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.