The Great Revelation by Simon Magus
The Great Revelation
Attributed to Simon Magus according to Hippolytus (c. 170–235 AD) in The Refutation of All Heresies
(As quoted in Hippolytus: “And Simon (the Magician) denominates the originating principle of the universe an indefinite power, expressing himself thus: ‘This is the treatise of a revelation of (the) voice and name (recognisiable) by means of intellectual apprehension of the Great Indefinite Power.'”) (1)
This translation appeared in an online article by Miguel Conner, June 2010 in examiner.com, taken from Hippolytus’ Refutations Book VI, translated by Robert Price in The Pre-Nicene New Testament: Fifty-four Formative Texts. (2)
This is the writing down of the declaration of voice and name from thought, which is the Great Power, the Boundless. Thus it shall be sealed up, hidden, concealed, placed in the dwelling which rests upon the Universal Root. To you, then, I say what I have to say, and I write what I to write. And this is the writing thereof.
From the universal aeons spring two shoots, which are without beginning or ending, stemming forth from a single root, which is the invisible Power, unknowable silence. Of the two shoots, one appears from above. This is the Great Power, the Universal Mind that sets all thing in order, being males. The other appears from below. It is the Great Thought, which is female and brings forth all things.
From this state they pair off with each other, uniting and appearing in the middle distance, the incomprehensible air, without beginning or end. Here is to be found the Father by whom all things sustained, and by whom are nourished those things which do partake of beginning and ending. Such as He Who Has Stood, Stands and Will Stand, a male/female power like unto the Boundless Power which is a stranger equally to beginning and ending, existing in oneness. For it was from this that the thought within the oneness proceeded and became two.
Thus was the One, for as he had her in himself, he was yet alone. He had not been so at first because, though pre-existent, by revealing himself to himself he became a second. Nor could he be called Father till Thought named him so.
Thus, producing himself by himself, he revealed to himself his own thought. In the same way, the thought was revealed did not make the Father known but rather concealed him by contemplating him, that is, the power, in herself, the result being male-female, power and thought.
Thus do they pair of with each other, yet being one, there being no difference, between power and thought. Power is revealed from the things above, while thought is revealed by the things below.
In the same way, too, that which was revealed from them, though, it was one, is however as two, the male-female having the female in itself. Thus is mind contained within thought, things inseparable one from the other, which though in reality one are seen as two.
Man, here below, born from blood, is the dwelling, and the Boundless Power dwells in him, and it is the Universal Root. Nor is the Boundless Power that is, fire, one. The fire in being two fold, one said being manifest, the other concealed. And the concealed things of fire are with the Manifest Ones, while those revealed are produced by Those Hidden. The manifest side the fire contains all things within itself that are visible and that one may perceive, as well as those which one neither suspects nor perceives. But in the concealed side of fire may be found all that is conceived and that is intelligible, even if it surpasses the senses, or that which one is unable to conceive.
In general, one may say concerning all things, the visible and the intelligible, that is the concealed and manifest, that are contained in the fire which overpasses the very heavens, even as the great tree like unto that glimpsed in a vision by Nebuchadnezzar which nourishes all flesh. Of this, the manifested side corresponds to the trunk, limbs, leaves, and encasing bark. All these members of the tree are set ablaze from the all-consuming flame of the fire and destroyed. But as for the fruit of the tree, if its form is perfect and it assumes the true shape, it is gathered into the storehouse, not thrown into the fire. For the fruit is produced in order to be stored away, but the bark of the tree, having served its purpose is destined for the fire, as it was produced for no purpose in its own right but only to protect the fruit.
As it is written in Scripture: “For the vineyard of the Lord Sabaoth is the house of Israel, and a man of Judah is well-love shoot.” And if a man of Judah is a well-loved shoot, it is evident that the tree is nothing but a man. As to its being divided and distributed, scripture has spoken plainly enough and suffices for the instruction of those who have ripened unto perfection, to wit:
“All flesh is mere grass, and everything which mortal’s glory is like the wildflower. The grass is dried up, and the wild flower droops, but the word of the Lord endures through the aeon.” So the world of the Lord is the speech which comes to flower in the mouth and in the world, for where else may it be produced?
In sum, therefore, the fire, partaking of such a nature, containing both all things visible and invisible, and in like manner those heard within and those heard aloud the numerable and the innumerable, may be called the Perfect Intellect, since it is everything one can think of an infinite number of time in an infinite number of ways, whether of speech, thought, or deed. For I judge that all parts of the fire, both seen and unseen, possess awareness and a modicum of intelligence. Thus the contingent cosmos was generated out of the Unbegotten Fire. And it began to be generated in this manner. The first six roots of the principle of generation which the cosmos received from that fire. And the roots themselves were begotten of the fire by pairs, which are mind and thought, voice and name, reason and reflection. In these six roots was contained all the totality of the Boundless Power, albeit only in potentiality, not yet in actuality. And this Boundless Power is He who has Stood, Stand and Will Stand. This one, if he matures to perfection while within the six powers, will himself be, in essence, power, greatness, and completeness, one and the same with the Unbegotten and Boundless Power, in no respect inferior to that Unbegotten, Immutable and Boundless Power. But if it remains in potentiality only, and it never attains unto its proper image, then it is doomed to vanish and perish just like the unused knowledge of grammar and geometry latent in the mind. For if something potential is exercised, it comes to light among created things. But if it is never realized, it lapses into darkness as if it had never been there in the first place. And when one dies, it dies with him.
Of those six powers, and of the seventh which lies beyond the six, the initial pair are mind and thought, or heaven and earth. The male gazes down from the height and remembers its partner, while the earth below receives from the heaven the fruits of intellect that rain down upon it and correspond to the things of earth. For this reason does the world often and faithfully contemplate those thing generated from mind and thought, heaven and earth, and says, “I hear, O heaven! Give ear, O earth, for the Lord has said, ‘I have begotten sons and raised them up, but they have shoved me aside!’” And who says this? It is the seventh power, He Who Has Stood, Stand and Will Stand, for he is the creator of those thing Moses eulogized, saying that they were very good.
Next come voice and name, which are sun and moon. After them are reason and reflection, or air and water. And in all them was mixed and mingled the Great Power, the Boundless, He Who Stood, Stands and Will Stand.
And when Moses says, “In six day God made the heaven and the earth, and on the seventh rest from all his labors,” he tells a great mystery. This may be seen from the contradictions wherein Moses says light into being on the first day. When, therefore, Moses says that there are three days before the generation of the sun and the moon, he means esoterically mind and thought, or heaven and earth, and the seventh power, the Boundless. For these three powers were begotten before all others. And when he says, “He has begotten me before all the aeons, the words are used with reference to the seventh power. So this seventh power, which was the first power subsisting in the Boundless Power, which was begotten before all aeons, this is the seventh power of which Moses says, “And the Spirit of God hovered over the water,” which means the Spirit which holds all thing in itself, the image of the Boundless Power, the image reflecting the eternal form which by itself order everything. For the power hovering above the water is begotten by an immortal form and by itself orders everything.
Having made the world in some such fashion, God, as Moses says, formed man by taking dirt from the ground. And he made him not single but double according to both the image of the likeness. And the image is that Spirit hovering over the water which, if it does not mature into its true form, perishes along with the world since it has lingered in potentiality and never attain unto actuality. And this what scripture means when it says, “So we may not be condemned along with the world.” But if it matures perfectly into its intended image and it is begotten from an indivisible point, the small shall become great. And this great thing shall persist through the endless and eternal aeon since it no longer belongs to the process of becoming.
How and in what manner does God fashion man? In the Garden. We must view the womb as a garden or a cave, as in the scripture when it says,
“It was you who formed my inner parts, you who knitted me together in my mother’s womb. My frame was not unknown to you when I was being made in secret, intricately crafted in the caverns of the earth.”
This is why he chose this metaphor. So when he speaks of the Garden, Moses referred allegorically to the womb. Or so he must if we are to believe the world and not dismiss it as nonsense.
And if God fashioned man in his mother’s womb, that is, the Garden, as I have said, not only must the womb be understood for the Garden, but Eden is to be understood as the area around the womb, and then “river going out of Eden to water to Garden” as the umbilical cord. This cord is divided into four channels. On either side of the cord are a pair of air ducts so the fetus my breathe and a pair of veins through which the blood flows carry it from the Edenic region through the so-called gates of the liver, they nourish the fetus. And the air-ducts, channels for the breath which surround the bladder on either side in the pelvic region are united at the great duct called the dorsal aorta. In this way the breath passing through the lateral doors into the heart provokes the motion of the embryo. For as long as the babe is being fashioned in the Garden, it neither receives nourishment by the mouth nor breathes through the nostrils. As it is completely surrounded in water, death would strike as soon as it were to take a breath. It would inhale the fluid and die. Father, the whole is contained in an envelope called the amnion and nourished through the umbilical cord and receives the same thing breath conveys through the dorsal duct, as I said.
Thus, the river which goes out of Eden and divides into the streams, four ducts, speaks in reality of the four senses of the fetus: vision, smelling, taste, and touch, these being the only senses possessed by the child while still in the womb.
Such is the law laid down by Moses, and it was on the pattern of that he wrote each of his books, as the titles tell. The first of them is Genesis, and this title in and of itself bespeaks the whole matter. For this Genesis denotes vision, one of the divisions of the river. For it is through sight that one perceives the creation. The second book has the title Exodus, for everyone who is born must travel through the Red Sea and across the wilderness, the red denoting blood, and taste the bitter water at Marah. This bitterness is that of the water beyond the Red Sea, referring to the painful, bitter path of learning we walk through life. But when it is transformed by Moses, really by the word, what was bitter becomes sweet. This is attested even by secular source, as witness the poet: “Its root was black, but the flower was like unto milk. Moly, the immortals name it. How hard for mortal to dig up, but the for the gods all is child’s play.” What the gentiles say here is enough to give knowledge of the whole thing as long as one has ears to hear. Whoever tasted of this fruit had the power to restore those so cursed. Regaining their proper shape, they were like a defaced coin melted down again and struck again according to the type. By the use of this fruit, as white as milk, one discovered the true man, beloved of the wizardress.
In the same way, the third book, Leviticus, concerns smelling or breathing since the entire context of the book is taken up with sacrifices and offerings. And inseparable from sacrificing is the ascending odor of the incense accompanying the sacrifice, and it is the olfactory sense that determines the propriety of the scent. Numbers, the fourth book, refers to taste, which is activated by speaking. The book receives its name from the listing of everything in numerical order.
All eternal ideas, like grammar or geometry, are inside us as potential but not as actual. And if they encounter appropriate discourse and reaching and of the bitter thus becomes sweets like spears turned to prune-husks and sticks to perfect fruit, no malformed, as I said above: equal and similar to the Unbegotten and Boundless Power. “For now the axe is set at the root of the tree. Every tree that fails to bear good fruit is chopped down and flung into the fire.”
And so that blessed is immortal principle, power, is concealed in everything potentially if not actually, which He Who Has Stood, Stands and Will Stand, who has stood above in the Unbegotten Power, who stand below in the stream of the waters, begotten in an image, and who shall stand above, at the side of the Blessed and Boundless Power, providing there is perfect conformity to the image he bears. For those what are three, and if there were not three standing aeons, there would be no ordering of the creation which hovers over the water and has been created in the likeness unto a perfect celestial being, which becomes in no way inferior to the Unbegotten Power, so that one shall say to the other: “You and I are one; you are before me that I may after you.” This is the One Power, divided into the above and the below, begetting itself, multiplying itself, seeking itself, finding itself, mother unto itself and father, sister, matter: the daughter, son, mother, and father of itself: One, the Universal Root. Of all things generated, the spark of desire for their generation comes from fire, just as the desire for physical begetting is called “being on fire.” And though fire is one thing, still it admits of two modes of change. For in the male, the blood, being hot and yellow like fire when newly kindle, is changed into semen. But in the female, the same blood becomes milk. And this transformation in the male accounts for the generative function, while the transmutation in the female results in the ability to nurse the child. And this is what is meant by “The flaming sword that turned this way and that to guard the path to the Tree of Life.” This because the blood turns this way into semen and that way into milk, and like the tree, this power becomes both mother and father, father of all who are born and mother of those who are nourished. It stand in need of nothing, self-sufficient. And the Tree of Life, guarded by the whirling, fiery sword, is the seventh power which proceeds from itself, containing all and yet latent in the six powers. For if the fiery sword did not turn about, that beautiful tree would be despoiled and die. But it is turned into semen and milk, what is stored on them potentially, having come finally to the age of reason and found an appropriate place where reason may mature, beginning from the merest spark, it will increase to mature protection and expand till it becomes an infinite power, immutable, equal in power and alike in form to the Immutable Aeon, which is no more begotten for an illimitable eternity.
And to this manner did the fire assume both male and female forms, the one from above and the other from below, as each did mature unto perfect conformity with the Heavenly Power whose likeness and image they were. And when they appeared in the midst of the rushing water of the realm of becoming, the female Thought was set upon and defiled the angels and lower powers who made this world of matter. And they used the fiery power within her to give life to their creations.
It is Thought who is the lost sheep of the parable, and Mind who seeks her out at the cost of abandoning all his goods. For she passes from body to body, ever abiding in the forms of women and ever does the hurl the powers of the world into confusion, pitting the one against the other, by reason of her superlative beauty, as of the heavens themselves. And in this manner did the Trojan War erupt on account of her. For this Thought took up its residence in the contemporary Helen, and it was because all the powers, both governing Achaia and ruling Troy, laid claim to her, that schism and war erupted among the nations to whom she was made manifest. Thus, it was not Helen at fault, but those covetous powers who lusted for her and fought with each other on the plains of Illium, Zeus against Skamander, Apollo against Memnon.
This is why, in truth, the poet Stesichorus was deprived of his sight when he treated her rudely in his verses. This is the reason, too, when he afterward recanted and wrote new verses, extolling her virtues, he received his sight again.
After these things, when her body was exchanged by the angels and powers, she was exposed in the streets of Tyre in Phoenicia as an infant, taken up by a brothel master, and raised in a brothel, where she knew no other life save that of degradation. But as the poet recounts the stratagem of the Achaians whereby they infiltrated the fastness of Troy inside a great toy horse, so did her yoke-mate Mind, the male, gain entry to the realm of her captors by appearing in the likeness of their creatures as a man.
The angels who governed the world were corrupt by reason of their lust for power, and so I appeared to set things right, transforming myself and making myself like unto the dominions, principalities, and angels, so that I manifested myself as a man, though I was not really a man.
And I seemed to suffer in Judea, although I did not really undergo it. I was manifested to the Jews as the Son, in Samaria as the Father, and among the gentiles as the Holy Spirit, and I permitted them to call me by whatever name they pleased. The angels who made the world issued whatever laws amused them, thinking thus to enslave all of humanity. And I sought her out. I arrived on Tyre and found her and purchased her freedom. Thus I wrought the ransoming of the human race, recalling to myself the sparks of the latent fire which the angels used to order their creation, and this must issue in the dissolution of the world, but equally in the redemption of all who believe in me.
So ends the Great Announcement of Simon Magus.
https://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/hippolytus6.html. For more insight on the viability of the Great Revelation being authored by Simon Magus as it relates to Irenaeus, see DeConick, 2016, p. 102. Also, regarding the Greek, Apophasis Megale, the word apophasis refers to a rhetorical device of negation where a speaker will say they will not bring up a subject but by saying it they are in fact bringing it up. “I refuse to discuss rumors that my opponent is a drunkard” is an example of this. As it can be ascertained from the Pseudo-Clementine and this Great Revelation literature, Simon appears to have had a strong Greek education and that he may have purposely used the word apophasis, not to denote “Revelation” (or in some translations “Declaration”), but rather, that he is pointing towards a Godhead which is ineffable and hidden from our direct knowing. Hence the title may more accurately be interpreted as, “A Great Revelation of something which can’t be revealed.”
Price, Robert. The Pre-Nicene New Testament: Fifty-four Formative Texts. Salt Lake City: Signature Books. 2006.