The mystery as to the identity of the Mughtasilah came to an end in 1970 when two German scholars deciphered a tiny Greek codex, the Codex Mainchaicus Colonienis - the smallest papyrus codex yet discovered, measuring only 3.5 X 4.5 cm. The codex describes the Mughtalsilah as Judaising Christians who followed Elchasaios.
The Elcesaites, Elkasaites, Elkesaites, or Elchasaites, were vegetarians and the young Mani had to naturally assist in the harvesting of fruit and vegetables.
The Mughtasilah practiced a communion of unleavened bread and water and practiced ritual ablutions. 'Mughtasilah' means, 'Those Who Wash Themselves'.
Reference: Samuel N. C. Lieu, Manichaeism: In the Later Roman Empire and Medieval China : a Historical Survey
The ritual bathing was not just symbolic or of mundane
value. Rudolf Steiner spoke of how when one washes one's hands the astral body is also affected in the cleansing process- particularly if the intention is such.
It is also a fact that there are individuals who enjoy washing their hands as often as possible, and others who do not. Understanding of such an apparently trivial fact actually demands very advanced knowledge. To a clairvoyant the hands of a man are remarkably different in a particular respect from all his other bodily members. Luminous projections of the etheric body stream out from the fingers, sometimes glimmering faintly, sometimes flashing far into the surrounding space. The radiations from the fingers vary according to whether the man is happy or troubled and there is also a difference between the back of the hands and the palm.
For anyone able to observe clairvoyantly, a hand, with its etheric and astral parts, is a most wonderful structure. But everything in our environment, material though it be, is a revelation, a manifestation, of the spirit. You should think of matter as being related to spirit as ice is to water; matter is formed out of spirit — call it ‘condensed spirit’ if you like. Contact with any material substance means contact with the spirit in that substance. All our contact with anything of a material nature is in fact — to the extent that it is purely material — maya. In reality it is spirit with which we come into contact.
If we observe life with sensitivity, we shall realise that washing the hands — especially if it is done frequently — brings a man into contact with the spirit in the water and has a considerable effect upon his whole disposition. Some individuals have a great fondness for washing their hands; directly the least speck of dirt gets on their hands they must be washed! Such characters either have, or will develop, a very definite relation to their surroundings, a relation not entirely the outcome of material influences. It is as if delicate forces in matter were working upon such individuals when there is this relationship between their hands and the element of water. Even in everyday life you will find that these people have an entirely healthy kind of sensitivity and more delicate powers of observation than others. They are at once aware, for instance, whether someone standing near them has a brutal or a kindly disposition. On the other hand, individuals who do not mind their hands being dirty are actually of a coarser disposition and erect a sort of barrier between themselves and their environment. This is a fact and can actually be observed as being characteristic of certain groups. Travel through certain countries and observe their inhabitants. In regions where people tend to wash the hands more frequently, you will find that relations between friend and friend are very different from what they are in regions where people wash their hands less often and erect a sort of barrier between one another.These things have the validity of natural law, though the details may be affected by various circumstances. If we throw a stone into the air the line of projection is a parabola; but if the stone is caught by a gust of wind there will no longer be a pure parabola. This shows that all the relevant facts must be known if certain relationships are to be accurately observed. As to the hands, clairvoyant consciousness reveals that they are permeated by soul and spirit — to such an extent, indeed, that a definite relationship of the hands to the water is established. This holds good less in the case of the human face and less still in the case of the other parts of the body. This must not, however, be interpreted as an objection to washing or bathing but rather that we must keep our attention fixed on the relevant circumstances.The point here is to show how very differently the soul and spirit are related to and express themselves in the various parts of the body. You are not likely to find that anyone does harm to his astral body by washing his hands too often, but the point must be considered in its widest range. The relationship between hands and water may exercise a healthy influence on the relation between man and his surroundings, that is to say, between his astral body and his environment; and for this reason things will not readily be carried to extremes. But those who think materialistically and allow their thoughts to be attached solely to matter will say that what is good for the hands must be good for the rest of the body. This would show that differences depending on delicate perceptions entirely escape notice; the consequence -- and it is abundantly in evidence — is that for certain purposes the same treatment is applied to the whole of the body.
For instance, frequent cold baths and constant cold water frictions are recommended as a particularly effective treatment, even for children. Fortunately, because of obvious effects on the nervous system, doctors have already begun to realise that these treatments have been carried to absurd extremes. What is right for the hands because of their particular relation to the astral body can become an injurious experiment when applied to parts of the body having a different relation to the astral body. Washing the hands may bring about a healthy sensitivity to the environment; but an excessive use of cold baths and the like may cause an unhealthy hypersensitivity which, especially if such treatment is applied in childhood, lasts for the whole of life.