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Planting Neo-manichaen Churches: Expressing Mani's Teachings Contextually.


The Manichaean religion, following the teachings of the prophet Mani, has a rich spiritual heritage that dates back to the 3rd century. Although the practice of this religion gradually declined after the Middle Ages, there is a contemporary interest in reviving it, creating what we now refer to as Neo-Manichaean churches. That said, to be successful, these churches must effectively express Mani's teachings within the context of the cultural norms of a given community. This article explores how to plant Neo-Manichaean churches while carefully considering local culture and traditions.

Understanding Manichaean Teachings

Rooted in a Gnostic dualistic view, Manichaean teachings centre on the struggle between a good spiritual world of light and an evil physical world of darkness. Emphasizing self-purification through righteousness, it combines elements from Christianity, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, and others, creating a universal doctrine that speaks to people across diverse cultural backgrounds. However, because of this diversity, planting a Neo-Manichaean church requires a specific and sensitive approach in each community.

Aligning With Cultural Norms

Adaptation of Spiritual Practices

1. Neo-Manichaean spiritual practices should resonate with prevailing cultural beliefs. For instance, in societies where community prayers or meditation sessions are traditionally practised, Neo-Manichaean churches can adapt by introducing group fasting, praying, or discussion sessions that align with Mani's teachings.

2. Knowledge Sharing and Dialogue

Education is central to the establishment of any religious institution. Church founders should carefully educate community members on Mani's teachings, focusing on the aspects that have analogous or complementary concepts within the local culture. Emphasizing similarities and shared values can foster better acceptance and appreciation of Mani's teachings.

3. Respect for Local Traditions

While the aim is to propagate Mani’s teachings, it should never undermine or disrespect local customs and traditions. Adoption of elements from local cultures, for instance, in music, art or literature, not only makes the religion more approachable but also respects and values indigenous cultural symbols.

4. Role of Church Leaders

The spiritual leaders of the Neo-Manichaean Church should not only be well-versed in Mani’s teachings but also sensitive to the cultural norms and values of the community. They should be sufficiently flexible to adapt Mani’s teachings without altering its essence.

5. Inclusive Approach

Given Mani's philosophy of universalism, Neo-Manichaean churches should adopt a welcoming and inclusive approach. It’s essential that the Church acknowledge, respects and appreciates cultural diversity, seeing it not as a barrier but as an opportunity for shared understanding and spiritual growth.


Planting Neo-Manichaean churches in today’s diverse cultural realm presents an intriguing mix of challenges and opportunities. By carefully considering local traditions and norms, it is entirely possible to establish churches that truly embody Mani’s teachings while still resonating with the heart of the community in which they serve. Above all else, this task calls for a profound understanding of both Manichaean teachings and the cultures they seek to reach, forging a bond of respectful adaptation and mutual respect.

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