Mysterium Tremendum: Why we are to blame for the Baltic Anomaly
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Mysterium Tremendum: Why we are to blame for the Baltic Anomaly.
www.magusmagazines.comIn one way or another, we are all responsible for the Baltic Anomaly. It’s not far-fetched or absurd to say that the world “happened” to this underwater spectacle. Anybody with even minimal internet savvy has probably stumbled upon the mystery and wondered, maybe in passing, what the big deal is. Over the past couple of months, hysteria has set in as details of the story emerge. But what we hear now isn’t the story that was reported in the beginning of June. So what is the story? What is it about the Baltic narrative that has led to terrible fears of extraterrestrials and government conspiracy? Why does the public prefer a version of the supernatural rather than a pillow rock basalt formation? These are just some of the questions that surround the Baltic Anomaly. And the details continue to fascinate as data streams in. As the object continues to be revealed, our knowledge of the artifact shifts as well. It is this continuous movement that makes the Baltic Anomaly a hybrid of assemblages.
The Baltic Anomaly is a hybrid of evidence and our understanding of the evidence as it changes through time. Following the lead of Bruno Latour in his study of Horse evolution (see A Textbook Case Revisited-Knowledge as a Mode of Existence. Bruno Latour, Sciences Po Paris, a chapter for the STS Handbook), we can orthogonally study the Anomaly’s context of discovery and justification.
Something odd happens when we plot out the object/subject relationships in regards to the Baltic Phenomenon. In our first intersecting plot point, the discovery of the anomaly and the initial reaction of UFO provide our foray into an arrangement of data and impulse interpretation. As time moves forward, the ‘mysterious pillar’ (second plot point) is discovered which moves the UFO theory into an ancient/lost civilization arrangement. Although the object (evidence) and subject (what we understand of the evidence through time) run on separate currents, their points of intersection are where understanding of the anomaly is attempted. Through a flow of discovery, we ontologize each version of truth. A different world-version then comes into being at every plot point.
Furthermore, epistemic conduits aid in the anomaly making sense. What we know through time changes as discoveries are made and provide meaning to the new ontological status. Without giving reference to what we know of the anomaly, it becomes impossible to discern the reality of the object. It is what I call the ‘face on Mars’ syndrome. We all remember the face discovered on Mars in 1976. The interaction of light and shadow created what appeared to be a humanoid face on the surface of the planet. As the Viking spacecraft took pictures of the object, theories came into being that suggested the face was created by an ancient Martian civilization. This image then rippled into a network that included crop-circles, alien architects that influenced ‘our’ early civilizations, and utopian ideas of aliens and god. However, the pieces of the puzzle that led to ‘the face’ theory simply had to be reassembled to suggest that the image was an illusion created through an interplay of light, shadow, and geologic formation. For a time, ‘the face’ was real and a long lost Martian was staring back at us from the planet. However, as the geologic nuances, light, and shadow were re-configured into another sequence, they created another truth-version. Is it the most accurate? Depends on who you ask. There are many that nurture ‘the face on Mars’ theory and keep it relevant and real.
This phenomenon might also be applicable to the Baltic Anomaly. It’s not outside the realm of possibility that the object really is a pillow rock basalt formation. And nothing more. If in our context of discovery, we reveal that the object is nothing more than a geologic formation, then this new ontology is given definition through conduits of meaning. What we understand of the object through time is directly connected to its current state of being. This is what makes the Baltic Anomaly a true hybrid. In its status as living theory, it is both object and subject; evidence and our understanding of that evidence. Whether it is of this earth, from the stars, or a result of alien/human interaction, the artifact is alive and made real through a convergence of Being and Meaning.
Truth and the factors that support each truth-version re-embody and are dis-embodied continuously. As new information is discovered and re-configured, taken apart and put back together, truth is shaped. Perhaps this is why it becomes possible to move backward and forward in time on our orthogonal diagram. As new evidence comes to light we are able to go back to theories that were previously discarded and consider them anew. Perhaps a discovery is made that increases the elegance of our initial UFO theory. By breathing new life into this previous theory, we re-embody an ontology and gauge its usefulness in the current state of affairs. Moreover, as well as moving back to readdress previous incarnations, we can also move forward to predict potential ontologies in the research programme. Now I’m not one to assert the efficacy of prediction or prophesy without some form of experiment or empirical study. However, it really doesn’t take a giant leap of faith to infer where future plot points could appear in our orthogonal diagram. For example, we can see that a truth-version of object and subject occurs when the Anomaly (UFO) is discovered. At that intersection, the evidence and what we know about the evidence produces an ontology. By looking at the surrounding network, we can surmise future maturation and reproductive capacity. The network would include folklore surrounding UFO visitation, supernatural assault traditions, and perhaps even fairy-lore. Taking this surrounding network into consideration, it’s easy to discern a future ontology or ‘plot point’ that involves government conspiracy, and/or cover-ups because of the connections between UFO-lore and conspiracy theory. By being able to anticipate future ontologies, we can anticipate whether the theory is progressing or degenerating. And although studying future intersections might be unnecessary, they may also serve as future conduits to keep the ontology fruitful and growing.
Could it be true? Is the Baltic Anomaly a hybrid of ontology and epistemic arrangements? Do the object and subject continuously move into assemblages that provide an understanding of being and reality? Following this train of thought, if we grant theories a living status, we must also consider that theories are eligible and even susceptible to rites of passage. Anthropologist Arnold van Gennep did extensive work in areas of liminality and how it pertains to transitional rites. He identified three stages that form the rite of passage. The event begins with a separation from society or family. A period of liminality follows as the initiate experiences the ambiguity and lack of status that accompanies the transitional state. This period of being betwixt and between eventually leads to a reincorporation into society as a changed being. But how does this pertain to our discussion of the Baltic Anomaly? I suggest that evidence and our understanding of the evidence as it changes through time is marked by a liminal period that fills the gap between objective knowledge and subjective experience.
As a theory grows, it either continues to mature or is disassembled and re-configured into a new assemblage. When this happens, our ontology went through a rite of passage. The new theory experiences a new ontological status where its elegance, simplicity, and reproductive capacity are closely observed. As new evidence is incorporated into ‘what we know’, again the liminal period occurs, the theory is disassembled and reconfigured to include the new information. The problem lays in the separation state of a rite of passage. Can we say that object and subject i.e. evidence and ‘what we know of the evidence’ are truly separated at any time? This is the problem Whitehead called ‘The Bifurcation of Reality’. The bifurcation refers to a distinction between objective knowledge and subjective experience. In other words, it is a distinguishing between things that are able to be observed (i.e. sense-data, rocks, atoms etc…) and things in the mind. A proponent of bifurcation would assert a difference between a strawberry and the subjective experience of tasting a ‘delicious’ strawberry.
This idea of bifurcation isn’t acceptable when examining evidence and our understanding of said evidence because it is the subjective that brings into focus our Anomaly. Through the use of imagination, inferences, and logic, meaning is ascribed to the evidence at hand. The discovery of the “middle pillar”, the runway, and the EMF shield knocking out anything close to the Anomaly are all epistemic conduits that give definition to an ever-changing ontology. They help it make sense. Moreover, they change as new data streams in. When the object/subject disassembles, it enters into a liminal period where the plot point has not yet ontologized but is in the process of being created .
The new theory is established when the intersection occurs and evidence coupled with ‘what we know about the evidence’ reassembles into a new ontology. There is no definitive ‘separation’ only a ‘disassembling’ of the theory. The liminal state fills in the gap between the disassembled previous ontology and the reassembling that occurs on account of newly discovered evidence.
Throughout this article, we have been discussing the philosophical exchanges that accompany the Baltic Anomaly. Through an orthogonal study of object and subject, positions of networks, and dialogues with anthropological theory, we are able to follow various ontological versions. Because ‘our understanding of what we know’ changes continuously, there is no real culmination or end to the ontologizing process. Creation is never complete but always shifting and moving due to refinements in our epistemic conduits. The variants in meaning reassemble constantly with the emerging ontology thus making the Baltic Anomaly a hybrid of Being and Meaning. What we discover and how we interpret these discoveries are arrangements that create our truth-versions. So, in reality we really are to blame for the Baltic Anomaly. If we become terrified or awe-filled it is because of the interpretations we have ascribed to the object. In no way can we say it’s the fault of E.T., lost civilizations, or government conspiracy. “We” happened to the Baltic Anomaly. Whatever is conjured is our own damn fault but at least we can look back with fresh eyes and change horror to admiration at any time. At least there’s that.
Preston Copeland is an anthropologist and folklorist. He is a practicing Occultist and mediator of the strange and absurd. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org