Manichaeism – A Struggle Of Light Over Darkness

Manichaeism was a widespread religious movement founded by the third-century Iranian prophet Mani (216-276 CE).

Scene of Work of the religion originates as part of Mani’s Picture-Book, The Ardhang, This image is after digital reconstruction. Date circa 270

Based on his alleged angelic revelations, Mani proclaimed himself to be the last in a line of great prophets:

Zoroaster > Buddha > Jesus > Mani

Heavenly revelations aside, a more worldly historian of religion would say that Manichaeism was a syncretic religion drawing on several pre-existing sources, to include Gnosticism, a force to be reckoned with in late Antiquity.

Sharply dualistic, Manichaeism strove to redeem mankind from an inherently evil world created by an essentially wicked god (Yahweh of the Old Testament).

Mani believed the side of “light” would eventually vanquish the forces of “darkness,” delivering mankind from the bondage of worldliness.

Manichaeism was no isolated movement but belonged within thriving communities that juggled various political and religious forces.

St. Augustine of Hippo said in his Confessions that he was duped into following Manicheism until he studied the available astronomical calculations of the era. The empirical figures contradicted the cosmology of the Manichean books, which were “full of the most tedious fictions about the sky and the stars, the sun and the moon.”¹

So Augustine confronted a Manichee called Fautus who, says Augustine, was “obviously unable to settle the numerous problems which troubled me.”

Augustine refuting heresies – Pinterest |

The Manichaean Church was made up of the elect ‘righteous’ and auditors (‘hearers’) and grew to the extent that it rivaled Christianity.

Believers hoped to facilitate the reorganization of particles of light or, at least, not hinder this process. Through their alleged wisdom, they saw themselves as contributing to the triumph of light over darkness.

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

After centuries of persecutions from Christians and non-Christians, Manichaeism is virtually non-existent, save for a few small groups claiming to uphold this religion.

¹ Ironically, the Christian Church which Augustine championed came to ignore and repress most cosmological innovations in the Middle Ages. Daniel Boorstin says in The Creators that, instead of looking at scientific attempts to measure the Earth, Christian cartographers drew up wildly imaginative fantasies that a contemporary depth psychologist would have a heyday with.

² The grim details –


  1. I suppose in a way all religion is a seeking of “truth”. Which has not yet been discovered. I have nothing against mysticism but regard all religious belief as “primitive”. Mysticism is letting the mind wander, seeking freedom through altered states of consciousness. For my own tastes I combine meditation and thought with science. I am interested in the origins or religion and believe I understand those origins. But I do not believe religious devotion has a valid place in the modern world.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for your comment, glad to see someone is willing to engage rather than just “like.” So the way I see it, religion and spirituality need not be divorced. And any mysticism which may come from that could be scientific in a way. But not science as we currently understand it.

    My view is a bit more complex than that, as is the subject matter. So I wouldn’t want to be pegged on just that one paragraph.

    One problem we have in discussing spirituality is defining / understanding terms. For example, different people might mean different things by using the term “The Holy Spirit.” But unless they examine that possibility, they might just all nod in agreement whenever the concept is uttered.


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