The Book of Mary

 

Simon Magus

Now early in the Jesus movement there was a follower of Mary called Simon, a man educated in the Greek manner.  Maybe this Simon is the same as mentioned in the gospels as one of the Twelve, the Simon who later became confused with Peter.  Maybe he was not. Either way this Simon became ripe for the harvest, and was taken down unto the resurrection by Mary. And from the resurrection he had a wife and sister whom he called Helena.  And Helena was glorious with the light.

So Mary seeing that Simon was full of the spirit sent him to Samaria to preach the good news.  And there Simon taught the people about Jesus and he taught them even more about Helena and through Helena about Achamoth. For to him it was Helena that was the divine one, the spring of beauty that quenches all thirst. And in doing this he was not disobeying Mary.  For Mary did not instruct her disciples to teach this and not that. Nor was any held as master above the rest, for all who had the spirit were held equal and the only truth recognised by any of them was the truth of god as revealed by their spirit.

And Simon was full of the spirit as he preached and the Samaritans held him as a great one.  And this is what Simon spoke to them.

“And the father came from the light that filled the all. And this one, the father was called the unbegotten, for he was born from none but came into being, motherless and fatherless from the light.”

Thus it says in the Gospel of the Twin:

Jesus said: When you see him who was not born of woman, throw yourselves down upon your face and worship him. He is your Father.

Simon continued. “The father was at the beginning before time, and is now, and will be at the end after time.  He is one who stood, the one who stands and the one who will stand and all three are one. For the beginning is the same as the end and they are the same as now and all times exist as a simultaneity.”

And some of the learned follows of Simon asked “But how can all times exist at the same time.  Is there not a future which is dark and unknown?”

“Time is an illusion of this world, an illusion of this age. In this world we are trapped by time – to our worldly self the future is a blank unknown.  But to the spirit that exists in the father there is no time.  The beginning and the end are one.  For this reason the spirit can bring to us things of the future which men call the gift of prophecy.  Yet the veil is never completely rendered until our bodies die and we are only spirit.”

“In this world we know that one thing does follow another. So we may change things that are in the future but not the past. But all such change is an illusion.  For all things, past and future do exist in the father. So if you are one who stands then you will have stood and you will stand.  And if you are not one who stands then you will never have stood and will never stand. For all potentially are standing ones yet few indeed are those who do actually stand.”

And they asked him “How do we become standing ones like you!”

And he said to them, “Through the resurrection and the life, through the gift of the spirit. Then you shall be standing ones!  You are all children of the father. And being children of the father you are the father.  You are gods.”

And Simon’s disciples murmured.  “How can this be – we are gods! How can we be the Father!  Surely he blasphemes!”

But Simon unperturbed went on. “You too are like the father for he made you in his image. The spirit is a single point yet it opens up into the infinity of the father.  The spirit is the father and you who have the spirit are the father!”

The Samaritans called Simon the standing one.  The Gospel of the Twin refers to how few will be the standing ones:

Jesus said: I shall choose you, one out of a thousand, and two out of ten thousand, and they shall stand as a single one.

In the Gospel of the Twin are references to ‘he who stood, stands and will stand’ in two sayings.

For there are many first who shall be last, and they shall become a single one.

The first is the ‘he who stood’, the last is ‘he who will stand’.  The first becomes the last if the person is united with their spirit to become a ‘standing one’. As a standing one the circle is complete and they become single  - ‘he who stood, stands and will stand’.  Also -

The disciples said to Jesus: Tell us how our end shall be. Jesus said: Have you then discovered the beginning, that you seek after the end? For where the beginning is, there shall the end be. Blessed is he who shall stand in the beginning, and he shall know the end and shall not taste of death.

Here again is the circle – the end is the same as the beginning. A person who stands in the beginning ‘he who stood’ knows the end – he is the same as ‘he who will stand’.     

Now the author of the gospel of Mathew had the saying in front of him from The Gospel of the Twin - For there are many first who shall be last, and they shall become a single one. ‘What does this mean?’ he asked himself. Lacking spiritual discernment he came to the conclusion that those who are the first to be converted will be the last in the kingdom of heaven but that all, first or last, shall eventually be united. So he made up a parable about a man hiring labourers for his vineyard.  Those who came in the third hour are paid the same as those who came in the eleventh hour. And at the end of the day the workers are paid in reverse with the latecomers being rewarded first. But the story is absurd for no vineyard owner would pay men the same for doing one hour of work as for doing several hours of work.  And the parable does not explain the conclusion:

So the last shall be first, and the first last, for many are called, and few are chosen. (Mathew 20) 

For even if all are paid the same there is no reason why the latecomers should be paid first.  The author of Mathew does not understand the saying he is reporting. The chosen are those of the spirit whereas the called are those who believe. The statement ‘the last shall be first and the first last’ applies to the chosen. They exist before time and they exist after time and the first existence is the same as the last existence. As it says in the Gospel of the Twin:

Blessed is he who was before he came into being.

Paul also is familiar with the concept of ‘he who stands’. In his epistles he is constantly using the word ‘stand’ to refer to the possession of grace of faith:

- this grace in which we have stood (Romans 5)
- to his own master he doth stand or fall; and he shall be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. (Romans 14)
- so that he who is thinking to stand -- let him observe, lest he fall. (1 Corinthians 10)
- Watch you, stand in the faith; be men, be strong;  (1 Corinthians 16)
- for by the faith you stand. (2 Corinthians 1)
- stand, and be not held fast again by a yoke of servitude (Galatians 5)
- that you stand fast in one spirit (Philippians 1)
- so stand you in the Lord (Philippians 4)
- that you may stand perfect and made full in all the will of God (Colossians 4)
- because now we live, if you may stand fast in the Lord (Thessalonians 3)

One revealing use of these phases is immediately before his account of the resurrection appearances:    

 And I make known to you, brethren, the good news that I proclaimed to you, which also you did receive, in which also you have stood, (1 Corinthians 15) …

And Simon continued to teach to his disciples. “I tell you a secret.  The father is not one fold but two fold, a hermaphrodite that contains both male and female.  And in the beginning the father was neither male nor female, But one part of the father, Achamoth , the female principle, splitting from the father perceived him as being male. Thus we the sons and daughters of Achamoth see the father as male.  Yet in his true nature Achamoth and he are one and they are the parents.”  

“And you too, who have been made in the image of the father, have been made hermaphrodite. For in truth none of you, neither man nor woman, is male or female.  But those of you being born men in this world, your male nature separating from your spiritual body, perceives that spiritual body as being female.  And those of you being born women, your female nature separating from your spiritual body, perceives that spiritual body as being male.”

“But when male and female, higher and lower, are united in the bridal chamber, man and woman become again whole and hermaphrodite.”

Hyppolitus also records how Simon believed that God formed man with a twofold male-female nature:

And He formed him not uncompounded, but twofold, according to (His own) image and likeness. Now the image is the Spirit that is wafted over the water; and whosoever is not fashioned into a figure of this, will perish with the world, inasmuch as he continues only potentially, and does [not] exist actually.

The spirit is in the image of God and must be recovered for a person to find eternal life – to exist actually rather than potentially.  God the father is himself twofold in nature being hermaphrodite:

But in this is a father who sustains all things, and nourishes things that have beginning and end. This is he who stood, stands, and will stand, being an hermaphrodite power according to the pre-existent indefinite power, which has neither beginning nor end.

The concept of entering the kingdom of god by returning to hermaphrodite wholeness is the meaning of a saying in the Gospel of the Twin:

 When you make the two one, and when you make the inside as the outside, and the outside as the inside, and the upper as the lower; and when you make the male and the female into a single one, that the male be not male and the female female; when you make eyes in the place of an eye, and a hand in place of a hand, and a foot in place of a foot, an image in place of an image, then shall you enter the kingdom.

The author of Mark when writing his gospel considered this saying of the Gospel of the Twin. He could not understand it and his version is highly confused and quite absurd.  He interpreted it as meaning that a person is better to sacrifice an eye, hand or foot in order to enter the kingdom:

And if your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into the life maimed, than having two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire, where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.
And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into the life lame, than having two feet to be cast into hell, to the unquenchable fire, where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.
And if your eye may cause you to stumble, cast it out; it is better to enter one-eyed into the kingdom of god, than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire, where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.  (Mark 9)

Mark also has a miracle story in which a man with a withered hand has his hand cured and made whole. This is another example of a ‘hand in place of hand’.

Now Simon told the Samaritans many stories about Jesus, and about Mary, and Peter. Yet his followers always held himself, Simon as their leader.  And many of these stories, which Simon had told them, became confused with the person of Simon himself and with his spirit Helena.  And many said he was the same as the mysterious Peter who was revered by all but whom no one seemed to have met except those initiated into the inner mysteries and who would never talk about him. Maybe this idea that Simon was Peter spread from the Samaritans to the Jews and later, after both Simon and Mary were dead, gave rise among some of the Jewish followers of Jesus to the belief that Peter had been the name given to the disciple Simon, a belief that the author of Mark seized upon when writing his gospel. 

After Simon died the Samaritans began to confuse him with Jesus. And many remembered the words of Simon, how he had said that the standing one was the same as the father. As Simon was called “the standing one” they thought that the father had come down to Samaria in the form of Simon just as the son had descended to the Jews in the form of Jesus. For those of Samaria and Judea always despised each other and the Samaritans longed to outdo the Jews.  Because of these beliefs the Samaritan followers of Simon came into enmity with the other followers of Jesus. And no longer did the Samaritans say that Simon was the same as Peter, but they took the stories about Jesus and Mary and Peter and applied them to Simon and Helena.

Over time the other followers of Jesus completely forgot that Simon the Samaritan was a disciple of Mary and maybe the same as Simon Peter. Instead he became the evil magician Simon Magus. In the Acts of the Apostles Simon Magus is a magician who attempts to buy the power of giving the Holy Spirit from Peter.  He is introduced as doing magical deeds in Samaria:

And a certain man, by name Simon, was in the city before [Phillip] using magic, and amazing the nation of Samaria, saying himself to be a certain great one, to whom they all gave heed, from small unto great, saying, `This one is the great power of God;'  and they gave heed to him because of his having for a long time amazed them with deeds of magic.  (Acts 8)

He is converted by Phillip and baptised. When John and Peter visit Samaria he is amazed to see them give the spirit to others by the laying on of hands.  Simon brings money to Peter and asks him to give him the power of laying on of hands so that he can give the spirit to whomever he wills. But Peter spurns his offer and tells him to repent his evil ways.

The story as it stands is fiction but it records the conflict that exists between the followers of Simon and the other followers of Jesus.  Even to his enemies Simon was esteemed a powerful figure.  There was a recollection that he was able to give the spirit to people in large numbers.  The Acts tries to refute this reputation by saying, “no he did not really have this power but just tried to buy it from Peter.”

The pseudo-Clementine writings preserve a recollection that Simon was a powerful harvester in a curious story:

In short,' says he [Simon Magus], 'once when my mother Rachel ordered me to go to the field to reap, and I saw a sickle lying, I ordered it to go and reap; and it reaped ten times more than the others. Lately, I produced many new sprouts from the earth, and made them bear leaves and produce fruit in a moment; and the nearest mountain I successfully bored through.'

This is a clear reference to the harvest of the resurrection of the soul.  Simon has been sowing and reaping. The new sprouts refer to the reborn spirit.  The boring through of the mountain seems to be a reference to the descent to the underworld.  The reaction of those to whom Simon is speaking is also informative – they say that Simon is lying because these things had been from the days of their fathers and not done recently! This suggests that there were similar stories told about Peter and the other disciples.

Irenaeus gives more detail about Simon and Helena:

Now this Simon of Samaria, from whom all sorts of heresies derive their origin, formed his sect out of the following materials:--Having redeemed from slavery at Tyre, a city of Phoenicia, a certain woman named Helena, he was in the habit of carrying her about with him, declaring that this woman was the first conception of his mind, the mother of all, by whom, in the beginning, he conceived in his mind [the thought] of forming angels and archangels. 

Irenaeus describes how this woman was his Ennoea meaning first thought.  She descended to the lower regions of space and was detained there by the powers and angels.  She suffered at their hands and was detained in human body, passing from body to body, and being incarnated among other forms as Helen of Troy.  Eventually she descended to the condition of a common prostitute.  She was then found and redeemed from slavery by Simon.

It is clear from Irenaeus’ description that Helena is a form of Achamoth.  She is Simon’s spirit.  Just as Jesus is the male spirit of a woman so Helena is the female spirit of a man. And just as Jesus was considered by many to be a real man so Helena was considered by many to be a real woman. This belief that Helena had been a real woman was held by three church fathers, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus and Hyppolitus. As Hyppolitus records:

And after having thus redeemed her, he was in the habit of conducting her about with himself, alleging that this (girl) was the lost sheep, and affirming himself to be the Power above all things. But the filthy fellow, becoming enamoured of this miserable woman called Helen, purchased her (as his slave), and enjoyed her person. He, (however,) was likewise moved with shame towards his disciples, and concocted this figment.

The pseudo Clementine account of the duel between Simon Magus and Peter offers some intriguing information about Simon – most of it ludicrously distorted. It records Simon’s magical powers, many of which are misunderstandings of Gnostic practice. For example he is recorded as being to make himself invisible to those who would lay hold of him – a clear reference to the Gnostic belief that the spirit of the Gnostic is invisible to the evil powers on its ascent to heaven. There is also the power to throw himself off mountains and be borne unhurt to the ground – a reference which echoes the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness.  In these stories Helena has become ‘Luna’ who is said to be a form of Wisdom (Achamoth). An intriguing story is told about Luna:

Once, when this Luna of his was in a certain tower, a great multitude had assembled to see her, and were standing around the tower on all sides; but she was seen by all the people to lean forward, and to look out through all the windows of that tower.

Now this story is descended from a saying like this:

“The spirit in the Magdalene is visible to all who stand no matter where they be.”

For the meaning of the Magdalene is the tower, and the Magdalene’s spirit Jesus has been replaced by Simon Magus’s spirit, here called Luna.  And those who stand are those with the spirit but has been literally interpreted as people standing around the tower. But what the saying means is that Jesus is visible to all who have the spirit.

There is another story that may refer to Mary. In the pseudo-Clementine Simon admits that he does magic by means of -

“the soul of a boy, unsullied and violently slain, and invoked by unutterable adjurations, to assist me; and by it all is done that I command.”

He adds why the human soul has such power:

'I would have you know this, that the soul of man holds the next place after God, when once it is set free from the darkness of his body. And immediately it acquires prescience: wherefore it is invoked for necromancy.'

The boy has originally been created by Simon out of air and is a nobler work than that of god the creator. Then

“again I unmade him and restored him to air, but not until I had placed his picture and image in my bed-chamber, as a proof and memorial of my work.”

In this account is preserved a rare recollection that the image of the human soul is in the form of a dead child.  The human soul, represented by the boy, is created more perfect (out of air rather than earth) than Yahweh could make it. Yahweh was believed by Gnostics to be the demiurge or lower god, as opposed to the higher god, ‘the father’.  Once the soul is released from darkness, so that it becomes a spirit, it possesses magical powers including the gift of fore knowledge. After the souls redemption, represented here by it returning to air, the image of the spirit dwells in the bridal chamber. This is represented in corrupted form as a ‘bed-chamber’.  All these elements have been put into a literal story of a magician doing necromancy using the soul of a murdered boy.

In this story the soul image is male.  It does not belong to Simon, a man, because his spirit, Helena is female.  Although it could apply to any female ‘standing one’ there is a strong possibility that it is derived from stories originally told about Mary.  In this case the dead boy is Mary’s soul who is resurrected in the form of the man in white seen at the tomb in the resurrection account who turns out to be Jesus.

Similarly many stories that are told about Simon Magus that relate to Jesus. For example Simon is recorded as having had himself buried in Rome believing that he would be resurrected after three days like Jesus – but in Simon’s case this did not work and he stayed in his grave. Like Jesus he is recorded as having a virgin birth and to be a supernatural being who appeared as a man among men.

What about the tradition that Helena had been redeemed in a brothel in Tyre? If it is believed that Mary was a prostitute then maybe Simon met Mary in that brothel very shortly after the resurrection of Jesus and that meeting was to lead to the initiation of Simon. It is possible that the first disciples may have included ex-clients of a prostitute Mary and that Simon was one of these.

But most likely this is nonsense.  Calling Helena a prostitute recalls the prostitution of Achamoth and the role of Tyre, a seaport and a symbol of prostitution, is to represent the prostitution of the soul in the realm of the flesh.  There is detail which supports this interpretation in Hyppolitus’ account of the finding of Helena: 

But the angels and the powers below--who, he says, created the world--caused the transference from one body to another of (Helen's soul); and subsequently she stood on the roof of a house in Tyre, a city of Phoenicia, and on going down thither (Simon professed to have) found her. For he stated that, principally for the purpose of searching after this (woman), he had arrived (in Tyre), in order that he might rescue her from bondage.

The soul comes down to the roof of the brothel from the air or from heaven suggests that the brothel is not supposed to be taken literally but stands for the world.

The followers of Simon Magus thrived and were to provide competition with Christians for many years before being reabsorbed into the Christian Gnostic movement. The stories we have of Simon Magus date from this era of competition and are attempts to blacken the name of the followers of Simon based upon misreading and distortions of the stores that the followers of Simon themselves told, which in turn are based upon distortions of the stories often originally told about Jesus and Mary.  Thus in Simon we see the truth reflected and refracted through many obscuring layers.

 

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