I’m Cat Vincent, your new Daily Grail contributing editor. Some of you may know me from my Slenderman piece in the new volume of Darklore.
Greg kindly invited me to join the team here, and I thought it would be a good idea to start out by talking a little about my perspective on matters Fortean. If there is one tendency I have noticed in my life as a Fortean and occultist, it’s that certainty is… problematic, at best – and that the very best Fortean thinkers are those who are least certain of their personal theories.
Sadly, this is the exception in the field, rather than the rule. Gods know there are plenty of folk in various streams of Fortean thought who are utterly certain of their theories, that their model of whatever odd experiences they have had is both accurate and complete. And, amusingly, those among the skeptical ‘elite’ feel pretty much the same way about their model of the Universe. This is why conversations about what I’ve tended to generally call Weird Shit between opposing zealots of whatever flavour rarely end well.
My own experience (starting out around age 7 with some scary strangeness, teaching myself magic & meditation & reading the heaviest Forteans I could find before reaching double figures, all as a survival mechanism) tends me to be far less certain about any version of The Truth I am offered. This perspective (some might call it Model Agnosticism after Robert Anton Wilson, others might compare it to Marcello Truzzi’s Zeteticism) allows, I think, the possibility of honest doubt, for one’s own theories as well as those of others.
Without this Place of Maybe, this position of indeterminacy, absolute certainty can slip in and ruin perfectly good theories. The end result ranges from those endless pop-science articles which declare "Physics Professor Shows Universe Runs On Physics", "Maths Guru: World Is All Math" etc etc, to outright persecution of those whose views are classed as ‘lesser’ by their adherents.
Perhaps such oppositional tactics are inevitable. Human minds do crave certainty, and our egos rarely let us admit we are wrong (especially if we don’t feel like we are… the most common reaction to hard evidence disproving our beliefs). Maybe we will eventually use this tiresome dialectic to find a true middle ground. But for me, I find it better to start in the middle ground in the first place.
The other thing that’s influenced my views on the Weird is the immense importance of story, myth and outright fiction to how we deal with such. There’s no denying the printed word, the recorded sounds and images of TV and film, carry immense weight in all our minds. Often, such tales are the best tools we have to interpret the strange and unusual. I’ve talked and written a lot about this over the years – most notably in my Mason Lang Film Club (on treating certain films as having coded information for the mystically inclined), my posts at the Modern Mythology group-blog (such as this piece on classic Star Trek) and my attempts to explain my occult praxis in the Guttershaman series.
All of these – and whatever I write here – should be taken with as much salt as you need. I believe what I say, as far as I can… but I’m not certain what I say is the whole truth.
And my best advice is – don’t trust anybody who says they are. Including yourself.
"Which path do you intend to take, Nell?" said the Constable, sounding very interested. "Conformity or rebellion?"
"Neither one. Both ways are simple-minded – they are only for people who cannot cope with contradiction and ambiguity."
Neal Stephenson, The Diamond Age.