It seemed as if things couldn't get any more riveting. Then, something happened beside the government-owned radio telescope facility at Chilbolton, Hampshire.
Two glyphs appeared beside each other, on land supposedly owned by the Ministry of Defense: the first comprised diminishing-sized dots- like the halftone screen used in the printing industry- which from an angle – and from a long distance – created the image of a face. A few hundred yards away lay a more bizarre design, this time resembling the punch holes on an old-fashioned computer data card. But these dots meant something, for the image resembled the Arecibo message sent into space by NASA in 1974. 'Arecibo' was a radio communication beamed in binary sequence which, when retrieved at the 'other end', recreated an image of a human figure and the codes related to human DNA.
Clever? Yes. But genuine? Well, for starters, both formations were appalingly very messy on the ground. And they were constructed over three days, a far cry from genuine crop circles, which manifest in a matter of seconds, according to many eyewitnesses and one video clip from 1989.
Historically, the Circlemakers (not to be confused with hoaxers Team Satan/circlemakers) have worked with subtle messages which require us to ponder over for some time; their geometries are intricate, sometimes veiled, and work on harmonic principles. Most important of all, the crop circles have generally appealed to the heart - to the feeling centre of humanity. None of these designs fit the bill, in fact, by any length of the imagination, they are crude and obvious.
Conversely, every season we are offered new images which further our understanding of the phenomenon, and each season brings something new and unexpected. And yet the unexpected appeared pretty much at the start of 2001 with the shield designs. These subsequently developed into human art as the season progressed. To quote Abbott Suger, 'Art without meaning is nothing', and as of the time of writing little meaning has been gleaned from this year's designs except wonder. This is in sharp contrast to previous years where the intellectual deciphering process has worked at a fairly brisk pace. The information gathered and extracted from thirty years' worth of crop circles is certainly enviable; for example, they have yielded the measurements for three speeds of light! Perhaps we simply haven't got the message, in which case are we being given more obvious imagery to work with this year?
Or perhaps someone with a pretty devious mind - and a seemingly deep pocket - is waiting for enough people to be taken in by seemingly incredible designs - such as these Chilbolton glyphs - before dropping everyone into a well-orchestrated hoax. Could a well-funded, well-organized group, perhaps with military connections, together with their media allies be desperately trying one last effort at sabotage? It has been done before with Doug and Dave, even if in the end their deception was exposed. With 2002 promising to be a feast for crop circles documentaries and films (and my book), this would seem an opportune time to pull the carpet from under the subject, even if in the end the forces of detraction will only be fooling themselves.
I recall a similar debate in 1991, when an obvious computer image - the 'Mandelbrot Set' - appeared as a crop circle near Cambridge. At the time, scientists and academics scoffed at the notion of 'space brothers' being responsible, and yet this computer fractal was discovered to have been sufficiently clipped to encode obscure information not present in the computer model. Could the same situation exist in the 'Arecibo' crop glyph, particularly as the design appears to have been altered to encode a message which differs from the original NASA script. My colleague Paul Vigay has spent much time investigating this angle and you can read his research on Decoding Arecibo on his excellent web site. Again, it is worth keeping an open mind, and just because such designs do nothing for me, you are perfectly entitled to think otherwise. That's what makes this subject so interesting.
Ultimately, the crop circles appeal to the heart, and that is something no science can ever measure. They get us to feel rather than to think. Perhaps we simply do too much thinking and not enough feeling, and that is why so much argument rages over authenticity. Sure, there ought to be safeguards and litmus tests, and in many cases these have existed for some time. And yet, having researched crop circles since the early nineties I have come to the view that all the time spent on analysis simply takes away from the time to enjoy the spectacle, and in the end, if your senses are awake you will know if a crop circle originates from the compassionate breath of God or the crafty hand of deception.
I wish to end on this positive note, because ultimately this is a positive phenomenon, one which has opened the hearts of millions of people around the world. Ironically, in Cambridgeshire appeared a crop circle which seems to have appealed to the heart of many; it's been dubbed 'the angel' in view of the beams radiating from its heart (above left).
One of the lessons I've gained from this year's crop circles is to remind myself not to rely on what I see, but what I feel. And right now in the world, this is where the imbalance lies. As the world becomes ever more embroiled in extremism, retribution, fast food and spreadsheets, it also becomes wrapped up in its symbols and images, and so it mistakes these symbols for reality instead of the reality that lies behind the symbols. As a former Creative Director in advertising I am only too aware of how the public's psychology has slowly been brainwashed by symbols, whether they represent organizations, idols, or heads of government. People have bought into the exterior dazzle of the symbol, the superficiality of the meaning. Yet behind the symbol lies the substance, and sometimes that substance is nothing but an attempt to control, manipulate and dominate - qualities which are diametrically opposite to the underlying substance of crop circles, I hasten to add.
I have no problem admitting that a subtantial percentage of crop circles are now hoaxed. Some of them are obvious. But a hoax is a forgery, and a forgery requires an original from which to copy. After all the ground evidence has been collected, after all the biophysical proof has been gathered, after all the science and logic has been strung together to clearly prove we do have a real phenomenon on our hands, we are left with something far more powerful: what do you believe? Where do you feel a crop circle? The answer, of course, can only lie in the beholder, and so I encourage you not to follow what I've learnt, what I've experienced, but what this phenomenon means to you.
And perhaps this is what has been shown this season: don't get too caught up looking at the details, look instead at what lies inside the heart.
Text © Freddy Silva 2001