Marcion

Marcion and Empedocles: The Gnosis of Love and Discord

The Church Father and Pope Hippolytus in Refutations of All Heresies (1.3) writes about the pre-Socratic and Orphic philosopher Empedocles:

But Empedocles, born after these, advanced likewise many statements respecting the nature of demons, to the effect that, being very numerous, they pass their time in managing earthly concerns. This person affirmed the originating principle of the universe to be discord and friendship, and that the intelligible fire of the monad is the Deity, and that all things consist of fire, and will be resolved into fire; with which opinion the Stoics likewise almost agree, expecting a conflagration. But most of all does he concur with the tenet of transition of souls from body to body, expressing himself thus:–“For surely both youth and maid I was, And shrub, and bird, and fish, from ocean stray’d.”

This (philosopher) maintained the transmutation of all souls into any description of animal. For Pythagoras, the instructor of these (sages), asserted that himself had been Euphorbus, who sewed in the expedition against Ilium, alleging that he recognised his shield. The foregoing are the tenets of Empedocles.

Hippolytus makes it clear that it is his mission to expose many Gnostic heresies is fueled by also explaining the doctrines and ideas of the philosophers and the pagan mysteries, including Empedocles and his master Pythagoras, which he connects to Marcion. In a nutshell, Hippolytus was trying very hard to say that all the Gnostic mystery schools were nothing more than clever rip-offs of the pagan myths, legends and philosophy. According to some mythicists, the same can be said for Christianity in general. Hippolytus also makes it clear that his main argument in Refutation (V11. 29-31) is that Marcion is a parasite of Empedocles’s mysteries, who is also treated as a follower of Pythagoras. While much has written about Marcion and his heresy and doctrines, there isn’t much written in regards to how and why Hippolytus compares him to the pre socratic philosopher.

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Bust of Empedocles

Hippolytus writes about Marcion’s heresy and apparent plagiarism from Empedocles:

This (heretic) having thought that the multitude would forget that he did not happen to be a disciple of Christ, but of Empedocles, who was far anterior to himself, framed and formed the same opinions, — namely, that there are two causes of the universe, discord and friendship. For what does Empedocles say respecting the plan of the world? Even though we have previously spoken (on this subject), yet even now also, for the purpose, at all events, of comparing the heresy of this plagiarist (with its source), we shall not be silent.

According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, it states how Empedocles went astray from sticking to his Pythagorean roots when he was suddenly exiled from a “blessed life” since he spilled animal blood and ate animal flesh as part of a ritual sacrifice:

In the opening lines, the narrator of the poem, who is presumably Empedocles, describes himself as a god, received as such by the cities to which he travels. To them he dispenses advice, prophecies, and cures (B 112). This god is actually a spirit—a daimôn—who has been exiled from the blessed life of the other spirits by breaking an oath and shedding blood (by killing and eating animals: see below). He wanders throughout the natural world, rejected by the very elements, because he put his trust in raving Strife (B 115). Exiled daemons are reincarnated into all sorts of living forms, finally coming to be as prophets, poets, physicians, and leaders among men.

So the ultimate aim of a daimonic philosopher is to journey back to a state of purity by siding with Love instead of Strife. This applies to the shedding of blood and to live a conscious life. Marcion was also known to tell his fellowship to abstain from meat and wine as well and forbade his followers from sexual intercourse and marriage. Love or Friendship leads the punished souls inside the realm of Strife and Discord (compared with the Demiurge) out from the world and into a realm of unity as Hippolytus says.

The souls, then, thus detested, and tormented, and punished in this world, are, according to Empedocles, collected by Friendship as being a certain good (power), and (one) that pities the groaning of these, and the disorderly and wicked device of furious Discord. And (likewise Friendship is) eager, and toils to lead forth little by little the souls from the world, and to domesticate them with unity, in order that all things, being conducted by herself, may attain unto unification. Therefore on account of such an arrangement on the part of destructive Discord of this divided world, Empedocles admonishes his disciples to abstain from all sorts of animal food. For he asserts that the bodies of animals are such as feed on the habitations of punished souls.

Not only is there similarities between Marcion and Empedocles, but also the later and the Prophet Manes. For Manes or Mani, the Two Roots or universal principles (Do Bun in Persian) are Light and Dark. The Tree of Life and the Tree of Death. It is said that the teachings of the Greek scholars, Empedocles and Pythagoras were passed down to Mani by the teacher Scythianus, whom it is said, lived at the time of the Apostles (although there is no evidence that Scythianus even existed). Empedocles is a source for the doctrine of the four elements (fire, water, air, earth), even as it manifests itself in Hippocrates and Galen’s teaching of the four humours. This is a very practical doctrine which is used widely even today. Empedocles also taught that the universe is composed of the forces of Neikos: Strife/Discord and Philia: Love/Friendship. Here is another source for the Manichean Two Roots in the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus who is quoting probably from the Kephalaia:

The difference between these two Principles is like that between a King and a pig: Light dwells in a royal abode in places suitable to its nature, while Dark like a pig wallows in mud and is nourished by filth and delights in it.

To be sure, preoccupation with the problem of evil did not originate with Manichaean dualism or its predecessor in Gnosticism. The Greek philosophers had long devoted considerable attention to the nature and source, of evil. In the Platonic Academy, in particular, the close links between evil and matter were emphasized as the Hellenistic world emphasized the transient and hostile nature of the natural world despite what some consider to be simply “marginal” beliefs of the world’s first “chaos magicians” (being the Gnostics) who hate and reject matter (as if any person can reject matter in the first place!). This simplistic view however, when one researches the subject in depth can easily be dispelled since many Gnostic groups were actually involved in the great medical schools of the first and second century and had much more nuanced views on matter when one reads Gnostic texts from the Nag Hammadi Library.

Returning back to Marcion, he was a well known Gnostic in whom the Church Fathers dedicated the most vehement hatred and disgust, out of all the heretics of the ancient world. The Apostle Paul was the figurehead for his church, who during the second century was a fierce Hellenistic competitor with the Apostolic Orthodox church. Marcion once had a principle text called Antitheses.  

In Adolf Harnack’s sympathetic study on Marcion in Marcion: The Gospel of the Alien God (more than Bart Ehrman’s Lost Christianities), he writes that Antitheses, was intended to be a bedrock for the Marcionite faith, indeed as a “creedal book.” A reconstruction of Antitheses is not possible, Harnack informs us, in part because “not even the arrangement of the work is clear,” but a number of things can nonetheless be determined or gleaned based upon quotes from it found in the works of the church fathers. The purpose for this book was to “demonstrate the irreconcilability of the Old Testament with the gospel,” along with the latter’s origin from a different God (p. 17).

We also know its opening lines: “O wonder upon wonder! Rapture, power, amazement! We can say nothing about the gospel message, not even compare it with anything else.” Here, Christ was saying that Christ came from another realm altogether with a wondrous message of deliverance in ecstatic terms. Moreover there seems to have been a special emphasis on one word in particular—“new.” We can find references to “new God,” “new deity,” “the new kingdom,” “new and unheard of kingdom,” “new master and proprietor of the elements,” “novel doctrines of the new Christ,” “new works of Christ,” “new miracle,” etc, etc, as opposed to the old wine skin of the Old Testament.

It looks like Marcion was struck with astonishment, bowed down in awe before a revelation so utterly prodigious of the Gospel. Clement of Alexandria felt equally exalted:

Christ shines. He shines more brightly than the sun. Night flees before him, fire is afraid, death departs. He presents the believing soul to the Father to keep in heaven for all eternity. O true sacred mystery! O clear, pure light!”

Marcion referred to this “new,” supreme God as “the Stranger.” The Marcionites also could call themselves “strangers,” much like other Gnostics did as not a pejorative term but an endearing one, as they proclaimed a strange or foreign gnosis or knowledge, a term that reveals some of their philosophy of existence.

The Latin Church Father Tertullian accused Marcion of deism (then called Epicureanism, since Epicurus the philosopher was technically a deist) in Against Marcion 1.24.

If (Marcion) chose to take any one of the school of Epicurus, and entitle him God in the name of Christ, on the ground that what is happy and incorruptible can bring no trouble either on itself or anything else (for Marcion, while poring over this opinion of the divine indifference, has removed from him all the severity and energy of the judicial character), it was his duty to have developed his conceptions into some imperturbable and listless god…

But (once for all) let Marcion know that the principle term of his creed comes from the school of Epicurus, implying that the Lord is stupid and indifferent; wherefore he refuses to say that He is an object to be feared.

Tertullian also makes fun of the idea of there being a “new God,” exposing his hopeless rhetoric and red-hot Catholic love for the Old Testament (1.8).

In the first place, how arrogantly do the Marcionites build up their stupid system, bringing forward a new god, as if we were ashamed of the old one! So schoolboys are proud of their new shoes, but their old master beats their strutting vanity out of them.

Tertullian was comparing Marcion’s conception of god to Epicurus. Tertullian says Marcion’s metaphysical beliefs are closer to Stoicism and Platonism. The reason he accuses him of Epicureanism is because Epicurus was a deist who denied that the gods had any involvement or concern with the affairs of man. Marcion’s supreme god was similar in that he had no involvement with creation and was entirely complacent, although he did eventually intervene as Jesus Christ. Irenaeus writes in Against Heresies (V.26):

Let those persons, therefore, who blaspheme the Creator, either by openly expressed words, such as the disciples of Marcion, or by a perversion of the sense [of Scripture], as those of Valentinus and all the Gnostics falsely so called, be recognised as agents of Satan by all those who worship God; through whose agency Satan now, and not before, has been seen to speak against God, even Him who has prepared eternal fire for every kind of apostasy.

Tertullian also says something very interesting in Against Marcion (3.12):

You will find that among the Hebrews there are Christians, even Marcionites, who use the name Emmanuel when they wish to say God-with-us…

Tertullian is saying that there were Jewish Marcionites. Isn’t that kind of important, since Marcion is constantly being accused of anti-Semitism? So, let us sort this mess out. Marcion, as far as we know, had nothing against Jews. His Romans retained most of the verses sympathetic to Jews. He even felt pity for the ancient Israelites, always going so far as to blame their god, and not them, for the atrocities of the Old Testament. And he even inspired Jews themselves to convert to his religion. Yet he is accused of being an anti-Semite.

Irenaeus also posed this question to Marcion (Against Heresies 4.33.2):

…how can he be good who draws away men that do not belong to him from him who made them, and calls them into his own kingdom?

Plotinus likewise objected to the Gnostic propensity to find fault with the universe and its cause (the creator). Porphyry’s title for Plotinus’ tractate against the Gnostics is: Against those who say that the demiurge of the universe and the universe are evil. Simon Magus in the Clementine literature accuses the God of the Old Testament of creating evils, being unmerciful, not being good, and being subject to harsh passions.

The Gnostics and other similar groups believed and based their cosmological systems on the idea that various powers identified with numerous figures from Greco-Roman, Egyptian and Biblical traditions do feature in some astrological content—especially with the notion of astrological fate which early Christians and Gnostics regarded as demonic. They taught that the antithesis of belief in astrological fate was freedom of the will. Therefore, since astrological fate as a demonic power, non-Gnostic humanity was seen as being completely subservient to fate, having lost their freedom under the bondage of the law, flesh and the counterfeit spirit all orchestrated by the wicked goddess Heimarmane.

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These beings were often tied with the “the authorities of the universe and the spirits of wickedness” of St. Paul’s Ephesians 6:12, which directly corresponded with the Archons of Gnosticism. These beings were also said to be the astral lords of fate and were assigned many other terms in both the Nag Hammadi Corpus and the New Testament, such as the “governors”, “guardians”, “gate keepers”, “robbers” , “toll collectors”, “judges”, “pitiless ones”, “adulterers”, “man-eaters”, etc.

These beings will that every “star” or soul would “go astray on the way” as the Gospel of Philip puts it. Each Archon could have also been associated with a planet (no Gnostic text makes this association explicit). And each Archon, according to the Apocryphon of John, has an adjunct or ‘power’ with the head of a beast or predatory animal. Thus, the seven rulers also corresponded to the planetary spheres, the same powers that helped the Demiurge create the world and humanity. As mentioned earlier, zealous church fathers like Hippolytus confirm these accounts in the discussion of Empedocles, in which Hippolytus claimed that the much reviled arch-heretic Marcion had derived his system of dualism from in Book VII, Chapter 17 of Refutation of All Heresies. Hippolytus quotes Empedocles of saying:

Of these I also am from God a wandering exile.

Hippolytus also wrote that Empedocles taught that the first principle, being God or the ineffable Monad existed in a sublime unity before the eventual and furious “Discord” that is a chief characteristic of the Demiurge, the creator of the world and it is this “Discord” that “forcibly severs from unity, and (which it) fashions and operates upon”. Plotinus (or really Porphyry, since he is more likely the author the Enneads), the father of Neo-Platonism grumbled that the Gnostics took a pessimistic view on the world, with continual complaints against providence and the design of the world (Enneads 2.9.8). They cite how there is a constant inequality in wealth and that passions dominate humanity rather than reason (2.9.9). Above all, the material world and all its faults are considered a consequence of the World-Soul’s fall (2.9.4).

Much like the Cynics and the Epicurians, the Gnostics disparaged the glorious celestial lights of the Planets and taught they produced “tragic dramas” and tyranny over the lives of humanity because of the cosmic spheres’ influence. This is much like the “tormentors” of the Zodiac in the Corpus Hermeticum. Their radical critique of the cosmos conflicts with the Stoic idea of the “all-pervading Logos” pan-present throughout the cosmos, the optimism of Plato’s Timaeus with the Demiurge doing his best to emulate the ideal forms, and expression of God’s glory within creation on the account in Genesis. According to Eugnostos the Blessed, the world is conceived as a cavern of chaos and oblivion because of the general lack of knowledge:

Let us, then, consider (it) this way: Everything that came from the perishable will perish, since it came from the perishable. Whatever came from imperishableness will not perish but will become imperishable, since it came from imperishableness. So, many men went astray because they had not known this difference; that is, they died.

The Gnostic perspective on the gods was very similar to Epicurus who refused to accept that the gods had anything to do with the universe, even its creation, because since the world is so evil, anything that produced it would have to be evil, too, according to him. He devised a famous argument on theodicy which goes like this: If god is wants to prevent evil, but can’t, then god is impotent. If god can prevent evil, but doesn’t, then he, too, is evil. If god doesn’t want to prevent evil and can’t prevent evil, then he is evil and impotent. But if god can prevent evil and wants to prevent evil, why does evil exist?

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Plotinus, while accepted the three-fold nature (nous, psyche, matter) like any good Platonist would have; he went to great lengths to refute the Gnostic idea that the soul’s fall into matter was seen as a punishment for its audacity and sin, expiated by metempsychosis and demonic chastisement. Plotinus instead believed, much like Irenaeus, that it was good for the soul to descend into matter, to experience good and evil while the unfolding and goodness of the hierarchy of being included the physical realm. Despite Plotinus’ complaints directed against the Gnostics for their infiltration in their lecture-room, he also shared their denial for the corruptible flesh (that it could be saved) which can be traced back to Plato’s body-soul dualism: the body entombs the soul, and upon death our souls rise to the higher spirit realm of truth and perfection which also mirrors the spirit-matter dichotomy of the physical universe, by contrast, as an inferior realm that poorly copies the Forms. The Pistis Sophia explicitly compares the cosmic rulers with the planets, where the Demiurge:

…set five other great Rulers in every Aeon as lords over the 360 (Rulers), and over all the bound Rulers who are called in the whole world of mankind these names: Saturn, Mars, Mercury, Venus, Jupiter.

From these examples list above, it is easy to see that Gnosticism was a critical response to planet worship and the Fates that the planets charge. Now, what about the claim that the Gnostics beheld Jesus to be the sun? In a way, Jesus could very well be seen as the incarnation of the Sun God. However, the Apostle Paul, to which the Gnostics revered, also condemned planet worship in Galatians 4:

So also, when we were underage, we were in slavery under the elemental spiritual forces of the world. … Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God—or rather are known by God —how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.

Colossians 2:16-17 also says:

Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you.

Paul repeatedly condemns other religions, specifically Judaism and pagan religions, for worshiping lesser beings and planets. Christianity, like Gnosticism was a critical reaction to planetary worship, rather than a continuation thereof. By examining his letters, Marcion’s Paul was a mystic who has visions of a disincarnate, spiritual being, who he identified with Jesus Christ. Paul was actually awaiting a docetic savior to transform his mortal body into a spiritual body and whisk him away to an immaterial heaven as indicated in 1 Corinthians 15. Paul’s Christ was a being he encountered in visions.

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While there are certain varieties of doceticism and have many meanings and ideas attached to them, it is essentially the view that Jesus was in nature supremely divine, eliminating his humanity and substituting it for a seemingly one. The term Docetism (Greek, dokein = “to seem” or “to appear” and sometimes “to think” or “imagine”) indicated the distinctive thesis of it that Christ’s incarnation, hence his sufferings, were unreal, phantasmal, appearing only to be human. The Gnostics offered a vision of a non-material Christ who did not suffer and die on the cross. In fact, he was laughing at the trick he had played on all of those who thought he was dying as the Apocalypse of Peter suggests:

I saw him seemingly being seized by them. And I said “What do I see, O Lord? That it is you yourself whom they take, and that you are grasping me? Or who is this one, glad and laughing on the tree? And is it another one whose feet and hands they are striking?”

In other words: Jesus was different from what he seemed to be. Doceticism claimed that Christ only appeared or seemed to be a man. This view clearly shows the Hellenistic assumption the divine impassability and the inherent corruptible nature of matter, although there are other variations of this doctrine. The first to mention expressly “Docetists” or “Illusionists” is Serapion of Antioch (c. 200 A.D.) in his letter to the Church at Rhossos. It was not a simple heresy on its own, but was an attitude that many of its proponents held in their own nuanced and varied ways, including Marcion, Simon Magus, Saturninus, Basilides, Cerinthus, Valentinus, Bardesanes, the authors of many Sethian texts such as the Second Treatise of the Great Seth, the Gospel of Judas, etc. This was firmly countered and opposed by the church fathers, including Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Ignatius, Clement, Origen and especially Tertullian.

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This heresy is combated by the pastorals in the New Testament, such as some parts in 2 John, some parts of the Gospel of John (which some suspect as Orthodox interpolations since its fundamental theology resembles something that is much more Hellenistic and even Gnostic), and 2 Timothy. Anti-Gnostic authorities and heresiologists such as Irenaeus would write against this docetic heresy:

“Vain indeed are those who allege that He appeared in mere seeming. For these things were not done in appearance only, but in actual reality. But if He did appear as a man, when He was not a man,” there was no “degree of truth in Him, for He was not that which He seemed to be” (AH 5.1.2; 1:527)

According to Irenaeus’ logic, when he charged the Gnostics with teaching this heresy, he claimed it was damnable error because it left man with no hope of union with God through Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross, or so as the Orthodox narrative goes. Irenaeus is as vigorously anti-docetic as he is anti-Gnostic. Mankind’s true salvation in the flesh was at stake through the doctrine that resurrected carnal fleshly bodies would literally fly into the sky in the clouds. Polycarp, Irenaeus’ alleged teacher and sworn enemy of Marcion, made the strongest possible charge against the Docetists by saying that “everyone who does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is an anti-Christ,” echoing 1 John 4:2-3. However, this apparently “demonic” docetic heresy can actually be traced to the Apostle Paul, as he writes in Romans 8:3:

Christ came in the likeness [i.e. appearance] of sinful flesh and condemned sin in the flesh so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us.

The logic in that passage follows a consistent theme: Flesh forces man to sin. Man cannot save himself because he has flesh. Therefore, Christ comes in the LIKENESS (Gk: homoioma, literally “appearance”) of flesh and condemns sin so that man might be relieved from the guilt of the law that he was unable to fulfill himself. If the author of that passage (Paul) had said that Christ came in actual flesh, it would destroy the entire context of the passage. Homoioma literally means “likeness” or “appearance” as a statue of a man would resemble an actual man. In other words, something that appears similar to, but not actually is, the thing that it appears to be.

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:5-8.

Further on, in the hymn of Philippians 2:6-11, Christ descends, “bearing human likeness and the fashion of a man.” Why this oblique phraseology? The author of that passage clearly did not believe that Christ had an actual body. “Being found IN APPEARANCE AS a man.” If Paul believed that Christ was indeed a man, wouldn’t he just say so? Why would he say that Christ APPEARED to be a man? The passage presents Christ which is the Savior and Logos as being flesh. He took on flesh, he put flesh on. He wore flesh. He never BECAME or transformed into flesh. We also wear flesh. You cannot possibly be your flesh in Gnostic thought. Furthermore, in Colossians 2:9, Paul posited that Christ Jesus was the Godhead bodily who appeared in the “body” (Somatikos). A body does not automatically imply human flesh. The docetic heresy unanimously condemned by the church fathers is right in the New Testament as Paul preached the docetic Jesus, who never came to earth, and the Jewish apostles preached the human Jesus depicted in the gospels, who was a different Jesus altogether, since Paul’s Jesus is so radically different from the Jesus of the gospels. Paul himself acknowledges different Jesuses in 2 Corinthians:

For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.

In the Dialogues of Adamantius, Chapter XXVII, the Megethius (the Marcionite voice against the Catholic Adamantius i.e. Origen) hints at the “alien” or spiritual nature of Christ, sent by the Stranger God to rescue humanity from the clutches of the creator god or Demiurge, the author of the Law and the Flesh:

To such a degree was Christ an alien, to those whom he appeared, and again, Christ to the creator god, that Paul said (Gal .3:13): “Christ purchased us”. It is obvious that he was an alien, for nobody at any time purchases what is their own. But it says that those who were purchased by the alien, he desired to have as his own.

Of course, Empedocle’s doctrine of Strife and Discord can also be found in Genesis, in the fruit of knowledge of good and evil, where the primal parents Adam and Eve partook of a certain dualistic knowledge from their previous pristine, higher existence when they communed with God. From this, the fall occurred which severed the link between man and God. We can also see this dualism in Genesis, where God formed man from earth and then breathed into him the spirit of life. In other variations of this story, the Ophites claimed that Sophia was the one that really blew the spirit of life into Adam, through YHWH/Elohim. So, man is a combination of profane matter and Divine Spirit. Moreover man is the arena of an internal strife between the evil instinct (in Hebrew: Yetzer-hara) and the good instinct (Yetzer-hatov) which reflects this knowledge of good and evil. It also reflects the Platonic idea that the body is the tomb for the soul was adopted by many groups, and not just the Gnostics. In the Kabbalah, the Tikkunei Hazohar states: “A king’s [God’s] spirit is imprisoned in the tresses of the mind.”

Paul in Romans, also claimed a kind of patent dualism that the later Gnostic figure-heads and schools would subscribe too and build upon in that the spirit of Truth was the prisoner of history, space and time belonging to the reality of the rulers:

I find that a law, when I would do good, evil is present with me. 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 this body of death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

This dualism is reflected in both man and the cosmos like the radical stripe of Marcion, Manes and Empedocles. Man is mortal in his body, but immortal in his divine spirit. Man is the battleground in which angels and demons duke it out. Man is the microcosm reflecting the macro-cosmos of creation. In Gnosticism, dualism was only used to emphasize the transcendental nature of God rather than the traditional Zoroastrian view that there two equal, separate forces in a constant state of struggle and warfare. And so, the Gnostics attempted to explain that evil was a consequence of this spiritual descent into matter and the mundane.

As Ray Embry writes in Marcion: Possible Progenitor of Three Famous Christian Communities: Baptists, Catholics, Gnostics, this Gnostic conception of the spiritual fall from the One still reflects a sort of Mosaic monotheism as opposed to the simple dualism of Marcion, in which he thought that there was an Unknown God superior to the inferior creator god.

All Gnostic theologies seemingly spring forth as ideological children born from the ancient Mosaic idea about an inviolable monotheism. This form of theism sees everything (no matter what) as ultimately deriving from a single Creator. Working within this rigid model of monism, the Judaistic or Mosaic theoreticians could only think in a linear or vertical fashion, where our world lies on one end, while an independent Father of Light stands on the other.

Much like how the Old Testament records this primeval struggle between the upper-light and the lower-darkness, theological tenants were also hotly debated and meted out between many Christian sects—both being of an Orthodox persuasion and a heretical one. Further evidence indicates that the original Christians were Gnostics, not literalists or fundamentalists. The Gnostics preached the Good News of Gnosis which advocated the liberation of every soul. The Orthodox Church Fathers, however, taught that the scriptures were historical and literal. “True knowledge” for Irenaeus (an attack on the Gnostic idea of salvation through knowledge) comes in the Apostolic Tradition, which comes through the succession of Bishops, which is Catholic and not sectarian:

True knowledge is [that which consists in] the doctrine of the apostles, and the ancient constitution of the Church throughout all the world, and the distinctive manifestation of the body of Christ according to the successions of the bishops, by which they have handed down that Church which exists in every place, and has come even unto us, being guarded and preserved without any forging of Scriptures, by a very complete system of doctrine...(4.33.1-9)

To Irenaeus, salvation was a more or less an ecclesiastical matter rather than an individual’s sovereign right to achieve the Great Work outside of demiurgical iron manacles of organized religion. To theologans like Irenaeus, the Gnostics were simply false prophets and schismatics. The Church Fathers along with the newly created Roman Church eventually took religious intolerance to undreamed of levels, eventually destroying all forms of religion (other than their very narrow version) that they could get there hands on as recorded in Eusebius’ Life of Constantine, 3:64, 65.

The Gnostics rivaled the emerging Catholic groups among other groups like the Jewish Christians and the Marcionites and were just as determined as their Catholic opponents to legitimize their views in any way possible. It became of utmost importance for Catholic apologists to demonstrate that Gnosticism was an erroneous doctrine of Christian heresy, and is founded or inspired by those who opposed the apostles themselves. Irenaeus taught that Simon Magus was the father of all Gnostic heresy and the Simonians of his own day claimed him as founder, just as St. Paul was the “apostle of the heretics”, as per Tertullian.

The aim of Gnosis is simple: the extraction or resurrection of the spiritual man–the spark of the “alien” Divinity imprisoned in the jail cell of spiritual death and ignorance. Any means to reach liberation and freedom from the temporal fetters of matter, from the vicissitudes of history, the turpitude of daily routines, the pain and suffering that is experienced by the less fortunate (which has always been the vast majority of the human race) to the pure transcendental good father was acceptable. Asceticism or libertinism, and every variation in between was practiced. For a savior figure like Simon Magus to redeem his consort Helen, fallen into whoredom, he must roll with her in the mires of depravity. He, like Jesus had to put on the appearance of a man, although humanity wasn’t his original nature. The Savior or Gnostic must also practice sacred deceit: He must disguise himself as an adherent to the Demiurge and the powers that rule the world, to be admitted to his domain, in order to save the souls, the sparks of Divinity, exiled and stranded as ship-wrecked sailors of ascension.

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The 33° Freemasonic author Albert Pike has many fascinating things to say in his massive tome, On Morals and Dogma, especially in the following excerpt from Morals and Dogma, XXX. Knight Kodash. Pike basically admits that the Masonic lozenges or “checker board” symbolism so prominent in Masonic temples actually symbolizes the radical dualism proposed by Zoroaster and Mani (or Manes).

For the Johannism of the Adepts was the Kabalah of the earlier Gnostics, degenerating afterward into those heretical forms which Gnosticism developed, so that even Manes had his followers among them. Many adopted his doctrines of the two Principles, the recollection of which is perpetuated by the handle of the dagger and the tesserated pavement or floor of the Lodge, stupidly called “the Indented Tessel,” and represented by great hanging tassels, when it really means a tesserated floor (from the Latin tessera) of white and black lozenges, with a necessarily denticulated or indented border or edging. And wherever, in the higher Degrees, the two colors white and black, are in juxtaposition, the two Principles of Zoroaster and Manes are alluded to. With others the doctrine became a mystic Pantheism, descended from that of the Brahmins, and even pushed to an idolatry of Nature and hatred of every revealed dogma.

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Now I am going to speaking on a personal level from here on out. I was inspired by a conversation with a friend of mine and this is what I think. Basically, what the old Hermetic alchemists were saying is that God is the only thing that’s truly real, and He’s present everywhere, or at least fragments or evidence of his existence. Under the rock and in the wood, like the Gospel of Thomas says. What we see with our senses is basically a shadow. It’s not real, in an ontological sense. This is what Benjamin Walker is getting at when he writes in Gnosticism: It’s Influence and History (p. 37):

The exercise of free will requires an area for its operation, and this resulted in certain catastrophic consequences. Where the will of the Father was withdrawn, the will of the opposing archons prevailed. Where the writ of his goodness did not run, evil emerged. Where his spirit was removed, matter came forth. Where his light was withdrawn, darkness supervened. Instead of love and providence, there was now law and fatality. And where there had been life, there was now death.

Yet it must be remembered that nothing can have existence without God, and even when God is apparently absent, his erstwhile presence has left its permanent impress. The Gospel of Truth speaks of this residual presence of God even after his withdrawal, as the footprint-trace ([ichnos) of the Father’s will. Basilides too emphasized the essential presence of God in all circumstances and situations, when he said that the empty place resulting from God’s withdrawal did not ever cease to show traces of the divine brightness. The vacated place retained the ‘flavour’ of the Father, just as a bowl containing sweet smelling unguent retains the fragrance even after the bowl has been completely emptied.

Giordarno Bruno once said that the since God is infinite, the universe must also be infinite, as God’s manifest form. I also read a recent article that some scientists now question the big bang, and think that the universe may have always been here, which if the case, Bruno was right all along. But from a theurgical perspective, which is more holistic in the view that everything is compromised of some sort of spiritual nature, and that everything in existence exists for some grand purpose. Even evil has some sort of necessary function or reason for being. I guess I’ve been influenced by Hermetic monism.

I’m choosing to look at it this way because radical dualism has become highly disturbing to me as of late. The thought that evil exists as some counter deity and functions independently with no intended purpose from the good is a very grim prospect. I have to believe there is a reason for everything now. The science fiction author Philip K. Dick had the same issue. At times, he would be a radical dualist, but then it would become so disturbing to him that he would adopt a more monistic worldview. The Hypostasis of the Archons sort of reflects this more monistic (in its own contradictory pluralistic sense) way of looking at things.

The rulers laid plans and said, “Come, let us create a man that will be soil from the earth.” They modeled their creature as one wholly of the earth. Now the rulers […] body […] they have […] female […] is […] with the face of a beast. They had taken some soil from the earth and modeled their man after their body and after the image of God that had appeared to them in the waters. They said, “Come, let us lay hold of it by means of the form that we have modeled, so that it may see its male counterpart […], and we may seize it with the form that we have modeled” – not understanding the force of God, because of their powerlessness. And he breathed into his face; and the man came to have a soul (and remained) upon the ground many days. But they could not make him arise because of their powerlessness. Like storm winds they persisted (in blowing), that they might try to capture that image, which had appeared to them in the waters. And they did not know the identity of its power. Now all these things came to pass by the will of the father of the entirety.

And again it says:

Now when Yaldabaoth saw him (Sabaoth) in this great splendor and at this height, he envied him; and the envy became an androgynous product, and this was the origin of envy. And envy engendered death; and death engendered his offspring and gave each of them charge of its heaven; and all the heavens of chaos became full of their multitudes. But it was by the will of the father of the entirety that they all came into being – after the pattern of all the things above – so that the sum of chaos might be attained.

So from the Sethian perspective, even the demiurge and the archons were created for a reason which accounts for a more nuanced Hermetic view that isn’t as dualistic as many consider Gnosticism to be. Both radical dualism and radical monism can be taken to extreme conclusions. The more moderate approach of the Sethians and the Hermetists is the most rational, out of these perspectives. And yet, radical and moderate dualism are just two different ways of looking at the same thing. Both are true and compatible with one another. It just depends on whether you’re going to focus on the light or the dark. New Agers represent the radical monism worldview. They’re so hyper-focused on the positive that they totally reject the influence of evil in the world and are thus totally exposed to demonic influence and deception. It’s like these New Agers who channel random spirits and believe all the wacky BS that comes along with their messages about our beloved space brothers, aliens, ascension into the fourth dimension and such.

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There is a good part in the novel, A Scanner Darkly where Philip K Dick muses on radical and moderate dualism. He writes as Bob Arctor about how he suspects that radical dualism may be true, but he hopes that it isn’t.

“What does a scanner see? Into the head? Down into the heart? Does it see into me? Into us? Clearly or darkly? I hope it sees clearly because I can’t any longer see into myself. I see only murk. I hope for everyone’s sake the scanners do better, because if the scanner sees only darkly the way I do, then I’m cursed and cursed again.”

I see the devil as a sort of tool of God. He’s evil and in rebellion, but God secretly uses him to do his will. Kind of how the Valentinians saw the demiurge as well as the Ophites with Sophia and Ialdabaoth. Holism is inherent to natural and sympathetic magic. Tantra also encompasses holism as well. Everything in nature exists for some specific purpose and is imbued with a spiritual nature that can be tapped into through occult knowledge. The Gospel of Philip tells us this exactly:

“The saints are served by evil powers, for they are blinded by the Holy Spirit into thinking that they are serving an (ordinary) man whenever they do so for the saints. Because of this, a disciple asked the Lord one day for something of this world. He said to him, ‘Ask your mother, and she will give you of the things which are another’s.'”

So what we call the Devil and his legions of demons from hell would be the anarchists of the cosmic hierarchy. They’re chaotic and in rebellion to God’s will, but God’s providential scheme already accounted for the faults of free will before it was even enacted. Or maybe Empedocles and Marcion were right along to say that there were two opposing principles from the beginning of creation or that this dualism is somehow an aberration or deviation from an original unity of existence. At this point, I am open to any of these possibilities. 

Addendum – As it turns out, Hippolytus in Refutation (Book VI. 6), also claims that Simon Magus is heavily inspired by Empedocles. Marcion is simply continuing in Simon’s tradition through the guise of Paul:

Simon denominates in the Great Announcement a perfect intelligible (entity), after such a mode, that each of those things which, existing indefinitely, may be infinitely comprehended, both speaks, and understands, and acts in such a manner as Empedocles speaks of:—

For earth, indeed, by earth we see, and water by water,
And air divine by air, and fire fierce by fire,
And love by love, and also strife by gloomy strife.

False Gods, Divine Charlatans and Those Pesky Gnostics

“Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not  believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and  wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look,  He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it” (Matthew 24:23-26).

Wonder-workers, charlatan magicians, miracle-mongers, impious impostors pretending to be gods and Messiahs were a dime a dozen. Simon Magus, Apollonius of Tyana, Paul and Barnabas (Acts xiv, 11-12 – as Hermes and Zeus), Alexander of Abonoteichus, Apuleius, Mani, Porphyry, Iamblichus were all considered and often hailed as genuine gods incarnate- not to mention Jesus Christ. And yet, they all had very important insights and knowledge worth considering. While Christians have long claimed that Jesus was the one and only true resurrected crucified savior, antiquity reveals that there were a whole host of others savior figures. Christians believe that Jesus’ miracles were performed through God, and that the miracles of the others were the work of the devil. However, to followers of Mithras, Apollonius or Osiris would claim the opposite in that Jesus was indeed of the devil. The only difference in all of these religions is belief. Here’s just a few of them and their testimonies.

Imitating Spirits and False Prophets

The Catholic Church Fathers were very quick to dismiss many of these people (as listed above) as fakes, quacks and charlatans (although not all, of course). The semi-heretic and first Catholic theologian, Justin Martyr, for example, in the First Apology, Chapter 22, concedes and acknowledges that the snake god of healing, Aesculapius, very much fit the pattern of Jesus as a healer:

And if we even affirm that He (Jesus) was born of a virgin, accept this in common with what you accept of Perseus. And in that we say that He made whole the lame, the paralytic, and those born blind, we seem to say what is very similar to the deeds said to have been done by Æsculapius.

Later on in the same book, in Chapter 25, Justin Martyr claimed that through Jesus Christ, the Christianized former pagan has learned to despise the former gods as impostors while in essence mocking Jesus’ ability to heal the sick:

And, secondly, because we— who, out of every race of men, used to worship Bacchus the son of Semele, and Apollo the son of Latona (who in their loves with men did such things as it is shameful even to mention), and Proserpine and Venus (who were maddened with love of Adonis, and whose mysteries also you celebrate), or Æsculapius, or some one or other of those who are called gods— have now, through Jesus Christ, learned to despise these, though we be threatened with death for it, and have dedicated ourselves to the unbegotten and impossible God…

In 2 Apology, Chapter 5, Justin Martyr takes it a step further by claiming the Greek poets and “mythologists” were inspired by the fallen angels and demons. It is obvious that Justin Martyr is very much inspired by the Book of Enoch and the Book of Watchers (and somewhat from Jewish pseudepigrapha Testament of the 12 Patriarchs), all of which belong to a family of Jewish Apocalyptic apocrypha- which in themselves were more than likely inspired by Greek myths of the Titans and the Olympians (or the Titanomachy) to its Jewish authors as well as the sexual liaisons between the gods and mortals. They could also be partly inspired by the unsavory early Roman episode involving the Rape or Abduction of Sabine Women as well.

Whence also the poets and mythologists, not knowing that it was the angels and those demons who had been begotten by them that did these things to men, and women, and cities, and nations, which they related, ascribed them to god himself, and to those who were accounted to be his very offspring, and to the offspring of those who were called his brothers, Neptune and Pluto, and to the children again of these their offspring. For whatever name each of the angels had given to himself and his children, by that name they called them.

In the same chapter, Justin Martyr, calls the children of the angels, “demons”:

 But the angels transgressed this appointment. and were captivated by love of women, and begat children who are those that are called demons.

This very much recalls the Greco-Roman concept of the daimon, which is different than the Christianized or “demonized” version. These spirit beings are often depicted as intermediaries between the divine as gods (Plato’s Symposium) and other times as wardens of lowly humans in the cycles of reincarnation on earth (Corpus Hermeticum). Naturally, this corresponds to the story of the Book of Watchers, where (as indicated in the same chapter) that the Watchers enslaved mankind by “magical writings”, fears of punishments and teaching man to offer sacrifices, incense and libations through lustful passions to demonic spirits.

So, here we have the first Church theologian appealing to apocrypha and not the “Word of God” or the accepted “Canon”! The Book of Enoch also claimed that the Watchers taught mankind all sorts of magical arts, incantations and weaponry. The Watchers, according to Justin, were trying to get mankind to worship their demonic progeny (i.e. the Nephilim). In other words, the pagan mysteries were all inspired by the Fallen Ones. Not only were the pagans inspired by demonic activity but evidently, so were the heretics such as Marcion (First Apology, Chapter 26):

And there is Marcion, a man of Pontus, who is even at this day alive, and teaching his disciples to believe in some other god greater than the Creator. And he, by the aid of the devils, has caused many of every nation to speak blasphemies, and to deny that God is the maker of this universe, and to assert that some other being, greater than He, has done greater works.

Much later, Irenaeus, being largely dependent on Justin’s account, would claim that the Gnostic heretics like Simon Magus and Carpocrates were skilled magicians and charlatans who were adept to summoning demons (Against Heresies 1.23):

Thus, then, the mystic priests belonging to this sect both lead profligate lives and practise magical arts, each one to the extent of his ability. They use exorcisms and incantations. Love-potions, too, and charms, as well as those beings who are called Paredri (familiars) and Oniropompi (dream-senders), and whatever other curious arts can be had recourse to, are eagerly pressed into their service.

And the cult of Carpocrates (ibid. 1.25.3):

They practise also magical arts and incantations; philters, also, and love-potions; and have recourse to familiar spirits, dream-sending demons, and other abominations, declaring that they possess power to rule over, even now, the princes and formers of this world; and not only them, but also all things that are in it.

Notice how Irenaeus’ description of both the Simonians and Carpocrateans are virtually identical. In Acts 8-9, the text claims that Simon Magus was also thought of using demonic powers to do miracles and wonders, much like Jesus is accused of by his enemies in the Gospels. It was written that Simon taught that the precepts of the law and the prophets were inspired by angels “in the desire to reduce men to slavery” and that those who believed in him and Helena were delivered from the tyranny of the law and were free to act as they would as detailed by Irenaeus. One must remember that the record of Simon Magus was either written by Orthodox Christians or scholars strongly influenced by Orthodox dogma. Thus Simon is portrayed as a villain and enemy of the church. There is zero objectivity within the existing historical record about Simon.

The Really Bad Samaritan

Wolfe-Mary And Jesus

It is said that Jesus had a “wife” or female companion/disciple and even purported prostitute, being Mary Magdalene, as indicated by the Gospel of Philip and other miscellaneous papyri. Simon also had a beautiful female companion named Helena who he redeemed from a brothel in the Phoenician city of Tyre. He recognized her immediately as the incarnation of Ennoia, His First Thought, the Holy Spirit, the Mother of All. He purchased her from her master and she became his constant companion during his travels and ministries. Justin Martyr in First Apology, Chapter 26, tells us about this power couple.

“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.”

Much like Apollonius, Simon was worshiped like a god. They proclaimed themselves themselves male and female gods battling the imprisonment of humanity from a rebellious number of fallen angels and archons. The Trojan War was seen as an allegory for the Archons going to war over the beauty and light of the fallen Helena, who is depicted as a prostitute because is captured, raped and abused by them, symbolizing the humiliation and imprisonment of the parcel of the divine light, placed in the human body. The NHC text, Exegesis of the Soul tells of her story of degradation and redemption, in great and painful detail.

Simon claimed he came to Earth to rescue Helena, the goddess Ennoia or the “First Thought” of the “Universal Mind” in human form. In other words, Helena was Sophia or Wisdom incarnate on earth. He promised that he would dissolve the world the angels had made. He promised that all who trusted in him and Helena could return with them to higher regions. The fall, suffering, degradation and redemption of the prostitute Helena, found working in a brothel, who was bought be Simon, mentioned in all the Catholic sources was a sure sign of Simon’s depravity to the Church Fathers. The brothel itself was seen as symbolic of the world of flesh in which the divine light is caught in an adulterous folly of being taken hostage in the “tomb” of the body. In fact, Epiphanius goes so far as to call Helena “the whore” of the Holy Ghost! Epiphanius reiterates the illicit nature of Helena and Simon Magus’ relationship in Panarion, 2, 21, 2:2-3.

2:2 Since the tramp was naturally lecherous, and was encouraged by the respect that had been shown to his professions, he trumped up a phoney allegory for his dupes. He had gotten hold of a female vagabond from Tyre named Helen, and he took her without letting his relationship with her be known.

2:3 And while privately having an unnatural relationship with his paramour, the charlatan was teaching his disciples stories for their amusement and calling himself the supreme power of God, if you please! And he had the nerve to call the whore who was his partner the Holy Spirit, and said that he had come down on her account.

Perhaps this might be an off-colored indication that the “Whore of Babylon” of Revelations 17 and 18 is none other than Helena.

If I am depraved to find this beautiful creature divine, then I am the most depraved person in the world!

If I am depraved to find this beautiful creature divine, then I am the most depraved person in the world!

Many today call for replacing Christianity and the other world religions with a new form of spirituality that unites the world. Simon Magus actually traveled to Rome and established a universal church or at least a very large cult-following, before he was murdered by the Christians. Some people even suggest that he was the first Pope of the Catholic Church! If this were true, this would be a very strange dilemma indeed and would need another post to fully examine this point alone. Anyway, the story of the death of Simon Magus is a twisted portrayal of what really happened. It seems that Simon was capable of leaving the body and traveling freely in the spiritual planes or at the very least initiated as Paul was in 2 Corinthians 2:12-14:

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. He was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.

Because he spoke of this, the Christians mocked him and claimed that he was a god and could literally fly at will. As the story is told, Simon was performing magic in the Roman forum, proving his divinity, and was flying up into the air by the aid of riding a chariot lead by demons, according to Cyril of Jerusalem in the Catechetical Lectures, VI, 14-15. But the Apostle Peter prayed to God to stop his flying, and Simon fell to Earth, breaking his legs. The crowd then turned on him and stoned him to death. I suspect what probably actually happened was that the Christians threw Simon Magus off of a balcony, demanding that he show them his ability to fly. He fell to his death. Thus the first attempt to head-off the founding of the most enslaving religion that has ever existed was thwarted by Simon’s murder. Hallelujah!

Death of SImon Magus

While Simon was alive, he taught a doctrine of Grace, and freedom from the Mosaic Law, much like Paul did in his epistles such as Galatians, Romans and 1 and 2 Corinthians. Carpocrates had very similar beliefs but was also much more Platonic in his orientation than Simon, however. Simon and his disciple, Menander taught that by means of magic one may overcome the angels that made the world. Only if you are baptized or initiated into Menander’s cult will you obtain resurrection and never die, again having eternal youth (Against Heresies 1.23). This corresponds to much of what the Greek Magical Papryi talks about of having a familiar or assistant spirit:

The] traditional rite [for acquiring an assistant]:  After the preliminary purifications, / [abstain from animal food] and from all uncleanliness and, on whatever [night] you want to, go [up] onto a lofty roof after you have clothed yourself in a pure garment . . . [and say] the first spell of encounter as the sun’s orb is dis appearing . . . with a [wholly] black Isis band on [your eyes], and in your right hand / grasp a falcon’s head [and . . . ] when the sun rises, hail it as you shake its head [and] . . . recite this sacred spell as you burn [uncut] frankincense and pure rose oil, making the sacrifice [in an earthen] censer on ashes from the [plant] heliotrope.

The same text goes into great detail on how to go into direct contact with the daimon or familiar spirit, which is basically synonymous with the Holy Guardian Angel of modern magical groups such as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and the Crowleyean Ordo Templi Orientis- both of which peddle pseudo-Gnostic ideas. In any case, the pagan mystagogue and the Gnostic heretic are both condemned as sorcerers of demonic spirits and being possessed by them. Yet, many of these practices were actually done by Jesus in the New Testament! There may as well be a show called, “I dream of Jesus” or “Be-Jesused” the movie. Although I discuss this in great detail in my commentary on the Great Declaration, here are a few more interesting tidbits.

Healing Jesus

Jesus in all four Gospels, is often portrayed as both a sorcerer and an exorcist. When the Pharisees hear of Jesus’ successful exorcisms and healing of the sick, they do not dispute the effectiveness of such activities but they equate the source of this capacity as an unholy partnership between Jesus and Beelzebub, “the prince of demons”. Jesus is essentially to them, using demonic powers. It is very interesting to note that in Judaism, Yahweh was considered the sovereign god, supreme over all other spirits. In fact, Satan was given divine permission to test Job by Yahweh (Job 1-2) and the so-called demonic “evil spirits” were actually emissaries of Yahweh (1 Samuel 16: 14-16). The point is, angels nor demons have any real independence from Yahweh and are basically his lackeys. I smell archons!

The Pharisees accused in multiple places in the Gospels that Jesus is in league with Beelzebub and the powers of darkness. Jesus’ response to Pharisaic judgement is to show up the illogicality of their argument. If they’re right, then all it means is that Jesus is destroying demons by the power of demons, indicating that Satan’s kingdom is at war with itself and therefore, like any kingdom in this situation would face imminent collapse. The fact here’s no such evidence of the imminent overthrow of Satan’s kingdom indicates that this kingdom is not divided and therefore his power to exorcise must come out not from Satan but from another source. Jesus affirms that the source of his activity is in the “Spirit of God” (the Holy Spirit) meaning that the casting out of such demons and the overthrow of Satan was actually a sign that a new Kingdom alien to the world, was is manifesting itself. This, of course, corresponds to the Gnostic belief that God’s Kingdom manifests itself from the inside or the internal into the external as the Gospel of Thomas states:

3. Jesus said, “If your leaders say to you, ‘Look, the (Father’s) kingdom is in the sky,’ then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, ‘It is in the sea,’ then the fish will precede you. Rather, the (Father’s) kingdom is within you and it is outside you.

The Gnostic believes that the true God exists within. They believe that all humans share a single spirit, and thus are all one. Ironically, this mirrors in a much twisted way like how the Kingdom of Darkness works as well, as every unclean spirit is “equal.”

Asklepios - Epidauros

In the Acts of Pilate (also known as the Gospel of Nicodemus), the Jews accuse Jesus of being a magician (a charlatan) meaning someone who merely uses placebo’s or tricks. They claimed that Jesus invoked Beelzebub to cast out demons:

Pilate saith: And what things are they that he doeth, and would destroy the law?

The Jews say: We have a law that we should not heal any man on the Sabbath: but this man of his evil deeds hath healed the lame and the bent, the withered and the blind and the paralytic, the dumb and them that were possessed, on the Sabbath day!

Pilate saith unto them: By what evil deeds?

They say unto him: He is a sorcerer, and by Beelzebub the prince of the devils he casteth out devils, and they are all subject unto him.

Pilate saith unto them: This is not to cast out devils by an unclean spirit, but by the god Aesculapius.

Of course, it is doubtful the word daimon would have been used in such a derogatory way by a pagan like Pilate. In the Gospel of John chapter 5, Jesus heals a life long blind man at the pool of Bethesda outside the walls of Jerusalem. There is archaeological evidence that this was an Aesclepion, or a healing center.

When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk.

The phrase hygies genesthai (Do you want to be healed?) and the word louein (to wash) are reminiscent of language of the Aesculapius/Serapis cult as is the term soter. This same terminology (soter) is also ascribed to Dionysus or Bacchus.

In the Acts of Pilate, the Jews attribute Pilate’s wife’s dream to Jesus as a sorcerer, mirroring Irenaeus’ accusations against the Simonians and Carpocrateans’ practices:

Did we not tell you he was a sorcerer? Behold! He has sent a dream to your wife.

In the Nag Hammadi text, Aesculapius 21-29, Hermes Trismegistus tells Aesculapius:

“Since we have entered the matter of the communion between the gods and men, know, Asclepius, that in which man can be strong! For just as the Father, the Lord of the universe, creates gods, in this very way man too, this mortal, earthly, living creature, the one who is not like God, also himself creates gods. Not only does he strengthen, but he is also strengthened. Not only is he god, but he also creates gods. Are you astonished, Asclepius? Are you yourself another disbeliever like the many?”

This sounds very similar to what is expressed in the Gospel of Philip:

God created man. […] men create God. 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!

All of this is echoed in Jesus’ words to the Pharisees in John 10:33-38, which is an imitation of Psalms 82.

The Jews answered Him, “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods'”? If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came–and Scripture cannot be set aside–what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.

Simon was a disciple of John the Baptist just as Peter was in the Gospel of John, who was also called Simon (John 1). Simon argued that there are many Gods as well in the Clementine Homilies, just as Jesus argued, “ye are gods” in imitation of King David in the Psalms, as quoted above. Simon is the Standing One while the Jesus of Revelation is the one who was, is, and is to come. Hippolytus makes a major point over this in Philosophumena. Absethus the Libyan even sent out parrots to say that he was God thus creating a, “voice from heaven,” just as John heard when Jesus had a bird land on him (Luke, Matthew, Mark, Acts of the Apostles, Hebrews). Why stop there when there are so many similarities?

Here’s a summation of the points listed above and then some: Simon claimed to be God and was from Alexandria, while Jesus was accused of claiming to be God, or the Son of God, and visited Egypt in the Babylonian Talmud. Simon was accused of being Magician and Sorcerer, while Jesus was accused of the same by the Pharisees. Simon was a Samaritan, Jesus was accused of being a Samaritan, again by the Pharisees. Both were accused of being possessed Necromancers as well. Both Paul and Simon held to a doctrine of salvation by Grace. Both Paul and Simon were considered “lawless ones,” by their detractors because of their rejection and devalue of the outward practice of the Law of Moses. Jesus in the Gospel of John (10:34) tells the Pharisees scornfully, “your law,” while also saying that all that came before him were “thieves and robbers,” (10:8) implying the Old Testament prophets were indeed these endearing terms.

Simon saved Helena a prostitute, and Jesus saved Mary Magdalene, a prostitute. Both taught that their followers would never die and have eternal life. Jesus said to eat his flesh, Simon ate flesh. Paul and Simon were both accused of libertinism and eating food sacrificed to idols. Simon was called a “Gnostic, falsely so-called” by Irenaeus and Ignatius calls him a “Nicolaitan falsely so-called.” Both Jesus (John) and Simon denied YHWH as claimed he was Satan and the father of lies. Simon claimed to make the secret manifest while Jesus made the secrets of the kingdom of God known. Phew!

Those Pesky Gnostics

The Catholic Church Father, Irenaeus (A.H. 1.16.3) would bitterly complain against the Gnostics that they were impious blasphemers against Yahweh, asserting that the Biblical God arose from a defect while claiming they were superior to such a god and there there is a superior, hidden and previously Unknown God, above the inferior creator much like what Simon believed according to the Clementine literature.

Impious indeed, beyond all impiety, are these men, who assert that the Maker of heaven and earth, the only God Almighty, besides whom there is no God, was produced by means of a defect, which itself sprang from another defect, so that, according to them, He was the product of the third defect.

The Gnostics thought of themselves as not only superior to YHWH but also had nothing to fear from such a god and his slavish laws and bitter slavery. The Gnostics took Jesus’ axiom of “seek and ye shall find” as an invitation to discover themselves as superior to the God of the Bible. And because of this, their behavior was often conceived as being antinomian because the liberty of the Gospel freed everyone from the dead letter of moral Law of Moses. (“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.”)

Such men, according to Irenaeus, were sent by Satan himself, in order to dishonor the Church and were accused of all manner of libertine behavior- everything from eating meat sacrificed to idols as Paul discusses in a very ambivalent way (1 Corinthians 8:1-8), to being the first to assemble at heathen festivals, gladiator games, and engaging in sexual licentious practices such as consuming sexual fluids, orgies and wife-swapping. Epiphanius goes to great lengths to claim that Simonians, among many other Gnostic sects, consumed semen and menstrual fluids because they allegedly had power to provide perfect knowledge, upon ingestion in their ceremonies. He even claimed that another Gnostic sect, the Phibionites, would actually consume an aborted fetus in the event that a woman was accidentally made pregnant! Baby sandwiches anyone?

Other times the Gnostics were simply accused of abstaining from sex and marriage altogether, considering them abhorrent and tools of Satan- much like Marcion of Pontus and Saturnilus of Antioch. These kinds of people, according to Irenaeus, were so numerous and common that he quite literally describes them as mushrooms in terms of being pests:

Besides those, however, among these heretics who are Simonians, and of whom we have already spoken, a multitude of Gnostics have sprung up, and have been manifested like mushrooms growing out of the ground.

Following in the footsteps of Jesus, the Gnostics were also considered to be healers and known to be involved with sympathetic magic, Indian-styled mantras, hissing sounds and other healing practices as mentioned by their philosophical arch-nemesis, the father of Neoplatonism, Plotinus in Enneads 2.9.4:

They tell us they can free themselves of diseases. If they meant, by temperate living and an appropriate regime, they would be right and in accordance with all sound knowledge. But they assert diseases to be spirit-beings and boast of being able to expel them by formula: This pretension may enhance their importance with the crowd, gaping on the powers of magicians; but they can never persuade the intelligent that disease arises otherwise than from such causes as overstrain, excess, deficiency, putrid decay; in a word, some variation whether from within or from without. The nature of illness is indicated by its very cure. A motion, a medicine, the letting of blood, and the disease shifts down and away; sometimes scantiness of nourishment restores the system: Presumably the spiritual power gets hungry or is debilitated by the purge. Either this spirit makes a hasty exit or it remains within…

It might be a surprise to my readers that the early Gnostics weren’t just philosophizing esotericists spouting “crazy mumbo-jumbo” or so-called “flesh-hating dualists” as the Orthodox claim but were also legitimate physicians from actual medical schools! These medical schools were known as the Pneumatics and the Methodics, the first of which was founded by Athenaeus of Attalia and Galen. Galen himself was a Platonist and understood medicine and human anatomy in terms of humorism.

The Catholics on the other hand had no medical training- whether it be theoretical or practical. They relied on the superstition of prayer which is hardly any different than the divination used by witches. The Pneumatics, much like the Plotinus’ Gnostics, believed that disease was due to an imbalance in temperature and deficiency/overabundance of liquids to be a cause. It wouldn’t be an enormous stretch to consider that the Pneumatics and the Gnostics were actually one and the same. It would also explain Paul’s usage of the term “pneumatikos” in his letters, as many scholars are simply stumped on where he picked up such a word.

Before the 1st century C.E., there was a school of Aesculapius at Epidaurus and this was the leading center of the medical field in the Greco-Roman world even up to the 2nd century. Galen, the Greek physician, surgeon and philosopher, was responsible for popularizing the prognostic approach over that of divination and speculation. The Gospels and the Apocryphon of John, as well as book six of the Philosophumena of Hippolytus as well as the Great Declaration of Simon Magus, all share similar ideas in that they both apply unusual readings and applications on human physiology. The Apocryphon of John lists all of these parts as being associated with a number of different ruling demons, as the same texts quotes all of this from the Book of Zoroaster. When Jesus went in to a place to “cast out demons” he was in reality restoring one of the supposed 365 parts of the body that were ill or misaligned, or of bad humor.

Manichaean Tom-Foolery

In about 252 AD, Mani, a Persian, mixed Gnostic-Christianity, Buddhism and other Persian elements. He stated his teaching came from Christ and the Persian Magi. Mani taught there are two eternal principles: one Light and one Darkness. For Mani, Jesus was not a real man [did not have flesh] nor did he undergo punishment on the cross. Satan is also the god of Moses and the prophets. Man does not have free will, as some are born with their nature totally depraved, while others are born nearly perfect.

Mani much like Simon Magus, Carpocrates and the Alexandrian-Egyptian Hesesiarch Basilides, taught reincarnation based on Karma- although in much more negative terms than those from the East. Mani said he was the Comforter or Holy Spirit (Paraclete) incarnate. Mani taught vegetarianism as the ideal way to eat and abstained from all manner of animal flesh as well as wine. Mani taught, unlike the world, man was the created by demons. The aim of demons is to imprison in man, through the propagation of the race, as much as possible of the light, and so to hinder the separating process by the sun and the moon.

The Manichaeans taught salvation comes from rigorous asceticism and believed that salvation consisted simply in the liberation of the light from the darkness. Mani also taught that there was a purgatory for purifying souls of their animal nature. After being purged of sins in the sun, the souls fly to the moon [Purgatory]. The spirit of man is from light of God and his body from the darkness of Satan.

Mani

In the Acts of the Disputation with Manes (Archelaus), written by Hegemonius, there is a very long debate between Mani and the Catholic bishop of Cachar, Archaleus, much like how the Clementine literature pits Simon against Peter in their debates. In this text, we see a possible literary model for Mani based on none other than the father of all heresies himself, Simon Magus!

Although Mani in the end loses to Archaleus, he makes several fascinating points, including one about the spirit being held hostage in the cycles of reincarnation and the world. The physical universe is basically an adulterous synthesis between the absolutes of spirit and matter. Even in this synthesis, such principles do not change and only invite conflict, sin, duality and suffering to exist as testified by Mani, in Acts Archelaus, 9:

Moreover, there are certain other worlds on which the luminaries rise when they have set on our world. And if a person walks upon the ground here, he injures the earth; and if he moves his hand, he injures the air; for the air is the soul (life) of men and living creatures, both fowl, and fish, and creeping thing. And as to every one existing in this world, I have told you that this body of his does not pertain to God, but to matter, and is itself darkness, and consequently it must needs be cast in darkness.

Like Aesculapius, Apollonius of Tyana, Jesus and the Pnuematics, Mani also thought of himself as a healer or a physician from Babylon. He demonstrates his abilities by restoring the health of a maiden, which echoes the theme of Jesus healing the woman with the issue of the blood from Luke 8:40-58, not to mention Simon and Helena. Mani also defends himself against his detractors by invoking his numerous healings and demonic exorcisms like Jesus did with the Pharisees. Even the Nestorian bishop Theodore bar Konai begrudgingly concedes that Mani was “familiar with the art of healing,” via sorcery in Scholion (ed. Scher), 2:312.20-21. However, such charges of sorcery and magic seem to conflict with the Manichaean ten commandments, especially in one commandment against practicing magic. Archaleus himself is very critical of Mani’s purported medical talents and claims they are based on fraud. Archaleus writes against Mani about claiming to be the Paraclete, by even claiming the heretics before Mani were practically saints in comparison to his deceit:

And, in good truth, I hold Marcion, and Valentinian, and Basilides, and other heretics, to be sainted men when compared with this person. For they did display a certain kind of intellect, and they did, indeed, think themselves capable of understanding all Scripture, and did thus constitute themselves leaders for those who were willing to listen to them. But notwithstanding this, not one of these dared to proclaim himself to be either God, or Christ, or the Paraclete, as this fellow has done, who is ever disputing, on some occasions about the ages, and on others about the sun, and how these objects were made, as though he were superior to them himself; for every person who offers an exposition of the method in which any object has been made, puts himself forward as superior to and older than the subject of his discussion.

Cyril of Jerusalem also referred to Simon as the Paraclete, in which Mani seems to follow wholesale in the Catechetical Lectures, VI, 14:

This man, after he had been cast out by the Apostles, was the first that dared with blasphemous mouth to say that it was himself who appeared on Mount Sinai as the Father, and afterwards appeared among the Jews, not in real flesh but in seeming, as Christ Jesus, and afterwards as the Holy Spirit whom Christ promised to send as the Paraclete. And he so deceived the City of Rome that Claudius set up his statue, and wrote beneath it, in the language of the Romans, ‘To Simon the Holy God’”

Towards the end of Acts Archaleus, Mani eventually loses to him in their debates and scatters off while stalked by the Bishop and is defeated over and over in their debates. This also occurs in the apocryphal Acts, where Simon is also defeated in a verbal fight with Peter. Simon only continues to other lands to continue his vicious preaching and is defeated yet again. In Acts, Mani is nearly lynched by the crowd when he fails to meet up to his expectations (although restrained by Archaleus), much like Simon in the Acts of Peter, when he fails to resurrect a man. The crowd then attempts to burn Simon at the stake like a true heretic that he is but is restrained by Peter, who warns them to not sully their hands with such a sin.

Mani is even said to take flight (or run) much like Simon (if taken the words in the following excerpt literally), is forced to perform such a miracle to a blood-thirsty crowd:

Then, too, the children who had chanced to gather about the place began and set the example of pelting Manes and driving him off; and the rest of the crowd followed them, and moved excitedly about, with the intention of compelling Manes to take to flight. But when Archelaus observed this, he raised his voice like a trumpet above the din, in his anxiety to restrain the multitude, and addressed them thus: Stop, my beloved brethren, lest perhaps we be found to have the guilt of blood on us at the day of judgment; for it is written of men like this, that ‘there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.’

Such apocryphal tales could very well be seen as precursors to what would eventually happen to many of these heretics. Much of this whole sale dismissal of such magicians would eventually lead and give precedent to the later Roman Emperors made numerous enactments against sorcery, divination, and all kinds of magic.

The “Christian” Emperor, Constantine (for example), prohibited all forms of magic, but specially excepted and authorized “that which was intended to avert hail and lightning.” Such magical practices were seen as synonymous with heresy and the pagan mysteries. And of course, all of these things would eventually and gradually become prohibited. The worst thing Constantine probably did was send heretics into exile. His edicts call for the confiscation of texts and property of heretics, and exile is the next logical step. The really bad stuff seems to have started under Theodosius, where paganism and heresy are made into capital crimes. And then it gets worse under the Byzantines.

In fact, legislation’s such as the Theosodian decrees would persecute and eventually slaughter these kinds of people, such as the Manichaeans, Marcionites, the Priscillianists (many of which were burnt to death), and many other pagans and heretics. Such laws effectively made them second class citizens in many ways. The Theodosius decrees would declare such people as insane vermin and witches. And all were pulled from their houses and burned in the streets by the Catholics. Ambrose admits to this fact, as does Jerome.

Even many of the Nag Hammadi texts make allusions to ongoing orthodox persecution. The Apocalypse of Peter, for example, is all about Gnostics undergoing Catholic persecution and outright dubs the Bishops as “dry canals”, meaning that they were empty husks of flesh, deprived of spirit. The Second Treatise of the Great Seth and the Gospel of Judas also make various allusions to this and their overall mutual contempt for each other as the Gnostic authors repeatedly condemn the Catholic clergy and their practices and doctrines. The Gospel of Judas goes so far as to claim that Catholic priests are actively involved in slaughter, illicit homosexual sex with men, and child sacrifice:

[Jesus said], “What are [the priests] like?”

They [said, “Some …] two weeks; [some] sacrifice their own children, others their wives, in praise [and] humility with each other; some sleep with men; some are involved in [slaughter]; some commit a multitude of sins and deeds of lawlessness. And the men who stand [before] the altar invoke your [name], [39] and in all the deeds of their deficiency, the sacrifices are brought to completion […].”

After they said this, they were quiet, for they were troubled.

As is always the case, would-be-Messiahs lose and the bullies win at the end of the day.

The Great Declaration: A Commentary (Part 4)

My ultimate contention is that Simon Magus is Chrestus and Simon identifies himself with the Logos and the Samaritan Messiah. While some believe this is a misspelling of Christos (it is not so) Chrestus and his followers and Peter and his followers were at odds as illustrated in part’s 2 and 3. Literature like the Clementines, although summarily dismissed by many scholars a pseudo works (pretended to be the actual words of Pope Clement) and place it all the way to the fourth century, when it is actually much closer to the second century. Many apocryphal texts use this method of pretending to be the words of another, such as Jesus, which is more of a style of exposition and not meant to deceive. The Gnostic Gospels use this very method to convey their spiritual messages and coded myths.

While the Clementines do in fact treat Simon Magus in an unfavorable light to the point where he is vilified, but the Clementines do show him as a major opponent to Peter (Dositheos). Although Simon appears to use tricks and magic, Peter also appears not to be without these himself. What is most disturbing to Church authorities is that Clementines say that Simon Magus took over the organization of John the Baptist after his death and not Jesus. This would clearly give him the stature to be on an equal footing as Peter in their debates. However, in Acts 8, Simon is depicted as being converted to Peter’s faith as well, much like how Paul is type-casted as a devout Pharisaic convert to Judeo-Christianity in true propaganda form, in the same text.

Simon (like many Gnostics after him) are very slippery in his debate against the Orthodox Peter. Or subtle, depending on your loyalty. The rest of the debate is quite interesting, and very complex, very rhetorically brilliant on both sides (another reason I think the Clementines are genuine). It also prefigures the great Gnostic-Christian divide of those early centuries quite well; this encounter may have symbolically actuated the great divide between the two camps.

There is also evidence of a possible Philonic (Philo of Alexandria) confluence with Simonian thought because both parties focus on the first five books of the Old Testament in esoteric ways. It was Philo who represents the apex of Jewish-Hellenistic syncretism. His work attempts to combine Platonism and Old Testament theology into one philosophical system as testified by his multitude of writings.

It is probable to suspect Simon Magus played a much more important role in the evolution of early Christianity than most biblical scholars are willing to acknowledge. The vast body of patristic writings, (especially the much reviled Clementine literature) about him suggest that the figure of Simon loomed far larger in the early church fathers than in the minds of today. What I’ve been suggesting in the last three entries is not new as other scholars in their own way such as Robert M. Price, Robert Eisenman, Simone Petrement, Hermann Detering, G.R.S. Mead, etc have also expressed similar sentiments. Without being said, what I am also suggesting also ruffles the feathers of many people out there with Orthodox/Catholic sympathies but alas I am not here to placate the rabble or any ecclesiastical authority. Again, we will also tackle commentary on the Great Declaration.

The Taheb

The Samaritans (the “Guardians” or “Watchers” of the Law), are a Hebrew tribe, who only observe the Samaritan Pentateuch, which is basically the first five books of the Torah. Samaritians claimed that their worship was true to the faith while the Jews or the Judeans had an altered faith because of the Babylonian Captivity influence. The Samaritians claim descent from the Israelite tribes of Ephraim and Manesseh, and still inhabit their lands to this day, between Judea and Galilee. Moses’ successor and conqueror of the Promised Land, Joshua, was from Ephraim and the tribe also happened to he given the honor of being the custodians of the Ark of the Covenant in its sanctuary at Shiloh. There are historians who claim that Ephraim, Manesseh and Benjamin were the only three tribes that came out of Egypt, while the others were Canaanites who were converts to Moses’ religion. This connection between Ephraim and Egypt and its Heliopolis religion makes sense considering Moses’ strong connection with Egypt, Aton worship and even the figures of Thoth/Hermes.

Many scholars and archaeologists have shown that the Israelites’ original religion was far from monotheistic and even patriarchal that it was to become, and that is owed its existence to the native paganism of Canaan and Egypt. In Part 3, we saw that the Gnostics believed that each nation of Israel and her prophets was ruled over by the seven angels or the Archons. Moses is listed as belonging to Ialdabaoth. Curiously enough, Ephraim is not listed…

After Israel developed itself into a nation, a power struggle also developed quickly after, between Ephraim and Judah. As the story goes, King David usurped Ephraim’s status by taking the Ark of the Covenant to Jersualem, being the new religious center in Judah’s territory. After the reign of King Solomon, the Israelite kingdom split in two, with Ephraim heading the ten tribes in the north and Judah in the south. Thus, a new sanctuary and temple which rivaled Jerusalem, was built in Ephraim’s land on Mount Gerizim.

Soon after this, the more powerful Assyrian empire invaded Northern Israel and underwent a very traumatic invasion and mass enslavement through the Babylonian Captivity, two centuries later. When the Jews returned to Jerusalem after their seventy-year exile, they set about codifying and reforming their religion, incorporating concepts from that of Babylon. Both camps believed that their own religion was the “pure” version while they viewed each other’s versions as heretical. Victors’ history decided that the Jews were superior over the Samaritians, but the Samaritans could have been right…

This rivalry reached a climax when Judea conquered Samaria and destroyed their temple. This was the icing on the cake for the Samaritan resentment and even hatred of the Jews. It was only the advent of Roman rule that Samaria was freed from Jewish subjugation. The Jewish and Samaritan rivalry even affected their eschatology or end-time speculations: each tribe saw their own as coming out on top. The Judeans would have likely hated the idea of bringing in the Samaritans back into the fold; while the Samaritians held their own views on Judah being overthrown by their own Messiah, being the Taheb. The woman at the well in John 4 could very well have recognized Jesus (Simon) as the Taheb.

Good Samaritan

In the Samaritian tradition, there is a messianic figure or title known as the “Taheb” or the “restorer” or prophet like Moses, who would come and restore the true worship on Mount Gerizim. Instead of the Davidic Messiah that the Jews were expecting, the Samaritans looked forward to the coming of this chosen one, “the restorer” which is centered on Deuteronomy 18:18, a herald of the last day–a day of final judgment, of vengeance and reward, when the temple of Gerizim would be restored, Jerusalem destroyed (!) the sacrifices reinstated and the heathen converted. Deuteronomy 18:18 says:

I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him.

It is notable that the Samaritan Taheb goes out of its way to differentiate itself from the Davidic Warrior-King Messiah. Jesus of John is often portrayed as being entirely hostile to Judaism and the Pharisees as noted in Part 2. John and Jesus refer to the Jews as a “brood of vipers”, sort of a case of inverting the traditional hermenuetic of the serpent causing the fall of Adam and Eve and applying it to the Jews.

It is reasonable to conclude that much of the Old and New Testament feuds and tensions between Jesus, Paul, Stephen, Simon, John the Baptist with the lapdog Judean Pharisees and their Roman elite rulers of the day reflect this mutual hatred. The Samaritans only recognized an archaic form of YHWH, one that was still close to El, the Father, and to the angelic or even contained in his Elohim form (the Gods). Holding that the sanctuary at Sichem on Mount Gerizim was the only true Temple, Samaritanism only recognized the Torah or the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) as sacred texts- as mentioned earlier. They also recognized the Book of Joshua, being the sixth book of the Pentateuch, but not for good reasons. The Babylonian Talmud was also readily rejected.

The Book of Joshua as well as Numbers 31:13-18  recounts the Hebrew conquest of Canaan as a war of extermination and death, including that of women and children. The Church Father Origen was well aware that such texts like Joshua provided critics like Marcion evidence that the God of the Old Testament was morally obtuse if not outright evil. Origen had a different solution to this dilemma by allegorizing the tribal warfare, cruelty and extreme violence that is brimming in the Old Testament as the soul struggling against sin and temptation and the enemies of the Church. This is all laid out in his Homilies on Joshua. Thus, any sort of objectionable and disturbing behavior exhibited by Yahweh was successfully explained away. The Land of Canaan was allegorized as the soul to be brought under the rule of “Jesus” or Joshua. In Numbers 25:4, it is clear that Yahweh is an incredibly blood-thirty warrior-god:

And the Lord said unto Moses, Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before the Lord against the sun, that the fierce anger of the Lord may be turned away from Israel.

The arch-heretic Marcion would have likely rejected Origen’s usage of allegory. In fact, Marcion felt that the Old Testament was so fundamentally flawed and of no consequence for the Christian Church. Moreover, for the Marcionite church, it was better to cast away the Old Testament aside than to tarnish the image of the Father of Jesus Christ by the mixing in traces of the war-like God, who even commanded that every first-born of Egypt to be killed by the Destroying Angel (Exodus 11:5) indicating that he was no better than the supposed myth that Herod was involved in the “massacre of the innocents” as per Matthew 2: 16-18.

In 144 A.D., appeared a ship-builder from Sinope named Marcion. He founded a church system that rivaled in numbers and influence that of the orthodox Christian church. By 150 A.D., Justin Martyr wrote that Marcionites had expanded “to the uttermost bounds of the earth” (Justin, Apology 1.26.). It required three hundred years for the orthodox church to eventually rout out the heresy of Marcion.

Marcion was not battling the Roman Catholic church. It did not yet exist. Instead, there was a large orthodox church led from Jerusalem. The Roman bishop was just one bishop among many throughout the Mediterranean. Even if Peter (who is really based on Dositheos) was in Rome at one point, there was no effort to exercise superiority from Rome until many centuries later.

What happened is that Marcion declared in 144 A.D. that Paul alone was the true apostle for the era of grace; the twelve apostles, in particular their gospel of Matthew, were tainted by legalism; the Jesus of the twelve belonged to the God of the Old Testament; and the Jesus of Paul represented the son of a loving Father who now accepted us by faith alone. As Adolf Harnack, the Marcionite sympathizing scholar (d. 1930) expressed it:

According to Marcion, Christ saved us from the world and its god in order to make us children of a new and alien God.

Marcion’s primary threat to the church is that, unlike the Gnostics, his teachings were rooted in part of the same set of scriptures used by the orthodox, although an earlier variant, and his was an organized religious movement, not an esoteric cult. It had the potential to become the so-called orthodoxy. And in many regions, such as Syria, it WAS considered the orthodox form of Christianity. Of course, history readily shown this brand of Christianity was only destined to fall by the way side and eventually buried by the Roman Catholic Church. See Antithesis for more on Marcion’s train of thought on the division between the Old and New Testament. Marcion could very well be seen as the forerunner of the Protestant reformation movement later on in the 15th century, starting with Martin Luther…

Marcion’s gospel is a lot older than one would assume, and Mark isn’t quite as early as most contemporary New Testament critics think it is. The earliest records of Jesus were most likely collections of his sayings, like the Gospel of Thomas, and by the latter half of the first century, these were eventually put into narrative form. This is when we see gospel authors trying to link Jesus to messianic prophecies in the Old Testament, such as using Psalm 22 as the basis for the crucifixion events, among other things. But there are a number of sayings attributed to Jesus that indicate he never intended to be the Jewish messiah, and even denied being so, but his Jewish followers, who were intent on making him such, wrote mythological narratives like Matthew and Mark that present him that way.

“And he said unto them, How say they that the Christ is David’s son? And David himself saith in the book of Psalms, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies the footstool of thy feet. David therefore calleth him Lord, and how is he then his son?” Luke 20:42

“His disciples said to him, ‘Twenty-four prophets have spoken in Israel, and they all spoke of you.’ He said to them, ‘You have disregarded the living one who is in your presence, and have spoken of the dead.'” Gospel of Thomas, Logion 52.

These two passages clearly call into question the Jewishness of Jesus, indicating that he may have been originally a Samaritan. The Gospel of John also reflects that it may have been written by a Samaritan community, considering its very pro-Samaritan sentiments. This would contradict other very pro-Law statements of Jesus in Matthew 5:17. However, Jesus Christ (which is ultimately a title and not an actual name at all) was all things to all people, and in his statement “I am” implies a totality of Messiah, Christ and Taheb. This is directly stated in the Gospel of Thomas, Logion 13:

Jesus said to his disciples, “Compare me to someone and tell me whom I am like.”

Simon Peter said to him, “You are like a righteous angel.”

Matthew said to him, “You are like a wise philosopher.”

Thomas said to him, “Master, my mouth is wholly incapable of saying whom you are like.”

Jesus said, “I am not your master. Because you have drunk, you have become intoxicated from the bubbling spring which I have measured out.”

And he took him and withdrew and told him three things. When Thomas returned to his companions, they asked him, “What did Jesus say to you?”

Thomas said to them, “If I tell you one of the things which he told me, you will pick up stones and throw them at me; a fire will come out of the stones and burn you up.”

Again, we see this idea repeated in 1 Corinthians 9:20, when Paul states:

To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.

This is very much comparable to how Simon describes himself in the Great Declaration:

“I 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.”

These ideas all touch on the idea of doceticism but I will save this for the finale of this commentary.

The Two Powers Revisited


In the Clementine literature, Simon Magus in his seminal debate with Peter argued that Yahweh was one of the sons of God, being their chief, but was distinct from God the Most High or the Unknowable God. Peter’s position, however, is not so clear. Peter basically claims that the God of the Jews is called the “God of gods”, implying there is no power higher than YHWH. However, Peter later adds that the God of gods is actually Christ. So, Peter, in actuality contradicts himself or conflates YHWH with Christ. Simon in the Recognition’s II.39, argues by using Jewish scripture that there were many gods (polytheism), like Jesus did in the Gospel of John.

Then Simon said: “I shall make use of assertions from the law of the Jews only. For it is manifest to all who take interest in religion, that this law is of universal authority, yet that every one receives the understanding of this law according to his own judgment. For it has so been written by Him who created the world, that the faith of things is made to depend upon it. Whence, whether any one wishes to bring forward truth, or any one to bring forward falsehood, no assertion will be received without this law. Inasmuch, therefore, as my knowledge is most fully in accordance with the law, I rightly declared that there are many gods, of whom one is more eminent than the rest, and incomprehensible, even He who is God of gods.

But that there are many gods, the law itself informs me. For, in the first place, it says this in the passage where one in the figure of a serpent speaks to Eve, the first woman, `On the day ye eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, ye shall be as gods, ‘ that is, as those who made man; and after they have tasted of the tree, God Himself testifies, saying to the rest of the gods, `Behold, Adam is become as one of us; ‘ thus, therefore, it is manifest that there were many gods engaged in the making of man…

As mentioned in Part 3, the heresy of the “two powers of Heaven” (a crime against the unique God in the eyes of Jewish orthodoxy) probably started in heretical Jewish circles such as the Sethians (or really Dosithaeans), although condemned by the Books of Enoch, was inadvertently slipped into its ideas of the confrontation between the good angels (Gabriel, Michael, Raphael and Uriel) and the fallen angels, being the Watchers, in the same text.

The two powers doctrine even influenced Philo of Alexandria, where he separates Theos, the Good God from the Kyrios, or Adonai, being the same being as the Tetragrammaton YHWH. However, Philo does not devalue YHWH as an inferior creator or angelic power as Simon and his followers did and probably would have considered them as blasphemous heretics. The term “Kyrios” is ascribed to Paul’s Christ multiple times throughout his letters, although not as much in the gospels, especially the Gospel of John. Even more significantly, according to Hippolytus, Simon was called “Lord” by his followers, at least by his later ones (Refutation of All Heresies, 6,15).

Philo also identifies the Logos as “a second God” and even “God,” and his association of the Logos with the “two powers” as two potentcies in one God (See: Questions and Answers on Exodus. 2.68.) It is also surely significant that Philo nowhere seeks to defend these beliefs against a charge of heresy. The fact that Philo gives no indication that he was departing from an already-existing Jewish “orthodoxy,” or that his teaching on the Logos was met with objections, suggests that his views were not objectionable to his contemporaries. Perhaps this can be a form of argument of silence?

Both Philo and the Gnostics testify to the belief of a second God, the creator, the Logos, the Man. The Gnostics, however, identified the second God with the God of the Jews in a way that Philo does not. Philo, along with the Samaritians, would have naturally rejected the Gnostics as well as Marcion’s separation of the God of the Jews, being the Lawgiver and creator of the world from the Good God of Jesus Christ as many of his much later Orthodox enemies in the ever-growing minority Catholic Church.

Speaking of the Catholic Church, Eusebius, the infamous propaganda minister of the burgeoning Orthodoxy had this to say about the Two Powers, in Preparation for the Gospel, Book XI, Chapter XIV:

First then Moses expressly speaks of two divine Lords in the passage where he says, ‘Then the LORD rained from the LORD fire and brimstone upon the city of the ungodly: where he applied to both the like combination of Hebrew letters in the usual way; and this combination is the mention of God expressed in the four letters, which is with them unutterable.

In accordance with him David also, another Prophet as well as king of the Hebrews, says, ‘The LORD said unto my Lord, sit Thou on My right hand,’ indicating the Most High God by the first LORD, and the second to Him by the second title. For to what other is it right to suppose that the right hand of the Unbegotten God is conceded, than to Him alone of whom we are speaking?

This is He whom the same prophet in other places more clearly distinguishes as the Word of the Father, supposing Him whose deity we are considering to be the Creator of the universe, in the passage where he says, ‘By the Word of the LORD were the heavens made firm.’

The Fingerprints of Dositheos

The famous Theosophist G.R.S Mead speaks of the Taheb of the Samaritan’s in the following excerpt from John the Baptizer and Christian Origins:

“Now in Samaritan tradition, and it will be remembered that the Samaritans rejected all the Jewish scriptures save the Five Fifths of the Law, their future Redeemer was to be called Joshua. This Deliverer they called the Ta’eb, the Returner, and they believed he would be a reborn or returned Joshuah. The Ta’eb is the Samaritan ‘Messiah.’ In this connection a recently translated Samaritan Midrash (B.M. Samaritan MS. Or. 33931) is especially instructive.

It understands the title Ta’eb as signifying ‘he who repents’ or even ‘he who makes to repent,’ not so much the Returner as the Turner-back of others. It is brought into close connection also with Noḫam, meaning Repenting, and is thus by word-play associated with Noah. Our Samaritan Midrash accordingly brings Noah on to the scene of expected redemption, and becomes a spiritualized version of the Deluge-story,abounding in mystical word-plays. One or two specimens (p. 22) of them may now be given, as the ideas behind them are reminiscent of the John-circle of ideas.

Whereas in the old story Yahveh orders Noah: “Make thee an ark (tebah),” the Midrash makes God say unto the Ta’eb: “Make thee a conversion”—or repentance (Aram. shuba, tubah). And so it continues in many details glossing the original parts of the ark by means of word-play, introducing notions of propitiation, expiation and atonement. A single passage from the original will make this clear, and in reading it we should remember that Samaria was a hot-bed of mystic and gnostic movements of all sorts.

In many ways G.R.S. Mead is correct about Samaria being the well-spring in which Gnostic thought may very well stem from, which explains the murky Jewish origins of Sethianism and its possible ties with Dositheos (The Three Steles of Seth). It should also be noted that the Catholic heresiologists’ talking point that Simon was the originator of Gnosticism, however does not reflect Samaritan theology, since they do not speak of any distinctive Gnostic ideas such as a Demiurge, an Unknowable God above the creator, an immaterial Savior, or fallen Wisdom.

This kind of theology is reflective only later, especially in Simon Magus’s debates with Simon Peter in the Clementines. The most that can be said on that subject is that Simon may have included some elements of a particular Samaritian tradition in the development of his system. Of course, Dositheos understood himself and applied the title of the Standing One and if Dositheos understood himself as a neo-Moses, there was a sufficient amount of mythological language in the Samaritan Moses tradition upon which Simon could have drawn in the development of his distinctive system from Dositheos.

Dositheos means “gift of God” and this name may have been given to Christ by the Samaritan Christians. The “gift of God” is also specifically mentioned in John 4:10 and Acts 8:20, and both of these passages are linked with Samaria. Such phraseology is also found in many Samaritan writings. Nathaniel in John 1:21, also means “gift of God”. Paul also goes into the idea of “fruits of the Spirit” in Galatians, which is similar to the idea of the “gift of God”. Dositheos, according to the Clementine tradition was the founder of a Samaritan sect. According to Josepheus, he is dated in the second century B.C.E., the 1st century C.E by Origen and the Clementine Recognition’s, and the fourth century C.E., under the Arabic-Muslim transliterated name of “Dusis” in the Samaritan Chronicles 3,6,7. Origen said Dositheos also claimed to be the “Son of God”. His disciples said that he was not dead but also alive as well.

According to Hegesippus as quoted by Eusebius in Ecclesiastical History iv. 22, his sect believed that he was Christ as foretold by Moses. This is a very important fact, in light of how Moses is betrayed in the Great Declaration, in a highly favorable status. This, however, seems to fly in the face of the Apostle Paul’s views on Moses, the Lawgiver and the Law. One example can be seen in 2 Corinthians 3:12-14:

Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: And not as Moses, who put a veil over his face, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of that which is abolish: But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same veil untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament…

Even the fact that Simon was considered to be synonymous with the semi-human god of Rome, Semoni Sanco Deo, the god of contracts, is worth noting because such a god sounded very similar to that of the Lawgiver, the God of the Old Testament. Contracts and oaths were also said to be important to the Greek God Zeus. The connection between Simon and Zeus (as well as Helena with Athena/Minerva) has already been well-established in this series as testified by Irenaeus, Justin Martyr and Hippolytus. It is also worth noting that Zeus was also seen as a Savior figure, much like Jesus while YHWH was often associated with the Titan-Cronus or Saturn, as I have well established in other posts on this blog. Let’s move further onward..

Urizen

The Standing Ones

According to Hippolytus who begins his Book of Heresies with the Dositheans, makes Dositheos as the root of the Samaritian heresy. Tertullian does the same thing in Adversus omnes hareses, 1- thus indicating that the long list of heretics may have their root in the heretical cult of Dositheos. Like Simon, Dositheos rejected the Old Testament prophets accepted by the Jewish canon, called for the reform of Mosaic law, and even advocated the abolition of religious duties. The Church Father Origen also mentions Dositheos in Contra Celsus, 1, 57.

And after the times of Jesus, Dositheus the Samaritan also wished to persuade the Samaritans that he was the Christ predicted by Moses; and he appears to have gained over some to his views. But it is not absurd, in quoting the extremely wise observation of that Gamaliel named in the book of Acts, to show how those persons above mentioned were strangers to the promise, being neither sons of God nor powers of God, whereas Christ Jesus was truly the Son of God.

So here, Origen assigns him to the 1st Century, after the time of Christ, and claims that he made himself out to be the Messiah promised by Moses. Of the Dositheans, Origen reports that only thirty remained in his day. This Dosithean and Simonian rejection of the Prophets, more or less also reflects Paul’s distinction between his Christ Jesus and Mosiac Law in 2 Corinthians 3:6-8:

“Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. But if the ministry of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his appearance; which glory was to be done away: How shall not the ministry of the spirit be more glorious?”

Paul’s comments on Moses’ radiant continence reflect Exodus 34:27-35, where Moses spends 40 days in the company of YHWH. This also reflects the supposed erroneous translation in St. Jerome’s Latin Vulgate on Moses being depicted as a horned god in Exodus 34: 29-30:

“And when Moses came down from the Mount Sinai, he held the two tables of the testimony, and he knew not that his face was horned from the conversation of the Lord. And Aaron and the children of Israel seeing the face of Moses horned, were afraid to come near.”

But, we will save this controversy for others to discuss. Interestingly in John 5:45, Jesus calls Moses, quite literally Satan!

“But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set.”

Paul in Romans 7 also maintains that the Law of Moses, as well as the God of Sinai, were condemned to death when Jesus died and dissolved on the cross! Humanity is delivered from the crushing weight that is the curse of the Law and into the “living spirit” of Christ.

Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.

For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.

But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.

Obviously, there is a big contradiction in that Paul and the Johannite Jesus both reject Moses and the Law (to a certain extent) while the Samaritan Dositheos (Peter) and to a lesser extent, Simon, embrace and identify with him! Interesting conundrum indeed. In the Clementine Homilies, 2.24, Simon and Dositheos have a confrontation after Simon discovers that Dositheos did not correctly teach community doctrines to the Samaritans. During Simon’s absence during John the Baptist’s untimely death, Dositheos assumed leadership of the Baptist community and when Simon returned, he initially did not oppose him. It is only when Simon discovers his errors, is when Simon confronts Dositheos:

And on one occasion, Dositheus, perceiving that this artful accusation of Simon was dissipating the opinion of him with respect to many, so that they did not think that he was the Standing One, came in a rage to the usual place of meeting, and finding Simon, struck him with a staff. But it seemed to pass through the body of Simon as if he had been smoke. Thereupon Dositheus, being confounded, said to him, ‘If you are the Standing One, I also will worship you.’ Then Simon said that he was; and Dositheus, knowing that he himself was not the Standing One, fell down and worshipped; and associating himself with the twenty-nine chiefs, he raised Simon to his own place of repute; and thus, not many days after, Dositheus himself, while he (Simon) stood, fell down and died.

The significance of this passage is important because the Standing One term is used to denote that the person who holds such a title has authority, power and above all divinity. There is also a reference to the staff, which is an allusion to Moses as an authority figure. There are numerous Samaritan texts which identify Moses as a  near-Divine figure- the embodiment of the Eternal Light or a Logos-like figure as Philo of Alexandria would hold. Moses, being the author of the Torah, “had reached the very summit of philosophy” and “had learnt from the oracles of God the most numerous and important of the principles of nature” (Op. 8).

The Moses theology was clearly a major part of Dositheanism and would have passed into Simon’s Gnostic system if the tradition of the teacher/student relationship is accurate as mentioned in the Clementine literature and not contrived. This is evidenced in the following passages of the Great Declaration. This is not the only source of Simon’s theology, but one need not look further than Samaritan locale for the remaining sources. As mentioned earlier, the region had been extensively Hellenized during the pre-Roman period. Simon appears to have drawn not only on the intellectual traditions of the Israelitic Gerizim-based Samaritan community but also on Hellenistic mythologies and religions.

We can see that Simon clearly lived in Samaria and was a Samaritan by race according to the Clementine Homilies (Homily II, Chapter XXII), where Aquila is pictured as stating:

“This Simon is the son of Antonius and Rachel, a Samaritan by race, of the village of Gitthae, which is six schoeni distant from the city (of Samaria). He having disciplined himself greatly in Alexandria, and being very powerful in magic, and being ambitious, wishes to be accounted a certain supreme power, greater even than the God who created the world. And sometimes intimating that he is Christ, he styles himself the Standing One.”

A closely related passage is found in the Recognition’s of Clement (Book II, Chapt. VII):

“This Simon’s father was Antonius, and his mother Rachel. By nation he is a Samaritan, from a village of the Gettones; by profession a magician, yet exceedingly well trained in the Greek literature; desirous of glory, and boasting above all the human race, so that he wishes himself to be believed to be an exalted power, which is above God the Creator, and to be thought to be the Christ, and to be called the Standing One.”

The two accounts agree that his parents’ names were Antonius and Rachel and that he was a Samaritan. They disagree over whether he came from a village called Gitthae or from a village populated by the Gettones. My judgment is that the more primitive tradition is that he came from a village called Gitthae. They agree he was a magician. According to one, he spent a part of his life in Alexandria, Egypt. According to the other, he knew Greek literature. Together, they suggest he was educated at Alexandria–which education would have included the reading of important Greek literature like Homer, Plato, Heraclitus, etc.

They agree that, he taught, the universe was created by an inferior god–with the phraseology in one of them of “God the Creator” suggesting that “God” is a title of this inferior god, much like Marcion did much later after Simon and Paul. They agree that Simon believed himself to be a power, greater than the god who created the universe and to be, as this greater power, the Christ and the Standing One. They disagree over whether Simon believed himself to be the “supreme” power or an “exalted” power. My judgment is that the correct version is that he believed himself to be an “exalted” power. This is because, elsewhere in the Clementine literature, he is pictured as claiming that there is a supreme and unknowable power above even the Standing One.

Horned Moses

The epithet “Standing One” appears in several religious traditions in the Near East from Late Antiquity until the rise of Islam. The Standing One would denote one who “stands firm” in “existence” or “continuance” as a god-like quality.  Philo of Alexandria identifies those who are lovers of God as those who manage to penetrate the divine world, to approach God as “Standing Ones” like Moses and Abraham who are the archetypal “Standing Ones” since they communed with God face to face or intimately. Those who do so also share in God’s nature as immutable and changeless. The “Standing One” isn’t just limited to Simon, Dositheos or even Moses, but its an endearing term applied to God in Samaritan texts. The Tetragrammaton YHWH, if correctly translated, means “That which was, that which is, that which shall be.” This is much like the saying as found in the Great Declaration, “He stood, stand, is to stand”, as a reference of the divine spark or consciousness of being ever-present and eternal.

Jarl E. Fossum writes in The Name of God and the Angel of the Lord: Samaritan and Jewish Concepts of Inter-mediation and the Origin of Gnosticism:

When Moses ascended to heaven in order to receive the Law, he was invested with the Divine Name, which signifies the nature of the divine, and made into a divine or angelic being … In Memar Marqa, it is said that Moses “dwelt among the Standing Ones” (IV, 6). This position of Moses no doubt images him as the chief among the angels, God’s messengers. The hymn goes on to describe Moses as “the Elohim who is from mankind” (55,5). The divine names “Standing One” and “Elohim” were shared by the angels; and, since Moses is given the self-name names he obviously is elevated to the position of an angelic being, even the principal angel of God.

This description of Moses also sounds terribly close to how Enoch is transfigured into the Angel of the Lord, Metatron in Enochian literature. Of course, it goes without saying that this also matches in line with how Jesus achieves the resurrection in the Gospels. However, In Deuteronomy 34:5-6 the exact text reads:

“And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said. 6 He buried him[a] in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is.

This alone does not suggest a bodily resurrection, and the Jews would probably have had little reason other than not finding his grave to suspect so. But then in Jude 9:

“But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”

This revelation probably shed great light for the Jewish faithful on why no one found his body, which also foreshadows the empty tomb of Jesus in John 20. It is clear that the Samaritans held to a very strong tradition of Moses’ assumption and being snatched away at death which directly contradicts Deuteronomy. Before we go any further, let’s take a look at the next part of the Great Declaration:

Such is the law laid down by Moses, and it was on the pattern of that he wrote each of his books, as the titles tell. The first of them is Genesis, and this title in and of itself bespeaks the whole matter. For this Genesis denotes vision, one of the divisions of the river. For it is through sight that one perceives the creation. The second book has the title Exodus, for everyone who is born must travel through the Red Sea and across the wilderness, the red denoting blood, and taste the bitter water at Marah. This bitterness is that of the water beyond the Red Sea, referring to the painful, bitter path of learning we walk through life. But when it is transformed by Moses, really by the word, what was bitter becomes sweet. This is attested even by secular source, as witness the poet: “Its root was black, but the flower was like unto milk. Moly, the immortals name it. How hard for mortal to dig up, but the for the gods all is child’s play.” What the gentiles say here is enough to give knowledge of the whole thing as long as one has ears to hear. Whoever tasted of this fruit had the power to restore those so cursed. Regaining their proper shape, they were like a defaced coin melted down again and struck again according to the type. By the use of this fruit, as white as milk, one discovered the true man, beloved of the wizardress.

In the same way, the third book, Leviticus, concerns smelling or breathing since the entire context of the book is taken up with sacrifices and offerings. And inseparable from sacrificing is the ascending odor of the incense accompanying the sacrifice, and it is the olfactory sense that determines the propriety of the scent. Numbers, the fourth book, refers to taste, which is activated by speaking. The book receives its name from the listing of everything in numerical order.  But Deuteronomy, he says, is written in reference to the (sense of) touch possessed by the child that is being formed. For as touch, by seizing the things that are seen by the other senses, sums them up and ratifies them, testing what is rough, or warm, or clammy, (or cold); so the fifth book of the law constitutes a summary of the four books preceding this.

The Simonian author clearly has great respect for the first five books of the Torah, as this confirms G.R.S. Mead’s account of the Samaritians. There is also the application of the five physical senses with, again, the first five books of the Torah. Genesis is likened to vision, Exodus to taste, Leviticus to scent, Numbers to taste, while Deuteronomy refers to touch. As we’ve already seen, Eden was also taught as an allegory for the womb. This application of the Torah to the physiology to the human body isn’t exactly a unique invention.

According to the Church Father Hippolytus, the source of which we get the Great Declaration, another Gnostic sect, called the Naaseenes, also strongly emphasized the usage of allegory and symbolism, much like Simon. Accordingly, in Refutations of All Heresies V, IV, Hippolytus reports that in the Naaseene system, the Garden of Eden is actually the brain, and Paradise is the human head. The four rivers flowing out form Eden- Pishon applies to the eyes or vision, Gihon to hearing, Tigris to breathing and the Euphrates to the mouth. Hippolytus also claimed that the serpent who gave knowledge to Eve corresponded with the brain:

The form, however, of the brain is like the head of a serpent, respecting which a lengthened discussion is maintained by the professors of knowledge, falsely so named, as we shall prove.

This is comparable to Irenaeus’ report in Against Heresies (1.30) that the Valentinians believed that the serpent was “within us” in the form of the intestine!

Such are the opinions which prevail among these persons, by whom, like the Lernæan hydra, a many-headed beast has been generated from the school of Valentinus. For some of them assert that Sophia herself became the serpent; on which account she was hostile to the creator of Adam, and implanted knowledge inmen, for which reason the serpent was called wiser than all others. Moreover, by the position of our intestines, through which the food is conveyed, and by the fact that they possess such a figure, our internal configuration in the form of a serpent reveals our hidden generatrix.

Moreover, Hippolytus reported that the Valentinians believed that the spirit was immobile inside the cranium, and spread to the spinal cord through the pineal body. By the same path, semen reached the genital organs. Plato’s Timeaus also describes the shape and function of the brain, the medulla and sperm, as intended by the creator, who placed the divine man in the encephalon and the mortal soul in the medulla.

Plato taught that the rational soul or souls were split up in the brain, the spinal marrow and in the heart and liver (Timaeus, 44 D; 69 C-77B). The Red Sea in this passage also reflects on how the Naaseenes viewed it. Hippolytus reports that the Red Sea represented the work of generation or sexual desire between man and woman, while Egypt represented the human body as a whole:

This, he says, is ocean, “generation of gods and generation of men” ever whirled round by the eddies of water, at one time upwards, at another time downwards. But he says there ensues a generation of men when the ocean flows downwards; but when upwards to the wall and fortress and the cliff of Luecas, a generation of gods takes place. This, he asserts, is that which has been written: “I said, Ye are gods, and all children of the highest;” “If ye hasten to fly out of Egypt, and repair beyond the Red Sea into the wilderness,” that is, from earthly intercourse to the Jerusalem above, which is the mother of the living; “If, moreover, again you return into Egypt,” that is, into earthly intercourse, “ye shall die as men.” For mortal, he says, is every generation below, but immortal that which is begotten above, for it is born of water only, and of spirit, being spiritual, not carnal. But what (is born) below is carnal, that is, he says, what is written. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit.” This, according to them, is the spiritual generation. This, he says, is the great Jordan which, flowing on (here) below, and preventing the children of Israel from departing out of Egypt–I mean from terrestrial intercourse, for Egypt is with them the body,–Jesus drove back, and made it flow upwards.

The Red Sea is not only representative of the lust of the flesh and procreation but for also the daily life on Planet Earth in bodily flesh, in all its toils and hardships, “by the sweat of your brow” as ordered through a curse by the creator god against Adam (Genesis 3:19). We’ve already covered the meaning of the River Jordan in Part 3, which is very similar, holding that John the Baptist was actually symbolic of the Craftsman, the womb and procreation. Of course, neither Simon or the Naasenes were the only ones to apply philosophy and allegory to the Old Testament. Philo of Alexandria dedicated several volumes of writings to this exegetic function alone, although Philo arrived to fundamentally different conclusions…

Philo of Alexandria made great pains to show the metaphysical and philosophical underpinnings of the Torah. His application of Platonic and Pythagorean concepts to Samaritan and Jewish scriptures would know doubt titillate other writers of that era, including Justin Martyr, who believed that Moses and the Israelites anticipated Egyptian mystery religion, as well as Plato and the Greek philosophers! It is debatable that Philo came before the New Testament and Gnostic literature as this seems more like an Orthodox fabrication.

In future entries, we will examine Simon’s role as a docetic savior, as well as his connections with other characters in the New Testament, including his sworn enemy, Peter.

Forbidden Fruit in the Midst of the Garden (Part 4)

In Part 3we discovered that the two trees being the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge were seen as living symbols for the Gnostics’ cosmology being the Aeons in the Pleroma and the veil or Platonic (X) or limit that separates it from the deficiency or hysterema of the material world, marked of illusion and imperfection, time and flux. It is therefore useless to identify with the physical symbol of a cross as it is more of an archetype.

The Stauros (Cross), which means to “stand” or “straighten up” (e.g. the “Standing One” per Simon Magus?) in its true self is a living idea, a reality or root-principle of separation and limit, dividing entity from non-entity, being from non-being, perfection from imperfection, fullness and emptiness, Light from Darkness. The Stauros or Horos was also seen as synonymous with the Logos and was also seen as the sign of victory as per the doctrine of Christus Victor atonement i.e, that Christ defeated the powers by duping them into crucifying him.

Guarding this Horos was the Limit-Setter, the Across-Taker, the Emancipator, the Guide or Leader that guides the initiated soul from its astral journey from the underworld, to the zodiacal cosmos, to the eighth heaven or “ogdoad” where Sophia is said to dwell, near the gates and finally to the Heavenly Cross, functioning like a portal or gateway into the realm of the Father or the Pleroma. The Logos himself is designated as a “door” or a “gate” into eternal life symbolized as pasture, for the saved sheep (or souls) (John 10:9).

This region was also called the “suburbs”, a frontier or the barrier, demarcating the boundary between the worlds. The term “suburbs” is also used in a Peratic text that the Church Father Hippolytus quotes at length called The Suburbs up to the Aither in the Philosophumena or the Refutation of All Heresies, which I will briefly touch on later on. In Plato’s Timaeus, he refers to the soul-stuff of the universe in terms of two circular strips joined together like the Greek letter chi (X). Similarly, tau, the last letter of the Phoenician and Old Hebrew alphabets, is shaped like a cross, and was popularly held to be a protective emblem of supernatural power. Crosses were also said to be used by Roman General Marcius Turbo’s forces in the first century to carry their food and clothing.

In Plato’s radical dualism, he thought that matter and the Demiurge were uncreated and co-existed eternally with the world of forms or the eternal archetypes. And he believed that matter and the forms were eternally separated by what he called the “divided line.” In Ephesians 2:19, the invisible cross is represented as bestriding the cosmos in terms of “the breadth, and length, and depth, and height” of the love of Christ, which surpasses knowledge.

Only through the stauros can souls enter into life eternal.  Without it, humanity are held in thrall by time, subject to Satan, to fate and to reincarnation. The stauros is the axis of the mighty spiral that reverses the order of the cosmos, and takes man from the emptiness (kenoma) of the illusory lower world, to the fullness of the upper world of Reality. It is this reality which Luke 13:19 describes as:

It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.

The fruit of this aeonic Tree were manifested as the Cosmic Christ or Logos and his otherworldly redemptive mission when evil came into existence. His work on earth and even the universe at large was to touch every region on our side of the Stauros, to fulfill a specific mission for every form of creation: from the fallen angels, archons, fallen aeons, for man and so forth and so on down to the Chain of Being. It is his presence on earth that was hotly debated and gave birth to a religious movement that ultimately become the very thing it once strove to liberate itself from. Christ would be reduced to a rotting corpse on a cross, in which the Orthodox “cleave to the name of a dead man, thinking that they will become pure” as the Apocalypse of Peter would say.

Yet, the very reason for the existence of the Logos is explained in a “fall of man” scenario which occurs in not just in Jewish and Christian literature but also in Hermetic and Indian literature. We will examine the events that unfold right after the fall of man that eventually precipitates into events surrounding the Flood and how they relate to all these concepts associated with the Garden. Is there a possible deeper message to the Flood myth?

flood-of-noahs-day2

The Flood of Darkness

In Josephus, Antiquitates I 69-71 and Vita Adae et Evae XLIX 3-L2, he discusses the coming destruction by fire and water. The Apocalypse of Adam and the Gospel of the Egyptians also mentions destruction by water which was identified with the biblical flood, and by fire. Plato’s Timaeus 21E-22E also relates a similar idea for periodical destruction of the earth by water and fire. Its influence on the idea of a periodical disaster was widely known in Jewish and Christian literature. In the Latin Life of Adam and Eve, after the funerals of Adam and Abel, Eve tells her children of a coming divine judgement, “first by water and then by fire,” and gives them the recommendation to preserve the account of their parents’ lives by writing it down in two sets of tablets, one made of stone and the other of clay (49–50).

By the fourth century BC, Greek philosophers and geographers eventually opined that the earth was not a flat disk consisting of a single land mass and swirling waters, like Homeric geography posited, but rather a sphere with multiple continents and seas. Plato, for example, would often use myth and story to service his philosophical endeavors. In the Phaedo 110b, Plato’s Socrates describes the earth as viewed from above as “one of these balls made of twelve pieces of skin, variegated and marked out in different colors”. Plato would engage the Ocean even more directly in his myth or story of Atlantis in Timaeus 25a, which tells us:

The island (Atlantis) was larger than Libya and Asia put together, and was the way to other islands, and from these you might pass to the whole of the opposite continent which surrounded the true ocean, for this sea which is within the Straights of Heracles is only a harbor, having a narrow entrance, but that other is a real sea, and the land surrounding it on every side may be truly called a boundless continent.

Plato would go on about the greatness, hubris, and demise of Atlantis in the Critias, although the account was not completed because Critias was never finished. He made another reference to its destruction in Timaeus. Plato’s myth-making or speculation was a self-admitted speculation in the service of philosophy. He signaled this by having Socrates say in Phaedo 114d, “Of course, no reasonable man ought to insist that the facts are exactly as I have described them.” Plato’s “invention” of Atlantis was explicit, and he was, in the end, uninterested in the truth value of his own world created out of a pastiche of myth, philosophy and geography. What mattered for Plato was that the myth was served his real purpose, to support his ideas about the immortality of the soul and the proper governance of humankind through the administration of the Philosopher Kings.

From a careful consideration of Plato’s description of Atlantis it is evident that the story should not be regarded as wholly literal or historical but rather as both symbolic of Plato’s Utopian ideal with possible roots in actual history. Theologians and philosophers in late antiquity such as Origen, Porphyry, Proclus, Iamblichus, and Syrianus realized that the story concealed a profound philosophical mystery, but they disagreed as to the actual interpretation. Classical Alexandria was a hotbed of allegorization as the Alexandrine Jewish philosopher Philo and the early Church Fathers also rejoiced in ascribing symbolic meanings to their sacred writings as well.

There are, of course, many parallels with Plato’s mysterious Atlantis with Noah’s Deluge and even the Garden of Eden. For one, the Hebrew word used for the Garden of Eden was called gannah, which also means a covered or hidden place. Gardens in ancient times were usually protected by walled enclosures, which lends to the concept of Adam and Eve being “expelled” and unable to return. Ancient Atlantis was also considered to be “walled off” from outsiders. The famous passage of Genesis 6:4 presents the idea that the flood was sent by God to punish the crimes committed by the giant children of the Angels or Watchers who committed intercourse with human women, being the Nephilim. Of course, in Gnostic literature, intercourse between supernatural powers and human women are continuous since the beginning of creation itself, starting with Cain and Abel as the spawn between Eve and the lion-faced demonic ruler, Ialdabaoth as featured in Apocryphon of John.

This Jewish story of the Watcher Angels being imprisoned in the valleys of the earth after sleeping with the daughters of men is clearly drawn from Greek myths- this was the fate of the Titans after Zeus defeated them, and it recalls the imprisonment of the children of Ouranos in valleys as punishment. Both Enochic and Gnostic literature go out of their way to claim that these same Angels taught humankind various occult secrets and teachings, being astronomy, magic and the usage of natural elements. This was not the only view concerning the origins of astrology as the earliest Hellenistic Jewish Historian Eupolemus claimed that astrology was actually discovered by Enoch (identified with Atlas) and then handed on by him to the Babylonians. Zosimos of Panopolis, the Hermetic-Gnostic alchemist also placed much emphasis on the Book of Enoch and the Angels being the source of the majority of occult and alchemical teachings.

Flavius Josepheus in Antiquities 1.154-168, also referred to Abraham (although not mentioning his name explicitly) as a great and righteous man, “versed in the heavens” as did many other writers throughout history. Eupolemus also claimed that Abraham was a Chaldean. Seth, being Adam’s son, is also singled out as the originator of astrology by Flavius Josephus as well as being the founder of the Gnostic religion in the Three Steles of Seth.

Josephus in Antiquities 1 68-71 also claimed that the progeny or “seed” of Seth were just, peace-loving men, who understood the secrets of the stars, and had knowledge of the Flood and other disasters, inscribing her doctrine on two steles. Other texts such as On the Origin of the World, claimed that the Angels or Archons taught women idolatry, which would naturally fit with the idea of the “god of this world” being a blinding idol or icon as per 2 Corinthians 4:4. Justin Martyr in the Second Apology, Chapter V, would say something very similar to Orig. World:

But the angels transgressed this appointment, and were captivated by love of women, and begat children who are those that are called demons; and besides, they afterwards subdued the human race to themselves, partly by magical writings, and partly by fears and the punishments they occasioned, and partly by teaching them to offer sacrifices, and incense, and libations, of which things they stood in need after they were enslaved by lustful passions; and among men they sowed murders, wars, adulteries, intemperate deeds, and all wickedness.

That is not to say that the science of astrology and magical workings were rejected by the Gnostics—quite the opposite, as they had a deep respect for the knowledge revealed by the angels. In fact, one can go as far as to say the Watchers or fallen angels themselves were literary representations of the Gnostics because of their deep knowledge of the stars, planets, plants, medicine, writing, etc. The Valentinian Theodutus claimed that Christ came into the world to free all people who believe in him from astral fate. Astrology is not a wholly fictional science or an error as it can tell the truth concerning the destiny of those who are not in Christ. But once one is baptized, the astrologists “no longer tell the truth” concerning the person’s destiny. Jewish texts such as Sepher ha Razim, glorify the science of the stars and the cosmos revealed by the Watchers:

And seven thrones are prepared there, and upon them are seated overseers, and around them on all sides encampments of angels are stationed and are obedient to men at the time when they practice magic; to everyone who has learned to stand and pour libations to their names and cite them by their signs at the period when prayer is heard so as to make a magical rite succeed. Over all these encampments of angels, these seven overseers rule, to dispatch them for every sort of business, so that they will hasten and bring success.

1 Enoch, the books of Daniel and the book of Jubilees either condemn Babylonian astrology as a diabolical science, or stress its inferiority to wisdom directly revealed by God. The Jewish form of astrology tends to distinguish itself from the astrology of the Babylonian Chaldeans. The Gnostics continued on the same path of Jewish astrology, who posits Seth, Jesus and Mary to reveal the truth about the planetary fate, the stars and the deities who rule them. It is of course, the Savior that “disturbs” the other stars as he descends into the world of matter.

Still, the problem of the Giants were no laughing matter. The offspring of the Watchers (including the angels Shemyaza, Azazel and all the rest of the angels listed in 1 Enoch) and human women resulted in gigantic beings being the Nephilim, also referred to as “GiBoR” which is Hebrew for “hero” or a great man, strangely enough. They are also known as the “giants born of, or descendants of the Aion”. There are certain magical gems of the famous Chnoubis (lion-headed snake) that contain the inscription of being a conqueror of giants! This seems to indicate that the lion-headed serpent wasn’t always held in a negative light by Gnostics. The myth of the giants and their destruction by God through the flood is preserved in many different writings that flourished in the late Hellenistic-Judiac apocryphal literature as well as Gnostic mythology featured in different texts such as the Apocryphon of John, On the Origin of the World, the Valentinian Exposition and of course, in many Manichaean writings, including the Book of Giants.

Ialdaboath

Even these Giants of the Jewish apocrypha and Gnostic literature can be seen as synonymous with the immortal giant Titans per Greek myth, with Kronos, Zeus’ “Forgotten Father” or “Hidden One” being the Atlantean king of these Titans. Kronos would eventually become imprisoned within the underworld, as a “Dark Lord”. This is much like how Ialdabaoth in On the Origin of the World is imprisoned in Tartarus by Pistis Sophia, the deep abyss or the “Foundations of the Great Deep” per Genesis 7:11, underneath hell, where the Titans are thrown and placed there by the Olympian gods. The Middle Platonist and Greek Historian, Plutarch in On the Cessation of Oracles, would claim that Kronos or Saturn’s imprison was imposed by a death-like sleep, where his dreams and illusions acted like shackles, symbolic of the nature of material reality:

In that region also, they said, Saturn was confined in one of the islands by Briareus, and lay asleep; for that his slumber had been artfully produced in order to chain him, and round about him were many dæmons for his guards and servants.

Hippolytus in Refutatio, Book V, chapter 11 in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V, wrote of the beliefs of a member of the Gnostic Peratae (meaning “traversers”) sect:

But water, he says, is destruction; nor did the world, he says, perish by any other thing quicker than by water. Water, however . . . they assert (it to be) Cronus.

Statues of Bacchus and the Seven Planets

Even more relevant, the ancient Chaldaeans warned that a universal flood would come down from above: “Kronos announced to Sisithros that a flood would pour from above.” Tacitus in Histories V.4 alleged that the Jews were worshipers of Saturn, indirectly claiming Jehovah was Kronos. It is safe to assume that Kronos was considered a synonymous figure with the Demiurge as maintained by the Peratics. According to the Orthodox Syrian Bishop, Theodoretus of Cyrrhus, the heretics, especially the Marcionites, detested water because it was produced by the creator. The Bible frequently mentions Yahweh’s rule over the waters, particularly the Red Sea and the Nile. The notion that water was an element of the Demiurge, who was equated with Kronos as the “lord of generation” and positioned in the center of the universe by the Peratic-Ophites per Hippolytus in Refutation 5.15.4, was characteristic of the Gnostic contempt for the creator’s work and the creator himself.

Accordingly, many Gnostics would deliberately disobey the Creator’s precepts and praise vilified Biblical characters like the serpent in Eden or other times, Cain and even the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah! Theodoretus of Cyrrhus has this to say about the Marcionites:

They dare to say that the serpent is better than the Creator. in fact the Creator forbade men to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge, while the serpent exhorted them to eat it. But these sinners do not know that the serpent’s advice generated death. And so some of them worship the serpent. And I myself found that they had a bronze serpent, kept in a box together with their nefarious mysteries.

Theodoretus also claimed that the Marcionites not only insulted the Creator god, but also the biblical patriarchs and prophets because they were the Creator’s agents, while they believed that the Old Testament villains such as Cain and the Sodomites had followed Jesus out of Tartarus when he descended into Hell. The doctrine of the Ophites were also attributed to the Marcionites by Theodoretus. Whenever Jehovah would unconditionally condemn magic and divination as worship of foreign gods in Deuteronomy 18.9-11, 27, 35, Exodus 22, 17 and Leviticus 20,27, the Gnostics would value the knowledge of astrology because it was expressly forbidden by the creator god much like the knowledge fruit forbidden in Eden. This is explicitly mentioned by the Latin Church Father, Tertullian who would say, “the Marcionites very frequently are astrologers, and are not ashamed to live by the Creator’s stars” (Contra Marcion, I 18 1). Naturally, astrology was associated with heresy (or false teachings) according to the Orthodox Heresiologists. For example, Irenaeus in Against Heresies 1.15.6, says of a certain Marcus the Valentinian:

Marcus, you former of idol, inspector of portents, skill’d in consulting the stars, and deep in the black arts of magic, ever by tricks such as these confirming the doctrines of error, furnishing signs unto those involved by you in deception, wonders of power that is utterly severed from God and apostate, which Satan, your true father, enables you still to accomplish, by means of Azazel, that fallen and yet mighty angel—thus making you the precursor of his own impious actions.

Irenaeus’ pupil Hippolytus also asserted that:

…the teachings of the heretics have their source in the wisdom of the Greeks, the opinions of those who engage in philosophy, those who undertake mysteries and roaming astrologers.

Hippolytus devoted the whole of Book IV of his Refutatio to the Chaldeans, magi and astrologers, as one of the sources of inspiration to the Gnostics. Chapter V was mostly concerned with the Peratics, who may have considered themselves the “true Hebrews” considering that Hebrew means “passerbyer”. The confidence of the Peratae or the Peratics, that they were able to find salvation from the oppression of the astral powers of fate through gnosis:

For if any one, he says, of those (beings) which are here will have strength to perceive that he is a paternal mark transferred hither from above, (and that he is) incarnate— just as by the conception resulting from the rod a something white is produced—he is of the same substance altogether with the Father in heaven, and returns there. If, however, he may not happen upon this doctrine, neither will he understand the necessity of generation, just as an abortion born at night will perish at night.

This attitude towards magic wasn’t shared by all Gnostic groups as sects such as the Manichaeans considered witchcraft as inspired by the primeval Darkness and Satan, despite the fact that their practices such as exorcisms and prayers to the four guardian angels (Michael, Uriel, Gabriel, Raphael) were also considered “magical”.

Returning to the Flood story, the Gnostics would interpret this episode in Genesis as proof that the creator god was indeed fallible because the Lord repented of his own creation (Genesis 6:6) and was willing to save only a few chosen ones (being Noah, his family and various animals) and start creation anew. The Apocryphon of John makes full use of this idea by stating:

And he (the chief archon) repented for everything which had come into being through him. This time he planned to bring a flood upon the work of man.

Ialdaboath initiates this destructive plan because the chief ruler fails to enslave the human race through the creation of “fate” and “destiny”. This destiny, while successful in fostering “sins” and “forgetfulness” of the ultimate deity and constraining choices, was insufficient to “arrest” human “pondering” entirely. As it follows, a new plan of wiping out life on earth completely is started and not just as an attack on Gnostic humanity.

In any event, for the Gnostics, the cause of the flood was by the maliciousness of Ialdabaoth and his angels but ultimately fails to completely destroy mankind, including the Gnostic race, revealing the ultimate ineptitude of the authorities. To remedy this situation, the Archons decide to produce a “counterfeit spirit” in the image of the divine “spirit of life”, which enables them to change their shapes and further seduce humanity with wealth, and many other vices which goes a long way to their achieving their desired union with human women, according to the Apoc. John. The result is ignorance of spiritual reality plaguing humanity even “down through the present time” and also attempts to explain the origins of evil in the human species.

The reason for Ialdaboath causing the flood should be obvious. Humanity’s growing insight and superiority over spiritual matters concerns the creator god and his angels, rather than moral depravity or humanity’s sins as stated in Genesis 6: 3, 13, 17. In Enochian apocalyptic literature, the deluge is sent by God’s judgement to wipe out the giants from the face of the earth. Hypostasis of the Archons would say that humankind “began to multiply and improve”. Irenaeus would say that humankind would “not honor” Ialdabaoth as “parent and god” in Haer. 1.30.10. This is, of course, a wholesale rejection of the God of Israel’s divine status, in part of the Gnostics. However, in some cases the God of Israel is identified with the repentant archon, Sabaoth which is depicted in Gnostic writings in an often positive light, with his intimate association with Sophia. They also point to his amorous fallen angels, who were originally “ministers of flaming fire” (Psalms 104:4) being a part of a archontic conspiracy to further confuse the human race in vice and blood-shed.

Much later, the Church Father Epiphanius would tell us a different account of the Sethian version of the flood. In the Panarion 39.3.1, Wisdom caused the flood because “the frequent intercourse and confused impulse on the part of the angels and the human beings, so the two tended toward mixture…” It is clear that Sophia is depicted in struggling against the Archangels, Archons and Watchers which is typical in Gnostic and Simonian literature. So, for the Gnostics, it is also clear that the Flood and the intercourse between Angels and human women were attempts to disrupt human progress because of their strengthening link to the spiritual world outside of material creation.

When it comes to the issue of Noah, the Gnostic evaluation of the character shows no unanimity in any of Gnostic writings, and one can find examples of both positive and negative attitudes toward him. The Apocryphon of John tells us that Noah was a chosen patron of the spiritual race:

And he repented for all that had happened through him. He plotted to produce a flood [κατακλυσμός] over all the offspring of man. But the greatness of Providence [πρόνοια], which is the reflection [ἐπίνοια] of the light, instructed Noah and he preached to men. But they did not believe him. It is not as Moses said, “He hid himself in an ark [κιβωτός],” but she sheltered him in a place, not Noah alone but men from the immovable race. They went into a place and sheltered themselves with a luminous cloud. And he (Noah) recognized his lordship and those who were with him in the light which shone upon them, because darkness was falling over everything upon earth.

The reference to the waters seems to be a metaphor for the “darkness”, as the understanding of the biblical flood was understood as more a of a spiritual event, much like the first fall, which was the descent of spirit into the abyss and inferno of matter. The “Abyss” or the “void”, which also relates to the Kabbalistic Qliphoth (Tree of Death), was also symbolic of the vacant place that was left when God retracted his presence from that area. The process of emptying left a vacant place for what was to become the natural universe we know. In Gnostic writings, the cognate word, Kenoma, signifying “emptiness”, describes the illusive, phenomenal world of space and time in which all sentient life lives in. In essence, God obscured himself by creating the place of the Deficiency, but he is not that place.

The Apocryphon of John also goes on in a lengthy dialogue concerned with the ultimate destiny of the two kinds of spirits: “the spirit of life” from the Pleroma and the “counterfeit spirit” generated by the rulers and authorities of fate. The flood story and biblical imagery are used to convey this dialogue in the text. The late 3rd century Simonian text The Concept of Our Great Power tells us something very similar, by saying that the water, which represents the Demiurge, coexists with spirit eternally, i.e., radical dualism.

Discern what size the water is, that it is immeasurable (and) incomprehensible, both its beginning and its end. It supports the earth; it blows in the air where the gods and the angels are. But in him who is exalted above all these there is the fear and the light, and in him are my writings revealed.

The same text also goes into similar details regarding the fall of the angels, the flood myth, Noah, etc. Another text in the Nag Hammadi Library, the Hermetic tractate, Asclepius also discusses the Flood myth. In this treatise, the Demiurge is presented as a benevolent figure and his actions in a very Stoic context, with themes of recurring cosmic catastrophes and restoration:

And when these things had happened, O Asclepius, then the Lord, the Father and god from the only first (God), god the creator [δημιουργόϛ], when he looked upon the things that happened, established his design, which is good, against the disorder. He took away error and cut off evil. Sometimes he submerged it in a great flood, at other times he burned it in a searing fire.

Fire Woman

Speaking of fire, the Gnostic prophetess, Norea is also featured in a few writings including Hypostasis of the Archons, Thought of Norea, and by the Church Father Epiphanius. Her role is that of a Gnostic heroine, and that is somewhat of a rare (if not non-existent) feat in any religious writing but is boldly featured in a Gnostic holy writ. The scholar Birger Pearson connects Norea with Noah’s wife Namaah. In Enoch, Namaah was said to have overwhelmed the Angel Azazel with her beauty, as she is also identified as the sister of Tubal-Can. In later Jewish legends, Namaah is also identified as the sister or daughter of Lilith. The Hypostasis of the Archons tells us that Norea is essentially the revealer and spiritual mother of the Gnostic race, through Eve:

Again Eve became pregnant, and she bore Norea. And she said, “He has begotten on me a virgin as an assistance for many generations of mankind.” She is the virgin whom the forces did not defile.

It is through Norea’s intervention on human kind that they progress and improve, which spurs the authorities to come together and wipe out all life on earth:

The rulers took counsel with one another and said, “Come, let us cause a deluge with our hands and obliterate all flesh, from man to beast.”

Norea reveals herself to be one of a spit-fire type when she blows Noah’s Ark down! Perhaps this is symbolic of emphasizing true salvation being “spiritual” rather than trusting the works of the flesh.

Then Orea came to him wanting to board the ark. And when he would not let her, she blew upon the ark and caused it to be consumed by fire. Again he made the ark, for a second time.

Later, Ialdaboath and his angels confront Norea with the intend to bully her, saying: “You must render service to us, as did also your mother Eve…” Norea tells them off by saying:

“It is you who are the rulers of the darkness; you are accursed. And you did not know my mother; instead it was your female counterpart that you knew. For I am not your descendant; rather it is from the world above that I am come.”

She later appeals to the ultimate God for help and a holy angel, Eleleth, thus saves her from the authorities’ clutches and reveals the divine mysteries of Pistis Sophia. Norea is ultimately revealed to be the female parent of all Gnostics, as Seth is the male parent:

“You, together with your offspring, are from the primeval father; from above, out of the imperishable light, their souls are come. Thus the authorities cannot approach them, because of the spirit of truth present within them; and all who have become acquainted with this way exist deathless in the midst of dying mankind. Still, that sown element will not become known now. Instead, after three generations it will come to be known, and it has freed them from the bondage of the authorities’ error.”

As it is usually the case, the Gnostic interpretation of scripture was far from literal in favor for unearthing spiritual and allegorical meanings and this approach is highlighted in Apelle’s (a disciple of Marcion) critical take on Noah’s Flood story:

In no way could it have been accomplished that in so short a time so many kinds of animals and their foods, which were to last for a whole year, should be taken abroad. For when two by two the unclean animals, that is, two male and two female of each—this is what the repeated word means—led into the ark, how could the space described be made big enough to take even four elephants alone? It is clear that the story is false; but if this is so, it is clear that this writing is not from God.

Through the Flood story, the Gnostic writers were able reflect on the types of human beings that exist in the world and on the question of how ignorance is able to persist throughout history. Noah’s Ark would become a symbol for the gracious divine care to rescue the “immovable race” of the Gnostics. The Manichaeans would also interpret Noah’s Ark to be a symbol for their church as a “Ship of Light” in their Coptic Manichaean Psalms:

Lo, the ship has put in for you, Noah is aboard, he steers.
The ship is the commandment [ἐντολή], Noah is the Mind [νοῦς] of Light.
Embark your merchandise, sail with the dew of the wind.
The] Commandment [ἐντολή] was knowledge, the Commandment was a Church. …
It was a tree, it was a ship, it [was] …
It was a tree in the desert, it was an ark [? κιβωτός] in the flood [κατακλυσμός].

Hippolytus, Callistus of Rome and Cyprian of Carthage used the survivors of the flood as ciphers for the purity and discipline of the church as did the Gnostics who saw these primeval characters as symbolic of themselves and their situation among the growing influence of Orthodoxy.

Tree of Death

The Two Trees Revisited (A Small Note)

According to the Babylonian Prophet Mani, there exists two irreconcilable roots (Do Bun in Persian): Light and Darkness. The Tree of Life and the Tree of Death. The Pre-Socratic philosopher Empedocles also taught that the universe is composed of the forces of Neikos: Strife/Discord and Philia: Love/Friendship. Besides Zoroastrian dualism, Empedocles could very well be another source for the Manichean Two Roots.

The Monophysite patriarch Severus of Antioch informs us that he is quoting from an unknown Manichaean scripture within a sixth-century Cathedral Homilies. In these citations, the expression “Tree of Life” functions as an alternate designation for the summum bonum of Manichaean cosmology: the Realm of Light. A symmetrical parallel to this usage is the expression “Tree of Death,” which Mani or one of his disciples employed to designate the evil Realm of Darkness. Therein we read:

They say: That which is Good, also named Light and the Tree of Life, possesses those regions which lie to the east, west, and north; for those (regions) which lie to the south and to the meridian belong to the Tree of Death …’,”Likewise does the Tree of Life exist, which is there adorned with every sort of pleasing and lovely, beautiful thing. It is filled and covered with all sorts of good things… its fruits cover it, and majesty belongs to it.”‘

In the Realm of Light there is no burning fire which could be discharged against that which is evil. There is neither an iron (weapon) for cutting, nor overwhelming waters, nor any other evil substance like those. Instead, all is Light and (every) place is noble.’, The Tree of Death is divided into many (parts); war and bitterness characterize them … good fruits are never upon them … all of them form rottenness for the corruption of their place.’, [The members of the Realm of Darkness provoked and stirred each other up until they came unto the boundaries marvelous and surpassingly beautiful sight, they gathered together … and plotted against the Light regarding how they could mix themselves with it. Due to (their) frenzy, they were unaware that the powerful and mighty God dwelt in it …

The description of the realm of Darkness does not sound too far from that of the Kabbalistic Qliphoth. The Tree of Death is also said to contain the inverted or reversed “serifots” of the Tree of Life. What this means is basically that the ten “serifots” on the Tree of Life, that represents different aspects of the Godhead are reversed. For example, Kether (Crown) is said to be highest point on the Tree, which represents the purest emanation, the first movement towards manifestation from the Infinite. It’s opposite is called Thaumiel, which to some might refer to “contending forces” (e.g. division or radical dualism), which stands opposed to the idea that everything is unified in Kether as divided and cleaved at Thaumiel’s essence. The rest of the serifots also have reversed, mirrored opposites in the Tree of Death.

The physical world, say the Gnostics, lies on the edge of nether regions, and since we live in the environs of hell, we are in a state of perilously bordering on eternal perdition. Hell or Hyle (matter), for the Manichaeans was separate, uncreated, active principle or nature, complete with its own realm of division, warfare and pure chaos and not as simply an absence or deficiency of the Good or Light as the Neoplatonists like Plotinus maintained. Evil was conceived as Non-Being for the Neoplatonists and the Orthodox. This specific argument was used by the ex-Manichaean turned Roman Catholic theologian, St. Augustine in his anti-heretical works against his former associates.

Stranger still, the Darkness or hell was not only considered a macrocosmic reality but also reflected in the microcosm, i.e. the human body (the lower part) as all the secrets of the universe, as the Manichaeans, the Ophites, the Peratics and the Simonians, all maintained were hidden in every cell of human flesh, skin, hair blood, tissue and bone, despite it being a tomb for the spiritual man. In Theodore bar Konai’s Liber Scholiorum, he goes on to speak ill against Mani and say all kinds of slanderous accusations and explain the various cosmological Manichaean doctrines. He ends it with the idea that Adam was roused from his sleep by Jesus, the Splendor in serpent form and make him aware of his sticky predicament:

Then Adam examined himself and recognized who he was, and (Jesus) showed him the Fathers on high, and (revealed to him) regarding his own self (i.e., Jesus’s) all that into which he (i.e., Jesus) had been cast—into the teeth of leopard(s) and the teeth of elephant(s), swallowed by voracious ones and absorbed by gulping ones, consumed by dogs, mixed and imprisoned in all that exists, and bound in the stench of Darkness.  He (Mani) says that he (Jesus) raised him (Adam) up and made him taste of the Tree of Life.  Then Adam saw and wept, and raised his voice loudly like a lion that roars and tears (prey).  He cast (himself down), beat (his breast), and said: ‘Woe, woe to the one who formed my body, and to the one who bound my soul, and to the rebels who have enslaved me.’

In Part 5, we’ll continue in the dark, dangerous territory of Tree of Life and its opposite being the Qliphothic Tree of Death, the origins of the doctrines of Original Sin and Total Depravity, and some concluding thoughts on the series.

The Great Declaration: A Commentary (Part 2)

In Part 1, we explored a few shared traits between Simon Magus and the Johannite Jesus. We also explored Simon’s cosmology and how it is rooted in a divine Fire similar to the Orphic Phanes and the cosmological doctrines of Heraclitus and the Stoics. Simonian cosmology also has a deep connection with the doctrines of the Sethians and Valentinians, considering the many similarities between Helena with the fallen Wisdom Mother figure, Sophia Achamoth and even Mary Magdalene. Yet, Helena seems to be more of an embodiment for Sophia for theatrical teaching purposes since the Sophia archetype precedes Helena and can be traced back to the Eros myth of Plato, the Egyptian Sia and Isis as well as the Babylonian Innana. However, the parallels do not end there.

As we are about to see, not only are there parallels and connections between Simon and the Johannite Jesus, but also with other Biblical figures such as Paul the Apostle, Peter, Nathaniel and of course, John the Baptist. The demonized Simon Magus by the Orthodox Church also bare striking resemblances with the figure of Satan and the AntiChrist as does Jesus in Matthew and Mark, strangely enough. Outside of the Bible, in other mystery religions, the connections with Orpheus, Dionysus, Asclepius, Apollinius of Tyana, Apollo, Hercules and even Zeus also exist, which will be explored in greater detail in future installments.

The Bad Samaritan

One thing I do want to point out before I delve into into the last half of the commentary is that of Simon’s status as a “magician”. In Simon’s time, he was not known as “Simon Magus”, which the word Magus is a Latin word for Magi. The term Magi was originally used by the Greek historian, Herodotus in reference to one of the five social classes of the Medes, an ancient Iranian people who at one time were medicine men or shamans who eventually became Zoroastrian priests. This term would become associated with the Greek term for sorcery, “goēteia”, where the Medieval Latin term “Goetia” comes from. Many Magi were present in or about Roman courts as they accompanied high ranking officials and governors. Therefore, they were socially accepted in Roman society.

However, their credibility was questioned by some throughout history such as Philo of Alexandria (Jewish philosopher, 20 BC – 50 AD), for example, who said the Magi perverted the magical arts. This would echo in the accusations of being a “magician”, which eventually came to be meant as a slanderous allegation appended to anyone, especially to Simon in order to scandalize him as the opposite of Peter. He was probably just Simon of Gitta. Or Simon the Samaritan. The Samaritans were an offshoot sect of Judaism and considered themselves the true inheritors of the Mosaic law. So Simon could have considered himself a Jew as a Samaritan, but obviously non-Samaritan Jews would disagree since they were seen as largely schismatics, and other times heretics of the worst kind, much like their Simonian predecessors. This is attested in Matthew 10:1-10 (likely redacted from the Gospel of the Hebrews), where the pro-Judiac/anti-Gentile Jesus advises his disciples to avoid “any town of the Samaritans”. Likewise, the Samaritans would also reject the Davidic Jews as heretical impostors.

Jesus and the Devil

In the Babylonian Talmud, it explains that Jesus was accused of being a sorcerer by the Talmudic Rabbis. In the eyes of them, the practice of sorcery and false prophecy constituted capital crimes worthy of execution, specifically mentioned in Deuteronomy 18: 10-12 and 13: 2-6. Sanhedrin 43a tells us:

On the eve of Passover Jesus was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, “He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy. Anyone who can say anything in his favor let him come forward and plead on his behalf.” But since nothing was brought forward in his favor, he was hanged on the eve of Passover. Ulla retorted: Do you suppose he was one for whom a defense could be made? Was he not a mesith (enticer), concerning whom Scripture says, “Neither shall thou spare nor shall thou conceal him?” With Jesus, however, it was different, for he was connected with the government.

Likewise in Mark 3:22 and Matthew 9:34; 12:24, the Scribes and Pharisees accuse Jesus of exorcising demons because he is in league with the prince of demons also known as the “Lord of flies”, Beelzebub, and even go so far as to claim that Jesus is himself Beelzebub (Matthew 10:25)! Even Jesus’ own family accused him of being out of his mind (Mark 3:21). In replying (v. 24) “How can Satan drive out Satan?” Jesus shows that he knew perfectly well who his adversaries took him for: he was possessed by Beelzebub; he was even Satan personified. Jesus was also accused of being Jesus Magus.

Beelzebub

According to the gospels, then, the devil apparently exercised great influence over Jesus! When the Beloved Disciple asked Jesus “Who is it” who would betray him (John 13:25), Jesus replied, “It is he to whom I shall give a morsel when I have dipped it.” Then, dipping a morsel, he gave it to Judas, who is specifically mentioned as the son of “Simon Iscariot”. Immediately after Judas received the morsel, Satan entered him. So in effect, the devil entered Judas through the bread that Jesus provided!  Around the era that Jesus supposedly lived, the belief that the devil took hold of people in various ways, such as by food (especially those consecrated to idols) was a common one. Considering this little detail comes from a text that is entirely canonical, this is rather alarming.

What’s interesting about this is that the account of the Last Supper where Jesus presides with a meal with people of questionable character and values (the pagans), “at the table of demons” (1 Corinthians 10:21), this would also coincide and at the same time, contradict Paul’s allegation regarding meat sacrificed to idols (cf. 1 Cor. 8:8–11; 10:25) because the unholy fate of Judas is actually the fault of his master, Jesus! Poor JudasPeter in Galatians 2:12 would disassociate himself with the same group of people, and also deny Christ three times, and would not be with him during his master’s last hours. The most Jewish of all the Gospels, being Matthew 16:23, clearly associates Satan with Peter:

Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

This sort of reflects the idea that Jesus was also an exorcist, despite the strange associations of Jesus with Satan. We see this in the Greek Magical Papyri:

Hail God of Abraham Hail God of Isaac Hail God of Jacob; Jesus Chrestos the Holy Spirit the Son of the Father who is above the Seven who is within the Seven. Bring Iao Sabaoth may your power issue forth from him until you drive away this unclean daimon Satan who is in him.

A  pattern thus begins to emerge in the interconnection between the promotion of Christ’s power over demonic local gods, dramatic exorcist ritual, and widespread thaumaturgical reputation as seen in the Gospel of Mark, which reflects a peculiar emphasis on exorcism and demonology. Jesus was seen as both an exorcist and a demon, simultaneously, by different groups. Interestingly enough, the earliest inscription to Christ is of one who evokes demons. A “goistais” or a necromancer/nigromancer implies someone who calls up infernal spirits rather than an ordinary magician. Following in Jesus’ footsteps (as per Mark, Matthew and John) a similar pattern can also be seen in the Church Fathers, where Simon was conceived as being synonymous with the Devil himself. Irenaeus in Against Heresies (3.3:4) would write about Marcion as being “the first-born of Satan” (Satan being Simon):

And Polycarp himself replied to Marcion, who met him on one occasion, and said, “Dost thou know me?” “I do know thee, the first-born of Satan.”

Furthermore, Irenaeus regarded all heresies as instigated by Satan (Adv. Haer. 1.21.1):

There are as many ceremonies of redemption as there are mystagogues. This kind of person has been infiltrated by Satan with a view to the denial of the baptism of rebirth to God, indeed the renunciation of the whole faith.

So in Irenaeus’ eyes, Satan was the first Gnostic! Indeed, Simon Magus was Satan incarnate, as being a concrete example of being “the devil, who leads astray the world” (Revelations 12:9). In Ambrose’ Epstulam ad Romanos, he spoke of the flight where he compared Simon Magus to Satan. This is likely an allusion where Jesus in Luke’s Gospel said, “Behold, I see Satan falling from heaven”, as his disciples went about casting out demons. Ambrose also likened Simon Magus’ magic to that of Jamnes and Mambres’ abilities, who were the court magicians of the Pharaoh. Augustine also boasted about Peter’s victory at Rome over Simon in De haeresibus, a symbolic statement of the triumph of the Catholic Church over the heretics. In Letter 36, Augustine recalls how Peter, the leader of the apostles, brought Simon down from heaven and defeated him. Augustine also claimed that Simon Magus was indeed, the “devil” and representative of the Evil One. This consistent demonization of Simon is reinforced through Simon’s own magical incantations as being a trait of deception as Irenaeus reports (Adv. Haer. 1.23.1) :

He, then, not putting faith in God a whit the more, set himself eagerly to contend against the apostles, in order that he himself might seem to be a wonderful being, and applied himself with still greater zeal to the study of the whole magic art, that he might the better bewilder and overpower multitudes of men.

The Clementine Homilies 2:26 reflects this by telling us that Simon Magus produced a homunculus or an artificial human, out of air!

“For he even began to commit murder as himself disclosed to us, as a friend to friends, that, having separated the soul of a child from its own body by horrid incantations, as his assistant for the exhibition of anything that he pleased, and having drawn the likeness of the boy, he has it set up in the inner room where he sleeps, saying that he once formed the boy of air, by divine arts, and having painted his likeness, he gave him back again to the air. “And he explains that he did the deed thus. He says that the first soul of man, being turned into the nature of heat, drew to itself, and sucked in the surrounding air, after the fashion of a gourd; and then that he changed it into water, when it was within the form of the spirit; and he said that he changed into the nature of blood the air that was in it, which could not be poured out on account of the consistency of the spirit, and that he made the blood solidified into flesh; then, the flesh being thus consolidated, that he exhibited a man not made from earth, but from air.

“And thus, having persuaded himself that he was able to make a new sort of man, he said that he reversed the changes, and again restored him to the air. And when he told this to others, he was believed; but by us who were present at his ceremonies he was religiously disbelieved. Wherefore we denounced his impieties, and withdrew from him.”

That was a common accusation also raised against Simon Magus by the various accounts of the Church Fathers, supposedly that he performed miracles by the aid of demons as first mentioned in Justin Martyr’s account. The charge of “magic” was part of a rhetorical strategy employed by many groups, like the Romans, Orthodox Christians, Hellenes and Jews alike. Sometimes this was done against one another and sometimes against rival factions or schools within their own religious traditions. Another example can be seen with the Epicurean Celsus as well as the Roman authorities in the first and second centuries who regarded Christians as magicians engaged in secret diabolical rites. It is a well known fact that early Christians refused to participate in the pagan cults of the early Roman empire, thus reinforcing their status to the Empire as fringe or alien. Moreover, the claims of the Christians themselves to heal the sick and exorcise daimons were thought of as evidence of sorcery and diabolism, according to Celsus as recorded by Origen in Contra Celsus 1.68:

Since these men do these wonders, ought we to think them sons of God? Or ought we to say that they are the practices of wicked men possessed by an evil daimon?

Similarly, in the pastorals such as I Timothy, the text stigmatizes Gnostics (those who espouse “what is falsely called knowledge,” or gnosis in 6:20) as “giving heed to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons” (4:1) For the author of I John, docetic Gnostics prophesy by “the spirit of the antichrist” (4:3). This is also explicitly raised in John 8:48-51 as an indictment against Jesus, which he rebuttals:

Then the Jews answered and said to Him, ‘Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?’ Jesus answered, ‘I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me. And I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks and judges.’

The Samaritan that they’re referencing is of course, Simon Magus. Jesus doesn’t deny being a Samaritan (Simon), only having a demon. Jesus would condemn his Pharisaic critics as children of the devil, inferring that the Jewish God was actually Satan in John 8:44!

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Also, the account of the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4 may be a revised version of Simon Magus and Helena. It is probable to suspect that the Gospel of John was originally a Simonian gospel about Simon Magus that was heavily redacted and Christianized into an orthodox text. Here is the Catholic Church Father, Irenaeus’ account of Simon’s doctrine in Against Heresies 1.23.3:

For since the angels ruled the world ill because each one of them coveted the principal power for himself, he [Simon] had come to amend matters, and had descended, transfigured and assimilated to powers and principalities and angels, so that he might appear among men to be a man, while yet he was not a man; and that thus he was thought to have suffered in Judaea, when he had not suffered. Moreover, the prophets uttered their predictions under the inspiration of those angels who formed the world; for which reason those who place their trust in him and Helena no longer regarded them, but, as being free, live as they please; for men are saved through his grace, and not on account of their own righteous actions. For such deeds are not righteous in the nature of things, but by mere accident, just as those angels who made the world, have thought fit to constitute them, seeking, by means of such precepts, to bring men into bondage. On this account, he pledged himself that the world should be dissolved, and that those who are his should be freed from the rule of them who made the world.

If you substitute Simon with Jesus, what you’re essentially left with is Paul’s gospel. Men are saved by the grace of Simon (Jesus), and not by righteous works. Those who put their faith in him will be saved from the dissolution of the world. He appeared in the likeness of men, although wasn’t a man, and was crucified in Judea, although he did not suffer physical pain. It all sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Simon’s doctrine is synonymous to Paul’s, aside from Simon being substituted for Jesus. It’s fairly obvious to say that what we have here in Irenaeus is a conflation of Paul’s unperverted Gnostic gospel with his original identity, Simon. So Simon is none other than Paul, and the Church Fathers confused Paul’s theology of Christ for Paul himself, who is known to them as Simon. In other words, Simon, who is also Paul, was mistakenly divided into two separate people, Simon of Samaria and Paul the Apostle.

Once one sifts through all the contradictions and muddled accounts of Simon Magus, it becomes apparent what’s really going on here, or who was who all those years ago. Simon as a Samaritan would also explain all the ambiguity about Paul’s Jewishness. And from there stems the doubt whether Paul was actually a Jew or not because of his repeated association with Simon as a pseudonym for Paul or vice versa. Also, Marcion’s teachings, according to Irenaeus, go back to Simon Magus. Cerdo, Marcion’s forerunner, adopted Simon Magus’ teachings into his own system. But as we know, Marcion’s actual figurehead was Paul. And if Marcion was rumored to have been involved with the origin of John, then that would explain why the Jesus of John is tied to Simon Magus.

“Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first. And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 4:13-15)

Obviously, Simon-Paul taught freedom from the “bondage” of Mosaic Law and the tyrannical angels through Grace. In the Pseudo-Clementine literature much like the Acts of Apostles, which pits Simon Peter against Simon Magus, Simon Magus represents the Pauline camp while Simon Peter (or Cephas) represents the Jewish Christian camp. Simon Magus was Simon Peter’s arch-rival, much like Jesus claimed Peter was “Satan” his adversary in Matthew. Simon Magus was indeed a real historical figure and the original inspiration for the Paul persona since Simon associated himself as being megas, which is Greek for “great” while Paulos comes from the Latin parvalus, which basically means pathetic, small or insignificant. This is not coincidental as others have noted and may have to do with Philippians 2:7-8, where Simon Christ the Great Power takes on the likeness of a servant being the title Paulos (small).

And Peter is also a surname rather an actual name, as it is even probable that the apocryphal (i.e. imaginary) Peter is also a satirical caricature based on of Simon through a play on words, the “Great Power” or the “Standing One” since Peter is a latinized form of the Syriac Cephas meaning “rock”. So the “rock” that Christ supposedly built the Roman Catholic Church on is perhaps a fictitious creation based on a Catholic interpolation or addendum of Matthew 16:18 in support for the authoritative spiritual, political and social primacy of “Orthodoxy”. This stands in direct opposition of Paul when he declares in Romans 1:11:

“I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established.”

Considering the vast amounts of forgeries, plagiarisms, interpolations and false attributions written by competing proto-Orthodox groups to not only to delegitimize Gnostic and esoteric writings but to also erase them with their own, none of this would come as a surprise. This can be seen as sort of a systematic Buffalo Bill “wearing the skins of his victims” type of scenario.

In Acts of the Apostles 8, Simon Magus answers Peter in a humble manner and requesting the latter to pray for him. However, in patristic writings seen in works in what is purported to be by Pope Clement of Rome, he is represented as boastful, a megalomaniac, calling himself the omnipotent, challenging the apostles of Rome, before Nero. The latter event is mentioned by several of the Fathers of the Church as well as the Acts of Peter. Simon ascends into the air like Superman, in imitation of the physical ascension of Elias and of Christ, but whilst he was doing so the apostles counteracted his activity through the intercession of prayer and he fell to the ground, seriously injuring his legs. As the story goes, the death of Simon was brought about by Peter and the Christians in Rome shortly before 64 AD. Yet, this story given in the Acts of Peter looks so ludicrous that many biblical scholars have dismissed it as sheer invention by an orthodox scribe from much later. The Acts of Peter also portrays Peter performing very important miracles such as resurrecting smoked fish, and making dogs talk…True story!

Petrus and Simon by Paul Troger (1743)

Hippolytus in Refutation of All Heresies (5:15) tells us another story, where Simon performs a yogic miracle of being buried alive. Simon would tell his followers he would rise on the third day, which again looks like an attempt to imitate Christ, in all too literal fashion:

This man, ultimately repairing to … (and) sitting under a plane tree, continued to give instruction (in his doctrines). And in truth at last, when conviction was imminent, in case he delayed longer, be stated that, if he were buried alive, he would rise the third day. And accordingly, having ordered a trench to be dug by his disciples, he directed himself to be interred there. They, then, executed the injunction given; whereas he remained (in that grave) until this day, for he was not the Christ (R6.15).

In both Hippolytus’ account and in the Acts of Peter, they give us fabricated reasons to make Simon not like Christ. They are basically satirical and polemic in nature, in attempt to discredit Simon’s position as the “Standing One” or the Chrestos by also using the belief in the carnal resurrection as a satirical device, strangely enough, considering it is one of the earliest apocryphal Acts of the Apostles. Simon was also said to be baptized by John the Baptist much like Jesus was in Matthew 3:13-16, however, and then seeing the apostles administering the sacrament of chrism, he asked them to give him the power to do this, offering them money. Peter rebuked him for attempting to purchase sacramental powers, and ever after the offering of money with the aim of obtaining sacerdotal powers has been known as *simony*. Yet, is it any coincidence that the Simon of Acts tries to buy the holy spirit from Peter, just as Paul attempted to win the favor of the Jerusalem Christians by donating to them a large some of money collected from his congregations in 2 Corinthians 8? Or that Marcion, too, supposedly did the exact same thing with the church of Rome?

Simon of Samaria is usually reputed to be the father of Gnosticism, but that only means he was the first well-known leader of a Gnostic movement. Now it certainly would be true to say that Gnosticism emerged from the milieu of Greek philosophy, but it would be good to understand a specific origin to which we can say: that is where Gnosticism came from. Now some think that there were Apostate Jew Gnostics (the so-called “Sethians”) existing in the first and second centuries B.C.E. The Sethians were probably originally a Jewish mystery cult that venerated the patriarch Seth and eventually became Gnosticized after the advent of Christianity, through the influence of Dositheos (a disciple of John the Baptist and spiritual competitor with Simon) since the Three Steles of Seth specifically mentions him as the “father of the living and unshakable race”. So there is no complete doubt in the possibility that Sethianism itself was pre-Christian, just that Gnosticized Sethianism was pre-Christian. That is, if Sethianism predates Christianity, then it most likely wasn’t Gnostic (belief in a Demiurge, fall of Sophia, descent of an immaterial Savior, etc.) prior to being Christianized.

Not to mention the strong influence of Merkabah or Throne mysticism introduced by the prophet Ezekiel who first saw a fiery anthropos figure which he saw as God. From this strange and frightening vision emerged the tradition of chariot mysticism—the chariot representing movement or transport between the divine and the world of flesh. Merkabah mystics saw Ezekiel’s chariot as a prototype for ascending into the world above and for glimpsing the Heavenly Jerusalem. Coincidentally, Simon Magus was also seen as the “Glory of God”, as the term “the Great Power”, a title belonging to Simon could also be transferred to mean Glory, a term used to denote a divine quality of this Anthropos, or a man-like hypostasis of God. In the Visions of Ezekiel, it reads:

When Ezekiel was looking, the Holy One, blessed be He, opened up to him the seven heavens, and he beheld the Power.

In other words, Simon’s other-wordily counter-part could also be synonymous with the Anthropos! We will revisit Ezekiel later… So why believe that this bad-boy magician began Gnosticism or at least was one of the earliest of these naughty, troublesome heretics? Irenaeus writing in his Against All Heresies 1.23.4 in the late second century in regards to Simonians, those who follow Simon, wrote among other things about Simon and his followers:

“They have also an image of Simon made in the likeness of Jupiter, and of Helen in that of Minerva; and they worship the (statues); and they have a designation from their most impiously minded founder, being called Simonians, from whom the Gnosis, falsely so-called, derives its origins, as one can learn from their own assertions.”

We see here, one who investigated heresy carefully for the purpose of arguing well against it claims that Simon Magus began Gnosticism and he even says that the Simonians say this of Simon too. He bases this notion primarily from Justin Martyr’s account which many scholars seem to agree that seems the most trustworthy as it is the earliest and happens to come from a fellow Samaritan (being Justin Martyr). But this is not all for his enemies have preserved a significant amount of his teachings and in them we can find striking parallels to Gnosticism as I have already explained in great detail in Part 1.

Another small reminder that I want to make is that as we can read in the Simonian Great Declaration, which we have preserved by Hippolytus:

“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.”

Does this not sound like a aeonic syzygy that we see so prominently in Gnostic Aeonic systems? Even strongly esoteric texts like the Books of Jeu (Iao), Paraphrase of Shem, Dialogue of the Savior and the Gospel of the Egyptians share many strong Simonian ideas. While, I will not conclusively say that Simon the sorcerer began Gnosticism and perhaps even Christianity itself, he certainly is a convincing candidate. Let us return to some more commentary on the Great Declaration. From this moment forward, however, I will only be commenting on passages that do not necessarily repeat the same information since the Great Declaration is very repetitious in nature. Also, I will only comment on one part of the writing since I have already devoted a great deal of exegesis to Simon.

In general, one may say concerning all things, the visible and the intelligible, that is the concealed and manifest, that are contained in the fire which overpasses the very heavens, even as the great tree like unto that glimpsed in a vision by Nebuchadnezzar which nourishes all flesh. Of this, the manifested side corresponds to the trunk, limbs, leaves, and encasing bark. All these members of the tree are set ablaze from the all-consuming flame of the fire and destroyed. But as for the fruit of the tree, if it’s for is perfect and it assumes the true shape, it is gathered into the storehouse, not thrown into the fire. For the fruit is produced in order to be stored away, but the bark of the tree, having served its purpose is destined for the fire, as it was produced for no purpose in its own right but only to protect the fruit.

In the Biblical book of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar is a Babylonian King who, “has a dream he can’t remember but keeps searching for an answer.” Daniel 4: 4-27 details Nebuchadnezzer’s dream where it presents a tree with the head of a statue. The metaphor of the tree alludes also the king’s presumptuous character, comparing Nebuchadnezzar to Adam in his function as manager of the universe (Gen. 1:28). It also hints at the tree of life (or the tree of knowledge) in its position in the middle of the earth (Gen. 2:9; 3:3). The tree stretches unto the heavens as it clearly is no ordinary tree (Dan. 4:11, 20).

Nebuchadnezzer interprets the tree to be himself and as a haughty King of Babylon, prefers to reply on the astrologers’ explanation. Therefore, when Daniel, acting like a true court magician, enters the scene, Nebuchadnezzer trembles and his first words are full of tact and wishing: “My lord, if only the dream applied to our enemies…!” (Dan. 4:19). But the interpretation that follows slashes like a knife: “You, O king, are that tree!” (verse 22).  What is the significance of this, exactly? Perhaps, Nebuchadnezzer’s dream body represents the mortal flesh that will eventually be dissolved in the conflagration just as the “members of the tree are set ablaze from the all-consuming flame of the fire and destroyed.”

Statue-of-Nebuchadnezzar-Daniel-Chapter-2-Iron-and-Clay-Hyrbid-Nephilim-Kingdom

This King of Babylon (Isaiah 14) and the prince of Tyre (Ezekiel 29) are both said to have declared themselves “god” and to have been punished for their impudence. It would not have been strange or unusual for Jews to have applied the same exegesis where the sin of arrogant claims of divinity was suspected. Certainly similar claims were made by Nebuchadnezzar in Judith (3:8; 6:12); Entiochus Epiphanes in Daniel (11:36f.); Caligula in Philo (Gaium 22, 74-80), 93-97; 118; 162); Nero in the Sibylline Oracles (5:33-35) and the Ascension of Isaiah (4:6-8). In 2 Thessalonians 2:4 the man of lawlessness i.e., the “AntiChrist” is said to proclaim himself to be God as stated in Revelations 13:1, 5-6.

This lawless one, or the AntiChrist, is more than likely, none other than Simon Magus. The primary accusation made against Simon by the Jewish anti-Simonian polemic as well as by Catholic Christian polemic was that he had rejected the Law and was thus a libertine. Paul was accused of the very same thing, and it stands with good reason. It this “lawlessness” that Matthew specifically condemns in many places, which makes sense, considering it is the most Jewish and pro-Mosaic law out of all the Gospels.

For the fruit is produced in order to be stored away, but the bark of the tree, having served its purpose is destined for the fire, as it was produced for no purpose in its own right but only to protect the fruit.

This passage alone has also some very strong, end-times applications. The fire of the Great Declaration is not meant to punish the wicked, but rather to remove all that appears on the outside, all that is perceived by the senses. This corresponds to the Valentinian eschatological belief that all matter will eventually plunge and dissolve into fiery chaos. This also corresponds to how Irenaeus describes Simon’s credo, “He (Simon) again promised that the world would be destroyed (Against Heresies 1, 23, 3).

Isaiah 14 was also used in the Orthodox polemic against Simon Magus and in the Jewish polemic against, you guessed it…Jesus! In the Gospel of John (5:18, 10:33), the crime of Jesus in the eyes of Judaism is not just that he considers himself the messiah but that he seeks to make himself equal with God:

For this reason, the Jews sought all the more to kill him – not only was he breaking the Sabbath; worse still he was speaking of God as his own father, thus making himself God’s equal. We stone you for no good work but for blasphemy because you, being a man, make yourself a god.

The creator god of Genesis is cast in the role of the arrogant ruler who vainly claims that he is the ultimate God featured in Hypostasis of the Archons: “It is I who am God; there is none apart from me. When he said this, he sinned against the Entirety.” This seems to be centered in the polemic of the Gnostics against the Jewish God in the first instance, but, in the second instance, against those who value the scripture of the Old Testament too highly—namely, the Orthodox Christians. This idea is reflected in the Gospel of John, when Jesus says in John 18:8 that “all who have come before me are thieves and robbers.” Wouldn’t “all” in that context imply the Old Testament patriarchs and prophets? If Johannine Jesus is favorably Judaic, then wouldn’t he want to clarify that he doesn’t include Moses, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc. in his criticism? We see another variant of this criticism leveled against the prophets and Old Testament patriarchs in the Basilidean Second Treatise of the Great Seth, as “laughingstocks” including the Old Testament deity also known as the “Archon”:

 The 12 prophets were laughingstocks, since they have come forth as imitations of the true prophets. They came into being as counterfeits through the Hebdomad, as if he had become stronger than I and my brothers. But we are innocent with respect to him, since we have not sinned. Moses, a faithful servant, was a laughingstock, having been named “the Friend,” since they perversely bore witness concerning him who never knew me. Neither he nor those before him, from Adam to Moses and John the Baptist, none of them knew me nor my brothers.

The Clementine Recognitions (2:47) also preserve a similar argument by Simon made against Peter, throwing a Matthew 11:27 quote to his face:

…yet your Jesus, who appeared long after the patriarchs, says: “No one knows the Son, but the Father; neither knows anyone the Father, but the Son, and he to whom the Son has been pleased to reveal him. ‘ Thus, therefore, even your Jesus confesses that there is another God, incomprehensible and unknown to all.

One of the bigger points between the disputants is the difference between Peter’s view of Adam’s Creator and that of Simon. According to Peter, God the Creator first made the world and all that is in it, and then his creature Adam. Peter is a monotheist and defends his position as such, whereas Simon, according to Peter, is a polytheist who places another Unknown and Unknowable God above the Jewish God the Creator in a typical Gnostic and Marcionite fashion, and thus turns Jehovah into an inferior angelic power. Simon’s actual teachings of course, can be found in the Great Declaration. The Apostle Paul also has a very negative assessment of traditional biblical theology, revealed in the Old Testament in Galatians 3:19, where he reduces the Law and by extension, the Lawgiver as the work by angels:

Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator.

Again, in Philippians 3:5-9, Paul considers the Jewish Law as worthless and ultimately “garbage”:

I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault. I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him.

Later, Marcion would use Luke 6:43-49, to justify his radical dualism:

For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit;  for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good man out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil man out of his evil treasure produces evil; for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

Marcion said the two trees represented the two gods and the two covenants. Also, the part in Luke (5:36-39) where Jesus says you can’t put new wine into old wine-skins—Marcion interpreted that as saying that you can’t mix Christianity with Judaism. Therefore, Gnostic interpretation was built on Pauline and Marcionite exegesis, and also took over the claims of uniqueness for Israel’s God, but applied them to Plato’s Demiurge of Timaeus. This Gnostic exegesis split the tradition we find opposed by the Rabbis in two parts: the traditions about a second figure were transmuted into the Gnostic Savior, while the scripture characteristic of the rabbinic polemic against “two powers” associated with the Demiurge who is still the God of Israel but not the “Most High”. Saturnilus of Antioch, a student of Menander (a direct disciple of Simon Magus himself) would later clearly reduce the “God of the Jews” as one of the angels, as testified by Irenaeus in Against Heresies (1,24). This reduction of Jehovah to the level of the angels could very well reflection Paul’s condemnation of Angel-worship:

“Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind” (Colossians 2:18).

Celsus, in the True Doctrine agrees with this sentiment when he states:

The Jews worship angels, and are addicted to sorcery, in which Moses was their instructor. I will show afterwards how it was through ignorance that the Jews were deceived and led into error.

In Part 3, we will continue on this dark and dangerous voyage into the magical depths of Simonian theology, some more details regarding the heresy of the “two powers”, a possible connection with Philo of Alexandria, more commentary on the Great Declaration and its subsequent influence on not only Gnosis but the foundations of Christianity itself.