Zoroaster and His Religion
Theosophist, May, 1883
Article selections by Pestonji Dorabji Khandalavala | Notes by H.P.B.
All authors of antiquity agree in giving a place to this high personage [Zoroaster] in the star-lit night of history. . . . We know nothing positive of the life of the great Zoroaster—unless one of the illustrious MASTERS condescended to enlighten us on the subject—except that he was the author of that religious doctrine to which his name is attached. . . . The life of Zoroaster is thus enveloped in darkness which will always remain impenetrable. But we know this religious legislator of Iran by his work which is grand, noble and worthy of a profound admiration. The doctrine of Zoroaster is without doubt the most puissant effort of human mind toward spiritualism and metaphysical truths. It is pure monotheism, and a lusty flight into the region of eternal Truth. “True,” says the soul-saving and soul-saved missionary, “But deprived of the light of revelation, Zoroaster runs against the formidable problem of the origin of evil; here his bark founders and unable to clear it, he falls back upon the fatal conception of dualism.1
. . . The creation is the work of Ahourmazd (Ormuzd), the sage spirit also called “the saintly spirit.” . . . The legislator considered him as single and sovereign master of all things. . . . Creator of all things, Ormuzd himself is increate and eternal. . . . Behold a noble doctrine, highly correct, which teaches complete truth and tends directly to absolute monotheism. But the blessed Christian sees here a strange failure, a brusque departure from the dogma of divine unity which appears a necessary consequence of the conception of Ormuzd. The problem of the origin of evil is the most tenible of those posers to human intelligence which makes one reflect upon the first causes, and bewilders reason most. . . . His [Zoroaster’s] aspirations were very high, and highly moral for him to have accepted the monstrous solution . . . : the fundamental identity of contraries the Good and the Evil, different and opposed, only in seeming. It was equally impossible for him to admit that the God he conceived to be eternally good, pure, just and perfect, had created Evil and had it placed in the world. . . . Left to himself his thought strayed on to the doctrine in the religion of old tribes, that of the never-ending ever-beginning wrestle between two rival principles, issues of the same source, with whom antagonism rests, the existence and the continuance of this universe. . . . As opposed to Ormuzd, the good God and the principle of good, he admits the existence of an adverse principle (against whom Ormuzd has to wage a continual war to preserve his empire), a principle equal to him in puissance and similar in nature “the Evil Spirit” Agra-Mainyous, in Persian Ahriman. It is this spirit who has created moral and material evil and death. . . . Ahriman has been eternal in the past as Ormuzd, he has had no beginning and proceeds from no anterior essence.2
But the moral instinct of Zoroaster has not been able to determine to regard his strength as eternal in the future, which would have been a logical consequence of the manner in which he conceived it. That being who has had no commencement will have an end. A day will come at the dissolution of ages when three prophets, issues of Zoroaster, Oukhsyal-erema, “light increasing,” Oukhsyal-ereta, “truth increasing,” and Ashtvadereta, “truth-existing,” will bring to the world the three last books of the Zend-Avesta and convert all men to Mazdeism; then the evil will be definitely conquered and annihilated, creation become pure as on the first day, and Ahriman disappear off the face of the Universe. Is this the veritable doctrine of Zoroaster that one can with certainty consider as orthodox Mazdean? But how conciliate the existence of the two beings, absolute, equal similar, co-eternal?3
Did Zoroaster avoid the examination of this new problem? Then what is the doctrine of the Zarvanians? Is it a veritable corruption of the primitive dogma of Zoroaster? Did it commence with Alexander the Great and develop itself in the course of the Middle Ages in contact with the Mussalmans and the pantheistic sects that swarmed in Persia, a doctrine now professed by the Parsees, fag-end followers of the ideas of the great Bactrian prophet? This supposes anterior to Ormazd and to Ahriman, and above them both a unique principle source of all “Time illimitable” Zarvan-akarana out of whose bosom there shot out by way of emanation the two principles, which are to be absorbed anew one day with the beings who people the globe.4
. . . This moustrous (?) conception which would bring round Mazdeism to absolute Pantheism, which substitutes emanation for creation, and which reduces Ormuzd to the role of a demiurge organizer of the universe pre-existing in puissance, in the place of the role of veritable creator, who assimilates the being in himself, the divinity to increate matter, to chaos supposed eternal, which destroys all distinction in the moral order between the good and evil, emanates them both from the same divine substance and destines them to be confounded anew, being distinct in appearance only; is it absolutely contrary to the spirit of reform of Zoroaster? . . . Is it as some would make us believe that a strange metaphysical error in the veritable Zoroastrian doctrine permitted of grafting easily upon that strange conception? Did not Zoroaster understand that the notion of time necessarily implied a limit? Has he confounded it with eternity?5
1. But so does the religion of the “soul-saving” missionary whose would be explanations and childish fables to account for evil will never be accepted by any philosophical or even cultured mind.—Ed. (H.P.B.)
2. Very naturally, for Ahriman is—matter, the begetter of all Evil, and the Destroyer, since matter—eternal per se and indestructible—having to ever change form destroys its units, while Ormuzd, or Spirit, remains immutable in its abstract Unity and as a whole.—Ed. [H.P.B.]
3. Nothing can have “no beginning and yet have an end” in the literal sense. This is contrary to all metaphysical teaching and logic. Ahriman, or Evil, “had no beginning,” because no more than spirit had matter any beginning. Were they “two co-eternal beings”—this would be a fallacy. But Matter and Spirit are one—the former at the lower, the latter at the higher pole of Being differentiated in degrees—not in their essence. Ahriman “will disappear from the face of the Universe,” when “creation,” or rather matter in its differentiated condition, becomes “pure as on the first day”—i.e., when matter gradually purified becomes once more undifferentiated, or returns to its primitive condition in the 7th state of cosmic dissolution: and this takes place periodically at the Maha Pralayas or the universal dissipation of objective matter.
4. As beyond Brahma, Vishnu and Siva, the “Creator,” the “Preserver” and the “Destroyer,” there is Parabrahman, so beyond Ormuzd in his “dual character of Ahour-mazda” and Ahriman, is placed “Zarvan-akarana”—the “one life” of the Buddhists, the Parabrahman of the Vedanta Advaitees, and the En-soph of the Chaldean kabalists placed beyond and above the three trinitarian groups of the nine Sephiroths. Sephira, the mother of all—being exoterically the 10th, but esoterically the essence of the nine. Let us remember that Binah (Jehovah) is included in the first group yet stands second to Chohma or wisdom.—Ed. [H.P.B.]
5. “Zarvan-akarana,” loosely translated Boundless Time, means nevertheless ETERNITY. In our limited languages with their limitations of expression and as limited a duration of life, “notion of time implies necessarily a limit.” A difference ought to be made between “absolute” and “apparent” time; between duration and Eternity. Thus it is not Zoroaster who confounded time with eternity, but rather his modern followers, who, instead of reading his doctrines in Zend, read and interpret them in English.—Ed. [H.P.B.]