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Was the Manes Religion a Precursor to the Modern Discordians?


The Manes religion originated in the teaching of Mani (216–277 AD), a Parthian raised in Mesopotamia in an Aramaic-speaking Jewish-Christian community known as the Elchasaites. It thrived between the third and seventh centuries, and at its height was one of the most widespread religions in the world. Manichaean churches and scriptures existed as far east as China and as far west as the Roman Empire. It was briefly the main rival to Christianity before the spread of Islam.

Manichaeism was a unique phenomenon of Aramaic Babylonia, occurring in proximity to two other new Aramaic religious phenomena of the third century AD, Talmudic Judaism and Babylonian Mandaeism. This understanding was peddled as “secret knowledge,” or “Religion of Light,” and operated as a secret society with special privileges.

Mani held that the evil god (or principle) was as powerful as the good god (also called a principle). This is also known as absolute dualism. A key belief in Manichaeism is that the powerful, though not omnipotent good power (god), was opposed by the eternal evil power (devil).

The Manichaean view of evil to our eyes is realistic and provides important insights. But the problem arises with how they processed this and acted upon it. They put forth that evil, or the dark force, is a real and primordial demonic power and that there is eternal war between the forces of light and those of darkness.

However, they held that the Christian notion of the Fall and of personal sin was repugnant to the Manichees. They preached that the soul suffered not from a weak and corrupt will but from contact with matter. Evil was a physical, not a moral thing. A person’s misfortunes were miseries, not sins.

The Manichaean religion was rife with deities and had a detailed description of them and the events that took place within the Manichaean scheme of the universe. In every language and region that Manichaeism spread to, these same deities reappear.

The doctrine of Manes can be summed up as follows.

  • He believed in two gods, or, more exactly, principles: the principle of good and that of evil.

  • Before the creation of the world, the “people of darkness” revolted against the god. God, incapable of standing against the attack, gave to them a portion of His essence.

  • The people of darkness having within them the principle of evil by their very nature, and the principle of good which they had just acquired, were able to constitute the world, where both these principles are combined, but where the principle of evil predominates.

  • Man is a mixture of two natures: the spiritual being the work of God, the body, and especially sex, the work of the Devil.

Takeaway: Unfortunately, this led to a philosophy of inversion and devil worship, as later seen in Sabbattean-Frankism and Illuminist discordian belief systems. It also shows how pervasive this dual system has been throughout history.

The Manichean egregore or system was in truth a simultaneous attack upon traditional authority. They were rebels with a cause and conducted a desperate but well-planned organized effort to destroy the whole fabric of society and to reduce civilization to chaos. The modern successors of this belief were the Frankists and their allies the Illuminists.

The Manichean egregore were the avowed enemies of law and order, and discordian anarchists who would stop at nothing to gain their ends. Terrorism and secret murder were their most frequent weapons.

Such satanic ideas as repeating prayers backwards, reversing the cross, consecrating obscene or filthy objects, are typical of this sense of opposition or desecration. This is in fact mental disease, which this brood gave full reign and normalized. The key element are practices of Black Magic centered around desecration and inversion.

Augustine of Hippo (354–430) converted to Christianity from Manichaeism in the year 387. He did so saying that their beliefs that knowledge and “enlightment” was the key to salvation was too passive and not able to effect any change in one’s life.

Augustine opines, “I still thought that it is not we who sin but some other nature that sins within us. It flattered my pride to think that I incurred no guilt and, when I did wrong, not to confess it … I preferred to excuse myself and blame this unknown thing which was in me but was not part of me. The truth, of course, was that it was all my own self, and my own impiety had divided me against myself. My sin was all the more incurable because I did not think myself a sinner.” [Confessions, Book V, Section 10]

This was Ted Bundy’s view of things. As I have perused true crime accounts over time, I am amazed as how prevalent this form of thinking is with the worst criminal minds. Bundy’s excuse was that it was he was a victim of his environment and surroundings — especially alcohol and sadistic pornography — which enabled and influenced his nature and worst proclivities. Bundy said if he had to do it all over again, he would escape its grasp, check out and become an aesthetic lumberjack.

Serial killer Joel Rifkin made plans half way through his crimes to move to southwest Virginia and live in the woods off the grid but never followed up.

Both clearly stated that they were driven by an internal entity that needed to be strictly controlled. Manichaean refers to these evil beings and deities as the World of Darkness. However, both admitted they had no will to do so.

Bundy and Rifkin also stated that suicide or being caught as a solution to his dark evil “entity” was never an option.

The Manichaeans were derogatorily referred by the Chinese as chicai simo, meaning that they “abstain from meat and worship demons.”

The religion was vigorously attacked and persecuted by both the Christian Church and the Roman state. It almost disappeared from western Europe in the fifth century and from the eastern portion of the empire in the sixth century.

However, the core discordian beliefs of this old religion have lingered on, and we would say it has been given new legs in modern thought.

13 Comments on Was the Manes Religion a Precursor to the Modern Discordians?

  1. Interesting article, Russ. It’s funny (well, annoying really) how the people carrying the torch for these groups act like because they were persecuted, that somehow means they were good or right. Meanwhile, when you look at a group like the Cathars (who promoted very similar ideas), they had special allowances for sinful behavior and were violent and did things like force women to have abortions because they also thought matter was evil. Any time a group has to hide their teachings or true intentions, it’s almost certainly because they know what they’re doing is wrong and will hurt a lot of people. They’re definitely not planning a surprise party for us.

  2. Alcohol is the worst. People who use booze to control the masses are some of the most disgusting people in the world, real filth. I truly believe the reason why cannabis has been illegal for so long is because they don’t want people to have an alternative to alcohol. Not that weed is good or something that people should abuse or even use on a regular basis but compared to alcohol it’s effects are tame and without the long term damage to the stomach and liver. The horrors of alcohol are really Ted Bundy level horrors, the stuff out of nightmares. As a former alcohol abuser I know from personal experience that even after one drink you’re not yourself. Morality takes a nose dive and any logical thinking starts to go out the window. The planet earth has an alcohol problem and before we can fix humanity we need to sober up. As for weed being a safer alternative, I believe it is, but it does have the numbing effect that some people need to stay away from as well as a false sense of euphoria. Both can be detrimental to motivation. Almost the same effects can be achieved through yoga and meditation as well and those come without side effects and are free.

  3. Some elements of Catholicism have arguably taken on Manichaean aspects across time. Like the spread in Islam fro Sufis to Wahhabis this is a huge, complex topic. All very fascinating…

        • Jesus preached Hell more than He preached Heaven. And bad Catholics only prove that there’s a standard, which some fail to attain due to their fault, not the standard’s.

          • Protestantism is more manichean than Catholicism. The protestant version of god is both good and evil.
            Plus, the Church has spoken more about
            1: The Eucharist & The Passion of Christ
            2: The Blessed Virgin Mary
            3: The Primacy of the Church and the Pope
            than about hell.

              • Maybe stuff like yin/yang, Star Wars, Star Trek, 007, & most fantasy/fiction illustrates Manichaenism whereby one side is casted as ‘good’ for no apparent reason while it is assumed, therefore, that the other side must be bad.

  4. Thank you so much, Russ, for explaining Manichaeanism in simple terms, and, also, for including St. Augustine’s quote: “…their beliefs that knowledge and “enlightment” was the key to salvation.” This brings up from the Book of Genesis God’s command to Adam and Eve to NOT eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, which “the serpent” aka Satan aka Lucifer convinced Eve to eat the apple from, and then Adam ate from it. Basically, Satan was telling Adam and Eve that their “key to salvation” was “knowledge and enlightenment,” the fruit of that Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil–which is NOT the key to salvation! As for salvation and redemption, it’s a choice….know what I mean? Or, should I say, Who I mean?

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