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Simon Magus

The earliest Gnostic who is known to us (chiefly through heresiological accounts) was a certain Simon Magus, of first century Samaria.  Now part of Turkey, but then called "Asia", Samaria was a hotbed of religious ferment (or "heresy"), and Simon was only one of the charismatic leaders preaching and gathering followers at the time.  In other words, he was what would nowadays be called a "Guru".  Fellow "Gurus" included Jesus "of Nazareth" (actually the town of Nazareth did not yet exist at this time - see Donovan Joyce, The Jesus Scroll, pp.26-31 [1972, Ferret Books, Melbourne] and Appolonius of Tyre.

A Simon is also mentioned (in a rather poor light) in the Acts of the bible, but contrary to the claims of the heresiologists there is no proof this was the same person.

Anyway, the Gnostic Simon claimed that he was an incarnation of God; a common enough "Guru-ist" claim, then [Hans Jonas, The Gnostic Religion, p.104] as well as now.  But he also claimed that he had incarnated in human form in order to rescue the fallen Divine "Thought", who had been trapped by the angels and archangels of this world, and forced to reincarnate through successive female bodies (in Greek, the word "thought" (ennoia) is female), such as Helen of Troy, and was now in the body of a prostitute called Helena.  It was for her sake that the Father had taken on human form (Simon), and in redeeming her (as she is the archetype of the divine Spirit that had fallen into the darkness of this world and Forgotten its true nature) he also makes possible the redemption of all his followers as well.

Later, Simon's followers propounded a cosmology of divine emanations, such as is more or less characteristic of Gnosticism in general.  It is uncertain whether this cosmology was taught by Simon himself, or was a later construct.

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content by M.Alan Kazlev
page uploaded 28 June 1998, last modified 6 June 2004