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The Manichean Religion

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posted on May, 10 2009 @ 08:49 PM
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Ever study the Manichean religion? In its heyday, it was a major world religion, comparible in scope to Christianity, Buddhism, or Islam, with a reach that stretched from Europe and North Africa to China. In time, it was gobbled up by the other religions and largely forgotten. Only fragments of its scripture remain.

The Manichean worldview may strike many modern readers as bizzare:




In the beginning...the two "natures" or "substances", light and obscurity, good and evil, God and matter, coexisted, separated by a frontier. In the North reigned the Father of Greatness...in the South, the Prince of Darkness...the "disorderly motion" of matter drove the Prince of Darkness toward the upper frontier of his kingdom. Seeing the splendor of light, he is fired by the desire to conquer it. It is then that the Father decides that he will himself repulse the adversary. He...projects from himself, the Mother of Life, who...projects a new hypostasis, the Primordial Man...With his five sons, who are...his "soul" and "armor" made from five lights, the Primordial Man descends to the frontier. He challenges the darkness, but he is conquered, and his sons are devoured by the demons...This defeat marks the beginning of the cosmic "mixture", but at the same time it insures the final triumph of God. For obscurity (matter) now possesses a portion of light...and the Father, preparing its deliverance, at the same time arranges for his definitive victory against darkness. In a second Creation, the Father "evokes" the Living Spirit, which, descending toward obscurity, grasps the hand of the Primordial Man and raises him to his celestial homeland, the Paradise of Lights. Overwhelming the demonic Archontes, the Living Spirit fashions the heavens from their skins, the mountains from their bones, the earth from their flesh and their excrements...In addition, he achieves a first deliverance of light by creating the sun, the moon, and the stars from portions of it that had not suffered too much from contact with obscurity. Finally, the Father proceeds to a last evocation and projects by emanation the Third Messenger. The latter organizes the cosmos into a kind of machine to collect - and...to deliver - the still-captive particles of light. During the first two weeks of the month, the particles rise to the moon, which becomes a full moon; during the second two weeks, light is transferred from the moon to the sun and, finally, to its celestial homeland. But there were still the particles that had been swallowed by the demons. Then the messenger displays himself to the male demons in the form of a dazzling naked virgin, while the female demons see him as a handsome naked young man...fired by desire, the male demons...give forth their semen, and, with it, the light that they had swallowed. Fallen to the ground, their semen gives birth to all the vegetable species. As for the female devils who were already pregnant, at the sight of the handsome young man they give birth to abortions, which, cast onto the ground, eat the buds of trees, thus assimilating the light that they contained. Alarmed by the Third Messenger's tactics, matter, personified as Concupiscence, decides to create a stronger prison around the still-captive particles of light. Two demons, one male, the other female, devour all the abortions in order to absorb the totality of light, and they then couple. Thus Adam and Eve were engendered.



Source:
en.wikipedia.org...

For more sources, see the links off the above wikipedia page or use your old pal Google.




posted on May, 12 2009 @ 06:03 PM
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No, I've never studied this religion, nor even heard of it. The origination story/theory is indeed a little bizarre, but also understandable. Light/Dark; Male/Female; Good/Bad, all pretty much the same as all other religions' origin tenets, ie, simple explanations of duality.

But please tell me, what is the point of your thread?



posted on May, 12 2009 @ 08:34 PM
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Originally posted by teapot



But please tell me, what is the point of your thread?


Well, there is no point, really, just stuck it in the "general chitchat" of BTS because I found it interesting, from whence it was seemingly moved to this forum. Just passing time, brining up topics that strike me as interesting, in typical BTS fashion.

There are a lot of things about Manicheanism that strike me as interesting...for one, it was a major world religion that has now been totally forgotten except by a few scholars. The word "Manichean" is still in (semi-) common use to denote a black-and-white worldview, but in my opinion that use of the word doesn't really capture the subtlties of the religion, which are quite complex if you google around on the topic.

I'm also interested in the fact that we have to kind of piece together the doctrine from little scraps of damaged parchment and partial books...makes it seem very mysterious.

A third point of interest is the fact that it appears to span east and west, uniting Christian, Buddhist, and Zoroastrian thought in a single synthesis. That's quite an achievement.

Some people think that aspects of Manicheanism survived in a perverted form in the Bogomil heresy of medieval bulgaria and later, perhaps, in the suppressed doctrine of the Cathars in southern france. Other scholars disagree and say similarities are coincidental.

Anyway, like I said, I just found the topic interesting, and tossed it up to pass the time...



posted on May, 12 2009 @ 09:01 PM
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I've come across this recently while researching something else. I haven't taken the time to start to really look into yet but it does sound fascinating.

How much do you know about it? I ask because it's on my list to help me further research what I am currently working on as I believe it will help me understand my project better.



posted on May, 13 2009 @ 07:21 PM
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Originally posted by silent thunder

Originally posted by teapot



But please tell me, what is the point of your thread?


Well, there is no point, really, just stuck it in the "general chitchat" of BTS because I found it interesting, from whence it was seemingly moved to this forum. Just passing time, brining up topics that strike me as interesting, in typical BTS fashion.


Ah! Thank you. So your're just starting a random conversation about something that interests you! Sounds good to me. This is the only online forum that has ever interested me and I'm definitely a bit green.

It is very interesting that so little of the written records of this religion have been lost or destroyed and that so many diverse other world religions were opposed.

The religion must have been very influential to arouse such opposition. I think that any religion that promises that sin, ie., causing pain and suffering in or too others, is not the fault of the individual, is a religion that would be very popular.

It is also interesting that this religion resonates to the number five, yet seems to maintain a doctrine of the trinity. And pays attention to the Spirit of God.



posted on May, 14 2009 @ 12:12 AM
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To GAOTU789, in answer to your question, please see my U2U (which you already have, actually ).


Originally posted by teapot
It is very interesting that so little of the written records of this religion have been lost or destroyed and that so many diverse other world religions were opposed.

The religion must have been very influential to arouse such opposition. I think that any religion that promises that sin, ie., causing pain and suffering in or too others, is not the fault of the individual, is a religion that would be very popular.


You bring up good points here...Manicheanism was indeed very influential in its time and one of the things I think is most interesting about it is that it straddled very different worlds, making inroads into Western Europe, Eastern China, and everywhere inbetween. I can't think of any other religion or belief system that bridged all these various worlds simultaneously until the advent of the modern era.

Thinking a bit about your comments, I believe a good case can be made that the reason it was destroyed was that is synthesized so many other major religions. That is, it managed to combine Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Gnosticism, and Buddhism. This must have made it a strong threat to each of these religions, whose priesthoods could have been put "out of business" by Manicheanism. So the religious establishments of all these other major religions were threatened by Mani. When you make that many powerful enemies, your days are probably numbered.

One of the problems with Manicheanism that scholars have noted is that its cosmology was too complex to be readily understood by "simple souls," perhaps because it "bit off more than it could chew" in trying to synthesize and combine all these other religions. A lot of the hymns and poems that exist are very beautiful and simple, readily understandable by "common man." This stands in contrast to its exotic and cumbersome cosmology, with various eminations and complex triple generations of cosmic war. So there was a strong division between the common, illiterate practitioniers and the elite intellectuals who embraced the religion. This can be noted in the fact that the religion recognized several grades of practioners, such as the "Perfecti"elites and the mere "listeners." Interestingly, this division is very similar to the gradations of believers found among the the medieval French Cathars, who were probably strongly influenced by Manicheanism, directly or indirectly. But the complexity and differences within the religion may have also contributed to its downfall.




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