Some thoughts on Charles Forts ‘book of the damned’


“So, by the damned, I mean the excluded.
But by the excluded I mean that which will some day be the excluding.
Or everything that is, won’t be.
And everything that isn’t, will be
But, of course, will be that which won’t be” – Charles Fort

charles FortOne of more weird things that I found worth re-reading in the light of my year of demodernisation (and that probably also fits with my occultmergent series) is Charles Forts ‘book of the damned’ (PDF here, copyright is expired), a classic pioneering work in the field of the paranormal and so-called ‘anomalistics’. His work on this field is so important that the word ‘Fortean’ is sometimes used to refer to weird paranormal stuff..
The ‘book of the damned’ is his first and most known book. It’s a mind-stretching book that -although somewhat outdated from time to time and quite hard to read from time to time- I would recommend to anyone who wants to broaden his mind.

I must add that the most recommended parts are the introducing chapters. I can’t even remember if i read everything at all of the  rest even. He seems so obsessed with strange things falling out of the sky (frogs, fishes, black rain, organic matter, …) that it gets hard to follow why anyone would be that interesting in such things, even with the weird theorising in between that is quite amusing… I’ll let you find out for yourself what the super-sargasso-sea is…

Some of my readers will ask ‘Why on the third planet would anyone benefit from reading an old weird book about the paranormal?’ My first answer would be that it does always benefit one to read things that stretch your paradigm, from the myths of other cultures to outlandish philosophers, and the first part of this book surely reads as some of the more outlandish philosophers I’ve seen, and sometimes he’s equally hard to understand. Even though it’s never completely clear if Fort does believe everything he’s theorising himself, his philosophical framework is rather radical but very intelligent although not always that easy to get into, a weird form of monist thought.
Fort is equally interesting as much philosophers that made the ‘canon’, but I do see why he isn’t regarded as such. He’s not the kind of heretic that”s liked by the academic lovers of  their pet heresies. He is just too consciously anti-academic for that… But this is exactly why he is so interesting as a philosopher. Sometimes one has to look outside of the box to see what’s special about the things inside, and how we shouldn’t take anything inside for granted.  Fort, although writing in the modern time,  is very helpful in this regard. Although maybe a bit gaga sometimes…

But why I enjoy reading him is also for his weird writing style, his self-decaprivating humor and his weird and original lines of thought sometimes. Fort is a very good example of a real ‘free thinker’: not bound by any tradition, going against the grain of the zeitgeist and all orthodoxies of his time (he rails a lot against positivism for example)  And like all real free thinkers who use their own reading and make their won road by walking around with a machete instead of  taking a bus for tourists he might be wrong very often, but that doesn’t mean that his very original ways of thinking are not interesting… (Another really free thinker is the Christian anarchist Ammon Hennacy, whose autobiography can be read here, I recommend it too!)

What’s also very interesting in the thought of Fort, if we go to the content of his book, is the concept of ‘the damned’ that is so central to the book that it’s  used in the title. Those ‘damned’ are, like the opening makes clear quote, the excluded things that don’t fit in, in his book mainly the data that do not fit in the dominant scientific paradigm that are for that reason ignored and have no place at all. The ‘damned’ are the things that have no place in a worldview, that are unthought, that cannot exist even if they do and are therefore ignored. If they are encountered they get filed away because they cannot be processed. This is a very important concept that we don’t often think about.

I can not here for example that some things that Christians traditionally believe and practice have been reduced to ‘damned’ by the  current Zeitgeist, and even by some Christians. A lot of what is common in charismatic circles when it comes to the supernatural for example is ‘damned’ for example not just by modern scientific thought but also by a lot of more liberal Christians,  (and some cessationist for other reasons, but cessationism can very easily be halfway to liberalism or deism even). Everything supernatural is ‘damned’ for a lot of modern people, even so that those who do experienced are sometimes more or less gaslighted: My tradition says that science says that your experience is unvalid and that you might just be not only wrong but crazy if you don’t recant your ‘damned’ worldview… (My experience is that a lot of ’emergent’ Christians that I met online react the same way on the supernatural. I guess that’s why I was the first to ever use the word ‘occultmergent’.)
A crucified messiah is an example of the ‘damned’ from the first century that was excluded but later on became excluding (not always in the best way. A resurrected Christ is the same now again for a lot of people.

Even the ‘box’ outside of which Fort moved was once damned: The then new science of experiment and observation (against which Fort rails a lot in his book, sometimes with reason and sometimes like a madman fighting mills that he things are giants) was excluded once and is now excluding.

Things that were excluding in the past are damned now.

There are much more examples of ‘the damned’ that we probably don’t see because we don’t have a frame of reference to notice them. Blinds spots in how we look at the world because we never have learned to see certain things and name them. Some of those things might be very important though…

(And as Christians we must ask the Spirit to open our eyes to the blind spots that come with being part of a certain culture and time. It is the task of prophets sometimes to put some of the damned in the light and give them their place back…)

peace

Bram

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3 responses to “Some thoughts on Charles Forts ‘book of the damned’

  1. Hello, Bram! Mike Morrell asked me to contact you because he really appreciates your blog and thinks you’d be an excellent candidate for his Speakeasy Blogger Network. Do you like to review off-the-beaten path faith, spirituality, and culture books? Speakeasy puts interesting books in your hands at no charge to you. You only get books when you request them, and it’s free to join. Sign up here, if you’d like: http://thespeakeasy.info

  2. Pingback: Charles Fort as the ultimate free thinker. | Brambonius' blog in english

  3. Pingback: “Welcome to my Book of the Damned!” | Brambonius' blog in english

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