Crop Circles: Messages, Art or “Something Completely Different?”

By: John Del Campo

Text copyright 2012, all rights reserved
Photo credits: Steve Alexander, Temporary Temples


Distinguished crop circle analysts Red Collie and Dr. Horace Drew note in their November 2011 commentary, that “It has been twenty years now, since the first flood of ‘crop circles’ began to appear unexpectedly in southern England.  Who might be sending such beautiful, strange images to us and why?”[1]  They offer three tentative answers.  Crop circles are: 

·         from another dimension or

·         from the future or

·         laid down by visiting extra-terrestrials

But what empirical evidence is there; except, the circles themselves? [2]  And as they trenchantly remark “Another ongoing mystery of crop circles is why their makers choose not to communicate with us directly.” 

No doubt, this troubles all who have spent even a moment contemplating these magnificent creations.  Why do the circle-makers not communicate with us directly; or more precisely, if communication is the objective, why have they chosen this singular medium, and designs that are at once delightful, inscrutable, awe-inspiring and perplexing? 

The circle-makers are evidently masters of a technology we have yet to grasp.  If they exceed us in technological know-how, why not broadcast a message on prime-time television?  “We interrupt this program to bring you an important announcement from an advanced civilization.  Listen up.” 

The obvious answer is that designs in growing crops suit their purpose; evidently, better than any other medium.  So, what can their purpose be; messaging or art or “something completely different?” 
In thus restating the question, the words of famed communications theorist Marshall McLuhan—“the medium is the message”—come to mind; perhaps the answer, hidden in plain sight, lies in the medium itself.

The Medium and the Message

Whether one views the phenomenon as a form of art, or messaging, the symbolic content of particular crop circles is obvious and inescapable.  Furthermore, the appearance of such symbols gives reason to suspect the presence of an intelligent mind, steeped in history if not arcane or esoteric knowledge.  Consider, for example, the “all-seeing eye,” ancient symbol of Freemasons.

Highclere, Hampshire

But what’s the point?  In presenting this symbol, are the circle-makers telling us they are, themselves, members of the “Craft;” or are they directing our attention to Freemasonry for other reasons, however obscure?  And what of the many other symbols and designs; what do they expect us to come away with? 

If the medium is the message, then seeking an answer apart from the medium is futile, a point often ignored that on reflection looks like the “elephant in the room.” 

And so, those who entertain the possibility that crop circles go beyond whimsy, or art,[3] presenting symbols that are at once subtle, complex and beautiful—sophisticated messages—must come to grips with the medium for otherwise we shall fail to grasp the message, which is “under our noses,” hidden in plain sight. 

Before going on, however, a few editorial remarks are important.  Whenever I refer to a “crop circle,” I do not mean something laid down or reasonably explained by conventional mechanical techniques (for example, by mowing or trampling with boards and feet); nor by “circle-makers,” do I mean people who use such techniques.  I refer, instead, to designs and designers the methods of which have not been convincingly replicated by anyone; astonishingly, the majority of crop circles! 

Well then, what about this medium?  It’s obviously different from broadcast journalism or Twitter or book publishing or any other that 21st century humans associate with messaging or mass communications.  Is this important?  Presumably, it is. 

Let’s consider the characteristics that all crop circles have in common; they are:

·         laid down in growing crops

·         open to the sky

·         placed without the advance knowledge or consent of the host, a landowner, who is evidently unable to prevent or interfere with the lay-down.

Presumably, these characteristics matter.  What do they tell us about the circle-makers or their messages? 

First, it seems that environmental awareness is important.  The circle-makers evidently expect the target audience to be aware of new developments in their environment—“situational awareness”—to include crop circles, whether or not reported by conventional media.  This may seem obvious, but it’s precisely because the obvious has been generally overlooked that I call attention to it. 

Second, as the medium is at the circle makers’ disposal (exclusively so, evidently) the content is free from outside influence or interference.  It seems the circle-makers have neither the need nor compunction to negotiate with any landowner, governmental authority or commercial sponsor.  They alone choose the site, lay-down and content of each crop circle. 

I will address the importance of these characteristics later on.  But before doing so, let me call attention to one further characteristic, also obvious, which arises out of context rather than empirical observation: everything about the phenomenon is puzzling.  Who’s responsible?  Why do they do it?  Why growing crops?  What’s the point?  Etc. 

Put succinctly, if communication is the objective, why puzzles? 

Cherhill White Horse Wiltshire | 27th July 2011 | Wheat OH 

Why Puzzles?

However beautiful, strange or awe-inspiring, crop circles are also enigmatic.  So, puzzles, puzzle-solving or puzzle-solvers must be of importance.  But of what importance?  In seeking an answer, this analysis begins with reasonable inferences and works backward. 

Are there reasonable inferences? 

“Yes,” the medium, coupled with the enigmatic content, is revealing of the target audience: intelligent, creative, inquiring minds that are observant, situationally aware and not put off by work—“puzzle-solvers.” 

As a label, puzzle-solvers is not ideal because it leaves out other important interests of the research community; aesthetics, for instance.  But it’s reasonably inclusive, and efficient, which is sufficient for adoption.  The target audience are puzzle-solvers; perhaps, like the circle-makers themselves? [4] 

Well, if the target audience are puzzle-solvers, what does this tell us about the messages or the intelligent beings who create them?  Arguably, a great deal.  The target audience is revealing of the circle-maker’s expectations; i.e., of active participation. 

Those who see in crop circles nothing besides art—“art for art’s sake”—or whimsy may object.  If art or whimsy explains the phenomenon, then looking for meaning in a target audience (or anything else) is pointless; and the objection is well taken.  But the objection collapses should indisputable intellectual content be proved in a single instance; and there are many such proofs. 

Consider just one example: the specimen appearing at Barbury Castle in June 2008.  With just a picture, no words or identifiable mathematical notation, the circle-maker presented Pi to ten digits, a remarkable achievement.[5]

Barbury Castle, Wiltshire 

Is it beautiful?  “Yes,” but one hesitates to call it art; certainly, not pure art—“divorced from any didactic, moral or utilitarian function.”  And there are many others invested with comparable intellectual capital (e.g., Crabwood 2002, Poirino 2011 and Chilbolton 2001, to name just three), which neither whimsicality nor art explains. 

So, putting aside the viewer’s emotional response, how does one explain bona fide intellectual content; particularly, messages? [6]  Furthermore, why puzzles? 

Before going on, however, a word about dogmatic skepticism.  Though dogmatic skeptics abound, their questions generally go to responsibility, not content.  But conventional construction techniques do not account for most observed crop circle specimens.  Therefore, the burden of proof must shift.  To impeach credible findings to-date, the skeptics must present credible counterevidence. 

Quantum Entanglement

I don't know who the circle-makers are or where they come from—whether they are from “another dimension” or “the future” or “visiting extraterrestrials.”  But credible specimens are numerous; and thus, susceptible to pattern analysis; and as patterns are presumably not accidental, they are revealing of intent. 

Well, are there patterns?  Yes, thematic patterns abound: sacred geometry, squaring the circle, the golden mean, astral events, historical symbols, the mystery of life (DNA); and, of course, warnings. 

And so again, why?  The answer, I suspect, has something to do with quantum physics—with quantum entanglement, in particular—the problem of Schrödinger’s cat. 

But first, a caveat: the analysis now turns from observation and empirical evidence to a line of investigation that draws on intuition; call it “Gnosis,” if you prefer. 

Evidently, the circle-makers are masters of a technology we have yet to understand, much less replicate.  How advanced are they?  Can they “see into the future,” penetrate beyond three dimensions or navigate space-time?  Let’s suppose they can. 

In that case, if they perceive things we do not, it’s easy to conceive a purpose: warnings. 

But this makes puzzles even more problematic.  If one acknowledges a duty to warn—a moral obligation—shouldn’t one’s warning be clear and unmistakable?  Yes, of course, it should be . . . which gives reason to suspect that communicating in clear and unmistakable language is intrinsically problematic. 

Perhaps, there is some unseen agent that constrains content, a Law of Nature existing everywhere and throughout time that limits expression; e.g., quantum entanglement?  Or maybe warnings would be obvious if only we looked in the right places, in dimensions higher than two or three?  Are we “Spacelanders,” unable to fathom dimensions beyond three?[7] 

Though speculative, if “content constraint” or “higher dimensionality” has merit, then complete messages might be unknowable; except, in the mind’s eye—discernible only to puzzle-solvers. 

Well, are there unseen agents or constraints?  Perhaps, so; though apprehension takes a quantum leap. 

Schrödinger’s Cat

Let’s suppose the circle-makers perceive some danger ahead; something big, having the potential to affect every creature on the planet.  As they know what lies ahead, they would like to give clear and unmistakable warning.  But, perhaps, owing to the problem of quantum entanglement they cannot. 

Consider, Erwin Schrödinger’s famous thought experiment with the cat.  In the experiment, the cat is penned in a box with a radioactive source, Geiger counter and vial of poison gas.  Over time, the radio-source decays, releasing sub-atomic particles detectable by the Geiger counter.  Should the Geiger counter detect a decay event during the experiment, it will cause the poison gas to be released from the vial, killing the cat.  (Macabre, but it’s not my experiment.) 

As sub-atomic decay occurs randomly, one cannot know in advance precisely when a decay event will occur; i.e., during the experiment?  But one can know whether it has occurred by observation. 

And there’s the rub.  Pending observation, the cat’s state of being is “indeterminate,” a serious problem for classical Newtonian physics, but not quantum physics.[8] 

In classical Newtonian physics, the cat’s state of being—alive or dead—is “particle-like,” either here or there, never oscillating between the two.  Particles don’t oscillate; waves do.  But if observation is required to determine the cat’s state of being, then state of being is indeterminate pending observation; i.e., neither here nor there, but both at once—superposed states.  And this is not just word-play; Schrödinger’s experiment demonstrates that the cat’s state of being is particle-like and wave-like at the same time.  The cat inhabits superposed states until observation causes superposition collapse.[9] 

In short, though paradoxical (and astonishing), the cat may be said to be alive and dead in the same instant, the superposed states which define its existence collapsing to a single possibility—alive or dead—upon intrusion by an observer![10]   Put another way, the cat’s superposed states are quantum-entangled with an observer whose observation, astonishingly, limits superposition to just one possibility; the observed one. 

This, I suspect, is the problem faced by the circle-makers; and if not precisely this, then something like it. 

For the sake of argument, let’s substitute we “earthlings” for Schrödinger’s cat, and planet Earth for the box.  Like the cat, we observe the contents of our “box,” which is the world around us.  I observe that you are alive and well; and you observe the same about me.  How nice!  But to we denizens of three-space, the future is indistinct.  It cannot be fully expressed; except, in a higher dimension—“time,” the fourth dimension. 

Presumably, as the cat surveyed Schrödinger’s diabolical box, it observed the Geiger counter and vial of poison gas.  But these would be meaningless to a cat.  Unaware of the latent danger, the cat would perceive no need for escape; perhaps, it purred contentedly the while.  Is this our circumstance?  Do we not perceive the danger lurking in our future? 

If the analogy holds, the circle-makers cannot know how the “experiment” on Earth turns out without observation, an event that triggers superposition collapse—a “risky proposition,” to say the least; particularly, if fate turns on a random event, as in Schrödinger’s thought experiment. 

But what if the experiment were changed?  What if the cat, recognizing the danger, contrived its own escape?  Of course, this would require a different breed of cat; not just observant, but intelligent, creative, able to reason and work things out independently—“Felix sapiens.” 

For escape to be timely, Felix must leave the box before the gas vial opens.  However, NB: Should Felix, or an outside observer, verify the state of the gas vial during the pendency of the experiment, indeterminacy would be terminated by superposition collapse in the moment of observation.  Put another way, from Felix’s standpoint, to maximize the possibility of escape, it would be best to exclude outside observers—“no kibitzers;” it’s up to Felix! 

Does this sound like an exercise in free-will?  To me, it does.  And it might explain the puzzling methods of the circle-makers. 

Notionally, they know the danger, but not our fate.  That’s something they cannot know without observation.  Furthermore, unlike Schrödinger, who contrived the experiment to investigate quantum effects, they are presumably well-acquainted with quantum entanglement.  If “real-world cats” can be saved, why not do so?  Why allow the experiment to go on? 

The answer, it must be recalled, is that intrusion—any intrusion—collapses superposed states, a “risky proposition,” as previously stated.  If the circle-makers decline to observe the outcome, can their intentions be other than benign?  But then, who’s to say they’re in control? 

Well, what about warning?  The answer is the same; the granularity or precision of warning varies with the observer’s physical-temporal vantage point: farther from the event, more coarse/less precise; closer to the event, less coarse/more precise.  In other words, the more clear and unmistakable the warning, the closer in space-time the observer.  Paradoxically, the clearest, most unmistakable warning would be least useful. 

Well, is there no escape?  Maybe, not without timely decisions made by those within the diabolical box—autonomous decisions made on the basis of situational awareness and predictive analysis—“it’s up to Felix!” 

But even should an outsider risk superposition collapse, warning would present other potentially significant problems: 

·         What’s the best medium or language for warning?  Even if clear, would it be believed?  Would it be acted upon?  And if not, what then?

·         Whether or not some act, what about others whose fate would be sealed; those who might escape if not for untimely superposition collapse?  Who bears responsibility for them?

Perhaps, this explains why the circle-makers leave puzzles.  All things considered, the best course of action may be to place information out in the open, and let intelligent, emancipated beings make of it what they will.  In other words, have intelligent, situationally aware beings take responsibility for themselves. 

But this implies something further: there must be a viable solution; for what choice is it if each decision leads to the same outcome, a dead end?  Unless the circle-makers delight in schadenfreude (in which case, puzzles are pointless), they must know that a solution exists, and that we are capable of finding it. 

And so, though speculative, puzzles may be key.  Perhaps, through puzzles, the circle-makers empower intelligent, observant, reasoning persons—peers—to help themselves; and thereby shift moral responsibility. 

Is there just one way to crack the nut?

The foregoing analysis, though speculative, presents a model for coming to grips with crop circles and getting at their puzzling content.  Like any model, it should be tested against empirical evidence, to the extent feasible; otherwise, through further experimentation, including thought experiments. 

But what about the recurrent themes, previously noted?  I said I’d come back to them, and now I will.  Why do the circle-makers return again and again to sacred geometry, squaring the circle, the golden mean, astral events, historical symbols, the mystery of life (DNA)?

If it’s all about puzzles and puzzle-solving, why not Sudoku? 

Perhaps, the answer is that human creativity and intelligence applied in any discipline—sciences, music, mathematics, ethics, aesthetics, etc—are capable of penetrating the mystery. 

In that case, any puzzle-solver, whether scientist, musician, mathematician, ethicist, or aesthete, may have a useful contribution to make.  Let people of goodwill, whoever and wherever they are, come together to compare notes and share ideas.  As we’re in this diabolical box together, it behooves us to collaborate, while time remains. 

Final remarks

I’ve argued, up to this point, that it’s futile to look for messages in crop circles without considering the medium because “the medium is the message.”  My analysis examined the choice of this singular medium; to include, how puzzles might solve a problem—quantum entanglement—allowing the circle-makers to shift decision-making responsibility to persons able to help themselves. 

Furthermore, my ideas, if far-fetched, provide a possibly useful model for examining the crop circle phenomenon.  But is there any other model that can account for these observations?  I can think of one (and I welcome good faith criticism). 

The thing that makes Erwin Schrödinger’s thought experiment so engaging—and shocking—is the existential quandary of the cat.  Regrettably, Schrödinger’s provocative illustration crowds out less shocking ideas, causing one to fixate on the existential question to the exclusion of all else. 

But what if the diabolical box were, instead, a chrysalis; the cat a pupa; and radiation-triggered transformation into a butterfly or moth the uncertain outcome?  My point is that Schrödinger’s conception is dark; and thus, colors one’s thinking about the experiment. 

If the world is a chrysalis, rather than a diabolical box, is it possible the circle-makers are waiting expectantly for our transformation?  Do they await the emergence of “butterflies” or “moths?”  Have they made such a transformation themselves?  Are they, perhaps, gatekeepers for some exclusive club?  A club that any intelligent, observant, creative being may join, when the time comes; provided, he or she has passed the entrance examination, and undergone required vetting? 

This model, also speculative, is less dire.  And it accounts equally well for puzzles, puzzle-solving and puzzle-solvers, which is to say: If quantum entanglement risks superposition collapse; and superposition collapse limits possible outcomes; then, quantum entanglement limits possible outcomes.  Might this be their reason for avoiding quantum entanglement; and are puzzles the solution?!  If they are responsible for vetting entrants into some exclusive club, it certainly might be. 


The circle-makers, whoever they are, have chosen this singular medium for a reason; presumably, because it suits their purpose better than any other.  This leads one to suspect that messaging, if any, is inseparable from the medium; the “medium is the message,” as Marshal McLuhan famously put it.  In this case, the medium is also revealing of the circle-makers’ purpose. 

Evidently, the circle-makers neither need, nor seek, permission from any landowner, government authority, or commercial sponsor, which suggests they attach great importance to message content; however puzzling it may be. 

Furthermore, based on context, it would appear they expect the target audience to be aware of the phenomenon and come to grips with it, or not, as a matter of choice; i.e., free-will.  The opinion of any landowner, governmental authority or commercial interest seems irrelevant—just so much extra baggage. 

These observations give strong reason to think that “puzzle-solvers”—intelligent, creative, inquiring minds that are observant, situationally aware and not put off by work—are the target audience.  Furthermore, they give reason to suspect that the puzzling content of some crop circles is constrained by an unseen agent or Law of Nature; e.g., quantum entanglement. 

In that case, autonomous puzzle-solving may usefully avoid quantum entanglement between the circle-makers and the target audience.  Perhaps, this explains why messaging is indirect. 

Though speculative, this supposition provides a model for testing the circle-makers’ possible purpose: to empower the target audience to solve the enigma and choose its own destiny.

As the puzzles are complex and possibly multi-dimensional, a variety of different creative skills and intellectual aptitudes are needed to solve them, suggesting that collaboration across a spectrum of disciplines would be useful.


{2] The author adopts the term “crop circle” or “circle” out of convenience, a quick identifier that recognizes the historical development of the phenomenon, which began with simple circular designs in fields of growing crops.  If the geometry or lay-down of a particular specimen is complex, triangular or polygonal, vice circular, the reader should grasp “what I mean, not what I say.”

[3] By art, I mean “pure art;” sometimes characterized as “art for art’s sake” (i.e., “divorced from any didactic, moral or utilitarian function); in other words, without “deeper, secret, hidden, inner-meaning.”

[4] “Investigators” is another possible label.  But it’s no better at getting across ideas such as situational awareness or free-will or beauty—maybe worse, because of its pejorative overtones (it certainly lacks whimsy)—and one cannot spend a great deal of time looking at crop circles and not be amazed by their beauty, mystery, geometry, history or whimsicality.

[5] The new crop picture from Barbary Castle on June 1, 2008 codes for ten successive digits of pi = 3.141592654 by means of ten successive angles of rotation within a right-handed spiral”

[6] In the case of Crabwood 2002, the message is, quite frankly, chilling: “Beware the bearers of false gifts and their broken promises.  Much pain, but still time.  Believe.  There is good out there.  We oppose deception.  Conduit closing.  (Bell sound)”

[7] In his satirical 1884 novella, English schoolmaster Edwin A. Abbott, imagined a two-dimensional world—Flatland—in which the protagonist, a polygon, was visited by an incomprehensible three-dimensional being, a sphere, from Spaceland.  Trapped in three dimensions ourselves, we earthlings are fellow inhabitants of Spaceland.  And just as a polygon might have difficulty with dimensions beyond two, we have difficulty with dimensions beyond three.

[8] A predicate of Newtonian physics is that things have existence apart from the observer—“objective reality”—which is, in principle, susceptible to measurement.  Furthermore, objective reality does not change according to context; “it is what it is.”  A thing cannot be in two or more places at once any more than a cat be alive and dead.  Furthermore, by measuring objective reality, one can predict the effect of one thing upon another whenever they encounter each other.  For such reasons, Newtonian physics is said to be “deterministic.”  But at the quantum level, a thing can indeed be in two or more places at once; it can occupy an infinite number of places or states!  From the perspective of quantum physics, reality does not exist independently of the observer; it is entangled with the observer—“spooky entanglement at a distance,” in Einstein’s words.  Reality is not objective; it is subjective.

[9] A detailed examination of quantum mechanics is beyond the scope of this analysis.  Though Schrödinger’s experiment never produced tangible results—it was a “thought experiment,” thankfully for the cat—many of the principles it relies on have been proved in the laboratory; for example, by Young’s equally famous “double-slit experiment,” which demonstrated wave-particle duality.

[10] But does the cat count as an observer?  Arguably, it does.  However, without “extra-cat” observation (observation from the standpoint of an outside observer), one can no more know the cat’s state of mind than its state of being.  Nevertheless, should the cat observe the Geiger counter’s registration of a decay event, and poison vial unsealing, it seems the experimenter’s observation must be limited to a dead cat at the conclusion of the experiment.  Otherwise, the cat undergoes more than one superposition collapse—one relative to itself; another (perhaps, multiple others) relative to an outside observer or observers!  Could the cat possibly be dead in one dimension and yet alive in another; or in multiple others?!  The question goes far beyond my powers of analysis; and perhaps beyond comprehension.  It will take a bigger brain than mine to answer.


Mark Fussell & Stuart Dike

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