Manes, born in western Persia (approximately 210-275 A.D.), was a religious preacher and the founder of Manichaeism, an ancient gnostic religion that was once prolific but now considered nonexistent. Manes is also known as Mani.
Manes, native to Mardin in Anatolia, first encountered religion in his early youth while living with a Jewish ascetic group known as the Elkasites. After receiving a revelation in his mid-twenties, he would come to a belief that salvation is possible through education, self-denial, vegetarianism, fasting, and chastity. He later claimed to be the Paraclete promised in the New Testament, The Last Prophet and Seal of the Prophets, finalizing a succession of men guided by God, which included figures such as Seth, Noah, Abraham, Shem, Nikotheos, Enoch, Zoroaster, Hermes, Plato, Buddha, and Jesus Christ.
Although most of the writings of the founding prophet Manes have been lost, significant portions remain preserved in Egypt and China. Neo-Manichaeism is a modern revivalist movement not considered directly connected to the ancient faith but is sympathetic to the teachings of Manes.
Manes, being influenced by Mandaeanism, began preaching at a young age. According to biographical accounts preserved by Ibn an-Nadim and al-Biruni, during his youth, Manes received a revelation from a spirit whom he would later call the Twin, who taught him the divine truths of the religion. During this period, the large existing religious groups, most notably Christianity and Zoroastrianism, were competing for stronger political and social power. Although less in adherents than Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism won the support of high ranking political figures and with the aid of the Persian Empire, Manes would initiate missionary excursions. After failing to win the favor of the next generation, and being disproved of by the Zoroastrian clergy, Manes is reported to have died in prison awaiting execution by the Persian Emperor, while alternate accounts have it that he was either flayed to death or beheaded.
It is theorized that the Manichees made every effort to include all known religious traditions. As a result they preserved many apocryphal Christian works, such as the Acts of Thomas, that would have been lost otherwise. Manes was eager to describe himself as a "disciple of Jesus Christ", but the orthodox church rejected him as a heretic. Manes declared himself, and was also referred to, as the Paraclete: a Biblical title, meaning "helper", which the Orthodox tradition understood as referring to God in the person of the Holy Spirit). The title was later applied to Mohammed, founder of the Islamic religion.
Some scholars and anti-Roman Catholic polemicists argue that its influence subtly continues in Christian thought, through Augustine of Hippo, who converted to Christianity from Manichaeism, and whose writings continue to be enormously influential among Catholic theologians.
- Wikipedia. (2004). Mani (prophet) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mani_%28prophet%29). Retrieved Sept. 21, 2004.
- Religious Syncretism: A Look at Manichaeism (http://essenes.net/manigreywold.html)
- Manichaeist art - Washington University (http://depts.washington.edu/uwch/silkroad/exhibit/religion/manichaeism/manichaeism.html)