Manichaeism, a Universalist Faith
An artist’s concept of Mani the Prophet
from Wikimedia Commons
Persia was between India and the Roman Empire, and the Silk Road ran through it, making Persia a crossroad of ideas. It had Jews who had had fled from their homeland. After the Jews came Christians. Buddhist ideas were imported from India, and there was the indigenous Zoroastrianism. And into the mix of religious ideas arose a blend the various religions into a universalist faith:Manichaeism (pronounced mani-KEY-ism).
The founder of Manichaeism, Mani, is believed to have been the son of Parthian royalty, born in a village near Ctesiphon and a boy when Ardashir overthrew Parthian rule. As a young boy, Mani might have been taken by his father into a cult called the “Practitioners of Ablutions” — a cult that believed in washing away sins in baptisms. Or the group may have been the Elkesaites, a Jewish-Christian sect that arose around the year CE 100, a group believed to have celebrated the Sabbath, practiced vegetarianism, believed in circumcision, condemned the apostle Paul and criticized what it called falsehoods in Christian scripture and Mosaic law — a sect that died out around the year 400. Continue reading