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Manichaeism

A heresy instituted in the 3rd century by a Persian dreamer variously named Mani, Manes, Manichaeus, who visioned himself a legate from God to introduce a religious and moral reformation. In the 4th and 5th centuries this heresy took a westward course and became dangerous to Christianity, finding a home especially in Proconsular Africa, where many of the educated classes embraced its teachings. Briefly these teachings are a dual principle of creation, the one good and from God, the other evil and from an antagonistic power, namely Satan and the bad angels who seek to destroy the work of God. Man's spirit is from God and therefore good, his body from Satan and therefore evil. There is a constant struggle between these two opposite forces. The spirit triumphs over the powers of darkness only in so far as it rises superior to the body. Furthermore, this heresy boasted to have an answer to every question and to explain the deepest mysteries of the Christian religion. It was this boast that blinded Saint Augustine for nine years, setting him thinking that Manichaeism "would free us from all error, and bring us to God by pure reason alone." Association with the leaders of this heresy opened his eyes and he saw that, despite the boast of their lips, "their hearts were void of truth." Pen in hand, at intervals between 394-420 A.D;, he wrote forty books of refutation, among which the thirty-three against Faustus are worthy of special note.

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