Charles Fort

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My liveliest interest is not so much in things, as in relations of things. I have spent much time thinking about the alleged pseudo-relations that are called coincidences. What if some of them should not be coincidences?
I conceive of nothing, in religion, science, or philosophy, that is more than the proper thing to wear, for a while.

Charles Hoy Fort (August 6, 1874May 3, 1932) was a writer and researcher into anomalous phenomena.

Sourced[edit]

The fate of all explanation is to close one door only to have another fly wide open.

The Book of The Damned (1919)[edit]

The Book of The Damned (1919) online PDF at Google Books
  • A procession of the damned.
    By the damned, I mean the excluded.
    We shall have a procession of data that Science has excluded.
    • Ch. 1
  • 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.
    • Ch. 1
  • It is our expression that the flux between that which isn't and that which won't be, or the state that is commonly and absurdly called "existence," is a rhythm of heavens and hells: that the damned won't stay damed; that salvation only precedes perdition.
    • Ch. 1
  • Venus de Milo. To a child she is ugly. When a mind adjusts to thinking of her as a completeness, even though, by physiologic standards, incomplete, she is beautiful.
    • Ch. 1
  • But Truth is that besides which there is nothing: nothing to modify it, nothing to question it, nothing to form an exception: the all-inclusive, the complete — By Truth, I mean the Universal.
    • Ch. 1
  • The outrageous is the reasonable, if introduced politely.
    • Ch. 2
  • The fittest survive.
    What is meant by the fittest?
    Not the strongest; not the cleverest —
    Weakness and stupidity everywhere survive.
    There is no way of determining fitness except in that a thing does survive.
    "Fitness," then, is only another name for "survival."
    Darwinism:
    That survivors survive.
    • Ch. 3
  • The fate of all explanation is to close one door only to have another fly wide open.
    • Ch. 3
  • Existence is Appetite: the gnaw of being; the one attempt of all things to assimilate to some higher attempt.
    • Ch. 5
  • My own pseudo-conclusion: That we've been damned by giants sound asleep, or by great scientific principles and abstractions that cannot realize themselves: that little harlots have visited their caprices upon us; that clowns, with buckets of water from which they pretend to cast thousands of good-sized fishes have anathematized us for laughing disrespectfully, because, as with all clowns, underlying buffoonery is the desire to be taken seriously; that pale ignorances, presiding over microscopes by which they cannot distinguish flesh from nostoc or fishes' spawn, have visited upon us their wan solemnities. We've been damned by corpses and skeletons and mummies, which twitch and totter with pseudo-life derived from conveniences.
    • Ch. 9
  • Would we if we could, educate and sophisticate pigs, geese, cattle? Would it be wise to establish diplomatic relations with the hen that now functions, satisfied with mere sense of achievement by way of compensation? I think we're property"
    • p156

Lo! (1931)[edit]

Lo! (1931), online text
If there is an underlying oneness of all things, it does not matter where we begin ... One measures a circle, beginning anywhere.
  • If there is an underlying oneness of all things, it does not matter where we begin, whether with stars, or laws of supply and demand, or frogs, or Napoleon Bonaparte. One measures a circle, beginning anywhere.
  • I believe nothing. I have shut myself away from the rocks and wisdoms of ages, and from the so-called great teachers of all time, and perhaps because of that isolation I am given to bizarre hospitalities. I shut the front door upon Christ and Einstein, and at the back door hold out a welcoming hand to little frogs and periwinkles. I believe nothing of my own that I have ever written. I cannot accept that the products of minds are subject-matter for beliefs. But I accept, with reservations that give me freedom to ridicule the statement at any other time, that showers of an edible substance that has not been traced to an origin upon this earth, have fallen from the sky, in Asia Minor.
    • Pt 1, Ch. 3; part of this has sometimes been misquoted as: "I cannot accept that the products of the mind are subject-matter for belief."
  • Witchcraft always has a hard time, until it becomes established and changes its name.
    We hear much of the conflict between science and religion, but our conflict is with both of these. Science and religion always have agreed in opposing and suppressing the various witchcrafts. Now that religion is inglorious, one of the most fantastic of transferences of worships is that of glorifying science, as a beneficent being. It is the attributing of all that is of development, or of possible betterment to science. But no scientist has ever upheld a new idea, without bringing upon himself abuse from other scientists. Science has done its utmost to prevent whatever science has done.
  • There are cynics who deny the existence of human gratitude. But it seems that I am no cynic. So convinced am I of the existence of gratitude that I see in it one of our strongest oppositions. There are millions of persons who receive favors that they forget: but gratitude does exist, and they've got to express it somewhere. They take it out by being grateful to science for all that science has done for them, a gratitude, which, according to their dull perceptions won't cost them anything. So there is economic indignation against anybody who is disagreeable to science. He is trying to rob the people of a cheap gratitude.
    I like a bargain as well as does anybody else, but I can't save expenses by being grateful to Science, if for every scientist who has perhaps been of benefit to me, there have been many other scientists who have tried to strangle that possible benefit.
    • Pt 1, Ch. 4
  • If any spiritualistic medium can do stunts, there is no more need for special conditions than there is for a chemist to turn down lights, start operations with a hymn, and ask whether there's any chemical present that has affinity with something named Hydrogen.

Wild Talents (1932)[edit]

Wild Talents (1932) online
  • My liveliest interest is not so much in things, as in relations of things. I have spent much time thinking about the alleged pseudo-relations that are called coincidences. What if some of them should not be coincidences?
  • Sometimes I am a collector of data, and only a collector, and am likely to be gross and miserly, piling up notes, pleased with merely numerically adding to my stores. Other times I have joys, when unexpectedly coming upon an outrageous story that may not be altogether a lie, or upon a macabre little thing that may make some reviewer of my more or less good works mad. But always there is present a feeling of unexplained relations of events that I note, and it is this far-away, haunting, or often taunting, awareness, or suspicion, that keeps me piling on.
  • Everywhere is the tabooed, or the disregarded. The monks of science dwell in smuggeries that are walled away from event-jungles. Or some of them do. Nowadays a good many of them are going native.
  • I conceive of nothing, in religion, science, or philosophy, that is more than the proper thing to wear, for a while.
    • Ch. 22; sometimes paraprhased "I can conceive of nothing, in religion, science or philosophy, that is anything more than the proper thing to wear, for a while."
  • My general expression is that all human beings who can do anything; and dogs that track unseen quarry, and homing pigeons, and bird-charming snakes, and caterpillars who transform into butterflies, are magicians. … Considering modern data, it is likely that many of the fakirs of the past, who are now known as saints, did, or to some degree did, perform the miracles that have been attributed to them. Miracles, or stunts, that were in accord with the dominant power of the period were fostered, and miracles that conflicted with, or that did not contribute to, the glory of the Church, were discouraged, or were savagely suppressed. There could be no development of mechanical, chemical, or electric miracles —
    And that, in the succeeding age of Materialism — or call it the Industrial Era — there is the same state of subservience to a dominant, so that young men are trained to the glory of the job, and dream and invent in fields that are likely to interest stockholders, and are schooled into thinking that all magics, except their own industrial magics, are fakes, superstitions, or newspaper yarns.
  • "Every science is a mutilated octopus. If its tentacles were not clipped to stumps, it would feel its way into disturbing contacts.”
    • p279
  • Against all the opposition in the world, I make this statement — that once I knew a magician. I was a witness of a performance that may some day be considered understandable, but that, in these primitive times, so transcends what is said to be the known that it is what I mean by magic.
    • Speaking of a dog's homing skills, in Ch. 27
  • I have taken the stand that nobody can be always wrong, but it does seem to me that I have approximated so highly that I am nothing short of a negative genius.
    • Ch. 27


Misattributed[edit]

  • If there is a universal mind, must it be sane?
    • This has become widely attributed to Fort, but originates with Damon Knight, who in Charles Fort : Prophet of the Unexplained (1970) used the expression to sum up the nature of some of Fort's ideas or inquiries.

Quotes about Fort[edit]

  • As a humorist-scientist, Fort both aligns himself with all scientists, making them guilty by association with him — they are quacks too, anyone driven to belief by a system is a quack — and he always leaves himself a few curious exits.
    • Paul Mann in Masocriticism (1999)
  • A patron of cranks ...[throughout his work runs] the feeling that no matter how honest scientists think they are, they are still influenced by various unconscious assumptions that prevent them from attaining true objectivity. Expressed in a sentence, Fort's principle goes something like this: People with a psychological need to believe in marvels are no more prejudiced and gullible than people with a psychological need not to believe in marvels.

External links[edit]

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