THEOSOPHY, Vol. 52, No. 11, September, 1964
(Pages 323-328; Size: 40K)
(Number 6 of a 9-part series)
MISUNDERSTOOD BIBLICAL TRADITIONS
[Part 2 of 3]
ONE of the most fantastic pages of early Church history, a story little known to the average present-day church-goer, relates to the obscure, nevertheless historical, personage of Simon Magus, known to New Testament readers as Simon, the Sorcerer. All that the average Christian knows of this story is recorded in Acts 8: 9-24, where Simon is shown to have been a pre-Christian magician, called by the people of Samaria "the great power of God." But Simon, according to this record, had been teaching "for many years" before Philip, and later Peter and John, arrived in that country on their missions. His following among the people, "from the least to the greatest," seems to have been enormous. Notwithstanding this extraordinary popularity, which probably gave him undisputed religious leadership in the land, Simon listened to the teaching of Philip, became a believer, and was baptized. Not only this -- he "continued with Philip" on the latter's journey through Samaria, contributing much, no doubt, to the latter's success. Except for Simon's help, it is a question whether Philip would have been able to send word back to Jerusalem that "Samaria had received the word of God." It was this message that brought Peter and John to that country to continue the work of conversion.
Simon's condemnation, as theological scholars well know, is based primarily upon the battles recorded in the voluminous writings of the early Church Fathers. This literature, almost entirely unknown to the average Christian devotee, is literally filled with the rivalries and dissensions, the jealousies and animosities within the early Church, especially those of Peter, Simon and Paul -- a phase of Church history most priests and preachers would like to forget. But one of the objects of the present Theosophical Movement is the restitution of borrowed robes and the vindication of glorious but calumniated reputations. So even at the risk of painful disillusionment for Christians in the wisdom and integrity of some of their predecessors, it seems only just that these writings be given attention.
Besides what is contained in Acts, the following early Christian writers all have something to say about the history and teaching of the mysterious personage known as Simon Magus: Clement I, the third Pope of Rome (after Peter and Linus), who knew personally some of the apostles, and whose writings (known as the Clementine Literature) are held to have been recorded before A.D. 100; Justin Martyr (103--167); Irenaeus (born 97-147, died 202-3); Clemens Alexandrinus (born 150-160, death unknown); Tertullianus (born 150-160, died 220-240); Hippolytus (date unknown, probably 190--250); Philastrius (date of birth unknown, died probably 387 A.D.); Epiphanius (born 310-320, died 404); Hieronymus (wrote in the year 387); and Theodoretus (born toward the end of the third century, died 353-358).
All these writers -- who were either Christian Fathers themselves or individuals loyal to the teaching of the growing Church, and therefore intolerant of any interpretation other than their own -- virulently denounce of course both Simon and his teaching. Not one had a word of praise, or even of kindness, for this man of deep religious conviction. Except for the philosophical debates of Peter and Simon, as related by Clement, and also the third century document known as Philosophomena, supposedly written by Hippolytus, we would know practically nothing of Simon's beliefs and teachings. The same hand that laid waste the numerous Gnostic treatises of Marcion, Basilides and Valentinus, destroyed also, no doubt, the books of Simon, and is to be "thanked" for the fact that we possess today only one side of the story -- the Church side -- of this great Pagan philosopher, whom Irenaeus called the originator of Gnosticism. Two works by Simon, The Great Revelation and The Four Quarters of the World, are known to have been current in the early Christian era, for they were either quoted from or mentioned by historians; but neither exists today. It can only be viewed as ironical, then, that in condemning the doctrines of Simon both Clement and Hippolytus unwittingly preserved for posterity at least a fragment of his teachings -- enough, at any rate, to identify their theosophical and gnostic sources. (An accompanying article, immediately following this one, quotes extensively from the Philosophomena. Its philosophical orientation is pre-eminently that of Gnosticism; its symbology that of the ancient and eternal Wisdom Religion, or Theosophy. The gross materialistic interpretation given by Simon's traducers seems too obvious to require comment.) [Note: I have included a copy of the Philosophomena article that the Editors speak of here; it begins after this one ends. --Compiler]
All that we know of Simon's history is contained, for the large part, in the so-called Clementine Literature, especially Recognitions and Homilies. Clement, it seems, arrived in Cæsarea on the eve of a great controversy between Peter and Simon. Aquila and Nicetas, former associates of Simon, now defected and turned enemy, relate to Clement, in the presence of Peter, the following: Simon Magus was a Samaritan, son of Antonius and Rachael, born in the village of Gitta, some twenty-odd miles from the city of Cæsarea. He was a disciple of John the Baptist, the favorite among thirty, they said, and it was in John's school in Alexandria that he perfected his studies in magic. At the time that John was beheaded, Simon was away from Alexandria on some mission, so that Dositheus, a co-disciple, was chosen head of the school. On his return, Simon acquiesced in the choice, even though his own wisdom was far superior to that of Dositheus. One day, according to the story, Dositheus became enraged and struck at Simon with his staff. To the amazement of Dositheus, the staff passed through Simon's body as though it were smoke, causing no injury. At this, Dositheus yielded leadership of the School to Simon and became his disciple, dying shortly afterwards.
Aquila and Nicetas warned Peter of Simon's great learning, his use of language, and his skill in debate. They also narrate something of his magical achievements, feats both had witnessed with their own eyes. Not only Clement, but also such reliable Church Fathers as Justin Martyr and Irenæus attest to the extraordinary skill of this Pagan magician. In a petition or complaint to the Emperor of Rome (Apologia I, 26), Justin says:And thirdly, that even after the ascension of the Christ into heaven the dæmons cast before themselves (as a shield) certain men who said that they were gods, who were not only not expelled by you (the Romans), but even thought worthy of honours; a certain Samaritan, Simon, who came from a village called Gitta; who in the reign of Claudius Caesar (A.D. 41-54) wrought magic wonders by the art of the dæmons 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.Irenaeus (Contra Hæreses, I, xxiii, 1-4), who was born around the year 100, or shortly thereafter, has the following to say: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 practiced 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.' ....The manifested universe, according to Theosophical philosophy, was never "created," but is an emanation of the powers and potentialities locked up eternally in the Divine Spirit, or God. It is a fundamental teaching of Theosophy that "Everything that is, was, and will be, eternally IS" on the plane of the Ideal. The term created, as used in the first chapter of Genesis, is apparently a mis-translation, as the following phrase "let there be" seems to show. Nothing in this first chapter of Genesis is created new, but each successive stage of emanation, from the most ephemeral to the most concrete, is fashioned "after its kind," that is to say, on the model or image of its pre-existing spiritual prototype. Viewed in this light, Simon's doctrine of the emanation of the Divine Idea or Thought (which is female) becoming imprisoned in form (which he named Helen, the prostitute, or "lost sheep") is but a symbolical representation of a teaching as old as the world. The Mind, or Manas principle of each individual, upon incarnation, becomes caught up in the concerns of Matter (the lower Angels). The need of the Soul, or Christ principle, in each life, is to free the Mind from these lower attractions. Simon, calling himself the Father of the Thought, typifies the Savior, or Christ, whose "knowledge" alone could bring release. It was the gross materialism into which the organizational-minded Christians fell that heaped calumny and abuse upon the heads of the more spiritual elements of the Church. Williston Walker, author of A History of the Christian Church (Scribners, 1959, pp. 51-53), says:
Now the sect of the Samaritan Simon, from whom all the heresies took their origin (italics ours, Ed.), 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.... and she suffered every kind of indignity at their hands, to prevent her reascending to her Father, even to being imprisoned in the human body and transmigrating into other female bodies, as from one vessel into another. She was also in that Helen, on whose account the Trojan war arose ... So she, transmigrating [reincarnating] 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."The highest of its (Gnosticism's) influence was from about 135 to 160, though it continued a force long after the latter date. It threatened to overwhelm the historic Christian faith, and by so doing brought upon the Christian Church its gravest crisis since the Pauline battle for freedom from law ... The Church overcame the danger; and in so doing developed a closely knit organization and a clearly defined creed, which contrasted with the more spontaneous and charismatic nature of primitive Christianity.In view of the doctrinal battles of the early centuries between the Gnostic branch of Christianity (led by Simon), and the organizational side (led by Peter) which later became the Church, it becomes understandable that we know today only the side of the story that presents Simon as a sorcerer -- an emissary of the Devil. Are not enemies always conceived by the self-righteous to be Devils?
Christian tradition represented the founder of Gnosticism to be Simon Magnus [Magus], but of his real relations to it little is known. More clearly defined leaders are Sartornilus of Antioch, who labored before 150; Basilides, who taught in Alexandria about 130; and above all, Valentinus, who was active in Rome from about 135 to 165, and who must be regarded as one of the most gifted thinkers of the age.
Gnosticism was an immense peril for the church. It cut out the historic foundations of Christianity ... The peril was the greater because Gnosticism was represented by some of the keenest minds in the Church of the second century. The age was syncretistic and in some respects Gnosticism was but the fullest accomplishment of that amalgamation of Hellenic and Oriental philosophical speculation with primitive Christian beliefs which was in greater or less degree in process in all Christian thinking.
What would life on earth be like in the twentieth century if the philosophical Gnostics had won the day? Would the world be divided as it is if the Egyptian, Chaldean and Oriental scriptures, instead of being for the most part destroyed, had been studied side by side with the Bible, as they were in the school of Ammonius Saccas? Would the Alexandrian library, storehouse of the religious and philosophical treasures of antiquity, have been burned by religious fanatics if the policies of such Gnostic sages as Basilides, Valentinus and probably Simon, if we knew more of his teaching, had been followed? And most important of all, would the heavy pall of fear and darkness that envelops the Western mind -- making it almost impossible for even sincere minds to dare think for themselves and compare their teachings with those of other nations -- would any of this heavy Karma have been made if the healthy diversity of opinion and the freedom of thought encouraged by the Eclectic Theosophical School of Alexandria had been allowed to live?
It was John the Baptist, of whom "there is not a greater," who baptized, or initiated, Jesus. Of the Disciples of John, so often mentioned in the Gospels, Simon was the favorite, the successor to John in his School. Is it possible that Simon and the Disciples of John were the representatives and transmitters of the true line of Jesus' teaching through the early centuries of Christian strife? This, we shall probably never know unless, that is, the Lodge of Masters -- which is said to have preserved the history and teaching of every religious sect -- chooses to give up its records. The following, written in 1877 by H. P. Blavatsky, whom theosophists hold to have been the latest representative of this ancient Lodge, seems suggestive:One by one the tide of time engulfed the sects of the early centuries, until of the whole number only one survived in its pristine integrity. That one still exists, still teaches the doctrine of its founder, still exemplifies its faith in works of power. The quicksands which swallowed up every other outgrowth of the religious agitation of the times of Jesus, with its records, relics, and traditions, proved firm ground for this. Driven from their native land, its members found refuge in Persia, and today the anxious traveller may converse with the direct descendants of the "Disciples of John," who listened, on the Jordan's shore, to the "man sent from God," and were baptized and believed. This curious people, numbering 30,000 or more, are miscalled "Christians of St. John," but in fact should be known by their old name of Nazareans, or their new one of Mendeans. (Isis Unveiled, II, 289-90.)
(To be concluded)
COMPILER'S NOTE: Before going on to the next article in this series, here is the first part of the related article spoken of above by the Editors. Part two of it, the final part, will be found after the next article in this series, which is the third and concluding part of this section on the subject of "Miracles". I felt it was best to do it this way because that is exactly how the Editors presented it: part one following this one and part two following the next article in the series.
THEOSOPHY, Vol. 52, No. 11, September, 1964
I[The Philosophomena, date unknown, but written supposedly by Hippolytus between the years 190 and 250 A.D., is the only remaining shred of teaching that is quoted directly from the works of Simon Magus. The following portion of Philosophomena (VI. 7-20, Refutatio Omnium Hæresium, 1859) is a refutation of "the system of Simon," obviously written by an enemy of the Gnostic wing of early Christianity. Its value is in the setting forth of the teaching thus condemned. This text was printed in Lucifer in a series on Simon Magus, Vols. X-XIII.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(1) him got their inspiration, and that the speculations they venture upon have been of a like nature, though their terminology is different.
Simon, like the Egyptian Hermetists, held that all things are interrelated by correspondence, analogy and similitude -- "As above, so below" being the teaching on the Smaragdine Tablet of Hermes. Holding this view, he naturally taught the age-old doctrine that Man, the Microcosm, is the Mirror and Potentiality of the Macrocosm, or God. The sacred art and science of Magic was the use by man of Nature's transcendental laws -- not obstructions, but "quickenings" of the natural processes through infusion of intenser vital action. The Æons, or Angels, by imitating the Boundless Power, or God, became Creators in their turn. In like manner, Man, through concentrated control of Mind, imitating the Æons, could produce what appears to be miracles, or creation.
The symbology of Simon's system will be readily perceived by students of comparative religions to be that pure Gnosticism. --Editors, THEOSOPHY]
This Simon was skilled in magic, and deluding many, partly by the art of Thrasymedes, in the way we have explained above,(2) and partly corrupting them by means of dæmons, 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 retaught 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,"(3) 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.(4) 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."(5)
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 Sabaôth is the house of Israel, and a man of Judah a well-beloved shoot."(6) 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 (æon)."(7) 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(8) says:
"By earth, earth we perceive; by water, water; by æther [divine], æther; 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,(9) 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."(10)
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 Æons," 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 Æons, 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."(11) 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 (æon), inasmuch 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 case, the Scripture tells us when it says, "I am he who fashioned thee in thy mother's womb,"(12) 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,"(13) 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(14) to convey blood. But when, he says, the navel going forth from the region of Eden is attached to the foetus in the epigastric region, that which is commonly called by everyone the navel(15) .... 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),(16) 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. Holy the Gods call it. For mortals to dig it up is difficult; but Gods can do all things."(17)
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 restruck 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."
(To be concluded)
COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:
Two extravagances: to exclude Reason, to admit only Reason.
MISUNDERSTOOD BIBLICAL TRADITIONS
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SEVENTEEN (17) FOOTNOTES LISTED BELOW:
(1) That is to say, the heretics.
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(2) In a preceding part of the book against the "Magicians."
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(3) Deuteronomy, iv. 24.
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(4) Heracleitus of Ephesus flourished about the end of the sixth century B.C. He was named the obscure from the difficulty of his writings.
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(5) I put the few direct quotations we have from Simon in italics.
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(6) Isaiah, v. 7.
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(7) I Peter, i. 24.
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(8) Empedocles of Agrigentum, in Sicily, flourished about B.C. 444.
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(10) Isaiah, i. 2.
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(11) I Corinth., xi. 32.
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(12) See Jeremiah, i. 5.
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(13) Genesis, ii. 10.
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(14) Veins and arteries are said not to have been distinguished by ancient physiologists.
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(15) 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.
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(16) This is omitted by Miller in the first Oxford edition.
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(17) Odyssey, x. 304, seq.
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