This will probably be Peter Rogerson’s last contribution to Magonia. He is currently receiving treatment from the Christie Hospital in Manchester for throat cancer, and it is unlikely, whatever happens, that he will be able to resume writing the stream of informed, entertaining and sometimes controversial contributions that he has made to Magonia over the past decades. Today, February 4th, is World Cancer Day, and Magonians may, in appreciation of all that Peter has contributed to our fields of interest over so many years, wish to make a donation to Cancer Research UK.
Here we are, more than fifty years after the great British UFO flap of November 1967, half a century from the stories of Socorro, the Warminster Thing and the great Stoke-on-Trent flap. Such stirring times seem much closer than half a century ago, half way from Passchendaele to today. These were the times that many young people became interested in the subject, and our own Editor Emeritus John Harney first edited the Merseyside UFO Research Group Newsletter, subsequently fifty years ago this February, published the first issue of the Merseyside UFO Bulletin, which morphed into MUFOB and then Magonia.
Our editor John Rimmer was one of those who were attracted to the subject at this time and was introduced to John Harney, through I believe the good offices of Charles Bowen of Flying Saucer Review [Yes, I am eternally grateful that in my enquiring after a UFO organisation in Liverpool, Bowen referred me to MUFOB rather than MUFORG - JR]. John started writing for the bulletin and designing its covers. As a librarian at Liverpool Libraries some of John’s earliest articles were about how his profession could aid the subject. More importantly he became one of the first people to look to the folkloric roots of ufology.
So John has now been at the centre of the MUFOB/Magonia family for 50 years, taking on the editorship of the magazine in 1975. It is a considerable achievement that I don’t think anyone else has beaten or is likely to in the foreseeable future and I am sure that all our readers will join me in congratulating him on this.
I first became aware of MUFORG as a teenager in 1968, nearly being thrown out of a UFO club meeting for laughing at some of the satirical articles. I got my first 1/- old money (5p) issue in Spring of 1969, when I was still in the sixth form, I wrote my first teenage-angst letter to the Bulletin a couple of months later,
I first met John in Manchester at meeting of the local DIGAP UFO club in June 1970 and it was clear we had a number of ideas in common, so I eventually joined the MUFOB team in 1971. I have therefore known John and had the immeasurable pleasure of his friendship for the whole of my adult life. Circumstances have made it largely a telephone friendship and our Sunday evening phone calls must have greatly improved the profits of British Telecom. Thank you John for those years of friendship. If I have given anything back, it must have been introducing John to our friend Roger Sandell, still sadly missed.
Over the years MUFOB/Magonia has mutated from being a regional UFO magazine to one dealing with a much wider selection of visions and beliefs, explored in the website and blog, now devoted to an ever widening selection of book reviews by a small but very diverse ‘Magonia community’ which expresses very diverse and often diverging opinions. That is because John revels in such diversity. He is one of those people who is automatically friends with everybody, especially some of the stranger characters encountered in English pubs, being of course, a great real ale enthusiast!
Magonia is a website devoted to visions and beliefs, particularly those on the intellectual and cultural fringe, and study of these becomes ever more urgent. It is unlikely that any of us original Magonians will still be around in 50 years’ time, but there will still be visions, beliefs and anomalous experiences, some not even imaginable at present, and there will be still a need for chroniclers and critics. Magonia has kept a critical eye on many topics and perhaps our campaigns against the related ‘Satanic abuse’ and ‘alien abduction’ panics - the ideas that even unknown to yourself in the secret interstices of your life, terrible things are being done to you – have been amongst our most significant contributions.
There are, of course, many even more dangerous ideas. I think ‘Purity’ is pretty much top of the list. The anthropologist Mary Douglas once wrote a book called Purity and Danger but a book called ‘Purity is Danger’ would be more apposite, for surely all the worst crimes are committed in the name of purity and pure lands: pure religion, pure nation, pure race, new model pure people, a pure world cleared of ‘human pollutant’, pure souls freed from organic bodies, pure lands that no actual-existing human being is ever pure enough to inhabit. Even within our own liberal West there are those who want ever more pure bodies and pure minds. At the most extreme are the self and everybody else hating nihilist bandits who slaughter little children dancing for joy as ‘impure’.
Behind these nightmares of purity lies the old gnostic lie that this Good Earth and all its rich diversity of life is somehow not our home and that we are not part of it. If we could see that human beings and all human culture is an integral part of a unitary natural world from which nothing is excluded we might learn wisdom and humility. --Peter Rogerson