Four visitors from the skies—three men and one woman. First reported from Lyon, in what’s now France, early in the ninth century. Then from the Turkish Dardanelles, late in the seventeenth century. To reappear like that, after nearly 900 years, would be quite a trick for human beings. Even, I’d imagine, for space aliens.
For archetypal entities, it’s a piece of cake.
Our source for the Lyon “sighting” is a Latin writing of Agobard, Archbishop of Lyon; I posted about Agobard’s story last week. The Turkish episode, we learn from the Hebrew writings of the heretical Jewish magus, theologian, and cult leader Abraham Cardozo (1627-1706).
Cardozo was a heretic, partly because he believed that Sabbatai Zevi—who’d proclaimed himself Messiah in 1665, then converted to Islam the year afterward—really was Messiah. But mostly because of what he believed about God and the Supreme Being, namely, that they both exist but aren’t the same. Rather, God is an inferior entity, dependent upon illumination from the Supreme Being, and now comatose and half-dead through the absence of that illumination. Which is why the world is in the mess it is.
I told Cardozo’s story, and translated some of his writings, in my book Abraham Miguel Cardozo: Selected Writings (Paulist Press, 2001). The following is taken from pages 285-288:
“I lived four years by the Dardanelles. On Tammuz 11, 5443 [July 5, 1683], one hour before nightfall, as I was descending into my garden from my upper chamber, I looked up and saw the moon.
“ ‘I see what appear to be shapes on the moon,’ I said to the people of my household. They looked and said, ‘There are four shapes: Messiah ben David, Rabbi Nathan, Rabbi Isaac Luria, and a fourth shape that looks to be a woman.’ … Now I could see them clearly.”
As in Lyon, nearly a millennium earlier: three men, one woman. The three men speak to Cardozo and his friends from the moon, then step down into the trees of his garden. The next day they visit Cardozo in his “upper chamber.” He thinks he knows exactly who they are: Sabbatai Zevi (“Messiah ben David”), Sabbatai’s prophet Nathan of Gaza, and the sixteenth-century Kabbalist Isaac Luria. All three, of course, are ghosts. Sabbatai, Nathan, and Luria were dead in 1683, when this was supposed to have happened.
Only gradually does it dawn on Cardozo how terribly he’s been tricked.
The three are demons, it turns out, who’ve taken on the shapes of deceased holy men in order to seduce Cardozo into misbelief. They’re ensconced now in his bedroom; he can’t get rid of them. Day after day they torment him with their blasphemies.
The Supreme Being, they hiss into his ear, has stripped God of all His power. The world’s lordship now belongs to Satan. Cardozo takes to his bed, burning with deadly fever. The evil three station themselves by his bed, dressed in black—like the Three Men in Black who came to visit Albert Bender in 1953 in Bridgeport, Connecticut, when Bender discovered too much about flying saucers. (See my posts “They Knew Too Much …” and ” … About Flying Saucers,” Feb. 1 and 22, 2011. Archetypal entities, remember, are immortal.)
“How long will you keep on persecuting me?” Cardozo demands.
The three men’s chilling reply: “Until you are dead. For it is our god’s pleasure to do to you as yours did to Pharaoh.”
Yet Cardozo lived to tell the tale. And the tale is so bizarre as to provoke the question: was this man in his right mind?
Probably not. Or at least not entirely. If you want to tell me the fever came first, and that Cardozo’s memory of having seen the three men descend from the moon was a fever-induced hallucination, I’ll admit that does make sense. Yet hallucinations come from somewhere.
And what about the fourth of Cardozo’s “Magonians”—the woman? She appears at the beginning of the story, on the moon. Then she vanishes. What do we know about her?
Put it another way: what do we know about the motif of a woman on the moon, in the seventeenth century? Specifically, in seventeenth-century Spain, where Cardozo spent the first two decades of his life, having grown up as a Roman Catholic. (For although Cardozo’s ancestry was Jewish, his family practiced Catholicism outwardly, Judaism in secret. He formally converted to Judaism only after fleeing Spain at age 21.)
Answer: we know plenty.
Seventeenth-century Spain was awash in paintings and sculptures of the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception, depicted as a beautiful young girl standing on the moon. The best known, and in my opinion the most splendid, is this one, painted by Diego de Velazquez in 1619, about eight years before Cardozo was born. Velazquez chose to portray the Virgin standing by herself. Others, like the sculptors Gregorio Fernandez (below) and Juan Martinez Montanes, preferred to show her accompanied by a group of males, usually three, members of her cherubic entourage. (Both of these sculptures are from the early 1630s, when Cardozo was a small boy.)
So there’s the 3 + 1.
How easy it is to imagine tiny Miguel Cardozo standing, open-mouthed with awe, before some such painting or sculpture of the mysterious Lady who rules the night sky! Easily the images lodged themselves in his unconscious. Decades later, when the Christian Miguel Cardozo had become the Jewish Kabbalist Abraham Cardozo, they came bursting forth in a string of feverish hallucinations.
So have we penetrated to the secret of Cardozo’s experience?
Part of it. But there’s more. The Magonian connection still needs to be elucidated.
Dr. Jung, please call your office …
(To be continued, in my next post.)
by David Halperin
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