The Cyber-Cave

Reflections on the political, technological, cultural and economic trends of the world

Mandaeism

It is considered to be the only surviving gnostic religion. Today about 20.000 people practice Mandaeism- mainly in modern Iraq. The main influences on Mandaeism are Judaism, John the Baptist and probably some form of Babylonian astrology.
DOCTRINE:
-It is very difficult to establish when the religion gained an autonomous and coherent body, since the Mandaean doctrine evolved throughout the Hellenistic period with various syncretic influences until the first centuries AD when the sects began to settle in the Mesopotamian rivers.
-Water symbolises life. This is why the baptist ritual is so important for the Mandaeans
-Strict dualism. There are two worlds: the world of Light and the world of Darkness. While the world of Light remains unchangeable in eternity, the world of Darkness keeps creating new forms. The material part of the human being is considered to have been created by a ‘Demiurge’ fallen from the World of Light. So the material body is influenced by the world of darkness, while the spiritual part by the world of Light. Since Adam and Eve, the Mandaeans believe that throughout history prophets like John the Baptist have come to allow human beings to return to the World of Light by following a religious behaviour. The soul of the human being, being in exile in the material world, has to return to the ethereal formless force.
-Astrological events are considered to play an active role in human affairs
-Initiation into the religion is done with baptism
-Instead of an anthropomorphic God, the Mandaeans believe that the origin of all things is an ethereal impersonal force called the great “Mana” (meaning ‘instrument’- Mandaeans speak Aramaic dialect). From ‘Mana’ derive various emanations, one being the material world. ‘Manda’ signifies knowledge.
-Moses and Jesus are not considered to be prophets. Abrahm is also not venerated because he introduced circumcision (which the Mandaeans do not practice)
-‘The Book of Adam’ is the most important text for the Mandaeans. Another important text is the ‘Book of John’ in which John the Baptist and Jesus have polemical conversations. For instance John accuses Jesus of having loosened the importance of the Shabbath.

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