Sa­cred ge­om­e­try of the VW Polo

RYAN SHIRLOW goes in search of es­o­teric mean­ings and hid­den codes in his age­ing fam­ily car...

Fortean Times - - Contents - RYAN SHIRLOW

Forteans take a cer­tain plea­sure in the dis­cov­ery of hid­den re­la­tion­ships be­tween dis­parate phe­nom­ena. Some we at­tribute to blind chance, but oth­ers we sus­pect are the work of peo­ple or pro­cesses we can at least at­tempt to un­der­stand.

The search for pat­tern and mean­ing is an im­por­tant one, to which our brains are finely tuned. But what hap­pens when this search overex­tends it­self, and we see sig­nif­i­cance where none ex­ists?

This ten­dency is known as parei­do­lia. We most com­monly ex­pe­ri­ence it when mun­dane im­ages bring to mind some­thing un­usual: cats that look like Hitler, the in­fa­mous Face on Mars, the faces in trees or fence pan­els to be found in this very magazine’s ‘Sim­u­lacra Cor­ner.’ 1

But parei­do­lia can also be caused by any stim­u­lus of a suit­ably com­plex or ran­dom na­ture. If you spend hours lis­ten­ing to record­ings of ghostly static, you may ex­pe­ri­ence Elec­tron­icVoice Phe­nom­ena (see FT104:26-30, 194:26-30). 2 And if you de­vote enough time to por­ing over a map of an­cient mon­u­ments, per­haps mys­te­ri­ous align­ments will ap­pear.

So pro­found is this ten­dency that even in the ab­sence of any ex­ter­nal in­put our brains still try to de­tect mean­ing­ful pat­terns. Peo­ple who suf­fer from ‘Charles Bon­net Syn­drome’ re­port ter­ri­fy­ing hal­lu­ci­na­tions as the vis­ual cen­tres of their brain fill in the gaps in their dam­aged eye­sight (see FT125:14, 184:4649, 321:54-55). 3 There are even struc­tured and mu­si­cal forms of tin­ni­tus re­ported by peo­ple

Con­spir­acy the­ory is a type of po­lit­i­cal parei­do­lia

with hear­ing loss (see FT300:24, 361:22).

Parei­do­lia could even be at the heart of any num­ber of para­nor­mal ex­pe­ri­ences: from mis­in­ter­preted shad­owy fig­ures, to lights seen in the sky, to ap­par­ently sig­nif­i­cant co­in­ci­dences. It may be that it stymies our at­tempts to an­a­lyse ag­gre­gated data, form­ing dis­con­nected re­ports into ap­par­ently mean­ing­ful ‘flaps’ or ‘win­dow ar­eas’. I be­lieve modern day con­spir­acy the­ory is a kind of

po­lit­i­cal parei­do­lia: the search for mean­ing hid­den in the noise of 21st cen­tury gov­er­nance. Pseu­do­science, al­ter­na­tive his­tory and the New Age all rely on this in­stinc­tive anal­y­sis of poorly struc­tured and con­tra­dic­tory data. En­thu­si­asts ran­domly di­vide or mul­ti­ply dates and mea­sure­ments by one an­other in the search for sig­nif­i­cance, a prac­tice known as nu­merol­ogy or – when ap­plied to art and ar­chi­tec­ture – ‘Sa­cred Ge­om­e­try’.

At the heart of Sa­cred Ge­om­e­try is a tan­gi­ble core of real math­e­mat­ics. Pi or the Fi­bonacci Se­quence 4 are fun­da­men­tal re­la­tion­ships which ex­ist in na­ture and which have been em­u­lated by artists and en­gi­neers since an­cient times. But num­bers can also be abused by quack aca­demics, who con­struct ten­u­ous links be­tween un­proven hy­pothe­ses, cyn­i­cally pars­ing the data to prove their pet the­o­ries. 5

To show­case this kind of an­a­lyt­i­cal parei­do­lia at work, I de­cided to write a short piece about an ob­ject so ut­terly ba­nal that no mys­ti­cal art could pos­si­bly have been em­ployed in its de­sign. I chose my 1993 Mark2FVolk­swa­gen Polo.

By the sim­ple tech­nique of start­ing with what I wanted to find and work­ing back to the ev­i­dence, I ex­ceeded my worst ex­pec­ta­tions.

My search be­gan with the fa­mous ‘Golden Ra­tio’, which ap­pears time and again in math­e­mat­ics, bi­ol­ogy and art (Leonardo DaVinci was a fan). It can be ex­pressed nu­mer­i­cally as 1.618:1. 6

The length of the first third of my car, when com­pared to the height at its very front, closely matches this Golden value. Clearly the de­signer had in­tended to catch my at­ten­tion. Per­haps, as be­fits a car de­signed in Protes­tant Ger­many and built in Catholic Spain, my Polo is im­bued with fur­ther Chris­tian sig­nif­i­cance.

Clad in­Vir­ginal white, she is fit­ted with four steel wheels, each one rep­re­sent­ing a Gospel of the New Tes­ta­ment. One “mea­sures a cir­cle be­gin­ning any­where”, as Charles Fort wrote in Lo!, but on this model the di­am­e­ter of the wheel is 13in – a trou­bling fig­ure in the Western Chris­tian tra­di­tion, bring­ing to mind the 12 dis­ci­ples and the traitor Ju­das Is­car­iot. This is no mere co­in­ci­dence, for the en­gine also boasts four cylin­ders, and a ca­pac­ity of 1.3 litres.

I sketched out ap­prox­i­mate mea­sure­ments of the car’s other di­men­sions; be­ing ap­prox­i­mate is good, be­cause it al­lows you to bend the re­sults to fit your cho­sen the­sis.

My Polo, it tran­spires, is roughly di­vided into thirds across much of its form: the height from the ground to the side trim, from the trim to the win­dow, and from the win­dow to the roof – the clos­est point of the car to Heaven. The same pat­tern can be found from the bumper to the wind­screen, from there back to the trail­ing edge of the door, and from there a slightly larger third to the rear of the car. Was the de­signer dar­ing to im­ply that one part of this Trin­ity is greater than the oth­ers? Might the larger third of my ve­hi­cle rep­re­sent the pri­macy of God the Fa­ther, in a clear ref­er­ence to the fourth cen­tury heresy of Ari­an­ism? 7

It is good tech­nique to sim­ply ask such a ques­tion, then move quickly on. We will con­sider the mat­ter proven.

These days, no stream of al­ter­na­tive con­scious­ness is com­plete with­out in­vok­ing Hitler or the Nazis. Re­mem­ber, the orig­i­nalVolk­swa­gen was a project of Nazi Ger­many – the orig­i­nal Peo­ple’s Car. Openly fas­cist sym­bols such as the swastika are now banned in that coun­try, so right-wing groups use more coded sym­bol­ism. 8 Might we find ev­i­dence of these dark forces be­hind the Polo’s dy­namic styling?

I was re­lieved when I could not. There was no sug­ges­tion of the num­ber 88 (i.e., ‘HH’ or ‘Heil Hitler’) in the de­sign. This con­firmed my be­lief that the Polo’s de­signer was pure of heart.

Else­where, an­other mys­te­ri­ous ra­tio ap­peared again and again: 1.3:1. This is the ra­tio of the length of the roof to its width. It is the height of the car di­vided by the dis­tance to the bot­tom of the rear win­dow. It is the depth of the bon­net to the width at its mid­point. What could it mean?

And how could the an­cient Ger­mans, work­ing as they were, in the 1980s, with the ba­sic com­put­ers of that era, have ex­e­cuted such a com­plex de­sign, laden with re­li­gious and math­e­mat­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance?

The an­swer is they could not – at least, not alone...

I had set out to cyn­i­cally demon­strate how ran­dom facts about my car could be mashed to­gether to pro­duce lu­di­crous as­ser­tions. In­stead, I had un­cov­ered ar­cane rev­e­la­tions hid­den in plain sight.

We must face up to the in­escapable con­clu­sion that my Polo was built to ex­press se­cret, oc­cult knowl­edge. But was it de­signed with the as­sis­tance of ne­far­i­ous Freema­sons, divine An­gels, or be­ings from outer space? And what were they try­ing to tell us?

ABOVE: It’s easy to be swept away by the dra­matic lines and el­e­gant pro­por­tions of the ‘hum­ble’ Volk­swa­gen Polo.

TOP: The birth of the ‘Peo­ple’s Car’. Does the in­no­cent-look­ing Polo hide dark Nazi sym­bols? ABOVE: Good forteans should al­ways keep clear and de­tailed notes. These may help in later eval­u­a­tion, whether of the le­gal or psy­chi­atric kind…

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