Manichaeism is a religion that combines multiple beliefs together, such as Zoroastrian Dualism, Babylonian Folklore, Buddhist ethics, and additional Christian ethics. It spread throughout the West and East, but mainly existed in Mesopotamia, Babylonia, and Turkestan until it died out around A.D. 1000.
Mani was the leader and founder of Manichaeism. He was born into a wealthy family around 215 AD. His father was deeply religious, and was an idolater. He heard a voice telling him to abstain from meat, wine, and women, and thus moved to South to join the Mughtasilah. Mani followed, and soon received his own message, urging him to leave the Mandaeans and live chastely. He waited for twelve years before proclaiming his first gospel on March 20, 242 AD. He travelled around the land, preaching his teachings and gaining followers. He was captured and released a few times before finally being crucified for his teachings around 276 AD.
Mani's system was based on cosmogony. His religion was based on the truth and knowledge, as opposed to Christianity, which is based on mysteries. By being consistent with its assertions, the religion spread throughout the land into the people's minds because it seemed to make sense.
The basis of cosmogony is that there are two principles: the Good and the Bad. The Good Principle was in a realm of light and had a Father of Four Persons (Time, Light, Force, and Goodness). He had five Tabernacles: Intelligence, Reason, Thought, Reflection, and Will. The light world extended everywhere except in the Realm of Darkness, which spread everywhere else. A King of Darkness rules there, and is parallel to the God in the light world.
The Prince of Darkness, Satan, invaded the world of light. God would only send himself to fight the darkness. He created the Mother of Life, which in turn created the first man, thus forming a trinity. The First-Man sent five sons to combat the five aeons of darkness. When the First-Man was overcome, the King of Darkness took the five sons and took away their reason, making them evil as well. The First-Man prayed to the Father of Majesty, who in turn creates a second trinity that sends down five more sons.
The Father of Majesty continues to create more creatures that take back more and more light from the King of Darkness, and thus creating the world. The Powers of Light even sent Jesus to free Adam from the evil spirits. Adam proclaimed that Man's duty was to practice self-denial to prevent the body from falling into sin again. The system of Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell is also introduced in the story of Manichaeism.
The ultimate aim of Manichaeism was to "set the light-substance free from the pollution of matter." People who devoted their entire lives to the practice were called the Elect, while those who simply accepted Manichaean values were Hearers. The Elects' duties were summed up in three signacula: closures of the mouth, closures of the hands, and closures of the breast.
The Hearers make up 99% of Mani's followers. They are bounded by a Ten Commandments, which forbids, idolatry, mendacity, avarice, murder, fornication, theft, seduction to deceit, magic, hypocrisy, and religious indifference. Beyond the commandments, all of Mani's followers pray and fast.
Followers of Manichaeism were required to pray four times a day: at noon, late in the afternoon, after sunset, and three hours later. They had to face the sun or the moon when they prayed. Fasting was required on the first day of the week, while the Elect fasted on the second day as well. Other fasting days were required as well.
One solemnity that was celebrated by the Manichaeans was the anniversary of Mani's death. St. Augustine argued that this feast day exceeded in solemnity that of the Death and Resurrection of Christ. Manichaeans also had a baptism and eucharist.
The Manichaean Church was divided into five hierarchical classes: the magistri, the episcopi, the presbyteri, the elect, and the auditores.
In regards to an association with Manaichaeism and Christianity, there are similar elements between the two religions. Mani intended that there would be a connection between the two religions. He did this by including Jesus in his sermons. However, this connection is artificial. This seen through how Mani claimed himself the Paraclete promised by Jesus (although he didn't claim to be divine), and how he rejected the whole of the Old Testament (especially the Acts of the Apostles). He proclaimed that Jesus was only an aeon or persistent personification of Light in the world. The historical Jesus of Nazareth was entirely repudiated by Mani as well. Mani only used Christian terms such as the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost to designate divine personalities and to convince people to join his religion.