Mani (216-276 CE) was an Iranian prophet and founder of the religious movement Manichaeism.
Not much is known about Mani’s early life, except for some recently discovered documents said to have been written by followers within his inner circle.
At age 12 Mani had a vision of a spiritual being that he believed was his heavenly twin. He soon fell into disrepute with the religious leaders of the Jewish and Christian-based community.
His second vision called him to become an apostle. Friction within the community became intolerable, forcing Mani to depart with his father and two disciples.
In a nutshell, Mani believed in a complete dualism of good and evil, these two elements locked in eternal struggle.
St. Augustine was, for a time, a follower of Manichaeism. But later in his Confessions he rejects and criticizes his former path.
Among bookish¹ Catholics, Manichaeism is sometimes upheld as a symbol for all the deceptive pathways that some must journey through before finding the true faith.
Mani himself came to an unfortunate end. After enjoying political support from previous heads of state, the Zoroastrian Bahram I persecuted the Manichaens. Mani was imprisoned and brutally executed.²
¹ I use this term because from my experience some apparently “bright” Catholics like the Jesuits often perpetrate entirely unremarkable ideas in the homily. Their thinking seems to be structured by the traditional theology that they must uphold in order to remain in the fold.
² The grim details can be found here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mani_(prophet)#Life