Mani (c. 216–276) was a Persian visionary who claimed apostleship under Jesus and believed himself to be the instrument of the promised Paraclete and messenger of the Holy Spirit in the line of succession of prophets or messengers of God, chief among them Zoroaster, Buddha, and Christ. He preached a synthesis of several major religions including Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, and Christianity.
A contemporary of Origen of Alexandria, Mani was born in Babylonia to a family of Jewish Christian Baptists. After about thirty-six years of preaching, he was executed and his head was impaled over the Babylonian city gates. His followers carried his beliefs east to China and west into the Roman Empire.
Mani’s followers were vegetarians, believed in reincarnation, and followed a ritual of prayer several times a day. Their religious practices also included frequent fasting, almsgiving, and confession. Mani’s syncretistic movement was an early rival of the Christian church, which treated his doctrine as heresy. He was persecuted by orthodox Zoroastrians as well and was martyred in Persia by Zoroastrian priests. Manichaeism spread west through Egypt, North Africa, and the Roman Empire—disappearing in the sixth century after fierce persecution—and penetrated eastward as far as Chinese Turkestan, where it lasted until about the tenth century.
Mani stated he received his religion as a “revelation,” as did Paul the apostle. At age 24 he was called by his heavenly “Twin” to found a religion and a church of his own. This “Twin,” also described as the “Living Paraclete,” came down and spoke to Mani, who later reported:
He revealed to me the hidden mystery that was hidden from the worlds and the generations: the mystery of the Depth and the Height: he revealed to me the mystery of the Light and the Darkness, the mystery of the conflict and the great war which the Darkness stirred up. He revealed to me how the Light [turned back? overcame?] the Darkness by their intermingling and how [in consequence] was set up this world...; he enlightened me on the mystery of the forming of Adam, the first man. He instructed me on the mystery of the Tree of Knowledge of which Adam ate, by which his eyes were made to see; the mystery of the Apostles who were sent out into the world to select the churches [i.e. to found the religions].... Thus was revealed to me by the Paraclete all that has been and that shall be, and all that the eye sees and the ear hears and the thought thinks. Through him I learned to know everything, I saw the All through him, and I became one body and one spirit [with him].”
Mani’s church was open to all, but members were divided into “hearers” and “elect” much in the manner of the mystery schools. Mani’s church was the “community of the righteous ones” the “Universal Church” which will be triumphant over the tribulations of the Great War at the end of days.
Mani was a prolific writer and the names of scriptures written by him are Living Gospel, Treasure of Life, Treatise, Book of Mysteries (Secrets), Book of Giants, Epistles, and Psalms and Prayers. These survive only in fragmentary form.
Mani’s aim was to unite the various creeds of his time into a single worldwide faith that shared the noblest elements found in each. These elements included the pre-existence of the soul in the Light-Realm before it was sent to earth to redeem the Light from the Darkness, the reincarnation of the soul that it may purify itself from the dark elements of Evil until it ascended back to the Realm of Light, wearing its Robe of Light, and the eventual extraction of all particles of Light from the Darkness.
Mani did not teach the concept of an eternal hell. Evil is ultimately contained, densified and rendered inactive. All souls are possessed of a Light-Mind of which Jesus is the personification.
An excerpt from the Manichaean scriptures describes the soul saying: “O Light-Mind, the Sun of my heart that gives my Soul the things of the Light, thou art my witness, that I have no comfort save in thee.” To which Jesus answers: “I am thy Higher Self, a security and seal; thou art my body, a garment I have put on in order to terrify the Powers, while I (myself) am thy Light, the original Effulgence!”
Mani had taught that the pre-existent souls who came to redeem the world from Darkness became tainted with the lust of the evil archons and thus had fallen into bodies. The Church Fathers refused to recognize or believe that angels who had fallen had taken on physical bodies. Mani’s exposure of the forces of darkness present and embodied in the world (fallen angels, archons, Watchers, giants) precipitated an intense persecution of this universal church and religion from those very forces themselves.
Good and Evil
Mani’s version of the creation story was similar to that of the Orphics and Gnostics. The Creator used a mixture of good and evil in creating the world. Man, as a part of the world, also contains a mixture of good and evil. God created the world as a place for separating the principles of Good and Evil. Souls are meant to return to their original condition of complete Good by separating themselves from the body and the “material soul,” which are melted to the true soul like copper amalgamated with silver.
In their complicated myth of the creation of man, the Manichaeans believed that some of God’s light had been trapped in the bodies of demon-animals. This light was passed on to Adam and Eve, tainted by the passions of the demon-animals. And thus, according to scholar Hans-Joachim Klimkeit, it also passed on “greed, the lust for procreation, envy, hate, and other evil qualities.... These negative aspects together form what is called the ‘dark’ or ‘material soul,’” which overlays the true soul. The soul itself, of divine origin, is destined to shake off these evil qualities and “be restored to its pristine beauty, purity, and integrity.”
The Manichaean system of salvation includes reincarnation. The Manichaeans taught that the elect were capable of returning to God in their current life. They were required to follow a rigid code as they struggled to separate all elements of the demon passions. The other group, the hearers, were given less strict commandments and could expect to be reborn as elect. Thus the hearers could expect a second chance at salvation since they were not destined to make it in this life. Like many sects of their day, the Manichaeans were exclusive. Everyone who was neither a hearer nor an elect was headed for damnation. The elect were vegetarians and, like Hindu ascetics, were forbidden meat, alcohol or sexual activity.
Influence on Augustine
► Main article: Original sin
The Manichaeans’ attitude toward sex may have inﬂuenced Augustine in his creation of the doctrine of original sin. They believed, as Klimkeit writes, that they must detach themselves from all forms of lust or greed since, in their creation myths, “sexual lust led to the creation of man and his fall.” Thus, the “mixed” state of good and evil that we live in today is “perpetuated by the lustfulness associated with procreation.”
Augustine was a hearer, not an elect, so the requirement of celibacy did not apply to him. Nevertheless, he struggled with his sexuality all his life, perhaps initially out of hopes of becoming an elect. When he left the Manichees, he discarded reincarnation. But he took with him the sense of sin attached to sexuality. In Augustine’s hands, Manichaeism without reincarnation became the ultimate fatalism.
Persecution by Church Fathers
Jerome and other Church Fathers fought fiercely against certain “heresies” of this popular eclectic religion, refuting Manicheanism by every possible means. The core of Jerome’s argument is against the Manichean doctrine that “souls desired human bodies to be united in pleasure,” which Jerome more or less equates with the Enochian story of the fall of the angels through lust—a story Jerome certainly would reject. Augustine rejected the tale of the fall of angels through a physical lust and mating with women as something that was an impossibility for angelic natures.
This inability to accept the fall of angels goes back to the fact that angels were beings created to amplify the light of their leader, who should amplify the light of the Son of God. They were not given free will in the sense that the sons of God were given free will. They were created to be electrodes of the desire body of God, to emanate feelings, to infuse the whole Matter cosmos with the feelings of God.
The angels who were cast out of heaven with Lucifer, as recorded in chapter l2 of the Book of Revelation, simply followed their leader blindly. They thought him to be so great; they followed him as if he were the leader of a great cosmic breakthrough.
Augustine’s very inability to believe that holy angels could have so fallen is the same astonishment expressed by those angels when Lucifer fell. They couldn’t believe that Lucifer was falling when they watched him fall before their very eyes, when they fell with him and they were cast down into the earth. Their pride was so great, they would not admit that they fell, and they never have admitted that they have fallen. And when anyone accuses them of their fall and their corruption of the Word, they denounce that one as a heretic, just as they denounced the disciples of Mani.
The nonbelief in the fallen state is corrected in one brief paragraph dictated by El Morya for Climb the Highest Mountain. He says:
The soul is the living potential of God. The soul’s demand for free will and its separation from God resulted in the descent of this potential into the lowly estate of the flesh. Sown in dishonor, the soul is destined to be raised in honor to the fullness of that God-estate which is the one Spirit of all Life. The soul can be lost; but the Spirit can never die.
Therein he confirms that the soul may be lost and may pass through the second death, as it is confirmed for the Watchers and the godless, but the Spirit of the Mighty I AM Presence will never die. In the term “the lowly estate of the flesh,” Morya is emphatic that the plane of this octave is a corrupt state of souls who demanded free will, that corruption is inherent in the flesh-and-blood situation.
We understand this. We wear flesh-and-blood bodies and we see how easily these bodies are corrupted in sin by the very low-grade vibration at which they are quivering in this physical octave. This very teaching of the corruption of this plane and the corrupt state is one of the teachings of Mani, which makes us wonder, since he taught the religions of East and West, whether or not he might have been someone just like El Morya.
You can see in some of these Church Fathers, who were embodied fallen angels, that they never wanted to admit that they lost their state of holy innocence. They would not allow themselves to believe that there was such a thing as lost innocence. They still were the champions of the decision of their leader, and they sought to reinterpret the teachings of Jesus Christ to fit the teachings of the fallen archangel. Some of the most notable and respected of the writers of the early Church have completely twisted and turned around the divine doctrine by way of defending, psychologically, their own lowly estate.
Mani described his religion with these words:
The religion (dēn) which I have chosen is greater and better than the other religions of the ancients.... My religion is such that it will manifest in all lands and in all languages and will be taught in distant lands.... My religion, by virtue of its living scriptures, (its) teachers, bishops, elect and auditors, and by its wisdom and deeds will endure to the end.... Those souls of the ancients who did not complete (good) works in their own religion will come to my religion, and for them it will truly become the door of salvation.... This revelation of the two principles and my living scriptures, my wisdom and my knowledge, are more encompassing and better than those of the former religions ... as all scriptures, (all) wisdom and (all) parables of the former religions [have been added] to my religion.
Klimkeit explains that Mani’s church considered itself to be “a community of the righteous ones (ardāvān). It constitutes ‘the Universal Church’ which will arise in triumph over the trials of the Great War at the end of days.” We can see in Mani’s writings a vision foreshadowing the spreading abroad of the teachings of the Great White Brotherhood throughout the world through Theosophy, the I AM Movement, and The Summit Lighthouse.
Mani brings the following words of encouragement to all souls: “Be yourselves Refiners and Saviours for your Soul which abides in every place, that you may lead it to the dwelling of the Fathers of the Light.... You are the Sons of the Day and the Sons of Light; fight yet a little while, O Sons of Light, and you will be victorious.”
The sections “Mani’s revelation,” “Teachings” and “Legacy” compiled and written by the editors.
Other sections are excerpted from:
Elizabeth Clare Prophet, The Lost Years of Jesus: Documentary Evidence of Jesus’ 17-Year Journey to the East, chapter 4.
Elizabeth Clare Prophet, Fallen Angels and the Origins of Evil.
Elizabeth Clare Prophet with Erin L. Prophet, Reincarnation: The Missing Link in Christianty.
Elizabeth Clare Prophet, July 16, 1982.
- Mani, Kephalaia 14,29–15,24, quoted in Hans-Joachim Klimkeit, Gnosis on the Silk Road: Gnostic Texts from Central Asia (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1993), pp. 2–3.
- Ibid., pp. 91, 4.
- Duncan Greenlees, The Gospel of the Prophet Mani (Adyar, India: Theosophical Publishing House, 1956), pp. 221, 225.
- See Klimkeit, Gnosis on the Silk Road, pp. 6, 15, 18, 20, 252.
- Ibid., pp. 216–17.
- Ibid., p. 91.
- Greenlees, Gospel of the Prophet Mani, pp. iii, 203.