Paradise, New World and Frashegird in Mani’s Shâbuhragân The Question of Eschatology and Dualism

Paradise, New World and Frashegird in Mani’s Shâbuhragân


The Question of Eschatology and Dualism


In the Shâbuhragân, a didactic treatise written by Mani at the request of Shâpur I, the term ‘frshygyrd’, (‘Frashegird’)[1] is mentioned several times, along with ‘New Paradise’ and ‘New World’, or ‘Aeon’. These terms should be placed in the context of Mani’s eschatological vision. Each of them points to a well-defined event in the final stage of mankind and cosmos.


Many questions arise when we try to make a distinction between the three terms quoted above. Frashegird, often translated as ‘end of the world’ or ‘ restoration of the original condition’, is not the same as the New Paradise, nor is it identical to what in the Shâbuhragân is referred to as the New World. Although Frashegird occurs at ‘the end of the world’ it should not be considered itself as being the end of the world. Some scholars understand Frashegird as the “destruction of the existing cosmos, i.e. heavens and earths”.[2] Our opinion is that at the moment Frashegird occurs, the destruction of the cosmos has already come to an end. Another question is whether there is indeed a ‘restoration’ of the old order, or is it rather a ‘renewal’?


  • Our aim is to demonstrate that Frashegird is not the same as’ the end of the world’, but the creation of a new world order, which means that in turn the two principles must necessarily be transformed and renewed according to this new world order.
  • Further, we want to demonstrate that this renewal of the two principles has the effect of revealing the essential nature of each of them. They are essentially more ‘themselves’ after the occurring of Frashegird, than they were before the start of the creation process.
  • The conclusion will be that in the same way as the two principles where present before the start of the creation, they go on subsisting after the destruction of the created world. What has changed dramatically is their mutual relationship. Exactly by this change in their relationship it is proven that Frashegird is not to be understood as a return to the original condition of the two principles. On the contrary, it signifies a new relationship between the two principles. In other words: a new world order.


A closer investigation of the meaning of Frashegird has, necessarily, to start with an overview of the doctrine in which the term appears. For, one of the characteristics of the Manichaean system is precisely that it is impossible to single out one of its elements, separating it from its context. An understanding of Mani’s teachings presupposes an understanding of how each element receives its relevance through the position it occupies in the whole of the system as well as by being connected with the other elements.


In investigating the notion of Frashegird, the following issues are at stake:

  1. A demonstration of the importance of the notion Frashegird in order to obtain a clearer understanding of the proper nature of the two principles as originally outlined in Mani’s earliest writing, the Shâbuhragân.
  1. An exploration of the specific function of Frashegird in the context of the whole of the Manichaean system and, more specifically, as a core element of the eschatological vision in the Shâbuhragân.

Significance of the Shâbuhragân

The Shâbuhragân occupies a unique position among the extant Manichaean documents in Middle Iranian. Composed at the very start of his mission, ‘for the Enlightenment of Shapuhr I’, it is probably the earliest of Mani’s books directly attributable to him. It is, at the very least, a document through which it is possible to hear the ‘ipsissima vox’ of the Prophet himself.[3] In the subsequent spread of Manichaeism towards the East, although not on the list of the canonical scriptures, the Shâbuhragân became one of the major doctrinal texts of the Eastern Manichaean Church and was translated into several languages. It is also noteworthy that in the course of the further development of Manichaeism, the treatise became known as the Book on the Two Principles. In the Shâbuhragân, a heading is repeated several times throughout the text: ‘dw bwn y’s (b)whrg n’, ‘The two principles of the Shâbuhragân’, sometimes also with the designation ‘wzrg’, ‘The two great principles of the Shâbuhragân’.

This explicit and frequent reference to the two principles as the core element of the Manichaean doctrine confirms the importance of the Shâbuhragân as a major source for the Manichaean system and its doctrinal contents.

  1. Composition of the Shâbuhragân.

2.1. Notwithstanding the extremely fragmented condition of the manuscripts, it is possible to reconstruct the basis of the composition of the text as a whole.[4]

At the centre of the cosmogony and the eschatology are, indeed, the ‘dw bwn’ , the two principles. They go through a process of change, corresponding to the Three Epochs, or times.


Epoch I           The two principles in a state of rest or inactivity (initial condition).


Epoch II          The two principles in a dynamic of mixture (cosmogony).

Creation of the cosmos (Heavens and Earths) and of Gêhmurd and Murdiyânag.            


Epoch III         The two principles in a process of separation (eschatology).

Creation of a new paradise and a new world.


The time of Frashegird (final condition).

The start of mixture as an ongoing intrusion of the beings of Darkness in the realm of Light is at the same time the start of the creation process. But the initiative is in the hands of Az and her helpers, countered only by the messengers sent from the realm of Light.

The interaction between the two principles during Epoch II calls forth an opposing interaction in Epoch III, during which the initiative is in the hands of the beings of Light. If mixture is the result of the dramatic struggle between the powers of Light and the powers of Darkness, what follows as the process of separation can be understood only out of this context. Without mixture, no separation; without creation, no salvation. The outcome of this is the creation of a new condition: Frashegird.

Mixture, ‘gumezishn’, has its structural counterpart in separation, ‘wizarishn’, the central ‘actors’ of both processes being the two principles.

Mixture can be described as a process of interference by means of which the two principles mingle ‘substantially’. The light element is integrated in the Darkness. In the course of this process, both principles, each according to its own nature, participate in the creation of the cosmos and the human being.

Separation, as the counterpart of mixture, is the result of a process of disintegration by means of which the two principles gradually regain their own essential nature.

Mixture: integration of the two principles = condition necessary to the Creation.

Separation: disintegration of the two principles = condition necessary to Frashegird.


2.2. Commentary


  1. The Shâbuhragân as a doctrinal treatise, in its reconstructed form, gives a complete account of both the origin and the finality of the creation, its beginning (cosmogony) and its end (eschatology), as well as what lies in between (sometimes also called ‘anthropology’). This corresponds to one of the core elements of the Manichaean system: the three times or Three Epochs.

2. The two principles are the key elements which pass through all the successive stages of this process, at each stage in a different relationship and in a different condition.

3. Mixture and separation are the key notions indicating the main conditions through which the two principles evolve.

4. At the beginning as an initial condition, there is the state of rest or inactivity.

The dynamic interaction between the two principles has not yet started.

5. At the end, there is as a final condition, the state of Frashegird. The dynamic interaction between the two principles has come to an end.


  1. Frashegird in context


3.1. In both the cosmological and the eschatological fragments, Frashegird appears a number of times. When mentioned in the cosmological fragments, it points to future events in the form of a prediction or a prophecy (M7980-84). In the eschatological fragments it appears in the context of the final events, such as the Great Fire, the New World and the New Paradise.

3.2. The main source for the Manichaean eschatology are the fragments edited by D.N. MacKenzie.[5] Their relatively fragmented condition can be compensated for by comparing their content to the ‘second homily’ or ‘Sermon on the Great War’, a Coptic text attributed to Kostaios, who is also mentioned in the CMC as a direct follower of Mani.[6]



2nd Coptic Homily





1. Error, War, Decline


2. 1st Restoration of justice and faith

Rule of the Great King.

3. New period of error and war

Anti-Christ, False Prophets

False Prophets


4. Jesus the Splendour Judgment Xradeshahr, Judgment


5. Separation, New Aeon, Hell Separation, New Aeon,


6. Second Restoration, Ohrmazd Second Restoration, Ohrmazd, Mihryazd


7. Ascent of Gods, Final Collapse Ascent of Gods, Final Collapse


8. Great Fire – Prison Great Fire – Prison


9. Final Statue, the Bolos, Prison Final Statue(?) the Bolos, Prison


10. New Paradise and Kingdom of Light

Third and final Restoration

11. Father of Greatness : Unveiling of the Face  



3.3. Commentary


  1. A threefold build-up of war and chaos, each time followed by a threefold restoration leads to the final achievement.[7]


  1. As is the case with mixture, separation can be obtained only through a process of intensification of the ongoing dynamic. The dynamic of separation is to be defined as the reverse of the dynamic of mixture.


  1. Frashegird, as the final condition of the two principles, occurs in the context of the threefold[8] restoration throughout the process of separation and its final outcome.


  1. Frashegird in the eschatological fragments


‘Then Xradeshahr (the god of the world of wisdom) –he who first (gave) that male creation, the original First Man (noxwîr, Adam), wisdom and knowledge and ((who)) afterwards from time to time and from ((age)) to age sent wisdom and knowledge to mankind- in that last (age) close to the Renovation, that Lord Xradeshahr, together with all the gods and the religious [exiled?]… will then stand [up?] in the [heavens] and a great call will resound and it will become known to the whole universe.’ (M 519 I line 17-28)


-‘Then of the cosmos of earths and heavens [it will be] the time of Renovation and from the whole world they will cause [the dead] to go out and raise the religious up to [Paradise]…’ (M 482 I line 169 – 172 )


‘[When ? it ] is the Restoration, [ then ? he will be] bound eternally in that prison (…)’ (M 537 a I line 43)


4.1. Commentary

These three quotations (being the only ones that can be attributed to the Shâbuhragân with certainty) have in common the notion of Frashegird having a direct connotation with the element of time.

– M 519 : ‘nzd’w prsh(q)[yrd]’ , nazdike frashegird.

The last age, close (‘nazdik’) to Frashegird, which means that   Frashegird will come, as announced, immediately after that last age.


– M 482 : ‘prshqyrd zm’(n)’ , frashegird zaman’

The time of Frashegird is also announced here as a well-defined event.


– M 537 : when …then : again the announcement of an event situated in time.( [‘ k’ prsh]qyrd bwy[d’…) . The verb ‘bw’ meaning to become, to be.


  1. Paradise and New Paradise in the eschatological fragments


Paradise (‘wahishtaw’) and New Paradise (wahishtaw-e nog’) are mentioned several times in the eschatological Shâbuhragân fragments. We have selected those fragments, where there is mention of both Frashegird and of the New World. From this context it becomes clear that Paradise, although it is to occur in the course of time, is not a time event itself, but a realm.


-‘Then of the cosmos of earths and heavens [it will be] the time of Renovation and from the whole world they will cause [the dead] to go out and raise the religious up to [Paradise] …’ (M 482 I line 169 – 172 )


And that New World and the prison of the demons, which the New-World-creating God forms, will be fixed [to] Paradise and made [fast]…’ (M 482 I line 180 – 184)


‘they (…) will stand on that structure of the New Paradise, around this conflagration.’ ( M 497 b line 308 )


5.1. Commentary

M 482 I line 169 – 172: In this fragment there is evidence of a clear distinction between Frashegird ( Frashegird is announced as that which has a connection to time) and Paradise, which is a place, a realm to which the religious will be raised, to sit on their throne of Light. As used here, the term Paradise leaves unanswered the question of whether it is identical to the Kingdom of Light or a new realm that is to be created in the course of the final events. Naturally, we should not interpret ‘place’ too literally, because Paradise is at the same time a state of joy and bliss! See for instance: ‘And in Paradise, he becomes [joy] full’ ( M v line 565) or ‘I will give you Paradise as a reward!’


  1. 482 I line 180 – 184: Before the outburst of the Great Fire, the ‘ nog shahrpur yazd’, the ‘New-World-creating God’ has already started constructing the ‘shahr-y nog’, the New World, together with a (new) prison for the demons. Although a New World (shahr meaning also ‘realm’, ‘region’) is announced, here Paradise is referred to without any distinction being made between the (old) Kingdom of Light and the New Paradise. But here too, there is evidence of a distinction between what is referred to as ‘Paradise’ and what is the creation of a God (‘yazd’) whose specific task it is to construct a New World. In both cases, Paradise and New World, we have to do with realms, not with time-events. This becomes even clearer when the New World has to be fixed to the Paradise (‘ hs’cyh’d’ p. 510).


M 497: While the great fire is raging, the gods and the blessed ones are gathering around, standing on the New Paradise (‘whysht’w ‘y nwg’, ‘wahishtaw-y nog’)[9]. Here, there is clear mention of a New Paradise that is to be distinguished from Paradise as such. Moreover, there is written ‘on that structure’, which suggests that the New Paradise has been newly constructed.


  1. The term ‘whole’, in the eschatological fragments


– ‘May you not arise whole’ ( M 474 a I )

-‘They (‘i.e. the gods and their helpers), they too in Paradise will again become   as whole (…)’ ( M 487 b (1) line 247-250)

‘ [And when] you rise [again] whole’ ( M r line 536)

– ‘[whole]ness…’ (M 519 II line 10)


6.1. Commentary

Whole, dorust, ‘dryst’[10] is closely connected to the instauration of Frashegird. If Frashegird is to be considered a specific manifestation at the end of time, then ‘whole’ or ‘wholeness’ is the result of Frashegird for the individual soul. Not to arise ‘whole’ means that – as an individual soul – one will not be part of Frashegird and will, therefore, have to remain ‘imprisoned’ after all the purified light has ascended to Paradise.


  1. The role of time in the final events


– The process of separation, exactly as in the case of mixture, has to go through successive stages of a time process. Contrary to mixture, separation is a process of dissolution and dismantling. What has been mixed must now be disentangled. This is what is called ‘final events’.

– The final events represent an alternation between destruction and restoration.

– The final events are organized around a central pivot: the final judgment, with events announcing and preparing the final judgment and events as a follow-up of the final judgment.

– The final judgment is preceded by the Great War and succeeded by the Great Fire.

– The final judgment is the factual separation between the two principles. The separation has now become a fact.

– After this central event, the separation still continues in order to complete the task. The final collapse of heavens and earths, the Great Fire and the final imprisonment of the remaining demons are the outcome of the ongoing separation process.

– At the same time, while the righteous ascend to Paradise, a New Paradise and a New World are created.

– The separation process has come to an end.



  1.  From the coming of Xradeshahr to the final Judgment

2.   The final Judgment: the definite separation

3.  From the final judgment to the creation of a New World and a New Paradise


7.1. Commentary

As with the entire Manichaean system, the structure of the episode of separation represents a threefold characteristic of its own, with the final judgment at the centre of its unfolding. Frashegird is announced, but does not play an active role in the final events while the actors, as said earlier, are the two principles.

Due to the fragmentary condition of the MSS, it is not possible to determine with certainty the exact number of times the notion of Frashegird is mentioned in the eschatological fragments. But each time it is mentioned there is emphasis on an event still to come, in the near future.[11]

The conclusion is that Frashegird can only become manifest, after the separation has been accomplished. Frashegird has to do with time, but is not an event in the time process as such needed to accomplish the separation. As announced, it will come later on, but ‘close to that last age’.


  1. The role of time in mixture and separation


Both mixture and separation are part of clearly delineated phases in the process of interaction between the two principles. They represent distinct episodes in the framework of what is referred to as the ‘three epochs’ or ‘three periods’ formula, one of the key notions of the Manichaean doctrine. In respect of this concept, we can observe differences between, on the one hand, Iranian and Chinese sources and, on the other hand, Coptic sources. Gregor Wurst[12] in ‘Zur Bedeutung der ”Drei-Zeiten-Formel” in den Koptisch-Manichäischen Texten von Medinet Madi’ gives an overview of these differences in interpretation, including also some passages from the CMC .

In the Iranian tradition, the three periods are to be distinguished as follows:


Period I         Before the creation.

The two principles are contiguous, but do not intermingle.


First Transition


Period II:       The creation of the cosmos and human being.

The two principles are in the condition of being mixed.

Period III:     The creation of a New World and a New Paradise


                                    Second Transition


The two principles are in the condition of being separated.



There are two crucial events which occur at a particular moment during this process and which operate as a transition from the one epoch to the next.


First Transition: at the end of Period I.

The first transition occurs at the end of Period I and makes possible the transition to Period II. It is the assault of the forces of Darkness, followed by the sacrifice of Primeval Man and his descent into the Darkness. This gives way to the beginning of the mixture.


Second Transition: at the start of period III.

The second transition is the apparition of Xradeshahr, preceded by a great sign, at the start of period III. This initiates the transition to the separation actualized by the final judgment.



8.1. Commentary

In Period I, time did not exist. There was only duration or timelessness that was disrupted by the assault of the forces of Darkness (first transition).

In Period III, the coming of Xradeshahr (second transition) puts an end to the time-element. This appears to be directly related to the weakening of the power of Greed and Lust.

‘And when god Xradeshahr will care for the world, then will day, month and year come to an end and weakness will befall Greed and Lust (…)’ ( M 477 I line 130-132)



8.2. Conclusion

This means that what is considered ‘the time-element of the created world ’ exists only between the first transition and the second transition. We could say that mixture, with all the violence and struggle that accompanies it, has the time-element as an accompanying phenomenon. Once the separation has started, this time-element gradually disappears.

The sequence of the events, as they occur in both the process of mixture and that of separation, mirror each other, but inversely! What takes place during mixture comes at the end during separation, and vice versa.

In the case of mixture, first heavens and earths are created and only at the end the first human being. In the case of separation, first there is the final judgment which means that within mankind a separation of the righteous and the evil-doers takes place. Only afterwards comes the final collapse of the entire cosmos with all the heavens and the earths.


  1. Frashegird – Final Conclusions


9.1. Etymology of Frashegird[13]

‘Frashegird’ goes back to ‘frasho-kereti’ as it appears several times in the Avesta.[14]

‘May we be the ones that ‘renew’ existence!’(Yasna 30.9). Frasho-kereti, literally the making (kereti from the root * k(a)r, to make and frasho: new, excellent, wonderful, ‘fresh’). The meaning of Frashegird is therefore: making new, making wonderful.

When MacKenzie (1979, p. 504, note 12) gives a status quaestionis of the different interpretations of this notion, he quotes, among others, W.B.Henning who defines Frashegird as follows: ‘die Erneuerung des ursprunglichen Zustandes der Welt durch Auflösung des aus den Himmeln und Erden bestehenden Kosmos’. MacKenzie, in the same note, quotes M. Molé who interpreted Frashegird as ‘Renovation’, and J.P. Asmussen and S. Inssler who understand frasho, as ‘whole’, this ‘frasho’ then being understood as the decisive element, for it denotes what ‘kereti’ is about, a ‘healthy integrum’.

There are, therefore, at least two key-elements that are essential to the meaning of ‘frasho’ in Frashegird: ‘to make new’ (Erneuerung, Renovation) and ‘to make whole’. These elements should be understood as complementary and as taking place simultaneously.


9.2. Frashegird and the initial state of the two principles

Frashegird will be realized after the process of separation has come to an end. If time is the element which becomes actualized between the start of mixture and the end of separation, it means that Frashegird is not part of the time process. In that way, it can be characterized as a state of being. Yet, as a state of being, it can only be understood as the outcome of what has preceded. Without the definite separation of the elements of light and darkness, Frashegird cannot occur. Therefore, Frashegird is not to be identified with the initial state of timelessness in which the two principles are still at rest. Because this initial state is to be situated before time appears, while Frashegird manifests itself after the time-element has ceased.


9.3. Frashegird and the new world order

What Frashegird renews and makes whole is not the world, in the sense of the created world, but the world order itself! The created world is the outcome of the process of mixture and we have seen that Frashegird is outside both this process and the process of separation. There is no indication that the renewal concerns any kind of restoration of the initial state of the two principles.

On the contrary, we have to do with a new world order which can be made explicit by the striking image of a set of concentric circles. In the centre is the prison or the ‘bolos’ in which the beings of Darkness are imprisoned. Around this centre are organized the New Aeon, the New Paradise and the Kingdom of Light, enclosing, as it were, the Darkness in their midst.


9.4. Frashegird and the final status of the two Principles

Frashegird brings about a new situation. Now that the two principles are separated, their essential nature is more manifest than ever. The principles remain opposed, but on different grounds. While in their initial status they were opposed because of their inherent nature (order versus chaos), now they are opposed due to their changed condition (bliss versus bondage). But what has changed in the most radical way is their position vis-à-vis one another.

Before the period of mixture started, sharing one border, there was a situation of contiguity. After the period of separation ended, hell (or the eternal prison) is encircled by the renewed Kingdom of Light. The final status of the two Principles is in every aspect different from their initial status.

This proves once more that Frashegird does not mean a return to the old order and even less the destruction of the existing world, for the collapse of heavens and earths takes place during the period of separation, i.e. before Frashegird.


Period I                                                 Period III


Opposed:           By their inherent nature                     By their transformed condition

Order – Chaos   etc…                        Bliss – Bondage etc…

Separated:         Two distinct realms                           Two distinct realms

One boundary adjacent                       Heaven encircling Hell




The struggles that have taken place, even the Great War, do not result in a victory of the one principle (in this case the principle of Light) over the other! For the principle of Darkness subsists at the outcome of the period of separation. It is still there. A ‘military’ reading of the Manichaean myth with armies, combat and the final destruction of one of the two enemies, all too frequent in the polemical writings, does not bring about any deeper understanding. The struggle between the two principles is not so much an account of a battle as of a profound change in their respective substance and relationship. The expressions borrowed from military strategy should be read in the context of a transformation, not as a report from the battlefield! Often when military expressions are used, a profound transformation in the condition and and the relationship between the beings of the Kingdom of Light and those of the Kingdom of Darkness is at stake. Combat and war are part of a ‘mystery’.[15] It is this transformation, rather than a victory of the one over the other, that is at stake. The true outcome of this long sequence of struggles, from period to period, is the renewal. Frashegird is the real victory of the Kingdom of Light.


9.5 Frashegird and the renewal of the two principles.

The Light as a substance, i.e. the essence (essentia) of a Being throughout the evolving dramatic episodes, has become more truly itself than it was at the beginning before the interference of the powers of Darkness. At the outcome of the final stages of Separation, the Light is able to create a New Paradise out of the ‘ruins’ of the old world order. But also the principle of Darkness has become more truly itself and, ultimately, reveals its nature of subjection, of bondage (the prison). As long as mixture was the reigning condition, neither Light nor Darkness could fully manifest their essential being. The outcome of the separation, with all the cataclysms it has caused, is that both Light and Darkness can finally manifest themselves in their true nature. In their initial state, the two Principles were so to speak ‘dormant’. They did not reveal their true being. After the separation has come to an end, and the time of Frashegird has come, the two Principles reveal their true nature. This is the result of Frashgird as a ‘renewal’.

Light and Darkness, maintaining their initial dualist nature after having been mixed, now resurge even more distinct, due to the transformational effect of Frashegird. The more the divine light elements are liberated and gather in a move of elation and blissful joy, corresponding to their renewed state, the more the demonic powers are compressed (‘squeezed’) and bound into themselves, weakened and deprived of the power they could exercise during the time of mixture.


  1. Summary
  2. Frashegird creates a new (and final) world order in which the two principles, each according to its essential being, can manifest who they are (renewal) and thus occupy the ‘place’ which corresponds to this final manifestation of their being.
  3. The renewed world order is nothing less than a transfiguration, a ‘Wiedergeburt’ of the former one.
  4. When Frashegird has come about, the two principles prove to be what they have always been throughout all three periods: two ‘essences’ or ‘ousiai’, each with its own nature and distinct from one another.
  5. The two principles, as the main actors of the three periods, are, due to their changing interaction, also the ‘motor’ of those periods and their successive dynamics.
  6. Mani’s dualist vision is ontological: the two principles are ‘essences’ or beings.
  7. Mani’s dualist vision is radical: throughout the entire process, from the old to the new world order, the two principles, as the main actors, remain in opposition to each other, notwithstanding their changing role. During the period of mixture as well as during the period of separation, each of them has a different task to fulfill. Their actions remain conform to their task – which leads them through successive stages, but keeps their radical opposition intact .


Christine Gruwez


[1] Frashgyrd, , prshgyrdn , prshykyrd, prsh(y)qyrd, Pa, MP, frashegird, n.‘end of the world, restoration of the original condition,’ Mackenzie, 1979, 503, n.13

MP prshqyrd SHBRG (23) M473a+ 1 R 23 , Shbrg, (170) M 482+ 1 V 2 Shbrg a M537a+ 1V 19; Shbrg fh M 537c A 2(43).

[2] ‘’frashegird, (…) in the teaching of Mani meant the destruction of the world’ and also ‘the end of all transformations will be the time of ”peace” and “silence”’ W.Sundermann, ‘Manichaean Eschatology’, E. Ir. VII, Costa Mesa 1998, 569-575.

[3] ‘Daraus ergibt sich dass das Shâbuhragân unter den erhaltenen iranischen Texten zum Manichäismus das höchste Alter aufweisen kann und praktisch die ipsissima vox des Propheten wiedergibt.’ Manfred Hutter, ’Das Erlösungsgeschehen im Manichäisch-Iranischen Mythos’, in: Das Manichäische Urdrama des Lichtes, Teil 2, Wien 1989, 157.

[4] Mary Boyce, A Catalogue of the Iranian Manuscripts in Manichaean Script in the German Turfan Collection, Berlin 1960 and ‘The Manichaean literature in Middle Iranian, Handbuch der Orientalistik, I-4, Iranistik, 2, Literatur, Lfg 1, London 1968.

S.N.C. Lieu, Manichaeism in Central Asia and China, NHMS 45, Leiden, New York, Köln 1998.

  1. Sundermann, Mittelpersische und parthische kosmogonische und Parabeltexte der Manichäer, BTT 4, Berlin 1973.

D.N.MacKenzie in BSOAS, XLII, 3, 1979 and BSOAS XLIII, 1980.

Manfred Hutter, Manis kosmogonische Shâbuhragân-Texte, Edition, Kommentar und literaturgeschichtliche Einordnung der manichäisch-mittelpersischen Handschriften M 98/99 I and M 7980- 7984, Wiesbaden 1992.

Werner Sundermann, Mitteliranische manichäische Texte kirchengeschichtlichen Inhalts, Berliner Turfantexte XI, Berlin 1981.

[5] For a complete list of the eschatological fragments see D.N. MacKenzie, Mani’s Shâbuhragân, in BSOAS, Vol. XLII, 1979 and Vol. XLIII, 1980. D.N. MacKenzie gives an overview of the status of the MSS concerning the eschatological fragments of the Shâbuhragân in his introduction to Mani’s Shâbuhragân, I and Mani’s Shâbuhragân II, in his edition in BSOAS.

[6] H.J.Polotsky, Manichäische Homiliën. Manichäische Handschriften der Sammlung A. Chester Beatty, Stuttgart 1934.

[7] L. Koenen, ‘Manichaean Apocalypticism at the Crossroads of Iranian, Egyptian and Christian Thought’, in Cologne .Mani Codex. Atti del Simposio Internazionale, (Rende-Amantea 3-7 settembre 1984) a cura di L. Cirillo con la coll. di A. Roselli, Cosenza 1986, 285-332.

[8] See diagram above: 2nd Coptic Homily 2, 6, 10 – Shâbuhragân 6.

[9] “They, together with their own (people) and (helpers)will stand on that structure of the new paradise”, MacKenzie 1979, 517.

[10] ‘Dryst’ in Modern Farsi has become ‘dorust’, which means : right, correct, true. In the time of Mani, the term was also used in a welcome formula ’dryst ‘wr’, drist awar! See also Mary Boyce, Word-List p. 35

[11] In fragment M 519? Frashegird is mentioned on the occasion of the coming of Xradeshahr : as a future event : ‘in that last age, close to Frashegird’.

In fragment 482 I ‘the time of Frashegird’ is mentioned after the ascension of Xradeshahr , but again as a future event.

Fragment M 537 is still under discussion regarding its exact position in the Sh. MSS, but also there Frashegird is a future event.

[12] G.Wurst, ‚Zur Bedeutung der “Drei-Zeiten”-Formel in den koptisch-manichäischen Texten von Medinet Madi’, in: A. Kessler, T. Ricklin, G. Wurst (Hg.), Peregrina Curiositas. Eine Reise durch den orbis antiquus (NTOA 27), Freiburg, Göttingen 1994, 167-179.

[13] ‘frashygyrd, prshygyrd,[ frashegird] c. ‘end of the world’, Mary Boyce, Acta Iranica, A Word-List of Manichaean Middle Persian and Parthian, 40.

[14] ‚Middle Persian prsh(y)g/k/qyrd, ‚die Erneuerung des ursprüngliches Zustandes der Welt durch Auflösung des aus den Himmeln und Erden bestehenden Kosmos’ (W.B. Henning, Mitteliranische Manichaica aus Chinesisch-Turkestan, I, Berlin 1932, 222) is a term taken directly from Zoroastrianism, Pahlavi prshkrt, Avestan frasho-kereti, literally‚ ‘making excellent’ (…) and M. Molé, Culte Mythe et Cosmologie dans l’Iran Ancien, Paris 1963, 34 ff on ‚frasha-‚ and passim ‚fraskert’, ‘Renovation’ . That‚ in the Manichaean interpretation [frashegird] means that everything becomes ’healthy’, ‘integrum’ (= frasha-) (…) seems to conform with S. Insler’s recent reinterpretation of G. Avestan ferasha- (…) ‘healed,’ ‘repaired’. (the Gatha’s of Zarathustra, (Acta Iranica 8, Teheran-Liège 1975, 172) in MacKenzie (1979) p. 503, note 13.

[15] In the Kephalaia, 15, Mani teaches his disciples in the following way: ‘Hr (the Paraclete) revealed to me (…) the mystery of combat and of War (…) , quoted by H.J.W. Drijvers, in ‘Conflict and Alliance in Manichaeism, Struggles of Gods, ed. H.Kippenberg , with H.J.W. Drijvers & Y. Kuiper, Berlin 1984, 101-102

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‘Gumezishn’ and the two principles in Mani’s Shâbuhragan


And Az herself mingled her own being [ into them].

(‘wsh’n xwd ‘z xwysh gryw ‘ndr ‘myxt )


M 7981 I R i verse 241-241




Gumezishn (mixture) and the two principles in Mani’s Shâbuhragân.


Mani’s cosmogony is known from a wide range of primary and secondary sources, all of which represent mainly the same basic ideas. In its most compact form, it is the teaching of two opposite principles: Light and Darkness, their interaction, the mixture out of which the creation is enacted and their final separation at the end of the world.[1]

Among those texts, one of the most important is the cosmogonic account in the Shâbuhragân, written in Middle-Persian at the request of the Sasanian King Shapur I (241-72). The fact that the Shâbuhragân represents a text written by Mani himself has made it one of the major doctrinal scriptures of Eastern Manichaeism, notwithstanding the fact that it is not listed among the canonical books.[2]

Asking questions about the nature of Mani’s dualism inevitably results in a reference to the Shâbuhragân. Composed in the year after Mani left the Elchasaite community, it has the extraordinary gift of a first account of his doctrine. Moreover, it is a treatise that aims to satisfy to the demand of the ruling King of the Aryana Vaej, the land of Iran, and to enlighten him. The content is purely doctrinal. The only exception to this could be the so-called ‘Prologue to the Shâbuhragân’, in which Mani presents himself and justifies his mission as a Prophet. But this is not a hagiographical account. As a self-justification, the Prologue is at the service of the doctrine, proving its very importance and uniqueness.[3]

In that respect, the Cologne Mani-Codex is the opposite of the Shâbuhragân. The scarce doctrinal passages in the CMC are at the service of the hagiographical account. Later doctrinal texts, for instance the ‘Chinese Compendium’, will show the vestiges of the acculturation of the Manichaean communities having to come to terms with the context in which they developed.


  1. The question of dualism in Mani’s Shâbuhragân

In the present article, we want to introduce some of the cosmogonic fragments of the Shâbuhragân in order to elucidate the question of dualism, i.e. the nature of the two principles.

Mani taught a strict dualism in which the two principles are held to be opposed in essence. But, all too readily, the two principles are identified with the good spirit (the Kingdom of Light) on the one side and the evil matter, (the Kingdom of Darkness) on the other.

At the same time, those two principles will enter in process of mixture. If in other dualist visions this mixture is to be understood as a form of ‘contamination’, in the vision of Mani mixture is the strategy and the procedure by which the creation can be realized. The creation is thus not simply the work of the evil forces, but a common enterprise to which both principles contribute.

1.1. We wish to investigate following key-issues:

The original principles, in their nature, are not to be understood as spirit and matter, since matter, as a substance, was created through the mixture of their respective essences. In other words, matter was not there from the beginning. Only with the start of the mixture does matter come into being.

Regarding their relationship and their position, the two principles are involved in a dynamic of change, which also results in a change of their nature..


  1. In the Manichaean system, the three times are the very expression of this changing relationship. There is the contiguity and the non-interference of the first epoch, followed by the interpenetration and the mixture of the middle epoch. At the end of time, the third epoch, there is not a restoration of the beginning (the first epoch). Rather, a basically new situation has arisen (see article C. Gruwez ‘Paradise, New World and Frashegird in Mani’s Shâbuhragân’).


  1. The Shâbuhragân: status of the text and manuscripts

2.1. The Shâbuhragân, as mentioned above, is the only book which has been written by Mani in Middle Persian. But other documents have been composed in Middle Persian by Mani’s disciples and followers. It is, therefore, not easy to determine which of the fragments in Middle Persian language can with certainty be ascribed to the Shâbuhragân.[4] However, there are two main collections of mss to be taken into account :


– The cosmogonic fragments edited by Manfred Hutter.[5]

– The eschatological fragments, edited by D.N.Mackenzie.[6]


2.2. Other fragments in Middle Persian clearly demonstrate a cosmogonic or eschatological content with a direct reference to the writings of Mani but have, nevertheless, to be considered ‘parallel texts’, i.e. as further interpretations or elucidations by his disciples. Some fragments – both in Middle Persian and in other Iranian languages – provide a paraphrase of the original text, as Werner Sundermann could demonstrate for M 506.[7]


2.3. Some fragments, such as the Parthian M 2 II, appear to be a translation of the original Middle Persian. All these so-called ‘parallel’ fragments are of the greatest value because they offer a chance to complete some of the parts that are unfortunately missing, or to at least have a better understanding of certain passages.


  1. The cosmogonic fragments

The main corpus of the cosmogonic Shâbuhragân fragments has been edited and translated, accompanied by a commentary of Manfred Hutter. There are two major groups of manuscripts:

  • M 7980 – 84 : consists of 4 double pages and one single page.
  • M 98 I and M 99 I

It is still a matter of discussion whether those two sets of manuscripts can be considered as part of the same text. Manfred Hutter not only assumes that they indeed belong to the same text but that, from the point of view of their content and terminology, there is an intrinsic relationship between the cosmogonic and the eschatological fragments.

Denn unbeschadet der Frage, ob die kosmogonischen Texte tatsächlich zum Shb. gehören oder nicht, darf als sicher gelten, dass M 7980-84 und M 98/99 I direkt auf ein Werk von Mani selbst zurückgehen. Das auffälligste terminologische Element, dass die Zusammengehörigheit dieser Texte nahelegt, ist die Verwendung von Namen’ and also:

‘Die mittelpersischen Texte aus den Turfanfunden sind für die Erforschung des Manichäismus insofern von grosser Wichtigkeit, als sie es ermöglichen, Fragmente von direkt auf Mani selbst zurückgehenden Schriften in Originalform zu identifizieren. Neben Teilen des Shâbuhragân, sind dabei besonders jene kosmogonischen und anthropologischen Texte zu nennen auf deren terminologischen Nähe zum Shb. schon oft verwiesen wurde.[8]

His reasoning is based on the concordance in terminology, particularly in the names used for the different emanations of the Gods and thus adapted to the Iranian background of the King Shapur and his circle.[9] Other scholars, however, e.g. Mary Boyce ( M 7980-7984 possibly from Shâbuhragân’) and Werner Sundermann ( M98/99 I, ‘sehr unsichere Möglichkeit, dass es zum Shb. gehört’) have expressed doubts about this affirmation.[10]


  1. The eschatological fragments

In 1979, D.N. Mackenzie published a revised edition and translation of some nine sheets (18 pages, almost 432 lines)) of the Shâbuhragân. This was followed, in 1980, by a more complete version in which he restored the sequence of some parts of the text. He added some new material presented to him by Werner Sundermann and pieced together lines that had been inserted in the wrong context.[11] These fragments enter into the category of ‘eschatological treatise’ and are discussed in the article ‘Paradise, New World and Frashegird in Mani’s Shâbuhragân’.

MacKenzie makes the following observations:

‘It is remarkable that, of many more or less fragmentary Manichaean writings in Iranian languages discovered in Central Asia at the beginning of this century (i.e. 20th century) one of the few texts directly attributable to Mani himself has still (…) not appeared as a full and satisfactory edition with translation. Mani’s Shâbuhragân, in which he summarized his teachings in Persian for the enlightenment of Shâpur I, is known from nine more or less preserved sheets (i.e. of at least two pages each of one MS and some eight or nine smaller fragments.) [12]


  1. Conclusion

At least two groups of manuscripts can, with certainty, be attributed to the Shâbuhragân:

  1. The so-called ‘cosmogonical fragments’ M 98 I, M99 I and M 7980-7984
  2. The so-called ‘eschatological fragments’ listed under M 470 + [13]

A third manuscript, the fragment M 49, could be considered as (part of) a ‘Prologue’ to the Shâbuhragân.

Werner Sundermann was able to identify more fragments belonging to M 49 and he published them in his studies on the History of Manichaean Church in the Middle Iranian documents.[14] The content of this manuscript has to do with the mission of Mani and his being sent as an Apostle of Light.


  1. Composition of the Shâbuhragân

6.1. Although the text of the Shâbuhragân has come to us in a fragmented condition, with many parts missing, it is nevertheless possible to make a reconstruction of its composition. The structure itself of Mani’s system allows for this with a fair degree of certainty, the three times being the surest guideline

6.2. Mani’s cosmogony describes a series of events intended to explain the actual condition of human beings and the cosmos and to justify the need for salvation. In that regard, a key element is the ‘mixture’. The actual condition of mankind and the world is that of mixture. In his cosmogonic account Mani explains how this mixture came into being.

6.3. Initially there was a condition of non-interference between the two principles and, therefore, no mixture. Due to the irruption and the intervention of the beings of Darkness, followed by the sacrifice of primeval man, successive waves of creational acts evolve.. Each creation represents a stage in the process of mixture.

6.4. Reconstruction of the composition of the Shâbuhragân

Dedication to Shapur I

Introduction. (Prologue)

Self-presentation and self-justification of Mani as a Prophet and Apostle. M. 49 and eventually M 299 a.

As mentioned also by al-Biruni, a chapter in the Shâbuhragân has a similar title to the first chapter of the Kephalaia: ‘About the coming of the Apostle’. Mani contextualizes his manifestation, enumerating the prophets who came before him and he places emphasis on the universalism of his church, as compared to the prophets and apostles who were restricted to one particular religion.


– Section I: The Cosmogony

(The interfering of the two principles)

The initial balance between the Realms of Light and of Darkness, uncreated and eternal Principles, is disrupted by an attack from the powers of Darkness. The Father of Greatness, with three emanations, responds to this invasion and evokes three ‘Creations’:


First Creation

The first creation has as protagonist the First Man and his five Sons. The five Sons or the soul element remain imprisoned in the realm of darkness, which is the start of the mixture of darkness and light.


Second Creation

The second creation has as the central figure the Living Spirit, (Mihryazd)[15] who will create the ten Heavens and the eight Earths.

Here enters the text of M 98 I and M 99 I. Further episodes are related in M 7980 – 7984, including the creation of vegetation and the animal species, the instauration of day and night and the creation of Gehmurd and Murdiyanâg, as the first couple of man and woman on Earth.


Third Creation

The third Creation has as the central figure the Third Messenger (Narisah Yazd ) who comes to teach the First Man on Earth the principles of salvation. Some parts of M 7980-84 could also fit into this narrative.


– Section II: The Anthropology

( The justification of the need for salvation)


Section III: The Eschatology (M 470 +)

(The separation of the two Principles)




Prologue                                  M 49

  1. Cosmogony

First Creation

Second Creation           M 98- 99 + M 7980-84

Third Creation             M 7980- 84

  1. Anthropology

III. Eschatology                         M 470 +

  1. The question of the two principles in the Shâbuhragân.


7.1. The two principles.

In the MSS 470 + , there is a sentence which seems to function as a running heading and which occurs a considerable number of times: ‘ dw bwn y s (b)whrg n’ i.e. : The two principles of the Shâbuhragân.

Sometimes also the adjective ‘ wzrg’ is added, i.e. ‘great’. This obviously expresses some emphasis: The two great principles.

This repetitive statement also makes it clear that the central topic of the Shâbuhragân is nothing less than the two great Principles (‘bwn’ in fact means ‘root’ or ‘seed’) and the account of their evolving through the three times:

– the successive creations of the Gods and the Cosmos

– the creation of Man and the revelation of his need for salvation

– the creation of a New Paradise and Frashegird

  • The creation.

Although we do not have available any MSS belonging to the Shâbuhragân in which the initial status of the two principles is described, M 98/99 I gives a detailed description of some episodes of the creation process, more specific of the second creation.

With the first page of M 98 I, we enter ‘in medias res’ when the Spiritus Vivens, ( M.P./ Mihr Yazd) together with the Mother of Life, ( M.P.: Mâdar-e zindagân) is engaged in the process of creating the spheres of heaven and the heavenly bodies, the planets and the Sun and the Moon. (M. 98 I R 1 ff) .

The substance out of which the creation is performed is the mixture (gumezishn, ‘gwmyzyshn’) of Light and Darkness. How this mixture, which was not there at the beginning of the creation myth, has come about, can without doubt be found in the preceding chapters of the Shâbuhragân which are, unfortunately, still missing.


7.3. Gumezishn, the mixture.

7.3.1. M 98 / 99 I :

The cosmogonic texts M 98 / 99 I describe some particular episodes of the second creation, in which Mihryazd creates, among other things, the ten Heavens and the eight Earths, the Sun and the Moon. He binds the seven Planets and the two Dragons to the lowest Heaven and prepares for the creation of the new Paradise. Further, they describe in detail how some of the various Earths are being created with columns, walls and gates and how a dungeon is being prepared in which to imprison all the demons and Archonts at the end of times.

7.3.2. M 7980 – 84 :

The very first sentences of M 7980-84 are a summary of what has been described in full in M 98 / 99 I. As Manfred Hutter has shown, this does not mean that M 7980-94 as a text is simply a continuation of M 98 / 99 I. Rather, it demonstrates the interconnection of the two MSS regarding their content. M 7980-84 is divided into six distinct didactic ‘lectures’ or ‘Lehrrede’, each with a heading that refers to their respective content.[16] These titles suffice to give an initial idea of the content of M 7980-84.

  • The teaching about the physical nature
  • The teaching about the God Narisah
  • The teachings about the positions (of the Sun) and the days
  • The teaching about the diminution of the Day and the Night
  • The teaching about Gêhmurd and Murdiyânag
  • The teaching about the Soul and the Body


Although six chapters have to be distinguished, the narrative of M 7980-84 once more places us in the midst of the creation process.

The first teaching introduces the different phases of the second creation, where Mihryazd is engaged in building the ten Heavens and the eight Earths.

The second teaching describes the seduction of the Archonts with the result that light particles are set free so that vegetation and animal life can start to develop.

The third and the fourth teaching are the so-called ‘astronomical fragments’ which, among other things, give a description of the installation and rotation of the planets and the instauration of the cycle of day and night.

The fifth teaching tells about the creation of Gêhmurd and Mardiyânag, the first man and woman on earth, as related by Az, the highest in rank under the Archonts or demons.

Finally, the sixth teaching, with the title ‘About the Soul and the Body’, could, according to Manfred Hutter, be in fact part of the instructions given by Xradeshahryazd (Jesus the Splendour) to Gêhmurd.

Thus, both MSS present an account starting at the second creation up to the creation of Gêhmurd and Mardiyânag which does not cover the totality of the creation process.

What is known as ‘gumezishn’, i.e. ‘the mixture’ is essentially part of this process. Mixture has to be understood as an ongoing activity in which both sides take an active part. These are the beings who interfere as envoys from the Kingdom of Light and the Archonts who cooperate in their characteristic way in the realization of the mixture. The result of this joint activity is not a product in the sense of a substance.

But this continual interpenetration of each other’s ‘sphere’ results in a condition, ‘mixture’. This is not a substance but a condition, ‘ein Zustand’. Moreover, mixture as a condition does not offer any fixed stability.


8.1. Mixture in the second creation.

The two groups of cosmogonic fragments refer to the middle stages of the creation. This means that the process of mixture is still in full action, since it will be followed by a third creation.

8.2. Mixture as an activity.

– Both principles – through their emissaries – participate in the creation process.

– The nature of their activity is in accordance with the nature of their being.

– The light gods purify, i.e. they undo the result of the mingling.

– The demons devour and integrate the light elements.

8.3. Mixture as a result.

The result of mixture is an interpenetration of two opposite substances. In other words: impurity.

8.4. Gêhmurd and Murdiyânag.

At the end of the second creation, Az creates the first human pair out of the mixture.

  1. Selected fragments

1. Purification

 9.1.1. Purification and the intervention of Mihryazd in M 98 / 99 I

– ‘Aus der Vermischung gereinigt’ M 98 I R line 10

– ‘Aus derselben Ausläuterung’ M 98 I V line 27

– ‘Und diesseits von diesen Gräben machte er zwei andere gemischte Erden’ M 99 I     V lines 81-82

– ‘Und um dorthin den Schmutz der Finsternis der vier Regionen zu fegen, errichtete er zwölf Höllen, je drei in einer Gegend’. M 99 I V lines 91-92


9.1.2. Commentary

Mihryazd, as the principal actor on behalf of the Kingdom of Light during the Second Creation, has to purify the outcome of the creation process.

Purification means undoing the mixture. The condition of mixture is defined as a condition of impurity.


9.1.3. Purification in M 7980 – 84

Wind (und) Licht wird er reinigen. Und … wird er einsetzen und Wasser (und) Feuer reinigen. Und sie werden immer in gleicher Gesinnung und gleicher Kraft zusammen sein.’

M 7980 IR ii lines 427 – 433

9.1.4. Commentary

Mihryazd has to counteract the effects of mixture in the four elements by purifying them. This is in order that they become equal in intention and strength .

The condition of mixture

9.2.1. Selected fragments

‘…das… hineingemischt wurde, als Ohrmuzd und Ahriman miteinander kämpften.’

M 7980 R I lines 1-5

‘damit sie (the demons) sich mit vereinten Körpern zusammenmischten und Drachenkinder aus ihnen geboren würden und damit Az jene Kinder ihnen wegnehme und fresse und zwei Geschöpfe, einen Mann und eine Frau, daraus bilde.’

M 7984 I R ii 33-V ii / M 7982 R -V / M 7983 I R- V Lines 913-917

‘Und sie mischten sich mit vereinten Körpern zusammen. Und aus jenem Gemisch, das sie (die Ungeheuer) angezogen hatten, aus jenen Kindern der Mazan und der Azrêshtâr, die sie (Az) gefressen hatten, formten und machten sie einen Körper in männlichen Gestalt, mit Knochen, Nerven, Fleisch, Adern und Haut aufgrund ihrer eigenen Begierde.

M 7984 I R ii 33-V ii / M 7982 R -V / M 7983 I R- V lines 948-956

‘Und von jener Lichtheit und Schönheit der Götter, die von den Früchten und Knospen mit jenen Kindern der Mazan gemischt war, wurde ein Teil in diesem Körper als Seele gefesselt’

M 7984 I R ii 33-V ii / M 7982 R -V / M 7983 I R- V lines 959 -964

‘Und als jenes Geschöpf geboren war, da nannte sie ihn ‘Erster Mensch’, nämlich Gêhmurd.’

M 7984 I R ii 33-V ii / M 7982 R -V / M 7983 I R- V lines 1014-1016

‘Und von jener Lichtheit und Schönheit der Götter, die von den Früchten und Knospen mit jenen der Mazan-Missgeburten vermischt war, wurde (ein Teil) in diesem Körper als Seele gefesselt.’

M 7984 I R ii 33-V ii / M 7982 R -V / M 7983 I R- V lines 1038 – 1044

‘Und wenn er (i.e.: the first human being) geboren wird, dann wird er auch an Körper und Seele von eben dieser ‘Missgeburt der Dews und von der Vermischung der Götter ernährt ‘

M 7983 II R i lines 1204 – 1213

‘Und in sie (i.e; : die Pflanzen, Bäumen, Kräuter…) mischte Az ihr eigenes Ich hinein.’ M 7981 I R i verse 241-24

‘Und gleich jenen lüsternen und phallophoren (Samen) fiel Az vom Himmel auf die Erde herab, auf das Trockene und auf das Feuchte. Und sie war mit allen Arten der Vegetation und mit den Mazan-Ungeheuern ihres eigenes Wesens zusammen.’

M 7980-84 II V i lines   275-280

‘Und erst dann, wenn jene Lichtheit und Schönheit der Götter, die Ahrmen und die Dews verschlungen haben, und die (jetzt) im ganzen Kosmos und in den Dews und Peris Leid erfährt und sich windet, danach gereinigt und zum Höchsten empor gezogen wird und Frashegird sein wird, dann werden Az und Ahrmen, die Dews und die Peris in jenem Gefängnis ewig bleiben (und) unaufhörlich gefesselt werden.’

9.2.2. Commentary

There is an intensification of the mixing process with the female demon Az as the main protagonist.

– Az mixes her own soul with the light substance (‘Light and Beauty of the Gods’ of various plants).

– Az mixes with the monstrous Mazan beings, who start to devour the plants and to copulate between them (= to mingle).

– Demons and monstrous beings, after copulating (= mixing) abort their offspring.

– Az devours their offspring and creates the first man and the first woman.

– Az takes the mixture (light substance in plants, mixed with her soul and Mazan-abortions) and places this mixture in the newly created body as a soul.

We can follow the mixture process as a sequence and observe how with every successive step more darkness is involved and, as a result, there is an increase in density. Only when the density reaches a final stage, the body of Gêhmurd and of Murdiyânag is created with its five ‘physical’ or bodily elements : Bones, Nerves, Flesh, Veins and Skin.

Once the body of the first human pair has been created out of the mixture, and at the very end of the process of mixture, then Az takes a part of the mixture that is composed of ‘the Light and the Beauty of the Gods’ mixed with the Mazan abortions, and fixes it in the body to function as a soul.

Some conclusions


  1. Mixture is a process that occurs between beings. It takes place on an essential level.
  2. Those beings belong to realms whose nature is radically opposite.
  3. Those beings or essences are not static but are in perpetual movement.
  4. This movement finds its expression in their various activities. Even when described in terms of aggression and enforcement, we should not take these images too literally. The field where these attacks happen is the realm of being. The metaphor of war strategy is an expression of what happens when one being intrudes into the realm of another.
  5. The dynamics of the mixture are also radically opposed. Throughout the entire procedure, there is an upward and a downward movement that is also expressed in various activities on both sides.
  6. Both sides participate in the creation of the cosmos and the earth and in the creation of human beings. An example of this is the seduction by the God Narisah (Kingdom of Light) which incites Az (Kingdom of Darkness) to create a human pair. While Az takes the initiative to mix her own soul with the plants, herbs and flowers, the God Nariseh takes the initiative to show himself to Az alternately as a male or a female apparition.
  7. Finally, the most revealing aspect of those selected fragments is the fact that both sides have their active part in the origin of matter. The chapter in M 7980-84 with the heading ‘The teaching about Gêhmurd and Murdiyânag’ is no less than the description of how, through successive degrees of mixture (which is a composition of both darkness and light), ultimately the physical body is created and that only afterwards this is endowed with a soul.
  8. A final conclusion of these observations is that, throughout the Second Creation, representatives of both realms are involved in opposing activities, with the final result that the human being is created with a material body.
  9. This means that the principle of Darkness cannot be identified with matter, since matter is the outcome of a process in which both principles are engaged.
  10. The unique character of Mani’s dualism finds its full expression in the description of mixture, in which both principles and not only the powers of darkness, are involved. Finally both are ‘responsible’ for the creation of matter.




Christine Gruwez

June 2009

[1] The cosmogonic account in the Shabuhragan can be reconstructed from fragments published by F.W.K. Müller and by W. B. Henning. Numerous other Middle Persian and Parthian fragments of cosmogonic texts have been published by Carl Salemann.

[2] ‘Daraus ergibt sich, dass das Shâbuhragân unter den erhaltenen iranischen Texten zum Manichäismus das höchste Alter aufweisen kann und praktisch die ipsissima vox des Propheten wiedergibt.’ Manfred Hutter, in ‘Das Manichäische Urdrama des Lichtes, Teil 2, Das Erlösungsgeschehen im Maichäisch-Iranischen Mythos, p.157


[3] ‘Für uns ist Manis Shâbuhragân jenes seiner Werke, in dem die wichtigsten autobiographischen Angaben gemacht würden. (…) Es versteht sich, dass in dieser Darstellung der Grundlehren einer neuen Religion vor dem Landesherren auch für den Stifter Anlass zur Selbstvorstellung bestand.’ Werner Sündermann, in ‘Studien zur kirchengeschichtlichen Literatur der iranischen Manichäer, I’, p. 82


[4] For a list of the fragments see among others: Mary Boyce, A Catalogue of the Iranian Manuscripts in Manichaean Script in the German Turfan Collection, Berlin 1960. and ‘The Manichaean literature in Middle Irania’n, Handbuch der Orientalistik, I-4, Iranistik, 2, Literatur, Lfg 1, London, 1968
Also S.N.C. Lieu, Manichaeism in Central Asia and China, NHMS 45, Leiden, New York, Köln, 1998 and W. Sundermann, Mittelpersische und parthische kosmogonische und Parabeltexte der Manichäer BTT 4, Berlin 1973

[5] Manfred Hutter, Manis Kosmogonische Shâbuhragân-Texte, Edition, Kommentar und literaturgeschichtliche Einordnung der manichäisch-mittelpersischen Handschriften M 98/99 I und M 7980-7984, 1992, Wiesbaden.

[6] D. N. MacKenzie, Mani’s Shäbuhragân, BSOAS XLII, 1979, BSOAS XLIII, 1980

[7] Werner Sundermann, Mitteliranische manichäische Texte kirchengeschichtlichen Inhalts, Berlin, 1981, Berliner Turfantexte XI

[8] Manfred Hutter, in Das Manichäische Urdrama des Lichtes, Teil II, pp 158-159

and ‘Sprachliche und terminologische Betrachtungen zu M 98 / 99 I und M 7980-84, Beziehungen zwischen M 7980-84 und dem Shâbuhragân.’in Studia Manichaica; II Internationaler Kongress zum Manichäismus, 6-12 August 1989 St. Augustin/Bonn, Otto Harrassowitz- Wiesbaden 1992, pp. 285 ff

[9] See among other texts: ‘ Aufgrund der Gemeinsamkeiten in Terminologie und Inhalt, die zwischen M 98/99 I und M 7980-84 bestehen, darf man mit Recht annehmen, dass in diesen beiden Manuskripten Teile eins und desselben Werkes Manis vorliegen.’ : Manfred Hutter, Shâbuhragân-Texte, , Fragen der literarischen Überlieferung und Einordnung, Die Zuordnung der kosmogonischen Texte zum Shâbuhragân, in Manis Kosmogonische Shâbuhragân-Texte, p.124 ff

See also : Manfred Hutter, Sprachliche und terminologische Betrachtungen zu M 98 / 99 I und M 7980-84, in Studia Manichaica II Internationaler Kongress zum Manichäismus, Otto Harrassowitz, 1992, pp 285 ff :

‘Drei Fragen werden wir dabei nachgehen:

  • Kann man M 98 / 99 I und M 7980-84 einer einzigen Schrift Manis zuweisen?
  • 2) Was lässt sich über die Authentizität der einzelnen Kapitel in M 7980-84 aussagen?
  • 3)Welche Argumente lassen sich für eine Zusammengehörigkeit der Shb. mit den hier behandelten kosmogonischen Texten beibringen?

[10] Manfred Hutter, in Das Manichäische Urdrama des Lichtes, Teil II, pp 158-159

and ‘Sprachliche und terminologische Betrachtungen zu M 98 / 99 I und M 7980-84, Beziehungen zwischen M 7980-84 und dem Shâbuhragân.’in Studia Manichaica; II Internationaler Kongress zum Manichäismus, 6-12 August 1989 St. Augustin/Bonn, Otto Harrassowitz- Wiesbaden 1992, pp. 285 ff


[11] ‘Für uns ist Manis Shâbuhragân jenes seiner Werke, in dem die wichtigsten autobiographischen Angaben gemacht würden. (…) Es versteht sich, dass in dieser Darstellung der Grundlehren einer neuen Religion vor dem Landesherren auch für den Stifter Anlass zur Selbstvorstellung bestand.’ Werner Sündermann, in ‘Studien zur kirchengeschichtlichen Literatur der iranischen Manichäer, I’, p. 82

[12] D.N. MacKenzie, 1979

[13] For a complete list of the fragments ranged under M 470 + see D.N. MacKenzie, Mani’s Shâbuhragân, in BSOAS, Vol. LXII, 1979 p. 503

[14] Werner Sundermann, Mitteliranische manichäische Texte kirchengeschichtlichen Inhalts, Berlin, 1981, Berliner Turfantexte XI

[15] Mihryazd, Middle Persian, (Parthian : wad ziwandag) is the same as the Living Spirit, one of the main protagonists during the Second Creation;

For an overview of the Middle-Iranian and Parthian names of the gods involved in the stages of the creation process, see : Mary Boyce, A Reader in Manichaean Middle Persian and Parthian, , 1973, 8-10

[16] ‘Die Unterschiede in der Formulierung zwischen M 98/99 I und M 7980-84 sind zwar nicht unüberbrückbar, aber doch in Kleinigkeiten bemerkenswert, die zumindest eigenartig ercheinen würden, wenn beide Manuskripte ein und demselben Buch Manis angehören würden. Obwohl die inhaltliche Zusammengehörigkeit der beiden Fragmente keineswegs geleugnet werden darf, scheint mir eine literarische Zusammengehörigkeit der Texte unwahrscheinlich. M 98/99 verliert dadurch für die Beschäftigung mit der iranischen Ausprägung der Kosmologie Manis allerdings kaum an Bedeutung, da Mani sich wohl in ihr als einer einzigen Schrift über kosmogonische Fragen geäußert hat, wie auch an einigen von W. Sundermann edierten Texten gesehen werden kann. ‘ Manfred Hutter, in Sprachliche und terminologische Betrachtungen, Studia Manichaica, op. cit. p.p 290-291

Pubblicato in Geen categorie |

Creation as Conflict



By Christine Gruwez


Translated by Philip Mees





Is evil increasing in the world? Can we speak of an exponential growth of evil causing a never-ending wave of conflicts and violence that threaten to overwhelm humanity? And what about the natural catastrophes that have been happening one after another which, in the final analysis, are in many cases man-made, and form a constant threat to the delicate balance of the life processes in nature?

No one will deny that the twentieth century brought a revolution in the way people regard life. Our belief in unstoppable progress and ever-increasing wealth can no longer be maintained. The enormous price the population of the world is paying for the emancipation of the individual is out of proportion to the little progress that is being made in the area of human rights. Only a small group is able to claim possession of such rights, while the large majority of the world is at the mercy of an unpredictable, arbitrary exercise of power. What should be universal human rights is handled by people in privileged positions as a personal possession at the expense of those who for whatever reason cannot share in them. Self-interest, also of groups, reigns supreme. Moreover, the modern media enable everyone to follow at every moment everything that happens on earth. This gives many people the feeling that they are powerless spectators of phenomena that can be called the working of evil.

Rudolf Steiner described these phenomena of the time with great emphasis in several lectures. In the eighth lecture of the cycle on the Apocalypse of St. John (Nuremberg 1908) the question is asked what the cause is of the apparent increase in wars and violence, to the point that we can almost speak of a “war of all against all.” The answer he gives is shockingly direct: the source of the increase in evil in the world is the human “I.” It is the “I” which out of self-interest usurps the space of someone else. It is the “I” which lays claim to the riches of the world at the expense of the life circumstances of other egos. In brief, the “I” is still largely governed by egotism and self-interest.

“We must bear in mind the foundation, the real cause of this war. … Those who do not fully realize that this ego is a two-edged sword will scarcely be able to grasp the entire meaning of the evolution of mankind and the world.” For in the human “I,” which Steiner in this regard compares with the two-edged sword in the Book of Revelation, there lives a double tendency: toward a gesture of integration and one of exclusion, a yes or a no. “… to drive away all the other egos from its realm,” but at the same time it “… gives man his independence and his inner freedom” and “…it is the basis for the divine in man.”*

Evil and its workings form part of creation for the sake of the (as yet mostly future) potential of freedom for every human being. But the good has the same goal of unlocking the potential of freedom! To understand the good as self-evident in contrast with a not-self-evident evil is an indication that the true nature of the good has not yet been revealed. Wherever evil is capable of disturbing or destroying existing relationships, the working of the good is invariably inconspicuous. It takes into itself whatever might fall out of a relationship, or is excluded from it. The countless people who provide and share meals with refugees who are sometimes literally washed up on the shore never make the news. But where walls are erected to ward off immigrants, such as along the Mexican border in the U.S., news is made. The good does not seek the floodlights of publicity; as a matter of fact, that may be one of its main characteristics. The intrinsic inconspicuousness of the good may help create the appearance that evil and its effects predominate. But that remains to be seen. Good and evil are both part of creation, albeit each according to its own nature. This means that good and evil are also present in the human being who is a part of creation.

The relationship of human beings to these two principles has not always been the same. It is changing, and the process of consciousness development plays a decisive role in this change. It depends on this development of consciousness to what extent human beings are able to recognize good and evil also in themselves, as moral intentions. Apparently this is the point at which we have now arrived. The age-old question of, Why am I struck by evil? Why me?, is changing more and more often to the question of Why do I bear within me the potential of evil? Why in me?   There is no straightforward answer to this question. But the Manichaean creation myth can open the door to it so we can begin to work on the problem. It is extraordinary to realize that a view that was developed in the third century of our era proves to be able to help us with existential questions of our time. This is in agreement with Rudolf Steiner’s view of historical Manichaeism, which he considered to be a precursor of a new relationship to good and evil, to be realized in the future, in which the good in each of us can meet the evil in each of us with mildness, and can thus redeem it.*



Conflict and creation: an unusual creation story


The Manichaean cosmogony is as radically different from the biblical creation story as from the creation myths of some Gnostic streams. In a document called the Chinese Compendium, the Manichaean creation story is described as the teaching of two principles and three eras. The two principles are known as light and darkness which must, of course, not be viewed as abstract concepts but as active principles. In the Shabuhragan, the document Mani composed at the request of the Persian King Shapur I, these two principles are called the do bun, meaning two seeds or roots, in other words, that from which something can come into existence and grow.


The first era

In the first great era both principles, also called realms, abide in a state of deep rest. One could regard this as a condition of consciousness that is aware neither of itself nor the other. Both realms are immersed and absorbed in themselves. As regards their essential substance they are equivalent to each other. As regards their essential nature, however, they are each other’s complete opposites. Both realms are uncreated and have existed since all eternity. In Iranian scriptures this simultaneous existence of both realms is emphasized, as opposed to Coptic Manichaean writings that tell of different time elements. A remarkable aspect is a kind of spatial boundary; the light realm borders to the south on the realm of darkness.


The second era

The second great era is ushered in by a change that radically ends the calm in which both realms were abiding. The principle of darkness has perceived a glimpse of light at its border, and it is immediately filled with desire to conquer this light for itself. This is the moment when it becomes conscious of being darkness. An army is raised to attack the light realm and capture the light.

As a result of the approaching threat the light realm also awakens and becomes conscious of its own nature. The Father of Greatness, king of the light realm, decides to call forth light beings from himself, to meet the darkness himself. Thus they can remain faithful to their light nature. The beings of the realm of darkness also act in accordance with their nature, in their urge to overwhelm and usurp.

This is the beginning of a creation process that unfolds in three great phases. Every time there is a triad of light beings who enter into interaction with the beings from the realm of darkness. These three phases of creation, therefore, take place in the second great era, the whole of which bears the general characteristic of mingling. At the end of the third phase of creation, however, preparations are made—in the sense of ‘de-mingling’—for the third great era.


The first creation

The Father of Greatness calls forth out of himself the Mother of Life who, in her turn, calls forth the first human being (primal man, Ohrmizd in Iranian sources). Primal man girds himself with five light elements, like an armor. Together they form the Light Soul or the Living Self. The beings of darkness hurl themselves onto him and destroy and devour his Light Soul, which is thus torn into countless little light particles. The Light Soul that has been absorbed by the beings of darkness becomes the substance from which the creation can be formed. Now the work of creation can begin.

By the sacrifice of primal man during the first creation, the substance for the creation is formed. This is the phase of the mingling of light and darkness.


First triad of light beings:

  • Father of Greatness
  • Mother of Life
  • Primal Man (Ohrmizd)

The five light elements, also called the five sons—ether, wind, light, water, fire—together form the Light Soul, the Living Self.


The second creation

Primal man calls for help; successively, three light envoys come to him to save him. Since his Light Soul was completely absorbed into the beings of darkness (only his Light–nous, his spirit principle, was able to return to the light realm) the creation is put into action in order to form a setting for the Light Soul. During this second creation the actual creation of cosmos and earth takes place from the mingled substance.

Second triad of light beings:

  • The Friend of the Light (literally: the lights)
  • The great Architect
  • The Living Spirit and his five sons


The third creation

The creation is now extended until finally the first human being is formed on earth. Twelve light maidens float into the cosmos in a light ship; they are the prototype after which the first human being will be formed. Jesus the Splendor instructs the first human being and teaches him the principle of discernment. The Column of Glory, in which the freed light is collected, arises in the center of the creation.

During this third creation the first human being is made. Light envoys bestow on him the instruments of redemption, namely for the “de-mingling” of light and darkness. A New Paradise is being prepared.


Third triad of light beings:

  • The Third Envoy
  • Jesus the Splendor
  • The great Light-nous (Iranian: Manohmed) and his five sons



The third era


The third great era begins with the war of all against all. Heaven and earth collapse. The battle and the destruction of the cosmos are images for the de-mingling of light and darkness, as is the great world fire that works as a final purification. Successive purification processes are described. Jesus returns to effect the further separation while the New Paradise is formed. Darkness, which has resisted the purification to the last moment, is placed under a stone in the New Paradise.

In Iranian texts the New Paradise is also called Frashegird, which is an indication that it is not the same as the original light realm.* There is a new relationship between light and darkness in the New Paradise—which ushers in a new era—in which the darkness is placed in its center. In contrast to the completely unconscious self-absorbed state of the first great era, now the spirit is actively present and completely awake. This is expressed in the image of joy with which the New Paradise is entered.



The challenge of dualism*


The Manichaean creation story does not begin with the creation! It begins with a kind of prelude in which two principles that are each other’s opposites are dwelling in a state of deep self-absorption. At first sight this is strange. The fundamental contrast between their respective essential natures seems not to disturb this state of rest, at any rate, not yet. Still, this prelude, in spite of its total quiet, is far from paradisal. For even before there is any creation we are presented not with the One, a unity, but with two. And two means contrast and tension, the potential of conflict. Unity, on the other hand, gives a sense of wholeness, security. It ensures that, in spite of breaks or disintegration of the unity in creation, there remains the possibility of a return to the original condition.

The fact that the Manichaean cosmogony begins with two elements means, among other things, that such a return is not guaranteed. In fact, any return is actually out of the question. Mani’s teaching of salvation brings a message of redemption which at the same time also encompasses change. It has an orientation to the future which only becomes evident by the fact that both primal principles go through a process of densification followed by a process of solution. The original creation becomes a new creation. Redemption in this case means transformation, not restoration of what existed before. This necessarily means that it is an open question as to how this transformation will turn out. It is no pre-programmed event. Only the direction can be indicated, the intention that guides the process. Although this intention is part of the creation, it can only awaken and come to life in the consciousness of the human being.

The word “living” (zindag in Middle Persian) plays an important role in Manichaeism. It signifies the awakening in the human being of the Light-nous, the spirit principle. As the bearer of the intention of creation, the human being is called to contribute to its realization. It is this intention that awakens him to life so that out of death he becomes living. This means an enormous challenge.


A second challenge is presented by the fact that conflict precedes the creation and that the creation can only begin because a conflict has arisen. It is conflict which, at the beginning of the second great era, ushers in the creation, and it permeates the three phases of creation like a common characteristic. Even in the third great era, from which the New Paradise will come forth, conflict and strife continue unabated. The light beings who had participated in the creation withdraw; one after another they leave their positions. The cosmos as it had existed until then collapses, heralding the new order! To put it mildly, this is disconcerting. The end of time, the finale, does not bring a return to former security. The original state of harmony does not come back.

In this view conflict and creation apparently go hand in hand. The creation does not take place in spite of the conflict, but as a result of it. And the conflict, with all its strife and loss of security, continues for the entire duration of the creation. In brief, conflict precedes creation, and not the other way around. There is not first a creation in which at a certain time a conflict arises. First there is the conflict, a battle that erupts between radically opposed principles, and from this ever-further raging battle the creation comes into being.

Since the creation has its origin in conflict, one could draw the conclusion that the whole process of creation is a negative event. It could be said that what comes into existence out of a conflict cannot bear the mark of the good.

First and foremost we have to appreciate that light and darkness as creative principles do not carry any moral overtones. The moral dimension does not appear until human beings develop the awareness that both principles, light and darkness, are present in their own nature. Only by the deed of their consciousness do they become capable of good and evil.

In the view of Manichaeism, the creation is rather the instrument by which the eventual transformation of the cosmos becomes possible at the end of the third great era. The creation is a means for redemption and salvation. But also the sacrifice of primal man, whose living light soul is devoured by the powers of darkness, is not simply a tragic accident that should perhaps have been prevented. This sacrifice is necessarily accompanied by indescribable suffering by the light soul. However, as a result of this sacrifice the mingling of light and darkness begins, which brings about the substance from which creation will take place. Throughout the several phases of creation this substance will become ever more dense, to the point where matter comes into existence. This would have to signify that there are also elements of the light soul in matter. For mingling means that the two elements are both there. Matter is therefore not the end product of the darkness, but of a process of mingling in which both light and darkness participate. This means that Manichaeism, in its original form, cannot be characterized as a kind of spirit-matter dualism. Both light and darkness are spiritual principles and from their mutual conflict matter is created.*


The problem presented by dualism consists in the fact that it places a second power principle side by side with the divine power, and that both justifiably claim to be absolute. It is not a power that is shared, so that one could suppose that a larger part could go to the light, no, we are shown two distinguishable principles, each possessing the fullness of power. The second principle forms the absolute counter pole of the first which, as a rule, is represented by the images of light and darkness. Dualism is convinced that in this way it gives a meaningful answer to the question of why evil exists in creation.

Both dualism and monotheism faces a paradox. In the case of monotheism, the opposition appears only in second instance, while in dualism it is clearly there from the very beginning. The one God, whose omnipotence is above all doubt, apparently does not possess sufficient power to bar evil from his creation. Church Father Lactantius (240-320) formulated it as follows: “either God could not bar evil, and that means that he is not all-powerful; or God wanted evil in creation, and then he is not all-good.”

Monotheism also evokes another problem, namely that of the transcendence versus immanence of God. If the unity of God is understood in such a way that there is no place outside his being, we inevitably face the question of how the human being can be placed within this unity. How does the human being fit in, and the creation? Does God stand outside and above the creation, unreachable for human existence? Or is it in the creation that God truly realizes himself? In the first case there is a gap that is ever more difficult to bridge and, in the end, becomes the dualism of God and world, creator and creature, spirit and matter. In the second case we end up in pantheism, where everything is God, which means that the original intention of monotheism erodes itself.


The representatives of dualism have been fully conscious of the irresolvable contradictions of monotheism from the moment that the question of good and evil in creation is raised. We have examples of this in history in the expositions of dualists and both Christian and Muslim thinkers. The debates between St. Augustine and representatives of the Manichaean community are also extremely important in this regard. And in the end, it is Manichaeism itself that in its original form offers the possibility to do full justice to dualism. For it radically poses two principles from the start: the realm of light and the realm of darkness. When both of these awaken to activity—namely when the creation unfolds—the light, under the pressure of the invading powers of darkness, will freely surrender to the darkness, as a result of which a complete mingling of the essential substances of light and darkness is set in motion. As a consequence, a new substance comes into being, a mixture that will contain the “material” to realize the creation down into matter. The human being too is created from this mixed substance, which means that the essential nature of the human being is created from light and darkness.

Not all dualism begins in the same radical manner as Manichaeism, where two principles are given that are equivalent from the outset, and that each possess the fullness of its individual contrary nature. Many Gnostic teachings begin with one sole principle, the light realm, from which, by a fall-into-sin, the realm of darkness comes into being, including the creation, an event that was never part of the divine intention. In order to protect themselves from any subsequent attacks by the powers of darkness, the light beings then build an impenetrable boundary around their realm. In other words, they withdraw within the walls of their own realm and avoid the confrontation with the absolute other.

Many Gnostic streams also proclaim a teaching of salvation, just like Manichaeism. But salvation then consists mostly in a return to the beginning, which is the original condition in which conflict has not yet arisen and there are not yet any cracks in the whole world. The creation is viewed as the region of matter in which matter represents the principle of darkness and, in a subsequent phase, also of evil. In Manichaeism, on the other hand, it is not a question of a return to a condition before the conflict, but of a process taking place in phases in which the creation can gradually be transformed into a new creation. Conflict plays a decisive role in this.

In this connection, Hans Jonas* characterizes the Gnostic streams as expressions of a nostalgic longing, an insatiable homesickness for a world in which the suffering caused by evil has no place. A key concept in this view is alienation, the experience of being a stranger on the earth. This alienation is related to the idea that there has to be a world and an existence that is the real existence, while life here on earth amounts to a painful exile. True life is “elsewhere,” outside and above the world in which we are born, and therefore unreachable. Hence the longing for a return to the original homeland. Also, God as the origin and principle of existence, is unknowable and unreachable. He too is elsewhere. From the position of the human being, viewed as a creature, God is a total stranger. The Gnostic experience of life is that human beings are strangers on earth, exiled from their true homeland and landed in an environment where everything is done to make them forget their origin. But this tragic fate, which causes loneliness and suffering, leads them to do everything possible to find the means to discover the way home.

Hans Jonas also notes a remarkable similarity between the Gnostic view of life and 20th century philosophical trends. Since Nietzsche proclaimed the death of God, God has withdrawn from the world, says Jonas. There are no longer any signs of the “elsewhere,” of the transcendence, and human beings have been abandoned, “condemned to freedom,” as Jean Paul Sartre called it. In Martin Heidegger’s term Geworfenheit (“thrown-ness”), Jonas recognizes an echo of the well-known words from the Gnostic teaching of Valentinus (100-160): “What makes us human beings free is the insight into who we were, who we have become, where we were and where we have been thrown, where we are hurrying and of what we are redeemed.”

Gnostic streams—including those of our time—frequently display a tendency toward weariness of life and pessimism. Life is tough. This is not directly applicable to the Manichaean view of life. Fragments of Manichaean painted miniatures that came to light in the early 20th century show pictures of a community with people making music under a flowering tree, and gatherings adorned with flowers and fruit. Many hymns resound with joy in the delights of nature and in the budding life in herbs, flowers and trees. There is also longing, but it is a longing for what is yet to come, the ultimate transfiguration of the creation, Frashegird.

The word Frashegird comes from frasho-kereti that appears several times in the Avesta. “May we be the ones who renew existence!” (Yasna 30.9) Frasho-kereti means literally “to make new,” two elements therefore, both equally essential, and to be understood as complementary and simultaneous.



Light and darkness: their nature and working


Light and Darkness are the do bun, the two seeds or creative principles, as the seed bears in itself the principle of the plant. These are cosmic principles, both of which have contributed to the fact of creation. To enable them to become active it was necessary that they should come into conflict. It was the darkness that, as cosmic principle, set this conflict in motion, upon which the light, likewise as cosmic principle and in conformity with its nature, surrendered to the powers of darkness. In this regard, light and darkness are genuine images of the activity of two contrary creative principles. Not only was their mutual opposition necessary, it had to be elevated to a paroxysm in order for the mingling in the second great era to take place. The extreme nature of this opposition comes to expression, on the one hand, in the ruthless aggression of the powers of darkness and, on the other hand, the selfless sacrifice of the light.

It is therefore not an opposition in which the one element keeps the other in balance. In fact, in a certain respect we find that kind of opposition in the first great era when both light and darkness are still immersed in themselves and have no awareness of either themselves or each other. That was a form of sleep consciousness. Of course, no creation can come forth from such a condition.

This changes radically when the principle of darkness becomes conscious of itself, because it has noticed the beauty of the light world. At that moment the state of balance is disturbed and it will not be restored, at any rate, not to the condition in which it was at the beginning of the first great era. Only at the end of the third era, when Frashegird (transfiguration) has been achieved will there be a new equilibrium between light and darkness. As Mani described in his Shabuhragan, this will be an entirely different condition from the state of balance at the beginning of the first era.

But first there is the invasion by the darkness, which puts an end to the harmony that reigned until then in the light realm. Not only are things thrown out of balance, it looks as if darkness will prevail. The light soul is vanquished, dismembered into countless little light particles and devoured. One can really speak of a cosmic drama, even a tragedy. But what looks like a tragedy, on closer inspection, is no tragedy. For this dismembering leads to mingling which, in turn, makes creation possible. Thus the second great era can then begin.

The work of the dark powers always comes down to disturbing an existing relationship and, if possible, destroying it. The work of the light follows the intention of restoring the relationship. In both cases this requires a particular way of operating. The darkness operates by means of attack, annexation and usurpation. Devouring the light soul is an image for this behavior. In Manichaean communities one of the most important rituals was the daily meal. Every intake of food means an attack; we grab something for ourselves and destroy it. Manichaeans were fully conscious of this. But it is an intervention enabling the light particles that are mixed into the densification of the food ultimately to be freed and absorbed into the Column of Glory, where the substance for the new creation is prepared.

Of course, the intentions of the light forces are the opposite of those of the darkness. Wherever a relationship is broken, the light seeks to restore it. This is clearly not simply a “repair” in the usual sense of the word, as it is in some Gnostic cosmogonies. There, the damage caused by the fall of Sophia is restored and a boundary is created around the light world to enable the light to protect and preserve itself.

In the Manichaean view, the light does not preserve itself when primal man surrenders to the darkness. Even though the opponents of Manichaeism (as well as some researchers in our own time) viewed this as a trap set by the light world, the dismembering of the light soul and the resulting suffering are not only real, but they make a subsequent development possible.

The light does not emerge from this episode as the victor! The sacrifice of primal man does not stop the attacks; on the contrary, his defenseless surrender drives the desire of the forces of darkness to a climax. This helps us understand that this sacrifice should be viewed in the sign of a future redemption, not as a strategic ploy that brings an immediate solution.


We also have to take care not to equate light and darkness with the moral dimensions of good and evil. Light and darkness are active principles that have their effect in the world and in their working bring their essence to expression. The Manichaean cosmogony describes their working during three great eras, the second of which takes its course in three phases. Not only does this mean that changes take place in the process of creation, but also that light and darkness go through changes in their essential natures.

Mani did not just present this succession of transformations, in which the new is born from the old, as a story; he also painted it, which put even more emphasis on the image character of the creation story. The light soul, which is torn apart and devoured by the powers of darkness and which still, by the intensity of the sacrifice, does not lose itself, is transformed into the light glory that rises up in the middle of the creation. Out of this transformed light the new paradise comes into being.

But darkness also undergoes changes. The unmitigated tendency toward appropriating things, which drives the powers of darkness in their attack on the light realm, gradually alters into cunning. It seems as if the urge toward lying turns the brutal aggression of the beginning into crafty deception. This grows into a kind of obstinate stubbornness that then ends into hardening with, in the end, a hard core that in the radical events in the third era cannot be purified and redeemed. This core is then placed in the center of the new paradise.

It is important to realize that Frashegird, in which the earth and the cosmos enter the state of transfiguration, is not realized until the process of de-mingling has been completed. Just as the realms of light and darkness were existing outside time in the first great era, Frashegird happens after the end of time. Similarly to the state of the two principles before the beginning of creation, Frashegird can therefore only be hinted at as a state of being. Frashegird is not a finis but duration in the same way as the two principles originally existed side by side “since all eternity.” The creation itself, as dynamic activity, coincides with the second era with its cycles of time of the three phases of creation and their threefold emanations. In this threefold structure a double movement takes place of mingling and de-mingling. While mingling brings about the conditions in which creation can occur, de-mingling prepares the new creation, and when the latter is accomplished, Frashegird, the new eternity, dawns.



Between past and future


In the form it has developed in the course of history, Manichaeism no doubt fits into categories like dualistic Gnosis or Jewish-Christian movements. It certainly shows a relationship with these categories. We can only indicate a few elements of this relationship without going into depth.

Manichaeism shares with Gnostic movements the fact that it is a teaching of salvation surrounded by a complex cosmogony. The creation of cosmos, earth and human being follows a pattern of emanations similar to Gnosis and Neo-Platonism. Moreover, it expresses itself in the kinds of images that are characteristic of Gnosis.

Redeemers such as Jesus the Redeemer and Apostle of Light play an important role that reminds us of the Jewish-Christian element. The place of Jesus in Manichaeism is also expressed in the fact that Mani called himself the Apostle of Jesus Christ, as well as in the many hymns and prayers addressed to Jesus in the Manichaean communities. There is also an expectation of a Last Judgment, an ultimate and definitive redemption at the end of time.

But this does not mean that Manichaeism does not also possess an essential nature of its own, which may be overlooked if certain characteristics are not emphasized that distinguish it from related movements. First of all there are the questions relating to the two principles and the nature of Manichaean dualism. Here we need to consider with fresh eyes the Iranian component, where dualism was first manifested within the Old Persian and later Iranian cultures in the teaching of Zarathustra. Ever since the discovery of the Cologne Mani Codex, researchers have had to reevaluate the contribution to Manichaeism from Iran, but it has also been necessary to develop criteria to better highlight the differences between Iranian and North-African Manichaeism. For a religion that has spread over as great a territory as Manichaeism (from North Africa throughout the Middle East and along the Silk Road deep into China) inevitably develops regional differences in the course of time. In North-African Manichaeism, which is strongly reflected in Coptic-Manichaean documents, we find an emphasis on vertical dualism, in which the principles of light and darkness are not equivalent. This deviates from the Shabuhragan which can be considered as a first generation scripture for the development of eastern Manichaeism.* In the Coptic-Manichaean scriptures we can also notice a general tone of wanting to escape from the earth and reject joy in life, while in Eastern Manichaeism this tendency toward unworldliness is much less manifest.


Another element that might stand in the way of recognizing the unique character of Manichaeism are the statements Rudolf Steiner made about a “Manichaeism of the future.” This could lead to a view that Manichaeism is not relevant for the present, and we don’t yet need to pay attention to it. However, there can hardly be any misunderstanding in this respect, for while what Steiner calls the “Mani intention” is indeed oriented to the future, it cannot wait “till we get there.” An intention finds its origin in a decision made now. Only then can we direct ourselves to the future. Steiner speaks of the way he visualizes the final goal of the development of humanity: “… the community of free and independent egos … egos [who] learn to confront one another freely.”* The idea then is not to make the protection of one’s own life situation or, in Gnostic terms, the salvation of the soul one’s first priority, for this prevents us from confronting each other as free individuals and is, therefore, perhaps the greatest impediment to forming such a community. If the Manichean community would focus only on nurturing an inner disposition, this movement would not achieve what it is due to achieve, says Steiner very clearly.

If we want to approach Manichaeism in its own unique nature—both in its historical and in its future dimension—we cannot avoid recognizing its radical characteristics, which consist, on the one hand, of admitting and affirming that pain and loneliness exist as parts of human existence. On the other hand, we need to accept the challenge of maintaining ourselves in the tension between our natural need for security and the intention to face a situation “unarmed.”



A true story


In the language of the North-African Berbers, Tibhirine means “garden.” It is also the name of a spot in the Atlas Mountains in Algeria where the monastery of Notre Dame de l’Atlas was founded in 1938. Trappist monks established themselves there.

Currently the monastery is empty. There is only a gardener, Jean-Marie Lassausse, who lives in a small annex on the monastery grounds. He heard about the existence of the monastery after what had happened there in 1996. When he was asked to care for the large orchard he was particularly impressed with the 12 acres of apple trees, but also by the stories the people still tell about the “Seven of Tibhirine.”

The true story is about the last few months in the life of the small monastic community of Trappists in Tibhirine. In the middle of the 1990’s, Algeria was scourged by a wave of terrorism that especially targeted westerners. The monks were advised to seek a safer place. But they stayed—a decision that, in the end, each of them made, albeit not without inner struggles. Letters and diaries of some of them witness to this inner conflict. But seeking safety for themselves would have meant leaving others behind who were unable to do that. And it meant most of all to relinquish the core of their existence in that spot: to be there without any form of discrimination for every fellow human being, a kind of unspoken promise that connected them with the people in the village and its surroundings, which they neither wished to nor could break for the sake of their own safety.

In March 1996 the seven monks were abducted. On May 23 of that year the shocking news of their deaths became known in the world. Christian de Chergé, the prior of the community, had kept intensive contacts with people he considered as his Muslim brothers. This continued even when the situation became dangerous. On Christmas Eve 1995 a terrorist group under Sayah Attiyah came to the monastery looking for medicines and money. The group of armed men were about to attack when Christian came out to meet them.

“You are welcome,” he said, “but the weapons will stay outside. No weapons are allowed in this monastery.” Against all advice, the monks had decided not to have any weapons themselves. “You have no choice,” said the leader. “We do,” said Christian, “we do have choice.” His spiritual testament that follows here is an impressive witness of this choice:*

Facing a GOODBYE…. 
If it should happen one day – and it could be today – that I become a victim of the terrorism which now seems ready to engulf all the foreigners living in Algeria, I would like my community, my Church and my family to remember that my life was GIVEN to God and to this country. I ask them to accept the fact that the One Master of all life
was not a stranger to this brutal departure. I would ask them to pray for me: for how could I be found worthy of such an offering? I ask them to associate this death with so many other equally violent ones which are forgotten through indifference or anonymity.
     My life has no more value than any other. Nor any less value. In any case, it has not the innocence of childhood. I have lived long enough to know that I am an accomplice in the evil which seems to prevail so terribly in the world, even in the evil which might blindly strike me down.

     I should like, when the time comes, to have a moment of spiritual clarity which would allow me to beg forgiveness of God and of my fellow human beings, and at the same time forgive with all my heart the one who would strike me down. I could not desire such a death. It seems to me important to state this. I do not see, in fact, how I could rejoice if the people I love were indiscriminately accused of my murder.

     It would be too high a price to pay for what will perhaps be called the “grace of martyrdom” to owe it to an Algerian, whoever he might be, especially if he says he is acting in fidelity to what he believes to be Islam. I am aware of the scorn which can be heaped on the Algerians indiscriminately. I am also aware of the caricatures of Islam which a certain Islamism fosters. It is too easy to soothe one’s conscience by identifying this religious way with the fundamentalist ideology of its extremists.

     For me, Algeria and Islam are something different: it is a body and a soul. I have proclaimed this often enough, I think, in the light of what I have received from it. I so often find there that true strand of the Gospel which I learned at my mother’s knee, my very first Church, precisely in Algeria, and already inspired with respect for Muslim believers.

     Obviously, my death will appear to confirm those who hastily judged me naïve or idealistic: “Let him tell us now what he thinks of his ideals!” But these persons should know that finally my most avid curiosity will be set free. This is what I shall be able to do, God willing: immerse my gaze in that of the Father to contemplate with him His children of Islam just as He sees them, all shining with the glory of Christ, the fruit of His Passion, filled with the Gift of the Spirit whose secret joy will always be to establish communion and restore the likeness, playing with the differences.
     For this life lost, totally mine and totally theirs, I thank God, who seems to have willed it entirely for the sake of that JOY in everything and in spite of everything.

     In this THANK YOU, which is said for everything in my life from now on, I certainly include you, friends of yesterday and today, and you, my friends of this place, along with my mother and father, my sisters and brothers and their families, you are the hundredfold granted as was promised!

     And also you, my last-minute friend, who will not have known what you were doing:
Yes, I want this THANK YOU and this GOODBYE to be a “GOD-BLESS” for you, too,
because in God’s face I see yours. May we meet again as happy thieves in Paradise, if it please God, the Father of us both.

     AMEN !   INCHALLAH !  

Algiers, 1st December 1993 
Tibhirine, 1st January 1994 










Translation: Philip Mees


* From: Bastiaan Baan, Christine Gruwez and John van Schaik, Het kwaad als uitdaging (Evil as Challenge), Uitgeverij Christofoor, Zeist, Netherlands 2012.

* Rudolf Steiner, The Apocalypse of St. John, CW 104, Rudolf Steiner Press, lecture of June 25, 1908.

* See Christine Gruwez, Mani and Rudolf Steiner— Manichaeism, Anthroposophy and their Meeting in the Future, SteinerBooks 2014.

* See Christine Gruwez, Eschatology and Dualism, an article published on www.christine

* For the exceptional nature of Manichaean dualism see Christine Gruwez, Mani and Rudolf Steiner— Manichaeism, Anthroposophy and their Meeting in the Future, SteinerBooks 2014.

* The Shabuhragan, the first text Mani wrote, indicates that there is no spirit-matter dualism. See the article Gumezishn (mixture) and the two principles in Mani’s Shabuhragan on

* Hans Jonas, The Gnostic Religion. The Message of the Alien God & the Beginnings of Christianity, London 1992.

* See Christine Gruwez, The Question of Dualism in the Cologne Mani Codex, on

* Rudolf Steiner, op. cit. page 1.

* Source:

Pubblicato in Geen categorie |

‘Kleurmeditatie’ Kees Veenman

Voorwoord bij Kees Veenman,



Op 11 april stelt Kees Veenman het boek ‘Kleurmeditatie’ voor. Meer informatie op

Bij wijze van uitnodiging het voorwoord. (C.Gruwez)

Sinds het ontwerp van Goethe’s kleurenleer is het mogelijk geworden om zo over kleuren te spreken dat ze als ‘fenomenen’ worden geduid. Letterlijk betekent fenomeen ‘het verschijnende’ waarbij verschijnen inhoudt dat datgene wat voordien voor de waarneming niet zichtbaar was, zich nu manifesteert, dit wil zeggen het terrein van het waarneembare binnentreedt. Het gaat hierbij om een ‘gebeuren’, een dynamisch proces. Een proces dat mogelijk wordt dank zij het spanningsveld, de polariteit tussen licht en donker. Kleur openbaart zich in dit spanningsveld. Uiteraard moet er een subject zijn dat de waarneming voltrekt, maar de objectiviteit van het waargenomene blijft in deze visie gehandhaafd. Alleen al daarom is de benadering van Goethe en in diens voetspoor die van Steiner, niet zo maar een theorie om het bestaan van kleuren te kunnen verklaren. Hoe het verschijnsel kleur te verklaren is slechts één onderdeel van deze benadering. Het reikt veel verder dan dit: het gaat in feite om het tot het inzicht komen dat kleuren een werkelijkheid op zich vertegenwoordigen. In haar geheel is het ontstaan en de werking van de kleur te begrijpen als een proces dat zich tussen licht en duisternis als oerpolariteit afspeelt. Hoe het licht zich met het duister verbindt en hoe het duister het licht binnendringt, is beslissend voor het ontstaansproces van elke kleur. Dit in te zien is een eerste stap. Het komt er vervolgens op aan, iedere kleur afzonderlijk als een specifieke verschijningswijze in het geheel van het kleurenspectrum te benaderen. De kleur als fenomeen is ‘wordend’. In dit wordingsgebied van kleur binnen te treden is het feitelijke oefenterrein van de kleurenfenomenologie. Door dit te beoefenen en tevens het waarnemingsproces zelf tot object van dit oefenen te maken, wordt het mogelijk om gaandeweg de individualiteit van elke kleur afzonderlijk als een ‘kleurgebaar’ te herkennen. Hiermee is de weg geopend naar het kernstuk van dit boek: de kleurmeditatie. Zich meditatief te verdiepen in de werking van de kleur betekent een dynamische wereld te betreden. Op dit punt gaat het niet meer om het esthetische beleven dat kleuren kunnen teweegbrengen. Het gaat om het zoeken naar een toenadering tot de geestelijke werking van de kleur., ‘het gebaar’, dat uiteindelijk kan voeren tot een ontmoeting met het wezen zelf van de kleur. Net zoals dat voor de weg van de meditatie in het algemeen geldt, is hier een grondige voorbereiding nodig. Immers: «Dan sta je voor de uitdaging in de dynamiek van een kleur te kunnen leven zonder er door overmeesterd te worden» ! (blz.45) Bij het gewone waarnemen van de kleur wordt dit overweldigende van de dynamiek terug in evenwicht gebracht door de overeenkomende respons: het nabeeld. Bij de kleurmeditatie is dit niet langer meer het geval. Hier dient op de stuurkracht van het ‘ik’ beroep te worden gedaan. Het is het ‘zuivere denken’ dat deze stuurkracht van het ik waarborgt. Zuiver denken bestaat hierin dat het oordeel wordt opgeschort. Het kunnen verinnerlijken van een waarneming is cruciaal om het gebaar van de kleur als fenomeen te leren kennen. Waarnemen en verinnerlijken zijn geen twee van elkaar gescheiden oefengebieden, maar zijn integendeel dynamisch met elkaar verweven. Om die reden is het belangrijk om ze van elkaar – juist in hun onderlinge verwevenheid – te kunnen onderscheiden. En ook dit kan enkel wanneer ieder oordeel, speculatief en associatief, met kracht teruggehouden wordt. Bij de stappen die tot verinnerlijking voeren, speelt het actief ontwerpen van beelden een grote rol. Ook bij het waarnemen van kleuren is er een inhoud. Deze waarnemingsinhoud in een beeld op de ziel laten inwerken is een onmisbare hulp bij de weg naar binnen. Het behoort tot een van de verrassende ontdekkingen in dit boek dat er sprake kan zijn van meer dan één soort beelden. Zintuigbeelden als een hogere vorm van symbolische beelden, bijvoorbeeld, zijn die beelden die je kan doen ontstaan wanneer je een fenomeen vanuit meer dan één enkel zintuig benadert. Het is een bijzonder boeiende uitdaging om de werking van één enkele kleur te ‘vertalen’ in de twaalf mogelijkheden van het zintuigorganisme. Dat je een kleur kan ‘beluisteren’ en ‘horen’ is een dimensie die sinds het begin van de vorige eeuw door tal van kunstenaars werd geïntroduceerd. Ook tasten, proeven, ruiken kunnen mits oefenen zintuigbeelden opleveren. Moeilijker wordt het bij de ‘hogere’ zintuigen. Maar juist het scheppend opbouwen van een zintuigbeeld, dat ook nog kunstzinnig kan worden verwerkt, maakt de weg tot verinnerlijking vrij. Deze overeenkomst tussen het verschijnen en de werking van de kleur buiten ons en het zich voordoen in ons, openbaart zich reeds in de polariteit van licht en duister. Licht is een zinnebeeld voor het heldere dagbewustzijn terwijl duister het ondoordringbare van de wil vertegenwoordigt. Hier komen we op de intieme verwantschap tussen de wereld van de kleuren en de menselijke bewustzijnsorganisatie, met haar actieve en passieve zijde. Staat bijvoorbeeld rood voor de warme activiteit van de wil dan is daar tegenover het violet beeld voor meditatieve overgave en omvorming. Vandaar uit wordt het mogelijk de stap te zetten naar het beleven van de morele stemming die in iedere kleur werkzaam is. Het gaat om de moreel-inspiratieve kwaliteiten die in ieder natuurverschijnsel kunnen waargenomen worden, wanneer de ziel tot «in haar diepste innerlijk helemaal kleur is geworden». ( Steiner, cit. blz.76) Ook hier zijn de krachten van de ik-gestuurde aandacht vereist. Voorstelling is al datgene waar je nog buiten blijft staan en tegenaan kijkt. Kleur is dan een ‘plaatje’, geen ‘beeld’. Het beeld echter laat toe dat je het in jezelf kan opnemen en er één mee worden, waardoor het zich in jou kan openbaren. Dit beeld drukt zich uit in een stemming, waar nog geen woorden voor zijn maar die wel in de herhaling van het proces van tastende verinnerlijking, kunnen ontstaan. De regenboog, het ‘verschijnende’ bij uitstek, dat wat zich manifesteert tussen ontstaan en vergaan, biedt de mogelijkheid om de weg naar het verinnerlijken van de kleur nog verder meditatief te verdiepen.   Wat hier op volgt is het ‘hart’ van het boek: ‘De werkzaamheid van Christus in de kleuren’. Aan het begin van de weg ging het om een objectief kunnen waarnemen van het fenomeen kleur en het zuiver kunnen inleven in de respons die deze waarneming tot een innerlijk beleven maakt. Op die manier kwamen we tot het kunnen meebewegen met de gebaren die iedere kleur vanuit haar wezen maakt. Het verinnerlijken liet een steeds verder verdiepen toe in het beleven van deze gebaren als inspiratief-morele kwaliteiten. De kleuren in hun werking stemmen de ziel. Nu pas werd de regenboogmeditatie toegankelijk, die op haar beurt een brug kan slaan naar de ontmoeting met de kleur op wezenlijk niveau. Vanuit de wezensgebaren en –werking bereikten we langzamerhand de staat om nu de kleur als wezen te naderen. In dit gebied kan de vraag ontstaan hoe Christus met wezen en werking van de kleuren verbonden is. En hoe de werkzaamheid van Christus in de werking van de kleuren niet alleen kan worden herkend, maar ook ervaren. Een vraag die het hart brandend houdt! En die niet naar een antwoord zoekt, maar veeleer een weg wil gaan naar het steeds dieper leven ervan. Een levensweg.

Pubblicato in Geen categorie |

De triptieken van Max Beckmann

De triptieken van Max Beckmann: ontstaansproces en werkwijze.

 “Wenn’s die Menschen nicht von sich aus aus eigener Mitproduktivität verstehen können, hat es gar keinen Zweck die Sache (=het werk) zu zeigen’


Bron: Dagboeken en brieven van Beckmann

Zoals geciteerd in : R. Spieler: Max Beckmann, Bildwelt und Weltbild in den Triptychen, Dumont

En in : ‘Max Beckmann, Triptieken’, catalogus, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, 1981

Kenmerkend is dat Beckmann niet van een vooraf vastgelegd beeld of voorstelling uitgaat. Het beeld moet kunnen ontstaan. Hij weet dan zelf nog niet wat het zal worden. Wél dat er iets wil worden!

Wat niettemin vooraf vast lijkt te staan is dat de vorm een triptiek moet zijn. Dat enkel een triptiek hem die mogelijkheid kan bieden een beeld te doen ontstaan in de loop van het kunstzinnig proces.

Herhaalde keren zegt of schrijft hij: ik zal nog eens een triptiek maken! Dit hoeft geen absolute regel te zijn. Het laatste voltooide drieluik is als een enkel beeld begonnen en werd in de loop van het proces tot een drieluik. Ook kan zich soms het omgekeerde voordoen

.Een triptiek verwijst steeds naar het sacrale. Er ontstaat gaandeweg een reflectie over het drieluik bij de talrijke kunstenaars die in de 20e en 21e eeuw het drieluik bewust hanteren. Het gegeven dat triptieken vanaf hun ontstaan in een religieuze context thuishoren, als altaar of devotiebeelden, werkt bij de vorm nog steeds verder.

Wat veranderd is, is uiteraard de voorstelling, het thema dat er op wordt aangebracht. Er begint een nieuw leven voor het drieluik, een nieuwe toegang ertoe. De panelen zijn ‘vrij geworden’ van een religieuze inhoud, maar de vorm blijft de herinnering aan het sacrale bewaren. De nieuwe voorstellingswereld, nu aan de individuele kunstenaar ontsproten, wordt door de triptychon vorm tot op zekere hoogte weer sacraal. Voor sommige kunstenaars zoals Bill Viola is deze sacralisering het hoofdmotief om een drieluik te scheppen. Voor andere, zoals Francis Bacon, is er niets sacraals aan een drieluik.

Door het zichzelf opleggen van de triptiek als vorm element wil Beckmann voorkomen dat er zoiets als een verhaallijn gaat ontstaan. Want een triptiek is essentieel een dynamische verhouding tussen middenpaneel en de zijluiken. Op alle drie luiken bevindt zich weliswaar één en hetzelfde thema, maar telkens vanuit een ander gezichtspunt belicht. Door de onderlinge verhoudingen gaandeweg te gaan ‘ontdekken’ kan het thema zich manifesteren in een doorgaand proces. Het volstaat dus niet één enkele keer te kijken en na te gaan wat er allemaal aan personnages, ensceneringen en attributen op voorkomt. Dit is een noodzakelijke eerste stap. Maar het is niet omdat er overwegend acrobaten op afgebeeld zijn, dat dit een triptiek over acrobaten zou zijn. De voorstelling en het thema vallen niet samen. Vandaar ook de uitdaging: telkens weer waar te nemen, totdat de schil van het louter voorgestelde kan wegvallen en er iets verschijnt van het thema als dusdanig.

Een bepaalde methodiek is hierbij onontbeerlijk. Voorbeelden van deze methodiek aan de hand van 4 kunstwerken zijn te vinden in :

Michael Bockemühl, Die Wirklichkeit des Bildes. Bildrezeption als Bildproduktion. Rothko, Newman,, Rembrandt, Raphael. Urachaus.

In zijn drieluiken werkt Beckmann met de spanning tussen de traditionele verhaallijn en een eklektische gelijktijdigheid. Je zou de drieluiken ook kunnen benaderen naar de spanningsgraad die hij hier in opvoert. Reinhardt Spieler noemt deze spanning de belangrijjkste en wellicht ultieme ‘boodschap’ van Beckmann’s kunst , geheel los te zijn van de iconografische inhoud van zijn werk. Maar deze boodschap kan enkel via de vorm van het drieluik worden meegedeeld!

‘Er löst mit der Dreiteilung die Einheitlichkeit eines Illusionsraum au fund verzichtet dabei um eine zeitlcihe Kontinuität im Sinne einer traditionellen Bilderzâhlung. In keiner der Triptychen Bechmann gbnt es eine Bildererzählung die sich in eine eindeutige zeitliche Ablolge bringen liesse.

Die Gleichzeitigkeit von verschiedenen Orten, Geschehen, Realitäts und Zeitebenen, von verschiedenen Erfahrungsmuster, vom Positiven und Negativen , ist vielleicht die wichtigste Botschaft die Beckmann –noch vor jeder spezifischen Ikonografie- in der Form des Triptychons unmittelbar erfahrbar machen kann.’ R. Spieler, .49


Beckmann begon met een dynamisch lijnenspel. Een krabbeltje op een stukje papier. Niet meer maar ook niet minder dan de uitdrukking van: er wil iets ontstaan! Dit overkomt, overvalt hem, eerder dan dat hij het bewust doet ontstaan.Dit allereerste lijnenspel op kleine stukjes papier zal hij zelden bewaren. Jammer!

Na verloop van tijd kijkt hij terug naar die eerste uitingen, sporen van zijn scheppingsdrang en tast af of er iets kan ‘verdicht’ worden. Ook dat wordt in vele malen uitgeprobeerd; Tussen de lijnen en uit de composities ontstaan figuren, dit wil zeggen : bepaalde richtingen, oriëntaties in een beeldruimte, die uitdrukkelijk niet drie- dimensionaal is. Ook dit is iets dat herhaalde keren wordt overgedaan en niet zelden begint hij weer helemaal van voren af aan. Hij noemt dit kijken, tasten of er een beeld wil opstijgen. Dit komt niet in één keer, maar in de loop van een langere periode!

Op een postkaart aan Stephan Lachner formuleert hij het aldus: ‘Bin in äusserster Arbeit! Le nouveau Trois steigt aus dunklem Gewâsser über Sekt , Kadaver und den kleinen Wahnsinn des Lebens empor zu äussersten Wahnsinn. O mon Dieu, es lohnt zu leben! ‘.

3/7/1939, les nouveaux Trois worden het Triptychon: Die Akrobaten.

Pas als een beeld zich voldoende heeft verdicht bij het telkens weer opstijgen uit de donkere wateren van het onbewuste, wordt het in een eerste schets vastgelegd. Dit betekent niet dat het zo hoeft te blijven. Ook deze schetsen gaan nog door talloze veranderingsfases en Beckmann geeft aan, hoe hij zelf verbaasd is, welke beelden dan aan de oppervlakte komen. Hij maakt noch bepaalt ze. Zeer dikwijls droomt hij over deze opstijgende beelden. Of beter gezegd: ze komen hem in zijn droom opzoeken.

‘Een van mijn figuren, -zo schrijft Beckmann, misschien uit ‘Verzoeking’ zong op een nacht dit vreemde lied:

‘Füllt aufs neue eure Kürbisse mit Alkohol und gebt mir selbst den grössten<. Feierlich will ich euch die grossen Lichter, die Riesenkerze anstecken, jetzt in der Nacht. In der tiefen, schwarzen Nacht.

Wir verstecken uns, wir spielen Verstecken über tausend Meere, wir Götter, wir Götter im Morgenröte, ium Mittag und in scharzer Nacht!

Ihr seht uns nicht. Ihr könnt uns nicht sehen…..’

Uit catalogus Museum Amsterdam;

Hij is een soort diepzeevisser die bovenhaalt wat diep in hem verborgen al leven leidde . maar tijdens dit bovenhalen verdicht zich dit leven, neemt het vorm aan, wordt tot beeld. Dit proces noemt hij zelf ‘Bildgestaltung’ en beleeft daarin iets van een katharsis. ‘Gestaltung ist Erlösung’ noteert hij over het drieluik: Perseus.

Hij verklaart zelf hoe er verschillende titels in de loop van dit proces ontstaan daardoor, dat de eerste beelden die opduiken, nog niet de uiteindelijke zijn. Toch gaat hij ze af en toe benoemen, om dan later weer een nieuwe benaming te vinden.

Op een van die schetsen onderweg naar Abfahrt, zie je dat op het linkerpaneel de man die een vis op de grond werpt, in een voorstudie nog een soort grote pijl in de handen houdt, ook al is de beweging dezelfde.

In een voorstudie voor de Argonauten, linkerpaneel, (4/5,3 cm) zijn er nog duidelijke restanten van de oorspronkelijke lijndynamiek, terwijl ook al gestalten zich configureren. In de uiteindelijke versie blijken heel andere configuraties te zijn ontstaan.

Het zou verkeerd zijn om te denken dat Beckmann dan op een bepaald ogenblik een schets op het doek overbracht. Wat daartegen pleit is dat hij in de regel deze schetsen en voorstudies vernietigde, en dit soms nog voordat er iets op een doek was ontstaan. Schetsen zijn uitdrukking van het kunstzinnig proces in al zijn etappes. En dit kunstzinnig proces zet zich zondermeer verder, wanneer hij op het doek begint. Hij werkte min of meer tegelijk op de 3 panelen : eerst de dynamische structuur aanbrengen met zwarte houtskool en dan daaruit vormen verdichten, die tenslotte met kleur werden verinnerlijkt. Op het doek zelf gaat hij nog lang door om met kleur te experimenteren, eerst met pastelkrijt en uiteindelijk met olieverf. Maar de lijn, waar uit de vorm ontstaat is voor Beckmann primair. Want dit vertegenwoordigt voor hem de essentie van het scheppende proces: een dynamiek die langzaam tot rust wordt gebracht en met de kleur een verinnerlijking verwerft.

‘Farbe ist Ausdruck der seelischen Grundstimmung des Subjekrs’

en komt als dusdanig na licht en gestalte schrijft Beckmann in ‘Sentenzen zur Bildgestaltung’ (1928)

De innerlijke bewogenheid en dynamiek waarmee het kunstzinnige proces een aanvang nam, vindt zijn hoogtepunt op het ogenblik dat hij dan op het doek dit in een vorm tot stolling kan brengen. Geen wonder dat hij niemand bij zich toeliet, -op een enkele keer Guappi na- wanneer hij uiteindelijk aan deze laatste fase was toegekomen, terwijl schetsjes en voorstudies op de meest diverse plaatsen even werden vastgelegd.

Hoe anders bij de laatste grote schilder in de traditie van de religieuze triptiek Rubens! Hij beschouwde zijn schetsen en voorstudies als zijn eigenlijke werk en bewaarde het achter slot en grendel. (letterlijk) Niemand werd toegelaten in het kabinet van de meester, wanneer hij een ontwerp maakte.

Maar het uitvoeren van dit ontwerp op doek gebeurde dan in het atelier, in de grootste openbaarheid, waar bezoekers en potentiële kopers het voltooien ervan, in de regel door leerlingen – vanaf een wandelgalerij boven het atelier konden , bekijken en bewonderen!

Christine Gruwez







Pubblicato in Geen categorie |



Christine Gruwez

Christine Gruwez a suivi lhistoire de Mani et de ses communautés à travers lExtrême et le Moyen Orient, des Balkans à lAfrique du Nord, en Iran, Ouzbékistan, le long de la Route de la Soie et jusquau Japon. Depuis 1997, elle anime des séminaires en Europe et en Amérique, et notamment, depuis 2008, deux fois par an à Paris. Elle interviendra dans le cadre de la rencontre organisée par la Société anthroposophique en France à Sète en mars 2015. Le texte qui suit est tiré dun article quelle a publié en anglais sur son blog, article traduit par Christine Roberts et remanié par Jessie Delage en une version écourtée, avec son accord.


Historiquement, le manichéisme est une doctrine prêchée par son fondateur, le Perse Mani (216 à 276 après J.C.), qui a été consignée dans divers écrits découverts au début du 20e siècle[i]. Bien que fragmentaires, ces écrits permettent d’avoir une vue d’ensemble du contenu et donc de l’importance du message de Mani.

Une des caractéristiques fondamentales du manichéisme est de considérer la nature de l’humanité comme composée à parts égales de forces de lumière et de forces de ténèbres. Selon l’histoire de la création décrite par Mani, ces forces sont tout d’abord mêlées, et ce mélange constitue la substance même à partir de laquelle vont naître non seulement le cosmos et la terre, mais aussi l’être humain. En lui, dès qu’il prend conscience qu’elles sont inscrites dans sa nature en tant que tendances, ces deux forces deviennent forces éthiques. En effet, quand la conscience humaine les intègre, lumière et ténèbres deviennent bien et mal, et tout être humain a la capacité de les mettre en relation puisqu’il les porte en lui-même. Ainsi, pour le manichéisme, on peut devenir soi-même un agent créateur d’éthique en entrant dans un processus qui mène à la rédemption du mal par le bien. Et il ne s’agit pas tant d’un combat extérieur que d’un travail de développement intérieur.

La pertinence croissante du message de Mani pour notre époque est actualisée par la question du terrorisme. Comme le dit la philosophe américaine Susan Neiman dans un entretien accordé au journal néerlandais Nieuwe Rotterdamse Courant : « Quiconque veut aller au coeur des problèmes du monde va nécessairement se heurter à un moment donné à la question du mal. » (27/11/2004). Pour elle, les philosophes des Lumières ne sont au mieux parvenus qu’à une perception de l’existence du mal, et cela ne suffit pas. Dans le même entretien : « Essayer de résoudre le problème du mal dune façon intellectuelle est une sorte de trahison. Car layant fait, on pourrait écarter les drames du monde dun haussement d’épaules. La conscience que les choses ne sont pas comme elles devraient être nous oblige à chercher des solutions pratiques. »

Devenir contemporain au XXIe siècle invite à répondre aux questions : « Comment se fait-il que partout dans le monde, des êtres humains soient victimes de telles violences ? » et « Pourquoi les gens ont-ils recours à la violence ? ».

La conscience de la réalité du mal ne suffit certes pas, mais c’est un début nécessaire. Après avoir compris que le mal est un fait à considérer, certaines questions peuvent surgir comme par exemple : souhaitons-nous la dissolution ou la rédemption du mal ? S’agit-il d’empêcher le mal, de l’extirper quand cela s’avère nécessaire, ou pensons-nous qu’en fait, le mal a besoin de rédemption ? Pour avancer, il nous faut passer par la thématique suivante : de quelle façon puis-je reconnaître le mal ? Puis-je parvenir réellement à le connaître ? – c’est-à-dire saisir de quoi est faite l’essence du mal. J’apprendrai ce qu’est le mal si j’acquiers de l’intérieur une perception de sa nature, de la même façon qu’il ne m’est possible de comprendre une personne qu’après l’avoir fréquentée un certain temps. Parvenir à connaître le mal n’est pas rechercher sa cause véritable ni ses effets, comme on le fait en général. Le terme «  mal » fait souvent référence à ce que le mal a provoqué. Dans ce cas, notre regard se focalise sur ce que le mal a fait aux autres ou à soi-même.

Susan Neiman fait une distinction entre le mal occasionné par des accidents ou des catastrophes naturelles et le mal occasionné par des êtres humains. Les souffrances provoquées par le tremblement de terre de Lisbonne, par exemple, sont d’un tout autre ordre que celles infligées à Auschwitz. Si nous n’y prêtons pas attention, cette distinction peut nous sembler un peu arbitraire. Car après tout, la souffrance, c’est de la souffrance…

On peut également comprendre l’intérêt croissant porté non seulement aux effets mais aussi aux origines du mal. Le philosophe Rüdiger Safranski se demande si le processus de civilisation occidentale (il entend par là le fait que l’homme se soit émancipé de la nature et de Dieu) n’est pas devenu quelque chose de fondamentalement non salutaire, quelque chose de « mal » :

« … Les êtres humains ont créé une civilisation fondée sur la science et la technologie. Cest ce quils ont mis en place. Et il se pourrait que cette civilisation se libère des êtres humains, comme les êtres humains se sont libérés de Dieu : elle poursuivrait alors un chemin par elle-même. () Et si la détermination de cette civilisation devenait plus forte que lintention humaine ? Quelles en seraient les conséquences ? »[ii].

Il peut être plus important encore de distinguer les effets du mal de leurs causes, que de distinguer le mal naturel du mal moral. Quand nous cherchons l’origine du mal, nous regardons rarement le mal lui-même d’abord. Or c’est ce que propose la démarche manichéenne. Elle pose la question de savoir ce que représente le mal et ce que représente le bien.

Les deux questions précédentes : « Quelle est la cause originelle du mal ? » et « Quels sont les effets du mal ? » sont donc en fait reliées par celle-ci : « Qui ou qu’est le mal ? ». C’est seulement en nous posant cette troisième question que nous pourrons éclairer les deux autres qui, elles, peuvent rester des sujets d’étude politique, sociologique ou psychologique. La question de la nature du mal mène à une série de réflexions qui conduit à le voir comme quelque chose qui nous est propre. C’est ce que propose l’exercice du manichéisme.

La question de la nature du mal

Est-ce qu’une personne peut être initiée au mal ? C’est une question pour le moins choquante, qu’il faut pourtant poser. Et que veut-on dire par initiation ? L’initiation décrit en général un passage par un rite ou une situation qui transforme l’être de façon radicale, ce qui crée en lui de nouvelles perceptions, de nouvelles facultés, et lui donne la sensation de renaître. Dans de nombreuses cultures, telle celle de la Grèce Antique, l’initiation était organisée dans le contexte des pratiques religieuses. A notre époque en revanche, c’est la vie-même qui l’organise pour nous. Nous pouvons dire qu’aujourd’hui, la vie elle-même est une initiation.

Dans le cycle de conférences Symptômes dans lhistoire[iii], Rudolf Steiner montre qu’en chaque culture agit un principe créateur et que tous les faits, tous les produits, d’une culture peuvent se comprendre du point de vue de ce principe, caractéristique d’une culture donnée. On peut ainsi voir l’époque moderne comme une initiation au Mystère du mal, comme la culture grecque l’était aux Mystères de la vie et de la mort. Le mal, dans ce cas, n’est pas tant celui qui arrive comme conséquence visible d’un acte que comme l’essence même du mal. Et c’est dans un de ses gestes intrinsèques qu’on peut le reconnaître le plus facilement, à savoir le geste de séparation.

Ainsi nous serions aujourd’hui initiés au Mystère du mal ? Cela voudrait dire que la potentialité de séparer fait désormais partie de l’essence des êtres humains. Se séparer, ce n’est pas simplement chercher la tranquillité et la solitude de la nature ou se retirer pour un temps dans son propre espace. Se séparer, c’est pouvoir se fermer à son propre environnement, se retirer du contexte dans lequel on est placé. Ne plus s’éprouver comme faisant partie d’un réseau de circonstances, s’en détacher, adopter un point de vue bien à soi et construire le monde à partir de ce point de vue. Nous savons que cette faculté de séparation est par ailleurs une qualité précieuse qui ne peut être sous-estimée, car elle ouvre la porte au principe de développement – à savoir le Je capable de liberté. Mais de façon incontournable, elle ouvre en même temps la porte au mal.

La relation entre le mal et la liberté en tant que potentialités se révèle à un niveau plus profond. L’exercice de sa liberté peut mener le Je à un développement positif (l’intuition morale) ou négatif (la culture excessive de sa propre individualité). Fondamentalement, l’un est inséparable de l’autre : le souverain « oui » ne peut exister sans le « non » égoïste et vice versa. Un « oui » n’est une véritable affirmation que si un « non » de la même intensité est également possible. Pouvoir percevoir que nous portons en nous-mêmes la possibilité de nous séparer constitue le premier pas sur le chemin de la connaissance du mal. Nous avons un champ de perception toujours à disposition, la perception de ce qui se passe en nous entre les deux pôles : la séparation et l’appartenance. C’est un champ d’exercice qui ne se trouve pas qu’autour de nous. Il est en nous. C’est exactement là que réside, selon Rudolf Steiner, l’initiation moderne :

« Que veulent donc ces forces qui engendrent en lhomme la tendance au mal, que veulent-elles donc en imprégnant goutte à goutte la nature humaine ? () En prenant en lui les forces du mal, lhomme implante en son être le germe grâce auquel il pourra vivre consciemment ce quest la vie spirituelle. Ces forces du mal sont là précisément pour que lhomme, au niveau de l’âme de conscience, puisse par son effort accéder à la vie spirituelle. »4

« Qu’est ce que le mal ? » est une question qui ne permet pas de réponse directe. S’il existe un chemin de réponse, nous ne pouvons que l’emprunter. Et sur ce chemin, ce qui risque d’arriver est plus qu’une simple réponse à cette question, c’est une expérience intérieure : celle de devenir un contemporain, au sens profond du terme, être initié au Mystère du mal.

Le chemin dinitiation manichéen

L’exercice que propose le manichéisme suit le processus d’initiation tel qu’il était pratiqué dans les anciens Mystères. On peut le ramener à cinq étapes qui correspondent à cinq expériences intérieures successives : l’impuissance, l’intériorisation, la rencontre, la présence et l’éveil.

Premier pas L’étape du spectateur et lexpérience intérieure de limpuissance

Quand nous lisons le journal, écoutons les nouvelles, nous sommes spectateurs des événements du monde. Sur la scène de la réalité contemporaine, un drame ininterrompu se poursuit dans des circonstances très diverses, mais qui ont ceci en commun qu’il nous est impossible d’agir sur elles ou de les modifier. Ceci nous place dans une situation intenable, à laquelle nous répondons en exprimant notre indignation, en faisant des commentaires et en quêtant l’approbation des autres sur notre point de vue. Autrement dit, nous réagissons. C’est une manière de s’éloigner, voire de nier cet état des choses. Nous tentons de rendre la situation supportable, en cherchant une voie de sortie ou une solution.

Une autre réponse serait d’accepter d’être sans ressource, impuissant. Mais même dans ce cas, nos pensées continuent à tourner de manière obsessionnelle autour des faits : « Comment est-ce que cela a pu arriver ? Comment se fait-il qu’une telle chose soit possible ? Dans quelle époque vivons-nous ! »

Nous pouvons comparer cette situation à celle de Job qui, dans son désespoir, questionne Dieu : « Seigneur, pourquoi moi ? ». Face aux catastrophes qui s’abattaient sur sa vie, il s’est lui aussi trouvé dans le rôle de spectateur impuissant. Quand nous suivons de près l’actualité, nous ne pouvons, comme lui, que constater l’enchaînement des catastrophes. Perte de courage (« la misère est sans fin »), désespoir (« je ne peux rien faire »), anxiété (« qu’est-ce qu’on va devenir? »), agitation (« il faut trouver une solution, ça ne peut pas durer comme ça »), sont les sentiments incontournables du spectateur, qu’on le veuille ou non.

Deuxième pas Intérioriser

« Intérioriser » veut dire ici laisser la quiétude entrer au cœur de notre être. C’est quelque chose d’analogue au grand silence qui était la deuxième étape du chemin d’initiation dans les anciens Mystères. Laisser la paix prendre possession du cœur. Les commentaires et réactions, quels qu’ils soient, doivent être retenus. Faire venir le calme à l’intérieur de nous-mêmes veut simplement dire accepter d’écouter ce qui est là, accepter de tendre l’oreille, avec de plus en plus de profondeur et d’intensité. Cela ne signifie pas laisser simplement advenir, ce qui voudrait dire s’accommoder des circonstances ou se résigner à son destin.

Pour entendre vraiment, nous devons prendre en nous ce que nous entendons, l’absorber, le laisser entrer. Laisser les événements qui se jouent sur la scène du monde nous pénétrer profondément, à tel point qu’ils deviennent pour ainsi dire une partie de nous-mêmes. De cette manière, nous créons un espace intérieur dans lequel ces événements vont résonner. Tant que nous sommes dominés par l’envie de réagir, nous n’entendons que l’écho de nos propres réactions, alors qu’en retenant ce déluge de réactions, nous créons un espace de résonance dans lequel quelque chose peut se dire, et donc être perçue.

Ceci n’est pas un procédé neutre. Dans la première étape, une part importante de la stratégie de réaction consistait à empêcher la douleur associée à l’événement d’arriver à notre conscience. A ce stade, ces stratégies n’ont plus leur place : nous devons accepter la douleur. C’est une tâche difficile et laborieuse car alors, les événements ne se trouvent plus là-bas, loin de moi, ils deviennent une partie de mon propre être. Il s’agit d’un processus d’intégration. Je ne veux plus juste examiner ce qui s’est passé, l’étudier. Non, je cherche à le laisser exister en moi-même, complètement et inconditionnellement.

Troisième pas Être en contact

Cette quiétude intérieure à travers laquelle un espace d’écoute se crée peut devenir encore bien davantage. Elle peut s’accompagner de la sensation de quelque chose qui n’est pas achevé. Cette étape constitue le passage de l’acte d’intérioriser à celui de compléter. Pendant la phase précédente, je me suis retenu de telle façon que je suis devenu en quelque sorte un point, un centre entouré d’un espace qui écoute. En sachant attendre, je me prépare à recevoir. Je deviens réceptacle. Le temps et la patience nécessaires pour soutenir une attitude d’écoute correspondent au temps et à la patience nécessaires pour que quelque chose en moi devienne réceptacle. C’est lorsque ceci est atteint que la phase suivante peut commencer, la troisième phase du processus d’initiation. Je veux rencontrer la nature même de l’histoire contemporaine qui, par essence, porte le sceau du mal. Ce sceau du mal m’est devenu presque familier dans la mesure où il trouve son expression dans tous ces événements en moi. La détresse aiguë et chronique que je ressentais à la phase spectateur n’est plus seulement la mienne, elle est la détresse de mon époque. Cela devient vrai en moi, pour moi.

En retenant mes réactions, en devenant réceptacle, quelque chose se passe qui me rend apte à porter autre chose que moi-même. Cette rencontre met en mouvement le mystère de ce que j’accomplis moi-même et de ce qui s’accomplit en moi. Ces deux processus s’unissent tout en restant distincts l’un de l’autre. D’une part je regarde, j’écoute l’époque telle qu’elle est véritablement et, de l’autre, par ma volonté de la porter, quelque chose vient chercher là sa rédemption. Ce que je laisse mourir en moi revient alors au même moment à la vie, comme une puissance active. J’assume ma part.

Quatrième pas Témoigner

Cette puissance durable peut se reconnaître en moi comme une possibilité ouverte, comme une potentialité qui peut s’actualiser en toute situation. Il suffit que je me focalise sur elle et ce que je dis, ce que je fais, commence à émaner de ce centre. La présence d’esprit n’est autre chose que la faculté de se focaliser sur le centre, en soi. C’est ce qui est appelé « témoigner ». Il ne s’agit pas de parler sur cette puissance. Cela l’affaiblirait immédiatement. Il s’agit de parler à partir d’elle, à partir de ce centre de force, pour qu’il puisse vivre, et, pour ainsi dire, agir, à travers mon être et mes actions. La présence de cette puissance devient un fait permanent. En tant que potentialité, il ne peut cesser d’exister. Il ne tient donc qu’à moi qu’il soit efficace, mis en mouvement, ou pas.

Un malentendu pourrait surgir à ce point : celui de penser que la présence de cette puissance durable me fasse croire que j’ai trouvé les solutions aux problèmes devant lesquels je me sentais impuissant dans la phase « spectateur ». Non, il n’y a pas de solution extérieure, mais un échange continu entre moi et cette capacité à prendre le fardeau du monde, entre moi et ce qui se passe autour de moi. Un échange que nous pouvons comparer à un tissage qui s’effectuerait en permanence et dont les motifs seraient le témoignage.

Cinquième pas Veiller

Que pouvons-nous faire ? Quelqu’un peut-il faire quelque chose ? Ces questions décrivent l’état de spectateur, confronté aux événements sans pouvoir les modifier. En tant que contemporain engagé dans un processus, je décide de les porter en moi-même. Chaque événement est un résultat, l’effet d’autre chose. Ce que je commence à porter en moi, ce n’est pas la conséquence des circonstances mais la chose ou la personne qui en est la cause et qui devient une partie de mon propre être. Ce qui agit dans le monde agit aussi en moi, et de la même manière. Je sais qu’il ne s’agit pas de trouver une solution quelque part là-bas, mais de rendre possible une rédemption. A ce point, nous n’avons plus à faire la distinction entre solution et rédemption. Ces deux processus peuvent même, si nous agissons avec finesse, se produire simultanément.

L’histoire contemporaine s’est éveillée en moi. Elle peut s’exprimer à tout moment. Dans la première phase, je suis face aux circonstances, je cherche ce qui essaie de s’exprimer à travers elles, je ne comprends pas et m’en protège. Dans la cinquième phase, il se passe le processus inverse : l’histoire me parle et je me tourne vers les circonstances. Dans la première phase, je ne peux qu’endurer les événements. Dans la dernière, j’ai acquis une disponibilité intérieure qui me permet de me lier à eux, et donc d’entrer dans ce qui pourrait survenir d’imprévu, de neuf.

Connections transversales

Les cinq pas décrits se déroulent comme les phases successives d’une métamorphose. Dans ce sens, il s’agit d’un chemin que nous prenons, d’un voyage qui s’insère dans le cours du temps. Certains pas peuvent avoir à être repris régulièrement, à être refaits. Mais il est possible aussi que divers pas puissent avoir lieu en parallèle, interagissant entre eux. Ce type d’interaction peut se constater, comme nous venons de le voir, dans le retournement qui a lieu entre le premier pas : « je ne peux rien » et le cinquième : « je sais ce qui doit se faire, peu importe ce qu’il adviendra ».

Entre la deuxième et la quatrième phase existe aussi une relation particulière. Le deuxième pas se caractérise par l’activité de laisser ce qui est extérieur pénétrer en moi. Dans le quatrième, ce que j’ai pris en moi, que j’ai absorbé dans mes profondeurs, agit à travers moi dans le monde. Dans un certain sens, l’expérience de la deuxième phase peut être vue comme une sorte d’obscurcissement de la lumière. Les explications, les solutions envisagées, ce qu’on a trouvé de tangible, et même l’expérience accumulée, tout est rendu silencieux. Dans les profondeurs de notre être survient un grand silence et la sensation de douleur perçante qui l’accompagne donne le sentiment d’être abandonné. Dans cette phase de pure réceptivité, nous nous trouvons seuls face à l’histoire contemporaine. La décision de se retenir de toute réaction afin de pouvoir accueillir les événements est une activité intime. Il n’est pas possible de la partager sans courir le risque de revenir à l’état de spectateur avec ses sentiments de révolte. Au mieux, je peux reconnaître chez un autre être humain cette couleur particulière de solitude, en la comparant à la solitude dont moi-même je fais l’expérience.

Le quatrième pas, en revanche, se manifeste comme le flot ininterrompu d’une expression qui ne provient pas de moi (première phase), mais de ce qui parle à travers moi et qui se voit à l’extérieur. Comme si un centre en moi était source d’une lumière qui rayonne autour de moi ou, plus précisément, comme si la lumière rayonnait à travers ce centre vers le monde extérieur. L’activité est à présent orientée non plus vers l’intérieur mais vers l’extérieur, et elle a une qualité qui élève, qui appelle l’éveil. La conscience d’être éveillé peut donner le sentiment qu’il existe en soi une source inextinguible de joie profonde qui n’est dépendante d’aucune cause extérieure.

La troisième étape est la charnière de ce chemin. Les deux premiers pas représentent le départ de ce voyage qui mène à la connaissance, à l’assimilation et à la transformation des phénomènes de l’histoire contemporaine. Le quatrième et le cinquième les renvoient au monde extérieur pour qu’ils deviennent transparents. Que ce retournement soit possible dépend essentiellement du pas central, le troisième. Si je le fais vraiment, je surmonte l’impuissance, la souffrance et le sentiment d’abandon qui marquent les phases précédentes, je trouve la puissance de la résurrection. Ce qui vient à ma rencontre, ce qui s’adresse à moi, c’est l’être-même qui vit et agit dans ces événements, l’être qui m’appelle à devenir la voix de l’époque, qui m’appelle à être un contemporain.


Le chemin du manichéisme n’a pas pour but de chercher une solution, ou du moins ce n’est pas sa seule préoccupation. D’abord et avant tout, ce qui est recherché est la rédemption du mal. Toute l’intention du manichéisme est dirigée vers la rédemption du mal. Celui qui souhaite aller dans cette direction n’a pas d’autre option que de mettre un terme à ses réactions habituelles. Le sentiment d’impuissance qui en naîtra se montrera peut être pour la première fois dans toute sa véhémence. Mais c’est ce passage par l’impuissance qui permettra de poursuivre la démarche, et ce cheminement qui mènera finalement à la rédemption des forces du mal au cours de l’évolution.

Pour aller plus loin, lessentiel de lapproche de Christine Gruwez figure dans son livre Devenir contemporain – Peut-on métamorphoser le Mal ?, publié aux Editions Aethera Triades.


1.      Cf. Codex de Cologne (108-110). Cité in Mani, Auf den Spuren einer verschollenene Religion, Herder Verlag.

2.      R. Safranski, Das Böse Oder Das Drama des Freiheit, Herder Verlag, Freiburg/Basel.

3.      R. Steiner, Symptômes dans l’histoire. Editions Triades.

4.      R. Steiner, ibidem, conférence du 26 octobre 1918.

Pubblicato in Geen categorie |


Ik zou je wel kunnen opeten!


Hoe heb je antroposofie leren kennen? Een vaak gestelde vraag, waarop je in de eerste plaats het antwoord wel schuldig moet blijven. Want het is een kennismaking die via mensen gaat., ook wanneer je kennismaking een werk van Steiner blijkt te zijn, dat je op welke manier dan ook in handen kreeg, ook dit gaat via mensen Zowat 4 decennia geleden bezocht ik een tentoonstelling met werk van leerlingen van de enige Steinerschool die België toen rijk was. Er gebeurde iets met mij dat van de orde van een herkenning was. Herkenning waarvan? Er was een boekentafel en ik schafte me er Filosofie van de Vrijheid aan. Het was vooral de term filosofie die mijn aandacht had getrokken. Ik durf niet te beweren dat dit een kennismaking met antroposofie werd. Want was dit wel filosofie? En een spiritueel geschrift in strikte kon je het ook niet noemen. Eerder een oefenboek. Maar waarin? Allerlei vragen die ik met me meenam toen ik amper een tweetal jaren later aan diezelfde school ging lesgeven. Het studeren van Steiners werk, meestal in een kleine groep, ging onverdroten verder. Een van die absoluut niet te klasseren geschriften was ‘Antroposofische Menskunde’. Een handboek bij de praktijk van het lesgeven was het allerminst. Ging dit over pedagogie? Psychologie wellicht? Het antwoord ‘geesteswetenschap’ hielp me ook niet veel verder. Tot het verlossende woord uit een voordracht kwam door Steiner voor het eerste lerarencollege te Stuttgart gehouden. (21 September 1920) Wat ‘Antroposofsche Menskunde’ inhoudt, -zo luidt het betoog- weet je pas als je de inhoud ervan hebt opgegeten! Ja, zo in je hebt opgenomen, dat deze helemaal in jou oplost. Een oplossen dat tot een vergeten leidt. Opeten en verteren! Niet willen er aan vasthouden! Dat was de boodschap. Meditatief in je opnemen, integreren, waarbij het vergeten een belangrijke, zo niet een cruciale rol speelt. Want pas als je datgene wat je in je hebt opgenomen ‘vergeet’ kan het tot nieuw inzicht worden. Anders gezegd, bij het in je opnemen en vergeten kan het ‘voedsel’ worden verteerd en eigen gemaakt. Dit je meditatief eigen maken maakt dan plaats voor een scheppend ‘herinneren’, dat alleen maar kan omdat je het bewust hebt vergeten Waarbij tijdens dit proces het levend geestelijk element, dat in een loutere tekst nog opgesloten zit, in jou bevrijd wordt en tot scheppend kenorgaan kan worden. En wordt een inhoud, hoe hoogstaand ook, nu pas tot een levende spiritualiteit. Geen handboek voor menskunde, geen filosofie, geen spiritueel geschrift, maar een ‘Butterbrot’ zoals Steiner het noemt en dat, op voorwaarde dat ik het ‘opeet’, in en via mij omgevormd wordt tot een orgaan voor mijn denken, voelen en handelen als mens. Dit geldt uiteraard voor iedere inhoud die Steiner heeft meegedeeld: opeten! Zeggen we ook niet tot onze liefsten: ik zou je wel kunnen opeten?

Hoe heb je antroposofie leren kennen? Een iets is zeker: het gaat via mensen, dit wel zeggen op de eerste plaats:   in en door mij!

Pubblicato in Geen categorie |

Over het mondig worden van de kunst

Het mondig worden van de kunst?


Lezing in Kunsthal Rotterdam 17 november 2014


Hoezo kunst onmondig? Spreekt kunst dan niet?


Monding worden heeft te maken met het kunnen spreken. Maar niet ieder spreken is uitdrukking van mondigheid. Om te beginnen kan enkel een iemand, een wezen spreken.

Een kind zien we als onmondig (infans betekent letterlijk: niet-sprekend). Maar dit houdt uiteraard niet in dat een kind niets zou zeggen! Onmondig betekent hier op de eerste plaats dat het in zijn spreken nog geen uitdrukking kan geven aan het wie het eigenlijk is. Het kan weliswaar van alles over zichzelf zeggen, maar nog geen uitdrukking geven aan wie het is. Mondigheid heeft te maken met het spreken vanuit het eigen wezen.

De vraag wordt dan spreekt kunst van uit het eigen wezen?

Kunst spreekt over zichzelf, maar dat betekent nog niet noodzakelijker wijze dat ze vanuit het eigen wezen spreekt.

Om dit op het spoor te komen is het nodig om eerst even naar de plaats te kijken die de kunst in de context van een samenleving heeft ingenomen; En nog steeds inneemt.

Tot aan het begin van de nieuwe tijd, ontstond kunst in de context van een hogere orde. Kunst was steeds ‘sacrale kunst’ in dienst van een hoger principe. Vanuit dit hoger principe sloot een samenleving zich aaneen. Er ontstond een samen-weefsel, een samenhang. Niet de kunst sprak, maar door de kunst sprak dit hogere, samenhang stichtende principe., van waaruit als het ware een koepel dit samenwevende omsloot en omhulde. Tussen het hogere en het kunstwerk in dienst ervan bestond er een verticale relatie.

De omwenteling die we Renaissance zijn gaan noemen, doorboorde de beslotenheid van de koepel. Een nieuwe relatie die zich in het horizontale gaat vestigen, kwam tot stand: de relatie tussen het kunstwerk en de kunstenaar., die steeds meer de aandacht ging opeisen. Hij maakt zich los uit het weefsel van een in zich besloten samenleving , treedt uit de anonimiteit van de sacrale kunst en maakt zich geldend. Weldra mondt dit uit tot een soort mondige almacht van de kunstenaar. Het kunstwerk staat in dienst van zijn kunnen. Door het kunstwerk is de kunstenaar aan het woord in een dialogische relatie tot de eigen schepping.

In die eerste overgangstijd, tussen de verticaliteit van de sacrale kunst en het horizontale van de kunstenaar die zich in de wereld stelt en spreekt bij monde van zijn kunstwerk, verscheen er in Italië een merkwaardige compositie. Op het doek is er een centrale figuur: de Madonna met kind op de schoot. Links en rechts van haar staat er een figuur:. Het kan een heilige zijn, een apostel of een kerkleraar. Belangrijk si dat deze compositie niet langer meer uitsluitend in het teken van de verticale verhouding staat! Want de twee figuren zij op elkaar betrokken als waren ze met elkaar in een doorgaand gesprek: de ‘Sacra Conversazione’.

Aan de ene kant is het horizontale hier aanwezig, maar in het gesprek is er een derde term: de Madonna met kind, die tussen de beide ‘gesprekspartners’- soms zijn het er ook 4, telkens twee aan een kant, zelden meer- bemiddelt. Alsof zij in alle ingetogenheid de taak op zich heeft genomen om de gespreksruimte tussen beiden open te houden. De dialoog tot trialoog geworden.

Het is wachten tot het begin van de twintigste eeuw vooraleer er opnieuw een trialogische situatie in de kunst optreedt.

Gesprekspartners zijn aan de ene kant de kunstenaar aan de andere kant de kunstliefhebber. De bemiddelende en tevens verbindende schakel is het kunstwerk zelf. Nu kan het vanuit zichzelf spreken, het kunstwerk treedt de mondigheid binnen.

Waarbij het zowel de kunstenaar als de kunstbeschouwer uitnodigt deel te nemen aan dit gesprek. Een gesprek dat tezelfdertijd sacraal is en zich niettemin in het horizontale, dit wil zeggen in het wederzijdse voltrekt. Uit dit gesprek ontstaat de samenhang. Een omkering, misschien zelfs een omstulping van de eerste context, deze van de sacrale kunst, waar het kunstwerk in dienst stond van een samenhang die reeds gegeven was.

Dit is een volstrekt nieuwe constellatie. Een nieuw begin van samen weven. Kunst wordt mondig! En dit spreken is niet zozeer een verkondigen over de status van het kunstwerk , dan wel een voortdurende poging om aan het onzegbare uitdrukking te geven. Kunst wordt mondig in de mate dat het kunstwerk vanuit dit onzegbare gaat spreken, dit onzegbare dat toch wil gezegd worden. Dit gaat niet zonder herhaalde onderdompelingen in de ervaring van onmacht. Niet enkel de kunstenaar geeft daarbij de eigenmacht op, ook de kunstbeschouwer doet dit! Dit beleven van de onmacht brengt hen in feite beide tot nieuwe vormen van kunstenaarschap en belet dat kunst koopwaar wordt.

In dit spanningsveld tussen het onzegbare dat wil gezegd worden en de noodzakelijke onvolkomenheid en onvoltooidheid van ieder kunstwerk in de mate dat het mondig wordt, voltrekt zich het mysterie van de alchemie. In dir proces, waarin de dagelijkse beperkingen van het bestaan de onvolkomenheid worden opgetild tot stichtende principes voor een nieuwe vormen van samenhang.



Christine Gruwez


Samenvattend verslag van de lezing in de Kunsthal Rotterdam

17 november 2014













Pubblicato in Geen categorie |

(Nederlands) Boekpresentatie 22 november 2013

Ci spiace, ma questo articolo è disponibile soltanto in Olandese. Per ragioni di convenienza del visitatore, il contenuto è mostrato sotto nella lingua alternativa. Puoi cliccare sul link per cambiare la lingua attiva.

Op vrijdag 22 november zal Christine haar boek ‘Meditaties over onmacht‘ presenteren. Vanaf 20.00 uur bent u van harte welkom bij De Groene Waterman (kelder), Wolstraat 7, 2000 Antwerpen.

Pubblicato in Activiteiten |

(Nederlands) De Zomerweek in Hongarije

Ci spiace, ma questo articolo è disponibile soltanto in Olandese. Per ragioni di convenienza del visitatore, il contenuto è mostrato sotto nella lingua alternativa. Puoi cliccare sul link per cambiare la lingua attiva.

De Zomerweek in Hongarije met als thema ‘De regenboog – brug tussen twee werelden’

Pubblicato in Activiteiten |