Mani was the greatest avatar of the ancient world and also the greatest portrait painter and calligrapher. He inspired the greatest religious revival of his time, but did not wear expensive robes, nor cultivate toadies. What Mani did was successfully integrate the best of Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Buddhism and Christianity.
Mani’s bible equated spiritual energy with light, and considered the light of the sun as Jehovah, and light of the moon as Jesus.
Mani used the Zoroastrian sacrament of mixing hot milk with cannabis flower to heal the blind and lame, serving this elixir in a sacred chalice. The origins of the grail story start in ancient Scythia, long before Mani’s time, and centuries before the arrival of Jesus.
Mani lived several hundred years after the mythical birth of Jesus, but he was the most famous Gnostic of his time, and considered himself one of Christ’s appointed agents on earth, just as many Buddhists in India considered him the living Buddha.
Mani was lured back to Persia under false pretense, skinned alive and decapitated for the crime of trying to end war over religion. The gate in Persia where his head was put on a pike still bears his name, although nobody seems to know anything about him. That gate is his only trace.
A holocaust soon followed on Mani’s followers, and it did successfully tamp down his philosophy for centuries, but eventually, all across Europe, a movement very similar to Mani’s appeared. It became known as Catharism. It had no leader. Cathars rejected the crass commercialization of Rome 300 years before Martin Luther came to similar conclusions. They believed in a connection between light and spiritual energy, and worshipped a form of Christianity with a Buddhist flavor, rejecting heaven and hell for reincarnation, just like Manichaeism.
The Pope in Rome at first tried to negotiate with the Cathars in France, around Languedoc. After that failed, he declared the first crusade, the Albigensian Crusade, which could have been an even bigger and more horrific ethnic cleansing than Mani’s. The closest thing I can imagine is the Rape of Nanking. Entire towns were destroyed, women and children raped, and then murdered. It didn’t matter if one was Cathar or Catholic. “Let God sort them out,” said the evil Pope.
The last hold-outs were in Montsegur. In 1244, their fort was stormed after a brutal 10-month seige. The 200 inhabitants were thrown on a bonfire.
But the night before the siege ended, a small group successfully slipped through enemy lines, carrying their greatest treasure to safety, a green-stained goblet. Perhaps this was an actual artifact from Mani, and if so, would have been the sole surviving possession from the greatest avatar of the ancient world.
Many decades earlier, Wolfram von Eschenbach wrote Parzival, a search for the grail. His grail castle is called Monsalvat, which is similar to Montségur and has the same meaning: “safe mountain.”
The book Crusade Against the Grail by Otto Rahn in the 1930s revived interest in the connection between Catharism and the Holy Grail, and painted Parzival as a veiled account of the Cathars. That research fascinated Heinrich Himmler, who made Rahn an archaeologist in the SS, which, later, helped inspire Raiders of the Lost Ark.
It’s a bit lonely connecting these dots from Scythians to Zoroastrians to Mani to Catharism to Raiders of the Lost Ark. It’s been a solo adventure, but I’m hoping others will pick up and follow the trail. This is the true secret of the holy grail. It’s not about the actual chalice but the elixir that went inside.
Eventually the real story has to get out.
Maybe I can fit it into Pot Waco.