Mani, Manes, or Manichaeus
Mani, Manes, Or Manichaeus (entitled Zendik, Sadducee), the founder of the heretical sect of the Manichaans, is said to have flourished in the second half of the 3d century. Little is known with regard to his early history, and the accounts transmitted through two distinct sources — the Western or Greek, and the Eastern — are legendary and contradictory on almost every important point. According to the most probable supposition, he was a native of Persia, and was born about 214. His real name appears to have been Curbicus, and he was the slave of a rich woman of Ctesiphon, who bought him when he was but seven years of age, had him carefully educated, and at her decease left him all her wealth. Among the books she left him he is said to have found the writings of Scythianus, which had been given to her by one of the latter's disciples named Terebinthus, or Budda. The East was at this time in great ferment. The progress of Christianity had awakened the opposition of all the heathen religions from the Indus to the Euphrates. Parsism was the most powerful among them. Mani, with the aid of the treasure left him in the writings of Scythianus, believed it possible to accomplish the amalgamation of Parsism and Christianity, and for this purpose he emigrated to Persia, changed his name so as to obliterate all traces of his origin and former state, and, to carry out his plans more successfully, he proclaimed himself the Paraclete promised by Christ. It is said that the attempt was looked upon with favor by king Sapor and by Hormisdas, but this appears doubtful. Followers soon gathered, and three of the new sect — Thomas, Buddas or Addas, and Hermas — propagated the doctrines, the first in Egypt and the second in India. Hermas only remained with Mani to assist him. While they were away the son of Sapor fell ill, and Mani, who had been highly spoken of as a physician, was called to attend him; but, not succeeding, he was thrown into prison. Mani bribed his keepers, and succeeded in escaping, but was pursued and captured, and publicly executed.
There are other accounts, however, which make Mani the scion of a noble magian family, and a man of extraordinary mental powers and artistic and scientific abilities — an eminent painter, mathematician, etc. According to them Mani embraced Christianity in early manhood, and became presbyter at a church in Ehvaz or Ahvaj, in the Persian province of Hazitis. He purposed to purge Christianity of its alleged Jewish corruptions, to demonstrate its unity with Parsism, and thereby to present the perfect universal religion. He gave himself out to be the Paraclete, and styled himself in ecclesiastical documents "Mani, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the election of God the Father. These are the words of salvation from the eternal and living Source." Persecuted by king Sapor I, he sought refuge in foreign countries, went to India, China, and Turkistan, and there lived in a cave for twelve months, during which he claimed to have been in heaven. He reappeared with a wonderful book of drawings and pictures, called Erdshenk or Ertenki-Mani. No doubt during his residence in these countries he had become acquainted with Buddhism, and had decided to incorporate some of its best points in his syncretistic religion (comp. Hardwick, Christ and other Masters, 1:288 sq.). After the death of Sapor (A.D. 272) he returned to Persia, where Hormas, the new king, who was well inclined towards him, received him with great honors, and, in order to protect him more effectually against the persecutions of the magi, gave him the stronghold of Deshereh, in Susiana, as a residence. After the death of this king, however, Bahram, his successor, entrapped Mani into a public disputation with the magi, for which purpose he had to leave his castle; and he was seized and flayed alive, A.D. 277. His skin was stuffed and hung up for a terror at the gates of the city Jondishapur.
Among the works of Mani may be reckoned four books, sometimes ascribed to Terebinthus and sometimes to Scythianus, entitled the Mysteries, the Chapters or Leads, the Gospel, and the Treasure. In the Mysteries Man endeavored to demonstrate the doctrine of two principles from the mixture of good and evil which is found in the world. He grounded his reasons on the argument that if there were one sole cause, simple, perfect, and good in the highest degree, the whole, corresponding with the nature and will of that cause, would show simplicity, perfection, and goodness, and everything would be immortal, holy, and happy like himself. The Chapters contained a summary of the chief articles of the Manichaean scheme. Of the Gospels nothing certain can be asserted. Beausobre, apparently without sufficient grounds, considers it as a collection of the meditations and pretended revelations of Mani. The Treasure, or Treasure of Life, may, perhaps, have derived its name from the words of Christ, wherein he compares his doctrine to a treasure hid in a field. Mani also wrote other works and letters, and among them the Epistle of the Foundation, of which we have fragments still extant in St. Augustine, who undertook to refute it. His works appear to have been originally written, some in Syriac, some in Persic. For his doctrine, etc., SEE MANICHAEISM. (J. H. W.)