“Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it” (Matthew 24:23-26).
Wonder-workers, charlatan magicians, miracle-mongers, impious impostors pretending to be gods and Messiahs were a dime a dozen. Simon Magus, Apollonius of Tyana, Paul and Barnabas (Acts xiv, 11-12 – as Hermes and Zeus), Alexander of Abonoteichus, Apuleius, Mani, Porphyry, Iamblichus were all considered and often hailed as genuine gods incarnate- not to mention Jesus Christ. And yet, they all had very important insights and knowledge worth considering. While Christians have long claimed that Jesus was the one and only true resurrected crucified savior, antiquity reveals that there were a whole host of others savior figures. Christians believe that Jesus’ miracles were performed through God, and that the miracles of the others were the work of the devil. However, to followers of Mithras, Apollonius or Osiris would claim the opposite in that Jesus was indeed of the devil. The only difference in all of these religions is belief. Here’s just a few of them and their testimonies.
Imitating Spirits and False Prophets
The Catholic Church Fathers were very quick to dismiss many of these people (as listed above) as fakes, quacks and charlatans (although not all, of course). The semi-heretic and first Catholic theologian, Justin Martyr, for example, in the First Apology, Chapter 22, concedes and acknowledges that the snake god of healing, Aesculapius, very much fit the pattern of Jesus as a healer:
And if we even affirm that He (Jesus) was born of a virgin, accept this in common with what you accept of Perseus. And in that we say that He made whole the lame, the paralytic, and those born blind, we seem to say what is very similar to the deeds said to have been done by Æsculapius.
Later on in the same book, in Chapter 25, Justin Martyr claimed that through Jesus Christ, the Christianized former pagan has learned to despise the former gods as impostors while in essence mocking Jesus’ ability to heal the sick:
And, secondly, because we— who, out of every race of men, used to worship Bacchus the son of Semele, and Apollo the son of Latona (who in their loves with men did such things as it is shameful even to mention), and Proserpine and Venus (who were maddened with love of Adonis, and whose mysteries also you celebrate), or Æsculapius, or some one or other of those who are called gods— have now, through Jesus Christ, learned to despise these, though we be threatened with death for it, and have dedicated ourselves to the unbegotten and impossible God…
In 2 Apology, Chapter 5, Justin Martyr takes it a step further by claiming the Greek poets and “mythologists” were inspired by the fallen angels and demons. It is obvious that Justin Martyr is very much inspired by the Book of Enoch and the Book of Watchers (and somewhat from Jewish pseudepigrapha Testament of the 12 Patriarchs), all of which belong to a family of Jewish Apocalyptic apocrypha- which in themselves were more than likely inspired by Greek myths of the Titans and the Olympians (or the Titanomachy) to its Jewish authors as well as the sexual liaisons between the gods and mortals. They could also be partly inspired by the unsavory early Roman episode involving the Rape or Abduction of Sabine Women as well.
Whence also the poets and mythologists, not knowing that it was the angels and those demons who had been begotten by them that did these things to men, and women, and cities, and nations, which they related, ascribed them to god himself, and to those who were accounted to be his very offspring, and to the offspring of those who were called his brothers, Neptune and Pluto, and to the children again of these their offspring. For whatever name each of the angels had given to himself and his children, by that name they called them.
In the same chapter, Justin Martyr, calls the children of the angels, “demons”:
But the angels transgressed this appointment. and were captivated by love of women, and begat children who are those that are called demons.
This very much recalls the Greco-Roman concept of the daimon, which is different than the Christianized or “demonized” version. These spirit beings are often depicted as intermediaries between the divine as gods (Plato’s Symposium) and other times as wardens of lowly humans in the cycles of reincarnation on earth (Corpus Hermeticum). Naturally, this corresponds to the story of the Book of Watchers, where (as indicated in the same chapter) that the Watchers enslaved mankind by “magical writings”, fears of punishments and teaching man to offer sacrifices, incense and libations through lustful passions to demonic spirits.
So, here we have the first Church theologian appealing to apocrypha and not the “Word of God” or the accepted “Canon”! The Book of Enoch also claimed that the Watchers taught mankind all sorts of magical arts, incantations and weaponry. The Watchers, according to Justin, were trying to get mankind to worship their demonic progeny (i.e. the Nephilim). In other words, the pagan mysteries were all inspired by the Fallen Ones. Not only were the pagans inspired by demonic activity but evidently, so were the heretics such as Marcion (First Apology, Chapter 26):
And there is Marcion, a man of Pontus, who is even at this day alive, and teaching his disciples to believe in some other god greater than the Creator. And he, by the aid of the devils, has caused many of every nation to speak blasphemies, and to deny that God is the maker of this universe, and to assert that some other being, greater than He, has done greater works.
Much later, Irenaeus, being largely dependent on Justin’s account, would claim that the Gnostic heretics like Simon Magus and Carpocrates were skilled magicians and charlatans who were adept to summoning demons (Against Heresies 1.23):
Thus, then, the mystic priests belonging to this sect both lead profligate lives and practise magical arts, each one to the extent of his ability. They use exorcisms and incantations. Love-potions, too, and charms, as well as those beings who are calledParedri(familiars) andOniropompi(dream-senders), and whatever other curious arts can be had recourse to, are eagerly pressed into their service.
And the cult of Carpocrates (ibid. 1.25.3):
They practise also magical arts and incantations; philters, also, and love-potions; and have recourse to familiar spirits, dream-sending demons, and other abominations, declaring that they possess power to rule over, even now, the princes and formers of this world; and not only them, but also all things that are in it.
Notice how Irenaeus’ description of both the Simonians and Carpocrateans are virtually identical. In Acts 8-9, the text claims that Simon Magus was also thought of using demonic powers to do miracles and wonders, much like Jesus is accused of by his enemies in the Gospels. It was written that Simon taught that the precepts of the law and the prophets were inspired by angels “in the desire to reduce men to slavery” and that those who believed in him and Helena were delivered from the tyranny of the law and were free to act as they would as detailed by Irenaeus. One must remember that the record of Simon Magus was either written by Orthodox Christians or scholars strongly influenced by Orthodox dogma. Thus Simon is portrayed as a villain and enemy of the church. There is zero objectivity within the existing historical record about Simon.
The Really Bad Samaritan
It is said that Jesus had a “wife” or female companion/disciple and even purported prostitute, being Mary Magdalene, as indicated by the Gospel of Philip and other miscellaneous papyri. Simon also had a beautiful female companion named Helena who he redeemed from a brothel in the Phoenician city of Tyre. He recognized her immediately as the incarnation of Ennoia, His First Thought, the Holy Spirit, the Mother of All. He purchased her from her master and she became his constant companion during his travels and ministries. Justin Martyr in First Apology, Chapter 26, tells us about this power couple.
“To Simon the holy God.” And almost all the Samaritans, and a few even of other nations, worship him, and acknowledge him as the first god; and a woman, Helena, who went about with him at that time, and had formerly been a prostitute, they say is the first idea generated by him.”
Much like Apollonius, Simon was worshiped like a god. They proclaimed themselves themselves male and female gods battling the imprisonment of humanity from a rebellious number of fallen angels and archons. The Trojan War was seen as an allegory for the Archons going to war over the beauty and light of the fallen Helena, who is depicted as a prostitute because is captured, raped and abused by them, symbolizing the humiliation and imprisonment of the parcel of the divine light, placed in the human body. The NHC text, Exegesis of the Soul tells of her story of degradation and redemption, in great and painful detail.
Simon claimed he came to Earth to rescue Helena, the goddess Ennoia or the “First Thought” of the “Universal Mind” in human form. In other words, Helena was Sophia or Wisdom incarnate on earth. He promised that he would dissolve the world the angels had made. He promised that all who trusted in him and Helena could return with them to higher regions. The fall, suffering, degradation and redemption of the prostitute Helena, found working in a brothel, who was bought be Simon, mentioned in all the Catholic sources was a sure sign of Simon’s depravity to the Church Fathers. The brothel itself was seen as symbolic of the world of flesh in which the divine light is caught in an adulterous folly of being taken hostage in the “tomb” of the body. In fact, Epiphanius goes so far as to call Helena “the whore” of the Holy Ghost! Epiphanius reiterates the illicit nature of Helena and Simon Magus’ relationship in Panarion, 2, 21, 2:2-3.
2:2 Since the tramp was naturally lecherous, and was encouraged by the respect that had been shown to his professions, he trumped up a phoney allegory for his dupes. He had gotten hold of a female vagabond from Tyre named Helen, and he took her without letting his relationship with her be known.
2:3 And while privately having an unnatural relationship with his paramour, the charlatan was teaching his disciples stories for their amusement and calling himself the supreme power of God, if you please! And he had the nerve to call the whore who was his partner the Holy Spirit, and said that he had come down on her account.
Perhaps this might be an off-colored indication that the “Whore of Babylon” of Revelations 17 and 18 is none other than Helena.
Many today call for replacing Christianity and the other world religions with a new form of spirituality that unites the world. Simon Magus actually traveled to Rome and established a universal church or at least a very large cult-following, before he was murdered by the Christians. Some people even suggest that he was the first Pope of the Catholic Church! If this were true, this would be a very strange dilemma indeed and would need another post to fully examine this point alone. Anyway, the story of the death of Simon Magus is a twisted portrayal of what really happened. It seems that Simon was capable of leaving the body and traveling freely in the spiritual planes or at the very least initiated as Paul was in 2 Corinthians 2:12-14:
I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know–God knows. He was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.
Because he spoke of this, the Christians mocked him and claimed that he was a god and could literally fly at will. As the story is told, Simon was performing magic in the Roman forum, proving his divinity, and was flying up into the air by the aid of riding a chariot lead by demons, according to Cyril of Jerusalem in the Catechetical Lectures, VI, 14-15. But the Apostle Peter prayed to God to stop his flying, and Simon fell to Earth, breaking his legs. The crowd then turned on him and stoned him to death. I suspect what probably actually happened was that the Christians threw Simon Magus off of a balcony, demanding that he show them his ability to fly. He fell to his death. Thus the first attempt to head-off the founding of the most enslaving religion that has ever existed was thwarted by Simon’s murder. Hallelujah!
While Simon was alive, he taught a doctrine of Grace, and freedom from the Mosaic Law, much like Paul did in his epistles such as Galatians, Romans and 1 and 2 Corinthians. Carpocrates had very similar beliefs but was also much more Platonic in his orientation than Simon, however. Simon and his disciple, Menander taught that by means of magic one may overcome the angels that made the world. Only if you are baptized or initiated into Menander’s cult will you obtain resurrection and never die, again having eternal youth (Against Heresies 1.23). This corresponds to much of what the Greek Magical Papryi talks about of having a familiar or assistant spirit:
The] traditional rite [for acquiring an assistant]: After the preliminary purifications, / [abstain from animal food] and from all uncleanliness and, on whatever [night] you want to, go [up] onto a lofty roof after you have clothed yourself in a pure garment . . . [and say] the first spell of encounter as the sun’s orb is dis appearing . . . with a [wholly] black Isis band on [your eyes], and in your right hand / grasp a falcon’s head [and . . . ] when the sun rises, hail it as you shake its head [and] . . . recite this sacred spell as you burn [uncut] frankincense and pure rose oil, making the sacrifice [in an earthen] censer on ashes from the [plant] heliotrope.
The same text goes into great detail on how to go into direct contact with the daimon or familiar spirit, which is basically synonymous with the Holy Guardian Angel of modern magical groups such as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and the Crowleyean Ordo Templi Orientis- both of which peddle pseudo-Gnostic ideas. In any case, the pagan mystagogue and the Gnostic heretic are both condemned as sorcerers of demonic spirits and being possessed by them. Yet, many of these practices were actually done by Jesus in the New Testament! There may as well be a show called, “I dream of Jesus” or “Be-Jesused” the movie. Although I discuss this in great detail in my commentary on the Great Declaration, here are a few more interesting tidbits.
Jesus in all four Gospels, is often portrayed as both a sorcerer and an exorcist. When the Pharisees hear of Jesus’ successful exorcisms and healing of the sick, they do not dispute the effectiveness of such activities but they equate the source of this capacity as an unholy partnership between Jesus and Beelzebub, “the prince of demons”. Jesus is essentially to them, using demonic powers. It is very interesting to note that in Judaism, Yahweh was considered the sovereign god, supreme over all other spirits. In fact, Satan was given divine permission to test Job by Yahweh (Job 1-2) and the so-called demonic “evil spirits” were actually emissaries of Yahweh (1 Samuel 16: 14-16). The point is, angels nor demons have any real independence from Yahweh and are basically his lackeys. I smell archons!
The Pharisees accused in multiple places in the Gospels that Jesus is in league with Beelzebub and the powers of darkness. Jesus’ response to Pharisaic judgement is to show up the illogicality of their argument. If they’re right, then all it means is that Jesus is destroying demons by the power of demons, indicating that Satan’s kingdom is at war with itself and therefore, like any kingdom in this situation would face imminent collapse. The fact here’s no such evidence of the imminent overthrow of Satan’s kingdom indicates that this kingdom is not divided and therefore his power to exorcise must come out not from Satan but from another source. Jesus affirms that the source of his activity is in the “Spirit of God” (the Holy Spirit) meaning that the casting out of such demons and the overthrow of Satan was actually a sign that a new Kingdom alien to the world, was is manifesting itself. This, of course, corresponds to the Gnostic belief that God’s Kingdom manifests itself from the inside or the internal into the external as the Gospel of Thomas states:
3. Jesus said, “If your leaders say to you, ‘Look, the (Father’s) kingdom is in the sky,’ then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, ‘It is in the sea,’ then the fish will precede you. Rather, the (Father’s) kingdom is within you and it is outside you.
The Gnostic believes that the true God exists within. They believe that all humans share a single spirit, and thus are all one. Ironically, this mirrors in a much twisted way like how the Kingdom of Darkness works as well, as every unclean spirit is “equal.”
In the Acts of Pilate (also known as the Gospel of Nicodemus), the Jews accuse Jesus of being a magician (a charlatan) meaning someone who merely uses placebo’s or tricks. They claimed that Jesus invoked Beelzebub to cast out demons:
Pilate saith: And what things are they that he doeth, and would destroy the law?
The Jews say: We have a law that we should not heal any man on the Sabbath: but this man of his evil deeds hath healed the lame and the bent, the withered and the blind and the paralytic, the dumb and them that were possessed, on the Sabbath day!
Pilate saith unto them: By what evil deeds?
They say unto him: He is a sorcerer, and by Beelzebub the prince of the devils he casteth out devils, and they are all subject unto him.
Pilate saith unto them: This is not to cast out devils by an unclean spirit, but by the god Aesculapius.
Of course, it is doubtful the word daimon would have been used in such a derogatory way by a pagan like Pilate. In the Gospel of John chapter 5, Jesus heals a life long blind man at the pool of Bethesda outside the walls of Jerusalem. There is archaeological evidence that this was an Aesclepion, or a healing center.
When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk.
The phrase hygies genesthai (Do you want to be healed?) and the word louein (to wash) are reminiscent of language of the Aesculapius/Serapis cult as is the term soter. This same terminology (soter) is also ascribed to Dionysus or Bacchus.
In the Acts of Pilate, the Jews attribute Pilate’s wife’s dream to Jesus as a sorcerer, mirroring Irenaeus’ accusations against the Simonians and Carpocrateans’ practices:
Did we not tell you he was a sorcerer? Behold! He has sent a dream to your wife.
In the Nag Hammadi text, Aesculapius 21-29, Hermes Trismegistus tells Aesculapius:
“Since we have entered the matter of the communion between the gods and men, know, Asclepius, that in which man can be strong! For just as the Father, the Lord of the universe, creates gods, in this very way man too, this mortal, earthly, living creature, the one who is not like God, also himself creates gods. Not only does he strengthen, but he is also strengthened. Not only is he god, but he also creates gods. Are you astonished, Asclepius? Are you yourself another disbeliever like the many?”
This sounds very similar to what is expressed in the Gospel of Philip:
God created man. […] men create God. That is the way it is in the world – men make gods and worship their creation. It would be fitting for the gods to worship men!
All of this is echoed in Jesus’ words to the Pharisees in John 10:33-38, which is an imitation of Psalms 82.
The Jews answered Him, “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods'”? If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came–and Scripture cannot be set aside–what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.“
Simon was a disciple of John the Baptist just as Peter was in the Gospel of John, who was also called Simon (John 1). Simon argued that there are many Gods as well in the Clementine Homilies, just as Jesus argued, “ye are gods” in imitation of King David in the Psalms, as quoted above. Simon is the Standing One while the Jesus of Revelation is the one who was, is, and is to come. Hippolytus makes a major point over this in Philosophumena. Absethus the Libyan even sent out parrots to say that he was God thus creating a, “voice from heaven,” just as John heard when Jesus had a bird land on him (Luke, Matthew, Mark, Acts of the Apostles, Hebrews). Why stop there when there are so many similarities?
Here’s a summation of the points listed above and then some: Simon claimed to be God and was from Alexandria, while Jesus was accused of claiming to be God, or the Son of God, and visited Egypt in the Babylonian Talmud. Simon was accused of being Magician and Sorcerer, while Jesus was accused of the same by the Pharisees. Simon was a Samaritan, Jesus was accused of being a Samaritan, again by the Pharisees. Both were accused of being possessed Necromancers as well. Both Paul and Simon held to a doctrine of salvation by Grace. Both Paul and Simon were considered “lawless ones,” by their detractors because of their rejection and devalue of the outward practice of the Law of Moses. Jesus in the Gospel of John (10:34) tells the Pharisees scornfully, “your law,” while also saying that all that came before him were “thieves and robbers,” (10:8) implying the Old Testament prophets were indeed these endearing terms.
Simon saved Helena a prostitute, and Jesus saved Mary Magdalene, a prostitute. Both taught that their followers would never die and have eternal life. Jesus said to eat his flesh, Simon ate flesh. Paul and Simon were both accused of libertinism and eating food sacrificed to idols. Simon was called a “Gnostic, falsely so-called” by Irenaeus and Ignatius calls him a “Nicolaitan falsely so-called.” Both Jesus (John) and Simon denied YHWH as claimed he was Satan and the father of lies. Simon claimed to make the secret manifest while Jesus made the secrets of the kingdom of God known. Phew!
Those Pesky Gnostics
The Catholic Church Father, Irenaeus (A.H. 1.16.3) would bitterly complain against the Gnostics that they were impious blasphemers against Yahweh, asserting that the Biblical God arose from a defect while claiming they were superior to such a god and there there is a superior, hidden and previously Unknown God, above the inferior creator much like what Simon believed according to the Clementine literature.
Impious indeed, beyond all impiety, are these men, who assert that the Maker of heaven and earth, the only God Almighty, besides whom there is no God, was produced by means of a defect, which itself sprang from another defect, so that, according to them, He was the product of the third defect.
The Gnostics thought of themselves as not only superior to YHWH but also had nothing to fear from such a god and his slavish laws and bitter slavery. The Gnostics took Jesus’ axiom of “seek and ye shall find” as an invitation to discover themselves as superior to the God of the Bible. And because of this, their behavior was often conceived as being antinomian because the liberty of the Gospel freed everyone from the dead letter of moral Law of Moses. (“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.”)
Such men, according to Irenaeus, were sent by Satan himself, in order to dishonor the Church and were accused of all manner of libertine behavior- everything from eating meat sacrificed to idols as Paul discusses in a very ambivalent way (1 Corinthians 8:1-8), to being the first to assemble at heathen festivals, gladiator games, and engaging in sexual licentious practices such as consuming sexual fluids, orgies and wife-swapping. Epiphanius goes to great lengths to claim that Simonians, among many other Gnostic sects, consumed semen and menstrual fluids because they allegedly had power to provide perfect knowledge, upon ingestion in their ceremonies. He even claimed that another Gnostic sect, the Phibionites, would actually consume an aborted fetus in the event that a woman was accidentally made pregnant! Baby sandwiches anyone?
Other times the Gnostics were simply accused of abstaining from sex and marriage altogether, considering them abhorrent and tools of Satan- much like Marcion of Pontus and Saturnilus of Antioch. These kinds of people, according to Irenaeus, were so numerous and common that he quite literally describes them as mushrooms in terms of being pests:
Besides those, however, among these heretics who are Simonians, and of whom we have already spoken, a multitude of Gnostics have sprung up, and have been manifested like mushrooms growing out of the ground.
Following in the footsteps of Jesus, the Gnostics were also considered to be healers and known to be involved with sympathetic magic, Indian-styled mantras, hissing sounds and other healing practices as mentioned by their philosophical arch-nemesis, the father of Neoplatonism, Plotinus in Enneads 2.9.4:
They tell us they can free themselves of diseases. If they meant, by temperate living and an appropriate regime, they would be right and in accordance with all sound knowledge. But they assert diseases to be spirit-beings and boast of being able to expel them by formula: This pretension may enhance their importance with the crowd, gaping on the powers of magicians; but they can never persuade the intelligent that disease arises otherwise than from such causes as overstrain, excess, deficiency, putrid decay; in a word, some variation whether from within or from without. The nature of illness is indicated by its very cure. A motion, a medicine, the letting of blood, and the disease shifts down and away; sometimes scantiness of nourishment restores the system: Presumably the spiritual power gets hungry or is debilitated by the purge. Either this spirit makes a hasty exit or it remains within…
It might be a surprise to my readers that the early Gnostics weren’t just philosophizing esotericists spouting “crazy mumbo-jumbo” or so-called “flesh-hating dualists” as the Orthodox claim but were also legitimate physicians from actual medical schools! These medical schools were known as the Pneumatics and the Methodics, the first of which was founded by Athenaeus of Attalia and Galen. Galen himself was a Platonist and understood medicine and human anatomy in terms of humorism.
The Catholics on the other hand had no medical training- whether it be theoretical or practical. They relied on the superstition of prayer which is hardly any different than the divination used by witches. The Pneumatics, much like the Plotinus’ Gnostics, believed that disease was due to an imbalance in temperature and deficiency/overabundance of liquids to be a cause. It wouldn’t be an enormous stretch to consider that the Pneumatics and the Gnostics were actually one and the same. It would also explain Paul’s usage of the term “pneumatikos” in his letters, as many scholars are simply stumped on where he picked up such a word.
Before the 1st century C.E., there was a school of Aesculapius at Epidaurus and this was the leading center of the medical field in the Greco-Roman world even up to the 2nd century. Galen, the Greek physician, surgeon and philosopher, was responsible for popularizing the prognostic approach over that of divination and speculation. The Gospels and the Apocryphon of John, as well as book six of the Philosophumena of Hippolytus as well as the Great Declaration of Simon Magus, all share similar ideas in that they both apply unusual readings and applications on human physiology. The Apocryphon of John lists all of these parts as being associated with a number of different ruling demons, as the same texts quotes all of this from the Book of Zoroaster. When Jesus went in to a place to “cast out demons” he was in reality restoring one of the supposed 365 parts of the body that were ill or misaligned, or of bad humor.
In about 252 AD, Mani, a Persian, mixed Gnostic-Christianity, Buddhism and other Persian elements. He stated his teaching came from Christ and the Persian Magi. Mani taught there are two eternal principles: one Light and one Darkness. For Mani, Jesus was not a real man [did not have flesh] nor did he undergo punishment on the cross. Satan is also the god of Moses and the prophets. Man does not have free will, as some are born with their nature totally depraved, while others are born nearly perfect.
Mani much like Simon Magus, Carpocrates and the Alexandrian-Egyptian Hesesiarch Basilides, taught reincarnation based on Karma- although in much more negative terms than those from the East. Mani said he was the Comforter or Holy Spirit (Paraclete) incarnate. Mani taught vegetarianism as the ideal way to eat and abstained from all manner of animal flesh as well as wine. Mani taught, unlike the world, man was the created by demons. The aim of demons is to imprison in man, through the propagation of the race, as much as possible of the light, and so to hinder the separating process by the sun and the moon.
The Manichaeans taught salvation comes from rigorous asceticism and believed that salvation consisted simply in the liberation of the light from the darkness. Mani also taught that there was a purgatory for purifying souls of their animal nature. After being purged of sins in the sun, the souls fly to the moon [Purgatory]. The spirit of man is from light of God and his body from the darkness of Satan.
In the Acts of the Disputation with Manes (Archelaus), written by Hegemonius, there is a very long debate between Mani and the Catholic bishop of Cachar, Archaleus, much like how the Clementine literature pits Simon against Peter in their debates. In this text, we see a possible literary model for Mani based on none other than the father of all heresies himself, Simon Magus!
Although Mani in the end loses to Archaleus, he makes several fascinating points, including one about the spirit being held hostage in the cycles of reincarnation and the world. The physical universe is basically an adulterous synthesis between the absolutes of spirit and matter. Even in this synthesis, such principles do not change and only invite conflict, sin, duality and suffering to exist as testified by Mani, in Acts Archelaus, 9:
Moreover, there are certain other worlds on which the luminaries rise when they have set on our world. And if a person walks upon the ground here, he injures the earth; and if he moves his hand, he injures the air; for the air is the soul (life) of men and living creatures, both fowl, and fish, and creeping thing. And as to every one existing in this world, I have told you that this body of his does not pertain to God, but to matter, and is itself darkness, and consequently it must needs be cast in darkness.
Like Aesculapius, Apollonius of Tyana, Jesus and the Pnuematics, Mani also thought of himself as a healer or a physician from Babylon. He demonstrates his abilities by restoring the health of a maiden, which echoes the theme of Jesus healing the woman with the issue of the blood from Luke 8:40-58, not to mention Simon and Helena. Mani also defends himself against his detractors by invoking his numerous healings and demonic exorcisms like Jesus did with the Pharisees. Even the Nestorian bishop Theodore bar Konai begrudgingly concedes that Mani was “familiar with the art of healing,” via sorcery in Scholion (ed. Scher), 2:312.20-21. However, such charges of sorcery and magic seem to conflict with the Manichaean ten commandments, especially in one commandment against practicing magic. Archaleus himself is very critical of Mani’s purported medical talents and claims they are based on fraud. Archaleus writes against Mani about claiming to be the Paraclete, by even claiming the heretics before Mani were practically saints in comparison to his deceit:
And, in good truth, I hold Marcion, and Valentinian, and Basilides, and other heretics, to be sainted men when compared with this person. For they did display a certain kind of intellect, and they did, indeed, think themselves capable of understanding all Scripture, and did thus constitute themselves leaders for those who were willing to listen to them. But notwithstanding this, not one of these dared to proclaim himself to be either God, or Christ, or the Paraclete, as this fellow has done, who is ever disputing, on some occasions about the ages, and on others about the sun, and how these objects were made, as though he were superior to them himself; for every person who offers an exposition of the method in which any object has been made, puts himself forward as superior to and older than the subject of his discussion.
Cyril of Jerusalem also referred to Simon as the Paraclete, in which Mani seems to follow wholesale in the Catechetical Lectures, VI, 14:
This man, after he had been cast out by the Apostles, was the first that dared with blasphemous mouth to say that it was himself who appeared on Mount Sinai as the Father, and afterwards appeared among the Jews, not in real flesh but in seeming, as Christ Jesus, and afterwards as the Holy Spirit whom Christ promised to send as the Paraclete. And he so deceived the City of Rome that Claudius set up his statue, and wrote beneath it, in the language of the Romans, ‘To Simon the Holy God’”
Towards the end of Acts Archaleus, Mani eventually loses to him in their debates and scatters off while stalked by the Bishop and is defeated over and over in their debates. This also occurs in the apocryphal Acts, where Simon is also defeated in a verbal fight with Peter. Simon only continues to other lands to continue his vicious preaching and is defeated yet again. In Acts, Mani is nearly lynched by the crowd when he fails to meet up to his expectations (although restrained by Archaleus), much like Simon in the Acts of Peter, when he fails to resurrect a man. The crowd then attempts to burn Simon at the stake like a true heretic that he is but is restrained by Peter, who warns them to not sully their hands with such a sin.
Mani is even said to take flight (or run) much like Simon (if taken the words in the following excerpt literally), is forced to perform such a miracle to a blood-thirsty crowd:
Then, too, the children who had chanced to gather about the place began and set the example of pelting Manes and driving him off; and the rest of the crowd followed them, and moved excitedly about, with the intention of compelling Manes to take to flight. But when Archelaus observed this, he raised his voice like a trumpet above the din, in his anxiety to restrain the multitude, and addressed them thus: Stop, my beloved brethren, lest perhaps we be found to have the guilt of blood on us at the day of judgment; for it is written of men like this, that ‘there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.’
Such apocryphal tales could very well be seen as precursors to what would eventually happen to many of these heretics. Much of this whole sale dismissal of such magicians would eventually lead and give precedent to the later Roman Emperors made numerous enactments against sorcery, divination, and all kinds of magic.
The “Christian” Emperor, Constantine (for example), prohibited all forms of magic, but specially excepted and authorized “that which was intended to avert hail and lightning.” Such magical practices were seen as synonymous with heresy and the pagan mysteries. And of course, all of these things would eventually and gradually become prohibited. The worst thing Constantine probably did was send heretics into exile. His edicts call for the confiscation of texts and property of heretics, and exile is the next logical step. The really bad stuff seems to have started under Theodosius, where paganism and heresy are made into capital crimes. And then it gets worse under the Byzantines.
In fact, legislation’s such as the Theosodian decrees would persecute and eventually slaughter these kinds of people, such as the Manichaeans, Marcionites, the Priscillianists (many of which were burnt to death), and many other pagans and heretics. Such laws effectively made them second class citizens in many ways. The Theodosius decrees would declare such people as insane vermin and witches. And all were pulled from their houses and burned in the streets by the Catholics. Ambrose admits to this fact, as does Jerome.
Even many of the Nag Hammadi texts make allusions to ongoing orthodox persecution. The Apocalypse of Peter, for example, is all about Gnostics undergoing Catholic persecution and outright dubs the Bishops as “dry canals”, meaning that they were empty husks of flesh, deprived of spirit. The Second Treatise of the Great Seth and the Gospel of Judas also make various allusions to this and their overall mutual contempt for each other as the Gnostic authors repeatedly condemn the Catholic clergy and their practices and doctrines. The Gospel of Judas goes so far as to claim that Catholic priests are actively involved in slaughter, illicit homosexual sex with men, and child sacrifice:
[Jesus said], “What are [the priests] like?”
They [said, “Some …] two weeks; [some] sacrifice their own children, others their wives, in praise [and] humility with each other; some sleep with men; some are involved in [slaughter]; some commit a multitude of sins and deeds of lawlessness. And the men who stand [before] the altar invoke your [name],  and in all the deeds of their deficiency, the sacrifices are brought to completion […].”
After they said this, they were quiet, for they were troubled.
As is always the case, would-be-Messiahs lose and the bullies win at the end of the day.