A Complete Guide to the Crop Circle Mystery and Why it is NOT a Hoax
by ANDY THOMAS
A Review by STANLEY MESSENGER
(First written for the journal NEW VIEW, autumn 1998.)
This is by far the most complete and thorough survey of the crop circle phenomenon which has so far appeared in print. It would be remarkable enough as a simple survey, but it is at the same time a perceptive penetration into the mind-sets of the wide public which has observed it over the years as well as of the evolution which has occurred in responsible research. It is these two aspects which, in the mind of this reviewer, qualifies Andy Thomas' Vital Signs as the definitive reference work to the crop circle phenomenon up to the end of the 1997 season.
In all likelihood we have not yet reached the apotheosis of this 'extended event'. This means that it would be highly desirable if the book could be annually updated and reissued. It deserves to sell well enough to ensure this but the book-buying public is fickle. This should not however prevent the book from being an essential starting point for future accounts as the phenomenon evolves.
What is particularly remarkable about the book is that Andy manages to remain wide open to the claims of a number of mutually incompatible views of what is going on without losing his own visual clarity, and without hesitating to identify obvious nonsense when appropriate. In this way he manages to preserve the possibility of a future synthesis of standpoints which would otherwise go on degenerating into polemics and dogmatism. Everyone has their own mindset when it comes to controversial issues. It is one thing to give grudging consent to some aspects of opinions which conflict with your own. It is quite another to enter, as Andy does, into their essence and identify aspects of truth in them all.
Criticisms? Some will see his devastating rubbishing of some of the more outrageous hoax theories as too defensive. In litigation it is worth noting that the sheer volume of intellectual and hence financial investment in holding the public mind firmly in materialist consumerism is virtually limitless. It would be surprising if our financial controllers did not come to lay out even more money than they presently do in disinformation. What is a bit surprising is that they were contemptuous enough to think at first that a couple of clowns like Doug and Dave were all they needed. I believe that they have learned a bit more wisdom rather late in the day and are now making more serious efforts to disenchant. But they face an impossible task. They can now do little more than further confuse those who are in my case reluctant to change their views at all radically. However it remains important that people with more insight into mysteries don't rest on their laurels too soon. It is not enough to believe in crop circles. We have to know. This book is a real help in doing so.
Finally, a plea for the next edition. Please, more two-way cross referencing between words and the excellent pictures. It is frustrating to respond to Andy's enthusiasm about a form and sometimes hunt in vain for the picture. (This has already been rectified in the first reprint, issued in December 1998 - Andy.)