4 January, 2008
As is clear from the Christian stories about Simon Magus, he was not popular amongst the followers of Jesus. But who was Simon Magus, and why did he attract such ire? As with much else about the first century CE we do not have many details, but a story can be gleamed out of what is written about Simon Magus by the early Church Fathers. Simon was a disciple, one of thirty, who followed that great teacher, John the Baptist. John the Baptist appears behind numerous religions that formed in the first century, Simonism, Christianity, Dositheanism, each of which has their founder member having been blessed by John. Even today the Mandaeans of southern Iraq hold John the Baptist up as a true prophet, and Jesus as a false one.
The tale of John’s birth as noted by the Mandaeans is full of prophecy. The priests of Jerusalem had troubled dreams: A star appeared and paused above Elizabeth (wife of the priest Zachariah). Fire blazed up from the ashes around Zachariah. Three lights lit up the heavens, the sun plunged, the lights rose. Great earthquakes rocked the land. A star swooped down into Judea, the sun appeared at night, the moon in the middle of the day. Eventually the priest Luke interpreted the dreams to mean that Elizabeth would give birth to a child of heaven. Zachariah poo-poohed the notion saying that Elizabeth was barren and besides, they hadn’t slept together for twenty-two, long, cold, wrist-enhancing years. But Zachariah was wrong (he should have known how often barren women gave birth in those days), and Elizabeth had a son: John the Baptist.
John taught a fairly gnostic philosophy, and so had thirty disciples (to match the number of Aeons, more of which later). He preached of the newly revealed Father, a God of love who would accept all his children should they be able to join him in the afterlife, and escape the reincarnating cycle of life. John was killed by Herod Antipas when the prophet condemned the King’s marriage to his dead brother’s wife. Not long after some of his disciples preached that John had returned from the dead and ascended to heaven.
His most noted disciple, Simon Magus, was in Egypt at the time and hurried back to the Jordan. When he arrived back at the old haunting grounds of the ministry he found that another of the disciples, Dositheus, had taken command of the baptists. Simon watched Dositheus teach the others for some time before saying to the new leader “You do not teach purely, or perfectly. But this is not the result of ill intention, merely of ignorance”. Dositheus grew angry with Simon and attacked the Magus with an iron rod. But the rod passed through Simon as though it was made of smoke. Dositheus was amazed an fell to his knees. “Are you the Standing One? The one who will Stand in the latter days?” Simon replied, “Here I Stand. And I can do other wonders too.”
Simon took control of the group and started to preach to more people. He told the secrets to others who arrived, saving the most important teachings for his inner circle. Eventually the authorities rounded upon him and crucified him. Or at least, so it appeared, for he showed up not much later in the port city of Tyre. “Those fools, I only seemed to have perished, but my true nature can never die.”
It was in Tyre that Simon Magus found Helen. She was a prostitute of low birth, not even a temple prostitute. But Simon talked to her and grew to love her. The two of them were seen by many and their followers watched this blessed couple as they revealed more secrets. Simon revealed that this Helen was in fact, Ennoia, the Thought of God, as Simon Magus was the Mind of God. For generations she had suffered and caused torments around the world, being reborn in different bodies that were doomed to live an unpleasant life. A thousand years ago she had been Helen of Troy and started that mighty conflict between the Trojans and the Greeks. Today she was a lowly prostitute who had been found by a magician.
Now that they were united, the trinity was ready to become one again. The Father was, as always, in the realm beyond: the platonic ideal world of the Aeons. Simon Magus, He Who Stands, was the Son who had descended into human form in order to rescue the third of the trinity: Ennoia, also known as Wisdom. The gnostics believed that this world is an illusion, a pale reflection of the true world. To escape it’s bounds was to have your spirit leave this world, and so Simon and Helen left the world together, dying at the same time. Through their deaths, and their spirits ascension to the Heavens, they showed the way for everyone else to follow.
Alas for them, no one did.