The Greatest Mystery

A New Reading from The Acts of Simon Magus

It is Simon’s fate to be forever linked to the corrupting influence of money in spiritual affairs, as the only person to have a major sin named after him (Onan doesn’t count). But as with Onan, the sin associated with Simon is not the one he actually committed. Simony, the selling of time off from Purgatory for the not-entirely damned, was one of the major causes of the revulsion with the Church that led to the Reformation. But Simon in the Bible wasn’t selling salvation, he was trying to buy it, and the representatives of the nascent Church weren’t selling. (Future readings from The Acts will reveal his true motives in that affair.) Meanwhile, here’s how Simon learned about the other Great Power from his Ba, Adonis the Messager.

Once when I was about six, Ba announced that he would reveal the greatest mystery of all. He reached for my ear and produced from it a small shiny disc, which he handed me.

"Look at this. Tell me what you see."

I looked.

"It’s yellow metal. There’s a man’s face in profile on one side and a wreath of leaves on the other."

"Who is the man?"

"I don’t know. Is that his name? There’s some writing, like Greek, but not really. ANSNZT…?"

"It’s Roman writing, and that’s Caesar Augustus, thy God & Master. And what thou holdest there is called money. It has a mighty power. With it, thou canst make men do anything thou wist."

Now you should understand that where we lived, this thing called money was just not used. We grew what we needed, and what we couldn’t grow, we traded for. /sm

I turned my money around in my hand. How did it work? I aimed it at Soch, willing him to stand on his head, but to no avail. Ba laughed.

"Not that kind of power. But offer anyone enough of these, and he’ll be thy willing slave forever. He will grovel before thee, kiss thy boots, offer up his wife or his own arse for the fucking, all for the power given by this magical stuff!"

I looked again at my money. It seemed scarcely credible.

"It is pretty," I said, "but why would you want more than one?"

"It is true," he replied, "that it has no value in itself. Thou canst not eat it, or use it for any practical task, but Caesar has decreed that everything: food, beasts, work, time, love–all these may be got or given in trade for a certain number of these bits of metal. The more thou hast, the more power thou hast over others. And this may be accomplished in two ways: thou mayst buy their services outright, and this may be effective for so long as thou continuest to pay them, and there are no competing bidders.

"But listen o my sons, here is the true secret of money! Once thou hast some to spare, simply persuade a man (or his wife!) that he needs more of the things it can buy than he has or can afford, and offer him enough of these to get them. Only have him vow to repay at a future time a little more than you lent him, and thou shalt surely find at the end of the day that he is thine!

"Hear me o my sons! Greed is a muscle: the more thou workest it, the greater it grows. One who’s never known more than he needs will never desire more. Only let him taste something new, and he will want more, and then more, and gladly work harder and harder yet to get it. But when his own labour is not enough, as it cannot ever be above a certain point, he must turn again to the lender to fulfill his new desire. And of course from this point he can never repay, only borrow anew to keep on top of his old debts and new purchases, and thus he and his kin become flies in thy web forever.

"Doubt not, o my sons, that the true rulers of this world are not the emperors or the kings, but the lender who finances them! Yet he desires not power, nor glory, nor honour, nor any of those things princes hold dear. All he craves is more of these, more than he can possibly ever spend, and to get them he must enslave all mankind!"

My mind was swimming with new words: "money", "lend", "debt", "finance"; but I got the idea, and added lender to my growing list of potential future careers. Soch, however, was skeptical.

"And what," he enquired, "prevents those rulers from simply giving the lenders the chop once they have what they want of them, and become pressed to repay?"

"Nothing," admitted Ba, "and of course it happens. But when next they require more than their taxers and armies can provide, they’ll have a hard time raising funds."


Interview With The Magus

I had my first interview for the Acts of Simon Magus on May 7, with the Aeon Arcanum Gnostic Show!

I don’t normally get to actually talk to anyone about the themes and ideas surrounding the Acts and it was a lot of fun. Host James (and, briefly, Alex) were very knowledgeable, and are in fact writing their own book (non-fiction) on the same theme. It’s interesting how different people can have such different takes on the same topic; of course the realities and mythologies of Simon and his more famous contemporaries have been fervently debated for 2000 years and will no doubt be for another 2000. What’s also interesting is how one looks on video when not accustomed to it: when you’re used to seeing yourself in a mirror you don’t notice any facial asymmetries, but they’re doubled when you see yourself unreflected. Well, I guess I’ll have to get used to it!

God’s Tale – A New Reading From The Acts of Simon Magus

Simon’s uncle Khain, priest of the Baals, tells Simon the history of the God of the Jews

“Let me tell you,” said he, “about that God of theirs. There was a time, a Golden time, when the Baals ruled all the lands, lordly and terrible. Only blood would placate Them. To them did we offer our children, one from each family, that we might not suffer their wrath. And when we’d done it, then the rains came, the crops grew, and all was right.

“But one among the Baals was jealous of the rest. Chah was His name, and He dwelt with his bride Asherah in His Hall on the Highest Heights. And the people made offering to Them, meats for Him, sweets for Her, and all was well. But something happened. He went blind or mad or something, and raged about Sky and Earth smiting everything and everyone in sight; even the lovely Asherah did He spurn. Like a child He was, wanted to be the only One. He wanted all the sacrifices, all the power, all the glory, and He couldn’t bear to share.

“The other Lords, wise as they were, didn’t know what to do about Him. They called a conclave and talked for years, but couldn’t figure out how to control Him. Until finally just to get rid of Him, Mother came to Him in dreams, and showed him an old man in a far land, and told Him that man would make Him Lord of all Lords. Greedily went he to that man, ancient in years with a barren wife, and gave him a son. And when that boy was born, He demanded his blood, as was right and proper. So of course the old man went to do his duty, but when he was about to deliver the fatal blow, treacherous Chah told him to stay his hand and offer a sheep instead! The man was so grateful that he, with all his family, turned his back on the Lords and followed the Bad One who promised to sustain his seed and make them masters of all people.

“Of course He betrayed them. Within three generations, the whole lot of them were building-slaves in Aigyptia, where they remained for years, till He decided they’d had enough and let them go. They came here, and afflicted our fathers with awful deeds. Thou knowest the tales. Finally they managed to set up their own Kingdom, which has stood since, though usually as somebody else’s vassals.

“There was a Jew,” he went on, “called Job, who loved Chah like a father. One day Chah made a bet with Baal of Flies that Job would worship him no matter what befell him. So poor Job was afflicted with all manner of ills: pest, death in the family, loss of all he owned and held dear. But still he kept his faith, though he did ask his God why he had suffered so. Chah was so embarrassed at being tempted into a game of chance, even one He won, that He just told Job to shut up, it was none of his damn business, He was his God and could do anything He damn well pleased.”

“But a God can do anything He pleases,” I pointed out. “Ours do.”

“It’s not the same,” Khain retorted, “They’re not cruel. They’re not so… human? They don’t play with you, like a dog with a rat. You do right by them, they do right by you. They don’t fuck you over to win a wager. They understand we can’t give them blood of our blood any more (damn Roman rules!), that we’re doing the best we can. They know some day we’ll make up for it.” And what a bloody good time that will be! he refrained from saying.

I myself refrained from suggesting that if Khain himself could learn a little tolerance for the Gods of others, he might not have such cursed luck. And I found out later that Job had also got back all he lost and more, so Chah was really not so very bad after all. Or was He?

The Bowels of Moloch

Click for a reading from the Acts of Simon Magus: The Bowels of Moloch. Simon comes from a pagan community in Samaria, where people try to get by as they have always down, by doing what is pleasing to the Gods. But it’s hard these days; since the Romans came in and banned human sacrifice, they have had to make do in other ways. I have tried to capture the spirit of small-town life in a very different time, when the Gods were everywhere and had to be placated with blood so that life could go on. Please let me know if you think I have succeeded.

Blood Creature From Beyond The Grave

…and on an unrelated topic, I have finally got unlimited length permission from YouTube and was able to upload a film I made with Ron Hier in our student days. It’s at Blood Creature From Beyond The Grave, our tribute to the black & white silent horror films of the 1920s. I play the demon Baal-Rakon. Rather lo-res: taped from a 16mm projector on a VHS camcorder 20 years ago and transferred to disk at 352×240 resolution. Will Simon hit the big (or small) screen one day? Are The Acts even filmable? With current technology you can film anything you can imagine, but some scenes may be too much for even the most permissive modern sensibilities: Derdekea In Trouble maybe? What do you think? Comment below, and sign up at left to follow this very strange journey I find myself embarked on.

Mary had a little…

A new reading from The Acts of Simon Magus, in which Simon meets the man he saved at the beginning of the story. Now known as The Lamb, he is trying to fit into normal human society with little success. I read a book maybe 30 years ago? that presented the theory that the parables of Jesus were to a large extent autobiographical. If you know which book that may have been, please let me know.

A note on language

Continuing my previous post on the language of The Acts, I’d like to address one aspect of that, namely that spoken by the players in the tale when addressing each other. For the past 300 years or so the English language has lacked the formal/informal distinction of, for example, French or German, where tu/du is used for people who are equal or socially inferior, and vous/Sie is used for elders and superiors, as well as for the plural. English has used “you” for everyone since the 18th century, but the old singular thee/thou survived much longer in the King James Bible and is now regarded as a kind of marker for ancient and obsolete biblical speech. Restoring it in The Acts allows me to play with language and express the sense of both modernity and archaism (as well as making the job of the translators into other languages easier :)). The characters use modern slang and ancient forms to show that they are of both times. Even the most historical of fiction or out-there sci-fi is the product of an author in a particular time and place and will inevitably reflect that. The Acts does deal with contemporary questions, whether political, social or religious/spiritual, through a distorting glass of 2000 years. The answers to those questions considered acceptable today are not necessarily (in my opinion) superior to what I have proposed for that far-off time, and I’ll let you figure out my true opinion from the context.

For the exam: How does the Phoenician hustler’s offer of “Hello my friend! You fuck me, I fuck thee? Sure, no problem!” exemplify the dynamic discussed in this post?

The Sources of Simon Magus

Haven’t posted here in a while. I’ve been putting together my Indiegogo campaign, creating a video for it and a blurb asking the world for money. Followers of this blog can see it here. I’ve also added a new page of sources; ancient and modern texts which I have found useful in researching the life of the Magus, as well as some writers who have influenced my style and content, and some strange items indeed which defy classification, rivaling Simon’s own cryptic writings. Hope you find them interesting; if so, please share. Indiegogo will launch in the next month, and I’d like as many eyes on it as possible!

Trilogy

I have been writing the Acts of Simon Magus for over 20 years now and it’s actually now over 600 pages in standard publishing format! The section that introduces the character and covers his early time in Egypt is about 260. So I think there is plenty of scope for splitting it up a la Peter Jackson into at least a trilogy and maybe more. He still needs to learn conjuring, but in such a way that it doesn’t interfere with his belief in real magic, or his father’s powers, and Egypt seems the place to do it. So I will do that next, and leave the later stuff to later.

What is the Purpose of Religion?

This question is one of the main themes of the book, answered differently by different characters. It is posed by the Jewish philosopher Philon to young Simon, who is working as his scribe in his class at the Academy in Alexandria. Philon’s own answer is a foreshadowing of Christianity, involving the individual in a personal relationship with God, mediated by His Holy Word who acts as intermediary. Simon, from a Canaanite pagan background, has a more practical answer:

Spent all last night preparing materials for Philon’s lectures. His main thing is reconciling his own faith with Hellenic philosophy and the Aigyptian mysteries.

Here is a taste, transcribed from the first seminar I attended under him.

“What,” he intoned, “is the purpose of religion?”

He looked around expectantly at the polynational crowd at his feet, and they looked back. No one answered. Well, I knew, and raised my hand. He nodded.

“If you please, sir, to please the Gods.”

“Interesting. Please explain.”

“You know, if you want the crops to grow, you give praise to Them and sacrifice something you hold dear. That way They’ll like you and spare you over to another season.”

“I see. And to which Gods dost thou sacrifice in… where didst say thou wert from?”

“Syria. The Baals of the High Places. But of course when we go to a Greek town we pretend to sacrifice to Zeus and His lot, and here I guess to Whomever they have here.”

“And what happens to thee after thou diest… in Syria?”

“Same as anyplace. You hang around as a ghost if you’ve got unfinished business, then off to Mot’s Place, feed off whatever sacrifices your folks send you, and help them out if they need you.”

“Interesting. And finally, how did the world come to be?”

I’m glad you asked: Uncle Khain’s drilled it into me often enough!

“Well, first was Black Cloud and Wind, They produced Desire (but didn’t know it), and Dirt and Water came together to make World, and the Watchers were like eggs and they Watched as Black Cloud blew open and bled Daylight, and Water covered all, and Other Wind mated with Wilderness so Time could begin and Sun could rise (but Fire bore Himself), then the Highest One came together with Covenant and made Sky and Earth and Mountains and The Deep, and the First Gods came from them, but Sky hated Him and sent Her to kill Him, but They married anyway and had the other Gods… I can name them all if you like…”

“That won’t be necessary,” he smiled. The others snickered. “Anyone else?”

And for the next quarter-hour we had to listen to the wildly conflicting and utterly incomprehensible deeds of weird and whacky Gods from all over the world. I don’t know why they didn’t just accept mine; it was the only one that made sense.

What’s your answer? Let me know below.