Roughly 1600 years before the inception of Manichaeism, the prophet Zarathustra began professing his holy words that would later lay the ground for the establishment of Zoroastrianism. Zarathustra’s concept of duality, which is the existence of two ultimate forces, an ultimate good and an ultimate evil, would later influence Manichaeism. The central figure of Manichaeism is Mani, a Syrian who preached of a dual deistical system of faith similar to Zoroastrianism. However, Manichaeism, and Mani himself, tied together Judeo-Christian ideologies along with dualistic Zoroastrian ideologies . The religion’s dogmatic practices, philosophical perspectives, and poetic mythologies exemplify the complexity of the culture encompassed by Manichaeism. The professions of Mani, some of which could be considered heretical by several of the very religions Mani draws from, speak of conflicted ideals, a strict spiritual detachment from the “material” world, a complex cosmogony as well as a complex eschatology.
The fundamental texts for the Manichaean religion are The Shabuhragan, The Evangelion, and The Book of Giants. It is within the pages of these scriptures that the religion is mapped out. The Shabuhragan was a book written by Mani near the end of his life, and was presented to King Shapur I, of the Sassanid Persian Empire. The book was Mani’s declaration of a new religion, one that had a significant tie to Zoroastrianism, Christianity, and Buddhism. The three divine prophets of each religion were viewed by Mani, as one of many apostles whose purpose, on the material realm of existence, was to educate the followers of the Great Light, the supreme deity in Manichaeism, much like that of Ahura Mazda or Yahweh in the Zoroastrian and Christian traditions. At the time the three predominant religions, who were also contending with each other, in the Persian Empire, were Zoroastrianism, Christianity, and Buddhism. According to the Coptic Homilies, when King Shapur supersedes his...
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