12: Swords, Apples, Herbs and Fruit

Elijah continues telling Cyrano about his initial exploration of the Moon.
Enoch joins them and proffers a treat.

“I walked alone in the garden for a long while. But since the guardian angel of the place was my main host, I decided to go and pay my respects. After an hour’s walk I came into a landscape where a thousand lightning bolts mingled as one in a dazzling light that served only to make the darkness visible.

“I had not quite recovered from this surprise when I saw a handsome young man standing before me. He said, ‘I am the archangel you are looking for. I have just read in God that he had suggested the way for you to come here and that he wanted you to wait upon his will.’

“He talked to me about several things; among them: the light that had appeared to frighten me was nothing special. It was lit almost every evening as he made his rounds. To keep from being surprised by magicians, who go anywhere without being seen, he had to go around Paradise swinging his flaming sword like a claymore, and I had seen the light from his gleaming blade.

“‘The flashing light you see from your world’, he added, ‘is made by myself. You sometimes see the flashes of light from a great distance because the clouds on a far horizon may be aligned in such a way as to send faint reflections of light to you, just as water vapor in another location may form a rainbow.

“‘But I’ll let it go at that; anyway, the apple of knowledge is not far from here. As soon as you’ve eaten it, you’ll know as much as I do. But be careful not to make any mistakes: most of the apples hanging from that tree are enveloped in a thick skin. If you taste it, you will be brought low, beneath man; the inner part of the fruit will bring you up to the level of an angel.’”

Elijah had gotten that far in the instructions the seraphim had given him when a little man came up and joined us.

“This is the Enoch I was telling you about,” my guide whispered to me. As Elijah said that, Enoch presented us with a basket full of some kind of fruit like pomegranates that he had discovered that very day in a small, out-of the-way bit of woodland. Elijah told me to take some, and I put a few in my pockets. Enoch asked who I was.

“That’s a long story,” answered my guide, “and it deserves a whole conversation of its own. This evening, before going to bed, he can tell us himself about all the miraculous adventures of his voyage.”

As we ended our introductions we came to a kind of hut made of palms ingeniously intertwined with myrtle and orange branches. I noticed a small box that contained piles of a kind of yarn so white and smooth that it looked like the purest snow. I also saw some distaffs lying around. I asked my guide what they were for.

“For spinning,” he answered. “When good Enoch wants to relax after meditating, he may dress the yarn, or make thread, or weave cloth to make garments for the eleven thousand virgins. In your world you may have seen something white that flutters in the air in autumn, about planting time. Farmers call it ‘lady’s thistle’; it’s the waste that comes from Enoch’s thread when he cards it.”

We did not take leave of Enoch but did not stop for long in the hut that was his tiny home. We had to leave him so soon because he said his prayers every six hours, and it had been just about that long since the last time he had done so.

The archangel seems to be a practical sort; Cyrano might enjoy talking to him. Elijah repeats his earlier warning about the apple. Apparently it’s a dangerous short-cut: one can savor the knowledge it imparts only by first removing the rind of ignorance. The peelings make one less than human; the fruit itself does the opposite. Meanwhile, Enoch plays a walk-on part in this episode: he brings Elijah and Cyrano some fresh fruit, which may or may not come in handy...