June 1, 2017

This is The Liminal

In a small, cramped apartment, an unknown, middle-aged researcher sat at his desk, frustrated.

It was 1915. He’d already written two books, but no one had shown them any interest. The one man who still believed he had a book in him worth writing had urged him to write the words he was afraid to write. The stuff he believed was true, even if the world wasn’t ready to hear it. His friend knew him and what he was about, and he’d promised to find a way for that book. So the researcher took out his pen and threw caution to the wind.

Trusting his friend, he scrawled these lines:

A procession of the damned. By the damned, I mean the excluded.

We shall have a procession of data that Science has excluded.

Battalions of the accursed, captained by pallid data that I have exhumed, will march. You’ll read them — or they’ll march. Some of them livid and some of them fiery and some of them rotten.

Some of them are corpses, skeletons, mummies, twitching, tottering, animated by companions that have been damned alive. There are giants that will walk by, though sound asleep. There are things that are theorems and things that are rags: they’ll go by like Euclid arm in arm with the spirit of anarchy.

But many are of the highest respectability.

The power that has said to all these things that they are damned is Dogmatic Science.

But they’ll march.”

It’s the first episode and I’ve already subjected you to my very, very amateurish voice acting. Please forgive me.

And yes, welcome to The Liminal. Today on the podcast, well, it’s an introduction the show, and an introduction to the unknown.

The Liminal is a place in between. For our purposes, it’s a place in between the reality we know, and the rest of reality. The things we feel, the things we sense, the things we wonder about, the things we’ve heard whispered about, the things we’re afraid to talk about. Not because they’re scary, really. Sure, some of them might be. But because we’re afraid of sounding crazy.

This is the first episode of a program I hope will be a starting point on a journey toward a greater understanding of our uncharted reality. And at the very least, it’s a place where you’ll be able to hear conversations about strange and mysterious things and remain safely in the closet of belief, if you’d like to. No one will have to know that you’re listening. It’ll just be between you and me.

Sometimes I’ll tell you a story. Other times, I’ll invite a guest to join us in a conversation. But the goal of every episode will be to push on that boundary of understanding that surrounds us all. Regardless of what we may believe to be true, sometimes it’s the things we assume aren’t true that the greatest potential to change our lives.

That was certainly true of Charles Fort, for whom, as we heard just a few moments ago, the damned will march.

Though embellished by the language of his time, the central point that began Fort’s manifesto, which he called The Book of the Damned, was simple: he believed that the age of reason had not only extinguished superstition and flights of fancy, but the very will to explore the unknown.

For Forte, the unknown was everywhere, crying out not just for explanation, but simple acknowledgment. His three major published works — all of which he wrote from that cramped apartment in the Bronx, kept afloat by a modest inheritance — comprise a thousand pages of research and speculation into an incredible array of phenomena. He writes of

unexplained aerial sightings, flying wheels, strange noises from the sky, connections between volcanic activity and the weather, falls of red snow, falls of frogs, fish, worms, and shells; irregular comet passages, sightings on the moon and mars, strange footprints, poltergeists, cryptozoology , spontaneous combustion, the Jersey Devil

Basically, a list of X-Files episodes, and all of which, today, tend to be referred to as Fortean, after the man who spent a lonely life in the fringe of a modern understanding of reality, gathering notes, checking references, making connections, and documenting his research.

More than a century after Fort began The Book of the Damned, there are many more like him, but in his words, they, like the information they seek, are no less damned than they were in his time.

Honestly, plenty of words would probably have been just as suitable, if not better, than damned — ignored, maybe, or as he points out, excluded. Both work. When it comes to even entertaining the notion that all is not as it seems — that there might be life after death, undiscovered places, unseen forces, incorporeal entities, untethered minds, or a grander order than the known laws of physics — there are surely some dogmatic scientists out there who would happily damn believers in any of it. But then, they’d have a hard time finding a place to damn them to. For them, these bodies and this spinning globe are all we’ve got.

But for many of us, that’s not enough. We sense that there is more. And we want it. Even when it frightens us. We still are drawn out toward the outer reaches of what we know because to wonder and to explore are one of the primal instincts of the conscious mind.

So that’s what we’ll do here.

I hope you’ll join me next time for another foray into the mysterious. Until then, find us at theliminal.co and follow us on Twitter @liminalco.

This episode was brought to you by me, Christopher Butler. Thanks to Kid Cholera and Opsound.org for our theme music. You can find more of Kid Cholera’s stuff at choleramusic.nihilus.net.

From my little booth in Durham, North Carolina, this is Chris Butler, signing off.


podcast charles fort


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