Manichaeism (ˌmænᵻˈkiːɪzəm; in New Persian آیینِ مانی Āyīn-e Mānī; ) is a former major universal religion, founded in the 3rd century CE by the Parthian prophet Mani (216–274 CE), in the Sasanian Empire.
Manichaeism teaches an elaborate dualistic cosmology describing the struggle between a good, spiritual world of light, and an evil, material world of darkness. Through an ongoing process that takes place in human history, light is gradually removed from the world of matter and returned to the world of light, whence it came. Mani's teaching was intended to "combine", succeed, and surpass the teachings of Christianity, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Marcionism, Hellenistic and Rabbinic Judaism, Gnostic movements, Ancient Greek religion, Babylonian and other Mesopotamian religions, and mystery cults. It reveres Mani as the final prophet after Zoroaster, the Gautama Buddha and the Jesus Christ.
Manichaeism was quickly successful and spread far through Aramaic-speakin