AUGNET : 1031 The Manichee (2023)

In the year 370, Augustine at the age of fifteen years moved to Carthage for his university studies, and it was there that the Manichean sect began its nine-year grip on him.

In Carthage pleasure reigned supreme, and Augustine became its delighted slave. Disgusting festivals of the Mother of the Gods still moved through the streets. Augustine joined the wildest young men of Carthage. They were called the "overturners" or the "destroyers." He took a partner, and they soon were parents of a baby boy whom they named Adeodatus.

Augustine pushed aside the Christian faith. His mother, Monica, had raised him as a catechumen of the Christian church. Although her religion did not hold an important place in his early life, the Christian religion never totally lost its grip upon him. When he was twenty-two years of age, the death of a close friend greatly distressed him. It caused him to reconsider the claims of the Bible. He was fascinated with the problem of the origin of evil.

AUGNET : 1031 The Manichee (1)

When he attempted to find a solution for this problem in the New Testament he was disappointed by the coarse and rustic style of his Latin Old Testament compared to the elegance of the Greek classics. Instead of embracing the Christian faith, Augustine at the age of seventeen years in 373 joined a sect called the Manicheans. He wanted to be a follower of Christ and a rationalist, and the Manichees promised to make that possible. The Manichees accepted the name of Christ and introduced Augustine into a systematic and rationalist analysis of the letter of Scripture.

They rejected and scorned the Old Testament as being primitive and immoral, and selected from the New. It seems that at least among African Manichees the writings of Paul were esteemed, and this was to have a decisive influence on Augustine's future doctrine and life. Furthermore, Manicheism (or Manicheanism) attracted Augustine because it taught the harsh but strangely comforting doctrine that sex was synonymous with darkness and bore the marks of the evil creator. According to Manichaeism the world was in a struggle between the substance of light and the substance of darkness. The human soul was a part of light trapped in the area of darkness. Christ was seen as the saviour who could liberate the trapped light particles and let them escape to the region of eternal light. Manicheism thus claimed to explain the presence of evil. It seemed to conform to the goal for Truth that had been inspired in Augustine at this time by his reading of the Hortensius by Cicero.

The founder of the sect was Mani, a Persian born about the year 216. He claimed that he was an especially inspired "Apostle of Jesus Christ." Mani taught that the universe was comprised of two eternally opposing substances--light and darkness. Mani held that there were thus two Gods. One god created good, the other created evil. The conclusion of Mani that no human being could be held totally accountable for his or her sins was attractive to Augustine.

AUGNET : 1031 The Manichee (2)

Manichaeism claimed to provide a rational Christian doctrine on the basis of a purified text of Scripture. It was a mixture of Christianity and Persian dualism. Augustine could see Manichaeism as a kind of intellectual and enlightened "true Christianity," in contrast to the Catholics that they accused of being half-Christian and half-Jewish because they did not reject Judaism. Augustine abandoned himself to the Manichean sect for nine years. He was flattered by its intellectualism, seeking its supposedly scientific answers.

He was also dazzled by its parade of purity, and calmed by the thought that not he, but darkness in him, was the real sinner. Here was the classic escape from the responsibility for personal evil because "the devil made me do it." Augustine abandoned himself to the Manichean sect for nine years. He was flattered by its intellectualism, seeking its supposedly scientific answers. And yet Augustine partially stood back from Manicheanism. He never joined the "elect," but remained only a "hearer."

The flagrant sexual behaviour of the elect contrasted greatly with their preaching about their purity. Their celibacy was frequently placed aside, according to the statements of Augustine later in his life. The few Manichees in the inner circle were said to be living perfect lives already, and kept the many hearers busy waiting on them hand and foot. This was intended to keep the elect from being corrupted by contact with the evil world of matter.

The many "hearers" were held by simple promises and a vague theology. Augustine was too clever to settle for vague theology for very long. For hearers such as Augustine, sexual relations were tolerated. Sexual activity was accepted as being almost unavoidable because of a biological weakness in human nature. This negative attitude to sexual matters marked Augustine for the rest of life. It endured even when he was a Catholic theologian and bishop, long after he had rejected the Manichean doctrines. Julian of Eclanum, his Pelagian opponent, said that, in the matter of sexual morality, Augustine still thought like a Manichean.

Faustus of Mileve was the famous Manichean bishop whose solutions were recommended to Augustine as an answer to his questions about religion. On a visit to Carthage, Faustus proved to be only a shallow rhetorician. Augustine instantly saw that Faustus had obtained his knowledge of science only from common conversation, and was a total stranger to all scientific culture. Faustus was poorly educated. He could do more than repeat to Augustine the set of slogans that his local disciples also used.

AUGNET : 1031 The Manichee (3)
The spell was broken, and Augustine began to realise that Manichæan doctrines would never answer his questions adequately. But Augustine did not yet totally break away from the Manichees publicly. Their slogans still comforted Augustine that all the evil in his life was not his own fault. He would not easily break the grip of Manicheanism upon himself until in Milan he found a better framework for understanding his spiritual self. The Manichees still thought of him as one of their "hearers" as late as the year 384. This was more than a decade after his first involvement with the sect. Augustine left Carthage for Rome in the year 383. The office of professor of oratory in Milan soon fell vacant, and Augustine won the appointment. At Milan he moved from Manichaeism into an universal scepticism, and for a while doubted that there was a truth that could be found. His nine years as a follower of Mani were effectively at an end.

During the time he had been a faithful Manichee, Augustine had had three basic problems with the Christian religion: Firstly, his materialism prevented him from conceiving of God as a non-physical (immaterial), transcendent reality, not detected by the senses. Secondly, Augustine had questions about the so-called "problem of evil," especially the relationship between God and evil. He asked: "Where is evil? What is its origin? How did it come into the world? Where then does evil come from, if God made all things and, because he is good, made things to be good?" In his mind, Manicheanism had provided a better explanation to the problem of evil through its dualism.

Thirdly, Augustine believed that while the Christian faith was based on faith, Manicheanism was based on reason, and thus provided the truth. Finding the truth was, after all, the main goal of Augustine. Furthermore, the view of Manicheanism concerning cosmic evil and strife in the world (a type of fatalism) allowed Augustine to justify his own sinful tendencies (especially sexual ones) as actions beyond his personal control.

In his Confessions, which he wrote in his very early years as Bishop of Hippo, Augustine is critical about himself for his willing entrapment by the Manichees. He said that in Carthage he "fell in with certain men, filled with pride, too carnal and glib of speech, in whose mouth were the snares of the devil." [Confessions 3, 6, 10] These Manichees instructed him in distorted "fantasies" about God and the universe.

For nine years, Augustine admits, "we [Manichees] were seduced and we seduced others, deceived and deceiving by various desires, both openly...and secretly." [Confessions 4, 1, 1] He now regretted not only that he had been attracted to their false teaching of the Manichees but also that he had led others to follow him.



What is the Manichaeism of Augustine? ›

Augustine of Hippo also noted that Mani declared himself to be an "apostle of Jesus Christ". Manichaean tradition is also noted to have claimed that Mani was the reincarnation of different religious figures such as Buddha, Krishna, Zoroaster, and Jesus.

When did Augustine become a Manichean? ›

AUGUSTINE, prominent Christian theologian and philosopher, born 354 in Thagaste, Numidia. In 373 he became a Manichean and for nine years belonged to their church as a layman, auditor.

What is a Manichean view? ›

If you believe in the Manichean idea of dualism, you tend to look at things as having two sides that are opposed. To Manicheans, life can be divided neatly between good or evil, light or dark, or love and hate. When you see Manichean, think “two.”

Is Manichaeism a form of Christianity? ›

Manichaeism, dualistic religious movement founded in Persia in the 3rd century ce by Mani, who was known as the “Apostle of Light” and supreme “Illuminator.” Although Manichaeism was long considered a Christian heresy, it was a religion in its own right that, because of the coherence of its doctrines and the rigidness ...

How did Augustine respond to Manichaeism? ›

Augustine began to have deep-seated doubts about the cogency of Manichaeism. He sought answers from his fellow adherents, which they could not provide. They urged him to seek resolution to these problems from Faustus, who would surely be able to provide adequate explanations to Augustine, rather than abandon the faith.

Do people still practice Manichaeism? ›

In modern China, Manichaean groups are still active in southern provinces, especially in Quanzhou and the rest of Fujian and around the Cao'an, the most noted Manichaean temple that has survived until today.

Did Augustine believe in Manichaeism? ›

Consequently, Augustine becomes disillusioned with Manichaeism, although he does not abandon it, because he still has found nothing better to replace it. Having been a Manichee for about nine years, Augustine is gradually losing faith in his chosen religion.

Did the Manicheans believe in the Old Testament? ›

Yet, a well-established view in the Manichaean studies has held firmly that Manicheans rejected the Old Testament in its entirety.

What are the 3 stages of Augustinian spirituality? ›

To sum up, Augustine's mystical paradigm implies three stages of mystical ascent: external, internal and supernal, which corresponds to the spiritual journey of the soul to God from outward to inward, and from lower to higher.

What are Manichean ethics? ›

Manichaean Ethics

The ethics are rigorously ascetic: Since procreation only prolongs the reign of the powers of darkness, marriage must be rejected. The Manichaean must abstain from all "ensouled" things and eat only vegetables, so as to avoid, as far as possible, any injury to the Light.

What does Manichean mean in English? ›

variants or Manichean or Manichee. ˈma-nə-ˌkē : a believer in a syncretistic religious dualism (see dualism sense 3) originating in Persia in the third century a.d. and teaching the release of the spirit from matter through asceticism. : a believer in religious or philosophical dualism.

Do Manichaeism believe in God? ›

monotheism, belief in the existence of one god, or in the oneness of God.

Who fought Manichaeism? ›

In 302, Diocletian issued an Edict against the Manichaeans and decreed that their organizers and leaders be subject to the final penalties and condemned to the fire with their abominable scriptures, resulting in numerous martyrs in Egypt and North Africa.

Why did Augustine convert to Christianity? ›

In late August of 386, at the age of 31, having heard of Ponticianus's and his friends' first reading of the life of Anthony of the Desert, Augustine converted to Christianity. As Augustine later told it, his conversion was prompted by hearing a child's voice say "take up and read" (Latin: tolle, lege).

What are the 5 values of St Augustine? ›

These are the most important values for an Augustinian.
  • Love.
  • Interiority.
  • Humility.
  • Devotion to Study and the pursuit of Wisdom.
  • Freedom.
  • Community.
  • Common good.
  • Humble and generous service.

What are the 8 holy rules of St Augustine? ›

The rule, developed by Augustine of Hippo (354–430), governs chastity, poverty, obedience, detachment from the world, the apportionment of labour, the inferiors, fraternal charity, prayer in common, fasting and abstinence proportionate to the strength of the individual, care of the sick, silence and reading during ...

What is Augustine's theory of the soul? ›

Like most ancient philosophers, Augustine thinks that the human being is a compound of body and soul and that, within this compound, the soul—conceived as both the life-giving element and the center of consciousness, perception and thought—is, or ought to be, the ruling part.

What concept did Augustine believe in? ›

Like most ancient philosophers, Augustine thinks that the human being is a compound of body and soul and that, within this compound, the soul—conceived as both the life-giving element and the center of consciousness, perception and thought—is, or ought to be, the ruling part.

What was Augustine's main idea? ›

Augustine argues that God does not allow evil to exist so much as we choose it by our actions, deeds, and words. Later, he came to the conclusion that it is impossible for us to understand the mind of God, and therefore we cannot come to a proper comprehension of why suffering exists.

What is the concept of Augustine? ›

According to Augustine's understanding of original sin, human moral responsibility is meaningfully preserved despite original sin since the soul remains capable, if properly educated, of redirecting its attention toward God and the spiritual realm over which he presides.

What are three primary virtues of Augustine? ›

[2.6. 5] St Augustine on Happiness, Virtue and Love of God and Neighbor – Philosophy Models.

What is the 2nd rule of St Augustine? ›

2. The main purpose for you having come together is to live harmoniously in your house, intent upon God in oneness of mind and heart. 3. Call nothing your own, but let everything be yours in common.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Ouida Strosin DO

Last Updated: 04/14/2023

Views: 6121

Rating: 4.6 / 5 (76 voted)

Reviews: 91% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Ouida Strosin DO

Birthday: 1995-04-27

Address: Suite 927 930 Kilback Radial, Candidaville, TN 87795

Phone: +8561498978366

Job: Legacy Manufacturing Specialist

Hobby: Singing, Mountain biking, Water sports, Water sports, Taxidermy, Polo, Pet

Introduction: My name is Ouida Strosin DO, I am a precious, combative, spotless, modern, spotless, beautiful, precious person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.