatory.
Sept. 21, 1930—that the astronomers had ascertained the heat received from a thirteenth magnitude star to be 631 times that of the heat from the faintest star visible to the unaided eye—that this faintest visible star radiates upon the whole United States no more heat than the sun radiates upon one square yard of said U. S.
A grin in the dark—or the sardonic slit in any Observatory, night times. Most likely the inmates haven't a notion what is symbolized. But we contrast an alleged perception of 631 times the inconceivable with this item, in Popular Astronomy, 1925, p. 540:
That 44 nights before the amateur's discovery, Nova Pictoris had shone as a star of third magnitude, and had been perceived by no astronomer.
The Building That Laughs—as a modern Victor Hugo would call an Observatory with a slit in it.
Fixed grin of the clown—and, according to theatrical conventions, his head is full of seriousness.
Sept. 24, 1930—this is what came from a Building That Laughed, though its dome was full of astronomers:
That, according to spectroscopic determinations, at Mt. Wilson, a distant nebula is moving away from this earth, at a rate of 6,800 miles a second; that, upon the day of the calculations, the distance of this nebula was 75,000,000 × 60 × 60 × 24 × 365 × 186,000 miles.
To appreciate the clownishness of this, see our data for accepting that the spectroscope tells about what is told by tea leaves in a teacup—which is considerable, if one wants to be told considerable. To realize the pathos of this, think of the grinning old clown, whose gags have played out; who is driven to most extravagant antics to hold a little attention.
Our general expression is that the inmates of this earth's "Observatories" are not astronomers, but are mathematicians. Since medieval times there has never been a shake-up in this system of ancient lore, comparable with Lyellism in geology, or Darwinism in biology, or the reconstructions of thought brought about by radioactivity, in physics and chemistry. Einsteinism was a slight shock, but it is concerned with differences of minute quantities. Mathematicians are incurable. They are inert to the new, because the new is a surprise, and mathematics concerns itself with the expected. It does occur to me that there might be good results, if the next millionaire who contemplates donating a big telescope, should, instead, send around to the "Observatories" big quantities of black coffee: but such is the concordance between the twinkles of the stars and the nods of drowsy heads that I'd not much like to disturb such harmony.
Nova Pictoris, like many other so-called new stars, was an increase of an old star. For twenty-five years it had from time to time been photographed as a speck of the 12th magnitude.
There is nothing on any photographic plate to indicate that another star was going to collide with it. It went up, just as dimly shining, or only slightly active, volcanoes of this earth sometimes become violent.
No star has ever been seen to cross another star, but just such
changes as have been seen in volcanoes of this earth have been seen in stars. Mostly, in their books, astronomers, telling of what they call "proper motion," do all that they can to give an impression of the stars as moving with tremendous velocities, but here is Newcomb (Astronomy for Everybody, p. 327) quoted upon the subject: "If Ptolemy should come to life, after his sleep of nearly eighteen hundred years, and be asked to compare the heavens as they are now with those of his time, he would not be able to see the slightest difference in the configuration of a single constellation."
And, if Ptolemy should come back, and be asked to compare the Mediterranean lands as they are now with those of his time, he would not be able to see the slightest difference in the configuration of any land—even though erosions of various kinds have been constant.
What Orion was, Orion is, in the sense that what the configuration of Italy was, it now is—in the sense that in all recorded time Italy has been booting Sicily, but has never scored a goal.
There is no consistency, and there is no inconsistency in our hyphenated state of phenomenal being: there is consistency-inconsistency. Everything that is inconsistent with something is consistent with something else. In the oneness of allness, I am, in some degree or aspect, guilty of, or infected with, or suffering from, everything that I attack. Now, I, too, am aristocratic. Let anybody else who is as patrician as I now am read this book, and contrast the principles of orthodox astronomy with the expressions in this book, and ask himself:
Which is the easier and lazier way, with the lesser necessity for effort, and with the lesser need for the use of brains, and therefore the more aristocratic view:
That for, say eighteen hundred years, stars have scarcely moved, because, though changes in them have often been seen, they are too far away for changes in them to be observed;
Or that the stars have scarcely moved, because they are points in a shell-like formation that holds them in place?
However, the orthodox visualization of stars rushing at terrific velocities, in various directions, and never getting anywhere, is so in accordance with the unachievements of all other phenomenal
things that I'd feel my heresies falter were it not for other data—But what of other data—or of other circumstances?
In this day of everybody's suspicion against "circumstantial evidence," just what is not generally realized is that orthodox astronomy is founded upon nothing but circumstantial evidence. Also all our data, and repetitions and agreements of data, are nothing but circumstantial evidence. Simply mention "circumstantial evidence" relatively, say to a murder trial, and most of us look doubtful. Consequently I have only expressions and acceptances.
Other data—or other circumstances—
Last of March, 1928—that Nova Pictoris had split into two parts. Part was seen to have moved from part, as divisions occur in this earth's volcanoes.
So then, when changes of positions of stars do occur, the stars are not so far away that changes of position cannot be seen.
Ten little astronomers squinting through a tube—or more characteristically employed—or looking at a mirror. They had been told, upon the highest authority, that the star Capella had a companion. Said they—or announced they—they saw it—or perceived it. Having calmed down, in the matter of "dust from an African desert," but seeming to have a need for something to be furious about, I now turn my indignations upon "companion stars." Most persons have, in their everyday affairs, plenty to annoy them: but it seems that I must have something of exclusiveness to my annoyances. If stars be volcanoes in a concave land, surrounding this earth, the notion of "companion stars" perhaps enrages me, because I do not visualize one volcano revolving around another volcano. If some stars do revolve around other stars, I may as well give up this book, as a whole—or I shall have to do some explaining.
Which won't be much trouble. Explaining is equilibrating. That is what all things phenomenal are doing. I now have a theory that once upon a time our existence was committed as a bad error, and that everything in it has been excusing itself, or has in one way or another been equilibrating, ever since. It is as natural to a human being to explain as it is to a lodestone to adjust to a magnet.
Let anybody look up "determinations" upon the "dark companion" of Algol, for instance. He will find record not of a theory,
but of theory after theory replacing one another. In the matter of the light ones, let him look up data upon the "light companion" of Sirius. He will read in the textbooks that around Sirius a light star revolves, with a most accurately known period, which demonstrates the soundness of mathematical astronomy. But, in scientific journals, which are not so uncompromisingly committed to propaganda, he will read that this is not so. A faint light has, at various times, been reported near Sirius, in positions that do not accord with the calculated orbit. For no mention of this discrepancy, read the books that reach the general public.
March, 1928—the split of Nova Pictoris. There was cataclysm in a southern constellation. At the same time there were catastrophes in southern parts of this earth. See back to other expressions upon seeming relations between parts of this earth and parts of the sky that would be nearest to each other, if the stars be points in a shell of land that is not enormously far away, but could not be appreciably nearer, if the stars were trillions of miles away. I take all data from New York newspapers. Quakes in Italy, and a glare in the sky at the time (March 31st) of a quake in Smyrna—"sky aflame." The heaviest rain in 50 years poured in Honduras, April 9th—Peru shaking, this day—such a fall of snow in Chile that 200 persons and thousands of farm animals were reported to be buried in drifts—quakes and panics in Mexico—
Orthodoxy—all this by mere coincidence—
Our expression—that nebulous rings were going out from Nova Pictoris, just as rings of smoke and dust go out from Vesuvius, during an eruption.
The 14th of April was the day of the Bulgarian devastations. Quakes continuing in Bulgaria—quakes in Mexico—towns rocking in southern Mexico—quakes continuing in Peru. Quakes in Greece, on the 19th—a violent snowstorm in Poland, this day. Torrents were pouring upon the quaking land of Bulgaria. A De Ballore, or a Davison, or a Milne, would not mention these torrents, in an account of this quake. The severest shock ever recorded in Johannesburg, South Africa, occurred upon the 21st. The next day, Corinth, Greece, was wrecked, and torrents fell from the sky, at the time of this quake.
Nova Pictoris broke into four parts—and the cities of Greece wailed rushes of people. Seeming discharges moving out from the new star—and "A five-hour rain of mud filled streets ankle high, causing terror at Lemburg and Cernowitz, today" (New York Sun, April 27th).
Wails of the cities of Greece—and they subsided into sodden despairs that were processions of stretchers. Somewhere in a building that collapsed, fell a sparrow.
The road from Corinth—refugees and their belongings—
Terrified mules, up on their hind legs, hoofing storms of bundles—yells and prayers and the laughter of jokers—a screaming woman, shaking bloody hands—her fingers had been hacked off, for the rings on them. Crying kids, whose parents were pulps—prayers to God, or to the blessed something or another—the screams of the woman, with stumps of fingers—
Sudden consciousness of a pulsation.
A rhythm of gleams appears in distant sunlight.
Stars that are watched through the windows of prisons—or through openings in any of the other hells of this earth—and it may be that if all the stars should start to twinkle in unison, the hells of this earth would vibrate out of existence.
There's a rhythm of gleams on distant bayonets. Along the road is marching a column of soldiers.
The swing of these gleams—and it tranquilizes panic. It glistens into new formations. There are long lines of sparkles in sunlight—tin cups are undulating toward soup kettles.
Somewhere else there is an injured sparrow. Storages in its body are giving to its needs from their substance—the tranquilizing of its heart beats, and the reduction of its fever—the rebuilding of its tissues.
A British squadron appears in the Bay of Corinth—an Italian warship—an American cruiser. From centers of the American Near East Relief are streaming 6,000 blankets—10,500 tents—5,000 cases of condensed milk—carloads of flour.
If we can think that around this earth, and not too vastly far away, there is a starry shell, here are the outlines within which to think of our existence as an organism.
Nov. 28, 1930—an enormous fall, from the sky, of dust and mud, in France. I shall not get perhaps all worked up again about this, but I mention that it was attributed to a hurricane in the Sahara Desert.
Dec. 5, 1930—the poisonous gas, in Belgium. See back to the account, in this book.
Accept that these two phenomena were probably volcanic discharges, from regions external to this earth—if for them there be no terrestrial explanation—one in France and one in Belgium—arriving relatively near each other, but a week apart—and here is another of our data of this earth's stationariness.
This earth broke out, as if responsively to disturbances somewhere else—volcanic eruptions and disastrous quakes.
December 24-26—violent quakes in Argentina and in Alaska—and, between these far-distant places, there was a spectacular arrival of something that may have been a volcanic bomb from a stellar volcano. New York Times, Dec. 26, 1930—the great meteor that was seen and heard in Idaho. "The crash, heard for miles, was described as `like an earthquake.'"
The deluge that was "only a coincidence," poured upon the quaking land of Argentina. "Rain fell in such torrents that the water was three feet deep in several parts of Mendoza City." A "strange glow" was seen in the sky. "Great spears of colored lights flashed across the sky."
Into the month of January, 1931, disturbances upon this earth continued. There may have been a new star. I have the authority of amateurs for thinking so. New York Times, Jan. 7, 1931—that, at San Juan, Porto Rico, morning of January 6th, from ten o'clock until noon, a strange star had been seen in the western sky. According to an opinion from the Weather Bureau, it may have been, not a star, but the planet Venus. This Venus-explanation of lights that have been seen in the sky, in the daytime, is a standard explanation; but according to records it has often not applied.
Catastrophes and deluges—and, if we can accept that around this earth there is only a thin zone of extreme coldness, which, by the stresses of storms and other variations, may often be penetrated by terrestrial evaporations, so that, unless replenished from reservoirs
somewhere else, this earth would go dry, we can understand a mechanism of necessary transportations of floods from the stars to this earth.
Flows of insects and the patter of frogs, and the Pilgrims cross the Atlantic Ocean. Metabolism in the foot of a frog—and in the United States a similar readjustment is known as the Civil War. The consciousness of philosophers and theologians and scientists, and to some degree of everybody else, of a state of Oneness—and my expression is that the misinterpretation has been in trying to think of Universality, or the Absolute. Give me more data for thinking that around this earth there is a starry shell that is not vastly far away, and here is the base for a correlation of all things phenomenal.