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AN ESSAY ON THE FOUNDER OF SIMONIANISM BASED ON THE ANCIENT SOURCES WITH
A RE-EVALUATION OF HIS PHILOSOPHY AND TEACHINGS.
ARES PUBLISHERS INC. CHICAGO MCMLXXIX
Everybody in Christendom has heard of Simon, the magician, and how Peter, the apostle, rebuked him, as told in the narrative of the _Acts of the Apostles_. Many also have heard the legend of how at Rome this wicked sorcerer endeavoured to fly by aid of the demons, and how Peter caused him to fall headlong and thus miserably perish. And so most think that there is an end of the matter, and either cast their mite of pity or contempt at the memory of Simon, or laugh at the whole matter as the invention of superstition or the imagination of religious fanaticism, according as their respective beliefs may be in orthodoxy or materialism. This for the general. Students of theology and church history, on the other hand, have had a more difficult task set them in comparing and arranging the materials they have at their disposal, as found in the patristic writings and legendary records; and various theories have been put forward, not the least astonishing being the supposition that Simon was an alias for Paul, and that the Simon and Peter in the accounts of the fathers and in the narrative of the legends were simply concrete symbols to represent the two sides of the Pauline and Petrine controversies.
The first reason why I have ventured on this present enquiry is that Simon Magus is invariably mentioned by the heresiologists as the founder of the first heresy of the commonly-accepted Christian era, and is believed by them to have been the originator of those systems of religio-philosophy and theosophy which are now somewhat inaccurately classed together under the heading of Gnosticism. And though this assumption of the patristic heresiologists is entirely incorrect, as may be proved from their own works, it is nevertheless true that Simonianism is the first system that, as far as our present records go, came into conflict with what has been regarded as the orthodox stream of Christianity. A second reason is that I believe that Simon has been grossly misrepresented, and entirely misunderstood, by his orthodox opponents, whoever they were, in the first place, and also, in the second place, by those who have ignorantly and without enquiry copied from them. But my chief reason is that the present revival of theosophical enquiry throws a flood of light on Simon’s teachings, whenever we can get anything approaching a first-hand statement of them, and shows that it was identical in its fundamentals with the Esoteric Philosophy of all the great religions of the world.
In this enquiry, I shall have to be slightly wearisome to some of my readers, for instead of giving a selection or even a paraphraze of the notices on Simon which we have from authenticated patristic sources, I shall furnish verbatim translations, and present a digest only of the unauthenticated legends. The growth of the Simonian legend must unfold itself before the reader in its native form as it comes from the pens of those who have constructed it. Repetitions will, therefore, be unavoidable in the marshalling of authorities, but they will be shown to be not without interest in the subsequent treatment of the subject, and at any rate we shall at least be on the sure ground of having before us all that has been said on the matter by the Church fathers. Having cited these authorities, I shall attempt to submit them to a critical examination, and so eliminate all accretions, hearsay and controversial opinions, and thus sift out what reliable residue is possible. Finally, my task will be to show that Simon taught a system of Theosophy, which instead of deserving our condemnation should rather excite our admiration, and that, instead of being a common impostor and impious perverter of public morality, his method was in many respects of the same nature as the methods of the theosophical movement of to-day, and deserves the study and consideration of all students of Theosophy.
This essay will, therefore, be divided into the following parts:
I.–Sources of Information.
II.–A Review of Authorities.
III.–The Theosophy of Simon.
SOURCES OF INFORMATION.
Our sources of information fall under three heads: I. The Simon of the _New Testament_; II. The Simon of the Fathers; III. The Simon of the Legends.
I.–_The Simon of the New Testament._
_Acts_ (viii. 9-24); author and date unknown; commonly supposed to be “by the author of the third gospel, traditionally known as Luke”; not quoted prior to A.D. 177; earliest MS. not older than the sixth century, though some contend for the third.
II.–_The Simon of the Fathers._
i. Justinus Martyr (_Apologia_, I. 26, 56; _Apologia_, II. 15; _Dialogus cum Tryphone_, 120); probable date of First Apology A.D. 141; neither the date of the birth nor death of Justin is known; MS. fourteenth century.
ii. Irenaeus (_Contra Haereses_, I. xxiii. 1-4); chief literary activity last decennium of the second century; MSS. probably sixth, seventh, and eighth centuries; date of birth and death unknown, for the former any time from A.D. 97-147 suggested, for latter 202-3.
iii. Clemens Alexandrinus (_Stromateis_, ii. 11; vii. 17); greatest literary activity A.D. 190-203; born 150-160, date of death unknown; oldest MS. eleventh century.
iv. Tertullianus (_De Praescriptionibus adversus Haereticos_, 46, generally attributed to a Pseudo-Tertullian); c. A.D. 199; (_De Anima_, 34, 36); c. A.D. 208-9; born 150-160, died 220-240.
v. [Hippolytus (?)] (_Philosophumena_, vi. 7-20); date unknown, probably last decade of second to third of third century; author unknown and only conjecturally Hippolytus; MS. fourteenth century.
vi. Origenes (_Contra Celsum_, i. 57; v. 62; vi. 11); born A.D. 185-6, died 254-5; MS. fourteenth century.
vii. Philastrius (_De Haeresibus_); date of birth unknown, died probably A.D. 387.
viii. Epiphanius (_Contra Haereses_, ii. 1-6); born A.D. 310-20, died 404; MS. eleventh century.
ix. Hieronymus (_Commentarium in Evangelicum Matthaei_, IV. xxiv. 5); written A.D. 387.
x. Theodoretus (_Hereticarum Fabularum Compendium_, i. 1); born towards the end of the fourth century, died A.D. 453-58; MS. eleventh century.
III.–_The Simon of the Legends._
A. The so-called Clementine literature.
i. _Recognitiones_, 2. _Homiliae_, of which the Greek originals are lost, and the Latin translation of Rufinus (born c.A.D. 345, died 410) alone remains to us. The originals are placed by conjecture somewhere about the beginning of the third century; MS. eleventh century.
B. A mediaeval account; (_Constitutiones Sanctorum Apostolorum_, VI. vii, viii, xvi); these were never heard of prior to 1546, when a Venetian, Carolus Capellus, printed an epitomized translation of them from an MS. found in Crete. They are hopelessly apocryphal.
* * * * *
I.–_The Simon of the New Testament._
_Acts_ (viii. 9-24). Text: _The Greek Testament_ (with the readings adopted by the revisers of the authorized version); Oxford, 1881.
Now a certain fellow by name Simon had been previously in the city practising magic and driving the people of Samaria out of their wits, saying that he was some great one; to whom all from small to great gave heed, saying: “This man is the Power of God which is called Great.” And they gave heed to him, owing to his having driven them out of their wits for a long time by his magic arts. But when they believed on Philip preaching about the Kingdom of God and the Name of Jesus Christ, they began to be baptized, both men and women. And Simon himself also believed, and after being baptized remained constantly with Philip; and was driven out of _his_ wits on seeing the signs and great wonders that took place.
And the apostles in Jerusalem hearing that Samaria had received the Word of God, sent Peter and John to them. And they went down and prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet it had not fallen upon any of them, but they had only been baptized unto the Name of the Lord Jesus.
Then they laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. And when Simon saw that the Holy Spirit was given by the laying on of the hands of the apostles, he offered them money, saying: “Give unto me also this power, in order that on whomsoever I lay my hands he may receive the Holy Spirit.”
But Peter said unto him: “Thy silver perish with thee, in that thou didst think that the gift of God is possessed with money. There is not for thee part or lot in this Word, for thy heart is not right before God. Therefore turn from this evil of thine, and pray the Lord, if by chance the thought of thy heart shall be forgiven thee. For I see that thou art in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity.”
And Simon answered and said: “Pray ye on my behalf to the Lord, that none of the things that ye have said may come upon me.”
II.–_The Simon of the Fathers._
i. Justinus Martyr (_Apologia_, I. 26). Text: _Corpus Apologetarum Christianorum Saeculi Secundi_ (edidit Io. Car. Th. Eques de Otto); Jenae, 1876 (ed. tert.).
And thirdly, that even after the ascension of the Christ into heaven the daemons cast before themselves (as a shield) certain men who said that they were gods, who were not only not expelled by you, but even thought worthy of honours; a certain Samaritan, Simon, who came from a village called Gitta; who in the reign of Claudius Caesar wrought magic wonders by the art of the daemons who possessed him, and was considered a god in your imperial city of Rome, and as a god was honoured with a statue by you, which statue was erected in the river Tiber, between the two bridges, with the following inscription in Roman: “Simoni Deo Sancto.” And nearly all the Samaritans, but few among the rest of the nations, confess him to be the first god and worship him. And they speak of a certain Helen, who went round with him at that time, and who had formerly prostituted herself, but was made by him his first Thought.
ii. Irenaeus (_Contra Haereses_, I. xxiii. 1-4). Text: _Opera_ (edidit Adolphus Stieren); Lipsiae, 1848.
1. Simon was a Samaritan, the notorious magician of whom Luke the disciple and adherent of the apostles says: “But there was a fellow by name Simon, who had previously practised the art of magic in their state, and led away the people of the Samaritans, saying that he was some great one, to whom they all listened, from the small to the great, saying: ‘He is the Power of God, which is called Great.’ Now they gave heed to him because he had driven them out of their wits by his magical phenomena.” This Simon, therefore, pretended to be a believer, thinking that the apostles also wrought their cures by magic and not by the power of God; and supposing that their filling with the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands those who believed in God, through that Christ Jesus who was being preached by them–that this was effected by some superior magical knowledge, and offering money to the apostles, so that he also might obtain the power of giving the Holy Spirit to whomsoever he would, he received this answer from Peter: “Thy money perish with thee, since thou hast thought that the gift of God is obtained possession of with money; for thee there is neither part nor lot in this Word, for thy heart is not right before God. For I see thou art in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity.”
And since the magician still refused to believe in God, he ambitiously strove to contend against the apostles, so that he also might be thought of great renown, by extending his investigations into universal magic still farther, so that he struck many aghast; so much so that he is said to have been honoured with a statue for his magic knowledge by Claudius Caesar.
He, therefore, was glorified by many as a god; and he taught that it was he himself who, forsooth, appeared among the Jews as the Son, while in Samaria he descended as the Father, and in the rest of the nations he came as the Holy Spirit. That he was the highest power, to wit, the Father over all, and that he allowed himself to be called by whatever name men pleased.
2. Now the sect of the Samaritan Simon, from whom all the heresies took their origin, was composed of the following materials.
He took round with him a certain Helen, a hired prostitute from the Phoenician city Tyre, after he had purchased her freedom, saying that she was the first conception (or Thought) of his Mind, the Mother of All, by whom in the beginning he conceived in his Mind the making of the Angels and Archangels. That this Thought, leaping forth from him, and knowing what was the will of her Father, descended to the lower regions and generated the Angels and Powers, by whom also he said this world was made. And after she had generated them, she was detained by them through envy, for they did not wish to be thought to be the progeny of any other. As for himself, he was entirely unknown by them; and it was his Thought that was made prisoner by the Powers and Angels that has been emanated by her. And she suffered every kind of indignity at their hands, to prevent her reaescending to her Father, even to being imprisoned in the human body and transmigrating into other female bodies, as from one vessel into another. She also was in that Helen, on whose account the Trojan War arose; wherefore also Stesichorus was deprived of his sight when he spake evil of her in his poems; and that afterwards when he repented and wrote what is called a recantation, in which he sang her praises, he recovered his sight. So she, transmigrating from body to body, and thereby also continually undergoing indignity, last of all even stood for hire in a brothel; and she was the “lost sheep.”
3. Wherefore also he himself had come, to take her away for the first time, and free her from her bonds, and also to guarantee salvation to men by his “knowledge.” For as the Angels were mismanaging the world, since each of them desired the sovereignty, he had come to set matters right; and that he had descended, transforming himself and being made like to the Powers and Principalities and Angels; so that he appeared to men as a man, although he was not a man; and was thought to have suffered in Judaea, although he did not really suffer. The Prophets moreover had spoken their prophecies under the inspiration of the Angels who made the world; wherefore those who believed on him and his Helen paid no further attention to them, and followed their own pleasure as though free; for men were saved by his grace, and not by righteous works. For righteous actions are not according to nature, but from accident, in the manner that the Angels who made the world have laid it down, by such precepts enslaving men. Wherefore also he gave new promises that the world should be dissolved and that they who were his should be freed from the rule of those who made the world.
4. Wherefore their initiated priests live immorally. And everyone of them practises magic arts to the best of his ability. They use exorcisms and incantations. Love philtres also and spells and what are called “familiars” and “dream-senders,” and the rest of the curious arts are assiduously cultivated by them. 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.
iii. Clemens Alexandrinus (_Stromateis_, ii. 11; vii. 17). Text: _Opera_ (edidit G. Dindorfius); Oxoniae, 1869.
In the first passage the Simonian use of the term, “He who stood,” is confirmed, in the latter we are told that a branch of the Simonians was called Entychitae.
iv. Tertullianus, or Pseudo-Tertullianus (_De Praescriptionibus_, 46). Text: _Liber de Praes_., etc. (edidit H. Hurter, S.J.); Oeniponti, 1870. Tertullianus (_De Anima_, 34, 36). Text: _Bibliothec. Patr. Eccles. Select._ (curavit Dr. Guil. Bruno Linder), Fasc. iv; Lipsiae, 1859.
In the _Praescriptions_ the passage is very short, the briefest notice possible, under the heading, “Anonymi Catalogus Heresum.” The notice in the _De Anima_ runs as follows:
For Simon the Samaritan also, the purveyor of the Holy Spirit, in the _Acts of the Apostles_, after he had been condemned by himself, together with his money, to perdition, shed vain tears and betook himself to assaulting the truth, as though for the gratification of vengeance. Supported by the powers of his art, for the purpose of his illusions through some power or other, he purchased with the same money a Tyrian woman Helen from a place of public pleasure, a fit commodity instead of the Holy Spirit. And he pretended that he was the highest Father, and that she was his first suggestion whereby he had suggested the making of the Angels and Archangels; that she sharing in this design had sprung forth from the Father, and leaped down into the lower regions; and that there, the design of the Father being prevented, she had brought forth Angelic Powers ignorant of the Father, the artificer of this world; by these she was detained, not according to his intention, lest when she had gone they should be thought to be the progeny of another. And therefore being made subject to every kind of contumely, so that by her depreciation she might not choose to depart, she had sunk to as low as the human form, as though she had had to be restrained by chains of flesh, and then for many ages being turned about through a succession of female conditions, she became also that Helen who proved so fatal to Priam, and after to the eyes of Stesichorus, for she had caused his blindness on account of the insult of his poem, and afterwards had removed it because of her pleasure at his praise. And thus transmigrating from body to body, in the extreme of dishonour she had stood, ticketed for hire, a Helen viler [than her predecessor]. She was, therefore, the “lost sheep,” to whom the highest Father, Simon, you know, had descended. And after she was recovered and brought back, I know not whether on his shoulders or knees, he afterwards had respect to the salvation of men, as it were by the liberation of those who had to be freed from these Angelic Powers, for the purpose of deceiving whom he transformed himself, and pretended that he was a man to men only, playing the part of the Son in Judaea, and that of the Father in Samaria.
v. [Hippolytus (?)] _(Philosophumena_, vi. 7-20). Text: _Refutatio Omnium Haeresium_ (ediderunt Lud. Duncker et F.G. Schneidewin); Gottingae, 1859.
7. I shall, therefore, set forth the system of Simon of Gittha, a village of Samaria, and shall show that it is from him that those who followed him got their inspiration, and that the speculations they venture upon have been of a like nature, though their terminology is different.
This Simon was skilled in magic, and deluding many, partly by the art of Thrasymedes, in the way we have explained above, and partly corrupting them by means of daemons, he endeavoured to deify himself–a sorcerer fellow and full of insanity, whom the apostles confuted in the _Acts_. Far more prudent and modest was the aim of Apsethus, the Libyan, who tried to get himself thought a god in Libya. And as the story of Apsethus is not very dissimilar to the ambition of the foolish Simon, it will not be unseemly to repeat it, for it is quite in keeping with Simon’s endeavour.
8. Apsethus, the Libyan, wanted to become a god. But in spite of the greatest exertions he failed to realize his longing, and so he desired that at any rate people should _think_ that he had become one; and, indeed, for a considerable time he really did get people to think that such was the case. For the foolish Libyans sacrificed to him as to some divine power, thinking that they were placing their confidence in a voice that came down from heaven.
Well, he collected a large number of parrots and put them all into a cage. For there are a great many parrots in Libya and they mimic the human voice very distinctly. So he kept the birds for some time and taught them to say, “Apsethus is a god.” And when, after a long time, the birds were trained and could speak the sentence which he considered would make him be thought to be a god, he opened the cage and let the parrots go in every direction. And the voice of the birds as they flew about went out into all Libya, and their words reached as far as the Greek settlements. And thus the Libyans, astonished at the voice of the birds, and having no idea of the trick which had been played them by Apsethus, considered him to be a god.
But one of the Greeks, correctly surmising the contrivance of the supposed god, not only confuted him by means of the self-same parrots, but also caused the total destruction of this boastful and vulgar fellow. For the Greek caught a number of the parrots and re-taught them to say “Apsethus caged us and made us say, ‘Apsethus is a god.'” And when the Libyans heard the recantation of the parrots, they all assembled together of one accord and burnt Apsethus alive.
9. And in the same way we must regard Simon, the magician, more readily comparing him with the Libyan fellow’s thus becoming a god. And if the comparison is a correct one, and the fate which the magician suffered was somewhat similar to that of Apsethus, let us endeavour to _re-teach the parrots of Simon_, that he was not Christ, who has stood, stands and will stand, but a man, the child of a woman, begotten of seed, from blood and carnal desire, like other men. And that this is the case, we shall easily demonstrate as our narrative proceeds.
Now Simon in his paraphrasing of the Law of Moses speaks with artful misunderstanding. For when Moses says “God is a fire burning and destroying,” taking in an incorrect sense what Moses said, he declares that Fire is the Universal Principle, not understanding what was said, viz., not that “God is fire,” but “a fire burning and destroying.” And thus he not only tears to pieces the Law of Moses, but also plunders from Heracleitus the obscure. And Simon states that the Universal Principle is Boundless Power, as follows:
“_This is the writing of the revelation of Voice and Name from Thought, the Great Power, the Boundless. Wherefore shall it be sealed, hidden, concealed, laid in the Dwelling of which the Universal Root is the foundation_.”
And he says that man here below, born of blood, is the Dwelling, and that the Boundless Power dwells in him, which he says is the Universal Root. And, according to Simon, the Boundless Power, Fire, is not a simple thing, as the majority who say that the four elements are simple have considered fire also to be simple, but that the Fire has a twofold nature; and of this twofold nature he calls the one side the concealed and the other the manifested, (stating) that the concealed (parts) of the Fire are hidden in the manifested, and the manifested produced by the concealed.
This is what Aristotle calls “in potentiality” and “in actuality,” and Plato the “intelligible” and “sensible.”
And the manifested side of the Fire has all things in itself which a man can perceive of things visible, or which he unconsciously fails to perceive. Whereas the concealed side is everything which one can conceive as intelligible, even though it escape sensation, or which a man fails to conceive.
And generally we may say, of all things that are, both sensible and intelligible, which he designates concealed and manifested, the Fire, which is above the heavens, is the treasure-house, as it were a great Tree, like that seen by Nabuchodonosor in vision, from which all flesh is nourished. And he considers the manifested side of the Fire to be the trunk, branches, leaves, and the bark surrounding it on the outside. All these parts of the great Tree, he says, are set on fire from the all-devouring flame of the Fire and destroyed. But the fruit of the Tree, if its imaging has been perfected and it takes the shape of itself, is placed in the storehouse, and not cast into the Fire. For the fruit, he says, is produced to be placed in the storehouse, but the husk to be committed to the Fire; that is to say, the trunk, which is generated not for its own sake but for that of the fruit.
10. And this he says is what is written in the scripture: “For the vineyard of the Lord Sabaoth is the house of Israel, and a man of Judah a well-beloved shoot.” And if a man of Judah is a well-beloved shoot, it is shown, he says, that a tree is nothing else than a man. But concerning its sundering and dispersion, he says, the scripture has sufficiently spoken, and what has been said is sufficient for the instruction of those whose imaging has been perfected, viz.: “All flesh is grass, and every glory of the flesh as the flower of grass. The grass is dried up and the flower thereof falleth, but the speech of the Lord endureth for the eternity (aeon).” Now the Speech of the Lord, he says, is the Speech engendered in the mouth and the Word (Logos), for elsewhere there is no place of production.
11. To be brief, therefore, the Fire, according to Simon, being of such a nature–both all things that are visible and invisible, and in like manner, those that sound within and those that sound aloud, those which can be numbered and those which are numbered–in the _Great Revelation_ he calls it the Perfect Intellectual, as (being) everything that can be thought of an infinite number of times, in an infinite number of ways, both as to speech, thought and action, just as Empedocles says:
“By earth earth we perceive; by water, water; by aether [divine], aether; fire by destructive fire; by friendship, friendship; and strife by bitter strife.”
12. For, he says, he considered that all the parts of the Fire, both visible and invisible, possessed perception and a portion of intelligence. The generable cosmos, therefore, was generated from the ingenerable Fire. And it commenced to be generated, he says, in the following way. The first six Roots of the Principle of generation which the generated (_sc._, cosmos) took, were from that Fire. And the Roots, he says, were generated from the Fire in pairs, and he calls these Roots Mind and Thought, Voice and Name, Reason and Reflection, and in these six Roots there was the whole of the Boundless Power together, in potentiality, but not in actuality. And this Boundless Power he says is He who has stood, stands and will stand; who, if his imaging is perfected while in the six Powers, will be, in essence, power, greatness and completeness, one and the same with the ingenerable and Boundless Power, and not one single whit inferior to that ingenerable, unchangeable and Boundless Power. But if it remain in potentiality only, and its imaging is not perfected, then it disappears and perishes, he says, just as the potentiality of grammar or geometry in a man’s mind. For potentiality when it has obtained art becomes the light of generated things, but if it does not do so an absence of art and darkness ensues, exactly as if it had not existed at all; and on the death of the man it perishes with him.
13. Of these six Powers and the seventh which is beyond the six, he calls the first pair Mind and Thought, heaven and earth; and the male (heaven) looks down from above and takes thought for its co-partner, while the earth from below receives from the heaven the intellectual fruits that come down to it and are cognate with the earth. Wherefore, he says, the Word ofttimes steadfastly contemplating the things which have been generated from Mind and Thought, that is from heaven and earth, says: “Hear, O heaven, and give ear, O earth, for the Lord hath said: I have generated sons and raised them up, but they have set me aside.”
And he who says this, he says, is the seventh Power, He who has stood, stands and will stand, for He is the cause of those good things which Moses praised and said they were very good. And (the second pair is) Voice and Name, sun and moon. And (the third) Reason and Reflection, air and water. And in all of these was blended and mingled the Great Power, the Boundless, He who has stood, as I have said.
14. And when Moses says: “(It is) in six days that God made the heaven and the earth, and on the seventh he rested from all his works,” Simon arranges it differently and thus makes himself into a god. When, therefore, they (the Simonians) say, that there are three days before the generation of the sun and moon, they mean esoterically Mind and Thought–that is to say heaven and earth–and the seventh Power, the Boundless. For these three Powers were generated before all the others. And when they say “he hath generated me before all the Aeons,” the words, he says, are used concerning the seventh Power. Now this seventh Power which was the first Power subsisting in the Boundless Power, which was generated before all the Aeons, this, he says, was the seventh Power, about which Moses says: “And the spirit of God moved over the water,” that is to say, he says, the spirit which hath all things in itself, the Image of the Boundless Power, concerning which Simon says: “_The Image from, the incorruptible Form, alone ordering all things._” For the Power which moves above the water, he says, is generated from an imperishable Form, and alone orders all things.
Now the constitution of the world being with them after this or a similar fashion, God, he says, fashioned man by taking soil from the earth. And he made him not single but double, according to the image and likeness. And the Image is the spirit moving above the water, which, if its imaging is not perfected, perishes together with the world, seeing that it remains only in potentiality and does not become in actuality. And this is the meaning of the Scripture, he says: “Lest we be condemned together with the world.” But if its imaging should be perfected and it should be generated from an “indivisible point,” as it is written in his _Revelation_, the small shall become great. And this great shall continue for the boundless and changeless eternity (_aeon_), in as much as it is no longer in the process of becoming.
How and in what manner, then, he asks, does God fashion man? In the Garden (Paradise), he thinks. We must consider the womb a Garden, he says, and that this is the “cave,” the Scripture tells us when it says: “I am he who fashioned thee in thy mother’s womb,” for he would have it written in this way. In speaking of the Garden, he says, Moses allegorically referred to the womb, if we are to believe the Word.
And, if God fashions man in his mother’s womb, that is to say in the Garden, as I have already said, the womb must be taken for the Garden, and Eden for the region (surrounding the womb), and the “river going forth from Eden to water the Garden,” for the navel. This navel, he says, is divided into four channels, for on either side of the navel two air-ducts are stretched to convey the breath, and two veins to convey blood. But when, he says, the navel going forth from the region of Eden is attached to the foetus in the epigastric regions, that which is commonly called by everyone the navel … and the two veins by which the blood flows and is carried from the Edenic region through what are called the gates of the liver, which nourish the foetus. And the air-ducts, which we said were channels for breath, embracing the bladder on either side in the region of the pelvis, are united at the great duct which is called the dorsal aorta. And thus the breath passing through the side doors towards the heart produces the movement of the embryo. For as long as the babe is being fashioned in the Garden, it neither takes nourishment through the mouth, nor breathes through the nostrils. For seeing that it is surrounded by the waters (of the womb), death would instantly supervene, if it took a breath; for it would draw after it the waters and so perish. But the whole (of the foetus) is wrapped up in an envelope, called the amnion, and is nourished through the navel and receives the essence of the breath through the dorsal duct, as I have said.
15. The river, therefore, he says, which goes out of Eden, is divided into four channels, four ducts, that is to say; into four senses of the foetus: sight, (hearing), smelling, taste and touch. For these are the only senses the child has while it is being formed in the Garden.
This, he says, is the law which Moses laid down, and in accordance with this very law each of his books was written, as the titles show. The first book is _Genesis_, and the title of the book, he says, is sufficient for a knowledge of the whole matter. For this _Genesis_, he says, is sight, which is one division of the river. For the world is perceived by sight.
The title of the second book is _Exodus_. For it was necessary for that which is born to travel through the Red Sea, and pass towards the Desert–by Red the blood is meant, he says–and taste the bitter water. For the “bitter,” he says, is the water beyond the Red Sea, inasmuch as it is the path of knowledge of painful and bitter things which we travel along in life. But when it is changed by Moses, that is to say by the Word, that bitter (water) becomes sweet. And that this is so, all may hear publicly by repeating after the poets:
“In root it was black, but like milk was the flower. Moly the Gods call it. For mortals to dig it up is difficult; but Gods can do all things.”
16. Sufficient, he says, is what is said by the Gentiles for a knowledge of the whole matter, for those who have ears for hearing. For he who tasted this fruit, he says, was not only not changed into a beast by Circe, but using the virtue of the fruit, reshaped those who had been already changed into beasts, into their former proper shape, and re-struck and recalled their type. For the true man and one beloved by that sorceress is discovered by this milk-white divine fruit, he says.
In like manner _Leviticus_, the third book, is smelling or respiration. For the whole of that book treats of sacrifices and offerings. And wherever there is a sacrifice, there arises the smell of the scent from the sacrifice owing to the incense, concerning which sweet smell the sense of smell is the test.
_Numbers_, the fourth book, signifies taste, wherein speech (or the Word) energizes. And it is so called through uttering all things in numerical order.
_Deuteronomy_, again, he says, is so entitled in reference to the sense of touch of the child which is formed. For just as the touch by contact synthesizes and confirms the sensations of the other senses, proving objects to be either hard, warm, or adhesive, so also the fifth book of the Law is the synthesis of the four books which precede it.
All ingenerables, therefore, he says, are in us in potentiality but not in actuality, like the science of grammar or geometry. And if they meet with befitting utterance and instruction, and the “bitter” is turned into the “sweet”–that is to say, spears into reaping hooks and swords into ploughshares–the Fire will not have born to it husks and stocks, but perfect fruit, perfected in its imaging, as I said above, equal and similar to the ingenerable and Boundless Power. “For now,” says he, “the axe is nigh to the roots of the tree: every tree,” he says, “that bringeth not forth good fruit, is cut down and cast into the fire.”
17. And so, according to Simon, that blessed and imperishable (principle) concealed in everything, is in potentiality, but not in actuality, which indeed is He who has stood, stands and will stand; who has stood above in the ingenerable Power, who stands below in the stream of the waters, generated in an image, who shall stand above, by the side of the blessed and Boundless Power, if the imaging be perfected. For three, he says, are they that stand, and without there being three standing Aeons, there would be no setting in order of the generable which, according to them, moves on the water, and which is fashioned according to the similitude into a perfect celestial, becoming in no whit inferior to the ingenerable Power, and this is the meaning of their saying: “_Thou and I, the one thing; before me, thou; that after thee, I._”
This, he says, is the one Power, separated into the above and below, generating itself, increasing itself, seeking itself, finding itself, its own mother, its own father, its sister, its spouse; the daughter, son, mother, and father of itself; One, the Universal Root.
And that, as he says, the beginning of the generation of things which are generated is from Fire, he understands somewhat in this fashion. Of all things of which there is generation, the beginning of the desire for their generation is from Fire. For, indeed, the desire of mutable generation is called “being on fire.” And though Fire is one, yet has it two modes of mutation. For in the man, he says, the blood, being hot and yellow–like fire when it takes form–is turned into seed, whereas in the woman the same blood (is changed) into milk. And this change in the male becomes the faculty of generating, while that in the female (becomes) nourishment for the child. This, he says, is “the flaming sword that is turned about to keep the way of the tree of life.” For the blood is turned into seed and milk; and this Power becomes mother and father, father of those that are born, and mother of those that are nourished, standing in want of nothing, sufficient unto itself. And the tree of life, he says, is guarded by the fiery sword which is turned about, (which tree), as we have said, (is) the seventh Power which proceeds from itself, contains all (in itself), and is stored in the six Powers. For were the flaming sword not turned about, that fair tree would be destroyed and perish; but if it is turned into seed and milk, that which is stored in them in potentiality, having obtained a fitting utterance, and an appointed place in which the utterance may be developed, starting as it were from the smallest spark, it will increase to all perfection, and expand, and be an infinite power, unchangeable, equal and similar to the unchangeable Aeon, which is no more generated for the boundless eternity.
18. Conformably, therefore, to this reasoning, for the foolish, Simon was a god, like that Libyan Apsethus; (a god) subject to generation and suffering, so long as he remained in potentiality, but freed from the bonds of suffering and birth, as soon as his imaging forth was accomplished, and attaining perfection he passed forth from the first two Powers, to wit heaven and earth. For Simon speaks distinctly concerning this in his _Revelation_ as follows:
“_To you, therefore, I say what I say, and write what I write. And the writing is this._
“_Of the universal Aeons there are two shoots, without beginning or end, springing from one Root, which is the Power invisible, inapprehensible Silence. Of these shoots one is manifested from above, which is the Great Power, the Universal Mind ordering all things, male, and the other, (is manifested) from below, the Great Thought, female, producing all things_.
“_Hence pairing with each other_, _they unite and manifest the Middle Distance, incomprehensible Air, without beginning or end. In this is the Father who sustains all things, and nourishes those things which have a beginning and end._
“_This is He who has stood, stands and will stand, a male-female power like the preexisting 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._
“_So he_ _was one; for having her_ _in himself, he was alone, not however first, although preexisting, but being manifested from himself to himself, he became second. Nor was he called Father before (Thought) called him Father._
“_As, therefore, producing himself by himself, he manifested to himself his own Thought, so also the Thought that was manifested did not make the Father, but contemplating him hid him–that is to say the Power–in herself, and is male-female, Power and Thought._
“_Hence they pair with each other being one, for there is no difference between Power and Thought. From the things above is discovered Power, and from those below Thought._
“_In the same manner also that which was manifested from them_ _although being one is yet found as two, the male-female having the female in itself. Thus Mind is in Thought–things inseparable from one another–which although being one are yet found as two._”
19. So then Simon by such inventions got what interpretation he pleased, not only out of the writings of Moses, but also out of those of the (pagan) poets, by falsifying them. For he gives an allegorical interpretation of the wooden horse, and Helen with the torch, and a number of other things, which he metamorphoses and weaves into fictions concerning himself and his Thought.
And he said that the latter was the “lost sheep,” who again and again abiding in women throws the Powers in the world into confusion, on account of her unsurpassable beauty; on account of which the Trojan War came to pass through her. For this Thought took up its abode in the Helen that was born just at that time, and thus when all the Powers laid claim to her, there arose faction and war among those nations to whom she was manifested.
It was thus, forsooth, that Stesichorus was deprived of sight when he abused her in his verses; and afterwards when he repented and wrote the recantation in which he sung her praises he recovered his sight.
And subsequently, when her body was changed by the Angels and lower Powers–which also, he says, made the world–she lived in a brothel in Tyre, a city of Phoenicia, where he found her on his arrival. For he professes that he had come there for the purpose of finding her for the first time, that he might deliver her from bondage. And after he had purchased her freedom he took her about with him, pretending that she was the “lost sheep,” and that he himself was the Power which is over all. Whereas the impostor having fallen in love with this strumpet, called Helen, purchased and kept her, and being ashamed to have it known by his disciples, invented this story.
And those who copy the vagabond magician Simon do like acts, and pretend that intercourse should be promiscuous, saying: “All soil is soil, and it matters not where a man sows, so long as he does sow.” Nay, they pride themselves on promiscuous intercourse, saying that this is the “perfect love,” citing the text, “the holy shall be sanctified by the … of the holy.” And they profess that they are not in the power of that which is usually considered evil, for they are redeemed. For by purchasing the freedom of Helen, he (Simon) thus offered salvation to men by knowledge peculiar to himself.
For he said that, as the Angels were misgoverning the world owing to their love of power, he had come to set things right, being metamorphosed and made like unto the Dominions, Principalities and Angels, so that he was manifested as a man although he was not really a man, and that he seemed to suffer in Judaea, although he did not really undergo it, but that he was manifested to the Jews as the Son, in Samaria as the Father, and among the other nations as the Holy Ghost, and that he permitted himself to be called by whatever name men pleased to call him. And that it was by the Angels, who made the world, that the Prophets were inspired to utter their prophecies. Wherefore they who believe on Simon and Helen pay no attention to the latter even to this day, but do everything they like, as being free, for they contend that they are saved through his (Simon’s) grace.
For (they assert that) there is no cause for punishment if a man does ill, for evil is not in nature but in institution. For, he says, the Angels who made the world, instituted what they wished, thinking by such words to enslave all who listened to them. Whereas the dissolution of the world, they (the Simonians) say, is for the ransoming of their own people.
20. And (Simon’s) disciples perform magical ceremonies and (use) incantations, and philtres and spells, and they also send what are called “dream-sending” daemons for disturbing whom they will. They also train what are called “familiars,” and have a statue of Simon in the form of Zeus, and one of Helen in the form of Athena, which they worship, calling the former Lord and the latter Lady. And if any among them on seeing the images, calls them by the name of Simon or Helen, he is cast out as one ignorant of the mysteries.
While this Simon was leading many astray by his magic rites in Samaria, he was confuted by the apostles. And being cursed, as it is written in the _Acts_, in dissatisfaction took to these schemes. And at last he travelled to Rome and again fell in with the apostles, and Peter had many encounters with him for he continued leading numbers astray by his magic. And towards the end of his career going … he settled under a plane tree and continued his teachings. And finally running the risk of exposure through the length of his stay, he said, that if he were buried alive, he would rise again on the third day. And he did actually order a grave to be dug by his disciples and told them to bury him. So they carried out his orders, but he has stopped away until the present day, for he was not the Christ.
vi. Origenes (_Contra Celsum_, i. 57; v. 62; vi. ii). Text (edidit Carol. Henric. Eduard); Lommatzsch; Berolini, 1846.
i. 57. And Simon also, the Samaritan magician, endeavoured to steal away certain by his magic. And at that time he succeeded in deceiving them, but in our own day I do not think it possible to find thirty Simonians altogether in the inhabited world. And probably I have said more than they really are. There are a very few of them round Palestine; but in the rest of the world his name is nowhere to be found in the sense of the doctrine he wished to spread broadcast concerning himself. And alongside of the reports about him, we have the account from the _Acts_. And they who say these things about him are Christians and their clear witness is that Simon was nothing divine.
v. 62. Then pouring out a quantity of our names, he (Celsus) says he knows certain Simonians who are called Heleniani, because they worship Helen or a teacher Helenus. But Celsus is ignorant that the Simonians in no way confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but they say that Simon is the Power of God, telling some marvellous stories about the fellow, who thought that if he laid claim to like powers as those which he thought Jesus laid claim to, he also would be as powerful among men as Jesus is with many.
vi. ii. For the former (Simon) pretended he was the Power of God, which is called Great, and the latter (Dositheus) that he too was the Son of God. For nowhere in the world do the Simonians any longer exist. Moreover by getting many under his influence Simon took away from his disciples the danger of death, which Christians were taught was taken away, teaching them that there was no difference between it and idolatry. And yet in the beginning the Simonians were not plotted against. For the evil daemon who plots against the teaching of Jesus, knew that no counsel of his own would be undone by the disciples of Simon.
vii. Philastrius (_De Haeresibus_, i). Text: _Patres Quarti Ecclesiae Saeculi_ (edidit D.A.B. Caillau); Paris, 1842.
Now after the passion of Christ, our Lord, and his ascension into heaven, there arose a certain Simon, the magician, a Samaritan by birth, from a village called Gittha, who having the leisure necessary for the arts of magic deceived many, saying that he was some Power of God, above all powers. Whom the Samaritans worship as the Father, and wickedly extol as the founder of their heresy, and strive to exalt him with many praises. Who having been baptized by the blessed apostles, went back from their faith, and disseminated a wicked and pernicious heresy, saying that he was transformed supposedly, that is to say like a shadow, and thus he had suffered, although, he says, he did not suffer.
And he also dared to say that the world had been made by Angels, and the Angels again had been made by certain endowed with perception from heaven, and that they (the Angels) had deceived the human race.
He asserted, moreover, that there was a certain other Thought, who descended into the world for the salvation of men; he says she was that Helen whose story is celebrated in the Trojan War by the vain-glorious poets. And the Powers, he says, led on by desire of this Helen, stirred up sedition. “For she,” he says, “arousing desire in those Powers, and appearing in the form of a woman, could not reaescend into heaven, because the Powers which were in heaven did not permit her to reascend.” Moreover, she looked for another Power, that is to say, the presence of Simon himself, which would come and free her.
The wooden horse also, which the vain-glorious poets say was in the Trojan War, he asserted was allegorical, namely, that that mechanical invention typified the ignorance of all the impious nations, although it is well known that that Helen, who was with the magician, was a prostitute from Tyre, and that this same Simon, the magician, had followed her, and together with her had practised various magic arts and committed divers crimes.
But after he had fled from the blessed Peter from the city of Jerusalem, and came to Rome, and contended there with the blessed apostle before the Emperor Nero, he was routed on every point by the speech of the blessed apostle, and being smitten by an angel came by a righteous end in order that the glaring falsity of his magic might be made known unto all men.
viii. Epiphanius (_Contra Haereses_, ii. 1-6). Text: _Opera_ (edidit G. Dindorfius); Lipsiae, 1859.
1. From the time of Christ to our own day the first heresy was that of Simon the magician, and though it was not correctly and distinctly one of the Christian name, yet it worked great havoc by the corruption it produced among Christians. This Simon was a sorcerer, and the base of his operations was at Gittha, a city in Samaria, which still exists as a village. And he deluded the Samaritan people with magical phenomena, deluding and enticing them with a bait by saying that he was the Great Power of God and had come down from above. And he told the Samaritans that he was the Father, and the Jews that he was the Son, and that in undergoing the passion he had not really done so, but that it was only in appearance. And he ingratiated himself with the apostles, was baptized by Philip with many others, and received the same rite as the rest. And all except himself awaited the arrival of the great apostles and by the laying on of their hands received the Holy Spirit, for Philip, being a deacon, had not the power of laying on of hands to grant thereby the gift of the Holy Spirit. But Simon, with wicked heart and erroneous calculations, persisted in his base and mercenary covetousness, without abandoning in any way his miserable pursuits, and offered money to Peter, the apostle, for the power of bestowing the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands, calculating that he would give little, and that for the little (he gave), by bestowing the Spirit on many, he would amass a large sum of money and make a profit.
2. So with his mind in a vile state through the devilish illusions produced by his magic, and weaving all kinds of images, and being ever ready of his own villany to show his barbaric and demoniacal tricks by means of his charms, he came forward publicly and under the cloak of the name of Christ; and pretending that he was mixing hellebore with honey, he added a poison for those whom he hunted into his mischievous illusion, under the cloak of the name of Christ, and compassed the death of those who believed. And being lewd in nature and goaded on through shame of his promises, the vagabond fabricated a corrupt allegory for those whom he had deceived. For picking up a roving woman, called Helen, who originated from the city of the Tyrians, he took her about with him, without letting people know that he was on terms of undue intimacy with her; and when he was involved in bursting disgrace because of his mistress, he started a fabulous kind of psychopompy for his disciples, and saying, forsooth, that he was the Great Power of God, he ventured to call his prostitute companion the Holy Spirit, and he says that it was on her account he descended. “And in each heaven I changed my form,” he says, “in order that I might not be perceived by my Angelic Powers, and descend to my Thought, which is she who is called Prunicus and Holy Spirit, through whom I brought into being the Angels, and the Angels brought into being the world and men.” (He claimed) that this was the Helen of old, on whose account the Trojans and Greeks went to war. And he related a myth with regard to these matters, that this Power descending from above changed its form, and that it was about this that the poets spake allegorically. And through this Power from above–which they call Prunicus, and which is called by other sects Barbero or Barbelo–displaying her beauty, she drove them to frenzy, and on this account was she sent for the despoiling of the Rulers who brought the world into being; and the Angels themselves went to war on her account; and while she experienced nothing, they set to work to mutually slaughter each other on account of the desire which she infused into them for herself. And constraining her so that she could not reaescend, each had intercourse with her in every body of womanly and female constitution–she reincarnating from female bodies into different bodies, both of the human kingdom, and of beasts and other things–in order that by means of their slaying and being slain, they might bring about a diminution of themselves through the shedding of blood, and that then she by collecting again the Power would be enabled to reaescend into heaven.
3. And she it was at that time who was possessed by the Greeks and Trojans; and that both in the night of time before the world existed, and after its existence, by the invisible Powers she had wrought things of a like nature. “And she it is who is now with me, and on her account have I descended. And she was looking for my coming. For she is the Thought, called Helen in Homer.” And it was on this account that Homer was compelled to portray her as standing on a tower, and by means of a torch revealing to the Greeks the plot of the Phrygians. And by the torch, he delineated, as I said, the manifestation of the light from above. On which account also the wooden horse in Homer was devised, which the Greeks think was made for a distinct purpose, whereas the sorcerer maintained that this is the ignorance of the Gentiles, and that like as the Phrygians when they dragged it along in ignorance drew on their own destruction, so also the Gentiles, that is to say people who are “without my wisdom,” through ignorance, draw ruin on themselves. Moreover the impostor said that Athena again was identical with what they called Thought, making use forsooth of the words of the holy apostle Paul–changing the truth into his own lie–to wit: “Put on the breastplate of faith and the helmet of salvation, and the greaves and sword and buckler”; and that all this was in the mimes of Philistion, the rogue!–words uttered by the apostle with firm reasoning and faith of holy conversation, and the power of the divine and heavenly word–turning them further into a joke and nothing more. For what does he say? That he (Philistion) arranged all these things in a mysterious manner into types of Athena. Wherefore again, in making known the woman with him whom he had taken from Tyre and who had the same name as Helen of old, he spoke as I have told you above, calling her by all those names, Thought, and Athena, and Helen and the rest. “And on her account,” he says, “I descended. And this is the ‘lost sheep’ written of in the Gospel.” Moreover, he left to his followers an image, his own presumably, and they worship it under the form of Zeus; and he left another in like manner of Helen in the guise of Athena, and his dupes worship them.
4. And he enjoined mysteries of obscenity and–to set it forth more seriously–of the sheddings of bodies, _emissionum virorom, feminarum menstruorum_, and that they should be gathered up for mysteries in a most filthy collection; that these were the mysteries of life, and of the most perfect Gnosis–a practice which anyone who has understanding from God would most naturally consider to be most filthy conduct and death rather than life. And he supposes names for the Dominions and Principalities, and says there are different heavens, and sets forth Powers for each firmament and heaven, and tricks them out with barbarous names, and says that no man can be saved in any other fashion than by learning this mystagogy, and how to offer such sacrifices to the Universal Father through these Dominions and Principalities. And he says that this world (aeon) was constructed defectively by Dominions and Principalities of evil. And he considers that corruption and destruction are of the flesh alone, but that there is a purification of souls and that, only if they are established in initiation by means of his misleading Gnosis. This is the beginning of the so-called Gnostics. And he pretended that the Law was not of God, but of the left-hand Power, and that the Prophets were not from the Good God but from this or the other Power. And he lays it down for each of them as he pleases: the Law was of one, David of another, Isaiah of another, Ezekiel again of another, and ascribes each of the Prophets to some one Dominion. And all of them were from the left-hand Power and outside the Perfection, and every one that believed in the _Old Testament_ was subject to death.
5. But this doctrine is overturned by the truth itself. For if he were the Great Power of God, and the harlot with him the Holy Spirit, as he himself says, let him say what is the name of the Power or in what word he discovered the epithet for the woman and nothing for himself at all. And how and at what time is he found at Rome successively paying back his debt, when in the midst of the city of the Romans the miserable fellow fell down and died? And in what scripture did Peter prove to him that he had neither lot nor share in the heritage of the fear of God? And could the world not have its existence in the Good God, when all the good were chosen by him? And how could it be a left-hand Power which spake in the Law and Prophets, when it has preached the coming of the Christ, the Good God, and forbids mean things? And how could there not be one divine nature and the same spirit of the _New_ and _Old Testament_, when the Lord said: “I am not come to destroy the Law, but to fulfil it”? And that He might show that the Law was declared through Him and was given through Moses, and that the grace of the Gospel has been preached through himself and his carnal presence, He said to the Jews: “If ye believe Moses, ye should also believe me; for he wrote about me.” There are many other arguments also to oppose to the contention of the sorcerer. For how will obscene things give life, if it were not a conception of daemons? When the Lord himself answers in the Gospel to those who say unto him: “If such is the case of the man and the woman, it is not good to marry.” But He said unto them: “All do not hold this; for there are eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of the heavens.” And He showed that natural abstinence from union is the gift of the kingdom of the heavens; and again in another place He says with respect to righteous marriage–which Simon of his own accord basely corrupting treats according to his own desires–“Whom God has joined together let no man put asunder.”
6. And how unaware is again the vagabond that he confutes himself by his own babbling, not knowing what he gives out? For after saying that the Angels were produced by him through his Thought, he goes on to say that he changed his form in every heaven, to escape their notice in his descent. Consequently he avoided them through fear. And how did the babbler fear the Angels whom he had himself made? And how will not the dissemination of his error be found by the intelligent to be instantly refuted by everyone, when the scripture says: “In the beginning God made the heaven and the earth”? And in unison with this word, the Lord in the Gospel says, as though to his own Father: “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth.” If, therefore, the maker of heaven and earth is naturally God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, all that the slanderer Simon says is vain; to wit, the defective production of the world by the Angels, and all the rest he has babbled about in addition to his world of Daemons, and he has deceived those who have been led away by him.
ix. Hieronymus (In _Matthaeum_, IV. xxiv. 5). Text: _S. Eusebii Hieronymi Comment._; Migne _Patrol. Grec._, VII. col. 176.
Of whom there is one Simon, a Samaritan, whom we read of in the _Acts of the Apostles_, who said he was some Great Power. And among the rest of the things written in his volumes, he proclaimed as follows:
“I am the Word of God; I am the glorious one, I the Paraclete, the Almighty, I the whole of God.”
x. Theodoretus _(Haereticarum Fabularum Compendium_, I. i.). Text: _Opera Omnia_ (ex recensione Jacobi Simondi, denuo edidit Joann. Ludov. Schulze); Halae, 1769.
Now Simon, the Samaritan magician, was the first minister of his (the Daemon’s) evil practices who arose. Who, making his base of operations from Gittha, which is a village of Samaria, and having rushed to the height of sorcery, at first persuaded many, by the wonder-working he wrought, to attend his school, and call him some divine Power. But afterwards seeing the apostles accomplishing wonder-workings that were really true and divine, and bestowing on those who came to them the grace of the Spirit, thinking himself also worthy to receive equal power from them, when great Peter detected his villainous intention, and bade him heal the incurable wounds of his mind with the drugs of repentance, he immediately returned to his former evil-doing, and leaving Samaria, since it had received the seeds of salvation, ran off to those who had not yet been tilled by the apostles, in order that, having deceived with his magic arts those who were easy to capture, and having enslaved them in the bonds of their own legendary lore, he might make the teachings of the apostles difficult to be believed.
But the divine grace armed great Peter against the fellow’s madness. For following after him, he dispelled his abominable teaching like mist and darkness, and showed forth the rays of the light of truth. But for all that the thrice wretched fellow, in spite of his public exposure, did not cease from his working against the truth, until he came to Rome, in the reign of Claudius Caesar. And he so astonished the Romans with his sorceries that he was honoured with a brazen pillar. But on the arrival of the divine Peter, he stripped him naked of his wings of deception, and finally, having challenged him to a contest in wonder-working, and having shown the difference between the divine grace and sorcery, in the presence of the assembled Romans, caused him to fall headlong from a great height by his prayers and captured the eye-witnesses of the wonder for salvation.
This (Simon) gave birth to a legend somewhat as follows. He started with supposing some Boundless Power; and he called this the Universal Root. And he said that this was Fire, which had a twofold energy, the manifested and the concealed. The world moreover was generable, and had been generated from the manifested energy of the Fire. And first from it (the manifested energy) were emanated three pairs, which he also called Roots. And the first (pair) he called Mind and Thought, and the second, Voice and Intelligence, and the third, Reason and Reflection. Whereas he called himself the Boundless Power, and (said) that he had appeared to the Jews as the Son, and to the Samaritans he had descended as the Father, and among the rest of the nations he had gone up and down as the Holy Spirit.
And having made a certain harlot, who was called Helen, live with him, he pretended that she was his first Thought, and called her the Universal Mother, (saying) that through her he had made both the Angels and Archangels; and that the world was fabricated by the Angels. Then the Angels in envy cast her down among them, for they did not wish, he says, to be called fabrications. For which cause, forsooth, they induced her into many female bodies and into that of the famous Helen, through whom the Trojan War arose.
It was on her account also, he said, that he himself had descended, to free her from the chains they had laid upon her, and to offer to men salvation through a system of knowledge peculiar to himself.
And that in his descent he had undergone transformation, so as not to be known to the Angels that manage the establishment of the world. And that he had appeared in Judaea as a man, although he was not a man, and that he had suffered, though not at all suffering, and that the Prophets were the ministers of the Angels. And he admonished those that believed on him not to pay attention to them, and not to tremble at the threats of the Law, but, as being free, to do whatever they would. For it was not by good actions, but by grace they would gain salvation.
For which cause, indeed, those of his association ventured on every kind of licentiousness, and practised every kind of magic, fabricating love philtres and spells, and all the other arts of sorcery, as though in pursuit of divine mysteries. And having prepared his (Simon’s) statue in the form of Zeus, and Helen’s in the likeness of Athena, they burn incense and pour out libations before them, and worship them as gods, calling themselves Simonians.
III.–_The Simon of the Legends_.
The so-called Clementine Literature:
A. _Recognitiones_. Text: Rufino Aquilei Presb. Interprete (curante E.G. Gersdorf); Lipsiae, 1838.
_Homiliae_. Text: _Bibliotheca Patrum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum Selecta_, Vol. I. (edidit Albertus Schwegler); Tubingensis, Stuttgartiae, 1847.
B. _Constitutiones_. Text: _SS. Patrum qui Temporibus Apostolicis Floruerunt Opera_ (edidit J.B. Cotelerius); Amsteladami, 1724.
A. The priority of the two varying accounts, in the _Homilies_ and _Recognitiones_, of the same story is in much dispute, but this is a question of no importance in the present enquiry. The latest scholarship is of the opinion that “the Clementines are unmistakably a production of the sect of the Ebionites.” The Ebionites are described as:
A sect of heretics developed from among the Judaizing Christians of apostolic times late in the first or early in the second century. They accepted Christianity only as a reformed Judaism, and believed in our Blessed Lord only as a mere natural man spiritually perfected by exact observance of the Mosaic law.
Summary. Clement, the hero of the legendary narrative, arrives at Caesarea Stratonis in Judaea, on the eve of a great controversy between Simon and the apostle Peter, and attaches himself to the latter as his disciple (H. II. xv; R.I. lxxvii). The history of Simon is told to Clement, in the presence of Peter, by Aquila and Nicetas–the adopted sons of a convert–who had associated with Simon.
Simon was the son of Antonius and Rachael, a Samaritan of Gittha, a village six schoeni from the city of Caesarea (H.I. xxii), called a village of the Gettones (R. II. vii). It was at Alexandria that Simon perfected his studies in magic, being an adherent of John, a Hemero-baptist, through whom he came to deal with religious doctrines.
John was the forerunner of Jesus, according to the method of combination or coupling. Whereas Jesus had twelve disciples, as the Sun, John, the Moon, had thirty, the number of days in a lunation, or more correctly twenty-nine and a half, one of his disciples being a woman called Helen, and a woman being reckoned as half a man in the perfect number of the Triacontad, or Pleroma of the Aeons (H.I. xxiii; R. II. viii). In the _Recognitions_ the name of Helen is given as Luna in the Latin translation of Rufinus.
Of all John’s disciples, Simon was the favourite, but on the death of his master, he was absent in Alexandria, and so Dositheus, a co-disciple, was chosen head of the school.
Simon, on his return, acquiesced in the choice, but his superior knowledge could not long remain under a bushel. One day Dositheus, becoming enraged, struck at Simon with his staff; but the staff passed through Simon’s body like smoke, and Dositheus, struck with amazement, yielded the leadership to Simon and became his disciple, and shortly afterwards died (H.I. xxiv; R. II. xiii).
Aquila and Nicetas then go on to tell how Simon had confessed to them privately his love for Luna (R. II. viii), and narrate the magic achievements possessed by Simon, of which they have had proof with their own eyes. Simon can dig through mountains, pass through rocks as if they were merely clay, cast himself from a lofty mountain and be borne gently to earth, can break his chains when in prison, and cause the doors to open of their own accord, animate statues and make the eye-witness think them men, make trees grow suddenly, pass through fire unhurt, change his face or become double-faced, or turn into a sheep or goat or serpent, make a beard grow upon a boy’s chin, fly in the air, become gold, make and unmake kings, have divine worship and honours paid him, order a sickle to go and reap of itself and it reaps ten times as much as an ordinary sickle (R. II. xi).
To this list of wonders the _Homilies_ add making stones into loaves, melting iron, the production of images of all kinds at a banquet; in his own house dishes are brought of themselves to him (H.I. xxxii). He makes spectres appear in the market place; when he walks out statues move, and shadows go before him which he says are souls of the dead (H. IV. iv).
On one occasion Aquila says he was present when Luna was seen looking out of all the windows of a tower on all sides at once (R. II. xi).
The most peculiar incident, however, is the use Simon is said to have made of the soul of a dead boy, by which he did many of his wonders. The incident is found in both accounts, but more fully in the _Homilies_ (I. xxv-xxx) than in the _Recognitions_ (II. xiii-xv), for which reason the text of the former is followed.
Simon did not stop at murder, as he confessed to Nicetas and Aquila “as a friend to friends.” In fact he separated the soul of a boy from his body to act as a confederate in his phenomena. And this is the magical _modus operandi_. “He delineates the boy on a statue which he keeps consecrated in the inner part of the house where he sleeps, and he says that after he has fashioned him out of the air by certain divine transmutations, and has sketched his form, he returns him again to the air.”
Simon explains the theory of this practice as follows:
“First of all the spirit of the man having been turned into the nature of heat draws in and absorbs, like a cupping-glass, the surrounding air; next he turns the air which comes within the envelope of spirit into water. And the air in it not being able to escape owing to the confining force of the spirit, he changed it into the nature of blood, and the blood solidifying made flesh; and so when the flesh is solidified he exhibited a man made of air and not of earth. And thus having persuaded himself of his ability to make a new man of air, he reversed the transmutations, he said, and returned him to the air.”
When the converts thought that this was the soul of the person, Simon laughed and said, that in the phenomena it was not the soul, “but some daemon who pretended to be the soul that took possession of people.”
The coming controversy with Simon is then explained by Peter to Clement to rest on certain passages of scripture. Peter admits that there are falsehoods in the scriptures, but says that it would never do to explain this to the people. These falsehoods have been permitted for certain righteous reasons (H. III. v).
“For the scriptures declare all manner of things that no one of those who enquire unthankfully may discover the truth, but (simply) what he wishes to find” (H. III. x).
In the lengthy explanation which follows, however, on the passages Simon is going to bring forward, such as the mention of a plurality of gods, and God’s hardening men’s hearts, Peter states that in reality all the passages which speak against God are spurious additions, but this is to be guarded as an esoteric secret.
Nevertheless in the public controversy which follows, this secret is made public property, in order to meet Simon’s declaration: “I say that there are many gods, but one God of all these gods, incomprehensible and unknown to all” (R. II. xxxviii); and again: “My belief is that there is a Power of immeasurable and ineffable Light, whose greatness is held to be incomprehensible, a power which the maker of the world even does not know, nor does Moses the lawgiver, nor your master Jesus” (R. II. xlix).
A point of interest to be noticed is that Peter challenges Simon to substantiate his statements by quotations either from the scriptures of the Jews, or from some they had not heard of, or from those of the Greeks, or from _his own_ scriptures (R. II. xxxviii).
Simon argues that finding the God of the Law imperfect, he concludes this is not the supreme God. After a wordy harangue of Peter, Simon is said to have been worsted by Peter’s threatening to go to Simon’s bed-chamber and question the soul of the murdered boy. Simon flies to Tyre (H.) or Tripolis (R.), and Peter determines to pursue him among the Gentiles.
The two accounts here become exceedingly contradictory and confused. According to the _Homilies_, Simon flees from Tyre to Tripolis, and thence further to Syria. The main dispute takes place at Laodicaea on the unity of God (XVI. i). Simon appeals to the _Old Testament_ to show that there are many gods (XVI. iv); shows that the scriptures contradict themselves (XVI. ix); accuses Peter of using magic and teaching doctrines different to those taught by Christ (XVII. ii-iv); asserts that Jesus is not consistent with himself (XVII. v); that the maker of the world is not the highest God (XVIII. i); and declares the Ineffable Deity (XVIII. iv). Peter of course refutes him (XVIII. xii-xiv), and Simon retires.
The last incident of interest takes place at Antioch. Simon stirs up the people against Peter by representing him as an impostor. Friends of Peter set the authorities on Simon’s track, and he has to flee. At Laodicaea he meets Faustinianus (R.), or Faustus (H.), the father of Clement, who rebukes him (H. XIX. xxiv); and so he changes the face of Faustinianus into an exact likeness of his own that he may be taken in his place (H. XX. xii; R.X. liii). Peter sends the transformed Faustinianus to Antioch, who, in the guise of Simon, makes a confession of imposture and testifies to the divine mission of Peter. Peter accordingly enters Antioch in triumph.
The story of Simon in the _Apostolic Constitutions_ is short and taken from the _Acts_, and to some extent from the Clementines, finishing up, however, with the mythical death of Simon at Rome, owing to the prayers of Peter. Simon is here said to be conducted by daemons and to have flown ([Greek: hiptato]) upwards. The details of this magical feat are given variously elsewhere.
The only point of real interest is a vague reference to Simonian literature (VI. xvi), in a passage which runs as follows:
For we know that the followers of Simon and Cleobius having composed poisonous books in the name of Christ and his disciples, carry them about for the deception of you who have loved Christ and us his servants.
So end the most important of the legends. To these, however, must be added others of a like nature of which the scene of action is laid at Rome in the time of Nero. I have not thought it worth while to refer to the original texts for these utterly apocryphal and unauthenticated stories, but simply append a very short digest from the excellent summary of Dr. Salmon, the Regius Professor of Divinity in Dublin University, as given in Smith and Wace’s _Dictionary of Christian Biography_.
The Greek _Acts of Peter and Paul_ give details of the conflict and represent both apostles as having taken part in it. Simon and Peter are each required to raise a dead body to life. Simon, by his magic, makes the head move, but as soon as he leaves the body it again becomes lifeless. Peter, however, by his prayers effects a real resurrection. Both are challenged to divine what the other is planning. Peter prepares blessed bread, and takes the emperor into the secret. Simon cannot guess what Peter has been doing, and so raises hell-hounds who rush on Peter, but the presentation of the blessed bread causes them to vanish.
In the _Acts of Nereus and Achilleus_, another version of the story is given. Simon had fastened a great dog at his door in order to prevent Peter entering. Peter by making the sign of the cross renders the dog tame towards himself, but so furious against his master Simon that the latter had to leave the city in disgrace.
Simon, however, still retains the emperor’s favour by his magic power. He pretends to permit his head to be cut off, and by the power of glamour appears to be decapitated, while the executioner really cuts off the head of a ram.
The last act of the drama is the erection of a wooden tower in the Campus Martius, and Simon is to ascend to heaven in a chariot of fire. But, through the prayers of Peter, the two daemons who were carrying him aloft let go their hold and so Simon perishes miserably.
Dr. Salmon connects this with the story, told by Suetonius and Dio Chrysostom, that Nero caused a wooden theatre to be erected in the Campus, and that a gymnast who tried to play the part of Icarus fell so near the emperor as to bespatter him with blood.
So much for these motley stories; here and there instructive, but mostly absurd. I shall now endeavour to sift out the rubbish from this patristic and legendary heap, and perhaps we shall find more of value than at present appears.
[Footnote 1: Smith’s _Dictionary of the Bible_, art. “Acts of the Apostles.”]
[Footnote 2: _Ibid._]
[Footnote 3: Lit. powers.]
[Footnote 4: The Romans.]
[Footnote 5: Claudius was the fourth of the Caesars, and reigned from A.D. 41-54.]
[Footnote 6: Lit., stood on a roof; an Eastern metaphor.]
[Footnote 7: The technical term for this transmigration, used by Pythagoreans and others, is [Greek: metangismos], the pouring of water from one vessel ([Greek: angos]) into another.]
[Footnote 8: This famous lyric poet, whose name was Tisias, and honorific title Stesichorus, was born about the middle of the seventh century B.C., in Sicily. The story of his being deprived of sight by Castor and Pollux for defaming their sister Helen is mentioned by many classical writers. The most familiar quotation is the Horatian (_Ep._ xvii. 42-44):
Infamis Helenae Castor offensus vicem Fraterque magni Castoris victi prece.
Adempta vati redidere lumina.
[Footnote 9: That is to say, the heretics.]
[Footnote 10: In a preceding part of the book against the “Magicians.”]
[Footnote 11: _Deuteronomy_, iv. 24.]
[Footnote 12: Heracleitus of Ephesus flourished about the end of the sixth century B.C. He was named the obscure from the difficulty of his writings.]
[Footnote 13: I put the few direct quotations we have from Simon in italics.]
[Footnote 14: _Isaiah_, v. 7.]
[Footnote 15: _I Peter_, i. 24.]
[Footnote 16: Empedocles of Agrigentum, in Sicily, flourished about B.C. 444.]
[Footnote 17: [Greek: phronaesis], consciousness?]
[Footnote 18: Syzygies.]
[Footnote 19: _Isaiah_, i. 2.]
[Footnote 20: _I Corinth._, xi. 32.]
[Footnote 21: [Greek: to maeketi ginomenon.]]
[Footnote 22: See _Jeremiah_, i. 5.]
[Footnote 23: _Genesis_, ii, 10.]
[Footnote 24: Veins and arteries are said not to have been distinguished by ancient physiologists.]
[Footnote 25: A lacuna unfortunately occurs here in the text. The missing words probably identified “that which is commonly called by everyone the navel” with the umbilical cord.]
[Footnote 26: This is omitted by Miller in the first Oxford edition.]
[Footnote 27: _Odyssey_, x. 304, _seqq._]
[Footnote 28: [Greek: logos].]
[Footnote 29: Cf. _Isaiah_, ii. 4.]
[Footnote 30: Cf. _Luke_, iii. 9.]
[Footnote 31: Or adorning.]
[Footnote 32: _Genesis_, iii. 24.]
[Footnote 33: [Greek: logos]; also reason.]
[Footnote 34: [Greek: antistoichountes]; used in Xenophon (_Ana._ v. 4, 12) of two bands of dancers facing each other in rows or pairs.]
[Footnote 35: He who has stood, stands and will stand.]
[Footnote 36: Thought.]
[Footnote 37: The Middle Distance.]
[Footnote 38: There is a lacuna in the text here.]
[Footnote 39: [Greek: dia taes idias epignoseos.]]
[Footnote 40: Undergo the passion.]
[Footnote 41: [Greek: paredrous] C.W. King calls these “Assessors.” (_The Gnostics and their Remains_, p. 70.)]
[Footnote 42: This is presumably meant for a grim patristic joke.]
[Footnote 43: A medicinal drug used by the ancients, especially as a specific against madness.]
[Footnote 44: The conducting of souls to or from the invisible world.]
[Footnote 45: [Greek: prounikos: prouneikos] is one who bears burdens, a carrier; in a bad sense it means lewd.]
[Footnote 46: Or the conception (of the mind).]
[Footnote 47: Cf. 1 _Thess_., v. 8.]
[Footnote 48: A famous actor and mime writer who flourished in the time of Augustus (circa A.D. 7); there are extant some doubtful fragments of Philistion containing moral sentiments from the comic poets.]
[Footnote 49: [Greek: plaeroma]]
[Footnote 50: Scripture.]
[Footnote 51: _Matth._, v. 17.]
[Footnote 52: _John_, v. 46, 47.]
[Footnote 53: _Matth._, xix. 10-12.]
[Footnote 54: _Matth._, xix. 6.]
[Footnote 55: [Greek _archae_] the same word is translated “dominion” when applied to the aeons of Simon.]
[Footnote 56: _Genesis_, i. 1.]
[Footnote 57: _Matth._, xi. 25.]
[Footnote 58: “The all-evil Daemon, the avenger of men,” of the Prologue.]
[Footnote 59: Mythologies.]
[Footnote 60: “Rootage,” rather, to coin a word. [Greek: rizoma] must be distinguished from [Greek: riza], a root, the word used a few sentences later.]
[Footnote 61: _Dictionary of Christian Biography_ (Ed. Smith and Wace), art. “Clementine Literature,” I. 575.]
[Footnote 62: _Dictionary of Sects, Heresies_, etc. (Ed. Blunt), art. “Ebionites.”]
[Footnote 63: The two accounts are combined in the following digest, and in the references H. stands for the _Homiles_ and R. for the _Recognitions_.]
[Footnote 64: Some twenty-three miles.]
[Footnote 65: We have little information of the Hemero-baptists, or Day-baptists. They are said to have been a sect of the Jews and to have been so called for daily performing certain ceremonial ablutions (Epiph., _Contra Haer._, I. 17). It is conjectured that they were a sect of the Pharisees who agreed with the Sadducees in denying the resurrection. _The Apostolic Constitutions_ (VI. vii) tell us of the Hemero-baptists, that “unless they wash themselves every day they do not eat, nor will they use a bed, dish, bowl, cup, or seat, unless they have purified it with water.”]
[Footnote 66: [Greek: kata ton taes suzugias logon.]]
[Footnote 67: This has led to the conjecture that the translation was made from the false reading Selene instead of Helene, while Bauer has used it to support his theory that Justin and those who have followed him confused the Phoenician worship of solar and lunar divinities of similar names with the worship of Simon and Helen.]
[Footnote 68: This is not to be confused with the Dositheus of Origen, who claimed to be a Christ, says Matter (_Histoire Critique du Gnosticisme_, Tom. i. p. 218, n. 1st. ed., 1828).]
[Footnote 69: An elemental.]
[Footnote 70: [Greek: pataer en aporraetois].]
[Footnote 71: Hegesippus (_De Bello Judaico_, iii. 2), Abdias (_Hist._, i, towards the end), and Maximus Taurinensis (_Patr. VI. Synodi ad Imp. Constant._, Act. 18), say that Simon flew like Icarus; whereas in Arnobius (_Contra Gentes_, ii) and the Arabic Preface to Council of Nicaea there is talk of a chariot of fire, or a car that he had constructed.]
[Footnote 72: Cotelerius in a note (i. 347, 348) refers the reader to the passages in the _Recognitions_ and in Jerome’s _Commentary on Matthew_, which I have already quoted. He also says that the author of the book, _De Divinis Nominibus_ (C. 6), speaks of “the controversial sentences of Simon” ([Greek: Simonos antirraetikoi logoi]). The author is the Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, and I shall quote later on some of these sentences, though from a very uncertain source. Cotelerius also refers to the Arabic Preface to the Nicaean Council. The text referred to will be found in the Latin translation of Abrahamus Echellensis, given in Labbe’s _Concilia (Sacrorum Conciliorum Nova Collectio_, edd. Phil. Labbaeus et Gabr. Cossartius, S.J., Florentiae, 1759, Tom. ii, p. 1057, col. 1), and runs as follows:
“Those traitors (the Simonians) fabricated for themselves a gospel, which they divided into four books, and called it the ‘Book of the Four Angles and Points of the World.’ All pursue magic zealously, and defend it, wearing red and rose-coloured threads round the neck in sign of a compact and treaty entered into with the devil their seducer.”
As to the books of the followers of Cleobius we have no further information.]
[Footnote 73: A.D. 54-68.]
[Footnote 74: Art. “Simon Magus,” Vol. IV. p. 686.]
[Footnote 75: Bolland, _Acta SS._ May iii. 9.]
[Footnote 76: vi. 12.]
[Footnote 77: _Orat._ xxi. 9.]
A REVIEW OF AUTHORITIES.
The student will at once perceive that though the Simon of the _Acts_ and the Simon of the fathers both retain the two features of the possession of magical power and of collision with Peter, the tone of the narratives is entirely different. Though the apostles are naturally shown as rejecting with indignation the pecuniary offer of the thaumaturge, they display no hate for his personality, whereas the fathers depict him as the vilest of impostors and charlatans and hold him up to universal execration. The incident of Simon’s offering money to Peter is admittedly taken by the fathers from this account, and therefore their repetition in no way corroborates the story. Hence its authenticity rests entirely with the writer of the _Acts_, for Justin, who was a native of Samaria, does not mention it. As the _Acts_ are not quoted from prior to A.D. 177, and their writer is only traditionally claimed to be Luke, we may safely consider ourselves in the domain of legend and not of history.
The same may be said of all the incidents of Simon’s career; they pertain to the region of fable and probably owe their creation to the Patristic and Simonian controversies of later ages.
The Simon of Justin gives us the birthplace of Simon as at Gitta, and the rest of the fathers follow suit with variation of the name. Gitta, Gittha, Gittoi, Gitthoi, Gitto, Gitton, Gitteh, so run the variants. This, however, is a matter of no great importance, and the little burg is said to-day to be called Gitthoi.
The statement of Justin as to the statue of Simon at Rome with the inscription “SIMONI DEO SANCTO” has been called in question by every scholar since the discovery in 1574 of a large marble fragment in the island of the Tiber bearing the inscription “SEMONI SANCO DEO FIDIO,” a Sabine God. A few, however, think that Justin could not have made so glaring a mistake in writing to the Romans, and that if it were a mistake Irenaeus would not have copied it. The coincidence, however, is too striking to bear any other interpretation than that perhaps some ignorant controversialist had endeavoured to give the legend a historical appearance, and that Justin had lent a too ready ear to him. It is also to be noticed that Justin tells us that nearly all the Samaritans were Simonians.
We next come to the Simon of Irenaeus which, owing to many similarities, is supposed by scholars to have been taken from Justin’s account, if not from the _Apology_, at any rate from Justin’s lost work on heresies which he speaks of in the _Apology_. Or it may be that both borrowed from some common source now lost to us.
The story of Helen is here for the first time given. Whether or not there was a Helen we shall probably never know. The “lost sheep” was a necessity of every Gnostic system, which taught the descent of the soul into matter. By whatever name called, whether Sophia, Acamoth, Prunicus, Barbelo, the glyph of the Magdalene, out of whom seven devils are cast, has yet to be understood, and the mystery of the Christ and the seven aeons, churches or assemblies (_ecclesiae_), in every man will not be without significance to every student of Theosophy. These data are common to all Gnostic aeonology.
If it is argued that Simon was the first inventor of this aeonology, it is astonishing that his name and that of Helen should not have had some recognition in the succeeding systems. If, on the contrary, it is maintained that he used existing materials for his system, and explained away his improper connection with Helen by an adaptation of the Sophia-mythos, it is difficult to understand how such a palpable absurdity could have gained any credence among such cultured adherents as the Simonians evidently were. In either case the Gnostic tradition is shown to be pre-Christian. Every initiated Gnostic, however, must have known that the mythos referred to the World-Soul in the Cosmos and the Soul in man.
The accounts of the _Acts_ and of Justin and Irenaeus are so confusing that it has been supposed that two Simons are referred to. For if he claimed to be a reincarnation of Jesus, appearing in Jerusalem as the Son, he could not have been contemporary with the apostles. It follows, therefore, that either he made no such claim; or if he made the claim, Justin and Irenaeus had such vague information that they confused him with the Simon of the _Acts_; or that the supposition is not well-founded, and Simon was simply inculcating the esoteric doctrine of the various manifestations or descents of one and the same Christ principle.
The Simon of Tertullian again is clearly taken from Irenaeus, as the critics are agreed. “Tertullian evidently knows no more than he read in Irenaeus,” says Dr. Salmon.
It is only when we come to the Simon of the _Philosophumena_ that we feel on any safe ground. The prior part of it is especially precious on account of the quotations from _The Great Revelation_ ([Greek: hae megalae apophasis]) which we hear of from no other source. The author of _Philosophumena_, whoever he was, evidently had access to some of the writings of the Simonians, and here at last we have arrived at any thing of real value in our rubbish heap.
It was not until the year 1842 that Minoides Mynas brought to Paris from Mount Athos, on his return from a commission given him by the French Government, a fourteenth-century MS. in a mutilated condition. This was the MS. of our _Philosophumena_ which is supposed to have been the work of Hippolytus. The authorship, however, is still uncertain, as will appear by what will be said about the Simon of Epiphanius and Philaster.
The latter part of the section on Simon in the _Philosophumena_ is not so important, and is undoubtedly taken from Irenaeus or from the anti-heretical treatise of Justin, or from the source from which both these fathers drew. The account of the death of Simon, however, shows that the author was not Hippolytus from whose lost work Epiphanius and Philaster are proved by Lipsius to have taken their accounts.
The Simon of Origen gives us no new information, except as to the small number of the Simonians. But like other data in his controversial writings against the Gnostic philosopher Celsus we can place little reliance on his statement, for Eusebius Pamphyli writing in A.D. 324-5, a century afterwards, speaks of the Simonians as still considerable in numbers.
The Simon of Epiphanius and Philaster leads us to speak of a remarkable feat of scholarship performed by R.A. Lipsius, the learned professor of divinity in the university of Jena. From their accounts he has reconstructed to some extent a lost work of Hippolytus against heresies of which a description was given by Photius. This treatise was founded on certain discourses of Irenaeus. By comparing Philaster, Epiphanius, and the Pseudo-Tertullian, he recovers Hippolytus, and by comparing his restored Hippolytus with Irenaeus he infers a common authority, probably the lost work of Justin Martyr, or, may we suggest, as remarked above, the work from which Justin got his information.
The Simon of Theodoret differs from that of his predecessor only in one or two important details of the aeonology, a fact that has presumably led Matter to suppose that he has introduced some later Gnostic ideas or confused the teachings of the later Simonians with those of Simon.
The Simon of the legends is so entirely outside any historical criticism, and the stories gleaned from the _Homilies_ and _Recognitions_ are so evidently fabrications–most probably added to the doctrinal narrative at a later date–and so obviously the stock-in-trade legends of magic, that not a solitary scholar supports their authenticity. Probably one of the reasons for this is the strong Ebionism of the narratives, which is by no means palatable to the orthodox taste. In this connection the following table of the Ebionite scheme of emanation may be of interest:
(The One Being, the Principle of all things.) ______________________________________^___________________________________ / \ SPIRIT. MATTER.
| The Four elements. | (This mixture produces) | |
THE SON. THE DEVIL. (The Leader of the future cycle.) (The leader of the present cycle.) | |
GREAT THINGS. LITTLE THINGS. (Heaven, light, life, etc.) (Earth, fire, death, etc.) | |
ADAM. EVE. (Truth.) (Error.)
\________________ _______________/ \ /
(The union of Spirit and Body, of Truth and Error.) ________________/ \_______________ / \
INFERIOR MEN. SUPERIOR MEN. Ishmael. Isaac.
Esau. Jacob. Aaron. Moses.
John the Baptist. Jesus. Antichrist. Christ. \_____________________________________ ___________________________________/ V
There remains but to mention the curious theory of Bauer and the Tubingen school. It is now established by recent theological criticism that the Clementine writings were the work of some member or members of the Elkesaites, a sect of the Ebionites, and that they were written at Rome somewhere in the third century. The Elkessaeans or Elkesaites founded their creed on a book called _Elkesai_, which purported to be an angelic revelation and which was remarkable for its hostility to the apostle Paul. As the _Recognitions_ contain much anti-Paulinism, Bauer and his school not only pointed out the Ebionite source of the Clementine literature, but also put forward the theory that whenever Simon Magus is mentioned Paul is intended; and that the narrative of the _Acts_ and the legends simply tell the tale of the jealousy of the elder apostles to Paul, and their attempt to keep him from the fullest enjoyment of apostolic privileges. But the latest scholarship shakes its head gravely at the theory, and however bitter controversialists the anti-Paulinists may have been, it is not likely that they would have gone so far out of their way to vent their feelings in so grotesque a fashion.
In conclusion of this Part let us take a general review of our authorities with regard to the life of Simon and the immoral practices attributed to his followers, including a few words of notice on the lost Simonian literature, and reserving the explanation of his system and some notice of magical practices for Part III.
I have distinguished the Simon of the fathers from the Simon of the legends, as to biography, “by convention” and not “by nature,” as the Simonians would say, for the one and the other is equally on a mythical basis. It is easy to understand that the rejection of the Simon of the legends is a logical necessity for those who have to repudiate the Ebionite Clementines. Admit the authenticity of the narrative as regards Simon, and the authenticity of the other incidents about John the Baptist and Peter would have to be acknowledged; but this would never do, so Simon escapes from the clutches of his orthodox opponents as far as this count is concerned.
But the biographical incidents in the fathers are of a similar nature precisely to those in the Clementines, and their sources of information are so vague and unreliable, and at such a distance from the time of their supposed occurrence, that we have every reason to place them in the same category with the Clementine legends. Therefore, whether we reject the evidence or accept it, we must reject both accounts or accept both. To reject the one and accept the other is a prejudice that a partisan may be guilty of, but a position which no unbiassed enquirer can with justice take up.
The legends, however, may find some excuse when it is remembered that they were current in a period when the metal of religious controversy was glowing at white heat. Orthodox Christians had their ears still tingling with the echoing of countless accusations of the foulest nature to which they had been subjected. Not a crime that was known or could be imagined that had not been brought against them; they naturally, therefore, returned the compliment when they could do so with safety, and though in these more peaceful and tolerant days much as we may regret the flinging backwards and forwards of such vile accusations, we may still find some excuse for it in the passionate enthusiasm of the times, always, however, remembering that the readiest in accusation and in putting the worst construction on the actions of others, is generally one who unconsciously brings a public accusation against his own lower nature.
This has been well noticed by Matter, who writes as follows:
“There is nothing so impure,” says Eusebius, “and one cannot imagine anything so criminal, but the sect of the Simonians goes far beyond it.”
The bolt of Eusebius is strong; it is even too strong; for one can imagine nothing that goes beyond the excess of criminality; and Eusebius, belonging to a community who were just escaping from punishments into which accusations no less grave had caused them to be dragged, should not perhaps have allowed himself to speak as he does. But man is made thus; he pursues when he ceases to be pursued.
All societies that have secret rites and a public position, as was the case with all the early communities of Christians and Gnostics, have had like accusations brought against them. The communities of the Simonians and Christians may or may not have been impure, it is now impossible to pronounce a positive opinion. The important point to notice is that the accusations being identical and the evidence or want of evidence the same, condemnation or acquittal must be meted out to both; and that if one is condemned and the other acquitted, the judgment will stand condemned as biassed, and therefore be set aside by those who prefer truth to prejudice.
So eager were the fathers to discredit Simon that they contradict themselves in the most flagrant fashion on many important points. On the one hand we hear that Samaria received the seed of the Word from the apostles and Simon in despair had to flee, on the other hand Justin, a native of Samaria, tells us, a century after this supposed event, that nearly all the Samaritans are Simonians. The accounts of Simon’s death again are contradictory; if Simon perished so miserably at Rome, it is the reverse of probable that the Romans would have set up a statue in his honour. But, indeed, it is a somewhat thankless task to criticize such manifest inventions; we know the source of their inspiration, and we know the fertility of the religious imagination, especially in matters of controversy, and this is a sufficient sieve wherewith to sift them out of our heap.
I must now say a few words on Simonian literature of which the only geniune specimens we can in any way be certain are the quotations from the _Apophasis_ of Simon in the text of the _Philosophumena_.
That there was a body of Simonian scriptures is undoubtedly true, as may be seen from the passages we have quoted from the _Recognitions_,