Simon Magus is a lead character in the Sophianic Mystery Play who has, for the past 2000 years, been shrouded in theatrical fog. Clearly, as we will see, it was history as written by the victors that relegated him to barely a minor role. Or maybe he was just too ahead of his time and he has been waiting for the right opening to come back into the spotlight where this lost and forgotten hero can be applauded for the enormous part he has played in this story.
Seen at face value as he appears in the Bible, it is easy to conclude that this man was a shady swindler with a bad messiah complex who tried to pay his way into attaining spiritual gifts. Like a shadow image of the much more glowing Jesus figure, he is depicted as the very archetype of a pseudo Christ. However, as we follow the trail into this deep Christ mystery thriller, I’m not buying it. In fact, the very fact that he has has sustained an unrelenting campaign of character assassination for two millennia offers a big clue to this mystery.
As a disclaimer, very little can be proven here about this person Simon though I am bringing pieces together that rest on the shoulders of reputable scholars in the field.
Thanks to some folks like Ferdinand Christian Bauer and Robert Eisenman, we are learning more how to see through the Christian orthodox strategy of what Eisenman calls “reversals”. “When lies are told often enough, they become true” as the popular saying goes these days. As the strategies of disinformation become more obvious, it is easier to strip back their agenda to see what scraps of truth might be found. And thanks to the scholarship of G. R. S. Mead and Stephen Haar, we can begin to see a clearer image of this man as the fog slowly lifts.
Simon the Samaritan was likely a real person who appeared throughout the Middle East, from Rome to Syria, in the first century C.E.. There is a paper trail of his teachings that span a few hundred years that offer important clues as to who he was. The problem is, “We must always remember that every single syllable we possess about Simon comes from the hands of bitter opponents, from men who had no mercy or toleration for the heretic.” (Mead, Simon Magus)
Simon’s appearance in (Luke’s) Acts in the New Testament is arguably the earliest surviving written record of him.
“A man named Simon had previously practiced sorcery in that city and astounded the Samaritan people, while claiming to be somebody great. They all paid attention to him, from the least of them to the greatest, and they said, ‘This man is called the Great Power of God!”” (Acts 8: 9-10). (for full description of Simon in Acts see footnote 1)
This small paragraph speaks volumes. Eisenman has pointed out (2) that Acts took great liberties to create a narrative that pointed towards a proto-orthodox rendering of the origins of Christianity, steering it away from both a Jewish and a heterodox, multifaceted view. Called “romance literature” because of its loose attachment to historical accuracy, Eisenman believes that Acts was cut from similar cloth as some of the later romance literature of Pseudo-Clement, where in his Homilies and Recognitions and Kerygmata Petrou (available here), there are extensive dialogues between Simon and Peter where Peter shines through as having the superior theology.
The word “sorcery” and its dark connotations, may well have been used deliberately to denounce the advanced skills that this man appears to have possessed. In Stephen Haar’s published version of his Phd dissertation at the Australian Lutheran College titled, Simon Magus: The First Gnostic? (2003), he offers some context for the use of the word Magus, or more specifically in the Greek, Magoi, as related to the highly regarded lineage of Persian, Babylonian and Greek spiritual traditions. (3) To the Greeks and the Romans from the 7th century B.C.E. to well into the first centuries C. E., these Magoi were the early depth psychologists who, like Daniel and Joseph, interpreted dreams and studied the synchronicities that only made sense beyond concrete frameworks of knowing. They looked to the stars for guidance in human affairs, used divination to find broader meaning of events both present and future, and, like the indigenous shamans, acted as intermediaries between humanity and the divine. To be called a sorcerer was a way to denounce a man with spiritual gifts, for as Haar concludes, there is “no inner-textual necessity (in Acts), that compels Simon to be understood as a sorcerer. (p. 71).
A 2nd century French Bishop, Irenaeus, one of the most prominent and influential heresiologists, made an remarkable claim. He said his followers considered Simon to be the first to bring in what might be the original teachings of Gnosis. Irenaeus wrote in ~185 C.E., “Now the sect of the Samaritan Simon, from whom all sorts of heresies took their origin…” and “…being called Simonians, from whom the Gnosis, falsely so-called, derives its origins, as one can learn from their own assertions.”
This is astounding when fully considered.
“He is celebrated as the “first systematic theologian” and one of the chief architects of the Catholic system of doctrine.” (Haar, p. 89) He identifies the general and fairly consistent religious trend as “Gnosis” that included the various gnostic sects, most notably Valentinus and Marcion to which Irenaeus was primarily concerned about refuting at this pivotal time in Christian history.
According to this claim, Simon was the first to bring forward the complex myth of origins that is the very signature of the gnostic system. This goes contrary to what many believe, like Bentley Layton, that Gnosticism developed over time from philosophical speculation out of Egypt, Greece and the Middle East. Furthermore, as we will see, it is Simon himself who appears to play a leading role in the whole gnostic creation story.
If Simon is indeed the father of gnosticism, then how come few people have even heard of this man? As Mead wrote, “If it is argued that Simon was the first inventor of this aeonology, it is astonishing that his name… should not have had some recognition in the succeeding systems.”
If we look at how thorough the architects of the Roman orthodox Christian theology were in burying the gnostic tradition to promote their own, as I indicated in the page on The Descent of the Deep Christ, it begins to make sense. There is a consistent through line of reports from various heresiologists that come to similar conclusions, as if they are coming from similar sources, if not simply from rewriting earlier material from within their ranks.
Hippolytus of Rome (170 – 235 C.E.) was an important early Christian architect who wrote ten volumes called Refutation of All Heresies of which only one of the books survived. In 1842, with great excitement to students of early Christianity, seven more of these were discovered at a Greek monastery on Mount Athos. In Book VI, Hippolytus included extensive quotes from a document he believed was written by Simon, called the Great Revelation.
Reconstructing Hippolytus’ quotes from Simon may be as close as we can get to epicenter of what could be considered a new dispensation of wisdom teachings in the first century. Simon’s similarity to the Gnostic Jesus is a most difficult but immensely important consideration that I will explore below.
“This is the writing down of the declaration of voice and name from thought, which is the Great Power, the Boundless,” begins Simon.
Like the Trimorphic Protennoia, Simon claims that this work includes expressions of “thought” (also known as epinoia, which I identify as the Great Emanation of Holy Spirit Sophia).
His description of this first burst of creation is difficult to grasp, but we might envision it like this. Out of nothing (the ineffable silence) there is a Great Emanation. This emerges in a dual fashion where there is a masculine “mind” and a feminine “thought”. (for the full text, see The Great Revelation)
These two came together to form a third, a manifested “father”, or in gnostic terms sometimes called the “Son”, the Logos, the Anthropos, or divine form. Simon calls this the “Middle Distance” between them, and is identified as He Who Stands. Three pairs are formed in this original Great Emanation, in a trinity of male-female dyads. This is very dense creation cosmology and it is understandable why the subsequent gnostic philosophers worked to try to make sense of it. It is the masculine which remains in the heavenly Pleroma while the feminine extends out into creation, “giving birth to all things.”
At this point in Simon’s story, something happened, a crisis of great significance.
Simon and Sophia
“And to this manner did the fire assume both male and female forms, the one from above and the other from below, as each did mature into perfect conformity with the Heavenly Power [the ineffable silence] whose likeness and image they were. And when they appeared in the midst of the rushing water of the realm of becoming (4), the female Thought was set upon and defiled by the angels and lower powers…” (Great Revelation)
Here, we may well be the first written account of this “fall” of Sophia. Simon is describing how Thought/Epinoia/Sophia descended into the realm outside of the Pleroma, into “the realm of becoming” where she was captured by the “angles and lower powers” (called archons in later Gnostic writings), who stripped her of her divine spark. In my article titled the Creation Story of Sophia, Part IV Creativa Continued, I will go into what happens at this point, where Yaldabaoth and his team of archons design the human prototype, Adam, according to the divine image that they saw “in the waters”. In the gnostic story, it is Sophia in the form of Eve who tricks Yaldabaoth into blowing this spark into Adam, whereupon he becomes a living being, though this lead archon is threatened by his divine light and conducts an on-going campaign of diminution and control.
Simon himself claimed to be the “Standing One” (equivalent to “the Christ”), as Hippolytus states, who came down from the highest levels of creation, the Great Power, in order to rescue Sophia. For him to come to this dimensional location (aeon), he needed to pass through the regions of what he called the “Left” which were controlled by what he referred to the “angels and power”. To do so, he disguised himself to look like the archons so they wouldn’t block his entrance, as he traversed down into this earthly realm, into his human body. He says that, like the great horse of Troy was used to infiltrate behind enemy lines, “so did her (Thought/Sophia’s) yoke-mate Mind, the male, gain entry to the realm of her captors by appearing in the likeness of their creatures as a man.” (Great Revelation)
Simon believed that Sophia, the feminine aspect of the great emanation, also known as Thought, would inhabit one human bodily incarnation after another, much like the Tibetan Buddhist belief about reincarnate lamas, called tulku. One of bodies into which Sophia was incarnated, according to the Great Revelation, was of an infant who was abandoned on the streets of Tyre. “After these things, when her body was exchanged by the angels and powers, she was exposed in the streets of Tyre in Phoenicia as an infant, taken up by a brothel master, and raised in a brothel, where she knew no other life save that of degradation.” (Great Revelation) Simon found this woman he called Helen and purchased (paid “ransom” for) her freedom. There are accounts in the hereseologist writings of this couple being traveling companions, renowned lovers and teachers of the “heresies”.
Justin Martyr, the earliest heresologist, documents largely from other sources (Haar, p 85) how Simon performed mighty acts of magic in the city of Rome during the Claudius rule and how he was widely and extremely revered throughout Samaria. According to Justin Martyr, he had a female companion, a former prostitute that Simon considered to be the “first thought”.
Simon refers to Helen’s rescue as a microcosm of what he is doing to humanity. “Thus I wrought the ransoming of the human race, recalling to myself the sparks of the latent fire…” (Great Revelation). I wonder if the odd Christian theme of “Christ’s ransom” might have originated with Simon’s “ransom” references. Later versions of this theme may have been contorted into a theology of sacrifice, with the core theme that Christ sacrificed himself for our sins (and the sins of Adam and Eve) by ransoming himself to the devil for our freedom. (This process of flipping an earlier meaning into something that suits the Roman orthodoxy is something that Eisenman has analyzed in two books with over 2000 pages.)
“It is Thought who is the lost sheep of the parable and mind who seeks her out at the cost of abandoning all his goods. For she passes from body to body, ever abiding in the forms of woman and ever does she hurl the powers of the world into confusion, pitting the one against the other, by reason of her superlative beauty, as of the heavens themselves.” (Great Revelation)
This is truly an amazing passage as it states that it is the presence of this divine feminine spark, this heavenly beauty, that is the cause of the great strife in this world (not necessarily just the archons themselves), where one army pits itself against another, in the long road towards a reclamation of this divine spark within humanity, where wisdom might one day be able to settle in this world.
The Tree, Branches, Fruit Analogy and the Divine Spark Within
Simon wrote in his Great Revelation,
“The Fire, which is above the heavens, is the treasure-house, as it were a great Tree, like that seen by Nabuchodonsor [as in Daniel’s Nebuchadnezzar] in a vision, from which all flesh is nourished. The manifested side of the Fire is the trunk, branches, leaves, and the bark surrounding it on the outside. All these parts of the great Tree, are set on fire from the all-devouring flame of the Fire and destroyed. But the fruit of the Tree, if its imagining has been perfected and it takes the shape of itself, is place in the storehouse, and not cast into the Fire. For the fruit is produced to be placed in the storehouse, but the husk to be committed to the Fire; that is to say, the trunk, which is generated not for its own sake but for that of the fruit.”
A storehouse is the room located next to a palace’s royal chamber where the gold and precious jewels are stored. Simon’s storehouse seems very similar to the concept of the Treasury of Light as found in Pistis Sophia, which seems to refer to an extremely advanced location within the complex cosmological schema, in God’s House of Many Mansions.
I wonder if this is the concealed fruit or Hidden Power that he used as an analogy to the Divine Spark Within. Like our bodies here in this material world, perhaps they are here to produce something which can live beyond the birth and death cycles. Is this our divine self, our Christed Anthropos, from which we were created in its image but which has been complicated by the hand of the creator gods?
“…if its imaging has been perfected and it takes the shape of itself.” In other words, the specific frequency of this Light has to be finely tuned in order for it to “be placed in the storehouse.”
Perhaps it is in our imaging, or our ability to come into imaginal similitude, such as how one frequency sets off that same frequency in another by being in sympathetic resonance, that enables us to activate a Christed form. The devouring fire might be like some great destructive force that would bring wide scale devastation. Even if this were to happen, our fruit, our bodies of the divine spark would not be fazed. Precision of imaging seems to be key here.
Given that there are no other direct references to the teachings of Simon’s contemporary, Jesus, in his works, it is important to note this tree and fruit analogy from Simonian teaching may have preceded the same motif that appears in the synoptic gospels. “For now the axe is set at the root of the tree. Every tree that fails to bear good fruit is chopped down and flung in the fire.” (Found in both Matthew 3:10 and Luke 3:9) Here the gospels focus on the potential failures of the tree which will fall to the ax, as opposed to the Simonian emphasis on the fruit being imagined to perfection which then may have a sort of immunity from the ills of this mortal world. (6)
The Human Simon
As a flesh and blood person in this world, little is known of Simon’s origins. He may have been born in Cyprus, a place of origin that Eisenman favors over the hereseologists who say it was in Gitta in Samaria (near modern day Nablus), which was likely, at least, where he conducted some of his teaching.
Simon was highly educated and engaged in extensive esoteric studies that included the Egyptian mysteries in Alexandria, the Eleusinian mysteries, with the Essenes and Jewish mysteries of the Middle East, from the Persian Zoroastrian Magi, into Babylon and even possibly into Asia.
He may also have been an advanced student of John the Baptist as is noted in Pseudo-Clementine, Recognitions. Simon was considered one of John the Baptist’s most advanced students. When John was killed by Herod as a preventative strike to avoid a popular uprising against the Herodians (7) Simon took over John’s ministry after a man named Dositheus held that position for a brief time.
Based on how Simon appears in the Great Revelation as well as in the romance texts, Simon received an advanced Greek education and showed mastery in the Greek debate style of dialectic. There are pages upon pages of discourse between Simon and Peter, for example, in the Pseudo Clementine literature, which are all clearly geared towards proving Peter’s superior theology and showing that Simon was just a pompous fake.
The sect that Simon founded was the first of the gnostic sects, called the Simonians, and according to the first hereseologist, Justin Martyr, followers of the Simonians, his successor Menander and of Marcion, called themselves Christians. Though Justin argued that this was not a true claim, still reports that his students calling themselves Christians in the first century, having nothing to do with the so called Jerusalem Church of James, is a most notable claim.
Also according to Justin Martyr, almost all Samaritans and some from other nations worshipped Simon as the “first god.” Haar’s analysis of pre-Lukan (Acts) oral tradition is that Simon was “highly respected as a specialist in all religious matters.” And “the powers of Simon (were) considered to be without peer.” (Haar, p. 120) This is a truly astonishing given that Simon was a contemporary of Jesus and traveled in some of the same circles as Jesus of Galilee, such as John the Baptist and Peter. Simon’s acclaim was extensive, saying that he “was manifested to the Jews as the Son, in Samaria as the Father, and among the gentiles as the Holy Spirit, and I permitted them to call me by whatever name they pleased.” (Great Revelation)
The Samaritans were a different Jewish sect from the more traditional Jews of Judea and they were often at odds. The Samaritan spiritual center was at Mt. Gerizim, next to today’s Nablus, Simon may have been considered a fulfillment of the Taheb, the long awaited Samaritan messiah, the new Joshua/Yeshua, perhaps, who came to fight the next great battle of Jericho.
Josephus in his Jewish Antiquities, spoke of a figure who sounded very much like Simon, called Atomus, a “Jewish Cypriot magician”. Here, the famed spiritual leader, if indeed this is the same person as Eisenman believes, gave counsel to Antonius Felix, the Herodian governor (procurator) in Caesarea. Felix sought Simon’s help in convincing Herod Agrippa II’s sister Drusilla to divorce the Azizus of Emesa so that Felix could marry her. That Simon may well have rubbed shoulders with the nobility of Syria Palestine as well as Rome, as many legends report, this brings a whole other level to Simon’s presence and repute as a disseminator of esoteric teachings throughout the region.
Simon and Paul
Though the relationship between Simon and St. Paul is incredibly difficult to unpack, my sense is that Paul had a lot more of a connection with Simon that any written record will admit. Bauer came to believe that the two were so closely aligned that he believed Simon was a character created to obscure the deeper teachings of Paul, a thesis that scholars conclude is untenable. However what might be more accurate is the question of whether the esoteric Paul is trumpeting the voice of Simon.
The following description in Acts (13: 6-12) of an encounter that St. Paul had with a “magician” on the island of Cyprus, can easily be seen as an obscured Simon Magus as Eisenman has postulated.
“When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they met a certain magician a Jewish false prophet, named Bar-Jesus. But he was with the proconsul, Sergius Paula, an intelligent man, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and wanted to hear the word of God. But the magician Elymas, for that is the translation of his [Bar-Jesus’] name, opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul away from the faith. But Saul, also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, ‘You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? And now listen—the hand of the Lord is against you, and you will be blind for a while, unable to see the sun.’ Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he went about groping for someone to lead him by the hand. When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was astonished at the teaching about the Lord.” (Acts 13: 6-12)
This is a shining example of how Acts contorted Simon as being a devilish enemy, in order to highlight Paul as being the carrier of the Holy Spirit. This way of destroying Simon’s reputation to elevate Paul is far less prominent compared to the same thing happening between Simon and Peter in Acts and especially in the Pseudo-Clementine literature.
The theme of blindness that shows up in the Bible, may well have been taken from the Great Revelation where Simon speaks of the poet Stesichorus who became blind when speaking so harshly about Helen of Troy, who Simon identifies as an embodiment of Sophia, but whose sight is restored after he begins to write praises to her. (8) The same diversion might have been used by Luke in Acts in the famous account of Paul becoming blind on the road to Damascus (Acts 9: 1-19). The key is how these key words, in this case “blindness” are taken away from a Simonian context and folded into a Pauline narrative. This road to Damascus scene in Acts might be a fiction, as Eisenman suggests, as opposed to the earlier, profoundly spiritual “ascension” experience that Paul hints was what he himself had (as Eisenman and Tabor suspect) which may correspond to his Apocalypse of Paul account found in the Nag Hammadi. “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know God knows. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.” (2 Corinthians 12:2-4)
The Acts of Peter (9) is clearly designed to promote Paul and Peter over Simon and completely destroy anything associated with Simon. “There is only one God, the God of Peter.” Here we have the flying incident that leads to the famed account of Simon’s death. “As soon as Peter is introduced into the narrative the debasement of Simon begins.” (Haar p. 114)
As a mystic, his presence in Jerusalem in the mid first century may have placed him in the middle of the battle between the Jewish nationalist movement and the Roman occupiers. His distain for the Jewish god YHWH would have put him at great odds with the Jewish leaders of his day, not to mention that he was seen as a spiritual saint in the eyes of the opposing Samaritan populations.
He did apparently use magic quite extensively, in the classic sense of the word, that was astounding to those who witnessed it. He likely learned magic in Egypt and whether this was the wand wielding magic of Harry Potter fame, is a question to consider. (10)
Simon and the Hereseologists
Much preferring to offer the jewels of Simon’s teachings, I will resist going further into how horrible this man was according to the Christian heresologists, materials that are readily available. However, if you want to see a good synopsis of it, there is an old movie I recently stumbled on called The Silver Chalice (1954). It is a most notable movie not only because it was Paul Newman’s first (which he said he was embarrassed by) but because the story takes place during the post crucifixion stage of early Christianity in first century AD. It is a terribly campy movie with scenes of Jerusalem and Nero’s otherworldly palace in Rome.
The main characters in this movie are none other than Simon Magus and his consort Helen. If you want to catch a glimpse of how history has viewed this man for the lat 2000 years, take a look at this movie. It does a good job at depicting how this enigmatic figure Simon has been one of the most reviled men in Christianity. The script is loosely based on history, drawing from a number of sources in early Christian writings, including the heresiologists and the romance literature of Clement of the 4th century. Here Simon is depicted as the archetypal imposter, the Christ wannabe. He performs endless feats of magic before Nero, saying that he is The Great One, and is so great that he can even fly. To that, Nero challenges him to build a tower where Simon can perform his flying feat, which doesn’t end well. Though the movie uses much poetic license in depicting this tale, still it corresponds quite well to how it is described in Clement’s Homilies.
Simon and the Gnostic Jesus
We are now quite deep into this mystery story of the Deep Christ. Simon Magus has an extensive and uncanny resemblance to how Jesus is portrayed in the Gnostic gospels. When we strip back the false leads in the case, and look past the agenda of complete character assassination perpetrated by the Christian victors, we begin to see a man who is the gnostic Christ hero who “stands” at the epicenter of a first century new dispensation of high wisdom.
I would like to once again offer a recommendation about how to hold this, as I had written in the The Deep Christ: Descent.
I am circling around the first century with so called “soft eyes”, holding off on making any focused conclusions. There are too many questions about what happened historically and too many layers of misinformation to get a clear picture of this Jesus story, much as the Bible would have us believe. In fact, as we step into this whole enigma of the early Jesus, it might be easiest to just wipe clean any prior conceptions one has of this man. This is not to abandon one’s own relationship with him, whatever that might be, but just for the purposes of this investigation, I find that it is easiest to just start from scratch.
In The Deep Christ: Descent I outlined a number of key ways in which this man Jesus Christ was represented in the Gnostic Texts. The marked difference between this Gnostic Christ and how he appears in the Bible is one of the lead questions in our mystery investigation.
Below is a list of the key features of the Gnostic Christ that also correspond to Simon the Samaritan.
Both Jesus in the Gnostic texts and Simon from his (alleged) writing (The Great Revelation) and those of the hereseologists…
1) Describe the Cosmology of Origins.
Simon: “From the universal aeons spring two shoots, which are without beginning or ending, stemming forth from a single root, which is the invisible Power, unknowable silence. Of the two shoots, one appears from above. This is the Great Power, the Universal Mind that sets all thing in order, being males. The other appears from below. It is the Great Thought, which is female and brings forth all things.” (Great Revelation)
Gnostic Jesus: “And Its thinking become a thing. She appeared. She stood in Its presence in the brilliance of the light; she is the power which is before the All. It is she who appeared, she who is the perfect Pronnoia of the All, the light.” (Apochryphon of John, Robinson p. 105)
2) Came from “The First Mystery”, or the “Great Power.”
Simon: He came from the Great Power of God. (Acts, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Epiphanius (Haar, p. 120-121) and the Great Revelation).
Gnostic Jesus: “…he decided to have his likeness become a great power.” (Sophia of Jesus Christ)
3) Identified Themselves as The Father, The Mother and The Son.
Simon: Irenaeus says that Simon corrupted the concept of the trinity by saying he appeared to the Jews as the son, then later“ (in the guise of Simon) as the Father in Samaria” and finally “as the Holy Spirit, he descended upon the nations. (Haar, p. 92)
Gnostic Jesus: “He said to me… ‘I am the Father, I am the Mother, I am the Son. I am the undefiled and incorruptible one.’” (Apochryphon of John)
4) Identified the Jewish God YHWH with the Demiurge, he named Yaldabaoth.
Simon: Claimed that Moses’ Law came from the God of the Left. (Epiphanius)
Gnostic Jesus: “Now the archon who is weak has three names. The first name is Yaltabaoth, the second is Saklas, and the third is Samael. And he is impious in his arrogance which is in him. For he said, ‘I am God and there is no other God beside me,’ for he is ignorant of his strength, the place from which he had come. (Apochryphon of John)
5) Descended into the Region of the Left (ruled by the Archons) disguised so as to pass by undetected by the archons.
Simon: “But as the poet recounts the stratagem of the Achaians whereby they infiltrated the fastness of Troy inside a great toy horse, so did her yoke-mate Mind, the male, gain entry to the realm of her captors by appearing in the likeness of their creatures as a man. The angels who governed the world were corrupt by reason of their lust for power, and so I appeared to set things right, transforming myself and making myself like unto the dominions, principalities, and angels, so that I manifested myself as a man, though I was not really a man.” (Great Revelation)
Simon: According to the hereseologist Epiphanius, Simon claims to have descended into this “region of the Left” (Epiphanius, Panarion XXI).
Gnostic Jesus: “For as I came downward, no one saw me. For I was altering my shapes, changing from form to form. And therefore, when I was at their (the Archon’s) gates, I assumed their likeness. For I passed them by quietly, and I was viewing the places, and I was not afraid nor ashamed, for I was undefiled.” (Second Treatise of the Great Seth)
Gnostic Christ: “And it giveth the apology of all the rulers of all the regions of the Left,–whose collective apologies and seals I will one day tell you when I shall tell you the expansion of the universe.” (PSIII:112)
6) Sophia Became Trapped and Was Persecuted by the Archons.
Simon: “And when they appeared in the midst of the rushing water of the realm of becoming, the female Thought was set upon and defiled the angels and lower powers who made this world of matter.” (Great Revelation)
Gnostic Jesus: “…it was a lion-faced ruler in the chaos, of which one half is fire and the other darkness, –that is Yaldabaoth, of whom I have spoken unto you many times. When then this befell, Sophia became very greatly exhausted, and that lion-faced light-power set to work to take away from Sophia all her light-powers…” (Pistis Sophia)
7) Came to Rescue Sophia.
Simon: He Came to rescue Helen known as First Thought, Ennoia, (Sophia), the “lost sheep.” (Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Pseudo-Clementine)
Simon: “And I sought her out. I arrived on Tyre and found her and purchased her freedom.” (Great Revelation)
Gnostic Jesus: “It came to pass then, when Pistis Sophia had finished saying these words in the chaos, that I made the light-power, which I had sent to save her, become a light-wreath on her head.” (PSI:59)
8) Descended to Rescue the Divine Spark Within Individuals.
Simon: “The angels who made the world issued whatever laws amused them, thinking thus to enslave all of humanity. Thus I wrought the ransoming of the human race, recalling to myself the sparks of the latent fire which the angels used to order their creation, and this must issue in the dissolution of the world, but equally in the redemption of all who believe in me.” (Great Revelation)
Gnostic Jesus: “I am the Light that illumines the All. I am the Light that rejoices in my brethren, for I have come down to the world of mortals on account of the Spirit (spark) that remains in that which descended and came forth from the innocent Sophia.” (Trimorphic Protennoia, Robinson, p. 520)
9) He Descended to Save Humanity from the Grip of the Archons
Simon: “The angels who governed the world were corrupt by reason of their lust for power, and so I appeared to set things right…” (Great Revelation)
Gnostic Jesus: “Now I have taught you about Immortal Man and have loosed the bonds of the robbers from him.” (Sophia of Jesus Christ)
Any theory that attempts to correlate Simon Magus directly with the Gnostic Jesus is fraught with challenges. Indeed, the reputation of Simon that has persisted for the past two millennia, is that he was a fake with an insatiable messiah complex. Hence, it is easy to conclude that anything Simon might represent is nothing more than failed claims of grandeur. However, if we look at the agenda behind a relentless campaign of character assassination, then, like Haar and Eisenman, we have a chance to pull back the rhetoric with its clear patterns of disinformation and see that there is something more than meets the eye with this man.
This web entry is only scratching the surface on what might be unpacked with possible links between Simon and the Gnostic Jesus. It is curious that more of this analysis has not be developed in light of these clear connections, though it understandable given how ruthless the campaign of distain has been towards the whole phenomenon of the deep Christ over the last two millennia.
The question of whether the material attributed to Simon Magus constitutes an original expression of the great mysteries of Gnosis, as Irenaeus claims, is one that can never be proven. However, bringing the teachings of this lost sage is so valuable now, in this modern days of uncertainty, at a time when the exoteric religious systems seem hard pressed to deliver answers to the dire issues of our time. In the orthodox Christian tradition, Jesus is seen as the one who brings salvation, who can save us as long as we believe in him. But this Simonian expression of a deep Christ, the one who “stands”, brings a message that helps us to turn inwards, to resources of salvation that may be almost unfathomable.
The great wisdom seeker, G.R.S. Mead summarizes.
“This Epinoia, leaping forth from him (the Boundless Power), and knowing what was the will of her Father, descended to the Lower Regions and generated the Angels and Powers, by whom the world was made. And after she had generated them, she was detained by them through envy, for they did not wish to be thought the progeny of another. As for himself he was entirely unknown by them; and it was his Thought (Epinoia) that was made prisoner by the Powers and Angels that had been emanated by her. And she suffered every kind of indignity at their hands to prevent her reascending to her Father, even to being imprisoned in the human body and transmigrating into other female bodies, as from one vessel into another.” (Mead, Simon Magus)
But the Gnostic Jesus rescues Sophia and brings her to the safe harbor of the ninth heaven. Above the seven heavens of archonic control.
This then brings us to the next scene in this cosmic mystery play, the creation of man and the planting of the sparks of Sophia into humanity.
- Acts 8 9-24. “But there was a certain man, called Simon, which before time in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria giving out that himself was some great one: to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the great power [Greek. Dynamis Megale] of God. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries. But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (for as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, saying, “Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.” But Peter said unto him, “Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought [Greek. Epinoia] of thine heart may be forgiven thee, for I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.” Then answered Simon, and said, “Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me.” Simon’s attempts to purchase the gifts of the Holy Spirit is known to this day as the sin of “simony.”
- Eisenman, Robert. James the Brother of Jesus. The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls. NY, Penguin. 1997. In this book, Eisenman makes an exhaustive investigation into how proto-orthodox Christian writers used “misinformation”, with a pattern of techniques described as “maliscious substitutions”, “distorted”, “covered up”, “reversed or inverted”, “historical obliteration and transformation”, and “neutralizing and deflecting” to steer the emerging theology in their favor.
- Haar, Stephan. Simon Magus: The First Gnostic? NY, Walter de Gruyter, 2003. Now available online HERE. The word Magus, Magoi in Greek, could be used derogatorily, perhaps by the “less educated”, who “reflected a common misunderstanding of the true nature of philosophers – who spent great care in the investigation of simple causes and elements of matter, the exploration of the workings of providence in the world, and worshipped the gods with great devotion.” wrote Apuleius of Madaura (2nd century C.E.), (Haar, p. 36). And yet it was used as a term of recognition of advanced knowledge and abilities, as Pythagoras and Epimenides were at times called Magoi. (Haar, p. 36)
- The water, I believe, is referring to the boundary between the heavenly pleroma and the outer world of creation.
- “Of the universal Aeons there are two shoots, without beginning or end, springing from one Root, which is the Power invisible, unknowable Silence (Sige). Of these shoots one is manifested from above, which is the Great Power, the Universal Mind ordering all things, male, and the other, (is manifested) from below, the Great Thought, female, producing all things.” Here Simon is describing the origins of creation in a way that are arguably the prototype of later versions as found in the Gnostic texts.
- This theme appears in the Gospel of John (John 15) that may suggest how later proto-orthodox versions emphasized Savior Jesus as the central motif. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.” Here, Jesus is the vine and his disciples are the branches and the fruit comes as they maintain devotion to him. Here we can see how the proto-orthodox writings in this Gospel may have been written as a way to distance the potential human empowerment from Simon’s teachings towards a theology of dependency. Again the emphasis is less on the fruit and more on the the problem we, the branches, being separated from Christ the savior. Or maybe it was a placeholder so that someday we could break the code and reclaim an earlier meaning. (In a later post, I will explore a number of other clues in the Gospel of John that suggest that, unlike Elaine Pagel’s theory that this gospel was written to replace the Gospel of Thomas, it appears that it may have been a direct counter to the theology of Simon.
- Eisenman, 1997.
- “This is why, in truth, the poet Stesichorus was deprived of his sight when he treated her rudely in his verses. This is the reason, too, when he afterward recanted and wrote new verses, extolling her virtues, he received his sight again.” from The Great Revelation
- The Acts of Peter. “Now after a few days there was a great commotion in the midst of the church, for some said that they had seen wonderful works done by a certain man whose name was Simon, and that he was at Aricia, and they added further that he said he was a great power of God and without God he did nothing. Is not this the Christ? but we believe in him whom Paul preached unto us; for by him have we seen the dead raised…”
- See Huston Smith, Jesus the Magician for investigations into this motif.