Monday, July 11, 2011

The Elusive Companions: The Secret Commonwealth

We see the world through an extremely limited band of the electromagnetic spectrum. The same goes for our hearing. We consciously process a remarkably tiny proportion of the limited sensory input we receive. We are only able to measure that which can perceive. And we still don't understand exactly how or why we process anything, other than to facilitate our survival on a purely reptilian level.

There are millions of square miles of land we've never stepped foot in. There are many millions more we have only the faintest experience in. The same goes for our oceans- we're still struggling to explore the endless depths- 71% of the surface of the world is water- and are physically limited in our ability to do so. And we've barely touched the unimaginably vast network of caverns beneath the Earth.

Earthquakes, floods and tsunamis make mockery of our technological pretenses. The same great scientific minds who claim dominion over the planet would wilt in panic like frail flowers in a half-decent thunderstorm, never mind a typhoon. Though we try to ignore them, the nuclear flames of Fukushima are nothing less than a slap in the face of our Technocracy.

And yet we claim to have fully mastered and cataloged our environment and everything in it.

Since the dawn of time, humans have recorded encounters with strange beings with weird powers and even stranger means of transportation. They've been identified in various cultural trappings. Our tech-minded age chooses to see them as extraterrestrial technocrats, coming to Earth to conduct their experiments.

Those who seem to know them best didn't rely on charts and graphs but another kind of knowing. A more elusive kind of knowledge, if you will, for our elusive companions. Legendary UFOlogist Jacques Vallee wrote a book about these historical perceptions called Passport to Magonia: On UFOs, Folklore, and Parallel Worlds.

I'm quoting his citation of a landmark work on Celtic mythology. Since it's not illustrated I added in some examples of our modern folklore, which as we've seen on this site is often brought to us by individuals who often seem to know things they shouldn't know...


In the last half of the seventeenth century, a Scottish scholar gathered all the accounts he could find about the Sleagh Maith and, in 1691, wrote a manuscript bearing the title: The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies.

The Secret Commonwealth
was the first systematic attempt to describe the methods and organization of the strange creatures that plagued the farmers of Scotland.

The author, Reverend Kirk, of Aberfoyle, studied theology at St. Andrews and took his degree of professor at Edinburgh. Later he served as minister for the parishes of Balquedder and Abcrfoyle and died in 1692. It is impossible to quote the entire text of Kirk's treatise on the Secret Commonwealth, but we can summarize his findings about elves and other aerial creatures in the following way:

1. They have a nature that is intermediate between man and the angels.

2. Physically, they have very light and "fluid" bodies, which are comparable to a condensed cloud. They are particularly visible at dusk. They can appear and vanish at will.

3. Intellectually, they are intelligent and curious.

4. They have the power to carry away anything they like.

In modern fairy-lore this divine branch or wand is the magic wand of fairies; or where messengers like old men guide mortals to an underworld it is a staff or cane with which they strike the rock hiding the secret entrance.- The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries
5. They live inside the earth in caves, which they can reach through any crevice or opening where air passes.

6. When men did not inhabit most of the world, they used to live there and had their own agriculture. Their civilization has left traces on the high mountains; it was flourishing at a time when the whole countryside was nothing but woods and forests.

7. At the beginning of each three-month period, they change quarters because they are unable to stay in one place. Besides, they like to travel. It is then that men have terrible encounters with them, even on the great highways.

8. Their chameleon-like bodies allow them to swim through the air with all their household.

9. They are divided into tribes. Like us, they have children, nurses, marriages, burials, etc., unless they just do this to mock our own customs, or to predict terrestrial events.

10. Their houses are said to be wonderfully large and beautiful, but under most circumstances they are invisible to human eyes. Kirk compares them to enchanted islands. The houses are equipped with lamps that burn forever and fires that need no fuel.

11. They speak very little. When they do so, when they talk among themselves, their language is a kind of whistling sound.

12. Their habits and their language when they talk to humans are similar to those of local people.

13. Their philosophical system is based on the following ideas: nothing dies; all things evolve cyclically in such a way that at every cycle they are renewed and improved. Motion is the universal law.

14. They are said to have a hierarchy of leaders, but they have no visible devotion to God, no religion.

15. They have many pleasant and light books, but also serious and complex books, rather in the Rosicrucian style, dealing with abstract matters.

16. They can be made to appear at will before us through magic.


  1. Thanks for addressing this ECH enigma again in this re-appointment, Chris. The best treatment of the spirited-away-by-the-Secret-Commonwealth 17th century Reverend Robert Kirk's tome is available by RJ Stewart, right here. It's missing the lovely pen-&-inks by the children's illustrator WH Ford from the 1933 edition, but Stewart's extensive annotations & updating to modern-day English Kirk's ofttimes incomprehensible late 17th century Scots-flavoured & antiquated English dialect make for an addition to any purveyors of the hidden and autodidacts in this sphere of Gnoledge. Cheers & megakudos ~ (•8-D

  2. This is something that I've delved in for a long time...
    Maybe they'll stop being so elusive!
    Wonderful post Chris!

  3. They're out there and they like playing games! :)

    Great post Chris!

  4. Hmmm. The Bible describes beings coming down "On a cloud". Maybe the translation should have been "As a cloud".

  5. If alive today, the good Rev. Robert Kirk would be a blogger!

  6. THere was a really cool TV show from the 60's where the main character was named KIRK. It dealt with esoteric subjects. Not sure how to interpret that, but it is curious.

  7. … Sybil, that's an excellent point you raise. As a Faery Seer my(s)elf, They ofttimes do appear as though made of a misty material, even the ones up to twelve foot tall (another tale for another day) … Here's what the welsh have to say about our Elusive Companions … introducing, the Twyleth Teg

  8. I want them to adopt me and
    take me someplace nice.

  9. Your postings, as is often the case for me, Chris, are mightily synchronous.
    I was just the other day having a conversation with a friend on this very subject.
    The notion was expressed, as per current neuroscientific understandings (the very previous term should be paranthesized, most probably) of how we model reality as a result of the workings of our sensual perceptions, or the limitations of them - a recent BBC1 Horizon program showed how stage magicians & illusionists expoit the holes in our senses to fool us. We see everything in frames.

    And so, if we do see things in such frames, film reel style, and it seems we do; just how much do we miss? Hypnotists talk about "bypassing the critical faculty," and hitting the malleable unconscious beneath to plant an idea, and I think the deep underlying fear - especially expressed by proponents of the rationalist, materialist scientific paradigm in sheer mockery of the "weird," the paranormal, and the occult, the so-called irrational - is symptomatic of what is bypassing our critical faculties every moment of every day, and hitting our subconscious mental strata.

    The author Borges used to say that "The future is inevitable and precise, but it may not occur. God lurks in the gaps."
    If we use God as a metaphor for everything we don't know, then an infinity of all kinds lurks in the gaps.

    But I guess you might counter Borges with: "The Elder Gods lurk in the gaps..."

  10. I'll take this quote as a token of this blog:
    "nothing dies;all things evolve cyclically in such a way that at every cycle they are renewed and improved. motion is the universal law."

    why we need a religion or a god. this is the best quote i've heard in years. it relieves the uncertain tensions of hell and heaven etc. no more jesus or krisha. i rather just know that i am immortal and won't fear anything. eventually i will become better. in "time"


  11. The picture of the greys looking through the window terrified me to the core, anything alien seems to have a fascinating pull on me yet scare me (for want of a better term) absolutely shitless.

    I hope its not just me who feels this way!

    Chris K

  12. Hey Chris,

    Another excellent post. There are so many subjects close to my heart that you cover on this blog, and this ECH is no exception. This strange place where folklore intermingles with history is a very provocative area to research. This post in particular has a very Keelian flavour, because the high-weirdness of folklore is being directly referenced.

    Your recent thoughts have pushed certain concepts to the forefront of my mind. What does it take for the paranormal and scientific perspectives of the EHC to BOTH have some applicability? I agree with you that it’s not enough to dismiss these things as paranormal, as it seems to me that ‘paranormal’ simply means ‘beyond the horizon of our current comprehension’ – and yet so much of what occurs in folklore has such an odd flavour that a ‘scientific’ explanation might seem unable to capture, qualify or convey the atmospherics involved in such phenomena.

    For example, many sci-fi novels and movies consciously and subconsciously utilise folkloric, paranormal tropes when presenting their fictional aliens – as if to en-soul and pump living blood into their creations, to create that frisson of weird atmosphere. The aliens of science-fiction owe a huge debt to the elves, faery, and other strange creatures of folklore.

    And this makes me think that your comment about all good sci-fi being inherently Astro-Gnostic is very true indeed. There are some very scientific nuts-and-bolts aspects to these things, but I suspect the nuts and the bolts are made of finer, more mysterious stuff than we might have supposed.

    So, in a world where this folkloric atmosphere is genuinely occurring, what gaps need to be filled in for a scientific interpretation to make just as much comprehensive, intuitive sense? Science needs to be rational, true, but eventually it will need to account for strange things we seem to know or suspect on a gut-level.

    For people to begin really understanding the mechanics of these things I think that the odd, paranormal flavours have to be accounted for, and honoured. I think this is why quantum physics comes up again and again when people try to contextualise The Secret Commonwealth; indeterminacy, non-locality, entanglement, etc.

    We’re trying to quantify and rationalise and be scientific, but our tools of measurement are always evolving, or in flux, as seems to be the phenomena we’re trying to measure. I feel sometimes like only a kind of atavistic science will begin to really unlock these mysteries, when intuition and laterality somehow return as comfortable bedfellows with reason, logic and rigour. I believe that in the beginning Science must have possessed this comfortable paradox, and I hope it returns eventually.

    I don’t think we need to sacrifice our rigour and our rationality to accept that sometimes really spooky stuff happens. It just means that there will be gaps in our understanding, no matter how sophisticated we think we are, and that needs to be okay – otherwise what’s evolution for?

    Anyway, enough of my rambling. Bring on more awesomeness, Chris!


  13. Re: #10:

  14. The Secret Sun (and the Rock n' Roll blog, for that matter) are a source for connection between the esoteric and exoteric. I'm one curious about what little bit of history that is investigated and translated ( is a favorite) and what is au currant. My theory is that our gods are what were once - and what shall be when the next global catastrophe hits – the writings and legends which survived. May yours be one of them - Kudos!

  15. "the nuclear flames of Fukushima are nothing less than a slap in the face of our Technocracy"

    Tangential to the post but yes this is a true. The sad fact is that the technocracy will pass away - the blind unthinking techno-solutions and hand held phone teevees with it - yet the cell ripping isotopes from fukushima will mark this epoch for many more millenia than we have had cereal agriculture.

    Maybe some I'll start blogging on this regularly so far I haven't had the stomach for it.

    Great post. Passport to Magonia is one of my top ten of all time, no less so because it is a beat up paperback annoted by my grandfather.
    =Jon Spring

  16. Nice one, very much enjoying your blog, glad to have found it.

  17. Thsank you Mr.Effro for the links. The doors of perception are open to all who cross the threshold.What fun it is to absorb the geist of this blog. Shineforth brave souls! Dennis

  18. It seems that as we travel into clarity, pockets of our own conscious awareness bubble into unique and seperate manifestations that take the appearance or form of whatever should attract our most focused attention.

    This happens on every level--see Gurdjieff.

    Maybe on the global level, natural disasters are bubbling to tell us that united we stand, divided we fall.

    On an individual level, proving that fairies exist is not the point. Proving that aliens exist is not the point. Proving that God exists is not the point. It's exhibiting the knowledge and grace that the relationship affords.

    I'm pretty sure Jacque Vallee was at the forefront of this concept regarding aliens and UFO's.

    As always, nice work CK. You got the best church/congregation around, and the sermon is always tight.

  19. In addition to the Stewart book on Kirk's excellent short treatise, I highly recommend Brian Walsh's The Secret Commonwealth and the Fairy Belief Complex, which analyzes the text in other ways, and includes a listing of folklore motifs. It also includes Kirk's original language, which can be used for comparison with Stewart's modernized language.

  20. Cant remember how I first found your blog. Maybe Mike C? On the other hand I may have stumbled across it...

    Never made a comment. Still I come by and see whats up... I listened to an interview with you some time ago now... cant remember where that was... was it Mike again?

    I also remember one of your posts about the movie Pushing Tin... disentangling some of the symbolism was quite a weird exercise. I still dont know what to make of that kind of thing. It doesnt seem to be all by itself but one of many that hark back to .... a mythology that still carries meaning..

    Anyway all this stuff about The Secret Commonwealth has brought me out of the woodwork. This is a major vein. I have a post about miniature ufo's and 'spirits' that really seems to be about fairies to me... though the subject is stuck in the background. I dont know what it means...

    All your stuff on The Outer Limits- Children of Spider County in particular- is way interesting. Really I think you are right... it was subversive. I have always thought the X-Files to have been that... but OL was that in a very different way.

    Probably my favorite series I watched Children recently on Hulu ... a really eerie quality that has stuck with me. As the show has. Ethan popped up in a different context- LucretiasHeart blog- and I had made a comment some time ago on Mike C's blog about it. Curiously the name popped up yesterday on one of my jobs in a curious context. Not an odd name but still not one you hear every day.

    Anyway there seems to be such a wealth of material 'underground' OL was just a signpost among other things. Pushing Tin too..?

    OL was however an eerie signpost. With a lot more to say than it seems on the surface. A lot of us are still mining that underground continent.

  21. Chris,

    There's a quote by Joseph Campbell that I really like, because it appeals to my fascination with stories and narrative. It seems quite applicable here, especially in light of your recent posts:

    "God is a metaphor for a mystery that absolutely transcends all categories of human thought, including being and non-being."

    I would modify this slightly to suggest that God is a metaphor for a mystery that also interpenetrates all categories of human thought, including being and non-being.

    In light of your ECH, I'd further suggest that maybe our Companions occupy a similar if not as comprehensive position - and by this I mean symbolically so, first and foremost. If the comparison is a little forced with regards to the entities themselves, then it seems very apt at least in terms of cultural, mythological milieu - a quicksilver context that seems to evade, subvert or become curious every time we try to pin it down.

    I think this has something to do with the elusive push-pull, reveal-conceal, admit-deny nature of narrative and storytelling (and by association all of human perception). This push-pull dynamic is the invisible heart of everything we know; sex, relationships, politics, love and Gnosis.

    It seems to me everything is a dance around this invisible center, and that's how growth happens, it's just sometimes we forget this push-pull engine in how we quantify and qualify data - this is multiplied to the nth degree when trying to assess elusive data.

    Now, I'm not suggesting here that the Elusive Companions are fully-fledged dream-creatures that have found a way into the real world.

    It's quite feasible that our Companions have a literal, continuous existence that is completely separate and independent from us, in the senses we understand those terms. But it's also feasible that that their and our existence is interpenetrated with each other in ways that are deeper, stranger and far more meaningful then we are always able to hold in our minds, or effectively contextualize.
    It seems to me that the truth is somewhere between these two extremes, or contains both these possibilities.

    I think most people on this blog would agree with this to varying degrees, and with certain caveats.

    But the more insight I cultivate into this push-pull dynamic of story-telling and perception, the more significance and depth I recognize in Gnostic philosophies. It's like the more I realize and learn, the more Gnosticism seems to be a perfect representation of the mind and soul at work. And this doesn't remove the very literal implications to these things, rather it confirms them. After all, how does a sentient being escape the mind and soul, elusive or otherwise?


  22. Greetings Chris, Having never commented here I felt compelled to write to you after an occurrence several days ago when from out of the clear blue I found myself having The Secret Commonwealth pop into my head on a near continuous basis. Imagine my surprise to log onto your site the next day and see this. I should mention this has also happened to me with your Children of the Flaming Wheel post as well as several others; once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action!(or synchronistic brain function.) Multiple kudos to you Chris for joining so many kindred spirits right here right now on this exact plain of engagement. There is an overriding reason we are all exactly... being... here... now. Before I go let me say if you haven't you must hear Radiohead's King of Limbs. After listening to it continuously for the last 7 days perhaps it too put me near that Secret Commonwealth veil. It certainly roils with a deep, unsettling flow not broached since a certain 4 and George Martin strove to put a "hex in every household." Just type in Stanley Donwood, click on " my stupid blog" upper left on his webpage, and scroll down to the Mar.18 post to see what I'm talking about. (Donwood being their cover artist.) Curiously, all this being just in time for the Jul.23-Sept.8 Dog Star Days here deep in the muggy Virginia woods. Something's in the wind I think.

  23. I love this article! I love this: "13. Their philosophical system is based on the following ideas: nothing dies; all things evolve cyclically in such a way that at every cycle they are renewed and improved. Motion is the universal law."

    This shows you their deep connection with Goddess spirituality, and isn't it so that we hear many reports where the enties encountered in UFOs warn of the terrible things we are doing to Mother Earth? This was so with that amazing case where South Afrrican children report all seeing a UFO and entities, and receiving telepathic feelings that we are harming the Earth:
    62 School Children Encounter a UFO | Zimbabwe 1994

    So IF the fairies are these entities also, they are dramatically activist in drawing our attention to the terrible attack on Mother Earth.
    Also according to Robert Hasting's investigations, even disengaging nuclear weaponry.

  24. @ Chris Krenshaw, that is actually rather common. Their image plays on the dissonance that lies in the uncanny gap, the terror of over-intellectualization, and primal animal predatory fears.

    There might be other reasons for those fears. This blog and many other sources explore this.

    You should know, though that you're not alone. There are MANY people who have exactly that reaction. There are many who are afraid to admit to it.

  25. HI Chris, an excellent series of connections as of late, fascinating. Thank you.

  26. @ Laine, Thankyou for your reply, its always reassuring to know one is not alone in feelings of terror when confronted with the image of a grey looking through a bedroom window!

    Does repeated exposure, day by day begin to diminish the terror?

    Do contactees report a higher or lower level of terror/fear from these creatures after they had the experience(s)?

    I'm really enjoying the current series of posts Chris :)