SIMON AND HIS BIOGRAPHER HIPPOLYTUS
As shown in our earlier volumes, Simon was a pupil of the Tannaim of Samaria, and the reputation he left behind him, together with the title of “the Great Power of God,” testify in favor of the ability and learning of his Masters. But the Tannaim were Kabalists of the same secret school as John of the Apocalypse, whose careful aim it was to conceal as much as possible the real meaning of the names in the Mosaic Books. Still the calumnies so jealously disseminated against Simon Magus by the unknown authors and compilers of the Acts and other writings, could not cripple the truth to such an extent as to conceal the fact that no Christian could rival him in thaumaturgic deeds. The story told about his falling during an aerial flight, breaking both his legs and then committing suicide, is ridiculous. Posterity has heard but one side of the story. Were the disciples of Simon to have a chance, we might perhaps find that it was Peter who broke both his legs. But as against this hypothesis we know that this Apostle was too prudent ever to venture himself in Rome. On the confession of several ecclesiastical writers, no Apostle ever performed such “supernatural wonders,” but of course pious people will say this only the more proves that it was the Devil who worked through Simon. He was accused of blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, only because he introduced as the “Holy Spiritus” the Mens (Intelligence) or “the Mother of all.” But we find the same expression used in the Book of Enoch, in which, in contradistinction to the “Son of Man,” he speaks of the “Son of the Woman.” In the Codex of the Nazarenes, and in the Zohar, as well as in the Books of Hermes, the same expression is used; and even in the apocryphal Evangelium of the Hebrews we read that Jesus admitted the female sex of the Holy Ghost by using the expression “My Mother, the Holy Pneuma.”*
After long ages of denial, however, the actual existence of Simon Magus has been finally demonstrated, whether he was Saul, Paul or Simon. A manuscript speaking of him under the last name has been discovered in Greece and has put a stop to any further speculation.
* [Origen, Comm. in Job., p. 59. ed. Huet.]
In his Histoire des trois premiers siècles de l’église,* M. de Pressensé gives his opinion on this additional relic of early Christianity. Owing to the numerous myths with which the history of Simon abounds––he says––many Theologians (among Protestants, he ought to have added) have concluded that it was no better than a clever tissue of legends. But he adds:
It contains positive facts, it seems, now warranted by the unanimous testimony of the Fathers of the Church and confirmed by the narrative of Hippolytus recently discovered.†
This MS. is very far from being complimentary to the alleged founder of Western Gnosticism. While recognizing great powers in Simon, it brands him as a priest of Satan––which is quite enough to show that it was written by a Christian. It also shows that, like another servant “of the Evil One”––as Manes is called by the Church––Simon was a baptized Christian; but that both, being too well versed in the mysteries of true primitive Christianity, were persecuted for it. The secret of such persecution was then, as it is now, quite transparent to those who study the question impartially. Seeking to preserve his independence, Simon could not submit to the leadership or authority of any of the Apostles, least of all to that of either Peter or John, the fanatical author of the Apocalypse. Hence charges of heresy followed by “anathema maranatha. “The persecutions by the Church were never directed against Magic, when it was orthodox; for the new Theurgy, established and regulated by the Fathers, now known to Christendom as “grace” and “miracles,” was, and is still, when it does happen, only Magic––whether conscious or unconscious. Such phenomena as have passed to posterity under the name of “divine miracles “were produced through powers acquired by great purity of life and ecstacy. Prayer and contemplation added to asceticism are the best means of discipline in order to become a Theurgist, where there is no regular initiation. For intense prayer for the accomplishment of some object is only intense will and desire, resulting in unconscious Magic. In our own day George Müller of Bristol has proved it. But
* Page 395.
† Quoted by de Mirville, Des Esprits, Vol. VI, p. 42.
“divine miracles” are produced by the same causes that generate effects of Sorcery. The whole difference rests on the good or evil effects aimed at, and on the actor who produces them. The thunders of the Church were directed only against those who dissented from the formulae and attributed to themselves the production of certain marvellous effects, instead of fathering them on a personal God; and thus while those Adepts in Magic Arts who acted under her direct instructions and auspices were proclaimed to posterity and history as saints and friends of God, all others were hooted out of the Church and sentenced to eternal calumny and curses from their day to this. Dogma and authority have ever been the curse of humanity, the great extinguishers of light and truth.*
It was perhaps the recognition of a germ of that which, later on, in the then nascent Church, grew into the virus of insatiate power and ambition, culminating finally in the dogma of infallibility, that forced Simon, and so many others, to break away from her at her very birth. Sects and dissensions began with the first century. While Paul rebukes Peter to his face, John slanders under the veil of vision the Nicolaitans, and makes Jesus declare that he hates them.† Therefore we pay little attention to the accusations against Simon in the MS. found in Greece.
It is entitled Philosophumena. Its author, regarded as Saint Hippolytus by the Greek Church, is referred to as an “unknown
* Mr. St. George Lane-Fox has admirably expressed the idea in his eloquent appeal to the many rival schools and societies in India. “I feel sure,” he said, “that the prime motive, however dimly perceived, by which you, as the promoters of these movements, were actuated, was a revolt against the tyrannical and almost universal establishment throughout all existing social and so-called religious institutions of a usurped authority in some external form supplanting and obscuring the only real and ultimate authority, the indwelling spirit of truth revealed to each individual soul, true conscience in fact, that supreme source of all human wisdom and power which elevates man above the level of the brute.” (To the Members of the Arya Samaj, The Theosophical Society, Brahmo and Hindu Samaj and other Religious and Progressive Societies in India.) [The Philosophical Inquirer, printed in Madras, India, refers to Mr. Lane-Fox’s addresses there. See April 6, 1884 issue, p. 1, in an article entitled: “Are Theosophists Atheists?”––Compiler.]
† Revelation ii, 6.
heretic” by the Papists, only because he speaks in it “very slanderously” of Pope Callistus, also a Saint. Nevertheless, Greeks and Latins agree in declaring the Philosophumena to be an extraordinary and very erudite work. Its antiquity and genuineness have been vouched for by the best authorities of Tübingen.*
Whoever the author may have been, he expresses himself about Simon in this wise:
Simon, a man well versed in magic arts, deceived many persons partly by the art of Thrasymedes,† and partly with the help of demons.‡ . . . He determined to pass himself off as a god . . . . Aided by his wicked arts, he turned to profit not only the teachings of Moses, but those of the poets . . . . His disciples use to this day his charms. Thanks to incantations, to philtres, to their attractive caresses § and what they call “sleeps,” they send demons to influence all those whom they would fascinate. With this object they employ what they call “familiar demons.”||
Further on the MS. reads:
The Magus (Simon) made those who wished to enquire of the demon, write what their question was on a leaf of parchment; this, folded in four, was thrown into a burning brazier, in order that the smoke should reveal the contents of the writing to the Spirit (demon) (Philos. Magici, IV, iv). Incense was thrown by handfuls on the blazing coals, the Magus adding, on pieces of papyrus, the Hebrew names of the Spirits he was addressing, and the flame devoured all. Very soon the divine Spirit seemed to overwhelm the Magician, who uttered unintelligible invocations, and plunged in such a state he answered every question––phantasmal apparitions being often raised over the flaming brazier (ibid., iii); at other times fire descended from heaven upon objects previously pointed out by the
* [Consult text of H.P.B.’s E.S. Instruction No. II in Volume XII of the Collected Writings, (pp. 551-61; 571-73), as well as the Compiler’s footnotes appended thereto, in connection with the Philosophumena and the teachings of Simon Magus.––Compiler. ]
† This “art” is not common jugglery, as some define it now; it is a kind of psychological jugglery, if jugglery at all, where fascination and glamor are used as means of producing illusions. It is hypnotism on a large scale.
‡ The author asserts in this his Christian persuasion.
§ Magnetic passes, evidently, followed by a trance and sleep.
|| “Elementals” used by the highest Adept to do mechanical, not intellectual work, as a physicist uses gases and other compounds. [Philosophumena, lib. VI, §§ 7,19, 20.]
Magician (ibid); or again the deity evoked, crossing the room, would trace fiery orbs in its flight. (ibid., ix).*
So far the above statements agree with those of Anastasius the Sinaïte:
People saw Simon causing statues to walk; precipitating himself into the flames without being burnt; metamorphosing his body into that of various animals [lycanthropy]; raising at banquets phantoms and spectres; causing the furniture in the rooms to move about, by invisible spirits. He gave out that he was escorted by a number of shades to whom he gave the name of “souls of the dead.” Finally, he used to fly in the air . . . (Anastasius the Sinaite, Patrologie Grecque, Vol. lxxxix, col. 523, quaest. xx).†
Suetonius says in his Nero,
In those days an Icarus fell at his first ascent near Nero’s box and covered it with his blood.[ch. ii.]‡
This sentence, referring evidently to some unfortunate acrobat who missed his footing and tumbled, is brought forward as a proof that it was Simon who fell.§ But the latter’s name is surely too famous, if one must credit the Church Fathers, for the historian to have mentioned him simply as “an Icarus.” The writer is quite aware that there exists in Rome a locality named Simonium, near the Church of SS. Cosmas and Damianus (Via Sacra), and the ruins of the ancient temple of Romulus, where the broken pieces of a stone, on which it is alleged the two knees of the Apostle Peter were impressed in thanksgiving after his supposed victory over Simon, are shown to this day. But what does this exhibition amount to? For the broken fragments of one stone, the Buddhists of Ceylon show a whole rock on Adam’s Peak with another imprint upon it. A crag stands upon its platform, a terrace of which supports a huge boulder, and on the boulder rests for nearly three thousand years the sacred footprint of a foot five feet long. Why not
* Quoted from de Mirville, op. cit., Vol. VI, pp. 43-44.
† Ibid., VI, p. 45.
‡ Ibid, p. 46.
§ Amédée Fleury, St. Paul et Sénèque; recherches sur les rapports du philosophe . . . t. II, p. 100. [Paris, Ladrange, 1853.] The whole of this is summarized from de Mirville.
credit the legend of the latter, if we have to accept that of St. Peter? “Prince of Apostles,” or “Prince of Reformers,” or even the “First-born of Satan,” as Simon is called, all are entitled to legends and fictions. One may be allowed to discriminate, however.
That Simon could fly, i. e., raise himself in the air for a few minutes, is no impossibility. Modern mediums have performed the same feat supported by a force that Spiritualists persist in calling “spirits.” But if Simon did so, it was with the help of a self-acquired blind power that heeds little the prayers and commands of rival Adepts, let alone Saints. The fact is that logic is against the supposed fall of Simon at the prayer of Peter. For had he been defeated publicly by the Apostle, his disciples would have abandoned him after such an evident sign of inferiority, and would have become orthodox Christians. But we find even the author of Philosophumena, just such a Christian, showing otherwise. Simon had lost so little credit with his pupils and the masses, that he went on daily preaching in the Roman Campania after his supposed fall from the clouds “far above the Capitolium,” in which fall he broke his legs only! Such a lucky fall is in itself sufficiently miraculous, one would say.