“The face that launched a thousand Rosamond prints.”
Simon Magus had a consort who he claimed was the reincarnation of Helen of Troy. It is claimed Simon was a sorcerer. Allegedly Jesus was crucified for being a sorcerer, but, no one is bothering Simon, but, Paul, who uses Peter again as his rock to smite Paul’s enemies. Paul hated women, and outlawed them from speaking in the original church he took over – ousting many women founders of Christianity.
Above are two portraits by Rossetti the Pre-Raphaelite, one is Helen of Troy, and the other Fair Rosamund. Fanny Cornforth was the model and Rossetti’s mistress. I saw our family as another Rossetti family. I showed the Pre-Raphaelite Women to Christine. I wanted Rena to help me rekindle the Pre-Raphaelite Movement. I have done two paintings of Rena and am working on the third. I intend to do a show ‘My Muse’.
The Fathers of the Church regarded Simon Magus as the father of all heresy. He was a contemporary of the apostles and a Samaritan, and Samaria was notoriously unruly in matters of religion and regarded with suspicion by the orthodox. When the apostle Philip came there to preach the gospel, he found the movement of Simon in full swing, with Simon saying of himself, and the people concurring with him, that he was “the Power of God that is called the great” (Acts 8:10). This means that he preached not as an apostle but as himself a messiah. The story of his subsequent conversion, although not necessarily that of his baptism, must be wrong (if indeed the Simon of the Acts and the hereiarch of the Fathers are one and the same person, which has been seriously doubted) as in none of the heresiological accounts of the Simonian teaching from the second and third centuries is there an indication that the position of Jesus was granted by the sect, except for his having been a percursory incarnation of Simon himself. By all accounts – even if we discount the story in the Acts as relating to a different person, and date the gnostic prophet of the same name one or two generations later – Simonianism was from the start and remained strictly a rival message of obviously independent origin; that is to say, Simon was not a dissident Christian, and if the Church father cast him in the role of the arch-heretic, they implicitly admitted that Gnosticism was not an inner-Christian phenomenon. On the other hand, the terms in which Simon is said to have spoken of himself are testified by the pagan writer Celsus to have been current with the pseudo-messiahs still swarming in Phoenicia and Palestine at his time about the middle of the second century. He hass heard a number of them himself, and records thus a typical sermon of theirs:
I am God (or a son of God, or a divine Spirit). And I have come. Already the world is being destroyed. And you. O men, are to perish because of your iniquities. But I wish to save you. As you see me returning again with heavenly power. Blessed is he who has worshipped me now! But I will cast everlasting fire upon all the rest, both on cities and on country places. And men who fail to reize the penalties in store for them will in vain repent and groan. But I will preserve for ever those who have been convinced by me.
A singular feature of Simon’s terrestrial journey was that he took about with him a woman called Helena whom he said he had found in a brothel in Tyre and who according to him was the latest and lowliest incarnation of the fallen “Thought” of God, redeemed by him and a means of redemption for all who believed in them both.
Like Apollonius of Tyana, Simon traveled around as a prophet, miracle-worker, and magician, apparently with a great deal of showmanship. The extant sources, of course, being Christian, draw a none too sympathetic picture of his person and doings. According to them he performed also at the imperial court of Rome and met a bad end there while attempting to fly. It is of interest to psychic investigators that in Latin surroundings Simon used the cognomen Faustus (“the favored one”): This in connection with his permanent cognomen “the Magician” and the fact that he was accompanied by a Helena whom he claimed to be the reborn Helen of Troy shows clearly that we have here one of the sources of the Faust legend of the early Renaissance. Surely few admirers of Marlowe’s and Goethe’s plays have an inkling that their hero is the descendant of a gnostic sectary, and that the beautiful Helen called up by his art was once the fallen Thought of God through whose raising mankind was to be saved.
Myth of Simon and Helen
Justin and Irenaeus are the first to recount the myth of Simon and Helen, which became the center of Simonian doctrine. Epiphanius of Salamis also makes Simon speak in the first person in several places in his Panarion, and the inference is that he is quoting from a version of it, though perhaps not verbatim.
In the beginning God had his first thought, his Ennoia, which was female, and that thought was to create the angels. The First Thought then descended into the lower regions and created the angels. But the angels rebelled against her out of jealousy and created the world as her prison, imprisoning her in a female body. Thereafter, she was reincarnated many times, each time being shamed. Her many reincarnations included Helen of Troy, among others, and she finally was reincarnated as Helen, a slave and prostitute in the Phoenician city of Tyre. God then descended in the form of Simon Magus, to rescue his Ennoia, and to confer salvation upon men through knowledge of himself.
“And on her account,” he says, “did I come down; for this is that which is written in the Gospel ‘the lost sheep’.”
For as the angels were mismanaging the world, owing to their individual lust for rule, he had come to set things straight, and had descended under a changed form, likening himself to the Principalities and Powers through whom he passed, so that among men he appeared as a man, though he was not a man, and was thought to have suffered in Judaea, though he had not suffered.
“But in each heaven I changed my form,” says he, “in accordance with the form of those who were in each heaven, that I might escape the notice of my angelic powers and come down to the Thought, who is none other than her who is also called Prunikos and Holy Ghost, through whom I created the angels, while the angels created the world and men.”
But the prophets had delivered their prophecies under the inspiration of the world-creating angels: wherefore those who had their hope in him and in Helen minded them no more, and, as being free, did what they pleased; for men were saved according to his grace, but not according to just works. For works were not just by nature, but only by convention, in accordance with the enactments of the world-creating angels, who by precepts of this kind sought to bring men into slavery. Wherefore he promised that the world should be dissolved, and that those who were his should be freed from the dominion of the world-creators.
In this account of Simon there is a large portion common to almost all forms of Gnostic myths, together with something special to this form. They have in common the place in the work of creation assigned to the female principle, the conception of the Deity; the ignorance of the rulers of this lower world with regard to the Supreme Power; the descent of the female (Sophia) into the lower regions, and her inability to return. Special to the Simonian tale is the identification of Simon himself with the Supreme, and of his consort Helena with the female principle.
Josephus mentions a magician named Atomus (Simon in Latin manuscripts) as being involved with the procurator Felix, King Agrippa II and his sister Drusilla, where Felix has Simon convince Drusilla to marry him instead of the man she was engaged to. Some scholars have considered the two to be identical, although this is not generally accepted, as the Simon of Josephus is a Jew rather than a Samaritan.
Justin Martyr and Irenaeus
Justin Martyr (in his Apologies, and in a lost work against heresies, which Irenaeus used as his main source) and Irenaeus (Adversus Haereses) record that after being cast out by the Apostles he came to Rome where, having joined to himself a profligate woman of the name of Helen, he gave out that it was he who appeared among the Jews as the Son, in Samaria as the Father and among other nations as the Holy Spirit. He performed such miracles by magic acts during the reign of Claudius that he was regarded as a god and honored with a statue on the island in the Tiber which the two bridges cross, with the inscription Simoni Deo Sancto, “To Simon the Holy God”. However, in the 16th century, a statue was unearthed on the island in question, inscribed to Semo Sancus, a Sabine deity, leading most scholars to believe that Justin Martyr confused Semoni Sancus with Simon.