Posts Tagged ‘Agobard of Lyon’
(Third of a series)
“[T]he physicist’s models ultimately rest on the same archetypal foundations that also underlie the speculations of the theologian. Both are psychology, and it too has no other foundation.”
—Jung, “A Psychological Approach to the Dogma of the Trinity”
So what have we learned about Magonia, that mystery land beyond the clouds?
(“The facts, Ma’am, just the facts,” as Sgt. Friday used to say on the old “Dragnet” TV show. And although I will not mention UFOs again in this post, the Magonian “facts” have an obvious bearing on them.)
Fact No. 1: Sometime early in the 9th century, a mob at Lyon got hold of three men and one woman who they believed had fallen from the marauding Magonian airships, come to loot the crops of honest peasants. They would have stoned the four to death, if not for the intervention of Archbishop Agobard. (See my post of May 3, “The Mystery Men of Magonia,” for the details.) We don’t know what gave people the idea the foursome had fallen from the skies. Agobard never tells us.
Fact No. 2: Toward the end of the 17th century—5 July 1683, to be exact—the Jewish heretic Abraham Cardozo imagined he saw three men and a woman upon the moon. It was evening, the darkness gathering. The three men proceeded to descend to the moon into Cardozo’s garden. (Details in my post of May 11, “More on the Magonia Men.”) Of course people don’t do that. You can’t just walk down from the moon into a garden by the Dardanelles. What Cardozo “saw” had to have emerged from his own mind. Or soul, if you prefer.
The same men? The same woman? Coming down to earth from the same (or similar) celestial regions?
Direct influence is ruled out; it seems impossible Cardozo had ever read Agobard. That leaves coincidence. Or else that Magonia and its people were (are?) somehow real, visitors from a realm that transcends history.
Let’s try: Jungian archetypes.
That is to say, primordial psychic patterns, penetrating from humanity’s shared unconscious into our individual awarenesses. Of course, it’s pretty controversial that such things even exist. Me, I’m a “believer.” The archetypes correlate and explain too much for me to discard them.
One of the most pervasive archetypes is the quaternity: a group of four, often in the pattern of 3 + 1; three, and a Fourth that’s somehow not quite like the Three. “One, two, three—but where … is the fourth?” Socrates asks at the beginning of Plato’s Timaeus, one of Jung’s key texts for the quaternity. Jung asked Christianity the same question. The Christian Trinity, he suggested, is a Quaternity that’s been mutilated, thereby rendered unreal. Christianity’s error, sin almost, was to have suppressed the Fourth.
Who was that Fourth? Perhaps the devil—for Jung the Christian God was incomplete, even false, because He’d been purged of His evil element. Or the Virgin, the Mother of God. The Christian God is then incomplete in another way—only the male Three acknowledged and honored, the female suppressed. This is the quaternity that Cardozo saw on the moon—and if you’ll scroll to the end of my post for May 11, you’ll see how exact the parallel is.
The same quaternity crops up in Cardozo’s other writings. In one of his essays, he predicts the coming of four Messiahs, three of them male, the fourth female. This pattern was evidently a fixture of Cardozo’s psychic life.
Now let’s go back 900 years before Cardozo, to Agobard’s Lyon. What precisely happened there?
Of course I can’t say for sure. But here’s what I think: The archetype of celestial beings as a 3 + 1 quaternity, three men and one woman, had accumulated such compelling power that it sought, as if on its own, a flesh-and-blood correlate by which it might manifest in the physical world. An element of our collective psychology, it enacted this quest through the collective psychology of the mob. It fastened, for its incarnation, on four real human beings, selected for this purpose on some flimsy pretext—or no pretext at all, aside from their 3 + 1 gender configuration.
So these unfortunates were singled out for the mob’s rage, scapegoats for loss and suffering beyond human control. Loss that could be blamed only on God, for whom the Quaternity is the perfect representation.
(Speculation? Sure. But what else have we got, in these matters? And what does it profit us to refuse to engage in it?)
If Agobard hadn’t been there, to oppose his learning and reason to the eruption of the mass unconscious, they’d have been lynched. Brutally. Unjustly. Outrageously.
And yet, in the Jungian sense, that mass unconscious gave a truer picture of God than all Agobard’s theology.
Three men and a woman, actually. They fell from the sky, it would seem, in the vicinity of Lyon in what’s now eastern France, early in the ninth century. They came from a place called Magonia.
So the local mob believed, as they prepared to stone them to death.
We have the story from Agobard, Archbishop of Lyon (c. 779-840), in a treatise directed against “the absurd opinion of the common folk concerning hail and thunder.” Agobard prided himself on his enlightenment; Scripture, not superstition, was for him the touchstone of truth. Here’s the story he tells, as translated by W. J. Lewis for the Internet Medieval Sourcebook:
“But we have seen and heard of many people overcome with so much foolishness, made crazy by so much stupidity, that they believe and say that there is a certain region, which is called Magonia, from which ships come in the clouds. In these ships the crops that fell because of hail and were lost in storms are carried back into that region; evidently these aerial sailors make a payment to the storm-makers, and take the grain and other crops. Among those so blinded with profound stupidity that they believe these things could happen we have seen many people in a kind of meeting, exhibiting four captives, three men and one woman, as if they had fallen from these very ships. As I have said, they exhibited these four, who had been chained up for some days, with such a meeting finally assembling in our presence, as if these captives ought to be stoned. But when truth had prevailed, however, after much argument, the people who had exhibited the captives, in accordance with the prophecy (Jeremiah 2:26) ‘were confounded … as the thief is confounded when he is taken.’ ”
This is a story well known in UFOlogical circles, for good reason. Forty-some years ago, it inspired the title of Jacques Vallee’s Passport to Magonia (Regnery, 1969), a stunningly original book that set forth the practically unheard-of possibility that it was possible to believe in UFOs without believing them to be visitors from outer space. Vallee noticed, and took seriously, the resemblance of the small humanoid beings who piloted the UFOs to the “wee folk” of European fairy lore. He suggested the two species of alien might have more in common than their small stature.
Not that the fairies and elves were misidentified spacemen, as the UFOlogists might have said. Nor (as the “debunkers” held) that UFOs are the same sort of nonsense as the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny. Rather, both traditions attested to some realm beyond consensus reality, yet co-existing with ourselves through the length of human history. A realm that, for want of a better name, we might call “Magonia.”
Where did Agobard—or the popular beliefs that Agobard debunked—get the name Magonia? Maybe from Greek magos, Latin magus, in which case the mysterious airships came from “the land of magicians.” But Jakob Grimm (of Grimm’s Fairy Tales fame) suggested another etymology, from an old German word for “whirlwind.” So I learn from a fascinating article by Miceal Ross, “Anchors in a Three-Decker World,” which appeared in the 1998 volume of the journal Folklore—and which I’ll return to in a future post, in connection with the mysterious “airship” that haunted American skies in 1896-97.
Agobard’s story provokes another question, even more baffling and much more important. Let’s assume the “four captives,” whom the archbishop rescued from a ghastly lynching, actually existed. And let’s assume, as good rationalists must, that they were ordinary human beings—that Agobard was right, the mob had been led astray by some sort of delusion. But how did the crowd ever get the idea these people were “aerial sailors … fallen from these very ships”? Was it something they’d witnessed? Or something the unlucky foursome said or did?
And why does a quaternity very much like them appear almost 900 years later, in the darkening sky over Turkish Canakkale, by the Dardanelles? There they were spotted by the heretical Jewish magus, theologian and cult leader Abraham Cardozo one July evening in 1683, when he stepped out of his house and looked at the moon …
But that’ll be for next week’s post.