A Hypertext Edition of Charles Hoy Fort's Book
Edited and Annotated by Mr. X
FLOWS of blood from "holy images" --
I take for a proposition that, though nothing can be proved -- because, if all phenomenal things are continuous, there is, in a final sense, nothing phenomenal -- anything can be said to be proved -- because, if all phenomenal things are continuous, the most preposterous nonsense must somewhere be linked with well-established beliefs. If I had the time for an extra job, I'd ask readers to think up loony theories, and send them to me, I'd pick out the looniest of all, and engage to find abundant data to make it reasonable to anybody who wanted to think it reasonable.
Once upon a time I thought that stories of flows of blood from "holy images" were as ridiculous as anything that I had ever read in any astronomical, or [65/66] geological textbook, or in any treatise upon economics or mechanics.
Well, then, what happened?
It occurred to me that stories of flows of blood from "holy images" are assimilable with our general expressions upon teleportations. Whereupon, automatically, the formerly despised became the somewhat reasonable. Though now and then I am ill-natured with scientific methods, it is no pose of mine that I am other than scientific, myself, in our expressions. I am tied down like any college professor or Zulu wise man.
As a start-off, I suggest that if we accept that flows of water ever have appeared at points in objects, called "houses," a jolt is softened, and we pass easily into thinking that other fluids may have appeared at points in other objects, called "holy images." The jolt is softened still more, if we argue that other fluids did appear at points in the object, called a "house," at Swanton-Novers.
There may be Teleportation, and maybe for ages the secret of it has been known by esoteric ones. It may be that priests, especially in the past, when, sociologically, they were of some possible use, have known how to teleport a red fluid, or blood, to points upon images. They may have been "agents," able to do this, without knowing how they got their effects. If I can accept that our whole existence is an organism, I can accept that, if by so-called miracles, its masses of social growths can best be organized and kept co-ordinated, then appear so-called miracles. The only flaw that I note in this argument is that it overlooks that there is no need for miracles. If there is a need for belief in miracles, miracles can be said to have occurred.
We shall have an expression in terms of some of the other of our expressions. If we arrange the ideas of [66/67] it neatly, if not nattily, no more will be required to impress anybody who would like to be impressed.
Out in open fields there have been mysterious, or miraculous, showers of water. Then has appeared the seeming "agency" of human beings, and similar showers have occurred in houses --
Out in open places, there are electrical manifestations, and they are known as "lightning." The general specializes, and human beings use electricity, in their houses, or in images that are called "machines." Or we'd say that electricians are trained "agents" in the uses of lightning.
Out in open places there have been flows of a red liquid.
In La Nature, Sept. 25, 1880, Prof. J. Brun, of the University of Geneva, writes that, near Djebel-Sekra, Morocco, he had heard rumors of a fall of blood from the sky.(1) He visited the place of the reported phenomenon. He says that, to his stupefication, he found rocks and vegetation covered with scales of a red, shining material. Examining specimens under a microscope, he found them composed of minute organisms, which he tells us were Protococcus fluvialis.
The identification may be doubted. I don't like it. The ease with which any writer can pick to pieces any statement made by anybody who is not present to bandy delusions with him is becoming tiresome, but if I will write a book, I will write it triumphantly.
So this identification may be doubted. First we note that Prof. Brun says that, instead of having the features of the Algae that he had named, these organisms were simple, or undifferentiated. To explain this appearance, the Professor, who had perhaps recovered from his stupefication, says that the things were young ones. But an aggregation exclusively of young Protococci is as extraordinary as would be a vast assemblage, [67/68] say filling Central Park, New York, of human infants, without a sign of a parent.
The explanation sublimates segregationism. It attributes to a grab, an exquisite discrimination. Somewhere in a swamp, said Prof. Brun, there were hosts of Protococci -- venerable ones, middle-aged ones, and their brats -- or "all sizes," as he worded it. Along came a whirlwind. Carrying away all the minute organisms, this big rough disturbance removed with microscopic fastidiousness, old Protococci from young Protococci, according to differences in specific gravity. It cast down at one place all the bereft parents, and precipitated, at Djebel-Sekra, a rain of little, red orphans.
When we recover from the sadness into which this tragedy cast us, we reflect that of all organisms, red blood-cells are of the simplest, or least differentiated. Anyway, here is an orthodox scientist who accepted that a red fluid did fall from the sky. I have about a dozen other records of showers of red fluids that were not rains coloured by dusts. Upon several of these occasions the substance was identified as blood.
Or that once upon a time, or once upon an archaic time, there came to this earth, along arterial paths in space, red flows of a primitive plasm that deluged continents, and out of which, by the plan, purpose, guidance, or design that governs developments in all organisms, higher forms of life developed --
And that maybe this mechanism has not altogether ceased, so that to this day, but in a vestigial sense, or in a very much dwindled representation, such flows are continuing --
And that, if human beings ever have had "agency" in directing such flows, that is only a specialization of the general.
Once upon a time, it was the fashion with those of us who say that they are of the enlightened, to reject [68/69] all stories of the "Miracles at Lourdes." The doctors had much to do with this rejection. Somewhere behind everything that everybody believes, or disbelieves, is somebody's pocket. But now, as to those "miracles," the explanation of auto-suggestion is popular. Some of us who were not interested are beginning to think. The tendency that I point out is that of so often rejecting both data and an explanation, simply because one rejects an explanation. Many of our data are in this position of phenomena at Lourdes. Explanations have been taken over by theologians, or by spiritualists, and scientists, instead of opposing this usurpation, have denied the data. Whether it is only because I now want so to accept, or not, I now accept that the phenomenon of the stigmata, or flows of blood from points upon living images, has occurred.
Most likely those who deny the phenomenon of the stigmata are those who have not read, or have not recently read, the story of Louise Lateau, for instance. One would have to be of a very old-fashioned resistfulness not to accept this story, half an hour after reading it. For the latest instance, that of Theresa Neumann, of the village of Konnersreuth, near Munich, Germany, see the New York Times, April 18, 1928.(2) In recent years, several cases have been reported, in the United States. Flows of blood from points in living images lead us to flows of blood from points in graven images. If one accepts the phenomenon of the stigmata, I don't know that acceptance is monstrously stretched by transferring the idea from bodies to statues.
"On Saturday (Aug. 21st, 1920) all statues and holy pictures, in the home of Thomas Dwan, of Templemore, Tipperary, Ireland, began to bleed." See newspapers of Aug. 24th.
A boy, James Walsh, a devout youngster, aged six- [69/70] teen, was the center of the reported phenomena, at Templemore. Perhaps the bleeding statues and pictures were trickeries of his.
All boys and girls are little rascals. This is a generalization that one can feel somewhat nearly sure of, until it is examined. Then, because of continuity, we find that we can not define boys and girls, because no definite line can be drawn between youngsters and adults. Also rascality and virtue merge. Well, without arguing, I say that if all the boys and girls who appear in our records were rascals, they were most expert little rascals.
"Towns in terror -- terrible bloodshed -- bombs and burnings -- shocking series of murders -- hellish vandalism -- brutality and terrorism -- hangings, ambushes, raids."
Whatever the association may be, I note conditions in Ireland, at this time.
Here is one newspaper heading, telling of occurrences of one day -- "Reign of terror in Ireland -- terrible massacre -- appalling loss of life -- holocaust -- bloodshed and horror."
Five days before the phenomena at Templemore were first reported, this town was raided. The Town Hall was burned down, and other buildings were destroyed. Templemore was terrorized. All shops were closed. Few persons dared to be seen in the streets. On the road to Templemore there was not a cart. The town was partly in ruins. It was god-forsaken and shilling-and-pence-deserted.
I take from the Tipperary Star:(3)
"In Dwan's house, and in the house of his sister-in-law, Mrs. Maher, where lived and worked the young man, James Walsh, statues started to bleed simultaneously."
This news sneaked up and down the roads. Its car- [70/71] riers were stealths amidst desolation and ruin. Then they scurried from farm to farm, and people were coming out from their homes. They went to Templemore to see. Then they went in droves. The roads began to hum. Sounds of tramping and the creaking of wheels -- men and horses and primitive old carts and slickest of new cars from cities -- it was mediaevalism honked with horns -- or one of the crusades, with chariots slinging out beer bottles -- and anachronism is just one more of the preposterous errors of Life, Nature, or an Organism, or whomever, or whatever may be the artist that does these things. The roads began to roar. Strings of people became ropes of marching thousands. Hope and curiosity, piety, and hilarity, and the incentive to make it a holiday: out for the fun of it, out to write letters to the newspapers, exposing the fakery of it, out to confirm religious teachings -- but maybe all this can not be explained in terms only of known human feelings: it was as enormous as some of the other movements of living things that I shall tell of. Then the news that was exciting Ireland was going out to the world.
The terror that chanting processions were threading may have had relation with these rhythms of marchers. They were singing their song of the long, long way, and then arriving shiploads took up the song. Messrs. Cook, the tourist agents, sent inquiries as to whether the inns of Templemore could provide for 2,000 pilgrims from England. Scotchmen and Englishmen and Frenchmen -- tourist agencies in the United States, European countries, and Japan sent inquiries. Waves that billowed from this excitement beat upon Table Mountain, South Africa, and in the surf that fell upon Cape Town, people bobbed into a Committee that was sent to investigate. Drops of blood from a statue in Ireland -- and a trickle of turbans down a [71/72] gangway at Bombay -- a band of pilgrims set out from Bombay. I am far from making a religion of it, but whatever was directing all this would make hats come off at Hollywood. Also, whether somebody was monkeying with red ink, or not, is getting lost in the story. Because of a town that the world had never heard of, Paris and London were losing Americans.
Other phenomena, which may have been teleportations, were reported. In the earthen floor of the Walsh boy's room, a hollow, about the size of a teacup, filled with water. No matter how it was drained -- and thousands of persons took away quantities -- water, from an unknown source, always returned to this appearing point. The subject of "holy wells" occurs to me, as a field of neglected data. Everything that I can think of occurs to me as a field of disregard and neglect. Statues in Walsh's room bled -- that's the story -- and, as in poltergeist doings -- or as in other poltergeist doings -- objects moved about in an invisible force.
I take notice of these stories of objects that moved in the presence of a boy, because scarcely can it be said that they were of value to priestcraft, and it can be said that they are common in accounts of occult phenomena of adolescence. I now offer as satisfactory an expression upon phenomena at Templemore, as has ever been conceived of by human mind. A Darwin writes a book about species. By what constitutes a species? He does not know. A Newton explains all things in terms of gravitation. But what is gravitation? But he has stopped. I explain the occurrences at Templemore in terms of poltergeist phenomena. Any questions? But I claim scientific license for myself, too.
Marvellous cures were reported at Templemore. What teleportations have to do with cures, I don't [72/73] see: but I do see that if people believe that any marvel, such as a new arrival at a Zoo, has curative powers, there will be a pile of crutches outside the cage of that thing.
Walkers, bicyclists, motor cars, donkey carts, lorries, charabancs, wheelbarrows with cripples in them: jaunting cars, special trains rushing from Dublin. Some of the quietest old towns were in uproars. Towns all around and towns far away were reporting streets resounding with tramping thousands. There were not rooms enough in the towns. From storms of people, drifts slept on door steps. Templemore, partly in ruins, stood black in the center of a wide growth of tents. This new city, mostly of tents, was named Pilgrimsville.
I have not taken up definite accounts of the bleeding statutes. See statements published in various issues of the Tipperary Star. They are positively convincing, or they are fairy stories for grown up brats. I could fill pages, if I wanted to, but that would imply that I think there is any meaning in solemn assertions, or in sworn testimony, with hands on Bibles. For instance, I have notes upon an account by Daniel Egan, a harness-maker of Templemore, of blood that he had seen oozing from a statue -- but this statement may be attributed to a sense of civic responsibility. He would be a bad citizen who would testify otherwise, considering the profit that was flowing into Templemore. The town's druggist, a man of what is said to be education, stated that he had seen the phenomena. He was piling up a fortune from people who had caught bad colds, sleeping in the fields. I suppose that some of them had come devoutly from far away, but had begun to sneeze, and had back-slid from piety to pills. However, something that I can not find a hint of is that either Dwan or the Mahers charged admission. At first, people were [73/74] admitted in batches of fifty, somebody, holding a watch, saying, every five minutes: "Time, please!" Soon Dwan and the Mahers placed the statues in windows, for all to see. There were crowds all day, and torchlight processions moved past these windows all night.
The blood that was shed in Ireland continued to pour from human beings: but the bleeding statues stopped, or statements that statues were bleeding stopped. However, wherever the water was coming from, it continued to flow from the appearing-point in the Walsh boy's room. In the Tipperary Star, Sept. 25, the estimate is that, in about one month, one million persons had visited Pilgrimsville. To some degree the excitement kept up, the rest of the year.(4)
They were threading terror with their peaceful processions. They marched through "a terrible toll of bloodshed -- wild scenes at Nenagh -- the Banshaw Horror." Past burned and blackened fields in which corpses were lying, streamed these hundreds of thousands: chanting their song of the long, long way; damning the farmers, who were charging them two shillings apiece for hard-boiled eggs; praying, raiding chicken houses, telling their beads, stealing bicycles. "Mr. John McDonnell gave a pilgrim a lift, and was robbed of 250."
But one of these detachments enters a town. In another street, a man runs from a house -- "My God! I'm shot!" Not far away -- the steady tramping pilgrims. These flows of beings are as mysterious as the teleportations of substances. They may mean an organic control, or maintenance of balance, even in a part that is diseased with bombs and ambuscades and arson.
But it is impossible, except to the hopelessly pious, to consider, with anything like veneration, any such [74/75] maintenance of a balance, because, if a god of order be conceived of, also is he, or it, a god of murder.
But, regarded aesthetically, sometimes there are effects that are magnificent.
"Bloody Sunday in the County Cork!" But, upon this day, somewhere upon every road in Ireland, is maintained a rhythm.
Somewhere, a lorry of soldiers is moving down a road. Out of bushes
come bullets, and the sides of the car are draped with a droop of dead
men. Not far away, men and women and children are marching. Along the roads
of distracted Ireland -- steady pulsations of people and people and people.
1. J. Brun. "Sur une pluie de sang au Maroc." Nature (Paris), 1880, 2 (September 25): 262-3.
2. "Girl stigmatic again draws crowds." New York Times, April 8, 1928, s.1 p.5 c.5-6.
3. "Astounding sensations." Tipperary Star and Midland Advertiser, (Thurles), August 28, 1920, p.3 c.3-7. "Templemore - A miracle," and, "Templemore thrills." Tipperary Star and Midland Advertiser, August 28, 1920, p.4 c.4-5. "15,000. Templemore pilgrims." Tipperary Star and Midland Advertiser, September 4, 1920, p.4 c.1. "Sensational robbery." Tipperary Star and Midland Advertiser, September 4, 1920, p.5 c.6. "Templemore thrills." Tipperary Star and Midland Advertiser, September 4, 1920, p.6 c.1.
"Templemore thrills." Tipperary Star and Midland Advertiser, September 11, 1920, p.3 c.4-5. "The bleeding statues." Tipperary Star and Midland Advertiser, September 18, 1920, p.4 c.2. "Templemore miracles," and, "Templemore thrills." Tipperary Star and Midland Advertiser, September 18, 1920, p.3 c.5-6. "The great pilgrimage." Tipperary Star and Midland Advertiser, September 25, 1920, p.4 c.1.
4. "The great pilgrimage." Tipperary Star and Midland Advertiser (Thurles), September 25, 1920, p.4 c.1.
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