Manichaeism Definition | Founder, Ancient Movement, Beliefs &More

Manichaeism Definition

What is the Manichaeism Meaning And Definition?

Manichaeism Definition is a believer in a syncretistic religious dualism and Manichaeism (/ˌmænɪˈkiːɪzəm/; in New Persian آیینِ مانی Āyīn-e Mānī; Chinese: 摩尼教; pinyin: Móníjiào) was a major religion founded in the 3rd century AD by the Parthian prophet Mani (c. 216–274 AD), in the Sasanian Empire.

Manichaeism taught an elaborate dualistic cosmology describing the struggle between a good, spiritual world of light, and an evil, material world of darkness. Through an ongoing process that takes place in human history, light is gradually removed from the world of matter and returned to the world of light, whence it came. Its beliefs were based on local Mesopotamian religious movements and Gnosticism. It revered Mani as the final prophet after Zoroaster, Gautama Buddha, and Jesus.

Manichaeism was quickly successful and spread far through the Aramaic-speaking regions. It thrived between the third and seventh centuries, and at its height was one of the most widespread religions in the world. Manichaean churches and scriptures existed as far east as China and as far west as the Roman Empire. It was briefly the main rival to Christianity before the spread of Islam in the competition to replace classical paganism. Beginning with the pagan emperor Diocletian, Manichaeism was persecuted by the Roman state and was eventually stamped out of the Roman Empire.

Manichaeism survived longer in the east than in the west, and it appears to have finally faded away after the 14th century in south China, contemporary to the decline of the Church of the East in Ming China. Even still, there is a growing corpus of evidence that some form of Manichaeism may persist in some areas of China, though these reports are often contradictory and more research is needed before definitively stating that Manichaeism is extant to the modern-day. While most of Manichaeism’s original writings have been lost, numerous translations and fragmentary texts have survived.

An adherent of Manichaeism was called a Manichaean or Manichean, or Manichee, especially in older sources.

Manichaeism Definition

Manichaeism Definition | Founder:

The Manichaeism Religion is a dualistic religious movement founded in Persia in the 3rd century CE by Mani, who was known as the “Apostle of Light” and supreme “Illuminator.” Although Manichaeism was long considered a Christian heresy, it was a religion in its own right that, because of the coherence of its doctrines and the rigidness of its structure and institutions, preserved throughout its history a unity and unique character.

Mani was born in southern Babylonia (now in Iraq). With his “annunciation” at the age of 24, he obeyed a heavenly order to manifest himself publicly and to proclaim his doctrines; thus began the new religion. 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).

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.

Manichaeism Definition | ancient religious movement:

The Manichaean church from the beginning was dedicated to vigorous missionary activity in an attempt to convert the world. Mani encouraged the translation of his writings into other languages and organized an extensive mission program. Manichaeism rapidly spread west into the Roman Empire. From Egypt, it moved across northern Africa (where the young Augustine temporarily became a convert) and reached Rome in the early 4th century.

The 4th century marked the height of Manichaean expansion in the West, with churches established in southern Gaul and Spain. Vigorously attacked by both the Christian church and the Roman state, it disappeared almost entirely from western Europe by the end of the 5th century and from the eastern portion of the empire during the 6th century.

During the lifetime of Mani, Manichaeism spread to the eastern provinces of the Persian Sasanian empire. Within Persia itself, the Manichaean community maintained itself despite severe persecutions, until Muslim Abbasid persecution in the 10th century forced the transfer of the seat of the Manichaean leader to Samarkand (now in Uzbekistan).

The religion’s expansion to the East had already begun in the 7th century with the reopening of caravan routes thereafter China’s conquest of East Turkistan. A Manichaean missionary reached the Chinese court in 694, and in 732 an edict gave the religious freedom of worship in China. When East Turkistan was conquered in the 8th century by the Uyghur Turks, one of their leaders adopted Manichaeism, and it remained the state religion of the Uyghur kingdom until its overthrow in 840. Manichaeism itself probably survived in East Turkistan until the Mongol invasion in the 13th century. In China it was forbidden in 843, but, although persecuted, it continued there at least until the 14th century.

Teachings similar to Manichaeism resurfaced during the Middle Ages in Europe in the so-called neo-Manichaean sects. Groups such as the Paulicians (Armenia, 7th century), the Bogomilists (Bulgaria, 10th century), and the Cathari or Albigensians (southern France, 12th century) bore strong resemblances to Manichaeism and probably were influenced by it. However, their direct historical links to the religion of Mani are difficult to establish.

Manichaeism Beliefs:

Mani sought to found a truly ecumenical and universal religion that would integrate into itself all the partial truths of previous revelations, especially those of Zoroaster, Buddha, and Jesus. However, beyond mere syncretism, it sought the proclamation of a truth that could be translated into diverse forms following the different cultures into which it spread. Thus, Manichaeism, depending on the context, resembles Iranian and Indian religions, Christianity, Buddhism, and Taoism.

At its core, When we proceed to Manichaeism Definition, it must be mentioned that Manichaeism was a type of Gnosticism a dualistic religion that offered salvation through special knowledge (gnosis) of spiritual truth. Like all forms of Gnosticism, Manichaeism taught that life in this world is unbearably painful and radically evil. Inner illumination or gnosis reveals that the soul which shares like God has fallen into the evil world of matter and must be saved using the spirit or intelligence (nous).

To know one’s self is to recover one’s true self, which was previously clouded by ignorance and lack of self-consciousness because it mingled with the body and with the matter. In Manichaeism, to know one’s self is to see one’s soul as sharing in the very nature of God and as coming from a transcendent world. Knowledge enables a person to realize that, despite his abject present condition in the material world, he does not cease to remain united to the transcendent world by eternal and immanent bonds with it. Thus, knowledge is the only way to salvation.

The saving knowledge of the true nature and destiny of humanity, God, and the universe is expressed in Manichaeism in complex mythology. Whatever its details, the essential theme of this mythology remains constant: the soul is fallen, entangled with the evil matter, and then liberated by the spirit or nous.

The myth unfolds in three stages: a past period in which there was a separation of the two radically opposed substances Spirit and Matter, Good and Evil, Light and Darkness; a middle period (corresponding to the present) during which the two substances are mixed; and a future period in which the original duality will be reestablished.

At death, the soul of the righteous person returns to Paradise. The soul of the person who persisted in things of the flesh fornication, procreation, possessions, cultivation, harvesting, eating of meat, drinking of wine is condemned to rebirth in a succession of bodies.

Only a portion of the faithful followed the strictly ascetic life advocated in Manichaeism. The community was divided into the elect, who felt able to embrace a rigorous rule, and the hearers who supported the elect with works and alms.

The essentials of the Manichaean sacramental rites were prayers, almsgiving, and fasting. Confession and the singing of hymns were also important in their communal life. The Manichaean scriptural canon includes seven works attributed to Mani, written originally in Syriac. Lost after Manichaeism became extinct in the Middle Ages, portions of the Manichaean scriptures were rediscovered in the 20th century, mainly in Chinese Turkistan and Egypt.

 

World Religions

Sources: 1, 2

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