The Gnostics and Their Remains, by Charles William King, , at sacred-texts.com
Manicheism has been so repeatedly referred to in the foregoing pages, as to make it necessary to give a brief explanation of the way, in which that strange creed may possibly have affected the religion of the Templars. And here, all is either assertion of enemies, or modern theory; hardly any monuments remaining that can be with certitude attributed to the Manicheans, though so numerous in their time, for they had drawn within their own circle every older form of Gnosticism in the interval between Constantine and Justinian. This deficiency is partly due to the fast increasing barbarism of those ages, which produced nothing in the way of art, however degraded. Their sole religious monuments were sacred books, prayers, spells, committed to perishable materials, parchment, papyrus, diligently sought out and destroyed by every persecutor. The extirpation of Gnosticism was vigorously prosecuted by the later emperors of the West, and by those of the East, Arian equally with Catholic. In this pious career the first step was made by Magnus Maximus, the British usurper under Gratian, by putting to death Priscillian, bishop of Avila, and his chief adherents, in spite of the very unsaintly remonstrances of the good Martin of Tours. The usurper's punisher, Theodosius, also made Manicheism (Priscillian's crime) a capital offence, his
edict being the first statutable infraction of the old Roman principle of universal religious toleration. In the reign of his son, Epiphanius boasts of having brought about the exile of seventy women, some noble, through whose seductions he had himself at one time been drawn into joining the Marcosians. Such a vaunt leads to the suspicion that the renegade had saved himself by turning evidence against his fellow sectarians at the opening of the persecution. Or again, this absence of Manichean relics may be accounted for by the rigid character of the creed itself, the offspring of Magism, therefore regarding all imagery as idolatrous and sinful, a tenet latterly carried out to the fullest extent by the iconoclastic Albigenses.
To come now to the second diffusion of Manicheism over Europe. In the middle of the seventh century, under Constans II., Constantinus Sylvanus, a native of Samosata, broached that last and most far-spreading heresy, the Paulician. The name arose from his combination of the doctrine of St. Paul with that of Zoroaster, but he had intermingled a larger proportion of the former ingredient than his precursor Manes had thought fit to do in his original theosophy. The new teacher easily united into one church the remnants of the old Gnostics, especially the Manicheans of Armenia, and the still unconverted Zoroastrians of Pontus and Cappadocia. Incessantly persecuted by the Byzantine powers, their chief Carbeas founded a new capital for his sect, the impregnable Tephrice, in the mountains near Trebizond; but which was ultimately destroyed by Basil the Macedonian about the year A.D. 880. But in the middle of the preceding century, the irreligious Constantine Copronymus had transplanted a large colony of these Armenian Paulicians into the depopulated Thrace, where their numbers were largely augmented in the tenth century by a fresh reinforcement drawn from the Chalybian Hills and planted in the valleys of Mount Haemus by John Zimisces. Here their missionaries converted the neighbouring pagans, the Bulgarians, whence the sect derived a new and more odious appellation, one which in course of time from denoting heresy in religion was fixed to the branding of heresy in love. Warlike and fearless of death, we find these Paulicians serving in
the Byzantine armies, notably in those of Alexius Comnenus in his wars with the Normans of Sicily. From this island as a focus they diffused their doctrines over Italy, they gained numerous converts even at Rome and Milan, but spread with still more astonishing rapidity through the South of France. Persons even whose interests were diametrically opposed to the progress of the sect, joined it with inexplicable fervour; twelve canons of the Cathedral of Orléans were burnt alive at one time for embracing Paulicianism. These few facts, selected from the wide range of their history, will suffice to illustrate the diffusion of Manichean notions during the period when the Templars were at the height of their prosperity and power.