Tuesday, March 24, 2020
Walker Between The Worlds???
Today let's take a look at the so-called Minister of Fairyland, the reverend Robert Kirk, a Scottish denizen of the 17th century. The above is supposedly a draft scribble for the title page of his famous-to-come essay entitled THE SECRET COMMONWEALTH. The essay or mini-book supposes to reveal almost any detail about the Fairy World that an inquirer would desire. This book has risen to rock star status, I'd say even Cult status, among fairy-world aficionados.
My intuition was that this was a bit too good to be true, even if my essential attitude is to root for these things. I decided NOT to read Reverend Kirk's work until I'd done a LOT of work with Little People encounter cases, so I'd have something to compare with the details of the famous book. So for seven or eight years (or however long I've been chasing Faery world incidents) I didn't crack the pages. Now, several hundred cases in, it's time.
What do we know?
To my reading, we don't really know a lot about Robert Kirk. He was obviously intelligent, and driven to learn about folklore matters in his area. He wrote copious notes in small journals. It is believed that in one of these journals the original book was written, but, again to my reading, we don't have the exact journal containing the whole thing --- though some of his rare journals do exist and a few seem to have original notes related to this book.
Kirk seems to have been one of those ministers who was strongly affected by the double-whammy of witch trials and demonology, and the upsurge of atheism in the London and Edinburgh environs. His researches appear to be driven by a desire to oppose these trends --- note that in all of this he is almost exactly a clone of Richard Bovet, who lived almost coincidentally to Kirk. Well, OK. None of that is really germane to what we're doing here. Despite the vague origins of Kirk and the written book, what matters is whether the contents add anything to our studies.
What's in the book??
Despite being primed for a stunner of a read, I could barely get through the pages. Why? It's probably MY problem, but I couldn't feel that any of the text was anything but some guys telling Kirk stories that he swallowed whole.
I hope that I'm not coming across flippantly on this --- those of you who know me know that's not my style and I'm one of last guys to shake my head negatively on these anomalistic claims. But I cannot find anything in this book which impresses me as good evidence ... of anything.
Why? I'll give a short list:
1. Kirk tells us that he is basically sold on his informants. Kirk himself seems not to have his own direct experiences. His informants are entirely of one type. So far this is not necessarily a problem.
2. Every informant tells Kirk that he has not acquired his information in any "normal" way. He has not seen nor heard any of his information in a normal state of consciousness. This is the point at which I begin to get really nervous.
3. These informants go into trances or ecstasy. While in these altered states these reporters said that they could see into the Fairy World, see many things that the rest of us could not, even if we were standing right beside them. These sessions of "Second Sight" into the alternate reality included complete interactions ... particularly verbal communication and revelations of esoteric truths.
.... uh .... OK .... this is getting hard to relate to, and essentially impossible to regard as evidence.
Let's take "evidence" first: This sort of claim is not only second hand but complicates itself by asking us to believe in a second debatable anomaly: Clairvoyance. I am not put off generally by "clairvoyance" (I've had persons in my own family who occasionally "see around corners." But they cannot do it on call). I have seen no studies of clairvoyance which suggest that anyone can simply carry the talent into any moment.... particularly in vividly interactive detail like a living episode.
These tales sound like the claims of modern day trance-control mediums or like the UFO claimants called the contactees. I've read many of these trance sessions in these other fields and never would this technique be honored by investigators as a proper evidentiary technique.
Why not? The claims are always conveniently out of reach of any of the rest of us simple mere mortals.
But surely I'm prejudiced. Surely it is the content of these revelations which should be judged to the good or ill. OK. I'll keep giving this "the benefit." What about content?
The drawing above from an old English chapbook shows a fair number of elements of the fairy faith. There are the circle-dancing folk in their tall hats, the fairy residence "under the hill", the Old Green Man in the tree representing the force and cycles of Nature, and a fairy mushroom.
Even though bits of such ideas occur in Kirk, there is one huge problem. Kirk's informants say that "we" cannot see these things --- only those with second sight. My library of 300 folklore books begs to differ --- wildly.
Kirk's informants tell us that the fairies are significantly superior to us in every way, and they are not physically substantial but made of some sort of condensed air-like spirits. Almost none of the reported encounter cases in my Leprecat indicate anything vaguely hinting that. Well, maybe Kirk's clairvoyants see a different class of fairy than the rest of us do.
If so, we'd have the following: Unnamed believe-me-or-not tale-tellers weaving stories which don't really match what the rest of us think we've experienced, printed in a book by an almost unknown writer with very large emotional reasons for wanting to present evidence for a Spirit-filled anti-atheist creation.
OK. Maybe I'm overstating. I'm VERY unconvinced though. There's a big difference between the case of Bovet and Kirk. Bovet goes to real "ordinary" people, interviews them, names them usually, and receives multiple witnessing or support, while getting details that match hundreds of other tales. Off-center or not, I'll take Bovet every time.
I apologize for this entry. I'm probably off in some major ways and I don't like skewering sacred cows, but .... even the "celebrated" story of Kirk coming back in Spirit form to state that he didn't die but is now with the fairies is based upon the flimsiest of fairy silk.
I promise to do better the next time. We have plenty upon which to base a picture of a world of Faery as a respectable concept. You've seen cases already. More to come ... next time?
I'll leave you with a piece of very good writing (fiction) by a gentleman named Kevan Manwaring, who captures better than Kirk the romance of the Minister of Fairyland,
" I sit in the near-dark of my chamber, gazing at the black mirrors which surrounded my bureau. They seem to catch the available light, gradations of black-upon-black, like Dr Dee’s scrying glass. I might as well be a necromancer, for do I not dabble with fallen angels, with invisible spirits and occult powers? Within my own parish I would have been burnt as a witch, were such a thing still common. The terrible executions stopped half a century ago, but the crime of witchcraft is still a capital offense. I doubt most would look mercifully upon my research into the secret commonwealth. In my defence I would argue that the existence of the Subterraneans, and of esoteric communications between mortals, is proof of the celestial hierarchy and God’s glory. All my efforts have been to this one aim in this, in a secular and corrupt age. "
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