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Sealing the Body: Theory and Practices of Manichaean Asceticism

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The Manichaean conception of asceticism is clearly influenced by the spiritual experience of the founder himself, Mani, whose Baptist-Elchasaite milieu provided him with a Jewish-Christian background of doctrines and behaviours (ritual ablutions, diet, chastity). After the visionary communications with his angel, the Twin (Syzygos), Mani stressed the Gnostic aspect of his teaching with ascetical commitments, based on the mastery of body and mind. Guided by wisdom and by means of a strict watchfulness of consciousness, to guard with moral virtues the organs of the five senses, the doctrine aimed at 'sealing' the perceptions, thus controlling instincts and passions. A medical approach of the teachings, to pursue a religious science of salvation with practical effects – concerning the self-transformation of the believer – is then a distinguishing mark of an original message of redemption, blending different aspects of the relevant religions of its time.
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Keywords: ASCETICISM; BUDDHISM; CHRISTIANITY; COMMANDMENTS; GNOSIS; HEALING AND SALVATION; MANICHAEISM; MEDICAL SYMBOLISM; MICROCOSM-MACROCOSM; ZOROASTRIANISM

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 March 2018

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  • Religion in the Roman Empire (RRE) is bold in the sense that it intends to further and document new and integrative perspectives on religion in the Ancient World combining multidisciplinary methodologies. Starting from the notion of "lived religion" it will offer a space to take up recent, but still incipient, research to modify and cross the disciplinary boundaries of History of Religion, Archaeology, Anthropology, Classics, Ancient History, Jewish History, Rabbinics, New Testament, Early Christianity, Patristics, Coptic Studies, Gnostic and Manichean Studies, Late Antiquity and Oriental Languages. We hope to stimulate the development of new approaches that can encompass the local and global trajectories of the multidimensional pluralistic religions of antiquity.

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    The first issues will deal with "Lived Religion: Appropriations of Religion and Meanings in Situations," "Understanding Objects in Religious Contexts" and with "Practices and Groups," bringing together studies on textual and archaeological material from all areas of the Mediterranean.

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