Part 3: Mani, The Messenger of Light.
It will be another (not so important) announcement to my running vacuous for the next two weeks! I know you will miss me (please, please miss me!!) That’s because we dare to take a vacation in Greece (Skiathos). Of course, I can’t be silent, and I’ll get on your nerves now and then, and it might be helpful to do something different.
Now, I share the last part of my trilogy on Dualism. And hope, despite this long part, you will find joy by reading it.
In fact, Manicheism is a successor of Zoroastrianism, but similar to Cathars, its beliefs based on the Divine.
Manichaeism is a combination of religions with its own theology. Manichean doctrine is far more dualistic than Zoroastrianism. Manicheans believe that the physical world and physical matter is evil, a work of the evil spirit.
Manichaeism considered Zoroaster to be a figure (along with the Buddha and Jesus) in a line of prophets of which Mani (216–276) was the culmination. Zoroaster’s ethical dualism is—to an extent—incorporated in Mani’s doctrine, which viewed the world as being locked in an epic battle between opposing forces of good and evil. Manicheanism also incorporated other elements of Zoroastrian tradition, particularly the names of supernatural beings; however, many of these other Zoroastrian elements are either not part of Zoroaster’s own teachings or are used quite differently from how they are used in Zoroastrianism.
Academics also note that much of what is known about Manichaeism comes from later 10th- and 11th-century Muslim historians like Al-Biruni and especially ibn al-Nadim (and his Fihrist), who “ascribed to Mani the claim to be the Seal of the Prophets.” However, given the Islamic milieu of Arabia and Persia at the time, it stands to reason that Manichaeans would regularly assert in their evangelism that Mani, not Muhammad, was the “Seal of the Prophets”. In reality, for Mani the metaphorical expression “Seal of Prophets” is not a reference to his finality in a long succession of prophets, as it is in Islam, but, rather to his followers, who testify or attest his message, as a seal does.
Another source of Mani’s scriptures was original Aramaic writings relating to the Book of Enoch literature (see the Book of Enoch and the Second Book of Enoch), as well as an otherwise unknown section of the Book of Enoch called The Book of Giants. This book was quoted directly, and expanded on by Mani, becoming one of the original six Syriac writings of the Manichaean Church. Besides brief references by non-Manichaean authors through the centuries, no sources of The Book of Giants (which is actually part six of the Book of Enoch) were available until the 20th century.
Not to make it too long, it is fascinating to know how impressive was the idea of Dualism in religious history.
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Around AD 240, Mani had begun his preaching mission. His preaching but was distinctly not Zoroastrianism. Therefore he has been forced to exile. Of course, in his exile to India, Mani had got the chance to preach his idea and had great success to have followers there. And after Ardeshir, the first king of the Sasanian dynasty, a convinced Zoroastrian died, Mani came back to Persian and got permission from king Shahpur the first, to continue preaching. The king protected Mani to do what he wished throughout the Persian Empire. Thereafter, Manichaeism won converts at a phenomenal rate causing intense resentment and jealousy amongst the Zoroastrian priesthood. Therefore, they persuaded the king to exile Mani for a second time.
Anyway, after back and forth with the kings’ changing, king Hormuzd, despite his faith to Zoroastrianism, tolerated Mani and his followers. But it doesn’t last so long that the officers arrested him at Gundeshapur in southwestern Persia. He was then subjected to four days of inquisition-style by the Magi (Zoroastrian priests) and declared to be “Zandic” = a heresy. A month of imprisonment in heavy chains, followed after which he was flayed alive and then decapitated. His head was impaled on the city gate, from which his skin, stuffed with straw, was also suspended; what remained of his body was thrown to the dogs.
No doubt, the level of brutality in his execution was commensurate with the level of threat that Magi saw in Mani’s new religion, which was everywhere overtaking them. And just as the case with the destruction of Catharism by the Roman Catholic Church, a thousand years later, it was also a determined attempt made by the Zoroastrians to wipe out Manicheism completely. How horrible it seems, it is a sad old story, which we can find permanently in our history!
This might not be known as the other sects or way of beliefs.
The Manichaeans had not become so famous as the Zoroastrian religion. It might because the latter had aimed to destroy its serious enemy. And after that, when the Arabs came, with their destructive swords, remained no chance for the Manichaeans to go any further.
Let’s have some declarations in detail: (Hopefully, it’s not becoming boring!)
Mani, Messenger of Light
It’s known as Manicheism after its founder Mani. It’s younger than some of the Christian Gnostic movements but a century older than the Messalians. It too was viciously persecuted by the Church as heresy, rather than as a pagan religion.
There’s a dispute amongst scholars as to whether Manicheism was Christian in any meaningful sense at all. Certainly, it was much less Christian than the religion of Bogomils and the Cathars, and that, as I have explained before, accurately can’t be described as Christianity. It said that Mani claimed to be the Apostle of Christ, though there is another claim which he had uttered himself as the Apostle of God. He meant that he was an emissary or messenger, and he placed himself as the successor to Christ at the end of a line of earlier, non-Christian apostles.
Obviously, the Church saw this as heresy. It involved Chris but clearly devalued the unique quality of his mission by putting him on a par with the founders of well-known pagan religions.
One of Mani’s surviving statements on the matter in his Book of the King, Shapur (circa AD 250) makes this completely clear.
From age to age, the Apostles of God did not cease to bring here the wisdom and works of the spirit. Thus in one age, their coming was into the countries of India, through the Apostle, that was the Buddha. In another age, into the land of Persia, through Zoroaster. Into another, the land of the West, through Jesus. After that, into this last age, this revelation came down, and this prophethood arrived through me, Mani, the Apostle of the true God, into the land of Bable.
[…] More directly, it’s known that Mani was reared amongst an obscure sect of Jewish Christians called the Elchasaitans (considered to have been Gnostics and linked by some scholars with the Essens of Dead Sea Scrolls fame). They were mystics and visionaries with strict purity laws and respective rituals that Mani rebelled against. But through them, he was exposed to an additional vital influence on his thinking – the teachings of the Christian Gnostics. Although later to be persecuted as heresy, these teachings were still in free circulation in the first half of the third century and are generally agreed to have greatly impacted the construction of Mani’s own distinctively Gnostic religion.[…]
…guarded by the might of the Light-angels the exceedingly strong powers, who had a command from Jesus the Splendour for my safekeeping… They nourished me with visions and signs which they made known to me, slight and quite brief, as far as I was able, for, sometimes like a flash of lightning, he came.
Though, Manichaeism is very similar to Catharism and Bogomilism, as far as the divine concerns. And there are two Gods: The one of the Light and the other:
It is the Prince of Darkness who spoke with Moses, the jews, and their priests. Thus, the Christians, the Jews (the Muslims), and the Pagans are involved in the same error when they worship this god. For he led them astray in the lusts that he thought them, since he was not the God of Truth.
Actually, if we take a deep look to the world and these all happening today, it sounds mysteriously true! The question that remains in my mind is: what went wrong after thousands of years of human’s cultural progress, it’s still so much misery and injustice in the world. It seems that the right way was there, and we didn’t catch it up! I can only hope if there’d be light at the end of this long and dark tunnel.
Have a lovely weekend friends. 🧡🧡🙏🤗