Manichaeans, a religious sect of the East, founded about the middle of the 3d century. Its origin is involved in obscurity, oriental and occidental writers differing much in their accounts of it. According to the latter, Manes or Mani, the founder of the sect, was not the originator of his doctrines. The fullest account of his life and of the source of his system is given by Epiphanius, and is in all essentials corroborated by Cyril, Socrates, Theo-doret, Suidas, Cedrenus, and the Acta Disputa-tionk S. Archelai from which their statements were derived. This work, of uncertain authorship, and extant only in a corrupted form, is rejected by some scholars as wholly unhistori-cal. It contains an account of a disputation between Manes and Archelaus, bishop of Cascar. It states substantially that a certain Scythianus, an Arabian by birth, but a native of Scythia, a man of much learning, wealth, and travel, conceived the idea of a dualism, the doctrine of good and bad principles. His disciple Tere-binthus composed for him four books, entitled , , and Scythianus was intending to go to Judea, in the time of the apostles, and teach his doctrines there (as he did, according to Epipha-nius), when he suddenly died. Terebinthus fled to Persia, took the name of Budda, and taught the doctrine of Scythianus. Seeing that he was not gaining disciples, he attempted to deceive by magic arts, and while in the act fell from a roof and died. The books of Scythianus became the property of an old woman in whose house he had been lodging, and whose slave, Cubricus, called also Manes, inherited them at her death. Manes studied the doctrine and undertook to teach it, but with little success. Attempting to cure a sick child of the king of Persia with some of the remedies given in his books, and failing, he was thrown into prison. Shortly before this occurrence Manes had sent his disciples Thomas, Hernias, and Addas or Adda to Jerusalem to study the Christian religion. Upon their return they gave him the Christian books which they had bought, and he studied them in his prison, and embodied many Christian doctrines, changed and falsified, in his own system. Shortly after he succeeded in making his escape.
He challenged Marcellus, a pious Christian of Cascar (Kas-kar) in Babylonia, to a religious disputation, and was defeated. He then went to a place designated as Diodori Vicus, where he disputed with the bishop Archelaus and the presbyter Trypton, and was again discomfited. He was finally taken prisoner and sent back to Persia, where he was flayed alive, and his skin, stuffed with straw, was publicly exhibited as a warning. Several reasons, as pointed out by Baur (Das Manichaische Religionssystem, 1831), tend to show that the strange particulars of Epi-phanius's narrative are far from being all historical. The Fihrist el-ulum ("List of Sciences "), the oldest known literary history of the Arabs, written about 987 by Abulfaraj Mohammed ben Ishak en-Nedim, a book which still made use of the works of Manes and his disciples, no longer extant, has statements in regard to Manes which are at variance with those of Epiphanius. According to this, Manes was born in Ctesiphon, the son of Futtak Babek or Fatek, of Hamadan, and of a woman probably of Babylonian origin. When 12 years old Manes became the subject of a divine inspiration, and at the age of 24 he was asked to act as a prophet.
De Sacy, in his Memoires stir diverges antiquites de la Perse, adduces several oriental books which state that Manes, after hiding himself in a cave for a year, pretended to have come from heaven, where he had received a painted slate, thereafter known as the Erteng-i-Mani. It is further stated that Manes alleged that he had received his doctrine from the king of paradise through the mediation of an angel. He himself was the Paraclete of whom Christ had spoken. His tenets were derived partly from Christianity and partly from the Magi. His writings were six in number, one in Persian and five in Syriac, besides a multitude of epistles. The graphic system employed by himself and his disciples is said to have been peculiar, resembling both Persian and Syrian characters. Most of the oriental writers agree that Manes came to a violent death, and that he was brought before a tribunal of priest charged with heresy, and condemned. Spiegel, in his Erunische Alterthumshunde (vol. ii., 1873), is inclined to consider historical the statements that Manes entered the career of a prophet when he was 24 years old, and that he addressed himself both to the Zoroastriana and Christians of Mesopotamia. - The Mani-chasan system is a mixture of Parseeism. Christianity, Babylonian mythology, and Buddhism. It contains a dualism different from that of the Magi, and shows the same easy transition from the concrete to the abstract characteristic of the Iranian religion.
It assumes that there are two kingdoms existing from all eternity, those of light and of darkness, coexisting with and bordering on each other; the former under the dominion of God, the latter under the dominion of the demon or Ilyle (matter). (See Gnosticism.) An inroad was made by the kingdom of darkness, the barriers wire broken through, the primitive man, God's first-horn son, was for a time imprisoned, and the materials of light and darkness were intermixed. God now caused the world to be made out of this mixed material, it was made by the "living spirit," in order that the unmixed and imprisoned material of light, which is called by the Latin writers ,Jesus patibilis, might be separated by degrees, and the old boundaries restored. This recapturing of the material of light was effected by Christ and the Holy Spirit, who inhabit respectively the sun and moon and the air, while the demon and evil spirits are fettered to the stars. Adam, the progenitor of the human race, was created after the image of the primitive man. Every man has two souls, one of light, the other of darkness; and it is his mission to subject the latter to the former, uniting with his soul of light some of the material of light imprisoned in certain plants, and so fitting it for return to the kingdom of light.
The demon long led men astray by the false religions of Judaism and heathenism; but at length Christ descended from the sun, assumed a bodily appearance, and taught true worship. He was not fully understood even by his apostles; still less by their successors, whom Manes contemptuously calls Galileans. Hence Christ promised the I ara-clete, who appeared in Manes. The Mameha-ans therefore rejected wholly the Old Teata-ment, and partially the New. They appealed to apocryphal writings, and especially to tin-writings of Manes, which alone they acknowledged as authoritative. The spirit of their morality was self-conquest by asceticism, of which they held to three degrees: 1, what the Latin writers call signaculum oris, abstinence from all impure words, and even thoughts, ami from any kind of food which might increase the power of the body over the spirit, and especially flesh, wine, and strong drinks; 2, the signaculum manuum, abstinence from such work as makes this world an attractive home; 3, the signaculum sinus, abstinence from sexual intercourse. Legal external marriage was not absolutely forbidden, but celi-bacy was strongly recommended, while abstinence from procreation was a moral duty.
This rigorous asceticism imposed on the baptized members such privations that most Mani-chreans remained catechumens, postponing baptism as long as possible. The worship of the Maniclueans was very simple. Sunday was celebrated by fasting; they kept the day of Manes's death as an annual festival; they administered baptism with oil, and admitted only baptized members to the Lord's supper, which was celebrated in secret. Manes himself sent out 12 apostles, and these were afterward represented by 12 magistri, with a 13th invisible one, without doubt Manes himself, at their head. After them followed 70 or 72 bishops, who in turn had under them presbyters, deacons, and the other electi, or baptized members of the church. - The cruel execution of Manes, the date of which is commonly fixed at A. D. 276, in the reign of Bahrain I., was undoubtedly followed by a persecution of his disciples. The Maniclueans consequently fled from Iranian territory into lands occupied by Tartaric races, where Buddhism was the general religion, and toleration was shown to other sects. They returned to the west only after the fall of the Sas-sanian dynasty, and settled especially in Babylon and its environs, which became the seat of the Manichaean primate, and seems to have been looked upon as a sort of holy city.
Many emigrated to Khorasan in the reign of the caliph Muktadir. and still more to Samarcand. Moslem fanaticism did not disturb them here, as the chief of the Turkish tribe of Tagazgaz, who took an interest in them, threatened vengeance against the Mohammedans in his territory if any harm should be done to the Manicheeans. At the time of the author of the Fihrist, in the 10th century, there were but few Mani-chteans in the west, and in Bagdad their number diminished, within his own recollection from 300 to 5. Manes hud appointed Sis or kwmnius to be his successor as the head of the church, and the succession was continued for several centuries. But in the time of the caliph Walid I. (705), while Mihr was the head of he Maniclueans, a certain Zadhurmuz separated from the community and built in Madam a temple, of which he declared himself to be the chief. II,. appointed Miklas to be his successor and hence those who adhered to him were called Mlklasiya, and those who recognized the authority of Mihr were called Mihrija. It seems that the two sects were subsequently reunited. During the caliphate of Al-Mamoun (813-833) one Yazdanbakht caused another schism, of which very little is known.
The doctrine of Manes succeeded in gaining many converts, as it appealed largely to the imaginative and philosophic character of the oriental mind. - Manichasism spread beyond Iran and Mesopotamia over Asia Minor and Africa, and it found its way into Europe. Its history may be divided into three periods. The first period extends to the end of the 6th century, until which time the Ma-nichtean doctrines continued in a measure in their original oriental form. In Africa its success was sufficiently great to be looked upon as the rival of Christianity. It numbered among its converts many eminent and learned men, as Alexander Lycopolitanus, Faustus of Milevi, and even St. Augustine for at least nine years. St. Augustine says that the name of Manes or Mani was changed to Manichasus, in order to avoid ribald remarks called forth by the resemblance of the former to the Greek The persecutions of Diocletian, Con-stantine, Gratian, Theodosius, Valentinian, and Honorius finally succeeded in weakening their power, and the Vandal kings drove them out of Africa into Sicily and Italy, where Pope Leo I. and Valentinian III. soon took measures either to convert or destroy them. But a century and a half later Gregory I. still complained of the large number of Manichseans in Christian lands. Persecutions had taught them, however, the wisdom of appearing to adopt some of the Christian rites and doctrines, which had the effect of gradually perverting the oriental faith into a Christian heresy, and thus Mani-chseism entered upon a new phase of its existence. The second period reaches from the 7th to the 11th century. Cappadocia and Armenia had been the cradle of strong Mani-chmn communities, which, finally exiled into Bulgaria, by degrees renounced even the name and headship of Manes, and rejected various doctrines seemingly unintelligible and unprofitable.
Constantinople was not as severe on them as the Roman pontiffs and emperors, though the East finally subjected them to the same persecutions which their brethren had suffered in the West, (See Paulicians.) The Manichseans of Italy soon came under the influence of the Bulgarian reform, and a new variety of the original doctrine sprung up in the West. This third development embraces the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries. Germany, France, and Italy proceeded against the heretics with unwavering severity, and even the populace joined in a general persecution of them, surrendering them to the penalty of death. (For the history of these new sects, see Albi-genses, and Catharists.) In modern times the various forms of Manicha3ism have gradually disappeared, and to all appearance, perhaps with the exception of a few in Bulgaria and Persia, disciples of Manes are nowhere to be found. In theological polemics the term Manichaean is still applied to doctrines representing evil as a substance, identifying it with matter, or regarding the body of man as the source or seat of sin. - The writings of Manes and his immediate disciples are not extant.
Fragments are found quoted in the writings of their opponents, as in the Acta Disputa-tionis Sancti Archelai, Episcopi Mesopotami-ensis, cum Manete; St. Augustine, Contra Faustum Manichamm, and Contra Fortuna-tum Manichamm; and St. Epiphanius. Besides the accounts of Manichasism found in works on ecclesiastical history, and the special works mentioned above, see Schmidt, His-toire et doctrine de la secte des Cathares on Al-Ugeois (2d ed., Paris, 1849), and Flugel, Mdni, seine Lehre und seine Schriften, ein Beitragzur Geschichte des Manicliaismus, aus dem Fihrist, im Text nebst Uebersetzung (Leipsic, 1802).