In St. Augustine's Confessions, he explains that for a period of time he became a follower of the Manichean teaching. As explained by the New Advent Encyclopedia,
Manichæism is a religion founded by the Persian Mani in the latter half of the third century. It purported to be the true synthesis of all the religious systems then known, and actually consisted of Zoroastrian Dualism, Babylonian folklore, Buddhist ethics, and some small and superficial, additions of Christian elements. As the theory of two eternal principles, good and evil, is predominant in this fusion of ideas and gives color to the whole, Manichæism is classified as a form of religious Dualism.
While the religion has died out sometime after 1000 A.D., the religion is important because it was one of the many religions which competed with Christianity while Christianity was still growing. Certainly, it is in contrast with his early experience with Manicheanism that St. Augustine's understanding of Christian theology was formed.
Apparently, not all of the writings of Mani survived. In fact, according to the New Advent Encyclopedia, none of the seven books written by Mani survived through this day.
Manichæism, in consequence, was literary and refined, its founder was a fruitful writer, and so were many of his followers. Of all this literary output only fragments are at present extant. No Manichæan treatise has come down to us in its entirety.
However, it appears that some of Mani's work have now been recovered. The recovery isn't new -- they were discovered prior to the Second World War. But the papyrus manuscripts ended up in Nazi hands. Following World War II, they were captured by the Soviets and removed to some unknown place in the Soviet Union.
Now, however, they have finally become available in a loan to Dublin. According to Secrets of lost religion unveiled for first time published in the Belfast Times, the lost books of Manichaen are presently on display at the Dublin Castle.
The new exhibition in Dublin Castle opened yesterday and tells the story of the discovery of the lost books of Manichaean. It's a long tale, dating back to third-century Persia and focussing initially on the prophet Mani and his religion.
Manichaean, which combined the teachings of Jesus, Buddha and others, is believed to have almost replaced Christianity in some regions, and spread across much of the world. But Mani was executed and his followers widely persecuted before the religion died out around 1200AD.
Its sacred books, however, survived, buried in the Nile Valley for more than 1,500 years before they were discovered during the early part of the last century.
"At first it didn't look like much -- the 4,000 or so pages were a fibrous mass of papyrus that had been bonded together over the years to resemble a sod of turf," Charles Horton, the collection's curator, told the Irish Independent.
Because the pages are so fragile, they have never been put on public display before despite forming the largest Manichean collection in the world. The script is Coptic -- the language of Christian Egyptians -- but it has taken 30 years to translate just 25pc of the collection.
I hope that our Eurpoean readers will take advantage of visiting this exhibit and reporting back in the comments section. I would love to see those translated books to see exactly what they say.