Thursday, January 03, 2013

Mani: A short brief on Mani and Manichaeism.

Mani, the founder of Manichaeism- a religious faith which suggested that materialism was the reason for human wrongdoings such as lies, murder, etc. He manifest himself publicly and proclaim his doctrines when he was heavenly ordered by the angels.Thus the Manichaen religion began to spread throughout the world. The new religion preached goodness, truthfulness, defending the right against wrong and sobriety as key values for human perfection. Mani actually preached the value of idealism and he believed that children should be educated at early ages so that they have higher objectives rather than material goals.

Mani, known to the world as the "Apostle of Light" and supreme "Illuminator." The coherence of his doctrines and the rigidness of its structure and institutions, preserved throughout its history a unity and unique character.

Mani viewed himself as the final successor in a long line of prophets, beginning with Adam and including Buddha, Zoroaster, and Jesus. He viewed earlier revelations of the true religion as being limited in effectiveness because they were local, taught in one language to one people. Moreover, later adherents lost sight of the original truth. Mani regarded himself as the carrier of a universal message destined to replace all other religions. Hoping to avoid corruption and to ensure doctrinal unity, he recorded his teachings in writing and gave those writings canonical status during his lifetime.

Mani, the founder of Manichaeism
Mani's teaching dealt with the origin of evil, [John Kevin Coyle (2009). Manichaeism and Its Legacy. Brill. pp. 13] by addressing a theoretical part of the problem of evil by denying the omnipotence of God and postulating two opposite powers. Manichaean theology taught a dualistic view of good and evil. A key belief in Manichaeism is that the powerful, though not omnipotent good power (God) was opposed by the semi-eternal evil power (Satan). Humanity, the world and the soul are seen as the byproduct of the battle between God's proxy, Primal Man, and Satan. The human person is seen as a battleground for these powers: the soul defines the person, but it is under the influence of both light and dark. This contention plays out over the world as well as the human body—neither the Earth nor the flesh were seen as intrinsically evil, but rather possessed portions of both light and dark. Natural phenomena (such as rain) were seen as the physical manifestation of this spiritual contention. Therefore, the Manichaean worldview explained the existence of evil with a flawed creation which God took no role in forming but rather was the result of Satan striking out against God.-[Bevan, A. A. (1930). "Manichaeism". Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, Volume VIII]

Beginning with the time of its creation, the Manichaean religion had a detailed description of deities and events that took place within the universe. Manichaeism presented an elaborate description of the conflict between the spiritual world of light and the material world of darkness. The beings of both the world of darkness and the world of light have names. From the sources available today, it is possible to derive an almost complete description of the detailed Manichaean vision [Jonas, Hans The Gnostic Religion, 1958, Ch. 9: Creation, World History, Salvation According to Mani]. According to Mani, the unfolding of the universe takes place with three "creations":

The First Creation: Originally, good and evil existed in two completely separate realms, one the World of Light, ruled by the Father of Greatness together with his five Shekhinas (divine attributes of light), and the other the World of Darkness, ruled by the King of Darkness. At a certain point, the Kingdom of Darkness notices the World of Light, becomes greedy for it and attacks it. The Father of Greatness, in the first of three "creations" (or "calls"), calls to the Mother of Life, who sends her son Original Man (Nāšā Qaḏmāyā in Aramaic), to battle with the attacking powers of Darkness, which include the Demon of Greed. The Original Man is armed with five different shields of light (reflections of the five Shekhinas), which he loses to the forces of darkness in the ensuing battle, described as a kind of "bait" to trick the forces of darkness, as the forces of darkness greedily consume as much light as they can. When the Original Man comes to, he is trapped among the forces of darkness.

The Second Creation: Then the Father of Greatness begins the Second Creation, calling to the Living Spirit, who calls to his five sons, and sends a call to the Original Man (Call then becomes a Manichaean deity). An answer (Answer becomes another Manichaean deity) then returns from the Original Man to the World of Light. The Mother of Life, the Living Spirit, and his five sons begin to create the universe from the bodies of the evil beings of the World of Darkness, together with the light that they have swallowed. Ten heavens and eight earths are created, all consisting of various mixtures of the evil material beings from the World of Darkness and the swallowed light. The sun, moon, and stars are all created from light recovered from the World of Darkness. The waxing and waning of the moon is described as the moon filling with light, which passes to the sun, then through the Milky Way, and eventually back to the World of Light.

The Third Creation: Great demons (called archons) are hung out over the heavens, and then the Father of Greatness begins the third Creation. Light is recovered from out of the material bodies of the male and female evil beings and demons, by causing them to become sexually aroused in greed, towards beautiful images of the beings of light, such as the third Messenger and the Virgins of Light. However, as soon as the light is expelled from their bodies and falls to the earth (some in the form of abortions – the source of fallen angels in the Manichaean myth), the evil beings continue to swallow up as much of it as they can to keep the light inside of them. This results eventually in the evil beings swallowing huge quantities of light, copulating, and producing Adam and Eve. The Father of Greatness then sends the Radiant Jesus to awaken Adam, and to enlighten him to the true source of the light that is trapped in his material body. Adam and Eve, however, eventually copulate, and produce more human beings, trapping the light in bodies of mankind throughout human history. The appearance of the Prophet Mani was another attempt by the World of Light to reveal to mankind the true source of the spiritual light imprisoned within their material bodies. 

The most important religious observance of the Manichaeans was the Bema Fest, observed annually:

The Bema was originally, in the Syriac Christian churches, a seat placed in the middle of the nave on which the bishop would preside and from which the Gospel would be read. In the Manichaean places of worship, the throne was a five-stepped altar, covered by precious cloths, symbolizing the five classes of the hierarchy. The top of the Bema was always empty, as it was the seat of Mani. The Bema was celebrated at the vernal equinox, was preceded by fasts, and symbolized the passion of Mani.
While it is often presumed that the Bema seat was empty, there is some evidence from the Coptic Manichaean Bema Psalms, that the Bema seat may have actually contained a copy of Mani's picture book, the Arzhang.

The above is in short the Manichaen religion. It is actually a gnostic religion of Late Antiquity which was once widespread but is now extinct.-[Sundermann, "Mani, the founder of the religion of Manicheism"]

The place and the date of birth of Mani were not well established by the historian. Some information helps to asume that Mani perhaps born in the town Mardinu [though some accounts says it was the town Abrumya], the upper canal of Nahr Kutha in or near Seleucia-Ctesiphon in Parthian Babylonia, [Taraporewala, Manichaeis] on 14th April [8th Nisan], 216 CE [527 Seleucid era], in the 4th year of king Adharban [or, Ardawan/Artabanus-V], -the last of the Arsacid kings. He composed seven writings, six of which were written in Syriac Aramaic and the seventh, the Shabuhragan, was written in Middle Persian -[Henning,The Book of Giants] and presented by him to the contemporary King of Sassanid Persia, Shapur I, in the Persian capital of Ctesiphon. Mani is reported to have died in Gundeshapur jail at the time he was prisoned and awaiting execution by the Persian Emperor Bahram I. The date of his death is estimated at 276–277 CE [Kevin Coyle , Manichaeism and Its Legacy]

In Greek, Mani called as Μανιχαιος and in Latin Manichaeus, apparently both came from Syriac Mâní ḥayyâ “the living Mani”. On the otherhand, the Christians called him Corbicius may be because in Acta he is called by that name.

According to the Fehrest, Mani was of Arsacid stock on both his father’s and his mother’s sides, at least if the readings al-ḥaskāniya (Mani’s father) and al-asʿāniya (Mani’s mother) are corrected to al-aškāniya and al-ašḡāniya (ed. Flügel, 1862, p. 49, ll. 2 and 3) respectively. The forefathers of Mani’s father are said to have been from Hamadan [ancient Ecbatana as Encyclopædia Britannica says]. and thus of Iranian origin (ed. Flügel, 1862, p. 49, 5–6). The Chinese Compendium, which makes the father a local king, maintains that his mother was from the house Jinsajian, explained by Henning as the Armenian Arsacid family of Kamsarakan (Henning, 1977, II, p. 115). Is that fact, or fiction, or both? The historicity of this tradition is assumed by most, but the possibility that Mani’s noble Arsacid background is legendary cannot be ruled out (cf. Scheftelowitz, 1933, pp. 403–4). In any case, it is characteristic that Mani took pride in his origin from time-honored Babel, but never claimed affiliation to the Iranian upper class.

"...Mani, who was brought up and spent most of his life in a province of the Persian empire, and whose mother belonged to a famous Parthian family, did not make any use of the Iranian mythological tradition. There can no longer be any doubt that the Iranian names of Sām, Narīmān, etc., that appear in the Persian and Sogdian versions of the Book of the Giants, did not figure in the original edition, written by Mani in the Syriac language."

According to Acta, Mani’s father Fatiq came from Hashkaniyya family of Hamadan. This indicates that Mani somehow related to the ruling house of the Arsacids. His mother Mays/Marmaryam was from Ashghaniyya -a Parthian noble family. Mr Fatiq came to Babylon in his early age and starts to live in Ctesiphon/al-Mada’in. There was a temple of idol [Tardieu, On the Sabeans, p. 7] near his residence, which was maybe belongs to a sect of Sabean astrologers. Mr Fatiq frequently visited that temple and one day a voice came from one of the idols, that says, “Fatiq, do not eat meat, do not drink wine, and stay away from any sexual commerce!” It was told him three days, three times each.-[al-Nadim, pp. 773-74].  And when Futtaq had learnt this, he joined some people who lived in the regions of Dastumissn, and who are called al-Mughtasila, a Baptist community lived in those regions and the swampy districts. And they embraced the creed that Futtaq was ordered to adopt.-[Pedersen, Oriental Studies Browne, pp. 383-84. Cf. Bayard Dodge, The Fihrist of al-Nahdim: A Tenth-Century Survey of Muslim Culture, 2 vols. (New York,1970), 11, 81 1;773-74] At that time his wife was pregnant. The head of the Baptist sect that Fatiq joined was al-Haysa, which the Christian called Elchasai. Then after a few years he brought his son Mani to him.

Moni is first mentioned by Bishop Hippolytus, who reports that a certain Alcibiades from Syria had brought to Rome a book according to which sin could be atoned for by a second baptism. The book had originally been revealed to Elchasai in the third year of Trojan by angels. And according to Epiphanius (Panarion, ca. 375), Elchasai had become the founder of a new community after rejecting the bloody sacrifice in the Easter ceremony. In the new community no meat was therefore consumed. Otherwise the religion was scrupulously observed: circumcision, monotheism, rejection of divination and astrology, etc. As he considered the fire a devilish instrument of the worst practices of the old religion, he made water the center of his own. In addition to the old religion Elchasai had adopted the modern Christology, according to which Jesus was the last of a series of Messiahs starting with Adam. He used texts from both the Old and the New Testaments, but never the writings of Paul.

According to al-Nadim, Mani had a deformed right foot or two deformed feet. When he was four years old -(Codex 11.1ff.) he joined his father and was brought up by him among the Baptists. In the Codex, one of his biographers states that he was by then constantly guarded by the angels of light until the age of maturity.

The Christian tradition of Mani is based on Socrates of Constantinople, a historian writing in the 5th century. According to this account, one Scythianos, a Saracen, husband of an Egyptian woman, "introduced the doctrine of Empedocles and Pythagoras into Christianity"; that he had a disciple, "Buddas, formerly named Terebinthus," who travelled in Persia, where he alleged that he had been born of a virgin, and afterwards wrote four books, one of Mysteries, a second The Gospel, a third The Treasure, and a fourth Heads. While performing some mystic rites, he was hurled down a precipice by a daimon, and killed. A woman at whose house he lodged buried him, took over his property, and bought a boy of seven, named Cubricus. This boy she freed and educated, leaving him the property and books of Buddas-Terebinthus. Cubricus then travelled into Persia, where he took the name of Manes and gave forth the doctrines of Buddas Terebinthus as his own. The king of Persia, hearing that he worked miracles, sent for him to heal his sick son, and on the child's dying put Manes in prison. Thence he escaped, flying into Mesopotamia, but was traced, captured, and flayed alive by the Persian king's orders, the skin being then stuffed with chaff and hung up before the gate of the city.

For this narrative, Socrates gives as his authority "The Disputation [with Manes] of Archelaus bishop of Caschar," a work either unknown to or disregarded by Eusebius, who in his History (vii.31) briefly vilifies Manes without giving any of the above details. In the Chronicon of Eusebius the origin of the sect is placed in the second year of Probus, AD 277. According to Jerome, Archelaus wrote his account of his disputation with "Manichæus" in Syriac, whence it was translated into Greek. The Greek is lost, and the work, apart from extracts, subsists only in a Latin translation from the Greek, of doubtful age and fidelity, probably made after the 5th century. By Photius it is stated that Heraclean, bishop of Chalcedon, in his book against the Manichæans, said the Disputation of Archelaus was written by one Hegemonius, an author not otherwise traceable, and of unknown date.

In the Latin narrative, "Manes" is said to have come, after his flight from court, from Arabion, a frontier fortress, to Caschar or Carchar, a town said to be in Roman Mesopotamia, in the hope of converting an eminent Christian there, named Marcellus, to whom he had sent a letter beginning: "Manichæus apostle of Jesus Christ, and all the saints and virgins with me, send peace to Marcellus." In his train he brought twenty-two (or twelve) youths and virgins. At the request of Marcellus, he debated on religion with bishop Archelaus, by whom he was vanquished; whereupon he set out to return to Persia. On his way he proposed to debate with a priest at the town of Diodorides; but Archelaus came to take the priest's place, and again defeated him; whereupon, fearing to be given up to the Persians by the Christians, he returned to Arabion.

At this stage Archelaus introduces in a discourse to the people his history of "this Manes," very much to the effect of the recapitulation in Socrates. Among the further details are these: that Scythianus lived "in the time of the Apostles"; that Terebinthus said the name of Buddas had been imposed on him; that in the mountains he had been brought up by an angel; that he had been convicted of imposture by a Persian prophet named Parcus, and by Labdacus, son of Mithra; that in the disputation he taught concerning the sphere, the two luminaries, the transmigration of souls, and the war of the Principia against God; that "Corbicius" or Corbicus, about the age of sixty, translated the books of Terebinthus; that he made three chief disciples, Thomas, Addas, and Hermas, of whom he sent the first to Egypt, and the second to Scythia, keeping the third with him; that the two former returned when he was in prison, and that he sent them to procure for him the books of the Christians, which he then studied. According to the Latin narrative, finally, Manes on his return to Arabion was seized and taken to the Persian king, by whose orders he was flayed, his body being left to the birds, and his skin, filled with air, hung at the city gate.[John M. Robertson, Pagan Christs ( 1911),]

Painter Mani presenting king Bukhram-Gur (Bahram) with his drawing. 16th-century painting by Ali-Shir Nava'i, Shakrukhia (Tashkent). Mani is described as a painter who set up a sectarian movement in opposition to Zoroastrianism. He was persecuted by Shapur I and fled to Central Asia, where he made disciples and embellished with paintings a Tchighil (or picturarum domus Chinensis) and another temple called Ghalbita. Provisioning in advance a cave which had a spring, he told his disciples he was going to heaven, and would not return for a year, after which time they were to seek him in the cave in question. They then and there found him, whereupon he showed them an illustrated book, called Ergenk, or Estenk Arzhang, which he said he had brought from heaven: whereafter he had many followers, with whom he returned to Persia at the death of Shapur. The new king, Hormisdas, joined and protected the sect; and built Mani a castle. The next king, Bahram or Varanes, at first favoured Mani; but, after getting him to debate with certain Zoroastrian teachers, caused him to be flayed alive, and the skin to be stuffed and hung up. Thereupon most of his followers fled to India and China.

The accounts of the Acta (Puech, pp. 22-23) is different, the doctrine of dualism was invented at the time of the apostles by a certain extremely wealthy Saracene, Scythianus, who had received it from Pythagoras. His wife persuaded him to live in Egypt more than in the deserts. He had a pupil, Terebinthus, who wrote four books for him: the Mysteries, the Chapters, the Gospel, and the Treasure.

Scythianus enjoyed discussing with the learned men in Judea, but eventually died while he was there, and Terebinthus fled to Babylonia. There he presented himself as being replete with all the wisdom of Egypt and called himself Buddha. Born of a virgin, he had been raised in the mountains by an angel. He discussed with the Mithraists, but converted nobody, except for an old woman. One morning he tried to fly off from the roof but fell down and broke his neck. The old woman buried him, but now that she was alone again, she bought a seven-year old boy as a slave. This was Corbicius, whom she immediately freed and began educating.

On the otherhand, Bar Konai's account also are very different. Actually, Bar Konai reports two versions of his early life. According to one, the boy Corbicius had been bought by a Baptist (Menaqqede) sect. He came from the city of Abrumia, and his father was Patiq. When the Baptists excluded him from their community they called him Mânâ d.Bíshtâ “vessel of evil,” hence he earn the name Mani. The other account is mainly parallel to that of the Acta, with some differences in detail. The boy had been set free by the wife of Bados, who was a pupil of Skuntianos.

At the age of twelve Mani had his first revelation, brought him by the angel al-Tawm, that is the Companion in Nabatean (Codex Suzugos, MPers. Narjamig), who told him to leave the Baptist community and revealed to him the Mysteries.

Similarly, al-Biruni reports that the revelation came to him in his thirteenth year, i.e., year 539 of the Seleucid era. in the 2nd year of Ardashahr. The name of the angel is clearly reminiscent of that of the apostle Thomas “the Twin” (ie. brother of Jesus), whose Gospel or Acts was circulated and read widely throughout the area at this period.

Mani spent his youth among the Baptists, often in disputes with them over their practices, in particular he questioned the usefulness of baptizing food in order to minimize the adverse effects upon the body, especially the production of excrements -(Codex, 82). By extension he also showed that the body itself cannot be purified by water. Instead the purity that is mentioned in the scriptures by Jesus consists in knowing how to separate light from darkness and life from death -(Codex, 84-85). His opponents accused him of being anti-Christ and false prophet. Finally a council of elders was convoked and explanations were demanded from Patiq, who, however, accepted no responsibility and told them to ask Mani himself.

Mani called and the council wanted to know why he had not followed the rules of the community. 
“If you accuse me concerning baptism, see, again I show you from your Law and from what had been: revealed to your leaders that it is not necessary to baptize oneself. For this is shown by Alchasaios the founder of your Law.”-[A. Klijn and G. Reinink, Patristic Evidence for Jewish-Christian Sects (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1973), Mani Codex (Missoula: Scholars Press, 1979).p. 255].

Mani answered by pointing out that they were not at all in accord with the teachings of and examples set by Jesus himself. He also quoted Elchasai, the founder of the sect, who in visions heard the water say that the constant ablutions were hurting it, the earth say that the plow was hurting it, and the bread say that cooking was hurting it, and he therefore stopped washing and plowing and told his disciples to stop baking bread -(Codex, 96-97).

For twelve years Mani kept his revelation a secret, but when he was twenty four, al-Tawm -the angel, announced that the time had come for him to come forth and proclaim the truth, the "True Gospel". The revelation is referred in the Codex as follows:

When Mani was twenty-four, in the year that Ardashahr (Dariardaxar) conquered Hatra and in which Shapur crowned himself with the grand diadem, in the month of Pharmouthi, on the eighth day of the lunar month, the Lord sent for him.

According to the Manichean tradition, the day Mani came forth was Sunday, when the sun was in Aries, 12 April 240 CE. It was the same day when the crown was placed on King Shapur’s head, the first of Nisan, 551 Seleucid era. His father and two of his followers, Simon and Zako, were with him on this occasion.

Moni preached that the "Paraclete" which Jesus preached the coming of [John 14:26, 15:26] had come and that he was he, and that he was the "Seal of the Prophets" [Bīrūnī]. After this, Mani went traveling and preached about himself [Tardieu, p. 27].His first trip was to the east. He boarded a ship at Shiren in Rew-Ardakhshahr on the Gulf, and sailing along the Persian coast to Makran, visiting Christian communities in the islands, he arrived in the country of Turan in the Indus delta (near Baluchistan). He converted the king of Turan by performing various magical tricks, and the king became convinced that he was indeed a reincarnation of the Buddha himself. Upon his return to Reu-Ardaxshahr he sent his father and his brother (Hanní/John) to Turan to take care of the newly-founded community.-[Parthian M 4575r]

According to Kephalaia, Mani's travels took place during the last years of Ardashahr I, and he returned in the year Ardashahr died and his son Shapur became king, possibly in CE 242 [Kephalaia, 15.27-33]. He traveled from Persia to Babylonia, and Mesene, where according to the hagiographers, he gained a supporter in the local king, a certain Mihrshah, brother of the king, who is not known from the royal inscriptions, however. Carrying a letter of recommendation, he made the acquaintance of Shapur’s brother Firuz (Peroz), who brought him to the king of kings.- [Al-Nadīm].

W.Sundermann states that Mani counted royalty among his early Iranian followers. Shapur, who had expected to kill him straightway, was awed by the Prophet [Cf. Gagé, 334f] and granted him and his followers the right to travel throughout the land [Cf. Sundermann, 1987, P. 69-70, 79-81]. According to the Kephalaia he traveled widely in Persia, Parthia, and Azerbaijan, all the way to the eastern Roman frontier regions. He even spent a few years in the royal entourage.

Its a question, why did Mani go directly to the king? or why did Shapur receive him with honors and favor? is this what he truly did? One explanation is suggested by the account (found in several texts) of Mani’s predecessors that Zarathustra brought the true religion to the land of Persia to King Hystaspes or Vishtasp. Similarly, Mani wanted to present himself as bringing the true religion to Persia then to the reigning king. Or it may be the reason that Mani was actually aware of the ongoing Mazdayasnian restoration and reformation and the fact that one of its aims was to determine what should be regarded as part of the true Mazdayasnian religion. Perhaps Mani saw his chance and seized it and presented his own revelation to Shapur as the true version of the religion of their prophet Zarathustra and presented it in a book dedicated to the king, the Shabuhragân, suitably clothed in the garment of Zoroastrian religious terminology -[Sundermann, 1979b, 112]. Mani also may thought that the revelation of Zarathustra, just as the revelations of the Old Testament prophets and the Buddha, was but one part of the truth, but we may safely assume that he took care not to flaunt this heresy at the court.

But if this the case that happened, it is also certain that Mani’s claim cannot have been unconditionally accepted by all, and there can be little doubt that there was considerable opposition to Mani in clerical circles, in particular from Kerdir, who was with him at the beginning of his career.

Shapur himself did not adopt the religion of Mani, and, as pointed out by Sundermann [Sundermann, BT 11, 105] the texts are quite unanimous in depicting Shapur only as a benevolent protector and benefactor of the religion, but the fact that Mani received letters of protection from the king is mentioned in many texts, including the Kephalaia and a very interesting Parthian text published by Sundermann, and may be regarded as true [Sundermann, BT 11, text 11.2]. In the Parthian text we learn that Mani received a letter from the king, the contents of which is revealed by Mani’s reaction to it as:

When the letter was read to Mani he blessed the king and said to his children that although King Shapur is more violent and hard than many rulers, and though he is called sinner and evildoer throughout all countries, still to Mani he has shown friendliness and not ordered any evil to be done to his children and protected them from enemies [Cf. Sundermann, 1987, 69-70.].

Mani is further said to have referred to the letter in his interview with Wahram I as reported in the Coptic Manichean Homilies, during which he reminded the king that Shapur himself had written to the notables of the reign asking them to protect Mani from harm.-[Homilies, 48; Sundermann, 1986c, 255; 1987, 69-70.]

Why Shapur chose to treat Mani the way he did we do not know, and we can only speculate about his political motives. But in contrast to Shapur, who did not himself adopt the religion, several members of the royal family appear to have been more convinced, among them Ohrmazd, son of Shapur, who is featured in several Manichean texts as-

Back in Reu-Ardaxshahr he wrote his exposition of his system in honor of the king and dedicated to him: the Shabuhragân, his only book in Persian. He also accompanied the king in one of his campaigns, according to Alexander of Lycopolis -[Adam, p. 54.] the one against Valerian -(ca. 255/6).

Back again, he turned his missionary eyes to the east and went off to Media, Parthia, and Khorasan, where he founded a community at Abarshahr, the western capital of Khorasan. Back again he settled down at Weh-Ardaxshahr near Ctesiphon, on the western bank of the Tigris. Here, during CE 262-63, he set down the tenets of his faith and organized the missions. He sent Adda and Pateg to the west, Ammo to the north-east, and others elsewhere. He himself took care of the north-west, traveling to Bet Garmaye and Azerbaijan, strengthening the already existing communities and founding others. Thus throughout Shapur’s reign, for over thirty years, Mani and his followers were free to propagate their ideas, and by CE 270 Main’s religion must have had firm footholds throughout the Sasanian Empire.

After the death of Shapur the sources suggest that Mani experienced both ups and downs in his relations with the court. Thus Shapur’s successor Ohrmazd (I) did originally, before he became king, not favor the new religion and its Prophet, though he may later have changed his mind; there are Parthian, -[Sundermann, BT 11, text 22.] Sogdian, and Old Turkish -[Geng Shimin-Klimkeit-Laut.] fragments of the story of his conversion.

In the Acta the above part of the story is resumed as follows: When Corbicius was twelve, the old woman died, leaving him her worldly goods, including the four books he had written. Corbicius went to the city of the Persian king (not mentioned), where he changed his name to Manes. He acquired all the knowledge in the land, as well as that of the four books, and three disciples: Thomas, Addas, and Hermas. He translated the four books and claimed authorship after having inserted much new material, “similar to the tales of old wives.” He then sent two of his followers as missionaries: Thomas to Egypt and Addas to Scythia (var. Syria), while Hermas stayed with him.

Under Wahram I, Mani was at first in favor, but then a change apparently took place, which has been ascribed to Mani’s unsuccessful attempt at healing a member of the royal family.-[Bīrūnī; cf. the Middle Persian text M3 in Boyce, Reader, p. 44-45, and notes on p. 45; and Henning, 1942, p. 951; Sundermann, 1987, p. 90.] No doubt, the Mazdean clergy saw its own chance to discredit Mani, and accusations against him to the king, channeled through Kerdir, which led to his final imprisonment and death. -[Homilies, p. 45] At the end of the reign of Wahram I, probably in CE 277, Mani was accused before the king by the Sasanian clergy including the high priest Kerdir and was thrown in jail, where he died.-[Tr. Dodge, p. 794] Kardir, incarcerated Mani, who died in prison within a month, in 274 CE. Kardir then began to persecute the Manichaeans. -[ bahram-the-name-of-six-sasanian-kings]

According to al-Nadim Wahram had him executed and the two halves of his body hung at two different gates of the city of Gondeshapur. Al-Nadim quotes other sources to the effect that he had already been imprisoned by Shapur but released by Wahram and that he had died in prison.

According to Biruni Manicheism had increased by degrees under Ardashahr, Shapur, and Ohrmazd. When Wahram I came to the throne, however, he ordered a search for Mani, and when he had found him he said, “This man has come forward calling people to destroy the world. It will be necessary to begin by destroying him before anything of his plans should be realized.”

It was “well known” that the king had Mani killed, stripped off his skin, filled it with grass, and hung it up at the gate of Gondeshapur, still known as the Mani gate. The king also killed a number of Mani’s followers.

In the Acta, the story goes as follows: When a son of the king fell ill a large reward was offered to whoever would cure him, and Manes went to the king and told him he would cure the boy. The boy, however, died, and Manes was thrown in jail, where he was put in heavy chains. When the two disciples returned without having had any success with the Christians, who had considered their teaching to be inspired by the Antichrist, Manes made them obtain some Christian books, which he read, looking for references to dualism, then adapted the Christian teaching to his own, only retaining the name of Christ, thinking that when people saw it they would believe his two missionaries were Christians. After having found the word “Paraclete” in one of the books, he began calling himself the Paraclete. When the Persian king was informed about this he decided Manes had to be punished!

After being warned in a dream, Manes bribed the jailer and escaped to the fortress of Arabion. From there he sent a letter with Turbo to Marcellus, friend of Archelaus, saying he was coming, that is, to Karkhar and later Diodoris, where the great disputations took place. Meanwhile the king had subjected the jailer to persuasion, which first made him reveal what had happened but also killed him. Manes fled again, back to the fortress, where he was apprehended and taken to the king, who was very unhappy about the two deaths, that of his son and of his jailer. He ordered Manes to be skinned and hung before the gates of the city, his skin to be inflated by chemicals, and his flesh to be given to the birds.

The rise of Manicheism coincided with a change of dynastic rule in Iran. When Mani was born, Iran was still ruled by the Arsacids, or Parthians. The Parthian rulers had, some 400 years earlier, replaced the Seleucids, who in turn were the descendants of Alexander’s generals.

When Mani was about 10, the last of the Parthian kings was overthrown by a certain Ardashahr (Ardasher) of dubious ancestry, who established the Sasanian dynasty. Ardashahr, his son Shapur, and Shapur’s descendants consolidated and expanded the empire over the next fifty years, especially toward the west into Roman territories.

When Mani was 24, his Companion announced that the time had come for him to come forth. This day was according to the Manichean tradition the day when the crown was placed on King Shapur’s head, Sunday, the first of Nisan (April), when the sun was in Aries.

After traveling about for many years Mani called upon Shapur’s brother Firuz, who brought him to the king of kings. According to the Manichean tradition Shapur had expected to kill him straightway, but was awed by the prophet and granted him and his followers the right to travel throughout the land.

About 35 years later, possibly in 276, at the end of the reign of Shapur’s second son, Wahram I, Mani was— according to the Manichean tradition—accused before the king by the Sasanian clergy and was thrown in jail, where he died.

There are still a number of unsolved problems, especially of chronology, in connection with the beginnings of the Sasanian empire. Ardashahr, son of King Pabag, and a relative of Lord Sasan, fought a decisive battle against the Arsacid King Ardawan V at Hormozgan in Media on 28 April 224, during which he assumed the title of king of kings.-[J. Wiesehöfer, in Encyclopaedia Iranica II/4, 1986, pp. 371-76] After almost 20 years spent in efforts to expand and consolidate of the empire, Ardashahr crowned his son Shapur as co-regent in about CE 240, and Shapur became king of kings at the death of his father in early CE 242. Shapur continued the work begun by his father and added other territories to the empire, especially in the west, after fighting three victorious battles against three Roman emperors.

After a long reign of thirty years, Shapur died in CE 274. He was succeeded by two of his sons, both of whom reigned only briefly: Ohrmazd I reigned for only about a year and was succeeded by his brother Wahram I, who reigned until CE 276, when he was succeeded by his son, Wahram II.

It was during Wahram II’s long reign (CE 276-93) that the career of the high priest Kerdir, which had started under Shapur I, reach a high point, a fact that Kerdir commemorated in several inscriptions.

After the death of Wahram II his son, Wahram III, was no doubt to have become king of kings, however, he seems to have been under some undesirable influence, and the nobles and dignitaries of the empire decided to offer the crown to Shapur’s youngest son, Narseh, who at the time bore the title of king of Armenia. Wahram III and his supporters were defeated, and Narseh accepted the crown and the empire in CE 293. The events leading to his coronation were recorded in detail in a long inscription on a monument raised near modern Paikuli, at the place where Narseh met the dignitaries and where he accepted their offer. In this inscription King Amaró of Hira is mentioned, who in a Coptic Manichean text is connected with the Manicheans.

The death of the founder did not prevent the new religion from growing and spreading out from Iran. By the time the Sasanian empire was overthrown by the armies of Islam in the mid-7th century, Manicheism had spread into Egypt and North Africa in the west, and to the borders of China and beyond in the east. Thus, at times, Manicheism reached from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans, before it was eventually destroyed by the Catholic church in Europe and wiped out in the east by new conquerors.

So, at some time, Manicheism actually spread over the entire hemisphere, reaching from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans, being a veritable world religion.-[Sundermann, 1986, 11]

In keeping with the first of his Ten Points, one of the first things Mani did was to concern himself with missions. Not only did he send out missions, both east and west, as soon as possible, but he himself also traveled extensively. From various sources we know that before he approached the rulers of the Sasanian empire he traveled to various countries east of the empire. Other sources add that he went to Tibet and China preaching his religion before returning to Iran, where he was seized and killed under Wahram I.

Here the most reliable source is probably Ibn al-Nadim’s Fihrist, in which we are told that Mani traveled from country to country for 40 years before he met with Shapur I, who granted him the right to teach his religion in the Persian empire. After this, Ibn al-Nadim says, Mani preached the religion in India, China, and in Khorasan, and left a disciple in all these places. This account of Mani’s travels has now been partly confirmed in the Coptic, Greek, and Iranian texts. Thus, in the Kephalaia it is said that in the last year of King Ardashahr Mani set out to preach and that he traveled to India and preached to the Indians. And in a Parthian text we are told that after Mani returned from India he despatched two missionaries back there.

According to another variant of the Manichean missionary history it was after Mani earned the disapproval and anger of King Shapur I that he went to India, where he stayed until Shapur was dead.

Unfortunately, not much is known about Mani’s stay in India, and what is known comes from second-hand sources. The most important witness is a fragmentary but substantial Parthian text, which contains an account of the conversion of the king of Turan, a country located in northeastern Baluchistan, with the capital Qusdar.

This account was not written by Mani, who of the Iranian languages used only Middle Persian, but by his disciples probably after his death. We may reasonably assume that this text uses earlier material, including eyewitness reports from his journey.

It is typical of the report that it mentions the supernatural phenomenon of levitation. We know that levitation played an important role in Buddhism, being one of the supernatural acts that could be performed by buddhas, bodhisattvas, gods, and others, by levitating either themselves or humans of their choice. This is not, however, something Mani only learned from Buddhism, since people all over the world and at all times have dreamt of and desired to possess the power of levitation. In the case of Mani, the Cologne Mani Codex shows that Mani knew many stories about holy men levitating.

The importance of levitation rather lies in the fact that such stories would strongly appeal to a Buddhist audience. Mani himself must have found it very efficient, so much so that he decided to try it out on King Shapur himself, we are told, and it was this miracle that according to the later tradition finally led to Shapur’s conversion. Regarding the miracles worked by Mani, al-Biruni has an interesting note in his Chronology, where he reports that there were two groups among Mani’s followers, one that denied that Mani ever worked miracles, and another, which maintained the opposite, quoting the fact that Mani levitated with King Shapur, and also that the prophet himself sometimes rose to heaven and stayed there for several days before he came down again.

Though it is not, of course, likely that Mani actually performed miracles, that does not mean that people did not believe he did. Religions throughout the world for thousands of years have demonstrated that not only is man willing to believe in the supernatural, but also, given the right circumstances, he will go to extremes to convince his fellow man that his particular kind of superstition is the only true one.

There is no reason to assume that people in the Near and Middle East were not equally impressed by the miracles that were reported concerning Mani. In the case of the kings that Mani converted, or at least won the favor of, reports of levitation concerning them must have been believed very soon after their own demise, or even before, again given the right circumstances.

During the last years of Mani, the Manichean movement experienced ups and downs in Iran itself, Manicheism being sometimes violently persecuted, then again left in peace. After the prophet’s death, however, Manicheans were vigorously persecuted, and it was at this time that the strong eastward movement started. Ibn al-Nadim says, “after Khosroes [actually, Bahram I] had executed and gibbeted Mani and forbidden the people of his kingdom to dispute about the religion, he began to slay the followers of Mani wherever he found them. So they did not stop fleeing from him until they had crossed the River of Balkh [Amu Darya] and entered the realm of the Khan, with whom they remained.”

Then, during the rule of King Narseh (ruled 293-302), great-uncle of Wahram II and the last of Shapur’s sons to become king of Iran, King Amaró of Hira became their patron and agreed to intercede for them with the king, and they were again left in peace for a while. After the death of Narseh, however, under his son Ohrmazd II, they were again persecuted.

Mani himself sent Mar Adda to west into Roman territories, and several stories about his missionary activities are found in the Manichean texts, but it was probably under the protection of the Arab king and during the following persecutions that some Manicheans traveled further west and arrived in northern Egypt, where they founded several communities, from some of which we have recovered Manichean scriptures. From there they must have continued into the Roman provinces of North Africa, where we find them at the end of the century. Indeed, by then their presence was so noticeable that the emperor Diocletian was disturbed by reports that a new Persian religion was spreading throughout the empire and wrote (302?) to his proconsul in Africa, Julianus:

“We have heard that the Manichaeans ... have set up new and hitherto unheard of sects in opposition to older creeds so that they might cast out the doctrines vouchsafed to us in the past by divine favor--for the benefit of their own depraved doctrine. They have sprung forth very recently like new and unexpected monstrosities among the race of the Persians--a nation still hostile to us--and have made their way into our empire, where they are committing many outrages, disturbing the tranquillity of the people and even inflicting grave damage to the civic communities: our fear is that with the passage of time, they will endeavor, as usually happens, to infect the modest and tranquil Roman people of an innocent nature with the damnable customs and the perverse laws of the Persians as with the poison of a malignant serpent....

... the leaders together with their abominable scriptures shall be punished most severely, namely to be burnt by fire.”

According to the indigenous North-African tradition, it was a disciple of Mani’s, Adimantus, who had brought the word to North Africa, but this is probably an apocryphal story, and Augustine suggested that this was none other than Adda himself, transformed.

Mani's teaching is designed as succeeding and surpassing the teachings of Christianity, Zoroastrianism and Buddhism. It is based on a rigid dualism of good and evil, locked in eternal struggle.

In his mid-twenties, Mani decided that salvation is possible through education, self-denial, fasting and chastity. Mani claimed to be the Paraclete promised in the New Testament, and the Last Prophet. On what is known of Mani's theology, the following points are made regarding especially Christianity.  Manichaean tradition is also noted to have claimed that Mani was the reincarnation of different religious figures including Zoroaster, the historical Buddha, as well as Jesus.

Mani's followers were organized in a church structure, divided into a class of "elects" (electi) and "auditors" (auditores). Only the electi are required to follow the laws strictly, while the auditores care for them, hoping to become electi in their turn after reincarnation.

Most of the information about Manicheism in this area comes from Augustine, who was a Manichean from he was 19 till he was 28 (CE 373-82), and so is biased. Their main center was Carthage, but they probably spread throughout Tunisia. From there they then passed over to Rome.

Among the well-known Manichean Church dignitaries were the bishop Faustus, who, we are told, went to Rome to visit the community. The African Manicheans had their own compendium of Manichean doctrine, written in Latin: the Epistula Fundamenti, much of which survives. During the lifetime of Augustine, several anti-Manichean edicts were issued: 20 between March, 372 CE to June 445 CE. This led to numerous Manicheans being brought in and interrogated about their beliefs. Many of these interrogations were recorded and reproduced by Augustine, among them Fortunatus and Felix.

Throughout the centuries, the Catholic church lead a relentless campaign against Manicheans. An edict in CE 527 by Flavius Justinianus prompted various reactions from the Manicheans in Constantinople. One result was a public debate, which survives, between a Manichean (Photeinos!) and a Christian, Paul the Persian. Justinian continued persecuting Manicheans, and they apparently disappeared from Byzantium by the end of the 6th century. After this the term Manichean remained a disparaging name of any heretical sect that professed any degree of dualism or gnosticism.

In the east, the religion prospered in the company of Christianity, which had wandered into central Asia and Chinese Turkestan, too, in order to escape persecution by the Sasanian state, as well as by Buddhism.

So Manicheism remained and was even elevated to the rank of the state religion of the Uigur empire from CE 763 to 840. Finally, of course, it, as well as the other religions in central Asia and Chinese Turkestan, had to give way to the deluge of the oncoming Islamic conquerors.

As Manicheism traveled east, it was adopted by the various peoples it encountered on the way. These were Kushans (one page in Bactrian, the language of the Kushan empire survives), who ruled the formerly Greco-Bactrian kingdom, the Turkic Uigurs, whose western steppe empire stretched eastward from what is modern Kirgizistan, then the peoples who inhabited the area of Kucha on the northern silk Road, the so-called Tokharians or Kucheans--who spoke an Indo-European language unrelated to Iranian, as well as an Iranian people associated with them who lived in the area of Tumshuq and Maralbash, whose language was closely related to Sogdian and Khotanese. Two fragments of Manichean texts in Tokharian and Tumshuqese reveal the presence of Manicheans among them: a Manichean-Tokharian bilingual text and a Tumshuqese text dealing with questions of Manichean practices, as shown by W. B. Henning.

During Mani, Manicheans spread their religion Persia to China, Central Asia, to the far east through Mesopotamia and Syria. And the Silk Route permitted them to settled from Central Asia and other places to the Middle East. Combination of these therefore may finally brought Manicheism to the Turfan oasis.

Now it is a Question, what was the reason for Manicheism to be at the same time popular and so detested and sometimes feared, both in the east and the west, for a century? It is because of its special characteristic that didn't dismiss other religions as false, but accepted and also their prophets as carriers of the truth.

According to Mani, his religion not only replacing the previous ones, but also the fulfillment that previously promised and not been able to live up to his presence. It was the same truth that had been revealed to the earlier prophets and was embedded in their religions, but, for various reasons, this truth had degenerated. And according to Mani, the earlier religions did not have inherent power that was enough to withstand the attacks of evil and so they degenerated, and the truth they contained was spoilt.

Mani explains how his religion distinguishes itself above the others. The versions (Middle Persian and Coptic) that are preserved today, contains only the first five points among the ten and those are as follows:

1. The previous religions were only in one land and in one language, but Mani’s was taught in all lands and in all languages.
2. The previous religions endured only as long as there were pure leaders in them. When the leaders left, the religions were confused, but Mani’s religion was well organized, with a clerical hierarchy, and would endure to the end of the world.
3. The souls “whose deeds were not accomplished” in their own religion would come to Mani’s and obtain deliverance.
4. Mani’s revelation of the two principles and his living scriptures, his wisdom and knowledge were better than those of the previous religions. Thus the earlier apostles did not write down their teachings as Mani did.

This is elaborated in the introduction to the Kephalaia: Jesus came to the West, and after his death his disciples wrote down his words. Zarathustra came to the land of Persia to King Hystaspes (Persian Wishtasp), but he did not write books, though his disciples remembered and wrote down his words after his death. And finally, when the Buddha came, he preached much wisdom and established churches, but he did not write anything, and it was his disciples who remembered and wrote down his words after his death.

5. The writings and the wisdom and the apocalypses and the parables and the psalms of all earlier churches (religions) were gathered everywhere and came to Mani’s church and were added to the wisdom which he revealed.

And the Kephalaia adds, “As water will be added to water and becomes much water, so were the ancient (earlier) books added to my writings and became a great wisdom the like of which was not proclaimed (hitherto) in all ancient (earlier) generations.”

This is what made Manicheism special.Though Mani did believe, of course, that his religion was the final truth, yet he also believed that the other religions contained this truth, if only fragmentarily. This means that Mani to a certain extent identified the other religions with his own religion and at least did not dismiss them off-hand as untruth, and he also deliberately took elements from other religions and incorporated them into his own great scheme of the world and mankind.

The canonical books in the somewhat varying order of the Manichean tradition are the following:

1. The Living Gospel. According to Biruni this work was in 22 chapters, each chapter beginning with a letter from the Syriac alphabet, from alaf to taw. Numerous fragments of this book, which was the “Little Red Book” of the Manichean missionaries, have been identified in the Codex and among the Iranian texts. Biruni tells us that he had a copy in his library and that in this book Mani announced that he was the Paraclete announced by Christ and the Seal of the Prophets.

2. The Treasure of the Living. One fragment is found in Biruni’s India, and two in Augustine’s writings. It appears to have contained a systematic theology and defense of the new religion.

3. The Book of Mysteries. This book contained 18 chapters, all briefly listed in the Fihrist. Among other things this book contained a discussion and refutation of the doctrines of Bardesanes.

4. A book of Legends (Pragmateia). The cosmological citations in Theodore bar Konai’s Scholies may be from this book.

5. The Book of the Giants (Persian Kawan). Several books were composed around the theme of the Old Testament nefilim mentioned in Genesis 6:4, one of them was the Apocalypse of Enoch known from a complete Ethiopian version and many fragments in Greek, another was a Jewish book, fragments of which were discovered at Qumran. It was the Jewish version that served as model for Mani’s book on the giants, of which there are fragments in Persian and Sogdian.

6. Letters. This was a collection of Mani’s letters, written to various Manichean communities in response to problems of practices. The collection was included among the Coptic manuscripts from Egypt but was lost during World War II.

7. The last of the canonical scriptures was a collection of psalms and prayers. Numerous hymns and prayers have been preserved, but it is not possible to verify whether Mani’s “two psalms and (several) prayers” are among the extant ones.

Not included in the canon were the following two books:

The Shabuhragân. This was written and dedicated to his first patron, King Shapur I, who gave him permission to work in Iran. The book apparently contained a complete exposition of his religious system: a prophetology and the coming of Mani, his cosmology, and his eschatology.

The Picture Book (Ardahang, Arzhang). This was a book containing illustrations to accompany and facilitate the understanding of Mani’s cosmology.

The followers of Mani soon began making compilations of the doctrines of the master. One of these is the Kephalaia “chapters” known from two Coptic recensions and perhaps from Persian fragments. Two others are the Coptic Homilies and Hymns.

Among Iranian texts are: two hymn cycles, the Huyadag-man and the Angad roshnan, originally written in Parthian, but also translated into Sogdian, Turkish, and Chinese; The Sermon on the Light-Nous and The Sermon on the Soul.

From that point on, Mani preached throughout the Persian Empire. At first unhindered, he later was opposed by the king, condemned, and imprisoned. After 26 days of trials, which his followers called the "Passion of the Illuminator" or Mani's "crucifixion," Mani delivered a final message to his disciples and died (sometime between 274 and 277).


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