The only surviving sect of (pre-Christian) gnostic thought. It is composed of about 15, 000 followers in southern Iraq. Mandean means 'knowing ones' from 'manda' meaning gnosis. They are recognised in the Koran as a baptist sect which has helped their survival. They have also been known as the 'disciples of John' and as John-Christians.

There outlook is broadly gnostic, having a dualistic system based upon the metaphor of light and dark. The world consists of 'life' - the god of light (the first level) through the second and third levels until the fourth where Ptahil, the evil demiurge, creates the world of darkness and demons similar to the archons. Like other gnostic systems mankind is created by this right nasty demon who is thwarted through the introduction of light or soul into Adam's body to give the potential for recognition of his true nature.

The Mandeans reject Christ as a saviour favouring John the baptist who is regarded as a prophet and adversorial to Christ

For further info consult Kurt Rudolph's 'Gnosis' who has a chapter dedicated to these folks.