The contemporary relevance of Manichaeism

In historical terms, Manichaeism is a doctrine that was preached by its
founder, the Persian Mani who lived from 216 to 276 AD. It was also set down in
various writings. At the start of the 20th century these writings came to
light. Although the texts are fragmentary, they make it possible to have an
overview of the content and import of Mani’s message.

Mani deliberately gave his gospel a universal slant. In the Cologne Mani
Codex, discovered in 1967, we read the following:

“…So at that time I was sent out through the gracious pleasure of my all-blessed
Father, to come into the world so that through me the creation should be
hallowed and so that He, through me, should reveal the truth of His gnosis in the
midst of the peoples and religions…” [1]

It is characteristic of Manichaeism that it attempts to integrate its
views of the meaning and significance of good and evil in terms of a human
image. Cosmogony and anthropology go hand in hand. Evil is not something that
just happens to human beings: on the contrary the nature of humanity is made up
both of the forces of light and the forces of darkness. These forces are first
and foremost cosmic forces – that is to say, they operate from without.

The story of creation as told by Mani in dramatic images says that these
forces were mingled together in the very beginning of the creation process.
This mingling gave rise to the substance which was to give birth to the creation of the cosmos and the earth. Humanity was likewise created from these
two forces. At this point these become ethical forces, in that the human
individual becomes aware that both forces are written into his nature in the
form of inclinations. Light and darkness are creative principles. Both are
needed if creation is to be achieved. They become good and evil in humanity, in
so far as these inclinations become part of human consciousness.

The history of creation finds its definition in humanity. But this final
definition is at the same time the approach to a new creation – a creation in
which every human being now has the possibility, at least by tendency, to
become a creative ethical agent. All human beings have come into existence from
the combination of light and darkness and are able to bring the two into an
interactive relationship because they carry both within themselves. The
possibility of oneself becoming a creative ethical agent is one to which
Manichaeism attributes particular importance. This is because the aim of the
process is the gradual redemption of the evil through the action of the good.
This is not so much an external struggle as an inner development.

One of the Fathers of the Church, St. Augustine (354-430), spent nine
years as an adherent of the Manichees who at that time had a large following in
Western Europe. It appears from his own recorded dialogues with representatives
of the Manichean community that this very point was one where he found a
personal fundamental difficulty.

In his view it is not for human beings to redeem evil. Augustine’s
thesis that evil is not a substance, but rather a non-ens or non-entity (a
force or power which is disembodied, that is, of spiritual substance), became
the prevailing doctrine in the Catholic Church. [2]

The increasing relevance of the message of Mani for our own times may be
inferred from the importance that is given to evil in the worldwide debate
about terrorism. I would like for instance, to quote the American moral
philosopher Susan Neiman, who said, in an interview with the Netherlands
journal Nieuwe Rotterdamse Courant ‘Anyone who wants to get to the
crux of the problem of the world is bound at some point to hit upon the problem
of evil’. (27 November 2004)

Her criticism of the thinking in the Age of Enlightenment is connected
to the fact that the thinkers of that period did not manage to reach more than
a mere awareness, at most, of the existence of evil. Compared to the refusal of
the scholastic tradition even to credit evil with existence, this was nonetheless
a first step. But the intellectual recognition of evil is not enough. As Neiman
puts it in the same interview: ‘The attempt to solve the problem of evil in an
intellectual manner would be a kind of betrayal. Having done that, you could
dismiss the problems of the world just by shrugging your shoulders. The
awareness that things in the world are not as they should be compels us to look
for practical solutions’.

A consciousness of the reality of evil is certainly not enough, but it
may well be a necessary beginning. After we become conscious of evil as an
issue, we may find ourselves faced with certain questions: for example, the
question whether we are concerned with the dissolution or the redemption
of evil. Is it a matter of preventing evil and extirpating it whenever
necessary, or is it actually the case that evil requires to be redeemed? In the
latter case, we are first confronted with the question what our conception of
this should be. How do we address a research project of this nature, supposing
such a thing to be possible? At the same time a second thematic vista opens up
which we can express to ourselves thus: how or in what way can I recognise
evil, and how do I get to know it?

In the last resort, all this depends on the question of the essential
nature of evil. If I acquire an insight into its nature, I will learn what evil
is – just as we only get to understand a person when we have been acquainted
with this person over a long period of time. Getting to know evil is not the
same as asking where the actual originating cause of evil is to be found, or
what the effects of evil are. On the whole, when the term ‘evil’ is used, the
reference is to that which evil has brought about. Our regard is focused on the
effects of evil, on what evil does: in relation to oneself and to other human

At this point Neiman introduces a distinction between the evil that is
occasioned by natural catastrophes and similar accidents, and evil that is
occasioned by human beings. She bases her argument here on the view that the
suffering caused by the earthquake in Lisbon, for example, is in a completely
different category from the suffering that was inflicted in Auschwitz. But as
long as we do not make a real effort to reach a deeper level in enquiring into
the nature of evil, this distinction may perhaps seem somewhat arbitrary.
Suffering remains suffering, after all.

On the other hand, it is understandable that increasing attention is
being paid to the effects of the origins of evil. Why did a certain catastrophe
have to happen? Could we have prevented it? Why does someone try to kill
another human being? The German philosopher Rüdiger Safranski posed the burning
question whether the western process of civilisation – meaning by this term the
emancipation of humanity from Nature and God – has become something
fundamentally unsalutary; whether it has not become something evil. Safranski

“…Now human beings have brought into existence a civilisation of science
and technology. This is their creation. And perhaps this civilisation will be
just as free in relation to human beings, as human beings were in relation to
God: perhaps civilisation will pursue a course of its own. (…) And what does
it mean, if the wilful determination of civilisation is stronger than the
intention of human beings?” [3]

Still more important than the distinction between natural and moral evil
is the distinction between the effects of evil and the being that causes these
effects. If we take this last question seriously, it means that evil is not
just a principle that works anonymously – rather, it has the form of an
individual being. Even when we enquire into the origin of evil, we are not by
any means, to begin with, looking at evil itself. It forms part and parcel of
the Manichean programme that, alongside the usual questions, we should also put
the question of what or who evil actually is. And besides this we need to ask
who represents the good?

The mystery of evil

Can a person be initiated into evil? This is, to put it mildly, a rather
shocking question! What kind of initiation could we possibly imagine here? And
what do we mean by Initiation? It usually means a passage through a rite or a
situation, by which our own being is changed in a radical way. By this change
new insights and new faculties have been integrated in our being, which gives
us the experience of being reborn. In many cultures, such as Ancient Greece,
Initiation was organised in the context of religious practices. In our time now
however, life itself organises it for us. We can say now that life itself is an

In the lecture series From Symptom to Reality in Modern History
(Rudolf Steiner Press, London 1976) the Austrian philosopher Rudolf
Steiner investigates what it is that is effective in a certain culture as a
creative principle, in such a way that all the facts and products of this
culture may be understood from the point of view of this principle. This
creative principle acts for the whole of a culture or an age as something that
is most intimately its own. This close sense of belonging arises in much the
same way as with the ancient Mysteries, when the neophyte acquired an insight
into reality in the course of the initiation, an insight that became his or her
own. Here we can see a parallel between the initiation event on the personal
level, and that of the particular era. In this sense Hellenistic culture was
dominated by initiation into the Mystery of life and death, and in the same way
the modern era can be understood as an initiation into the Mystery of evil.
When we speak of evil in this connection, we are not thinking of evil as an
outward effect – in terms, that is, of the way in which it is inflicted. Here
it is exclusively a matter of the essential form of evil itself. This may be
recognised most readily in one of its most intrinsic gestures, namely the
gesture of separation.

So what does it mean to be initiated into the Mystery of evil? It means
that the possibility of separating oneself off has become part of the intimate
nature of human beings today. To separate oneself off is not just to seek the
tranquillity and solitude of Nature or to withdraw for a time to one’s own
room. To separate is the possibility of closing oneself off against one’s own
environment, of withdrawing oneself from the context in which one is placed.
One phenomenon that is in a quite special sense characteristic of the start of
the modern period is the discovery of perspective in the early fifteenth
century, and it is grounded in this new human faculty of separation. We no
longer experience ourselves as part of a surrounding network of circumstances –
on the contrary, we detach ourselves from it, we adopt a standpoint of our own
and from this point construct the world. This ability to separate represents a
valuable quality in the life of every human being and cannot be valued too
highly. This is because it opens the door to the human principle of development
– namely the ego that is capable of freedom. But at the same time it opens the
door to evil.

Here the link between evil and freedom as possibilities comes into view
at a still deeper level. In that the ego exercises its freedom independently;
this possibility can lead either to a positive development or to a negative one
– namely, to the excessive cultivation of the individual’s own ego so becoming
egotistic. The possibility of separation allows both phenomena. The one is
fundamentally inseparable from the other: the sovereign ‘Yes’ cannot be without
the egotistical ‘No’, and vice versa. An affirmation is only a true affirmation
because a denial of the same intensity is equally possible. If we find that we
contain in ourselves the possibility of separating ourselves off, this
constitutes the first step on the path of becoming acquainted with evil. The
essential form of evil involves separation. We do not need to study evil in the
light of the various phenomena that we perceive around us. First of all, here
again what confronts us is generally only the outer effect of evil. However
thorough such a study may be, we will not get to know evil by this method, but
only what evil brings about in the way of effects. And secondly, we have a
direct field of perception that is constantly available to us – namely that
which goes on in oneself between the twin poles of separation and belonging, so
that this training ground is not just to be found around us but also within us.
And this is the very thing that modern initiation involves. Steiner expresses
it thus:

“…These forces of evil rule in the universe. The human being must absorb
them. In absorbing them, he plants in himself the germ which first makes it
possible for him to experience the spiritual life with his consciousness soul…”
[4 & 5]

We must distinguish between the two questions, ‘Where is the original
cause of evil to be found?’ and ‘What effects are occasioned by evil?’ What
links these two questions together is a third question, ‘Who or what is evil?’
Only when we get to grips with this third question can we cast light on the
first two. The first two problems may still be the subjects of theoretical
study, as considered from the point of view of politics, sociology, psychology
or some other specialism. But if we go more deeply into the third question, it
leads us through a succession of steps whereby the forces of evil are perceived
in such a way that they come to be recognised as something peculiar to

These steps along the path of becoming a contemporary may also be seen
as a Manichaean training path. The approach of historical Manichaeism has been
further updated here, so that it opens itself up to the future. The decision to
set out on the Manichaean path in order to become truly contemporary can only
be a decision taken freely. As citizens of the 21st century, however, we are
practically compelled at times to put the first and second questions, whether
in reaction to an event or as an outburst of disbelief and anger: How can
it happen that all over the world people become the victims of violent
outbreaks? Why do people resort to violence?
Here we will find that any
possible answers will only hold good until new events come along and
overlay the old ones.

The third question on the other hand, ‘Who or what is evil?’ is one that
does not permit a direct answer. If there were to be such a thing as an answer,
then we could only come closer to it by setting out on a journey. But even when
we are on this journey, something can happen that is more than just finding an
answer or having an answer supplied. Such a happening is related to the
initiation event as has been described above. It makes it possible for a person
to become a contemporary, in the deepest sense of the word.

A Manichaean path of initiation

The initiation process as practiced in the ancient mysteries can be
broken down into five distinct steps. The Manichaean training path, similar to
the ancient path of initiation, can be described as a journey in five stages
which lead to our becoming a contemporary. The five stages are:

– The spectator

– Allowing

– Meeting

– Being a witness

– Becoming a

It is also possible to describe the phases of this journey in a
different way, so that something comes into view from the experience at each
stage, thus:

– Powerlessness

– Inwardness

– Meeting

– Being present

– Being awake.

The first thing we now need to do is to describe each of these steps.
Subsequently we will investigate what the mutual relations are between the
various steps.

The Manichaean path towards redemption

First step – The Spectator /

If we read a newspaper
or see the news only occasionally, or if we were able to cut ourselves off
completely in such a way that no news of what is happening in the world could
penetrate, we are still spectators of world events. On the stage of
contemporary reality an uninterrupted drama is going on which may at any moment
confront us with circumstances that are irreversible. One thing is common to
all these circumstances – namely: the fact that we are not able to act on or
change them in any way.

This places us in an untenable situation. We respond by trying to make
the situation bearable, for example by making all kinds of comments, giving
vent to our indignation and astonishment or by wanting others to tell us that
their view of these events is similar. In other words, we react.

So to the extent that a certain event touches us more closely or affects
us personally, we somehow try to believe this state of affairs had not
happened, or at least try to find a way out or a solution. Another possible
reaction consists in coming to terms with the fact that in the last resort we
are helpless. It is often just a short step from ‘I don’t know what I should
do’ to ‘It is impossible to do anything about it’. But even in this case our
thoughts continue to revolve obsessively around the bare facts, asking
ourselves: How could this thing have ever happened? How could such a thing be
possible? What sort of time are we actually living in?

In a wider context we might say that this was the same question as Job
cried out in his despair: ‘Lord, why me?’ In relation to the catastrophes to
which his life was subject, he too found himself in the role of the powerless
spectator, only being able in the first instance to see that one misfortune
after another kept coming to him. If we follow contemporary events from day to
day, we can see that one catastrophe treads hard on the heels of the last. It
adds up to an endless sequence, in which the same kinds of horror are repeated
from day to day.

Loss of heart (the misery will never end, new misery will repeatedly go
on confronting us), despair (I can only look on helplessly), insecurity and
anxiety (what will happen to us all in the future?), perplexity (I must find a
solution, it can’t go on like this) – all these are part of being in the role
of a spectator, or more precisely stated, we are compelled into this role
whether we like it or not.

Second step – Allowing / Inwardness.

It should first of all
be made clear that ‘allowing’ here means letting stillness enter the heart of
our being. It is analogous to the great silence that represented the second
stage of the path of Initiation in the old mysteries: it means that we allow a
stillness to take possession of our innermost heart. All commentaries and
reactions, of whatever kind, should be held back. To allow it to become still
within us means nothing other than to be prepared to listen, to prick
up our ears and listen with an ever greater depth and intensity. It does not
mean simply ‘allowing something to happen’, for this would mean coming to terms
with the circumstances or resigning oneself to one’s fate.

If we are really to hear, we must take what we hear into ourselves –
that is, first of all just absorb it and let it penetrate. In other words, we
let the events that are acted out on the world stage penetrate deeply within
us, so deeply that it might be said that we make them a part of our own being.
In this way we create an inner space in which these events can be heard. So
long as we are dominated by the compulsion to react, we hear within us only the
echo of our own reactions. But if we hold back this flood of reactions, it
creates a resonating chamber in which something may be pronounced, and by the
same token perceived.

It goes without saying that what we have here is not a ‘neutral’
proceeding. If in the first step it was still the case that a great part of the
strategy of reaction consisted in preventing the accompanying pain from
entering our awareness, in the second step, when such strategies are no longer
to be applied, we must admit the pain as well. To create a resonating chamber
is a painful and laborious task. One is rarely successful on the first attempt.
One penetrates to a deeper level of that which expresses itself on the surface
in the form of events. So long as we remain focused on the surface, we will be
able to answer the first and second questions to a great extent, but the third
question involves moving from the first step of being a spectator towards an
inward acceptance. The circumstances are then no longer over there outside me,
but become a part of my own being. In the end what is involved is a process of
integration. I no longer want just to study what has happened, to consider it
and look into it – instead, I aim to allow it to be and to absorb it into
myself, completely and unconditionally.

Third Step – Meeting / To be in

This inner stillness,
through which a space of listening comes into being, can moreover become a
stillness which feels as if we are waiting for something which has yet to be
completed. This is the moment at which the transition between allowing and
completion takes place. In the phase of allowing I have held myself back in
such a way that I have become a point, so to speak, a point that is surrounded
by a listening space. In being able to wait I become ready to receive. I become
a kind of vessel. The time and the patience that are needed in order to sustain
a listening attitude correspond to the time and the patience that are needed
for something in me to form this vessel. When this has been done, the phase of
completion can begin. This now corresponds to the third phase of the initiation
process. I come to be initiated into the essential nature of contemporary
history. This essential nature carries the seal of evil: a seal that I have
become familiar with to the extent to which it finds expression in all those
events which are the effects of the capacity of human beings to separate
themselves from the world.

Now though, I am face to face with contemporary happenings, and all
those questions that were still in the air in the spectator phase, that is to
say, all ‘my’ questions and all the answers as well that I have been holding
back in the phase of inwardly allowing, have now turned upside down and have
become a single burning invitation: Look at me, redeem me. This
is the question that evil addresses to me!

The acute and chronic distress that I felt in the spectator phase is no
longer just my own, it is the distress of the times. Nor is it just the case
that I acquire this realisation – it completes itself in me as well, it comes
true. From now on I have been initiated into the mysteries of time.

As a result of my becoming a vessel, by holding myself back completely,
something happens to make me capable of absorbing and carrying something other
than myself. Out of my willingness to be a carrier of the fate of our times
(being a contemporary), a power is born which comes to meet me and
touches me. Willingness and contact meet, completing the birth of this power
that makes it possible for us to be contemporaries (see Fifth Step).
This coming together involves the acting out of the mystery of that which I
myself accomplish and that which is accomplished in me. These two processes
become an indivisible unity, but can nonetheless be distinguished from one
another. I look into the face of the time as it really is, while on the other
hand, in my willingness to bear it, something comes to be redeemed. That which
I let die in myself comes back to life at the same moment, as an active power
that enables me to play my part in bearing this burden.

Fourth Step – Being a witness /
Being present.

This sustaining power
can be recognised in me as an open possibility, a potentiality that may be
actualised in any situation whatever. It is enough that I should focus myself
on the centre of this sustaining power, and everything that I say and do will
happen from this centre. Presence of mind is nothing but a habitual focus on
the centre of this power that we find in ourselves. This is what is known as
giving testimony.

So it absolutely is not a matter of talking about this power.
That would actually mean the immediate cessation of its effectiveness. It is
much rather a matter of speaking from the centre of this power.
It continues to live, so to speak, and acts through my being and my actions. My
being and my actions are the medium through which it has an effect on the
outside world. The presence of this power is an abiding fact. As a possibility
it cannot cease to exist, so it depends entirely on me to what extent it
becomes effective or not.

A misunderstanding could arise at this point. It might be supposed that
the presence of this sustaining power would mean that I have now found
solutions for those problems which left me feeling helpless in the spectator
phase. It is certainly not the case that solutions are offered here. But what,
from this time on, forms part of the options at my disposal is that rather than
a solution being found, redemption takes place. There is an ongoing interchange
between this quality of taking up the burden of the world and myself, as well
as between myself and that which is happening around me. This interchange may
well be compared with a piece of woven material, on which work is continuing
all the time. This comes into being between myself and the times I live in, and
the patterns that are thereby created bear witness.

Fifth step – Becoming a Contemporary
/ Being awake.

What can we do? Is there
anyone who can do something? Is it possible to do anything at all? These
questions are an integral part of being a spectator, in which one is confronted
with events without being able to change them in any way. But as a contemporary
who is involved in the process of becoming, I am no longer confronted with
circumstances out there, but carry them in myself. Every circumstance is in any
case a result; it is always the effect of something else. What I start to carry
within myself is not the effect of the event, but the thing or the person that
has caused it. This thing or person has become a part of my own being. That
which acts out there in the world also acts in me, and in the very same way. As
a result of this I recognise that it is not that something like a solution is
to be found somewhere out there; rather, it is possible for a redemption to

When we have reached this point, we no longer need to make any
distinction between solution and redemption. These two processes can even, if
we act with a little skill, occur simultaneously.

Contemporary history has come awake in me. It can speak out at any
moment, and what it communicates can be recognised at any moment in the
circumstances themselves. In the first phase I happen upon circumstances, and
then look for what is trying to speak through them. In the fifth phase the
reverse process is acted out: contemporary history speaks, and then I turn my
attention to the circumstances. In the first phase there is only the
possibility of enduring events. In the last phase I have acquired the
willingness to engage with events, to enter into whatever may chance to happen.


The five steps I have
described take place over a certain period of time, rather like the consecutive
phases of a metamorphosis sequence. To this extent what we have here is in
actual fact a path along which we travel, subject to development in time. Some
steps take a lot of time as they are steps that need to be repeatedly resumed
and re-attempted. This however does not exclude the possibility that the
various training steps may occur in parallel, and become involved in mutual
interactivity. They now begin to mesh together, so that in the end a single
organism comes into being.

The existence of this kind of mutual interaction can be seen in the fact
that a clear reversal takes place between the first step and the fifth. The
first training step is dominated by events that impinge on us from without and
by the feeling of powerlessness – I do not know what I should do – while the
last step is characterised by a completely different attitude – I know what is
to be done, never mind what may happen.

Likewise between the second and the fourth phase we find a special
connection. The second phase is characterised by the activity of allowing what
is outside me to exist within me as I take it into myself. In the fourth phase,
that which I have taken in and absorbed in the hidden depths of my inner being
now acts through me on the outside world. In a certain sense it is possible to
experience the second phase as a kind of darkening of the light. Everything one
is aware of in the form of explanations, everything that one has ready in the
way of solutions, and even all the past experience that one has accumulated –
all this is put to silence. In the depths of our being it becomes very quiet,
and with the accompanying drilling sensation of pain we may feel that we have been
abandoned. In this phase of pure receptivity we find ourselves alone with
contemporary history and with ourselves. In the initial phase it was possible
for us to proclaim our unease, disapproval or outrage. The intention to retain
it, so as to be able to take events into oneself, is a lonely enterprise. It is
not possible to share it with anybody, or we would run the risk of falling back
into the state we were in during the first phase. We might at most be able to
recognise in a fellow human being this quite particular colour of loneliness by
comparing it with the loneliness we have experienced ourselves.

The fourth step, on the other hand, consists of an uninterrupted stream
of communication, which does not issue from myself – that would mean falling
back into the first phase – but from that which speaks through me. This
produces an effect as if a central point in myself were the source of a light
that beams outward, or more accurately stated, the light beams through this
central point to the outside world. The activity is now directed not inwards
but outwards, and has an unmistakably rousing quality, calling us to wake up.
This consciousness of being awake may well make me feel as if there is an
unquenchable spring of profound joy bubbling up within me – a joy that does not
need any external occasion, but grows from the sense of ‘being touched’ in the
third phase.

The third step is the point on which this five-stage path hinges. The
first and second steps represent the process through which one sets out on the
journey that is to lead to the recognition, assimilation and transformation of
the phenomena of contemporary history in a conscious self. The fourth and fifth
steps lead us back towards the outside world, so that now the phenomena of
contemporary history become transparent. That this reversal is possible is
essentially connected with the third and central step. When I enter the third
phase, I find the strength of resurrection, rising above the powerlessness,
pain and sense of abandonment that marked the preceding phases. What comes to
meet me now, what addresses me, is the very being that lives and acts in these
contemporary phenomena. It is this being that awakens me to become the voice of
the time; that calls me to be a contemporary.

It is possible to find images for each of these phases that reveal,
either as an isolated picture or in interrelationship, something of the essence
of this training path. The Madonna, as she is presented as a quite definite
type in the icon paintings of the Orthodox Church, may be taken as an image of
the second step – I am thinking of the Panhagia Plathythera here, or the
Madonna extending her arms. The icon shows a standing Madonna, as a rule
depicted as far as the waist, with arms spread wide open – an impressive, but at
the same time inward gesture. The region of the heart opens up and offers space
for that which asks to be taken in. In this picture we hear the voice of the
soul’s attitude of an unconditional willingness of ‘allowing’ : a receiving of
that which is to come.

An image of the third step is the symbol and sign of the cross. The
cross is the place of completion par excellence and, uniquely, the
place where the willingness to die and the life-giving force meet, so that
resurrection becomes a reality. On one side of the cross stands Mary, who takes
the deeply piercing pain of the event into herself, and on the other stands
John, who gives testimony to the Spirit. Christ on the cross refers to the
intimate connection between these two when he speaks to them. John can only
give testimony to the extent to which Mary becomes one who listens in stillness
– that is to say, having gone beyond any kind of reaction.

Here it becomes apparent how far the Manichaean training path is also a
path of Christian training. Furthermore, the kind of experience that one goes
through on this training path is intimately related to the experience of Saul,
who became Paul on the road to Damascus. It has to do with an encounter with
the essential nature of the risen Christ, and so involves ourselves coming to
share in the living forces of resurrection, which have continued to act in
human beings and over the world ever since the Easter event.

Seeing things from the point of view of the anthroposophical
understanding of human nature, the transition from the first to the second step
means that we allow the sphere of emotional reaction to become calm so that we
can pass through it into the region of the organisation of the life forces. The
pain that raged on the astral level in the first phase can now be taken into
the etheric, with all that the etheric is able to provide in the way of healing
and regeneration. The etheric receives the pain that has come into being in the
astral. For this purpose, silence is essential, and it must be a form of silence
that creates space. The second step involves finding a way of accessing the
depths of life organisation. The fourth step is the inversion of the second.
The life that repeatedly rises from the dead is now raised to the level of
consciousness. This is nothing other than to render testimony to the fact that
one is continually in contact with this life-resuscitating power, which
recognises itself in consciousness and in this form proceeds to act on the
outside world.

1. Being a spectator

2. Allowing

3.. Completion

4. Being a witness

5. Becoming a contemporary

The Manichaean training path basically starts between the first and the
second phase. The first phase brings with it all kinds of reactions, from
indifference to rage, along with all the intermediate emotions. And yet this
first phase is necessary. This is because it is not certain that we may awaken
as the result of our being shocked. Even if we try with all the resources
available to us to dull this wakeful state back into insensibility, the fact
that we have once been awake can no longer be undone, and it increases the
chance that on the next opportunity we will again come awake. Being shocked
gives us a brief window of opportunity, which lasts just as long as the alarm
bell continues to sound. Waking up means to abandon the cellar of our
constructed and cherished securities for an extended period, and viewing our

What is actually going on here? There are still escape routes available,
making it possible for us to avoid the opportunity that is offered by the
second phase. We may still, for some time and with great seriousness, go in
search of something that might improve the situation, some form or other of
healing. We may stake our all on bringing about some change. We may just cut loose
or drift into an attitude of protest that becomes increasingly worn out until
it finally issues in a litany of lamentation, where all we can do is to
complain in such terms as: ‘What kind of times do we live in?’ or ‘Who would
ever have thought such a thing could be possible?’ The need to find someone to
blame makes us continue to go round in circles. In this context the term ‘they’
crops up quite frequently in expressions such as: ‘What can they be thinking
of?’, or ‘What have they done now?’ Depending on the point of view and the
associated perspective this ‘they’ can, in principle include practically
anybody. This is a necessary result of the spectator consciousness of the first

We are neither the author nor the director of the drama that is being
played out on a daily basis. The only option remaining to us is to react to
happenings in one way or another.

But actively looking for ‘solutions’ is also a reaction. And to react
means that we have allowed something to be done to us. This attitude of
passivity, of being on the receiving end, is not something that we can put a
stop to by making ourselves master of the situation, as a superficial view
might suppose.

The Manichaean training path will lead us to this goal in the end. But
it will be in a different way and by following quite other paths than if we
were to attempt to gain power over events starting from our original situation
of powerlessness. This is the reason why the transition between the first two
steps, and everything that happens in the interval between them, is of
particular importance. But I would like to point out here that I am in no way
pronouncing judgment on the search for a solution in a difficult situation, and
most certainly am not suggesting that this should be ‘forbidden’. I am only
making the point that the Manichaean path is a different kind of path. In the
Manichaean approach it is not a matter of looking for a solution, or at least
that is not the only matter of concern: first and foremost we are looking for
redemption. The intention of Manichaeism is directed towards the redemption of
evil. Anyone who wants to move in this direction has no other option but to put
an end to the pattern of reactions in his or her own being. This results
initially in the termination of the reactive pattern, certainly, but it does
not end the feeling of powerlessness. This is actually likely to increase and
now shows itself for the first time in all its vehemence. But this is the very
thing that gives us the real opportunity of making progress.

Christine Gruwez

Translation and Text Revision: Gil McHattie

1 From the Cologne Mani Codex (108-110), German translation by Ludwig
Koenen and Cornelia Römer. Quoted in Mani, Auf den Spuren einer verschollenen Religion
[Mani – In Search of a Lost Religion]
, Herder Verlag, Freiburg/Basel. 1993

2 Augustine, De Moribus ecclesiae Catholicae. Chapter 10 et seq.

3 Rüdiger Safranski. Das Böse Oder Das Drama der Freiheit [Evil or the Drama of Freedom] Herder
Verlag, Freiburg/Basel.

4 Rudolf Steiner. From Symptom to Reality in Modern History, Lecture 5,
26 October 1918

5 The term Consciousness Soul can be understood as the faculty by which
a human being can in an independent way rely on his inner self to give an
orientation to his life theme. At the same time, this faculty can lead to
egoism and striving for personal profit.