Several origins of Manicheanism have been noted:
- One is that this dualistic religion was founded by Mani, a Persian sage, in the third century after Christ. Mani synthesised Christian, Buddhist and Zoroastrian elements into his religion. He taught that there were two gods, one good, one evil.
- The second is that the founder of Manicheanism was Manicheus, who lived in Mesopotamia. Manicheanism assimilated much of the Christian message, re-interpreting it to fit the Gnostic belief system.
Manicheanism was once a major world religion, but has since completely vanished. Although it faded out in Europe before the medieval era, the movement gave rise to the Cathars (also known as the Albigensians). Manichaeans were divided into two orders, the elect and the auditors.
St. Augustine of Hippo was a Manichee before he converted to Christianity. He became disillusioned with Manicheanism for several reasons.
A revival has been attempted under the name of Neo-Manicheanism.
Reference: Charles E. Curran, “Natural Law and Contemporary Moral Theology,” in Contraception: Authority and Dissent, ed. Charles E. Curran (New York: Herder & Herder, 1969), pp. 151–175.