Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Cosmic Weirdness: The Aliens of Rendlesham and Fort, Wilson and Kuhn

I was recently reading up on the odd occurrences that struck Royal Air Force Base Woodbridge in Rendlesham Forest England in 1980 while it was being used by the American military to house nuclear weapons. It's a pretty wild story, involving several different military men witnessing strange lights, sounds and U.F.O.s over a series of several days. The descriptions are dramatic, and the people involved are still committed to the reality of their experiences. It ultimately resulted in Rendlesham Forest being dubbed the Roswell of England. Sergeant Jim Penniston even claimed to have touched an odd glowing object he found in the forest after investigating strange lights outside the base. Touching it caused it to activate and shoot up into the sky at "impossible speed". During the experience he hastily jotted down symbols he saw on the object. Others witnessed massive space ships hovering over the base and beaming light into the weapons bunker (where, remember, nuclear arms were stored).  The approach of the ship was even noted by two men on the radar before it hovered for a time next to the flight tower in which they were sitting. Investigations revealed scorch marks on trees and in the earth where the object was witnessed in the forest, and geiger-counters noted elevated levels of radiation in the area and the impressions left in the earth.
Sergeant Jim Penniston's Notebook
For reasons this post should make clear, I am not particularly interested in fully addressing the reality of the experiences involved in the Rendlesham incident. Rather, I would like to address several characteristics of occurrences which might best be called cases of Cosmic Weirdness.

What struck me when reading and hearing about Rendlesham is their resemblance to the events which frequently surround occult workings and supposedly supernatural locations. The key characteristics I have in mind are events which are highly unlikely or impossible, seemingly meaningful but often very unexpected or incongruent and ultimately lead to no dramatic conclusion. Taking eye-witness accounts from Rendlesham at face value we see a stunning display of otherworldly (perhaps extra-terrestrial or, as one witness later suggested, derived from the future via time travel) power with no attempt at concealment directed at many members of a military base but ultimately for no obvious purpose. It is this last part I would like to stress. Were I one of the men involved in the events, at the time I would have assumed something history making were occurring. Something with power and knowledge beyond our own was taking a direct interest, with no regard for secrecy, in the workings of human nuclear warfare. Were they about to invade? Prevent or cause a nuclear disaster?

The answer is that nothing of the sort happened. The "visitors" popped in, scared the hell out of several people, and disappeared without noticeably having accomplished anything important at all. This is actually what provides the main fodder for conspiracy theories. Surely, we think, they must have been up to something vastly important that we are simply unaware of. Perhaps there was a government cover up. Perhaps it was a move in a vast strategy only they understand.

The bottom line is that Cosmic Weirdness, while almost always dramatic, just about always lacks a climactic ending. I have experienced, while with other people, boats full of people on an empty lake that disappear entirely, pursuit by dogs and mysterious lights in the woods at night that turn out to be nonexistent, ominous chanting and robed figures in forest clearings that upon investigation are impassably wood-choked and empty, and so on. All such events amounted to nothing but Cosmic Weirdness, blips of the impossible appearing briefly for no discernible reason and passing away as suddenly as they came with nothing accomplished and no clear message. I have found that periods of synchronicity, when unlikely coincidences multiply in wild profusion, are often the same. While reading about the golden submarine in Robert Anton Wilson's Illuminatus! trilogy a group of girls walk by singing "Yellow Submarine", the very song that inspired the ship in Wilson's book. A message? The gods interceding in the lives of men? Sure, in an insignificant and playful way that can't help but make one think they are just messing with us.

Robert Anton Wilson addresses this topic nicely in Cosmic Trigger during which he documents extending conversations he had with entities claiming to be from the Dog Star Sirius. His conclusion is that nothing about the experiences is to be taken at face value and, on the other hand, nothing need be hiding underneath. The experiences are what they are, their content may be totally beside the point. Cosmic Weirdness just is, and though it almost always wears the trappings of meaning, message and importance it rarely amounts to much. One begins to see why belief in trickster gods has been so important throughout history.

Here, of course, beacons the road to madness. The experiences and coincidences are too real, too extreme, for us to maintain a full skepticism but seeking their meaning, purpose and origin leads ever further into the dark woods. A well with a bottom that draws further away the harder we work to plumb its depths.

You see the same thing documented in alien abduction cases, for example as presented carefully by Doctor John E. Mack in Passport to the Cosmos. The experiences rend the fabric of people's lives to shreds along with their sense of reality and promise some sort of cosmic revelation. But, in the end, they ultimately offer almost nothing in the way of important historical events or deep cosmic insight. The aliens, it seems, have little to teach us other than rhetoric and bluster.

These points are the overall message of the work of Charles Fort. It is not, as many of his cult following would have it, that the vast array of anomalous events he documents suggest the presence of aliens and occult forces everywhere about us that science is willfully suppressing. He certainly offers a plethora of such theories but, as he himself insisted, he never believed a single one of his theories. Instead, it is that Cosmic Weirdness is real and suggests meaning while, at the same time, resisting it and escaping from the net of theory. We can come up with theories and conspiracies but they are ultimately just a veneer over the raw inescapability of anomaly.

It was the philosopher of science, Thomas Kuhn, who presented the argument in his Structure of Scientific Revolutions that every scientific theory is always shot through with anomaly. In order to progress, however, science must resist at all costs a fascination with these anomalies. It must dismiss them and get on with business as usual. No matter how good a theory is, no matter how well substantiated, unfalsified or explanatory, it is always shot through with failures that must go unmentioned. Only when confidence in the overall model of science being practiced collapses do these failures show up as a problem, as real anomalies, and become the source of crisis which will lead to new views of science and ultimately scientific revolutions. At the end of his book Kuhn asks, without offering an answer, what reality must be like such that such a successful tradition as science has been able to do so much with it through the pattern of dogmatic puzzle-solving turning a blind eye to anomaly followed by non-progressive revolutions in which the entire previous worldview embodied in the science is exchanged for another. One answer might be that Reality must be Cosmically Weird. Weird, not in the sense of yet to be explained, but Weird in the sense of only ever partially explainable. Reality might just be something which can never be grasped, not because it is eternal but because it won't stay still, won't stop messing with us, won't remain consistent. There will always be a Rendlesham, screaming out the promise of revelation but offering only disappointing mystery. 

In a future post I intend to flesh this idea out in terms of occult practice and the study of Enochian Magic. 



  1. More great information about Rendlesham can be found here:

  2. I don't think incomprehensible is necessarily meaningless, but it's good to remember that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. It may have just been some freaky anomaly. Cosmic Weirdness, indeed.

  3. Hey Don! Certainly something incomprehensible is certainly not necessarily meaningless. However, I think it can be useful to consider the difference between something being incomprehensible because not yet comprehended (or not able to be comprehended by us but certainly able to be comprehended by someone/something even if only God) and something being incomprehensible because there is nothing else to it, no large story or picture in which it fits or is meant to fit. I'm playing with pushing against the basic metaphysical dogma that everything fits together into a coherent picture at some level. Perhaps there just is no coherent picture, full stop.