Simon Magus is the earliest known gnostic. He lived in Samaria (or Shomrom) in the first century. Samaria was a fertile ground for "alternative" (heretic) religious groups at the time, and Simon Magus was just one of many charismatic leaders who preached and gathered followers at the time.

Simon Magus claimed that he was an incarnation of God, a common claim, then as well as now. Futhermore, he claimed that he had incarnated in human form in order to rescue the fallen "Divine Thought", a female deity that had been captured by angels and arch angels, and forced to reincarnate through successive female bodies. He claimed that Helen of Troy was one of her previous incarnations, and that she was currently residing in the body of a prostitute called Helena.

Characteristically, Simon taught his followers that the Old Testament was the revelation of malicious angels, and hence oppressive. His followers propounded a cosmology of divine emanations, which is common in gnosticism in general. However, it is unknown whether this cosmology was taught by Simon himself, or if it was a later construct.

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