Monday, December 5, 2011

Scythianus

Scythianus was probably named so because as an initiate, he took the name of his people- the Scythians. He is mentioned by the historian Socrates, who wrote in the 5th century. He gives as his authority a lost work "The disputation (with Manes) of Archelaus bishop of Caschar" authored by one Hegemonius.

This is the tradition: Scythianos, a Saracen, husband of an Egyptian woman "introduced the doctrines of Empedocles and Pythagoras into Christianity".


Scythianus was a supposed Alexandrian religious teacher who visited India around 50 AD. He is mentioned by several Christian writers and anti-Manichaean polemicists of the 3rd and 4th centuries CE, including Cyril of Jerusalem, Hippolytus and Epiphanius, and is first mentioned in the fourth-century work, Acta Archelai, a critical biography of Mani from an orthodox perspective. Scythianus is thought to have lived near the border between Palestine and Arabia, and to have been active in trade between the Red Sea ports and India.

Hippolytus considered Scythianus as a predecessor of Mani, and wrote that he brought, before Mani, "the doctrine of the Two Principles" from India. According to Epiphanius, he was apparently trying to propagate the view "that there is something beyond the one who exists and that, so to speak, the activity of all things comes from two roots or two principles".

Epiphanius further explained that Scythianus wrote four books: Mysteries, Treasure, Summaries , and a Gospel (the "Gospel of Scythianus", also mentioned by Cyril of Jerusalem). Scythianus is said to have been to Jerusalem, where he disputed his doctrines with the Apostles.

The account of Cyril of Jerusalem states that after Scythianus' death, his pupil Terebinthus went to Palestine and Judaea ("becoming known and condemned in Judaea") and Babylon. He used the name 'Buddas', which could mean he presented himself as a Buddha and may suggest a link between his philosophy and Buddhism. Terebinthus brought with him the books of Scythianus, which he presented upon his death to his lodger, a widow with a slave named Cubricus, who later changed his name to Mani (from "Manes" in Persian, meaning "discourse"). Mani is said to have studied the books, which thereby become the source of Manichean doctrine.

2 comments:

  1. "took the name of his people"-- because he had risen to that degree of initiation, just as Nicodemus was a "true Israelite." (Perhaps it also has something to do with the folk spirit.)

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    1. In John-Relation, Lect. 11, pp. 211-212, Steiner further explains the meaning of “Widow’s Son”:

      When a man was initiated in the old sense, the maternal element emerged and the paternal element remained behind; that is, the candidate killed the paternal element within himself and united with the mother in him. In other words, he killed his father within him and wedded his mother. So when the old initiate had lain three and a half days in the lethargic state, he had united with his mother and had killed the father within himself. He had become fatherless and this had to be so, for he had to renounce his individuality and dwell in a higher spiritual world. He became one with his people. But what lived in his people was precisely expressed by the maternal element. He became one with the entire organism of his people; he became exactly what Nathanael was, what was always designated by the name of the people in question—in Jewry, an “Israelite,” among Persians a “Persian.”

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