First published in Fortean Times, October 2000
First sit in your room and claim to be the maker of a known corn circle, although you have done nothing of the kind. The ideal concealment is non-involvement. Now stand well back and prepare to duck. Rationalists and scientists will comment, but don’t worry. As usual they will all sound like a bad patch in an Emma Bunton interview. So don’t be concerned. All such “factual” products can be mentally excreted as easily as Tellytubbies, Michael Barrymore, or the News at Ten (or whenever).
Allow the situation to simmer for one month. Now make one good circle, no more being necessary. You are allowed to practice to ensure being observed, and you may enlist help, if only to secure leaks, betrayals, and vast further confusions. Leave this mess on the back-burner for a week. In classical alchemy, it is called nigredo, or basic substance. Now lay claim to this circle and wait for the counter-hoaxes to appear. Don’t be frightened by the fierce faces of the entities you have raised. They are only explanations. Have some pity. Everyone knows in their heart of hearts that the clapboard structure of “factual objectivity” is as phoney as a Tony Blair smile, a Pentagon denial, or silicon tits. Appreciate that people want to get some sleep at night. And they can only do that when 20-thousand-mph right-angled turns recorded on the radar are transformed into migrating crows. This done, your life starts to get interesting. The first set of screaming counter-denials arrive. Highly intelligent serial killers write to you from Death Row and Parkhurst. Better stand even further back and wear body armour.
Now go back in the kitchen and carefully withdraw the first claim. Say it was a hoax. Say you are an “artist”; have been all along. Sighs of relief all round and red faces from the Pelican crowd. This time you are proud, and show those bourgeois instincts that The Guardian will love, if no-one else. All is revealed: you are an avant-garde landscape action-painter and just wanted to see the wonder of the theories your complex deceptions might give rise to. You are rendered harmless again. Everybody is happy, except the scientists, who due to all lack of a proper education, have absolutely no idea of what you’re talking about. But Dad swells with pride and Mum puts you back into her Will on accepting that it was all about a most superior kind of very clever entertainment.
But the sceptics (who do have an idea of what you’re talking about) remain suspicious. But nevertheless, your pseudo-explanation of “artist” has worked. This explanation of explanations is one of the finest illusions you have made.
Meantime more scientists, sceptics, and rationalists arrive on site. This time they all sound like the live piano music which used to accompany the silent Charlie Chaplin films. This time their flickering jumpy frames produce rutting hedgehogs, “earthlights,” and farting herrings. Change your name, avoid Wiltshire pubs and all women who look like Joan Bakewell’s elder sister.
As a rising star, your agent writes to tell Magonia magazine they are going to be sued for an article in which you were accused of being a complete impostor. Meantime, your agent gets you a Melvin Bragg interview in which such things as complete impostors do not matter. On Melvin’s programme, you reveal great knowledge of chaos mathematics and deconstruction. You tell him that you are now beginning to experience the double benefit of seeing almost false theories arise from possible falsehoods sponsored in turn by almost certain falsehoods. Melvin’s jaw drops as you state that all this could lead to a calculus of falsehoods whose general solutions were first derived by Fort, Borges, and Hunt Emerson. The draw drops further as you mention the Benveniste experiments and Cold Fusion. Poor pre-electric Melvin doesn’t know what you’re talking about, but as he shuffles back to novels about Jack and Jill in Hampstead, at least your agent gets your photo on the cover of The Face magazine.
Now wait for the Joker to arrive. This is the circle that was not made by any human beings. Though this circle is as crude as a parrot’s good morning, this time there are no explanations from anywhere. Its millions of stalks are tied in double bows; it has appeared in a frequented area within minutes; there are no less than three classic mutilations nearby, a laser-skinned puma, and a pelican which looks as if it has been put through a wind-tunnel. Also much good UFO footage has been obtained. Now wait for the abduction reports to come in.
Congratulations! You have succeeded in the great God-game. Life has emerged from the alchemical furnace of the varied spectrum of mass expectancy you have created. Don’t be depressed when the sceptics call it psycho-social. This means that the things we imagine come about. That makes sceptics into fellow-magicians, which of course you always knew they were. Now watch your system close itself. Watch the many shades of suggestion-bacillus you have created grow plausible web-like worlds. Now you know that if a belief-system is established, it will produce a cloned life which mimics those self-deceptions, mock-explanations, and double-bluffs within the self which we call thinking. And all this when you were preparing to switch on a continuous video loop of EastEnders just before you shot yourself. Through fraud and deception you have rediscovered theatre and media both. And it was all done by advertising in that prime time called consciousness. You have learned also that truth and reality are scandalous and disreputable beyond all conception.
But perhaps you have now reached the Star stage, where you are not concerned with such things. The Times has called you a modern shaman, Madonna has asked you for dinner, and Melvin has been on the phone asking what post-modern means. Bon appetit!