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Author Topic: Question about Manichaean heresy  (Read 2372 times) Average Rating: 0
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Heorhij
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« on: November 04, 2007, 05:10:12 PM »

Dear members,

Could you please guide me to good sources that explain the essence of the so-called Manichaean heresy?

I know (from various dictionaries, encyclopedias, etc.) that this was a teaching of a man who called himself Mani and who lived and traveled in the Middle East somewhere in the 2nd or 3rd century A.D., and who called himself "an apostle of Christ." Mani taught that there are two principalities in the universe, one of "light" and one of "darkness," and that the "darkness" is, esentially, the same as matter, substance, body etc., while the "light" is pure spirit. According to Mani, the goal of human life should be deliverance from the evil "darkness" (body, material, substantial world) into "light."

Is it correct to say that "Manichaeism" in a broad sense is this deliberate opposition of matter and substance as intrinsically evil, and "pure spirit" as intrinsically good? (As opposed to the Christian opposition of whatever - be it matter or spirit, - obedient to God's will and blessed by Him, vs. whatever - again, be it matter or spirit, - disobedient to God and separated from Him?)

Thank you all so much in advance for your guideness!

George
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« Reply #1 on: November 04, 2007, 07:02:33 PM »

St. Augustine was a Manichaean for a while.  His Confessions go into detail about it.
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« Reply #2 on: November 04, 2007, 07:11:27 PM »

Thank you, Nyssa. Maybe a few more modern sources?
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« Reply #3 on: November 04, 2007, 11:17:33 PM »

Thank you, Nyssa. Maybe a few more modern sources?

Heorhij,

Augustine's account in his Confessions and a few other works, though obviously biased against the Manichees, do give us a lot of information about them.  Chapter 5 of Peter Lamont Brown's (a Princeton University Professor of Classics and word expert on the world of the Late Antique Roman world) seminal work, Augustine gives a couple of newer sources.  First, I'd check out his chapter on them.   Some works listed in his bibliography might be of help, too, though I don't know how accessible they are.  I will give you the ones that are in English (I don't know of your fluency in German or other languages). 

1)  Trans. and ed. C.R. Allberry A Manichean Psalmbook. 
2)  M. Boyce.  The Manichean Hymn-Cycles in Parthian.
3) R. Cameron and A. J. Dewey.  The Cologne Mani Index--'Concerning the Origin of His Body' P. Colon. Inv 4780.
4)  S.N.C. Lieu Manicheaism in the Later Roman Empire and Medieval China. 1985.

The first three are primary sources and the last is a pretty thorough treatment.  There are also a plethora of journal articles on the spread of Manicheaism in the Roman Empire mainly found in the Journal of Roman Studies.  Try these and see what information they can give you.
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« Reply #4 on: November 05, 2007, 08:30:01 AM »

Thank you, Scamandrius, I'll try to find these items. Meanwhile, is my summary correct? (Spirit=Good, Matter=Evil - Manichaeism; either spirit or matter can be either good or evil, depending of whether or not they are "obedient" or "in harmony with" God - original Christianity.)
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« Reply #5 on: November 06, 2007, 07:37:12 AM »

From what I understand besides Augustines confessions there is only some ritual books and pictures representing aspects of the faith. The fact that we know so much about the Manichaean religion is because of Augustines apologetics against them so good luck finding some detailed information.
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« Reply #6 on: November 06, 2007, 07:42:44 AM »

Thank you, Scamandrius, I'll try to find these items. Meanwhile, is my summary correct? (Spirit=Good, Matter=Evil - Manichaeism; either spirit or matter can be either good or evil, depending of whether or not they are "obedient" or "in harmony with" God - original Christianity.)

I think it's a great summary. 

It is also important to keep in mind that, if the world is in darkness, then it is the realm of the Devil, since he was sent to the darkness and it became his "realm"  So that would make God's realm heaven, etc. so God is not present in the world today, only the devil. 
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« Reply #7 on: November 06, 2007, 09:44:02 AM »

Another important point about Manichianism, I think they view the Old Testament and its God as the God of Evil, indicating they believed in some sort of gnostic dualism.

I will reiterate with Scamandrius that Brown's book on St. Augustine is amazing, a must read for a comprehensive study of St. Augustine.

God bless.
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« Reply #8 on: November 06, 2007, 10:28:30 AM »

4)  S.N.C. Lieu Manicheaism in the Later Roman Empire and Medieval China. 1985.

The co-editor of this text, Dr. Iain Gardiner, was the main lecturer for my Early Christianity course which I took last year. I have chapter one of the above-referenced text in PDF format. It summarises the life of Mani and Manichaean teachings quite nicely with consistent reference to primary source material (such as the Kephalaia of The Teacher--which Dr. Iain Gardiner has in fact edited, translated, and commentated upon, in a separate publication).

For those who really want/need this PDF file, just PM me your email address.
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« Reply #9 on: November 06, 2007, 11:16:18 AM »

Fairly sure minasoliman is right.
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« Reply #10 on: November 06, 2007, 11:42:25 AM »

I don't think Mina's claim is accurate. Whilst the Manichaens were very much opposed to the OT Scriptures, they were so for very different reasons to those for which they were opposed by Marcion I believe. Mani's cosmology and his understanding of how Adam and Eve came into being are remarkably different to the account of the OT Scriptures.

Mani did not believe in an "evil God"; he believed in two principles--the principle of light and the principle of darkness.

Iain Gardiner notes that Manichaean dualism "is not the Hellenistic one of spirit and matter, but of two essences, even substances. The divine life is visible, has spatial and quantifiable elements; and evil matter is the active principle of lust, the elements and 'thought of death.'" (Manicheaism in the Later Roman Empire, 11).
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« Reply #11 on: November 06, 2007, 11:50:41 AM »

Is it correct to say that "Manichaeism" in a broad sense is this deliberate opposition of matter and substance as intrinsically evil, and "pure spirit" as intrinsically good?

First, many philosophers, religious thinkers and seers oppose matter and spirit. Very common. It is not exclusively found in Manichaeism. Various Hellenistic thinkers, most Gnostics -- and, later groups like the Bogomils and Paulicians often espoused forms of dualism (not to mention the various Western sects that popped up here and there in the Middle Ages, e.g. Cathars).

Although Christians have tended to think all of these groups are the same -- or spring from each other -- there is very little actual connection between them. For whatever reason, this sort of "theology" is very agreeable to peasant movements in radically different settings.

Second, Manichaeism's dualism runs much deeper. The real conflict is not even between matter and spirit. It is between Light and Darkness -- two opposing spiritual realities, neither of which is more powerful than the other. Evil vs. Good in a never-resolved cage match.

Of course, as you probably know, the human being experiences this cosmic battle in his own person as a struggle between his spirit and his flesh. However, if the human person comes to obtain true self-knowledge -- that he IS his spirit -- then he will be liberated from the bondage of his body.

Pretty normal story line.

Like other ancient religions, Manichaeism tended to adopt any and all things that it liked from other philosophies, religious practices and myths.
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« Reply #12 on: November 06, 2007, 12:06:10 PM »

I don't think Mina's claim is accurate....
Mani did not believe in an "evil God"; he believed in two principles--the principle of light and the principle of darkness.

Let me clarify please, I believe the Manichaeans believed that the ruling principle of the Old Testament was evil and that of the New was good.

Does that seem a more accurate view of what they taught now?

Thanks.
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« Reply #13 on: November 06, 2007, 12:09:38 PM »

Like other ancient religions, Manichaeism tended to adopt any and all things that it liked from other philosophies, religious practices and myths.

Yet unlike other ancient religions, it did so quite intentionally and upon particular historical presuppositions. Mani made a claim that Muhammed would, to a degree, rehash centuries later viz. he claimed to be the final and perfect fulfillment of previous religions. Whatever Mani adopted from other religious systems represented the "truth" and "goodness" of what was left of the "original revelations." Mani claimed that the historical followers of the various holy leaders (of whom Jesus was one) had all corrupted the teachings of their leaders subsequent to their leaders' departures. That is why it was of such significance to Mani's mission that he compose his own Scriptures.
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« Reply #14 on: November 06, 2007, 12:12:22 PM »

Let me clarify please, I believe the Manichaeans believed that the ruling principle of the Old Testament was evil and that of the New was good.

Does that seem a more accurate view of what they taught now?

No, I don't think so. I'm quite sure Mani's opposition to the OT was simply based upon his notion that the OT of his day was a gross corruption of the original revelation.
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« Reply #15 on: November 06, 2007, 12:13:38 PM »

Let me clarify please, I believe the Manichaeans believed that the ruling principle of the Old Testament was evil and that of the New was good.

Does that seem a more accurate view of what they taught now?

No. Mani developed his own cosmogony, with plenty of activity BEFORE the creation of Adam and Eve. Further, the two principles are constantly fighting each other. One never "rules." Perhaps you are thinking of Marcion, who opposed the OT to the NT, etc.
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« Reply #16 on: November 06, 2007, 03:27:09 PM »

Thank you so much, all who replied! Very enlightening. --G.
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« Reply #17 on: November 06, 2007, 05:57:47 PM »

Interesting...thank you for that.
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