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Chapter 15.—Why the Manichæans Prohibit the Use of Flesh.

36.  It is worth while to take note of the whole reason for their superstitious abstinence, which is given as follows:—Since, we are told, the member of God has been mixed with the substance of evil, to repress it and to keep it from excessive ferocity,—for that is what you say,—the world is made up of both natures, of good and evil, mixed together.  But this part of God is daily being set free in all parts of the world, and restored to its own domain.  But in its passage upwards as vapor from earth to heaven, it enters plants, because their roots are fixed in the earth, and so gives fertility and strength to all herbs and shrubs.  From these animals get their food, and, where there is sexual intercourse, fetter in the flesh the member of God, and, turning it from its proper course, they come in the way and entangle it in errors and troubles.  So then, if food consisting of vegetables and fruits comes to the saints, that is, to the Manichæans by means of their chastity, and prayers, and psalms, whatever in it is excellent and divine is purified, and so is entirely perfected, in order to restoration, free from all hindrance, to its own domain.  Hence you forbid people to give bread or vegetables, or even water, which would cost nobody anything, to a beggar, if he is not a Manichæan, lest he should defile the member of God by his sins, and obstruct its return.

37.  Flesh, you say, is made up of pollution itself.  For, according to you, some portion of that divine part escapes in the eating of vegetables and fruits:  it escapes while they undergo the infliction of rubbing, grinding, or cooking, as also of biting or chewing.  It escapes, too, in all motions of animals, in the carriage of burdens, in exercise, in toil, or in any sort of action.  It escapes, too, in our rest, when digestion is going on in the body by means of internal heat.  And as the divine nature escapes in all these ways, some very unclean dregs remain, from which, in sexual intercourse, flesh is formed.  These dregs, however, fly off, in the motions above mentioned, along with what is good in the soul; for though it is mostly, it is not entirely good.  So, when the soul has left the flesh, the dregs are utterly filthy, and the soul of those who eat flesh is defiled.

Next: Chapter 16