The Great Declaration: A Commentary (Part 1)

Notice Simon Magus is depicted in the likeness or as a figure similar to Jesus.

The Great Declaration i.e. Apophasis Megale is ascribed by Hippolytus of Rome to Simon Magus. This is, however, doubtful because  its allusions to the New Testament indicate a 2nd-century authorship at the earliest. Many scholars date the text to the 3rd century. It also reads like esoteric Pauline exegesis of the Pentateuch. Simon Magus or Simon the Magician is the founder of the religion known as Simonianism (and possibly Gnosticism) with most of its devotees from Rome and from Samaria who saw him as a Savior and the Son of God, much like Jesus. He was also said to be a key disciple of both John the Baptist and Dositheos, both figures which were highly revered by many Gnostic and Christian sects throughout the ancient world, again, also much like how Jesus was said to belong to a sect of Baptizers.

Simon Magus is said to be born in the village of Gitta of Samaria and of the Samaritan sect of unknown birth date (once again, much like how the Pharisees accuse Jesus of being a Samaritan in John 4). The earliest I can say he died was 41CE with terminus being 68CE. These dates I have conjectured from the fact that accounts of the death of Simon Magus place his demise in the reigns of both Claudius and Nero (though under Claudius seems more in evidence which  would mean the terminus would be 54CE as opposed to 68CE). Simon’s self promotion in Rome took place during the reign of Claudius was thus between 41CE and 54CE. Rome held its Imperial Cult, its Emperor worship, and all activities of man-worship other than the cult of the Emperor had to be legalized by the government, that Justin Martyr claimed this to have happened is made explicitly clear in 1 Apol. 56 in speaking of Simon Magus as having:

so greatly astonished the Sacred Senate and your people and the Roman people, that he was thought to be a god and was honoured, like the others whom you honour as gods, with a statue.

It is also noteworthy that Justin appeals in the First Apology to “destroy the statue” (cf. 1 Apol. 56) evidently believing that the statue was still standing, thus having stood for about 100 years. This statue is described by Justin Martyr in again, 1 Apol. 26:

…in the reign of Claudius Caesar, through the art of the demons who worked in him, did mighty works of magic in your imperial city of Rome and was thought to be a god; he has been honoured among you as a god with a statue, which statue was erected on the River Tiber, between the two bridges, having this inscription in Roman language: SIMONI DEO SANCTO.

However,  some scholars debate this point, claiming that Justin confused a statue dedicated to the Sabine divinity Semo Sancus with that of the historical Simon the Magician. Semo Sancus is an ancient Sabine deity for oaths, contracts, law, matrimony, and legal fidelity. In 1574, an altar dedicated to Semo Sancus was discovered on the island of the Tiber River with the following inscription Semoni Sanco Deo, which translates as “to Semon the Holy God.” This discovery led to the belief that Justin had made an observational mistake concerning what he thought was the idol of “Simon the Holy God” on the Tiber River.

There is a problem with this theory in that it assumes that the deity’s name is Semo. In Latin, semo or the plural semones derives from semi-homines or semi-humans. These are the dii medioxumi who were lower-level deities. The semones are the demigods of the Roman pagan pantheon. According to Marcus Porcius Cato, a Sanco is a spirit (daimon) and not a god (theos).

From the point of view of Roman paganism, it does not make sense to use a generic noun of semo for a demigod and then also the noun deos for a god. It would be like saying, “to the demigod holy god.” What is far more likely is that the Simon Magus, as a magician and adapter of local paganism, co-opted the Roman tradition of a semi-human god of law and covenant and identified himself as the semi-human god. This would conform to the description of Simon Magus in Acts 8:10 as being “this man who is the power of God.” So then, it was probably not Justin Martyr who was confused, but rather Simon Magus who confused his identity with the semi-human god of Rome. Hippolytus in Refutation of All Heresies 6.20 writes that the Simonians:

“have a statue of Simon in the form of Zeus, and one of Helen in the form of Athena, which they worship, calling the former Lord and the latter Lady.

The Catholic Church Fathers of the second, third and fourth centuries were almost totally united in calling him (and the philosophy that he established) as the first and primary heresy and set out to combat his error that plagued Christianity for the first four centuries. The second century Catholic Bishop, Irenaeus, said that the Samaritan Simon was the very person “from whom all the heresies took their origin” (Against Heresies, 1.23.2). From then on to the time of the Roman historian and Orthodox polemicist Eusebius (and including the testimony of Eusebius himself), Simon is singled out as the originator of all the principal heresies that polluted the living tree of the early church in its first four centuries of existence. That is why he is given a prominent position in the Book of Acts (8:14-25).

This Simon claimed to be the Great Power (cf. Acts 8:10). According to Hippolytus, Simon bought a temple prostitute in a Phoenican city of Tyre, by the name of Helen, recognizing her as a reincarnation of Helen of Troy (cf. Justin Martyr 1, Apol 26), and he made her part of his teachings as he taught that she and him are in fact one dyad or syzygy. Simon would call her the “lost sheep”, much like how John 10 describes the sheep not as Samaritians or Jews but but rather the soul itself in each man; a soul in need of liberation of bondage to material creation and ignorance of it’s origins. Jesus was depicted as the Good Sheppard, as was Simon. Jesus in Luke 16:9 and Mark 16:9 also saves a prostitute from “seven demons”, by the name of Mary Magdalene. And in the Gospel of Philip, Mary Magdalene is depicted as the disciple of Jesus in which he “loved her more than all the disciples, and used to kiss her often on her mouth.”

The 3rd century NHC text, The Concept of Our Great Power also uses this same nomenclature of Simon and features Paul’s eschatology verbatim. It is also one of the more radically dualist texts in the NHC. Considering this is a Simonian work, this is no surprise. The text has a number of features that the church fathers attribute to Simonian Gnosticism, like the divine title of “great power,” and the involvement of fire in creation as used in the Great Announcement. Also, the text doesn’t actually specify the savior by name (the [Jesus?] in the translation is just the translator’s conjecture), which is why I say that if it’s Simonian, Simon Magus may be implied. And if that’s the case, then Power may have originally been composed, at least in its earliest form, when the characters of Jesus, Simon Magus, and Paul were blurred together into one personage.

Simon also taught that Jesus took on disguises to evade the attention of the powers, archangels and principalities (since they were viewed as the rulers of the world) as he descended into matter and flesh as discussed in the Second Treatise of the Great Seth and the Ascension of Isaiah. This touches on doceticism, which is the idea that while he entered matter he never became matter, with his original nature being purely divine. Yet, it is still an incarnation doctrine, but not in the same manner in the (Catholic) Orthodox doctrine on the nature of Jesus, which is basically a conflated fusion between two diametrically opposed traditions, one being the docetic Christology of Paul and Simon Magus and the the Jewish Messianic cult leader Rabbi by the name of Yeshua. More on this will be discussed in Part 2 of this commentary.

Origen in Contra Celsus i.57, notably conflates the title of “Son of God” with “the Power of God”. R.M. Grant suggests that the “Great Power” was a deity invoked by Simon in his magical spells and rituals, and that in the style of many incantations found in the Greco-Egyptian magical papyri, Simon identified himself as a manifestation of this spiritual power using the “I am” formula.

The following is part of the text of the Great Declaration as preserved by Hippolytus in Refutation of All Heresies 6.18 after which the exposition will be given. This is specifically taken from Robert Price’s translation of the Simonian work.

This is the writing down of the declaration of voice and name from thought, which is the Great Power, the Boundless. Thus it shall be sealed up, hidden, concealed, placed in the dwelling which rests upon the Universal Root. To you, then, I say what I have to say, and I write what I to write. And this is the writing thereof.

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.

From this state they pair off with each other, uniting and appearing in the middle distance, the incomprehensible air, without beginning or end. Here is to be found the Father by whom all things sustained, and by whom are nourished those things which do partake of beginning and ending.

Such as He Who Has Stood, Stands and Will Stand, a male/female power like unto the Boundless Power which is a stranger equally to beginning and ending, existing in oneness. For it was from this that the thought within the oneness proceeded and became two.

Thus was the One, for as he had her in himself, he was yet alone. He had not been so at first because, though pre-existent, by revealing himself to himself he became a second. Nor could he be called Father till Thought named him so.

Thus, producing himself by himself, he revealed to himself his own thought. In the same way, the thought was revealed did not make the Father known but rather concealed him by contemplating him, that is, the power, in herself, the result being male-female, power and thought.

Thus do they pair of with each other, yet being one, there being no difference, between power an thought. Power is revealed from the things above, while thought is revealed by the things below.

The universal Aeons, refer to in fact as the first principles basic to reality (the first God), which is called Arche in Greek. The term “Aeon” can be understood as “eternity” and this commonly denotes a spirit of great power, in the case of Valentinian theology for example a god in the universal chain of being. In this case the universal Aeons produced by emanation are also intended to be understood as divine. The two shoots refer to the male and female aspects of Simon “which although being one are yet found as two”. Whether the terms “Power invisible” and “inapprehensible Silence” refer to Simon as one or separately with one name to the male and another to the female aspects I do not know, in any case if the terms are separately assigned then “Power invisible” must apply to the male and “inapprehensible Silence” must apply to the female (Helen the prostitute).

Babalon

This also sounds very close to many descriptions assigned to the Mother figure of Barbelo.  Barbelo was also known as a spiritual realm, whose etymology (originally in Aramaic) can be translated as the “realm of the Son of God”, where Jesus in the Gospel of Judas is said to have originated from. So great was her popularity and worship that  that one of the names given to the Gnostics was the Barbeloites. She is the first reflex of divinity, called the Great Invisible Spirit. As the Invisible Spirit is pure potentiality, so Barbelo is pure activity, the two forming the first and most fundamental of all dualities. One can see the similarities between Barbelo and the Egyptian Nut or Nuit and the Enochian goddess described by Aleister Crowley (Simon Magus 2.0), Babalon i.e. the Scarlet Woman (Helena 2.0) in many of his writings.

Hippolytus gives a report of what Simon taught about the one Root which was said to be the Universal Principle and the Boundless Power:

“Simon in his paraphrasing of the Law of Moses speaks with artful misunderstanding. For when Moses says “God is a fire burning and destroying,” taking in an incorrect sense what Moses said, he declares that Fire is the Universal Principle, not understanding what was said, viz., not that “God is fire,” but “a fire burning and destroying.” And thus he tears to pieces the Law of Moses, but also plunders from Heracleitus the obscure. And Simon states that the Universal Principle is Boundless Power”

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.

“The Great Power” is indeed the epithet applied to Simon Magus by the people of Samaria as recorded in the book of Acts. This title as well as “Universal Mind” are used exclusively of the male aspect of Simon, the Power is also the more transcendent aspect of Simon, indeed the Mind is said to be “above”. “The Great Thought, female” is Helen who is the First Thought of the Universal Mind or Nous, which must be understood in reference to the Simonian mythos as is laid out in works of the Church Fathers. It is said that this “First thought” descended into the lower regions and generated the angels and powers, which created the world, these angels then detained her, and she was reincarnated (Simon also taught a doctrine akin to metempsychosis or the transmigration of the souls i.e. reincarnation, according to both Irenaeus and Hippolytus) in bodies of flesh over and over again (see: Exegesis of the Soul for details on this) until the Great Power found her, his First Thought. These are of course the same “authorities of the universe and the spirits of wickedness” of St. Paul’s Ephesians 6:12, which directly corresponded with the Archons of Gnosticism. Paul’s Christ was said to be above these powers, authorities and all might. Paul calls us to be, “strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” (Ephesians 6:10)

Zeus/Jupiter

Athena

According to both Irenaues and Hippolytus, Simon’s followers were said to worship the Gnostic couple of Simon Magus and Helena in the images of Zeus and Athena (who, according to Greek myth, sprang from the head of Zeus). Stephen Haar in his work, Simon Magus: The First Gnostic? notes that the Phoenician (notice the that connection again as associated with the city of Tyre where Simon found Helen in a brothel) sun-god Herakles (Hercules), like Simon was also conferred with the title of the “Standing One”. Even the name Simon could be traced to the oriental stem of Sem-Herakles, a deity also worshiped in Samaria. Thus the connection between Greek paganism and Simonianism is closely intertwined.

In any case, Hippolytus in refuting Simonian teachings also explicates of these shoots that the Mind is heaven and the Thought is earth. Whether this is because Simon read Genesis in an allegorical way or stated that Mind is in fact synonymous with heaven and Thought synonymous with earth, one can only guess. To understand the two shoots the Root must not be forgotten, the Root is fire, and just as Heraclitus taught that all is fire, so to does this male witch. And Fire, says Simon, has a twofold nature one concealed the other manifested, the concealed produces the manifested and is hidden in the manifested. This corresponds to Plato’s belief in the sensible which is physical and visible (Eidon/Kosmos) being based on the intelligible and the forms (Eidos) where true knowledge lay and which was incorporeal. Thus for Simon the concealed is the intelligible while the manifested is the sensible. Power is concealed, thought is manifested.

While Plato would understand fire as being an element and with hardly -if any- more divine than air, water, or earth Simon claims it as the central player of existence. And of course, the Stoics used Heraclitus’ Fire (Logos) and considered it to be a primordial kind of being (God), with all things are composed of fire. The human soul is likewise born from this Godly fire, which permeates and penetrates the entire body, much like how the Stoics viewed the material universe being permeated by this same fiery essence. This is all reflected in Simon’s teaching of the divine fire involved in creation. That Simon Magus consciously corresponded the heavens to the incorporeal and earth to the corporeal is not a unique innovation but was also done by the contemporaneous Philo of Alexandria (cf. On the Creation).

Hence pairing with each other, they unite and manifest the Middle Distance, incomprehensible Air, without beginning or end. In this is the Father who sustains all things, and nourishes those things which have a beginning and end.

The Middle Distance may describe the apparent point of discontinuity between the the earth and the -less physical- heavens or perhaps the Middle Distance is the heavens itself as being “incomprehensible” and “without beginning or end” suits the intelligible realm which as has been pointed out could be applied to the heavens. Perhaps this Middle Distance is to be understood as being a great fire, as it is in Valentinian theology (as well as Sethian) which bares some striking similarities to Simonianism, and as some say may indeed have its root in Simonianism as claimed by Irenaeus. The reason that the uniting of Mind and Thought in the Middle Distance has the Father is because the Father was not called Father until Thought called him Father and with the Thought proceeding from the Mind the name “Father” became applicable and is only made known in the presence of both of them “which although being one are yet found as two”.

Simon in this case referred to as “the Father” has been said to be “without beginning or end” and sustains things which do have a beginning and end. This fits very well with the report of Hippolytus that Simon studied the philosopher Heraclitus. Heraclitus claimed that everything was in flux, everything that is except the Logos which was the eternal and unchangeable principle of reason that sustained the temporal world. Simon placing the temporal in dependence on the eternal reason is in line with Heraclitean theory.

In the Gospel of Philip, the “Middle” has a much more negative connotation, and the author even says that “God forbid that I be found in there!” Perhaps this is the “Gnostic” version of the much dreaded astral realm or purgatory.

This is He who has stood, stands and will stand, a male-female power like the preëxisting Boundless Power, which has neither beginning nor end, existing in oneness. For it is from this that the Thought in the oneness proceeded and became two.

The Standing One is an appellation given to Simon as is clearly indicated by Hippolytus, by Clement of Alexandria and the writer of the pseudographical Clementine Recognitions. This having stood, standing, and will be standing of Simon is representative of the idea that there are three that stand and without these Aeons, there would be no order. These three are also two and also one, for the three are the Boundless Power and the Mind and Thought that emanate from it, the Mind and Thought are the manifesting and actualizing of the potential and concealed Boundless Power, and remember that Mind and Thought are merely the male and female aspects of each other. For Hippolytus elucidates that Simon preached that the Standing One who has stood, stands and will stand:

is the one Power, separated into the above and below, generating itself, increasing itself, seeking itself, finding itself, its own mother, its own father, its sister, its spouse; the daughter, son, mother and father of itself; One, the Universal Root.

This explanation of the Standing One should make the whole of this passage obvious on a basic level. Even the epithet of Standing One sounds very similar to the title of “living, unshakable race” that the Sethian Gnostics would use to describe themselves as seen in the Three Steles of Seth.

So he was one; for having her in himself, he was alone, not however first, although preëxisting, but being manifested from himself to himself, he became second. Nor was he called Father before (Thought) called him Father.

 Thus was the One, for as he had her in himself, he was yet alone. He had not been so at first because, though pre-existent, by revealing himself to himself he became a second. Nor could he be called Father till Thought named him so.

Thus, producing himself by himself, he revealed to himself his own thought. In the same way, the thought was revealed did not make the Father known but rather concealed him by contemplating him, that is, the power, in herself, the result being male-female, power and thought.

Having emanated the female aspect namely Thought. Thought as being that of below, earth, of the sensible is the manifested aspect of fire which is the Boundless Power, remember that Hippolytus wrote that Simon taught that the manifest is produced by the concealed and the concealed is hidden by the manifest. Thus the manifested Thought hid the Concealed Father, the Power, the Mind, the male aspect and they are both of the Boundless Power.

Thus do they pair of with each other, yet being one, there being no difference, between power an thought. Power is revealed from the things above, while thought is revealed by the things below.

The Power and Thought are simply the natures of the twofold nature of Fire which is the Boundless Power, with Power one understands the incorporeal intelligible and with Thought the corporeal sensible.

In the same manner also that which was manifested from them although being one is yet found as two, the male-female having the female in itself. Thus Mind is in Thought—things inseparable from one another—which although being one are yet found as two.

That which was manifested from them is the universe with the intelligible having the sensible within itself, for this to be so one would expect Thought/female to be in Mind/male and not to be given the conclusion “Thus Mind is in Thought” as logically inexplicable as it seems perhaps it is simply said in the opposite way to give extra weight that they are “things inseparable from one another”.

In the same way, too, that which was revealed from them, thigh, it was one, is however as two, the male-female having the female in itself. Thus is mind contained within thought, things inseparable one from the other, which though in reality one are seen as two.

Man, here below, born from blood, is the dwelling, and the Boundless Power dwells in him, and it is the Universal Root. Nor is the Boundless Power that is, fire, one. The fire in being two fold, one said being manifest, the other concealed. And the concealed things of fire are with the Manifest Ones, while those revealed are produced by Those Hidden. The manifest side the fire contains all things within itself that are visible and that one may perceive, as well as those which one neither suspects nor perceives. But in the concealed side of fire may be found all that is conceived and that is intelligible, even if it surpasses the senses, or that which one is unable to conceive.

Man, according to the Simonian teaching, contains a certain divinity, a spark of life, and above all, a boundless power, indicating that within himself exists an eternal and powerful substance that is even superior to the gods and the archangels! Within mankind resides an indefinite power, which Simon affirms to be the root of the universe, being divine fire. Here, Heraclitus’ influence really shines, since he views the soul as fiery in nature. But it also has a limitless dimension.

If you went in search of it, you would not find the boundaries of the soul, though you traveled every road-so deep is its measure [logos]. (DK22B45)

The Greek adage, “entheos” meaning “within is a god” was also used as a term to describe someone that is divinely possessed. This is state of ecstasy (ekstasis) when the boundaries between the egoic self, others and the god is dissolved into an experience of rapture and unity. The word enthusiasm can also be traced to this word, “entheos”.

From the Orphic mysteries and the cult of Dionysus as I note in my upcoming essay on the god Eros, the Bacchic possession of “divine madness” very much influences the ideas of not only Simon Magus, but also Paul and his Christology in Corinthians. The ecstasy of god’s presence was said to be induced by music (Orpheus), dance and wine (Dionysus), and the eating of raw flesh (omophagia, or a sacrifice to the god of raw flesh), which also happens to influence the Eucharistic Discourse of Jesus when he claims in John 6:53-56:

Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.”

The statement of Man being “born from blood” seems to echo this statement. The The Stoic-Cynic philosopher Dio Chyrstostom (circa 100 CE) would attribute the human descent from the blood of the defeated Titans and the hatred of the gods in Orations. 30, 10-11. 

All mankind, we are all from the blood of the Titans. Thus, because they were the enemies of the gods and fought against them, we are not beloved by the gods either, but we are punished by them and we are born into retribution, being in custody in this life fora certain time as long as we each live … This harsh and foul-aired prison, which we call the cosmos, has been prepared by the gods.

This is similar to Gnostic descriptions of the physical universe with the multiple archons depicted as the rulers of fate and destiny over the worlds. There are many other striking similarities between the Fourth Gospel of John and the Dionysian, Bacchic and the Eleusinian mysteries, which I note in the essay on Eros. The concept of “entheos” is also similar to Simon’s argument that there are many Gods in the Clementine Homilies, just as Jesus argued, “ye are gods” (John 10:34) in imitation of King David in the Psalms 82: 6.

This idea of mankind being born from blood is also comparable to how the author of On the Origin of the World claims Eros as being the originator of all life on earth including the two sexes of humanity, being born:

Out of that first blood Eros appeared, being androgynous. His masculinity is Himireris, being fire from the light. His femininity that is with him – a soul of blood – is from the stuff of Pronoia. He is very lovely in his beauty, having a charm beyond all the creatures of chaos. Then all the gods and their angels, when they beheld Eros, became enamored of him.

Dionysus

Mosaic floor in the ‘House of Dionysos’ at Pella, late 4th century BC, Pella, Archaeological Museum.

To many ancient people, the power of God was shared amongst a pantheon of many gods and deities (and even angels). Furthermore, Gods were men who could come to earth in mortal form. Conversely, people could attain special powers and become divinized. The acquisition of divine power demonstrated the divinity of the individual – who was either born divine or was granted a level of divine status by the gods. In other words, men could become gods. And so Heraclitus was right when he said, “Men are gods, and gods are men.” The Gospel of Philip would flip this dichotomy on its head:

That is the way it is in the world – men make gods and worship their creation. It would be fitting for the gods to worship men!

In other words, if a mortal man could do something “extraordinary”, it was because he had been blessed by a god with that special power. In essence, he was partly divine, and if divine, then worthy of worship. In fact, many ancient emperors of Egypt, Greece and Rome as well as prophets and shamans were deified and worshiped, a practice that continues even today through canonized sainthood of the Roman Catholic Church.

The ancients understood that miraculous things were done by magic, and magic came from God. If one was deified, one had to prove this fact through magical feats (See: Exodus 7:8-11 as a Biblical example) and this is also used for the the requirements for canonized sainthood require the performance and documentation of at least 3 miracles – proof that you are divine precisely because you can perform magic. So in essence, magic was evidence of divinity! However, through the course of history, magic and the title of magician (which was originally conceived as a misnomer for the enemies of the Church fathers, including Simon)  become associated with working against society and mainstream religion and thus to be strictly utilized as a hidden craft i.e. the occult.

In Part 2, I will continue my analysis and commentary of the Great Declaration and get into more striking parallels between our favorite bad boy magician with Jesus Christ and Paul among other topics. In future posts there will also be further inquiries into Apollonius of Tyana, the Greek god Apollo, Orpheus, Hercules and the great Greek revealer of healing, Asclepius. The magical and alchemical roots of Christianity will be further explored.

It’s going to be a Hermetic Super-friend reunion of Magick!

7 comments

      1. If you look at Irenaeus and other writers they speak of heretics as breaking off from the faith. Like Tatian or Tertullian, or even Origen, etc. So it seems logical to me that the orthodoxies that became the Catholic church originally broke off from an older Gnostic faction of Simon.

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