Sunday, September 11, 2016

Saheli Mitra writes


My memory is indeed a liar. 
When my heart speaks, 
my head conceals.
Like weft of fears one branch felt
On a wintry night, laid bare
When the other bough burst into pink blossoms 
ready to share wishes  
and conflicts 
Of my memory. 
That tried hard to remember  
What lay at the bottom of the deep. 
Even shadows dare not form. 
A magician whispered to a saint:
"My memory is indeed a liar." 
You wove a cloth of magical nights  
filled with stars and gossamers. 
Making love on slopes 
Trekking past rolling stones, 
the boughs forgot. 
They whisper words of a saint today. 
Fading into obscurity 
Diffusing your presence. 
Even your shadow was concealed. 
Did my memory of you 
Lie to me again?

St. Peter and Simon Magnus disputing with Simon Magus before Nero; the fall of Somon Magus [mosaic, Cappella Palatina, Palermo, 1140-1170]


  1. Simon Magus claimed (according to Epiphanius of Salamis) that “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…. 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 … 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.”

  2. According to one tradition, John the Baptist had a corps of 30 male and female disciples, of whom Simon was the favorite. But Simon was in Egypt when John was murdered, and Dositheus assumed the leadership and proclaimed himself to be the Standing One (meaning that he would stand for ever). When Simon challenged his authority, Dositheus behgan beating him with a rod, which “seemed to pass through his body, as if it had been smoke.” Then Simon usurped the leadership of the cult and began promoting his mistress Helen, one of the other leaders, as Sophia (wisdom), the Mother of All [Justin Martyr claimed she was a prostitute from Tyre], while he was “the Power of God that is called the great.” However, after being baptized by Philip he joined the apostle’s entourage “and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.” When Peter and John went to Samaria, Simon offered them money if they would give him the power "that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost." But Peter rebuked him, “Thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee, for I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity." During the reign of Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, Simon traveled to Rome, and his magic was credited with saving Claudius’ throne during a revolt by Camillus Scribonianus, the governor of Dalmatia. The populace was so impressed that they erected a statue inscribed “Simoni Deo Sancto” (To Simon the Holy God). Hippolytus later claimed that his followers practiced free love and worshipped images of Simon and Helen, his consort, as Zeus and Athena.

  3. His popularity continued into the reign of Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, when Peter also arrived in Rome, traditionally as the first pope, and challenged him in a disputation before the emperor. According to Hegesippus the contest between them initiated over a kinsman of the Emperor Nero who was raised from the dead. Simon claimed that he had better knowledge of Jesus than the disciples, who had actually seen and conversed with him in person, because divine visions are superior to human perception. Peter rebutted that assertion: “Can any one be educated for teaching by vision? And if you shall say, ‘It is possible,’ why did the Teacher remain and converse with waking men for a whole year? And how can we believe you even as to the fact that he appeared to you? And how can he have appeared to you seeing that your sentiments are opposed to his teaching? But if you were seen and taught by him for a single hour, and so became an apostle, then preach his words, expound his meaning, love his apostles, fight not with me who had converse with him. For it is against a solid rock, the foundation-stone of the Church, that you have opposed yourself in opposing me. If you were not an adversary, you would not be slandering me and reviling the preaching that is given through me, in order that, as I heard myself in person from the Lord, when I speak I may not be believed, as though forsooth it were I who was condemned and I who was reprobate. Or, if you call me condemned, you are accusing God who revealed the Christ to me, and are inveighing against Him who called me blessed on the ground of the revelation. But if indeed you truly wish to work along with the truth, learn first from us what we learnt from Him, and when you have become a disciple of truth, become our fellow-workman.”

  4. According to the “Acts of Peter and Paul,” in preparation for the debate, Simon asked Nero to have a wooden tower constructed to demonstrate the truth of his claims. The next day, while Peter was in prayer, Simon, crowned with Lauren, ascended the tower, stretched out his arms, and began to fly, much to Nero’s satisfaction. But Peter declaimed, “I adjure you, ye angels of Satan, who are carrying him into the air, to deceive the hearts of the unbelievers, by the God that created all things, and by Jesus Christ, whom on the third day He raised from the dead, no longer from this hour to keep him up, but to let him go.” Simon fell onto the Sacra Via (Holy Way) “divided into four parts.” (The church of Santa Francesca Romana was built on the spot where he fell, and a dented slab of marble inside bears the imprints of the knees made by Peter during his prayer.) Nero ordered that Simon’s body be kept safe for three days to see if he would resurrect and then in retaliation imprisoned Peter for nine months. Early in 67 Peter was crucified upside down. From Rome, Clement notified Jesus’ brother James, in charge of the movement in Jerusalem, that Peter had gone to the city “in opposition to the wicked one who withstood him” and “by violence, exchanged this present existence for life.” (In the “Acts of Peter,” Simon levitated above the Forum until Peter intervened, then fell, breaking his legs "in three parts;” the mob then stoned him, and he was taken to Terracina for treatment by Castor, who had been banished for sorcery; Simon died "while being sorely cut by two physicians." Cyril of Jerusalem wrote that Simon claimed he would ascend to Heaven and was actually careening through the air in a demon-drawn chariot, but Peter’s prayers brought him to earth, a mangled corpse. In the 4th century, Arnobius ascribed the conversion of the Romans to this episode, “for they had seen the chariot of Simon Manus, and his fiery car blown into pieces by the mouth of Peter.” On the other hand, the Persian historian Omod of Askar recorded that he was crucified and flayed, his skin "being torn from the flesh, his muscles baking on wooden planks high on the cross." Another account insisted that Peter and Simon continued to clash frequently; on one occasion, Simon insisted “that if he were buried alive he would rise again on the third day. So he bade that a tomb should be dug by his disciples and that he should be buried in it. Now they did what they were ordered, but he remained there until now: for he was not the Christ.” )


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