While browsing around on gnosis.org, I noticed they use April 25th as a commemoration for the birth of the Prophet Mani. While April is the accepted month for his birth, the exact date seems to jump around. Those unaware of Mani, he is responsible for the Manichaean religion, which was the largest Gnostic religion the world has seen. For awhile, it was extremely popular but eventually it would almost fade out into obscurity. A sole Manichaean temple from antiquity still exists in China (Cao’an), as Mani was included in the Buddhist tradition of that area (as the Buddha of Light).
Fortunately some of the writings from this belief system still survive. I will admit, I am not expert in Mani. I know of him and have read some Manichaean material. I plan on doing a more deep dive into the subject at some point in the future.
The following is a Manichaean psalm that gnosis.org calls “Let Us Worship the Spirit of the Paraclete“:
Let us worship the spirit of the Paraclete (comforter). Let us bless our Lord Jesus who has sent us the Spirit of Truth. He came and separated us from the Error of the World. He brought us a mirror. We looked into it, and saw in it the Universe. When the Holy Spirit came, he revealed to us the way of truth and taught us that there are two Natures, that of the Light and that of the Darkness, separated from each other since the beginning. The Kingdom of Light consisted of five Greatnesses, these are the Father and his twelve Aeons, the Aeon of Aeons, the Living Air, and the Land of Light, the Great Spirit blows in them and feeds them with its Light. The Kingdom of Darkness, however, consisted in five Chambers, these are Smoke, Fire, Wind and Water and Darkness. Their resolution crawls in them, moves them and spurs them on to make war with one another. Now as they were warring with each other, they made bold to attack the Land of Light, considering themselves capable of conquering it. Yet they know not that what they thought will recoil upon their own heads. But there was a host of angels in the Land of Light which possessed the power to issue forth and overcome the enemy of the Father, whom it pleased that through the Word that he would send, he would subdue the rebels who desired to raise themselves above what was more exalted than they. Like a shepherd who sees a lion approaching to destroy his sheepfold, he uses guile, takes a lamb and sets it as a snare that he may catch it with it, for with a single lamb he saves his sheepfold. Afterwards he heals the lamb that has been wounded by the lion. In this way too the Father acted, who sent his stout Son. He produced out of himself his Maiden, furnished with the five Powers that she might fight against the five Abysses of the Dark. When the Watchman stood fast within the frontiers of Light he showed the powers of the Darkness his Maiden, who is his Soul. They became agitated in the Abyss and wanted to possess her, they opened their mouths and tried to swallow her. He seized the Maidens power and spread it over the Powers of the Darkness, like nets over fish, he rained her down on them. Like purified clouds of water, she penetrated into them like a piercing lightning stroke. She crept inside their insides and bound them all without their ever knowing. When the First Man had ended his struggle the Father sent forth his Second Son. He came and helped his brother out of the Abyss. He built this whole world up out of the mixture that had come into existence out of Light and Darkness. All the Powers of the Abyss he spread out to the ten Heavens and to eight Earths, he shut them up into this World and made it a dungeon for all the Powers of Darkness. This World is also, however, a place of purification of the soul which had been swallowed up in the Powers of Darkness. The Sun and the Moon where set up and fixed in the heights, to purify the Soul. They take the refined part daily upward to the heights but they destroy the deposit. They convey it up and down. This whole World stands firm for a Season, since there is a great Building being erected outside the World. At the Hour when the Architect shall complete it, the entire World shall be dissolved. It shall be set afire, that the fire may melt it away. All Life, the Remnants of Light in every Place he shall gather to himself and form of it a Statue (Eidolon -- image, likeness). Even the Resolution of Death also, the whole of Darkness, he shall gather in and make an image of itself along with the Archon. In a moment the Living Spirit shall come. It will succor to the Light, but the Resolution of Death and the Darkness lock away in the chamber that was built for it that it may lie in chains forever. There is no other means save this means to bind the Enemy, for he shall not be received into the Light because he is a stranger to it, but he shall also not be left in his Land of darkness, lest he may wage a greater war than the first. A New Aeon shall be built in the place of this World, which shall be dissolved, so that in it the Powers of Light may reign since they have preformed and fulfilled the whole of the Father's will. They have overthrown the hateful one, they have defeated him forever. This is the knowledge of Mani, let us worship him and bless him. Blessed is every man that may trust in him for he shall live with the Righteous. Honor and Victory to our Lord Mani, the Spirit of Truth, that cometh from the Father and has revealed to us the Beginning, the Middle, and the End. Victory to the Soul of the Blessed Mary. Theona, Pshai, Jemnoute.
This next hymn is ascribed to Mani and is titled “Praise of Jesus the Life-Giver“:
... all in one mind. And we would stretch out our hands in invocation. And we would lift up our eyes to your beautiful figure, And we would open our mouths to call upon you, And we would prepare our tongues to praise you; We would call upon you, Jesus the Splendor, the New Dispensation. You, even you are the just God, the noble physician, The dearest son, the most blessed soul. Welcome, liberated sovereign! Come to help, good spirit, messenger of peace, Helper of the meek and victor over the aggressors! Welcome, redeemer of the imprisoned And physician of the wounded! Welcome, you who do awaken the sleepers, Who do rouse those that slumber, Who do cause the dead to rise! Welcome, mighty God and sanctifying Voice! Welcome, true Logos, great lamp and bountiful Light! Welcome, new ruler and new day! Welcome, foundation of the worlds and sacred meal of many! Welcome, gift of the good, blessing of the gentle, Who is venerated by those that sanctify! Welcome, Loving Father, munificent benefactor Of those that take refuge in you! Welcome, our Father, who are our mighty refuge, In whom we firmly trust! (six lines missing) Have mercy upon us and show us your love, Oh beneficent one who are all love! And reckon us not among the evildoers! Save those that have taken refuge in you, And be merciful to us. Oh most beloved and loving one, We have seen you, the New Dispensation, And we have yearned for you who are all love. Joyfully have we seen you, loving Lord, And your name do we acknowledge, Mam-sin. Separate us from the company of sinners And distance us from the aggressors. Lord, we are your own, have mercy upon us! Come quickly, hasten to vanquish the sinners, For they are haughty and have said, "We are who we are, and no one is like us." Be mighty and vanquish the aggressors! (three lines missing) We praise your name which is truly praiseworthy, And your noble greatness which is pure joy. Praise be to your name, Father, And honor to your greatness! Be it so for ever and ever!
Here is another hymn ascribed to Mani that goes under the name “The Hymn to the Father of Greatness“:
You are worthy of praise, beneficent Father, primeval Ancestor! Blessed are you, beneficent God! You, Lord, are the first alif and the last tau. Through you yourself your pious wish has been fulfilled and accomplished. All gods and aeons, the deities of Light, And the righteous bring praise to you, singing "Holy" repeatedly. The spirits, the plants and all . . . . truly implore you to blessing. And bring forth supplications with one voice. Grant us our pious wish . . . . They bear the form that we have given up from afar. Be merciful unto us in your mercy; Show us your form, the noble epiphany, for which we yearn. Let your brightness shine upon us, sweet source and breath of life! Make, us, your children, strong. In vain the dark foe boasts, together with the bellicose, rebellious giants, In vain he wishes to cling to the Aeons.
I took these all from http://www.gnosis.org/library/manis.htm. Note there are more Manichaean texts out there. While I have not gotten a copy yet, I hear the “Gospel of Mani” by by Duncan Greenlees is quite good. It’s a fairly large book, coming in at 580 pages!