Crop Circles: a Beautiful Enigma

At the risk of being filed by some readers under F for flake, I feel compelled to address the issue of crop circles. It’s just too bizarre and mysterious to ignore. Most people have by now heard of these crop formations—”circles” doesn’t begin to describe most of them—and most are happy to put the story down to some eccentric folks having a good one on the rest of us. The information in this post may be familiar to those who’ve looked into this phenomenon. For that group this essay may offer a few interesting insights and perhaps a confirmation of what you already know or intuit to be true. Those less familiar with the crop circle phenomenon may find some thought-provoking information here. For those without the time to do a lot of reading on the topic, I’ve done the work for you and you’ll find a detailed yet concise summary below.

The connection may seem tenuous between crop circles and other topics addressed at the Returning to Sacred World website; such as shamanism, Buddhism, meditation, 2012 issues, and the sacred plants like ayahuasca, peyote, and psilocybin mushrooms. As I see it these topics are all inextricably bound together. There’s a consciousness transformation underway on this planet and most anything that points in that direction or aids in the manifestation of the vision is worth considering.

In any case, here’s what’s fascinating about the crop circle phenomenon. As much a brain-shock as it is to the modern conceptual framework, the fact is that if one makes even a relatively cursory examination of the available information, it’s very difficult for people with a corner of openness in their minds to fit the facts neatly into a box labeled “Made on the sly by human hands.” There may yet turn out to be some stunning rational explanation for these formations, but it hasn’t appeared yet—not by a long shot—and none of the so-called hoaxers have demonstrated that they can create anything remotely like the genuine article.

So why do I bring this up on a website devoted to the vision for enlightened society? For starters, the formations are often very beautiful when seen from the air, as with aerial photographs. Many are complex and sophisticated in concept and execution. Formations are populated with little-known symbols and obscure theorems based on Euclidian geometry. There have been large, accurate representations of complex mathematical configurations and fractal formulations like the Mandelbrot Set and the Julia Set. Five new mathematical theorems have been seen so far.

But beyond all that, there’s the distinct possibility that we’re being shown something remarkable here, something whose intent is to rattle our operating paradigms. Like the Tibetan Buddhist sand mandalas, the crop formations are created with no hope of permanency, celebrity, career advancement, or remuneration. They almost always arrive in the wee hours of the night when the crop is developed to just the right height and are erased by the farmer’s combine within days or weeks.

Perhaps they’re saying to us: “Look friends, here’s something lovely for you, something symbolic and maybe even information-laden, and you can’t explain it. We’re showing you in a playful fashion that what’s going on around here requires you to open up your reality framework. You need to wake up and see that the world is alive with information far more vast than you have allowed yourselves and each other to contemplate. The momentum of your misunderstanding has brought you to a precipice and now you need this information, you need to let down your guard and pay attention without prejudice. The future of the planet depends upon it.”

Without expanding this essay into a book on crop formations it would be impossible to do full justice to the complete picture. But perhaps I can tease you with a few facts that may lead you to question the quick dismissal of claims regarding the non-conventional genesis of these creations. There are numerous books, movies, websites and other sources of information created by people who have made a serious study of the phenomenon. What follows is a brief summary of some of the key facts involved.

The patterns are as large as 1,000 feet (about 300 meters) across.* They are made with great precision and often with incredible detail. Even the circles themselves are often slightly elliptical, a shape that is said to be much more difficult than an exact circle to measure and produce accurately. Just looking at some of the many crop formation photos available online would demonstrate their grandeur and precision far better than if I attempted to describe any of them here. One of the most telling pieces of evidence is that typically the plant stalks are not broken or crushed as would be the result of any kind of roller or vehicle moving over the field. According to one of the researchers, the stalks “appear to be subjected to a short and intense burst of heat which softens the stems to drop just above the ground at 90°, where they harden into their new and very permanent position without damage. Plant biologists are baffled by this feature…”1

Farmers have often seen steam rising from the laid-out stalks. Significant quantities of surface and subsurface water are found to have evaporated under the “floor.” Researchers have found distinct changes in temperature, composition, and crystalline structure in the soil and the crops within the formations. Close-up photos reveal elaborate swirling patterns in the laid-out stalks matching the fundamental vortex pattern found often in nature—for example with shells, sunflowers, and even galaxies. The swirled patterns have up to five interwoven layers of stalk within a radius of just a few feet.

A whole range of unusual events and phenomena have been associated with the formations. They alter the local electromagnetic field and result in the malfunction of a variety of equipment, including cellphones and cameras. Car batteries have been drained. Compasses are bewildered and can’t locate north. Odd lights have been seen by many night-watchers shortly before the patterns are discovered. There are frequent reports of headaches and other unusual pleasant and unpleasant physical and mental anomalies. The list goes on.

One of the features of crop formation creation most difficult for rational reductionists to explain away is the ways and means of their actual construction. Nothing is trampled. No one has ever been seen creating one that fits the profile of “genuine.” No equipment or other evidence has ever been inadvertently left behind. Many have camped around fields with a history of formations—video cameras and sound equipment trained on the field—but have found nothing and seen nobody, even when a new formation is discovered in the morning. The formations are usually created in the hours between 2 and 4 a.m. and a number of reports have shown that they are done very quickly. One well known example is that of a pilot who flew directly over the Stonehenge monument at dawn and spotted nothing whatsoever out of the ordinary. Fifteen minutes later another pilot flew the same route and clearly observed a massive pattern some 900 feet in diameter with a 149 individual circles.

A highly skilled and prepared team just might be able to replicate the general surface appearance of some of the formations—after many hours of exhaustive measurement and meticulous labor in broad daylight. But such activity has never been observed. And then they would be extremely hard-pressed to recreate the technique by which the stalks are bent without being broken or crushed, and would find it nearly as difficult—and immensely time-consuming—to interweave the stalks in such complex and precisely layered configurations. I challenge you to find the people who could and would design and create these elaborate and often very beautiful formations year after year in multiple locations without ever being caught or claiming authorship.

It’s an unsolved mystery at this point, and again, perhaps a jolt to our attachment to the rational, material conditioning so predominant in the modern world. As I’ve described in the book Returning to Sacred World and as reported by a great many of the Earth people and the new explorers of traditional spiritual paths and medicines, the world is alive and communicating with us in a great variety of forms. It’s time for humanity to come out of the caves of blinkered mechanistic perception and open up to the living intelligence reaching out to us and pulling us toward the truth of who we are and what we are capable of envisioning and accomplishing. I’ll give the last word here on this topic to Richard Tarnas:

“Above all, we must awaken to and overcome the great hidden anthropocentric projection that has virtually defined the modern mind: the pervasive projection of soullessness onto the cosmos by the self’s own will to power.“2

1. Freddy Silva,

2. Richard Tarnas, Cosmos and Psyche, 41

*The tram lines that mark the fields are said to be generally between 55 and 80 feet apart. The formation in the photo at the top of this post, as an example, would then be roughly between 170 and 250 feet in diameter. As I said, there are many photos available online and in some of them you can see people walking around. That gives you a sense of the scale.

Visionary Quotes

Note: I’ll be adding quotes here on an ongoing basis. Some may include commentary, like the article  “On Service and Cannabis,” which you can see by scrolling down a little farther on this page.

Scattered Bits of Wisdom:

“Genius is eternal patience.” Michelangelo

Only connect.” Somerset Maugham

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and go and do that. Because what the world needs is more people who have come alive.” Howard Thurman (I saw this on an email, don’t know the source)

“Since things neither exist nor do not exist, are neither real nor unreal, are utterly beyond adopting and rejecting – one might as well burst out laughing.” Tibetan Nyingmapa master – Longchenpa Rabjampa – C14th

“All thoughts vanish into emptiness, like the imprint of a bird in the sky.”  from the Sadhana of Mahamudra, by Chögyam Trungpa, 1968

“Emptiness  becomes luminosity.” Another Buddhist teaching I picked up from Chögyam Trungpa on the core truth that when we have been able to get out of our heads, emptying out the complex tapestry of beliefs and concepts we use to filter  “what is” and shape it into some imagined story we employ to protect ourselves, we may relax and open into emptiness. I take this statement as a reminder to have confidence in the emptying, faith that reality is in that direction and though the ride may get bumpy, emptiness becomes luminosity. I don’t honestly know if I know much about that luminosity. Something about experience feeling real and the crispness of that.

“Practice non-action. Work without doing. See simplicity in the complicated. Achieve greatness in small things. Lao Tzu

“Capitalism always was socialism for the rich.” Slavoj Zizek (from an interview on, Oct. 15/09)

In the aboriginal universe there is no past, present, or future. In not one of the hundreds of dialects spoken at the moment of contact was there a word for time. There is no notion of linear progression, no goal of improvement, no idealization of the possibility of change.”  Wade Davis, The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World, 2009, p. 158.

“holiness does not dissolve, it is a presence/ of bronze, only the sight that saw it/ faltered and turned from it./ An old joy returns in holy presence.” Dennis Levertov, from the poem Come into Animal Presence.

“All boundaries are conventions, waiting to be transcended. One may transcend any convention if only one can conceive of doing so.” from the movie “Cloud Atlas” (2012)

On Entheogens, cannabis included.

“Pot removes the clothing of the mind, the literal habits of thought. The panic when we resist is like holding on to the last garment being pulled off us. We are naked before pot, and what we see first is ourselves.” Jeremy Wolff, “Thots on Pot” p. 387 in The Pot Book, ed. by Julie Holland M.D. 2010

On Service and Cannabis: The following is from an interview in the Toronto Globe and Mail from September 17, 2009 with Alannis Morissette, well-known singer, songwriter, actress. In this first quote she was referring to her work on the television show Weeds.

On Service: “But it’s really showing up with a vast amount of humility, and your talent in your back pocket, and being there to serve – as long as I have the orientation toward service, I can’t go wrong. Any other orientation might get me in trouble.”

On Cannabis: “I’m a huge legalization fan. I think marijuana has done so many positive things for so many friends of mine, some of whom were physically ill, some of whom wanted some emotional support.”

Now a few thoughts of my own: It might not be as odd to combine these two quotes on service and on cannabis as some of you may think. Some of the most heartfelt and satisfying experiences I’ve had with that plant have come when I’ve focused on friends and sent good thoughts to them. It’s usually easy to stir the heart doing that and rouse some compassion. Those moments often result in a phone call, a visit, or even just a few more prayers.

Cannabis’ influence has also triggered a lot of interesting ideas for projects I’ve been working on over the years. Yes, I know what some of you may be thinking on this topic: “Sure, great idea at night, trivial or incomprehensible the next day.” Of course you have to test the ideas in the light of day and of course they don’t all stand up. But I’m testifying that I’ve received quite a few that have passed the sobriety test and made it into my work in teaching, music composition, writing, and other life forms. The caveat on this is—to paraphrase a line from Alan Ginsberg—if you create stoned, edit sober.

In fact, thinking of others, or what may also be termed prayer, is a common feature of all the plants I’ve worked with. I’ve written at length in my book Returning To Sacred World: A Spiritual Toolkit for the Emerging Reality about my experiences with the peyote medicine in the Native American Church and the remarkable power of prayer. I’ll probably write some blogs entries on that topic as well. But no matter what my condition or the environment, like Alannis, I find that if I can remember to think of others and how to benefit them, good things often come of it.

On Art, Spirituality, and Creativity:

My work is an attempt to show spirit as the one universal force beyond the confines of cultural and religious differences. Martina Hoffmann. (Martina Hoffmann does stunningly beautiful and powerful paintings often inspired by her visions from ayahuasca experiences.)

If while composing I become afraid of the music I am writing, I know that I have arrived at the extreme place where I want to be. When fear arises, I’ve reached the threshold between the known and the unknown. If I’m able to continue composing while tolerating the fear, I will be writing music that is new to me. Keeril Makan (Keeril Makan is an associate professor of music at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a recipient of the Rome Prize and a Guggenheim Fellowship.)

The visible world is no longer a reality, the unseen world is no longer a dream.” WB Yeats

Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh is one of our great human resources. He is a Vietnamese monk who became deeply involved working to alleviate the massive suffering visited upon the Vietnamese people during the Vietnam War of the 1960s and 70s. His activism resulted in exile and he settled in the U.S. from where he has taught and written since. Here are a few from him I’ve appreciated. These are from the following interview: “In Engaged Buddhism, Peace Begins with you” by John Malkin, Shambhala Sun July 2003, online:

“Small enlightenments have to succeed each other. And they have to be fed all the time, in order for a great enlightenment to be possible. So a moment of living in mindfulness is already a moment of enlightenment. If you train yourself to live in such a way, happiness and enlightenment will continue to grow.”

“It is possible for you to enjoy every step that you make.”

“The practice can be done every moment . . . If the present moment is good, then the future will be good because it’s only made of the present.”

“You have to learn how to help a wounded child while still practicing mindful breathing. You should not allow yourself to get lost in action. Action should be meditation at the same time.”

John Malkin: What did you learn from being in the United States during that time?

Thich Nhat Hanh: The first thing I learned was that even if you have a lot of money and power and fame, you can still suffer very deeply. If you don’t have enough peace and compassion within you, there is no way you can be happy.

Deep Versus High

In my forthcoming book Returning to Sacred World: A Spiritual Toolkit for the Emerging Reality (publication fall 2010 by O Books) an important aspect of the thesis—and the total focus of the last several chapters—is an attempt to enter the spiritual benefits of a few key spirit/teacher/medicine plants more openly into the discussion about valid, effective spiritual practices and techniques. I’ve worked with a number of these plants in spiritual, healing, ritual contexts. For the past seven years I’ve been a member of the Native American Church, which uses the peyote medicine plant in its ceremonies. I’ve also worked with ayahuasca, psilocybin mushrooms, and cannabis.

As you probably know, the way we conceptualize things goes a long way to determining how we see them. So the language we hang on concepts and experiences is important. I was recently pondering the term “high” in reference to experiences with plants such as cannabis, as in, “I got high.” I’m not sure what the provenance of that term is as a way to describe the effects of a plant or drug. However, it occurred to me that if you’re referring to the effects with the word “deep” instead, it would cast a different, and quite possibly more uplifted light on the experience. High can suggest rising up off the ground, out of your body, perhaps even out of the whole body and into just the head. Old farts like me will recall that in the days of the counter culture of the late 60s and early 70s, users of cannabis and other psychedelics were sometimes called “heads.” Not to digress too far but would we have experienced ourselves differently if we had used the term “hearts” instead of heads?

Recasting the focus of an experience in terms of how deep it is seems to suggest a more powerful way to view the intention. I think I could get away with the gross generalization that for the most part our culture doesn’t have a good understanding of this kind of depth. Most of us have no idea how deep we can go, how thoroughly we can enter experiences. Of course this relates to egolessness, getting the self out of the way to step fully into experience, to become, as they say, one with the experience. Another “of course” is the relationship of depth to nowness, freeing oneself from the obscuring veil of the thinking/discursive mind and being fully present.

I see it as one of the central tasks for the years ahead in our societies: to understand and share knowledge of our potential for entering more deeply into the now moment. There’s an incredible richness of experience available to us frail humans that for most people is left largely untapped. Artists often understand this. A lot of writers, musicians, painters and others have the ability to step through a portal into the world that stands before them as they’re receiving, creating, or transmitting it. We all have this ability but for many of us it remains more or less dormant. It’s a central principle in the vision and prayer for global healing and awakening. We envision a world where people have developed much greater skill at plumbing the depths.