Later in life I came into possession of a translated copy of the Ginza Rba. It's a pretty cool holy book, lots of interesting symbolism and mystery. Light and darkness intermingle in interesting ways in these texts. Since most of the significance of these religious elements is taught priest-to-priest and through oral traditions I did not take part of, it's difficult to examine it more deeply.
Although I don't practice religion these days, on occasion I'll reflexively mutter a prayer under my breath. In a more secular light, being a Mandaean strongly informed my material circumstances due to geopolitics and I'm always struck by the weirdness of being part of a dwindling ethnic group swept up by the tides of history.
Do you have a sense of how this impulse toward secrecy has worked over time, what's motivated it, and how Mandaeans might understand it today? Are there other Mandaeans you know of who might be unhappy that you're happy to talk about the tradition with strangers on an Internet forum?
How unified do you think different Mandaean communities have been in their beliefs and practices?
1. The lack of need for evangelicalism, unlike most religions, you can't become a Mandaean unless you're born with it, other religions want to spread their message to expand.
2. In Iraq (when I was living there at least) Mandaeans were very much prosecuted for being Mandaeans, a lot of them didn't identify as Mandaean in public for fear of being ostracised or prosecuted. Eg. a lot of my relatives that had restaurants/cafes would have to lie about their religion to be able to sell, Muslims wouldn't buy from us otherwise.
I'm not sure how unified Mandaeans are right now, there are different communities in every country, where I live (UK) there's a small number of Mandaeans (around 1000) where there is almost no community, this is the case in most countries, we're pretty much spread out all over the world where's there's a 1000 people in Norway, 1000 in the States, it's really to create a sense of community when the people are so sparsed out. The internet (Facebook especially where there are pages/groups that have tens of thousands of Mandaeans together) is the only thing that brings us together, for example when sending Eid (similar to Christmas) greetings and so on.
The Gnostics were hated during their times by the Neoplatonists for their over-emphasis on theurgy (religious rituals focused on awakening), and they were rejected by mainstream Christians after the first Ecumenical Council for being heretics (Gnostics believe that matter is intrinsically evil; orthodox Nicene Christians, in contrast, believe that matter is a "lesser good").
It seems that, from this article, Mandaeism also has some dualistic tendencies (believing that the world is a prison for the soul; and that the world was created by a god of Darkness). It's also quite radical to me that they consider Jesus, Abraham, and Moses to be false prophets, and that the Holy Spirit is an evil creature.
If you are interested in Gnosticism, you may be even more interested in simply reading the Neoplatonic philosophy of Plotinus and Proclus; or you might be interested in the early Christian theurgical writings of Pseudo-Dionysius and Maximus the Confessor. I think that these traditions are more internally consistent than Gnosticism.
Really multiple waves of Greek philosophy swept through the near and Middle East after Alexander, leaving new religions in its wake — including mainstream Christianity.
It makes sense if the religion appeared fairly late, so that Roman Christians could make that history a big thing that others pay attention too. But it is more puzzling if the Mandaens are pre-Christian as they seem to claim.
Other possibilities are (a) Judaism itself is was bigger deal among non-Jews than I imagined or (b) it's a selection effect under Islam: people who happened to revere Jewish prophets could make a strong claim to being "People of the Book" and were thus allowed to keep their religion.
In addition to the people the ideas were dispersed. A good example of this are the magi who come to visit the young Jesus following an astrological sign - an odd mix of Jewish and Persian syncretism.
During Roman times Jews could be found all over the Roman Empire. In particular Alexandria, which was a center for scholastic thought (see philo)
So it doesn't seem a stretch that religions may have been influenced by Judaism fairly early.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5gb5SoJdEnA (13 min, but well worth it)
Aside from this I’m aware of the Ahmadiyya and Baha’is (offshoots of Islam, but with distinct founders claiming to bring a revelation). They’re in the 5 to 10 million range. And Jainism of course, but that seems to be a little better known.
Then there’s Zoroastrianism and Yazdânism with under 1 million.
Does anyone have a complete list of these smaller religions?
I first found out about the Karaites when I asked a theologian why there was no Jewish equivalent to the Protestant notion of "sola scriptura". It turns out that there is. :-)
There are also some parts of Eastern Christianity that aren't very familiar to many westerners, like Syriac Christians.
That’s interesting. Seems like the religion is “doomed” to forever remain that of a small and shrinking minority.
"Mandaeans believe in marriage and procreation"
But this article speaks precisely to your statment: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2008-11-16/news/081116007...
Also, the edict is only since 1937, they were accepting converts earlier than that. So fundamentally they aren't a success story - they haven't been doing this very long.
Other Jews can marry in, but even this is limited. The majority of self-identifying Jews in the US would not have the qualifications to marry in. Any how, they are an insular community.
"Mandaeism or Mandaeanism (Arabic: مندائية Mandāʼīyah) is a gnostic religion:4 with a strongly dualistic worldview. Its adherents, the Mandaeans, revere Adam, Abel, Seth, Enos, Noah, Shem, Aram, and especially John the Baptist. The Aramaic manda means "knowledge", as does Greek gnosis.
"According to most scholars, Mandaeaism originated sometime in the first three centuries AD, in Mesopotamia. They are Semites and speak a dialect of Eastern Aramaic known as Mandaic. There is a theory that they may be related to the Nabateans who were pre-Islamic pagan Arabs whose territory extended into southern Iraq.
"The religion has been practised primarily around the lower Karun, Euphrates and Tigris and the rivers that surround the Shatt-al-Arab waterway, part of southern Iraq and Khuzestan Province in Iran. There are thought to be between 60,000 and 70,000 Mandaeans worldwide. Until the 2003 Iraq war, almost all of them lived in Iraq. Many Mandaean Iraqis have since fled their country because of the turmoil created by the 2003 invasion of Iraq and subsequent occupation by U.S. armed forces, and the related rise in sectarian violence by Muslim extremists. By 2007, the population of Mandaeans in Iraq had fallen to approximately 5,000.
"The Mandaeans have remained separate and intensely private. Reports of them and of their religion have come primarily from outsiders: particularly from Julius Heinrich Petermann, a scholar in Iranian studies, as well as from Nicolas Siouffi, a Syrian Christian who was the French vice-consul in Mosul in 1887, and British cultural anthropologist Lady E. S. Drower."
Someone else made a habit of doing this a few months ago, with an almost word-for-word excuse as yours. They were asked to quit doing it. At best, based on empirical evidence, you'll just invite a flurry of downvotes.