The Simon Sancus Conondrum

The controversy surrounding the trinity of Simon-Paul, Simon-Peter (Dositheos) and Simon-Jesus, is not a new one and has been addressed by other scholars, although not exactly in the same angle, I’ve been looking at for a while now. However, scant attention, outside of a few scholars, are given to another controversy associated with Simon Magus and that is the Semo Sancus statue that Simon was confused for by the Church theologian and semi-heretic Justin Martyr. Furthermore, the magical act of animating statues was a popular feat among ancient magicians and theurgists. One question does come up in my mind: Does this have anything to do with the Semo Sancus statue associated with Simon Magus?

After this, the next series of articles will explore the Hermetic side of things, delving further into the “divine twin” phenomena that is surprisingly common in ancient literature. There will also be some startling details concerning the Apollos and Apollo, Thoth, Hermes’ connections and the Emerald Tablets. This will all be full explored in False Gods, Divine Charlatans and Hermetic Hustlers.

Sancus

In Justin Martyr’s 1 Apology 26, he claims that the Roman ruler, Claudius Caesar built a statue in honor of Simon Magus because he was so impressed by his magical feats:

And, thirdly, because after Christ’s ascension into heaven the devils put forward certain men who said that they themselves were gods; and they were not only not persecuted by you, but even deemed worthy of honours. There was a Samaritan, Simon, a native of the village called Gitto, who in the reign of Claudius Cæsar, and in your royal city of Rome, did mighty acts of magic, by virtue of the art of the devils operating in him. He was considered a god, and as a god was honoured by you with a statue, which statue was erected on the river Tiber, between the two bridges, and bore this inscription, in the language of Rome:— Simoni Deo Sancto, To Simon the holy God. And almost all the Samaritans, and a few even of other nations, worship him, and acknowledge him as the first god; and a woman, Helena, who went about with him at that time, and had formerly been a prostitute, they say is the first idea generated by him.

However, it is said that in this instance, Simon was simply “confused” with another Roman god, Semo Sancus by Justin Martyr. Here is what I wrote in my commentary on the Great Declaration about this issue:

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 (and his followers) who confused his identity with the semi-human god of Rome.

The statue mentioned by Justin was finally discovered in 1574, and found to bear the inscription to Semo Sancus, the Sabine (and possibly, originally Persian) god of contracts. The full name of this god was Semo Sancus Dius Fidius. Another deity who was considered to be a god of contracts was Mithra, the mediator god of ancient Persia and figure-head of the Mithriac mysteries. Ilion---metopa

Mithra was the preserver of law and order and a god of war, described as riding his four-horsed golden chariot against the demons and their worshipers. This image and description brings to mind of that of Apollo, the chariot riding sun god who rescues the fragments of Dionysus, after he was torn to shreds by the jealous Titans. Mithra was also considered synonymous with Helios, a solar deity. The Orphic Hymn to Helios, otherwise known as the Mithras Liturgy tells us:

Be gracious to me, 0 Providence and Psyche, as I write these mysteries handed down for gain but for instruction; and for an only child I request immortality, O initiates of this our power (furthermore, it is necessary for you, O daughter, to take (480) the juices of herbs and spices, which will to you at the end of my holy treatise), which the great god Helios Mithras ordered to be revealed to me by his archangel, so that I alone may ascend into heaven as an inquirer (485) and behold the universe.

The Helios-Mithra imagery also happens to match closely with that of Cyril of Jerusalem’s description of Simon Magus riding a chariot, pulled by demonic powers, from his Catechetical Lectures:

Simon promised to rise aloft to heaven, and came riding in a demons’ chariot on the air.

Of course, Magus, is the singular version of “Magi”, which were the Persian Zoroastrians who ruled over the fire temples of ancient Iran. They too, like Simon, revered the divine fire and thought of it as the primitive origin of all things. Franz Cumont reports on the inner workings of the Mithriac mystery cults in the Mysteries of Mithra, which sounds curiously close with Catholicism:

The priest was the intermediary between God and man. His functions evidently included the administration of the sacraments and the celebration of the services. The inscriptions tell us that in addition he presided at the formal dedications, or at least represented the faithful one on such an occasion along with the Fathers; but this was the least portion only of the duties he had to perform; the religious service which fell to his lot appears to have been very exacting. He doubtless was compelled to see that a perpetual fire burned upon the altars. Three times a day, at dawn, at noon, and at dusk, he addressed a prayer to the Sun, turning in the morning toward the East, at noon toward the South, at evening toward the West.

Interestingly enough, Justin Martyr makes some peculiar statements regarding Mithra in Dialogue With Trypho (Chapter 70):

And when those who record the mysteries of Mithras say that he was begotten of a rock, and call the place where those who believe in him are initiated a cave…they have attempted likewise to imitate the whole of Isaiah’s words?…’he shall dwell in the lofty cave of the strong rock. Bread shall be given to him, and his water [shall be] sure…’

But when the Child was born in Bethlehem, since Joseph could not find a lodging in that village, he took up his quarters in a certain cave near the village; and while they were there Mary brought forth the Christ and placed Him in a manger, and here the Magi who came from Arabia found Him. I have repeated to you what Isaiah foretold about the sign which foreshadowed the cave…those who presided over the mysteries of Mithras were stirred up by the devil to say that in a place, called among them a cave, they were initiated by him (Trypho, Chapter 78).

It’s uncertain if Justin is merely confused or is deliberately lying. He claims the devil read Isaiah, and thus had the followers of Mithra claim that Mithra came from a cave. Justin’s reference to Isaiah 33:16 does not in any way point to the birth of Jesus in a cave (the passage in Isaiah never mentions a birth and has end time applications). Justin was apparently trying to claim that the followers of Mithra claimed a cave because of Isaiah but the scriptures prove otherwise. Despite Justin Martyr’s supposed opposition to the Mithriac mysteries, he seems to whole sale borrow their terminology and practices!

For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water…And this washing is called illumination, because they who learn these things are illuminated in their understandings… And this food is called among us Εύχαριστία [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined.

For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished…Which the wicked devils have imitated in the mysteries of Mithras, commanding the same thing to be done. For, that bread and a cup of water are placed with certain incantations in the mystic rites of one who is being initiated, you either know or can learn…

Such terminology such as “illumination” was a common stable in the Mithriac mysteries. From the same book, Franz Cumont tells us about this practice:

Mithraism {provided}…the promise of complete illumination, long withheld, fed the ardor of faith with the fascinating allurements of mystery…The gods were everywhere, and…the light that illuminated their paths, were the objects of their adoration.

It seems to me that Justin’s wholesale embrace of Mithriac terminology and praxis foreshadows the Catholic embrace of Mithra through Emperor Constanine (who’s mother also happened to be named Helena), but we will save that for another story.

Getting back to the main subject, it is usually said that Justin is to be blamed for the error of transforming the cult statue as devoted to “Simon the Holy God”. He does not, however, suggest that he has seen the statue himself, as he certainly would have said so if he had seen it. Indeed, he speaks of Rome throughout the First Apology as a distant, though respected, place, as of a city he had never yet visited. His later stay in Rome, where indeed he died; has made it easy for us to assume that the First Apology represents his knowledge at that stage of life. Of course this same text was addressed to Emperor Antoninus Pius and his sons in Rome, in the days when he was still an itinerant teacher in the Levant. This linking of Simon’s name with a statue also recurs in the evidence of lrenaeus, itself also perhaps from Justin. It is suggested that such an enthusiast might be a Samaritan, not arbitrarily, but in the light of what Justin goes on to say (I Apol. xxvi):

“Almost all the Samaritans, and even a few people of other races, confess this man as the First God, and go so far as to worship him.”

The statement that the Samaritans in question “worshiped” Simon is emphatic, though it may mean only that he was invoked in the course of theurgic operations, or that his statue was venerated with garlands or incense. Or in other words, the statue of Simon was used in animating statue rituals. This practice involves the consecration of a statue of a God. Often one would hollow it out and fill the whole with “sunthemata” i.e. herbs and ingredients related to the deity, and then perform a rite to consecrate it. The Chaldean Oracles lays out a animating statue ritual for a statue of Hekate:

But execute my statute, purifying it as I shall instruct you. Make a form from wild rue and decorate it with small animals, such as lizards which live about the house. Rub a mixture of myrrh, gum, and frankincense with these animals, and out in the clear air under the waxing moon, complete this (statue) yourself offering the following prayer.

The Greek Magical Papryi also have some similar rituals for animating statues. The practice of ritualized animation, also known as the “telestic art”, was a process the telestai (the one who is aimed) or initiate would externalize the quickening of the spirit process in a statue of a god. This does not mean that a statue literally moved and walked around. Of course, the Greek word telestike, quite literally means a process of “completion”, maturation or perfection which essentially was bringing purification to the soul into its most perfect or finished state in which it could rise into the celestial heights, and the cosmos, where the angels, gods, and other divine beings dwelt. The concept of “perfection” of course, is replete in the Paul’s epistles, the Gospels, as well as the Nag Hammadi Codices. In the Clementine Recognitions II, 9, Simon Magus himself brags about his magical prowess, and specifically names animating statues as one of his abilities:

For I am able to render myself invisible to those who wish to lay hold of me, and again to be visible when I am willing to be seen. If I wish to flee, I can dig through the mountains, and pass through rocks as if they were clay. If I should throw myself headlong from a lofty mountain, I should be born unhurt to the earth, as if I were held up; when bound, I can loose myself, and bind those who had bound me; being shut up in prison, I can make the barriers open of their own accord; I can render statues animated so that those who see suppose that they are men.

Justin’s confusion and that of other Church Fathers could be related to the fact that the Simonians themselves were responsible for this identification, since some of them worshiped Simon Magus as a diving being, often in the form of Zeus, as Kurt Rudolph pointed out in his book, Gnosis: The Nature and History of Gnosticism, pg. 295.

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A statue of Hekate or Hecate.

8646_-_St_Petersburg_-_Hermitage_-_Jupiter2

Zeus, naturally.

Semo Sancus was also conflated with Hercules. Hercules was also said to be the son of Jupiter/Zeus. Here is what I also said about Hercules in the first part of my commentary of the Great Declaration:

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.

Jesus was considered synonymous with Aesculapius, the son of Apollo, in the Gospel of John and the The Gospel of Nicodemus, and even specifically named as such by Pilate in the later. A divinity described as overseeing oaths, contracts and loyalties sounds eerily similar to that of the Lawgiver Jehovah throughout the Old Testament. This Jewish deity makes a contract with Moses in Exodus by giving him the Ten Commandments written on his tablets, only moments later for Moses to literally break in half! To make things even more thornier, according to Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Hippolytus, statues of Simon and Helena were created in the likeness of Zeus/Jupiter and Athena/Minerva. Hippolytus tells us about the Simonians in Refutation of All Heresies (6,15):

And they have an image of Simon (fashioned) into the figure of Jupiter, and (an image) of Helen in the form of Minerva; and they pay adoration to these.” But they call the one Lord and the other Lady. And if any one amongst them, on seeing the images of either Simon or Helen, would call them by name, he is cast off, as being ignorant of the mysteries.

Compare this to what the Church Historian Eusebius would much later write in Church History 2: 13:

But they nevertheless have embraced again the superstitions of idols, which they seemed to have renounced; and they fall down before pictures and images of Simon himself and of the above-mentioned Helena who was with him; and they venture to worship them with incense and sacrifices and libations.

What could this all mean? As we already know, Simon had a “beloved” disciple and consort, a Phoenician sorceress called Helena, as they were both worshiped in the form of Zeus and Athena, which certainly appealed to the Greeks of their time as well. Helena’s connection with Sophia, the holy harlot, also goes without saying. The manner of Athena’s birth also shares great similarities with the Gnostic Barbelo, who is described as the co-eternal forethought of Godhead (Father) which begets the Nous (Son); it is the out-flowing of Noetic Power which fills/nurtures the Nous’ contemplation of the Father. Athena was also a Virgin and Mother, which all hearkens back to the Egyptian Isis. This is the Sethianized (Dosithean) version of the Simonian myth as seen with Helena being the “First Thought” or “Forethought” of Simon, the Nous or the “Universal Mind” i.e. the incarnation of the Father. This same being describes herself in the Trimorphic Protennoia:

I am the life of my Epinoia that dwells within every Power and every eternal movement, and (in) invisible Lights and within the Archons and Angels and Demons, and every soul dwelling in Tartaros, and (in) every material soul. I dwell in those who came to be. I move in everyone and I delve into them all. I walk uprightly, and those who sleep, I awaken. And I am the sight of those who dwell in sleep.

Notice how Protennoia describes as herself as being “within” the world-creating Archons, Angels, and Demons! This fits into the account as described by Simon Magus in the Great Declaration:

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 unto perfect conformity with the Heavenly Power whose likeness and image they were. And when they appeared in the midst of the rushing water of the realm of becoming, the female Thought was set upon and defiled by the angels and lower powers who made this world of matter. And they used the fiery power within her to give life to their creations.

Simon Magus, despite his bizarre activities and magical practices, does not come across exactly like a charlatan. Rather, he operated like a Shaman. True, he did practice some necromancy and even said he had created a human being from thin air and a wandering soul in the Clementine literature. But these improbable tales were probably just plain advertising and increased business. And many people benefited from his healing. As I already mentioned, Semo was a Latin term for “semi-human” or “demi-god”, while Sancus meant “spirit” or daimon. A daimon, of course, was also considered to be synonymous with Platonic messenger gods like Eros and Phanes (which are both titles ascribed to basically the same being). Even Socrates equated himself as a daimonic philosopher. My paper, Eros, Orpheus and On the Origin of the World, goes into all of this in depth. The Greek historian Plutarch in On Isis and Osiris claims that daimons or daemons had a inconsistent and contradictory nature, much like humans, which is why philosophers were considered to have daemonic qualities.

XXV. “Do they, therefore, better, who believe the legends told about Typhon, Osiris, and Isis, not to refer to either gods or men, but to certain great Powers (dæmons), whom Plato, Pythagoras, Xenocrates, and Chrysippus (following the ancient theologians) assert to have been created far stronger than men, and greatly surpassing our nature in power, but yet having the divine part not entirely unmixed nor unalloyed, but combined with the nature of the soul and the senses of the body, susceptible of pleasure and pain, and all other emotions the result of these, that by their vicissitudes disturb, some in a greater, others in a less degree; for, in that case, as amongst men, so amongst dæmons, exist degrees of virtue and of vice. ‘

For the deeds of the Giants and Titans, sung of by the Greeks, certain atrocious actions of Saturn, the pitched battle between Python and Apollo, the flight of Bacchus, the wanderings of Ceres do not fall short in absurdity of the legends about Osiris and Typhon, and the others that one may hear told by mythologists to any amount—all the things that are shrouded in mystic ceremonies, and are presented by rites, being kept secret and out of sight from the vulgar, and have a shape similar to those mentioned of the Egyptians.”

The cult of Simon as First God is an enigma. It has been associated with Samaritan-Jewish concepts of God, especially in the Samaritan connection with Moses and YHWH but the title is hardly consistent with any sort of monotheism. Pagan parallels, such as with Samaritan-pagan syncretic cults are more promising. In the book, The Samaritans, by Alan David Crown, he writes:

Abu’l Fath’s account of Hadrian’s activities in Palestine certainly contains a number of legendary elements, but behind his story of Hadrian’s temple, there undoubtedly lies the fact that Hadrian erected on Mount Gerizim – not on the mountain next to it – a temple of Zeus (Jupiter). The remains of this temple erected on Mount Gerizim were excavated at Tell er-Ras by the Drew-McCormic expedition in the 1960’s, and it is presumable the temple to which reference is made in  a passage which has been preserved in the Bibliotheca of Photius, a Patriarch of Constantinople in the ninth century A.D.

Of course, Mount Gerizim is the same mountain which was considered sacred by the Samaritans. John 4:19-20 has the Samaritan woman at the well telling Jesus this:

The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.”

Jesus responds swiftly to the Samaritan woman (who is likely Helena in disguise):

21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

A syncretic mixture between gentile heathenism and Samaritan religion seemed to have been becoming more and more of a common feat in the ancient world as demonstrated above. There are also many hints of this in the Old Testament where Levite priests were even hired to perform rituals and rites based on the heathen gods, outside of Judaism and the worship of YHWH when times were tough. King Solomon was also said to have converted to heathen gods in 1 Kings. One last point on Justin Martyr is that at the end of the Second Apology, Justin admits his motives to destroy the Gnostics and Simonians by government sanction. He begs the Emperor Antoninus Pius to admit his apology into law against the Simonians. They wanted to tear down statues of gods merely because they believed the gods were images of Simon. His only purpose for composing the treatise (not actually an apology) was to convince the Emperor to kill Gnostics by law. He failed.

But the evil spirits were not satisfied with saying, before Christ’s appearance, that those who were said to be sons of Jupiter were born of him; but after He had appeared, and been born among men, and when they learned how He had been foretold by the prophets, and knew that He should be believed on and looked for by every nation, they again, as was said above, put forward other men, the Samaritans Simon and Menander, who did many mighty works by magic, and deceived many, and still keep them deceived.

For even among yourselves, as we said before, Simon was in the royal city Rome in the reign of Claudius Caesar, and so greatly astonished the sacred senate and people of the Romans, that he was considered a god, and honoured, like the others whom you honour as gods, with a statue. Wherefore we pray that the sacred senate and your people may, along with yourselves, be arbiters of this our memorial, in order that if any one be entangled by that man’s doctrines, he may learn the truth, and so be able to escape error; and as for the statue, if you please, destroy it. And I despised the wicked and deceitful doctrine of Simon of my own nation. And if you give this book your authority, we will expose him before all, that, if possible, they may be converted. For this end alone did we compose this treatise.

And our doctrines are not shameful, according to a sober judgment, but are indeed more lofty than all human philosophy; and if not so, they are at least unlike the doctrines of the Sotadists and Philaenidians, and Dancers, and Epicureans and such other teachings of the poets, which all are allowed to acquaint themselves with, both as acted and as written. And henceforth we shall be silent, having done as much as we could, and having added the prayer that all men everywhere may be counted worthy of the truth. And would that you also, in a manner becoming piety and philosophy, would for your own sakes judge justly!

Dangerous and Deceitful Docetic Doctrines

Even more interesting is that in Dialogue with Trypho (CXX.6), Justin Martyr claims that the Samaritans thought of Simon as a docetic, daimonic being, similar to how Paul viewed Jesus Christ as a spiritual being taking on the likeness of a man, in terms of Christus Victor atonement, i.e., that Christ defeated the powers by duping them into crucifying him:

For I gave no thought to any of my people, that is, the Samaritans, when I had a communication in writing with Caesar, but stated that they were wrong in trusting to the magician Simon of their own nation, who, they say, is God above all power, and authority, and power.

This description of Simon matches up perfectly with St. Paul’s “Christ Jesus” or spiritual savior who possessed him, like sort of a “walk-in”. Paul’s Christ was also above these powers, authorities and all might. Paul calls us to be, “strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” (Ephesians 6:10). Paul says that the law of sin and death (the Torah) is in the body. Or rather, the flesh IS the law. This is how Simon Magus interpreted the Torah as well in the Great Declaration with each book representing different parts of the body as well as each sensation. Simon even equated the Garden of Eden with the womb and the fetus inside a pregnant woman. The Gnostics themselves believed that the spiritual seed was imprisoned into material bodies by the rulers. So if the flesh is the law, as Paul says, then it must logically follow that by Christ’s body being crucified, the law was crucified, too. This could further lead one to interpret, as Paul does, that the crucifixion wasn’t really a defeat at all, but a victory over the powers. In other words, Christ tricked the powers into crucifying the flesh, which nullified the law by getting them to destroy their own creation.

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That’s why the Second Treatise of Seth said that they crucified “their man,” not Christ. Christ tricked them into destroying their own creation, the prison of the material body. To use Paul’s logic again, no human being could overcome the law because they were constricted by material flesh. Therefore, as he writes in Romans 8, someone had to come in the semblance of flesh (phantasmal flesh) to condemn sin, which no human could do since they were bound to sin by the flesh. And by going to the cross, he crucified the law and sin through the form of the flesh. That’s the logic of Paul’s phantasmal docetism. The flesh is the law, and the flesh impedes righteous because it is predisposed to sin. So anything that has flesh cannot be save itself because it is enslaved to sin and the law. So in Paul’s mind, a savior had to come who wasn’t constricted by flesh so that he could save those who were. Yes, doceticism is found expressly in Paul. And this is how Marcion, the Gnostics and Simonians came up with their ideas on a docetic Christology – straight from Paul!

“But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. … For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”

Paul’s entire soteriology makes no sense without a docetic Christology. Flesh is what causes sin, and the law is what empowers sin. Since the flesh produces sin, it prevents fulfillment of the law. Therefore, something without flesh had to come and condemn sin, which annihilated the just requirement of the law. So all who believe on Christ are, in Paul’s mind, redeemed (literally purchased) out from the law by spiritually partaking in his crucifixion and destroying their own flesh. If Earl Doherty’s theory holds, the original Pauline Christ was never incarnate on earth. His crucifixion occurred exclusively in a spiritual dimension. So by that interpretation, the rulers would have crucified him themselves. Obviously, the later Paulinists and Gnostics believed that Christ actually did appear on earth and had an historical ministry, so in that case, the Roman authorities would have crucified him, at the behest of the Jews. But the spiritual rulers would have been operating behind them.

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The Concept of Our Great Power says something very similar, which is no surprise since the text itself is considered to be a late Simonian text:

Who is this? What is this? His word was abolished the law of the aeon. He is from the Logos of’ the power of life. And he was victorious over the command of the archons, and they were not able by their work to rule over him.

The crucifixion, for the author of Power, wasn’t the destruction of Jesus, but of the archons. It’s basically a continuation of the interpretation of the cross in Colossians (Jesus crucifying the law, rather than Jesus himself being crucified, i.e., Jesus is secretly the one in complete control behind the crucifixion). The crucifixion is the defeat of the powers and represents each individual’s triumph over their own fleshly impulses. The Basildean Second Treatise of the Great Seth also repeats these same themes of the descent of the Savior through the heavens, during which he assumes different forms in order not to be recognized by the angels.

And I subjected all their powers. 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 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. And I was speaking with them, mingling with them through those who are mine, and trampling on those who are harsh to them with zeal, and quenching the flame. And I was doing all these things because of my desire to accomplish what I desired by the will of the Father above.

Later in the same text, Christ mocks and laughs with great zeal at the Orthodox and Judaic (the Pharisee Caiaphas’s idea really) doctrine of vicarious redemption through suffering and blood sacrifice, for the sins of Israel and the world:

For my death, which they think happened, (happened) to them in their error and blindness, since they nailed their man unto their death. … But in doing these things, they condemn themselves. … And I subjected all their powers.

They nailed him to the tree, and they fixed him with four nails of brass. The veil of his temple he tore with his hands … for the souls which were in the sleep below were released. And they arose. They went about boldly, having shed zealous service of ignorance and unlearnedness beside the dead tombs, having put on the new man…” …They struck me with the reed; it was another, Simon, who bore the cross on his shoulder. I was another upon Whom they placed the crown of thorns. But I was rejoicing in the height over all the wealth of the archons and the offspring of their error, of their empty glory. And I was laughing at their ignorance.

This other “Simon” is mentioned by Tertullian in Against All Heresies, and also claims was indeed crucified or sacrificed in Jesus’ stead. This is mirrored in the much later Koran, the Gospel of Barnabas and in Islamic beliefs of Jesus not dying on the cross.

Christ, moreover, he affirms to have been sent, not by this maker of the world, but by the above-named Abraxas; and to have come in a phantasm, and been destitute of the substance of flesh: that it was not He who suffered among the Jews, but that Simon was crucified in His stead: whence, again, there must be no believing on him who was crucified, lest one confess to having believed on Simon.

Clearly, as Simon of Cyrene, Simon Magus appears in the Nag Hammadi documents. Simon of Cyrene never actually existed, however. He, like most of the other Simons, was based upon hearsay about Simon Magus. I suspect that the author of Mark was aware of rumors that a certain Simon had been crucified with Christ, but in actuality, this was a misinterpretation of Paul’s (who, unbeknownst to Mark, was actually Simon Magus himself) crucifixion mysticism. Later Gnostics like Basilides, also being unaware of the origin of this Simonian legend, concocted myths about Simon of Cyrene being crucified in Jesus’s stead. However, the Concept of Our Great Power doesn’t think Simon was crucified instead of Jesus. Rather, the author is a monophysite docetist, like Paul, who believed that Jesus Christ was one person with a phantasmal body who actually underwent the crucifixion. Let’s compare the Second Treatise of the Great Seth with Ephesians 2:14:

For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished the enmity in the flesh, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby.

While the Second Treatise of Seth has many Pauline elements strewn throughout, it does warn against the idea of “dying with Christ”: “It is enslavement that we should die with Christ, with flawless and imperishable mind (at our bidding). This is a wonder not understood.” Indeed, it is not understood. The Gospel of Philip also tells us the shape-shifting nature of the docetic Jesus Christ:

Jesus took them all by stealth, for he did not appear as he was, but in the manner in which they would be able to see him. He appeared to them all. He appeared to the great as great. He appeared to the small as small. He appeared to the angels as an angel, and to men as a man. Because of this, his word hid itself from everyone. Some indeed saw him, thinking that they were seeing themselves, but when he appeared to his disciples in glory on the mount, he was not small. He became great, but he made the disciples great, that they might be able to see him in his greatness.

Next, The Ascension of Isaiah also shares numerous similarities with the scenarios described above, which according to Simone Petrement in A Separate God (page 319) was authored by a Simonian school, around Menander’s time (a disciple or son of Simon Magus). The Ascension of Isaiah (10: 8-13) tells us:

“Go out and descend through all the heavens. You shall descend through the firmament and through that world as far as the angel who (is) in Sheol, but you shall not go as far as Perdition. And you shall make your likeness like that of all who (are) in the five heavens, and you shall take care to make your form like that of the angels of the firmament and also (like that) of the angels who (are) in Sheol. And none of the angels of that world shall know that you (are) Lord with me of the seven heavens and of their angels.

And they shall not know that you (are) with me when with the voice of the heavens I summon you, and their angels and their lights, and when I lift up (my voice) to the sixth heaven, that you may judge and destroy the princes and the angels and the gods of that world, and the world which is ruled by them, for they have denied me and said, ‘We alone are, and there is no one besides us.’

Notice how the angelic rulers sentiments of being “alone, and there is no one besides us”, match almost verbatim from various statements made by Jehovah about himself being the “only God” in Isaiah of the Old Testament. His boasting, egoistical comments about himself become transferred to the world-ruling, world-creating angels. The “LORD God” becomes separated and decentralized into multiple powers in Ascension, in this case.

“Is there any God besides Me, Or is there any other Rock? I know of none.” Isaiah 44:8

All of this is echoed in Hippolytus who writes in Refutation of All Heresies (Book VI, Chapter XIV) on Simon’s doctrine:

But the angels and the powers below—who, he says, created the worldcaused the transference from one body to another of (Helen’s soul); and subsequently she stood on the roof of a house in Tyre, a city of Phœnicia, and on going down thither (Simon professed to have) found her. For he stated that, principally for the purpose of searching after this (woman), he had arrived (in Tyre), in order that he might rescue her from bondage. And after having thus redeemed her, he was in the habit of conducting her about with himself, alleging that this (girl) was the lost sheep, and affirming himself to be the Power above all things.

The same may be said of the disguise adopted by Simon as he descends to save Helena: he passes down through the powers and authorities and angels “transformed and made like” one of them, to appear among men in the guise of a man as proclaimed in the Great Declaration. This has an obvious kinship with later second-century Christological developments with the Gnostics. The resurrection account according St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:50-58 tells us that the dead in Christ, receive spiritual, docetic bodies, which is transformed or transmuted from the bodies of material flesh.

50This I declare, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does corruption inherit incorruption. 51Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in an instant, in the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For that which is corruptible must clothe itself with incorruptibility, and that which is mortal must clothe itself with immortality. 54 And when this which is corruptible clothes itself with incorruptibility and this which is mortal clothes itself with immortality, then the word that is written shall come about:

“Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

“Death is swallowed up in victory” is an amazingly deep phrase. On the Qabalistic Tree of Life, Victory or “Netzach” is the primary title of the sphere which rules over “strength” and “fortitude”. According to Paul, victory is also one of the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5-22-23:

22 In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

Death, according to On the Origin of the World, is actually one of demonic Archons, created by Yaldabaoth because of his jealousy at Sabaoth (the archon or “Lord of Hosts” that repents to Sophia), which in turn creates his own demonic offspring! This is the Angel of Death, or the Destroying Angel of Exodus.

And having become wrathful, he engendered Death out of his death: and he (viz., Death) was established over the sixth heaven, <for> Sabaoth had been snatched up from there. And thus the number of the six authorities of chaos was achieved. Then Death, being androgynous, mingled with his (own) nature and begot seven androgynous offspring.

Simon, too, is depicted as a victorious supernatural being, who by stealth, slipped past the Archons, to find and rescue his consort, Helena, who is entrapped into brothel of prostitution, which is symbolic of the world of flesh.

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 brother, where she knew no other life save that of degradation. 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. And I seemed to suffer in Judea, although I did not really undergo it.

Later in the same text, Simon promises his followers this, which sounds like something Jesus Christ would say in the Gospels:

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.

That Simon had a conspicuous female disciple from a converted prostitute might also be possible. However, the same charge is made against Mary Magdalene in the Gospels, as she too is accused of being a “prostitute” and is associated greatly in her lore. In Luke 7:38, Mary Magdalene washes Jesus’ feet in a very erotic manner, mirroring what Jesus would do for his own disciples in John:

As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

However, Mary Magdalene in Gnostic texts is depicted as being equal if not superior over the Apostles and was favored by the Savior through the act of initiation of the Divine Vision of the mysteries, as illustrated in the Gospel of Mary. Mary Magdalene was seen as sort of a female revealer, or initiator of the pagan mysteries. Perhaps this explicit language of Helena being a prostitute is merely symbolic of the state of the spirit that languishes in the human body.

Régnier_Penitent_Mary_Magdalene

Mary Magdalene looking all uppity with a skull.

It was pertinent for the Orthodox to be eschew charges of misogyny by deleting Mary Magdalene’s role altogether. It was also interesting to see how the Gnostics were often accused of the same attitude when it came to women and their views on the “destruction of the womb” (i.e. the deficiency of matter itself); however, looking at their gospels and texts, the constant harping on Divine Wisdom in feminine terms (even in her fallen state), the role of female revealers like Mary Magdalene, Norea, Helena, Marcelina, etc. are emphatically emphasized in the positive.

The Gnostics brought additional Gospels to the fore with Mary Magdalene among others. Her true importance is said to have been excluded from the Bible by Peter (and the Roman Catholic Church) who denied Christ three times and detested women, especially educated ones, seeing them as the gateway to the Devil, even denying they had souls. There is also no charge of immorality here in Justin Martyr and Ireneaeus’s accounts, still less of sexual rites.

The Simonians, however, are charged with “free love” and living “profligate” lives. It is only later in the Church Father, Epiphanius do we find accusations of sexual immorality and bizarre tales of drinking semen and menses as Eucharistic substances. Or worse–the eating of a fetus. Eusebius, also mentions something about how the Simonians were engaged in “shameful acts” and “unspeakable conduct”, apparently only relying on the slander of the previous Church Fathers. Is this the Simonian attempt to compete with Mary Magdalene or are both women, actually one and the same figure? Helen’s role as Simon’s first thought also matches up with Greek myth as mentioned earlier.

It also could reflect some kind of male-female syzygy-doctrine associated with Simon’s magical systems as reflected in the Great Declaration and mirrored through the later convoluted and intricately constructed Sethian and Valentinian aeonic systems. These models would eventually come to influence later medieval Kabbalistic diagrams of the Tree of Life. It is these magical systems in which Simon supposedly pursued in the aftermath with the the defeat from Peter in Acts, where he mistakenly regarded (and with good reason) Christian healings as magical and the gift of the Spirit as the mark of a higher grade of magic- if one can even make such a distinction.

The pursuit of these magical rites and techniques resulted with Claudius honoring him with a statue. Simon and his first Thought exist on a purely spiritual level, free from the trammels of the flesh until Helen is captured by rebellious angels who imprison her in a physical body in the material world which they have made. The metempsychosis of Helen and the references to Greek literature are among those, and are consistent with the syncretistic nature of the Samaritan cultural milieu and the Simonian schools at Antioch and Alexandria that would later rise from it. In essence, Simon was appealing to all peoples, of all nations, especially the gentile ones, in all three forms of his glory. Eusebius makes a very arresting statement in how Simon was worshiped.

Of whom there is one Simon, a Samaritan, whom we read of in the Acts of the Apostles, who said he was some Great Power. And among the rest of the things written in his volumes, he proclaimed as follows: “I am the Word of God; I am the glorious one, I the Paraclete, the Almighty, I the whole of God.” ix. Hieronymus (In Matthaeum, IV. xxiv. 5). Text: S. Eusebii Hieronymi Comment.; Migne Patrol. Grec., VII. col. 176.

Not only does this mirror Simon’s statements of himself being the Trinity in the Great Declaration, but it also mirrors greatly what Jesus commands of his disciples in Matthew 28:19-20:

Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.

Stay tuned for the second part in False Gods, Divine Charlatans and Hermetic Hustlers, as Hermes will give his two cents on all of this. 

3 comments

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