Thursday, August 22, 2019

A Ninth Century Rebuke of "Extraterresterial Beings" by Bishop Agobard of Lyon

In the early ninth century, a group of three men and one woman were reported to have come down from “aerial ships” to the city of Lyon. The mob that gathered accused the visitors of being evil magicians who wanted to ruin their crops. But the visitors insisted that they were ordinary, peaceful people from the same country who had been abducted by magical men and taken to a place in the sky called Magonia. Before the mob became violent, Bishop Agobard of Lyon (June 6) came running to the scene. He dismissed the story of the visitors as complete fantasy. Since Agobard was a greatly respected man, the townspeople accepted his skepticism and the strangers were left unharmed.

Modern UFO researchers have judged this story and the claims of the visitors to be true, saying it is an example of premodern alien contact. They also view Bishop Agobard as a "debunker" of his time, who did not realize what he was in fact dealing with. In 1969 UFO researcher and enthusiast Jacques Vallee even published a groundbreaking book titled Passport to Magonia: From Folklore to Flying Saucers. From there “Magonia” entered UFOlogical discourse, where it remains to this day.

According to Bishop Agobard's account, as he recorded in his work On Hail and Thunder (ch. 2), which he wrote specifically because the belief in aerial ship visitors was so widespread in his region at the time:

"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.'"

The rest of the text can be read here, where he offers proofs against the claims of the visitors, and he goes on to talk of other absurdities Christians in his region widely believed. The Bishop concludes the work with the following scathing rebuke:

"So much stupidity has already oppressed the wretched world that Christians now believe things so absurd that no one ever before could persuade the pagans to believe them, even though these pagans were ignorant of the Creator of all things. On this account, therefore, we have brought this last incident into the midst to our discourse, because it is similar to the topic on which we are speaking and can give an example of inane seduction and true impoverishment of sense."