Entries from the Theosophical Glossary
Dabistan (Pers.) The land of Iran; ancient Persia.
Zarathustra (Zend.) The great lawgiver, and the founder of the religion variously called Mazdaism, Magism, Parseeїsm, Fire-Worship, and Zoroastrianism. The age of the last Zoroaster (for it is a generic name) is not known, and perhaps for that very reason. Xanthus of Lydia, the earliest Greek writer who mentions this great lawgiver and religious reformer, places him about six hundred years before the Trojan War. But where is the historian who can now tell when the latter took place? Aristotle and also Eudoxus assign him a date of no less than 6,000 years before the days of Plato, and Aristotle was not one to make a statement without a good reason for it. Berosus makes him a king of Babylon some 2,200 years B.C.; but then, how can one tell what were the original figures of Berosus, before his MSS. passed through the hands of Eusebius, whose fingers were so deft at altering figures, whether in Egyptian synchronistic tables or in Chaldean chronology? Haug refers Zoroaster to at least 1,000 years B.C.; and Bunsen (God in History, Vol. I., Book iii., ch. vi., p. 276) finds that Zarathustra Spitama lived under the King Vistaspa about 3,000 years B.C., and describes him as “one of the mightiest intellects and one of the greatest men of all time”. It is with such exact dates in hand, and with the utterly extinct language of the Zend, whose teachings are rendered, probably in the most desultory manner, by the Pahlavi translation—a tongue, as shown by Darmsteter, which was itself growing obsolete so far back as the Sassanides— that our scholars and Orientalists have presumed to monopolise to themselves the right of assigning hypothetical dates for the age of the holy prophet Zurthust. But the Occult records claim to have the correct dates of each of the thirteen Zoroasters mentioned in the Dabistan. Their doctrines, and especially those of the last (divine) Zoroaster, spread from Bactria to the Medes; thence, under the name of Magism, incorporated by the Adept-Astronomers in Chaldea, they greatly influenced the mystic teachings of the Mosaic doctrines, even before, perhaps, they had culminated into what is now known as the modern religion of the Parsis. Like Manu and Vyâsa in India, Zarathustra is a generic name for great reformers and law-givers. The hierarchy began with the divine Zarathustra in the Vendîdâd, and ended with the great, but mortal man, bearing that title, and now lost to history. There were, as shown by the Dabistan, many Zoroasters or Zarathustras. As related in the Secret Doctrine, Vol. II., the last Zoroaster was the founder of the Fire-temple of Azareksh, many ages before the historical era. Had not Alexander destroyed so many sacred and precious works of the Mazdeans, truth and philosophy would have been more inclined to agree with history, in bestowing upon that Greek Vandal the title of “the Great”.
Zoroaster. Greek form of Zarathustra (q.v.).
Magi (Lat.) The name of the ancient hereditary priests and learned adepts in Persia and Media, a word derived from Mâha great, which became later mog or mag, a priest in Pehlevi. Porphyry describes them (Abst. iv. 16) as “The learned men who are engaged among the Persians in the service of the Deity are called Magi”, and Suidas informs us that “among the Persians the lovers of wisdom (philalethai) are called Magi”. The Zendavesta (ii. 171, 261) divides them into three degrees : (1) The Herbeds or “ Noviciates” ; (2) Mobeds or “Masters” ; (3) Destur Mobeds, or Perfect Masters”. The Chaldees had similar colleges, as also the Egyptians, Destur Mobeds being identical with the Hierophants of the mysteries, as practised in Greece and Egypt.
Mazdeans. From (Ahura) Mazda. (See Spiegel’s Yasna, xl.) They were the ancient Persian nobles who worshipped Ormazd, and, rejecting images, inspired the Jews with the same horror for every concrete representation of the Deity. They seem in Herodotus’ time to have been superseded by the Magian religionists. The Parsis and Gebers, (geberim, mighty men, of Genesis vi. and x. 8) appear to be Magian religionists.
Mazdiasnian. Zoroastrian; lit., “worshipping god”.
Avesta (Zend.). Lit., “the Law”. From the old Persian Âbastâ, “the law”. The sacred Scriptures of the Zoroastrians. Zend means in the “Zend-Avesta”—a “commentary” or “interpretation”. It is an error to regard “ Zend” as a language, as “it was applied only to explanatory texts, to the translations of the Avesta”(Darmsteter).
Zend-Avesta (Pahl.). The general name for the sacred books of the Parsis, fire or sun worshippers, as they are ignorantly called. So little is understood of the grand doctrines which are still found in the various fragments that compose all that is now left of that collection of religious works, that Zoroastrianism is called indifferently Fire-worship, Mazdaism, or Magism, Dualism, Sun-worship, and what not. The Avesta has two parts as now collected together, the first portion containing the Vendîdâd, the Vispêrad and the Yasna; and the second portion, called the Khorda Avesta (Small Avesta), being composed of short prayers called Gâh, Nyâyish, etc. Zend means “a commentary or explanation”, and Avesta (from the old Persian âbashtâ, “the law”. (See Darmsteter.) As the translator of the Vendîdâd remarks in a foot note (see int. xxx.): “what it is customary to call ‘the Zend language’, ought to be named ‘the Avesta language’, the Zend being no language at all and if the word be used as the designation of one, it can be rightly applied only to the Pahlavi”. But then, the Pahlavi itself is only the language into which certain original portions of the Avesta are translated. What name should be given to the old Avesta language, and particularly to the “special dialect, older than the general language of the Avesta” (Darmst.), in which the five Ghthas in the Yasna are written? To this day the Orientalists are mute upon the subject. Why should not the Zend be of the same family, if not identical with the Zen-sar, meaning also the speech explaining the abstract symbol, or the “mystery language,” used by Initiates?
Vendîdâd (Pahl.). The first book (Nosk) in the collection of Zend fragments usually known as the Zend-Avesta. The Vendidâd is a corruption of the compound-word “Vidaêvo-dâtern”, meaning “the anti- demoniac law ”, and is full of teachings how to avoid sin and defilement by purification, moral and physical—each of which teachings is based on Occult laws. It is a pre-eminently occult treatise, full of symbolism and often of meaning quite the reverse of that which is expressed in its dead-letter text. The Vendîdâd, as claimed by tradition, is the only one of the twenty-one Nosks (works) that has escaped the auto-da-fé at the hands of the drunken Iskander the Rûmi, he whom posterity calls Alexander the Great— though the epithet is justifiable only when applied to the brutality, vices and cruelty of this conqueror. It is through the vandalism of this Greek that literature and knowledge have lost much priceless lore in the Nosks burnt by him. Even the Vendidâd has reached us in only a fragmentary state. The first chapters are very mystical, and therefore called “mythical” in the renderings of European Orientalists. The two “creators” of “spirit-matter” or the world of differentiation—Ahura- Mazda and Angra-Mainyu (Ahriman)—are introduced in them, and also Yima (the first man, or mankind personified). The work is divided into Fargards or chapters, and a portion of these is devoted to the formation of our globe, or terrestrial evolution. (See Zend-Avesta.)
Yasna, or Yacna (Pahl.) The third portion of the first of the two parts of the Avesta, the Scripture of the Zoroastrian Parsis. The Yasna is composed of litanies of the same kind as the Vispêrad (the second portion) and of five hymns or gâthas. These gâthas are the oldest fragments of Zoroastrian literature known to the Parsis, for they are written “in a special dialect, older than the general language of the Avesta” (Darmesteter). (See “ Zend ”.)
Ahura (Zend.) The same as Asura, the holy, the Breath-like. Ahura Mazda, the Ormuzd of the Zoroastrians or Parsis, is the Lord who bestows light and intelligence, whose symbol is the Sun (See “Ahura Mazda”), and of whom Ahriman, a European form of “Angra Mainyu” (q.v.), is the dark aspect.
Ahura Mazda (Zend.) The personified deity, the Principle of Universal Divine Light of the Parsis. From Ahura or Asura, breath, “spiritual, divine” in the oldest Rig Veda, degraded by the orthodox Brahmans into A -sura, “no gods”, just as the Mazdeans have degraded the Hindu Devas (Gods) into Dæva (Devils).
Asura Mazda (Sk.) In the Zend, Ahura Mazda. The same as Ormuzd or Mazdeô; the god of Zoroaster and the Parsis.
Ormazd or Ahura Mazda (Zend.) The god of the Zoroastrians or the modern Parsis. He is symbolized by the sun, as being the Light of Lights. Esoterically, he is the synthesis of his six Amshaspends or Elohim, and the creative Logos. In the Mazdean exoteric system, Ahura Mazda is the supreme god, and one with the supreme god of the Vedic age—Varuna, if we read the Vedas literally.
Amesha Spentas (Zend.) Amshaspends. The six angels or divine Forces personified as gods who attend upon Ahura Mazda, of which he is the synthesis and the seventh. They are one of the prototypes of the Roman Catholic “Seven Spirits” or Angels with Michael as chief, or the “Celestial Host”; the “ Seven Angels of the Presence”. They are the Builders, Cosmocratores, of the Gnostics and identical with the Seven Prajâpatis, the Sephiroth, etc. (q.v.).
Karshvare (Zend.) The “seven earths” (our septenary chain) over which rule the Amesha Spenta, the Archangels or Dhyan Chohans of the Parsis. The seven earths, of which one only, namely Hvanirata—our earth—is known to mortals. The Earths (esoterically), or seven divisions (exoterically), are our own planetary chain as in Esoteric Buddhism and the Secret Doctrine. The doctrine is plainly stated in Fargard XIX., 39, of the Vendidad.
Desatir. A very ancient Persian work called the Book of Shet. It speaks of the thirteen Zoroasters, and is very mystical.
Javidan Khirad (Pers.) A work on moral precepts.
See also: Ab-i-hayat, Ahum, Airyamen Yaêgo, Airyana-ishejô, Angra Mainyus, Apâm Napât, Ashmog, Atash Behram, Azareksh, Azhi-Dahaka, Baresma, Borj, Dænam, Demrusch, Djin, Fargard, Farvarshi, Fravasham, Gehs, Gogar, Gyan-Ben-Giân, Honover, Hvanuatha, Kaimarath, Karshipta, Khoda, Machagistia, Meshia and Meshiane, Mitra, Mobeds, Niyashes, Oitzoe, Qaniratha, Sapta Simorgh, Sindhava, Sosiosh, Spenta Armaita, Sravah, Tahmurath, Thrætaona, Vara, Yazathas, Yima, Zervana Akarna, Zohak, Zumyad Yasht, etc
The Zend Avesta
The Zend Avesta
Part I: Vendîdâd
translated by James Darmesteter
Part II: The Sîrôzahs, Yasts and Nyâyis
translated by James Darmesteter
Part III: The Yasna, Visparad, Âfrînagân, Gâhs and Miscellaneous Fragments
translated by L.H. Mills
The Gathas of Zarathustra
The Divine Songs of Zarathushtra
Translated by D. J. Irani
Zoroastrianism in the Light of Theosophy: being a collection of selected articles from the theosophical literature
Zoroastrianism in the Light of Theosophy
“The Western Scholars may say: ‘the key to the Avetsa is not Pahlavi, but the Vedas’; but the Occultist’s answer is—’aye, but the key to the Vedas is the Secret Doctrine.'”—H.P. Blavatsky
The Spirit of the Zoroastrian Religion, by H.S. Olcott
Zoroastrianism in the Light of Occult Philosophy, by H.P. Blavatsky
Zoroastrianism and Theosophy
Zravâné Akerne and Zravâné Daregokhadâté
The Sun as a Symbol of Ahura-Mazda
The Lunar Orb
The Iranian Oannës
Gayomard and Zarathushtra
The Sacred Haoma Tree
Philosophy and Ethics of Zoroaster
The Ethical System of Zoroaster
God, Man and Mediator
Zoroastrianism—Chaldean and Greek
The Mahatmas or Adepts
The Last Parsi Adept
Transmigration in the Avesta
Articles from Theosophy Magazine
The modern world has elevated the cult of the personal to an art; so much is this the prevailing ideal that in dealing with old world documents up-to-date savants forget that spiritual teachers of yore labored for the impersonal; they not only advocated for their pupils, and themselves practised, the destruction of the sense of separateness, which is the soul of that cult, but also applied the principle in and to their own public and exoteric work.
In every case we find the personality of the teacher almost lost in the mass of teachings and traditions which have gathered round his name. The name itself becomes the mask that hides more than one personality. It was an universal custom in the ancient world for the Teacher to assume a Name-Title occultly indicative of his mission and those who continued His work adopted it; thus the teacher’s name invariably became a generic appellation of the School he founded, e.g., the name-title of the Iranian Reformer Zorathushtra — the STAR who contemplates and sacrifices to the Living SUN. Of course, in the progress of time with the rise of ambitious and unscrupulous persons within the fold, came the faithlessness to the cause for which the School itself was founded. For example, the name-title of one of the greatest of Adepts, Shankar-Acharya, has been used in India these many centuries, by the Schools (Mathams) which came into being under His influence. The official manager-expounder in each of such schools called himself Shankar-Acharya, in conformity with the practice of the old occult traditions; their duty was to preserve intact and prevent any violation of the teachings of the Adept in their respective schools. To this day, in India several Shankar-acharyas have spiritual sway over large masses of Hindus, but they are more rivals than co-operators, and hardly any impart the pure and genuine doctrines of the original Reformer. The form has survived, but the Soul is absent.
Like all other tradition-institutions this is rooted in truth. The teaching about the Guruparampara Chain which has deteriorated into the grotesque and immoral doctrine of Apostolic Succession has an occult aspect, viz., that the office of the Teacher is never vacant and that orphan humanity is never without its Guides and Gurus. The highest title of the Buddha — and there are as many Buddhas as there are Sankaras — is Tathagata, he who is like his predecessors and successors. And what is true of Buddha, the Enlightened One, is equally true of Christ, the Anointed One.
In studying ancient Theosophies this is a factor the student has to keep well in mind. Thus in the consideration of Zoroastrian Theosophy we have to remember that the School represented by Zoroaster is very ancient. Writes H.P.B.:
If we had to describe broadly the origin of this religion from the standpoint, and upon the authority of the Occult teachings, we would call it by its original, primitive name, that of Magianism. Locating its first development in those vast regions which would have to be described as the whole area between the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Okhotsk in its length, and that which stretches through the unexplored deserts between the Altai and the Himalayan mountains in its breadth, we would place it back at an epoch, undreamt of by modern science and, therefore, rejected by all but the most speculative and daring anthropologists. We have no right to give out in this journal the correct number of years or rather of ages upon ages, since — according to the doctrines of the Secret Science — the first seeds of Magianism were sown by the hand of the BEING to whose duty it falls to rear, nurse and guide the tottering steps of the renascent human races, that awake anew to life on every planet in its turn, after its periodical “obscuration.” It goes as far back as the days of our local Manvantara, so that the seeds sown among the first “root-race” began sprouting in its infant brain, grew up, and commencing to bear fruit toward the latter part of the second race, developed fully during the third, into what is known among Occultists as the “Tree of Knowledge,” and the “Tree of Life” — the real meaning of both having been, later on, so sadly disfigured and misinterpreted by both Zoroastrians and Christians.
Now, Occult Records claim to have the correct dates of each of the 13 Zoroasters. According to the said Records, Zoroastrianism as a distinct religio-philosophic school is of early Atlantean origin, i.e., before spiritual sinfulness overtook that race. The founding of this School coincides with the beginning of the cycle of the Iranian branch of the Aryan stock; this event is marked by the physical incarnation of the first Zoroaster from whose psycho-spiritual seed sprang the builders of Iranian Mysteries and culture. In the narratives of his life-labors, mythical and astronomical events were incorporated, as said in the previous article of this series. Parts of this narrative are to be found in the Vendidad.
Originally the Vendidad was preeminently an Occult treatise; it has passed through innumerable vicissitudes and distortions during these thousands of years, as through scores of editions in the course of the evolution of languages; in its present form it is but a fragment, and a patched-up one at that — put together mostly from memory and surviving documents, some of doubtful authenticity from the occult point of view, after the exploits of the vandal Iskander, whom the West knows as Alexander and calls “Great”!
Since the days of the first Zoroaster this School (like the Sister Schools in other lands) has bent to the blows of cyclic law; it became greatly corrupted in its exoteric ranks at times and became only a surviving esoteric centre; flourished through its beneficent and influential works at others. During this ebb and flow Adept-Teachers of different ranks restored the teachings and resuscitated the work; all of Them were reformers and protestants against anti-Theosophic doctrines and practices; one of them protested and led a revolt against the Vaidic corruptions when cultured intercourse between India and Persia was close and intimate; another reformed the magic-practices of Egyptians and Chaldeans in their sub-cycles of degradation. In doing all this they always employed the name-title of the Original Founder and with good reason; for they were, one and all, but Incarnations, however limited, of the Original Influence.* The last one to do this was the builder of the Temple of Azareksh, many ages before the historical era; he was the Mage who taught the doctrines of Divine Magic which spread from Bactris to Medes and thence under the name of Magism were used by the Adept-astronomers in Chaldea which influenced considerably the Mosaic doctrines; he was the author of the Zend-Avesta which, as Darmesteter explains, is “a commentary or explanation of the Law”, i.e., he was the transcriber and annotator of the works on the primeval sacred Magian religion. The original Zend is a secret code of certain words and expressions agreed upon by the original compilers, and the key to which is but with the Initiates. Neither was The Avesta of Ardeshir identical with that which was brought out and given to Gushtasp, by Zara-Ishter the 13th prophet of the Desatir; nor that of the latter quite the same as the original Zend, although even this one was the exoteric version of the Zen-Zara.
* Cf. Secret Doctrine, I, 359.
While certain Persian books repeating the Occult teaching speak of 13 Zoroasters, we must not forget that there were other individuals connected with the exoteric side of the School who also claimed from time to time the name-title of Zoroaster for themselves. Such claimants distorted and disfigured the pure teachings and have left their mark and impress on the outer story of the School. Naturally, these spurious claimants do not form part of the Occult Records about the true Zoroasters.
The original treatises — codes of law like the Vendidad, or hymns like the five Gathas, or litanies like the Yasna are almost all extinct. The sparse fragments we now possess are worse than fragmentary, for interpolations have taken place. All the same they are full of high philosophy, noble ethics, and not altogether devoid of occult lore and esoteric teachings, though they are rightly called “the ruins of a religion”.
The extant Zoroastrian texts and documents will not be appreciated till all this is kept in mind. What we now possess is the residue of centuries of trials and tribulations through which Iranian culture came to birth, culminated, declined and from all appearances is becoming extinct — this last is one phase of the communal karma which the modern Parsis, only some 95,000 strong, are facing today.
Highly mixed as this residue is, there is enough of Theosophy not only to interest but also instruct our readers. We will here examine some of its metaphysical propositions, then turn to its cosmo- and anthropo-genesis, and finally to its psychology, and gain inspiration from its noble ethics.
As in all true Theosophical expositions the conception of a personal God is absent. Writes H.P.B.:
Magianism, in the days of its full maturity and practice, and long ages before the first of the 12 great religions, its direct offshoots — mentioned and feebly described by Mohsan Fani in the Dabistan, — ever saw light; and even much anterior to the appearance of the first devotees of the religion of Hush-ang, which, according to Sir W. Jones, “was long anterior to that of Zeratusht, the prophet of the modern Parsis,” that religion, as we can undeniably prove was, “ATHEISM”. At any rate, it would be so regarded now, by those who call Kapila and Spinoza, BUDDHA and our MAHATMAS, Brihaspati of the Charvack and the modern Adwaitees, all alike, nastikas or atheists. Assuredly no doctrine about a personal God, a gigantic man and no more — was ever taught by the true Magi. Hence Zoroaster — the seventh prophet (according to the Desatir, whose compilers mixed up and confused the 14 “Zaro-Ishtars,” the high priests and initiates of the Chaldean worship or Magian Hierophants — the 13th) — would be regarded as an atheist in the modern sense of the word.
Omnipresent Deity, a Living Nature are the central truths of Zoroastrianism. The physical and visible Nature is energised by the psychical and both are ensouled and enveloped by the spiritual. Ahuramazda, the Sovereign Spirit, is the Universal Power, one with his manifestation. Of course he is personified and the latter has become an object of prayer and worship with the ignorant. The Ahuramazda Yasht is highly reminiscent of the 9th, 10th, and 11th discourses of the Bhagavad Gita. Like Shri Krishna, Ahuramazda in answer to his favorite disciple, Zoroaster, describes his own nature. He gives his own many names, characteristic of that Nature and starts with — “Ahmi–I am.” The original construction (no doubt purposely employed just as Krishna plays on the word Atma in the 6th Gita) also leads to the translation: “I am That about which every one enquires and questions.” The second name which has puzzled Orientalists and even Parsi philologists is rendered “Herd-giver” by Darmesteter among the former, and as “protector and nourishers of the Herd” by Ervad Kanga among the latter. It really refers to the character of Ahuramazda as constituting the hierarchy of beings which is immanent in the manifested universe; in his transcendent nature he is the energising ensouling Power who, like Krishna, having established this whole Universe with a fragment of himself, remains separate.* The very third name, “I am the one strength in everybody,” and those which follow, are clearly indicative of the all-pervasive nature of Ahuramazda — Wisdom Incarnate.
* Cf. Bhagavad-Gita, x, 42.
Zoroastrianism is not a monotheistic religion, however much some of its Anglicized adherents of today make that claim, imitating the unphilosophical churches of Christendom; nor is it polytheistic, though among the superstitious of the community there prevails ceremonial and other worship of the elemental, psychic and spiritual forces, personified in the Zend Avesta; nor is it even pantheistic as pantheism is conceived by the modern West. It is a philosophic hylo-zoism in which matter and life are inseparate and inseparable, the Unit made up of numberless units, each a manifestation of Wisdom Divine — Mazda Ahura — which is the container and common link of its two aspects.
On the subjective side Zoroastrianism teaches the doctrine of emanations, on the objective that of evolution. These Emanations (like the Syzigies of Simon Magus) are always in pairs, one of the pair itself an emanation of the other. Thus Ahura-Existence-Beness, and Mazda — Absolute Wisdom — are a pair; Mazda the coeval and coeternal emanation or inherent radiation of Ahura. Then Ahuramazda emanates Vohu Mano — the Good Mind, and these two labor for the spiritual unfoldment of the manifested universe. For this purpose is begotten Asha Vahishta — Divine Harmony the third of the Amesha Spentas; thus the 1st and the 2nd, the 2nd and the 3rd, the 3rd and the 4th, the 4th and the 5th, the 5th and the 6th, the 6th and the 7th, and the last Ameretat — Immortality — and the first Ahura Mazda, work for the preservation and regeneration of all. The last pair represents the end of toil — Immortal Repose, Equipoise, Nirvana. Thus the Seven Primal Builders emanate one from the other and form the Great Circle — the Circle of Everlasting Divinity knowing Its own immortal nature. The Great Dragon of Wisdom, Ahuramazda, biting his own tail, Immortality-Ameretat, remains forever and ever in limitless Duration — Zrvan Akarana, and periodically casts its shadow, Zrvan Daregho-Khaodata — the Circle of Time, the Chakra-Wheel of Periodicity.* Zrvan Daregho-Khaodata is the eternity of the universe in toto as a boundless plane periodically the playground of numberless universes; Zrvan Akarana is the Vibrant Sphere of Duration, boundless and limitless, of which sphere the Zrvan Daregho-Khaodata is the plane-circle. The Cycle in motion is the emanation of the Sphere which is Motionlessness — such is the Zoroastrian mode of expression about the Absolute and the Great Breath.
* Zad-Sparam., I, 24. The reference is not to Zrvan Akarana but to Zrvan Daregho-Khaodata.
Thus we have the root of cycles of differing periods in the concept of Zrvan Daregho-Khaodata — Circles of Manifested Time, each of which has a beginning and therefore an end; this latter is the second of the pair, the first being Zrvan Akarana, “Limitless Time”, which is Duration beginningless and endless. Every orthodox Parsi in reciting his matin prayers repeats: Zrvan Akarana yazmaidae, Zrvan Daregho-Khaodata yazmaidae — “Sacrifice of praise unto the Boundless Duration, sacrifice of praise unto the sovereign Time of the Great Period.”
Unfortunately, however, this primal metaphysical duality in time concept is not given (by modern students of Zoroastrianism) the consideration it deserves. There is another pair which meets with a similar fate — Ahuramazda — Absolute Wisdom which manifests itself as Ahuna Vairya — the Veracious Word.* The abstraction Mazda Ahura — the Wisdom which IS — becomes incarnate, expresses itself as the Word, as Brahman becomes Pranava.
* Cf. Yasna viii, 1.
This Word, Ahuna Vairya or Honover, is composed of three couplets and twenty-one words. From Pahlavi and Persian books we learn that these twenty-one words are the names of the twenty-one Sacred Books of the Holy Law which are mostly destroyed; fragments of fragments only are available at present. This Veracious Word is like the sacred formula of the Buddhists — Om Mani Padme Hum — or like the Brahmanical Gayatri. It is at once a mantra with tone effects, a colorful ideograph, an occult cipher to be deciphered according to the true science of Numbers. Metaphysically speaking, it unveils the nature of Deity and Cosmos, and from the psychological viewpoint is the Soul-Power which all true men and good use to destroy the mighty magic of Ahriman, following the example of Zoroaster himself.* It is called the “axe of victory” by which man hews down the Tree of Evil.
* Cf. Vendidad xix.
This Word was the primary manifestation and came into being before the Universe, hence, as Darmesteter points out (Sacred Books of the East, — Vol. 4, pp. 206-07) “in the boundless Time”; i.e., the Word and the Cycle or Period of Time are coeval and coeternal — two aspects of the one. This manifestation of the Word is described in some detail in Yasna XIX. The chanting of this Word has several meanings, cosmical and human; it contains the three stages, like the Three Steps of Vishnu and Jehovah Elohim by which Ahuramazda completed his task of creation;* it is the Note struck for his people by the first Zoroaster, a cyclic avatara; it is the knowledge about 3 X 7 = 21 natures of man; 7 Spiritual-monadic, 7 Intellectual-individual, and 7 Formal-personal, so that every one can employ the Word in pursuance of the injunction “Man know thyself.” Of it the record stands:
“Ahunem Vaiream Tanum Payatae
The Word sustains the Body.”
* Cf. Secret Doctrine, I, 113.
— THEOSOPHY, Vol. 14, No. 3, January, 1926, Pages 97-103
IF the Orientalists, through their peculiar method of reading Zend, Pahalvi and Pazand, have disfigured the import of Zoroastrian texts, they have at least done the service of drawing to them the attention of the Western world. There are two occidental volumes which have misled western readers these many years — Nietzsche’s Thus Spake Zarathustra, and Samuel Laing’s A Modern Zoroastrian. The former has deceived only the bourgeois mind into believing that Nietzsche’s Zoroaster was anything else but an imaginary figure of the German writer. The latter has done more serious damage; the author, a materialistic rationalist of repute, but a poor philosopher and a worse metaphysician, harnessed his badly digested reading on the religion of the Parsis (reading presumably done in his capacity as a globe-trotter) to adorn his thesis on the dualism of matter-polarity. His volume is excellent reading from the standpoint of science and his remarks on Zoroastrian dualism are very interesting, but the title is a misnomer. The book has misled even Parsis, especially those unfamiliar with the real metaphysics and philosophy of their own religion. Orientalists began speaking of the religion of Zoroaster as dualism, and Laing, the scientist, confirmed the theory — so, it became canonical!
In every civilization metaphysical ideas and cosmic ultimates have undergone strange metamorphoses through their misinterpretation by minds not pure and noble enough to comprehend them. A greater confusion than ignorant identification of Brahman with Brahmà exists in reference to the Zoroastrian pair. Not centuries but aeons of evolution are traceable since the two primeval spirits became transformed as Ormazd and Ahriman. If Zoroastrian cosmogenesis is to be understood, we should once again bear in mind the fact of lengthy eras of materializing thought which has made Zoroastrianism what it is, fragmentary and anthropomorphic.
Let the following be first grasped: the functions of the good and evil forces in Zoroastrian cosmology represent definite philosophic concepts; the activities of the same powers in anthropology and mythos are also distinct ideas; their psychological and human aspects make up a story by themselves, different again from the other two. Not only the different eras in which evolution of the duality-idea took place, have to be noted, but also the fact that different teachers used the same words and names to designate distinct ideas — universal or personal, cosmic or psychological, mythical or allegorical.
In Zend tradition Ahuramazda and Angramainyu are not two opposing beings. They become so in their later Pahlavi transformations. Those two primeval Spirits — Minos –are called Spento and Angro, and they are the powers (shaktis, as the Parsi Ervad Kanga points out, p. 23 of his Gathas) of Ahuramazda. Dr. Mills says in his Zarathustrian Gathas (p. 84), “The Spenta-mainyu here is not identical with Ahura, but it is, as so often, His Spirit, whatever precisely this expression may mean.” This word Spenta is the same as in Amesha Spenta, the seven Immortals and really means the Mainyu-Spirit which unfolds its sevenfold nature or emanates seven hierarchies of beings. Thus Spenta-mainyu is the source from which emanate Ahuramazda himself with his six satellites. The supplementing power is Angra-Mainyu, the source of evil which is the root of matter and in its personified aspect is the father-brother of seven evil demons. Great discussion has taken place as to the real origin of this conception of Angra-Mainyu which later became Ahriman, Satan. The concept which ensouls the word is derived from the same source from which Ahimanyu of the Rig Veda comes. The Zoroastrian concept was not borrowed from the Vedas but like so many others is rooted in the original parent of both the Vedic and Avestic systems; the Ah-hi of the Esoteric Doctrine is the common parent of the Avesta Angra and the Vedic Ahi. Ahi the serpent of evil, or the Cycle of Matter is really the manifested Universe, the flesh made by the Word.
The two primeval spirits, Spento and Angro, are impersonal, universal and omnipotent forces — centripetal and centrifugal. Out of them emanate the seven hierarchies of spiritual intelligence and the seven material kingdoms of nature. Spento and Angro are like the Purusha and Prakriti of Indian philosophy. Just as “Light and darkness are the world’s eternal ways” (Gita, VIII) so do Spento and Angro-Mainyus commence, sustain, and renovate the cycle of necessity, Ahuramazda Himself being the primal expression thereof. The Gathas sing thus:
The spirits primeval are a pair and they together communed. These two differ in thought, in word, in deed, one the enhancer of betterment, the other the fashioner of evil … The two spirits came together at the dawn — one the maker of life, the other to mar it, and thus they shall be unto the last. Yasna XXX-3, 4.
I announce to you life’s first two spirits of whom the Good accosted the Evil: Never our thoughts, nor creeds, nor understandings, nor beliefs, nor words, nor deeds, nor consciences, nor souls can be the same. Yasna XLV-2.
These two, the centripetal and centrifugal forces, are the basis of the universe. They cause manifestation and dissolution. The two are objects of worship by the Holy Sraosha, “the God Obedient to Ahura” (Yasna LVII-2). Spirit-Matter, Ideation-Substance, the One Life with its dual aspect, manifests as the Universe, the Zrvan Daregho-Khaodata — sovereign time. This Zoroastrian expression stands for “the Great Day ‘Be With Us'” which the Egyptians called “Day of Come to Us.” It is the “Ring Pass Not” of the Manifested Cosmos in the Secret Doctrine.
This circle of Zrvan Daregho-Khaodata is guarded by four Star Chieftains — Tistrya in the East, Satavaesa in the West, Vanant in the South and Haptoiringa in the North. Students of H. P. Blavatsky’s Secret Doctrine will recognize in them the four Maharajas connected with the Lipikas and Karma.
The Zodiac with its twelve constellations as also the seven planets are mentioned in the Bundahis. Says H.P.B.:
The Sun, the moon and the stars in the Avesta are all emblematical representations — the Sun, especially — the latter being the concrete and most appropriate emblem of the one universal life-giving principle, while the stars are part and parcel of the Occult sciences. Yima never “prayed” but went to “meet the sun” in the vast space of heavens, and bringing down with him “the science of the stars, pressed the earth with his golden ring and forced (thereby) the ‘Spenta Armaiti’ — (the genius of the earth) to stretch asunder and to bear flocks and herds and men.” (Farg. II, 10.)
The Sun is regarded as a focal point for the universal light. The relation between Khorshed “the undying, shining, swift-horsed Sun” and Mihir or Mithra “the Lord of wide pastures, who has a thousand ears well shapen and ten thousand eyes, high, with full knowledge, strong, sleepless, and ever awake” has been a puzzle to the students of the Avesta. Says Darmesteter: “Mithra is closely connected with the Sun, but not yet identical with it.” But esoteric cosmogony and the occult teaching on the nature of the physical sun once accepted, the puzzle remains no more a puzzle. Just as in the famous verse of the Isavasyaopanishad (15), the Spiritual Sun behind the physical sun is invoked, so is there behind the Avesta Khorshed — Sun its Spiritual-Soul, Mihir or Mithra. Mihir in its cosmic aspect is the universal invisible light, and by the power inherent in it, produces physical stars which are its eyes and in the intervening spaces super-physical ones which cannot be seen but whose music can be heard. The dwelling place of Mihir extends over the manifested universe and he has eight friends who from watch-towers guard the faithful, and also listen to those who lie unto that Soul of Light and Lustre. This also is imagery of a teaching dealt with in the Esoteric Commentary — “Eight houses were built by Mother.” (c.f. S.D. I, 100.) Mihir’s Chariot is inlaid with stars and made of spirit-substance (Mainyu-tashtem) drawn by four immortal horses, who, like Poseidon’s steeds, live on ambrosia. In that chariot Mihir drives throughout Space, and the thousand well-made maces of iron on one side of that chariot fall upon the skulls of demons. Here is to be found poetic and allegorical descriptions of the formation of the heavenly bodies — from suns to star dust.
In the prayer of praise recited every day by the orthodox Parsi, Mihir is described as present in seven directions (Mihir Nyayis, 11), in reference to every globe, the third of which is called “this country.” The order is peculiar but the Key to it lies in the Chaldean Kabala diagram given in the Secret Doctrine, Vol. I, p. 200. In one of His aspects, like the bright Nyima-Sun, Mihir falls under Karmic law and becomes the fiery aura of the “Hand” of Lhagpa-Mercury; in that particular aspect he became the central figure of the Mithraic Mysteries. Surrounding and within, above and below, in front and behind the land of Mihir, Mercury (Globe “F” of the Eastern Gupta Vidya and Tephreth of the Chaldean Kabala) is the Life-Power of the Central Sun — Mihir in his solar aspect.
Several hints about the Moon being the preceding planetary chain are to be found: how the Moon was produced from Vohumano — the Good Mind, as in the Vedas it is produced from the Manas of Purusha; how the Moon is the Keeper of the Seed of Bull (Taurus) (c.f. Isis Unveiled II, 465), how the Ameshaspentas pour Moon’s glory (Khoreno — Theosophic Aura-Augoeides) on the earth, and other cognate ideas, are to be found in the Mah Yast and other fragments.
That brings us to the doctrine of the seven Karshvares — globes — of our earth planetary chain, about which H.P.B. writes:
On Page six of his Introduction IV, to Part I of the Zend-Avesta — the Vendidad, Mr. J. Darmesteter has the following remark: “The Ancestors of the Indo Iranians had been led to speak of seven worlds, the Supreme God was often made sevenfold, as well as the worlds over which he ruled…. The seven worlds became in Persia the seven KARSHVARE of the earth: the earth is divided into seven KARSHVARE, only one of which is known and accessible to man, the one on which we live, namely, ‘hvaniratha’: which amounts to saying that there are seven earths.” The latter belief is attributed, of course, to ignorance and superstition. Nor do we feel quite certain that this opinion will not be shared by those of our readers who neither are Chelas nor have read the “Fragments of Occult Truth.” But we leave it with the “lay chelas” and others to judge whether this sevenfold division (see Farg. XIX) is not the ABC of the Occult Doctrines.
The Secret Doctrine (Vol. II, pp. 757-759) treats fully of this subject and explains the mystery. Space forbids our quoting in full the important passage, with the explanatory diagram, but the subject will remain incomplete if the reader omits to peruse it at this point.
That brings us to earth and anthropogenesis.
“Bundahis is an old eastern work in which among other things anthropology is treated in an allegorical form,” says H.P.B., and we will make use of that valuable treatise, thus:
The field of evolution, the earth planetary chain, has an age limit — 9,000 years divided into three periods. During the first 3,000 years everything proceeds by the will of Ahuramazda, followed by the second 3,000 years when an intermingling of the wills of Ahuramazda and Ahriman prevails, and then the last when the evil spirit is disabled and completely defeated. These three periods are worked by the magic of the Veracious Word of 21 words — Honovar — recited by Ahuramazda (see Bundahis I, 20-22). This is the poetic rendition of the stately progression of the 7 classes of Monads in the 7 Kingdoms through the 7 Rounds; the 9,000 years being a symbol — 9 (made up of 4+3+2) worked with the aid of three ciphers, one each for the three periods of forthgoing, balance, and return.
We will take next the description — puzzling to the ordinary reader but graphic to the student of the Secret Doctrine — of that important event in evolution, the descent of the Manasa-putras, or the phenomenon of the lighting up of Manas. It is said (Bundahis II, 9) that Ahuramazda performed the Yazeshnai — Sacrifice Ceremony — with the help of the Ameshaspentas in the Rapitavan Gah and through that rite supplied every means necessary for overcoming adversity caused by the adversary — Ahriman. Now, Rapithavan is one of the five periods of the day — the exact middle of the day being its starting moment — which is observed during the seven summer months, but not during the remaining five winter months. Chapter XXV of this Pahalvi volume deals with cycles; days, months, and seasons are utilized to serve the purpose of defining and describing a variety of cycles. Thus Ahuramazda performing this ceremony in the middle of the day is a very pointed reference to the event in the middle of the fourth round on this earth. What does he do? He deliberates with previously made Fravashis who had “remained 3,000 years in a spiritual state, so that they were unthinking, unmoving with intangible bodies” (Bundahis I, 8). Fravashis are the spirit-prototypes, the inner guardian angels of all souls — sub-human, human, as well as super-human — Ahuramazda himself having a Fravashi. H.P.B. speaks of it as “the spiritual counterpart of the still more spiritual original.” Each Fravashi has attached to it Bod (Theosophic Buddhi) and Ahuramazda confers with these Fravashi-Bod.
Which seems to you the more advantageous, when I shall present you to the world? that you shall contend in a bodily form with the fiend (drug), and the fiend shall perish, and in the end I shall have you prepared again perfect and immortal, and in the end give you back to the world, and you will be wholly immortal, undecaying, and undisturbed; or that it be always necessary to provide you protection from the destroyer? (Ibid, II, 10.)
Then these spirit-entities “became of the same opinion” as Ahuramazda and descended to the world to fight the fiend of the lower nature and gain the knowledge of their immortality and become perfect.
In the Vendidad (Fargard II) we see the Theosophical teachings about the early races of humanity on earth. Just as Krishna (Gita IV) speaks of his having previously communicated the wisdom to Vivasvat, etc., so here Ahuramazda speaks to Zoroaster about the first mortal to whom the Deity taught the sacred lore. This was “the fair Yima, son of Vivanghat” whose story is narrated. H.P.B. informs us that Yima — Persian Jamshed — is “representative of the first unborn human race of our fourth round.” Yima is “the good shepherd” who on being asked to be the bearer of the Good Law replies, “I was not born to be the preacher, nor was taught to be the bearer of the Law.” This answer is indicative of the pure spiritual nature of that first race which was not “yet in need of the truths of the Sacred Science, — hence Ahriman is powerless over the innocence of infancy,” writes H.P.B. Yima keeps disease and death away from his people. This race grows seventy times seven, and thrice Yima enlarges the earth by the aid of the two implements — gifts of Ahuramazda — a golden ring and a poniard inlaid with gold. All this takes 1,000 winters, which says Isis Unveiled (II, 221) is a cycle known to the initiates and which has an allegorical sense. “By the power of his innate untaught light and knowledge, due to the absence of Angra Mainyu, he forces the earth to grow larger at his will and wish,” says H.P.B. Thus Yima becomes the symbol of the three races.
Then Ahuramazda and his Ameshaspentas meet Yima with his flock in Airyana Vaego and the Deity informs Yima that fatal winters are going to befall, and that “all the three sorts of beasts shall perish”; “therefore make thee a vara, an enclosure,” and thither bring the seeds of all species — “two of every kind, to be kept inexhaustible there, so long as those men stay there.” The Secret Doctrine (Vol. II, 291 et seq.) throws great light on subsequent events of the narrative, to which the reader’s attention is called. Our attempt has been to indicate that a rich field of research awaits those who desire to know. In the words of H.P.B.:
Every thinking Parsee, has to help himself if he would learn more. His religion is not dead yet; and under the lifeless mask of modern Zoroastrianism the pulse of the Magi of old still beats. We have endeavoured as briefly as possible to give a correct, though a very superficial, view of the purport and spirit of true Magianism. There is not a sentence in this for which authority cannot be shown.
— THEOSOPHY, Vol. 14, No. 4, February, 1926, Pages 149-154
WESTERN scholars may say “the Key to the Avesta is not the Pahlavi but the Vedas”; the Occultist’s answer is “aye, but the Key to the Vedas is the Secret Doctrine.” The former assert correctly enough that “the Vedas come from the same source as the Avesta”; the students of Occultism ask, “do you know even the a.b.c. of that source?” — thus wrote H.P.B.
Praiseworthy efforts have been made by some Orientalists to study comparatively Sanscrit-Pali and Zend-Pahlavi lore. Serious and important as that philological study is, the student of the esoteric philosophy looks on it as but the forerunner to the more important study of the real import and the true meaning of the fables, legends, myths, symbols of the teachings of Buddhas and Zoroasters alike. Students of Theosophy have to endeavor to arouse genuine and sincere interest in the message of the Ancients, so that the world will demand more than mere word translations of hoary texts and Mss. Presently the cyclic return will show its effects and the western world will have to be satisfied with the tenets of the Soul unfolding philosophy-ethics of the Aryans. Many hundreds of words and expressions, Sanskrit, Zend, Pahlavi, Pali, Pazand, are not understood because philology is divorced from philosophy, words from ideas. The true Theosophist must be ready with the correct comprehension of universal ideas which are the basis of all particular creeds and popular philosophies. If there are dangers lurking in this cycle along the line of the third object of the Theosophical Movement there also exist certain dangers in connection with the second object.
Lack of philosophical knowledge on the part of western philologists and even their eastern pupils and companions have led most of them to confound and confuse teachings which with even a little knowledge of Theosophy and the esoteric doctrines become clear and explicit. While in matters of metaphysics and cosmology one may not see the danger and the pity of this neglect, in matters of psychology and practical ethics the case is otherwise. What a difference it would make, for instance, to the modern educated Parsi, if he could understand and apply the tenets about man’s constitution to be found in his Yasna 26 and 55 (54 of Spiegel, which translation is a better rendering than that of Dr. L. H. Mills in the Sacred Books of the East), in Farvardin Yasht and in other texts.
We will outline here two schemes of human constitution to be found in the Avesta:
I. An eight-fold being composed of (1) Fravarshi — the triple Atma, the Individual Ray of the Impersonal Deity; (2) Urvan the Soul, the Buddhi and Manas, the Discriminator and Thinker, the dual Powers-Shaktis of Atma-Ishvara or Fravarshi; (3) Bodhas, the faculty of the Urvan whereby he chooses, selects and devises ways and means of his own growth; (4) Tevishes, the Desire-Kama which inclines towards Bodhas or gravitates towards (5) Keherpas, which is Persian Kaleb Aerial form or mould, Linga Sharira; (6) Ushtanas is the Vital-heat or prana; (7) and (8) are Bony structure and the Body, symbolic representatives of the immortal and mortal constituents of the body whose true import the esotericist is familiar with.
II. A five-fold being composed of (1) Ahu — the Self, the Personality in incarnation, the lower-self with its quarternary principles; (2) Daena, Its ever-present and watchful holy insight, its pure and wise spouse who stores away all that is worthy in the myriad experiences of the first, and who alone can enable it to understand the tenets of the True Faith (Din); she forms the link between the first and the higher triad and after the death of the personality appears to it — objectivized form of its own experiences as we see below; (3) Bodhas (4) Urvan (5) Fravarshi are the same as in the first classification.
In another place two different names are used: instead of the third Bodhas, in the above, the word Manah, which is the same as in Sanskrit is given, and for the first Ahu — the Personal Self — the word Asna is inserted. Asna is the aspiring-desiring nature, the primal constituent and the very basis of the Personal Self; by that power it moves upward or downward.
A beautiful as well as instructive picture of after death states is to be found in the following condensed rendition of a Yast fragment:
Zarathushtra asked Ahura Mazda: Thou Pure Spirit, the unfolder of all that is beneficent, when one of the pure dies where does his soul abide?
Ahura Mazda answered: Zarathushtra, that Soul, engaged in his ideation sings the Ustavaiti Gatha: “Prosperity to him through whom prosperity comes to all” on the first night, and on the second, and on the third; he enjoys the peace which comes to all mortals through his chanting.
At the end of the third night as the dawn rises that Soul wends its way southward, inhaling the fragrance of orchards and the scent of flowering shrubs and he contemplates — “Whence that fragrance, the sweetest ever breathed?”
And he sees, approaching him, a Virgin pure, of fifteen summers, as fair as the fairest thing of earth, handsome, radiant, heroic, stately, of appearance that attracts, of divine lineage, of the ancient seed of the Spirit; and the good soul questions her: “Who art thou, the fairest maid I have ever seen?”
“I am thine own Daena (thine Inner Spirit-Self),” answers the Maid, “thou youth of good thoughts, good words, good deeds, good faith, I am thyself. Clad in those virtues bright thou appeared to others on earth, as now and here I appear to thee. When some derided the teachings about the Inner Self and prayed to idols, and some shut their door against the poverty-stricken, and some were engaged in destroying growing plants and trees, thou sat singing the Gathas praising the waters of life and the Fire which is the Soul, the Son of Ahura Mazda and made happy the righteous from near and afar. Oh, radiant youth, I was lovely and thou madest me lovelier; I was fair and now I am fairer; I was desirable and thou madest me still more desirable; I used to sit in a forward place and now thou madest me sit in the foremost place; henceforth mortals will worship me for thee having sacrificed long in converse with Ahura Mazda.”
Then first through the paradise of good Thought, and then of good Word, and then of good Deed, the Soul found himself, in the Heaven of Light.
And one of the faithful who had arrived there previously asked him, “How didst thou depart the life, O, holy man, from the material world into the spiritual, from the decaying unto this the undecaying one?”
Ahura Mazda interposed, “Ask him not, who has just finished the dreary way, the life of the body.” Then the Good Soul and his spirit spouse (Daena) feasted of the food of experience like unto the butter skimmed from the fresh milk of spring.
Then Zarathushtra asked Ahura Mazda: Thou Pure Spirit, the unfolder of all that is beneficent, when one of the impure dies where does his soul abide? Ahura Mazda answered: Zarathushtra, that Soul desiring his desires, wailing dirge of despondency cries — “To what land shall I turn? To whom shall I go?” and this on the first night, and the second and the third and through it all, suffering in his, the suffering he caused to all.
At the end of the third night as the dawn rises that Soul wends its way northward, inhaling the stench of impure corpses and contemplates — “Whence that stench, the worst I ever inhaled?” And he sees a hag approaching, foul, loathsome, gaping, of demoniacal lineage, of the seed of passion; and the unfortunate soul questions her, “Who art thou, O ugly witch?”
“I am thou, thy lower Self,” answered the hag, “thou man of evil thoughts, evil words, evil deeds, and evil faith, I am thyself. Clad in hideous vice thou showed thyself to mortals down on earth as I now show myself to thee. Thou derided the teaching about the Inner Self and prayed to idols of greed and passion and pelf, strewing poverty all around, destroyer of beings on their upward way, causing consternation to the good and despair to the righteous. I was not beautiful and thou madest me ugly; I was not fair and thou madest me hideous; I had not a forward seat and now I am fallen backwards. Henceforth mortals will remember me with fear and dishonour.”
Then first through the hell of bad thought, and then of bad word, and then of bad deed, the soul plunged himself in the gloom of darkness.
And one of the wicked who had arrived there previously asked him, “How didst thou depart the life, O, wicked man, from the material world into the spiritual, from the decaying unto this the undecaying one?”
Angra Mainyu interposed, “Ask him not, who has just finished the dreary way, the life of the body.” Then the bad soul and his passion spouse feasted on experience like unto the poison and of poisonous stench.
Zoroastrianism is widely known as the religion of fire-worship. Fire, however, is a symbol, certain phases of which only are commonly accepted. It is not grasped that in Zoroastrianism Fire as a symbol-emblem is intended to show the identity of nature between the macrocosm and the microcosm. The variety of fires mentioned; the mode of building up fire (1) in home, (2) in small temples, and (3) in big temples; the custom of never allowing these fires to be extinguished or polluted; and other matters have to be understood as parable-tenets of the science of esoteric psychology.
In numerous places Fire is named the “Son of Ahuramazda,” whose Sanskrit equivalent is manasa-putra — the mind-born son of Brahma. The Fire is the reincarnating ego and has two aspects, one stationary, immovable, the other changing and growing. The non-moving is the Divine Ego whose ray is the other. The former sits, the watching spectator, saying “What does he who comes and goes bring to him who is motionless?” But this motionless Fire is “the purifier,” “the maker of prosperity,” is “strong and immortal” and is named “the warrior.” He is also designated “the cook who cooks the day and night meals of mortals,” i.e., he is the supplier of experiences in waking and sleeping conditions, as also in life and death. It is further narrated that when a passerby brings him the essence of purity in the shape of Asem, Barsem and Hadhanaepita tree (these are symbolic representations) then the Warrior-Son of Ahuramazda becomes well pleased with that person, and fed as required, that Fire blesses him thus: “May there be increase of cows for thee (i.e., the organisms which yield the milk of sweet and health-giving experiences); may there be increase of heroes for thee (same as above, but note that the former is of the animal kingdom, the latter of the human); may thy mind be master of its vow; may thy soul be master of its vow; may thou live on in the joy of the Soul all the nights of thy life (i.e., in sleep and after-death states).” Such is the blessing given by the Fire-Soul to anyone who brings to him “dry wood” (i.e., deeds free from the moisture of passion), well cleansed with godly intent, well examined by the light of day (i.e., performed from pure motive during day and life, sleep and death being subjective conditions). It is further said that this Fire assists him who feeds him as above described, but fails not to handle those who are inimical to him — which is the doctrine of Karma working from within without.
Though Reincarnation as a doctrine is not clearly and explicitly taught in the fragments now extant, there are numerous passages, such as the above, which clearly indicate that it was well-known.
The doctrine of Fravarshi is of special interest to the student of Theosophy. Every creature, whatever the body may happen to be, has its spiritual counterpart which is Fravarshi. To begin with, Ahuramazda himself has his Fravarshi and he recommends Zoroaster to invoke his Fravarshi and not himself, i.e. the impersonal and true essence of Deity, one with Zoroaster’s own atman (or Christos), not the false and personal appearance. The seven Amesha-spentas, all the religious teachers like Zoroaster, all warrior-souls, all evil-doers, animals, plants, minerals, everything has a Fravarshi. The coming into manifestation of these Fravarshis, their evolution and ultimate destiny are all described in Zend, Pahalvi and Persian books. As H.P.B. points out, this doctrine influenced Church-Christianity, and Ferouer is but a corrupted concept-word of the Zend Fravarshi.
The Chinvant Bridge over which the soul passes after death to the state of light or darkness, is significant as the teaching about Antaskarana; the noose around the neck of the man when he dies, which falls away be he righteous, and drags him into hell if wicked, is the teaching about the Kama-rupic shell of the after-death condition. Numerous powers and faculties of the human consciousness, and the nature of super-physical and spiritual hierarchies, of which man is a compound, are described in metaphorical language. As a clue to the chief symbol of Zoroastrianism H.P.B. gave the following in Isis Unveiled.
Fire, in the ancient philosophy of all times and countries, including our own, has been regarded as a triple principle. As water comprises a visible fluid with invisible gases lurking within, and behind all the spiritual principle of nature, which gives them their dynamic energy, so, in fire, they recognized: 1st. Visible flame; 2nd. Invisible, or astral fire — invisible when inert, but when active producing heat, light, chemical force, and electricity, the molecular powers; 3rd. Spirit. They applied the same rule to each of the elements; and everything evolved from their combinations and correlations, man included, was held by them to be triune.
— THEOSOPHY, Vol. 14, No. 5, March, 1926, Pages 212-216
IF the spirit of Vedanta singing through the Gita endeavors to bring the world to Dharma-Duty, the theme which Zoroastrianism recites for humanity is Ashoi-Purity. The very words with which Ahuramazda rejoiced Zoroaster as given in the Vendidad (V-21) are: “For man purity is the greatest good even from his birth.” This code of purity contains an exhortation profound in its simplicity (IX-19).
Make thyself pure, O righteous man! Anyone in the world here below can win purity for himself, namely when he cleanses himself with good thoughts, words and deeds.
The first, the shortest, but regarded as the most efficacious of prayers is Ashem-Vohu which translated is:
Purity is the noblest blessing. Happiness it is — happiness to him who is pure for the sake of noblest purity itself.
The metaphysical and cosmical aspects of the twin-spirits, good and evil, Ormazd and Ahriman, have already been considered. Just as the great war of Kurukshetra was used by occult teachers in India to instruct humanity in the metaphysical source of all wars (the dual principle of spirit-matter) and its precipitation in man of the greatest of all wars, so also “the whole struggle of Ahura-mazda and Ahriman is but the allegory of the great religious and political war between Brahmanism and Zoroastrianism.” (Isis Unveiled, II, p. 237.) Elsewhere H. P. Blavatsky writes:
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 Ormazd or Spirit remains immutable in its abstract Unity and as a whole.
It was neither the metaphysical nor the historical aspect which perpetuated the teaching about Ormazd-Ahriman in old Iran; it was the personal — the strife of mind and heart in man, the struggle between his own members. They were a practical people, the Iranians, and what appealed to them was the truth that Mazda’s Law of Purity was the weapon to destroy the impure being of their own passion-nature. Their veneration for the great elements, in fact the whole of Nature, sprang from the idea that it was the religious duty of man not only to refrain from polluting but to raise and elevate all the kingdoms of the manifested universe. The aspect of the dual powers which persist with such tenacity in Zoroastrianism is the psychologic-human one, and while Ahriman has been personified and has become, like Satan, a living entity for the superstitious, for the cultured he is but a force within man, his own lower nature.
Zoroastrian ethics is based on Ashoi-Purity. It has two aspects — (1) Purity of the Inner Man, and (2) Purity for the great without. The former is triple — of thoughts, of words, of deeds; the latter is four-fold — of Fire, of Air, of Water, of Earth. The Law of Purity is the Law of Wisdom. Dadistani-Dinik says:
As through Wisdom is created the world of righteousness, through wisdom is subjugated every evil, and through wisdom is perfected every good.
The Law of Mazda, the Wise, is the Law of Purity — (1) of matter–force–consciousness, (2) of elements–energies–beings, (3) of body–mind–soul, (4) of deed–word–thought.
Every Zoroastrian wears next to his skin the Sudarah, the shirt of white material, symbol of purity, of a prescribed cut with symbolic mark thereon, and ties the sacred thread, Kusti, made up of seventy-two interwoven filaments, round his waist over that shirt. Each of the seventy-two filaments represents one of the seventy-two parts of the Izashne — the Yagna-Sacrifice ritual. The thread circumvents the waist three times; in tying it a particular knot is made in the front and another with loose ends at the back. It is thus done: the middle of the thread is applied to the waist in front, and the loose ends go round behind where they change hands, what was in the left hand being taken up by the right and the end in the right hand is picked up by the left; then these are brought back to the front so that the thread has gone round twice; then are made two knots — a right hand and a left hand, and the loose ends for the last time passed behind and tied there with a similar knot. This way in which it is tied, the chanting which accompanies it, in fact its whole symbology centers round the fundamental idea — Humata, Hukhata, Huaresta, good thought, good word, good deed. Several times a day the pious or orthodox Parsi in untying and retying the thread repeats short prayers to affirm the joyous victory of Ahuramazda, and the contempt he feels for Ahriman, and to repent the error of his ways, thus:
I repent for all the evil thoughts, the evil words, the evil deeds, deliberate or unintentional, which I started on their nefarious journey, related to my body or soul, connected with the material or the spiritual world — I repent with the power of the Triple Word.
He reminds himself of the fact that the Law of Ahuramazda is the only true protector and its benediction comes from the Soul-Fire, the Son of Ahura whose intelligence is divine and good.
This Law of Ahuramazda is clear to the wise and the discriminating who by its aid acquire the power of righteous thought and deed and obtain control over the tongue (yasna xxxi — 19 and 22). Manasni–Gavasni–Kunasni — Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds, according to the righteous law of Ahura is reiterated in numerous places in the Avesta. It is insisted that man should consult the righteous Law of Wisdom. His own good inclinations or noble aspirations are not all sufficient, his mental and verbal expressions and especially his deeds should be in conformity with the Code of Wisdom. The Renunciation of Sin (a definite magic-rite now forgotten) has to be performed for the preservation of the soul, in a deliberate manner. Says Dina-i-Maninog-i-Khirad (LII):
Every disaster which springs up he is to trace to the violence of Ahriman and his host, and he is not to seek his own welfare and advantages through the injury of any one else; thus he becomes compassionate as regards all the creatures of Ahuramazda. In duty and good works he is diligent and persistent….. For the performance of Renunciation of Sin the special thing is this, that one commits no sin voluntarily; and if through folly, or weakness and ignorance, a sin occurs, he should then renounce that sin by approaching the high-priest who is his good soul; and after that when he refrains from that sin, having learnt its lesson, that sin is swept away from him, just as the wind, fast and strong sweeping over the plain carries away every single blade of grass and anything that is not rooted in the soil.
Vendidad (XVIII-17) advocates that one should never be slack in good thoughts, words, and deeds, but let a man ever be slack in the three opposing abominations. When a man thinks, speaks, and acts righteously according to the Good Law he obtains from Spenta-Mainyu, the good spirit of Mazda, blissful immortality which is universal harmony of Wisdom (yasna — XLVII — 1-2). There is no trace of any vicarious method of gaining happiness and spiritual insight — the man himself has to fight the evil and refrain from it, to befriend the good and practise it. The struggle which rages within man is long and protracted but through the Soul-Fire the faithful purified of his sins comes to immortality.
The Avesta enjoins the faithful to maintain and increase the purity of the four great elements. It is indicated that these elements are contacted by the man through his own constitution and that an intimate kinship between man and the elemental worlds exists. Thus the tilling of the earth is not only a physical but a psychological process; the water is not only a material element but a psycho-spiritual force; the radiant fire is but a substantial manifestation of divine intelligence; air is not only gaseous matter but a magnetic healer and a purifier of druj-sin, whose nature is psychic.
Thus in the Vendidad the earth rejoices when the faithful digs out corpses of man and beast (i.e. throws out of his being the dead things of lust and passion); the earth feels happy and rejoices when the faithful steps on it on his way to the performance of religious rites (i.e. resolves to begin the spiritual life); when the faithful clears the ground to erect his house (i.e. creates by the power of thought and deed the temple as the soul’s habitat); when the faithful cultivates corn, grass and fruit (i.e. reaps his good Karma); and when the faithful brings increase of flocks and herds (i.e. increases his spiritual faculties for the feeding of his fellow-men). Therefore it is said in the Vendidad (III-24):
Unhappy is the land that has long lain unsown with the seed of the sower and wants a good husbandman. He who would till the earth, O Spitama Zarathustra! with the left arm and the right, with the right arm and the left, the earth will bring forth plenty of fruit. Unto the tiller says the Earth: “O thou man! who dost till me with the left arm and the right, with the right arm and the left, hither shall people ever come and beg for bread, here shall I ever go on bearing, bringing forth all manner of food, bringing forth profusion of corn.” But to the non-tiller says the Earth: “O thou man! who dost not till me with the left arm and the right, with the right arm and the left, ever shalt thou stand at the door of the stranger, among those who beg for bread; ever shalt thou wait there for the refuse that is brought unto thee, brought by those who have profusion of wealth.”
This is not only a reference to the farming process, but the metaphor is used as in the 13th Gita for the immortal Farmer-Soul who sows and reaps thoughts and words and deeds. Therefore it is said:
O Maker of the material world, thou Holy One! What is the food that fills the law of Mazda, what is the stomach of the Law? Ahura Mazda answered: “It is sowing corn again and again, O Spitama Zarathustra! He who sows corn, sows holiness; he makes the law of Mazda grow higher and higher; he makes the law of Mazda as fat as he can with a hundred acts of adoration, a thousand oblations, ten thousand sacrifices.
And so it is sung:
‘When barley occurs, then the demons hiss;
When thrashing occurs, then the demons whine;
When grinding occurs, then the demons roar;
When flour occurs, then the demons flee.’
Then let the people learn this holy saying: ‘No one who does not eat, has strength to do works of holiness, strength to do works of husbandry, strength to beget children. By eating every material creature lives; by not eating it dies away.'”
All this is reference to the doing of good action and the living of the life of holiness. The growth of courageous resolve to live is sowing and its first fruit is barley; the working with that fruit with discrimination is thrashing; when the knowledge is applied the corn is being ground and the evil in man roars, and when the spiritual insight as the result of good living comes to fruition (flour) the evil dies.
Next let us see the element of water. The following is from Aban-Yast (10-13):
Offer up a sacrifice, O Spitama Zarathustra! unto this spring of mine, Ardvi Sura Anahita, the wide-expanding and health-giving, who hates the Demons and obeys the laws of Ahura, who is worthy of sacrifice in the material world, worthy of prayer in the material world; the life-increasing and holy, the herd-increasing and holy, the fold-increasing and holy, the wealth-increasing and holy, the country-increasing and holy;
Who drives forwards on her chariot, holding the reins of the chariot. She goes, driving, on this chariot, longing for the worship of men and thinking thus in her heart: “Who will praise me? Who will offer me a sacrifice, with libations cleanly prepared and well-strained, together with the Haoma and meat? To whom shall I cleave, who cleaves unto me, and thinks with me, and bestows gifts upon me, and is of good will unto me?”
Whom four horses carry, all white, of one and the same colour, of the same blood, tall, crushing down the hates of all haters, the hates of Demons and men, of evil spirits and goblins, of the oppressors, of the blind and of the deaf.
This goddess of water is, as H.P.B. points out, the Zoroastrian-Minerva: “Begging the pardon of our European Sanskritists and Zend scholars, we would ask them to tell, if they know, who was the Mazdean goddess Ardvi-Sura Anahita? We maintain and can prove what we say, that the said personage implored by Ahura, and Saraswati (the Brahminical goddess of Secret or Occult wisdom) are identical.”
In the previous article we have already dealt with the fire intelligence, the Soul in man, the Son of Ahura-Mazda. In the above passage from Dina-i-Maninog-i-Khirad and in other places the righteous and purifying power of air, its might to destroy and sweep away evil, etc., are mentioned.
Rich in metaphor, profusely symbolic, but to the student of Theosophy and esotericism very clear, are all the Avesta fragments. There is enough of the ancient Wisdom extant in them to make them more than interesting; they provide important proofs of the existence of the Universal Wisdom Religion from which all religions and philosophies sprang. Says H.P.B.:
The origin of the Brahmans and Magi in the night of time is one, the secret doctrine teaches us. First, there were a hierarchy of adepts, of men profoundly versed in physical and spiritual sciences and occult knowledge, of various nationalities, all celibates, and enlarging their numbers by the transmission of their knowledge to voluntary neophytes. Then when their numbers became too large to be contained in the “Airyanam Vaejo,” the adepts scattered far and wide, and we can trace them establishing other hierarchies on the model of the first in every part of the globe.
Such Adept-Messengers to the four corners of the Globe were the incarnated Ameshaspentas — “who were all of One Thought, who were all of One Speech, who were all of One Deed, whose thought is the same, whose word is the same, whose deed is the same, who see from afar one another’s soul thinking of good thoughts, thinking of good words, thinking of good deeds, thinking of the World of Light. Radiant are their Paths, shining Their ways as They go down to the Libations.”
— THEOSOPHY, Vol. 14, No. 6, April, 1926, Pages 264-268
Articles from The Path
RELIGION OF THE “FIRE WORSHIPERS”
The managers of the Parliament of Religions of the World’s Fair requested Mr. Narroji of London, a Parsee who is in Parliament, to advise as to the best means for having the Zoroastrian religion represented there, and they were directed to the Rahnumai Mazdayasnan Society of Bombay, which appointed their lecturer, Mr. Sheriarji D. Bharucha, to prepare an address. This he did, and it may be regarded as authoritative. The Society subsequently published the address, and these extracts are from it. 1
There are two expressions as to Time. The first is Time without bounds, or Eternity. The second is Time with a fixed period and therefore restricted to mean a cycle of time. The state of the Universe before the present cycle of time is not treated of in the books. But the end of the world is synchronous with the end of the present cycle when the last of Saoshyants will come. He will regenerate all; the souls in hell will be raised up and all souls will be brought unto bliss, for God’s wish cannot be gainsayed. [Hence we see that the old cyclic doctrine is held and that final damnation is not possible. In some Persian books recurrent cycles are mentioned.]
Its object is to promote happiness. The doctrine of creating something out of nothing is not held, but it is taught that the material cause of the world was supplied by the efficient cause Himself. At first there was a spiritual series of creatures. [This resembles the system of Secret Doctrine. After these came corporeal creations, the lower coming first, and then man last. In the course of this evolution the Saoshyants, who are saviors and teachers, come among men.
Man is a compound of material and spiritual parts, thus:
Urvan Soul (Feminine)
Fravashi Soul (Masculine)
To soul are ascribed mind, consciousness, and the like.
The soul having been furnished with every aid is expected to come out successful in its moral career and get reward. But if it fails no vicarious salvation can be asked, as that is unknown to the religion.
As salvation depends on works, it is a peremptory duty to lead a holy life. The code is: Good word, good thought, good deed. All the very highest virtues are inculcated and described in the same way as in any modern system, and vices are emphatically denounced.
WORSHIP AND RITUAL
Oral recitations of the Sacred Word, sometimes accompanied with ritual, form their worship. Every Parsee generally prays by himself [this is the religion of Jesus], but public worship by all is sometimes performed. Most of the ritual must be performed by the priests. The most necessary ritual is the prayer on untying and retying the sacred thread, called Kusti, round the waist on the sacred shirt called Sudra. [This thread is extremely like the Brahminical one]. Between seven and fifteen the child must be invested with Kusti and Sudra. The Sudra is a white linen shirt with a breast-piece in front. Kusti is a thread or tape made of seventy-two woolen threads, girded three times round the waist with four knots, two in front and two behind. It is worn day and night. It is made of lamb’s wool. The ceremony of investiture is called Navzot, i. e., new or first worship, and is performed by one priest in presence of the audience. The materials, colors, knots, and numbers are all symbolical. Laymen cannot take part in the principal ritualistic performances, but can touch some of the accessory implements. [Herein is similarity to Roman Catholic ritual.] Animal sacrifices were once offered, but are not now.
PARSIS NOT FIRE-WORSHIPERS
A fallacious notion that the Zoroastrians worship fire arose from their outward reverence for it as a great natural salutary agent. All their writers modern and ancient repudiate the notion, and Zoroaster enjoined the worship of the Supreme Being alone. Ferdosi says in the Shahnameh, a great epic,
Do not say that they were fire-worshipers;
For they were worshipers of God the Holy.
It is extremely probable that Zoroaster found the people worshipping idols, as certain references point to that fact, and reformed them gently by suggesting that they salute as holy the fire, which is the best and highest symbol of the Divine. In the Sun it represents the source of all life on earth, and it would be the part of a wise man to direct people who lived among idolators to such a grand and pure symbol, certainly less open to objection than are the images of Jesus and Mary used in modern times by Christians.
1. Brief Sketch of the Zoroastrian Religion and Customs, Duftur Ashkara Press, Bombay.
— S. D. Bharucha, The Path, May 1894
Articles from Sunrise Magazine
The Book of God
Here at hand is The Desatir, which Zoroastrians call the Book of God, the message-bearer and nourisher, not only of the wisest and best, but of everyone who has understanding in his soul. It is a small volume, so old, so unusual in its mystical allegories of the nature of man, of God, and of the interrelation between planets and earthlings, that it has been cherished for thousands of years by peoples of various religious persuasions. Five hundred years before Christ it was considered “a literary relic” and the sole surviving example of the archaic, now lost, Mahabhadian language — a language which the Oriental scholar Baron von Hammer believed links modern Germanic idiom with possibly the most ancient Asiatic dialect, spoken long ago in the northeastern part of the then vast Iranian empire, in Sogd and Bamian.
At certain times, when “mankind did evil,” and could have misunderstood and misused esoteric tenets of The Desatir, it was “lost,” hidden for generations perhaps in some remote library and forgotten by all but those who protected and preserved it. The present edition (Wizards Bookshelf, 1975) is a photocopy of the 1888 republication of an original 1818 English translation from the Persian made by the Parsi scholar, Mulla Firuz Bin Kaus. His translation, which aroused much interest in Zoroastrianism among students of Oriental antiquities in America, Europe and India, was in turn made from an extremely rare old manuscript Mulla Kaus’s father had discovered at Isfahan around 1778.
Unlike the Bhagavad-Gita which is treasured by millions, The Desatir is today relatively unknown. This is unfortunate, for this little volume, together with the Zend-Avesta — those surviving fragments of sacred law, said originally to have been delivered to the prophet on the mountain Ushidarinna and later written in gold on the hides of 12,000 oxen and The Dabistan, are invaluable sources of Zoroastrian inspiration and information.
Moshan Fani, the Muslim traveler who compiled The Dabistan (c. 1653) as a synopsis of twelve great religious beliefs, cites teachings from The Desatir which explain Zoroastrian doctrines, doctrines which convince many that this is the oldest and noblest of all religions. Indeed, several scholars point out that its symbolism, once understood, preserves a purer, because less altered, picture of primeval Aryan tradition than do the Vedas. For this reason it has timeless appeal.
It is remarkable, for instance, that in those days so long ago they considered all living beings as one body, a physical-intellectual-spiritual familyhood of planets and stars, of men, animals, vegetables, minerals and elemental lives of fire, air, water and earth — all components continuously interacting and interdependent. The scope and implementation of this concept makes their philosophy infinitely altruistic and, at the same time, refreshingly practical. Recognizing all others not only as kinfolk but as truly part of themselves, and affected for good or ill by their actions and thoughts, the Zoroastrians were unbelievably considerate, never intentionally harming another, be it man, insect, or running stream. They regarded moderation essential, asceticism as harmful and degrading as overindulgence, and a healthy, disciplined body the proper instrument for a sound, clear mind to use in performing the works of the spiritual self. They pointed out further, that just as excessive mental development may lead toward cunning and its lack toward folly; and just as excessive courage tends toward contention and its lack toward cowardice, so the golden mean between these brings one to justice, wisdom and joy. Thus their rules of conduct recommend the virtues we value today: honesty, hard work, initiative, perseverance and self-restraint in pursuit of the general good; the same principles, in fact, which had enabled the Iranians to establish and maintain one of the earliest and largest empires on earth that recognized individual worth and rights irrespective of race, color or religious belief.
Then, as now, there were undoubtedly protests both from conservatives and from those who advocated still further increase of personal liberties. Disruptive as such discontent can be, it seems to be essential in the awakening of our responsibility to and for all life, as The Desatir explains in the following fable of the animals ‘rebellion.’ (Mulla Firuz Bin Kaus, pp. 99-108.)
Long ago when the world was new and Mazda, Monarch of All, had assigned to each being, from celestial to animal, vegetable and mineral, its own particular constitution, office, guide and guardian, an unexpected dissension arose. The animals rebelled against human dominion! All seven classes — the harmless ones that graze, fly, crawl and swim; the ravenous animals, the birds of prey, and the insects — all sent representatives to protest against man’s rule.
First the camel spoke: “O Prophet of Mazda, tell us please, in what way is man superior that we should be subject to his dominion?”
A sage of the Lord explained, “Man is superior in many ways: by his speech . . .”
But the camel demurred, “If the purpose of speech is to be understood, surely ours excels man’s whose is so varied that it cannot be understood from one country to another.”
The sage was hesitant, but replied, “You have been ordained to our service.”
“And you,” the camel spoke slowly, “have been ordained to bring to us water, and grain, and grass.”
Then an ant crawled forward and asked how else man excels. “Man excels by his shape and his upright deportment.”
“But,” queried the ant, “can the intelligent really pride themselves on their shape? Aren’t we all equal in the combination of our parts? In fact, don’t we animals surpass man in this respect also, for whereas one compares that which he loves to something superior, does not man describe his beloved as having the eyes of a doe, the grace of a partridge, the splendor of a peacock?”
So it went, the animals scoring point after point as they listed examples of what man takes from them: their feathers and fur for his raiment and pleasure, their honey and eggs, milk and flesh for his table. As they recounted their skills of science and the arts, they inquired if any man could weave, as do the birds, without loom, or could construct geometric buildings, as do the bees, without lumber or bricks.
Sage after sage was humbled. “Yes, it’s all true, but while you possess only one or another of these qualities, man has them all, becomes as an angel, as a god in his wisdom and conduct!”
“Angel indeed!” chorused the animals. “His greed and brutality are worse than a beast’s!”
Undismayed, the sage of the Lord continued: “Furthermore, because the whole world is one body, it is necessary to slay noxious and depraved animals, otherwise they as a disease would destroy the huge animal of which we all are parts. However, I suggest we all agree that from this day forward, no harmless animal shall ever again be mistreated or killed.”
This made sense to the animals. Now they agreed to mutually respect and “hold each other dear,” a commitment in which the wolf joined with the ram, and the lion with the stag. Harmony was established, tyranny ended — until Desh-bireh the Arab broke the covenant, by not only hunting for sport but by murdering his own father. Others then abandoned their pledge; but not the gentle creatures who, to this day, honor that ancient treaty of peace.
This fable is intriguing. How, indeed, are we superior that we should be given dominion over all creation — as also in the Hebrew-Christian and other scriptures? Why do we come out so poorly and possibly would fare even worse were the story updated? Why do the animals, with all arguments in their favor, suddenly capitulate? And what is the “great Secret” Zoroaster himself said the story explains?
Clearly it is an affirmation that whenever the animals — not our four-footed companions but the animal qualities within ourselves — cease their noisy demands and listen, the voice of the soul can be heard. Its guidance is always the same: in order to progress, the various units of the composite — man — must be “tamed,” so that the “superior,” the enlightened human intelligence, can direct and use them. This is only too obvious to an athlete, who depends for his trophy on the instant obedience to his will of thoroughly trained muscle and nerve.
Self-conquest, however, is not easy. Inner conflicts are often tremendous: this is dramatically characterized by the Mazdeans in the violent struggles between the forces of Ahura Mazda, Lord of Light, Goodness and Truth, and Ahriman, Lord of Darkness, Degradation and the Lie. Such battles are for the courageous, the “rebellious,” whose every advance is an awakening, a testing and strengthening, and a discarding of that which confined and degraded. Invariably the mature, having won their “treaty of peace,” voluntarily subjugate individual inclinations to collaborate with, protect, and “hold dear” all gentle creatures — the forces of Good.
How cleverly this story instills basic morality, and reminds us that the amazing instinctual faculties of the lower kingdoms can be, by our human intelligence and spiritual discernment, fashioned into godlike expressions of wisdom and love — or can be horribly perverted and made destructive. Indeed, there is a mutual interchange between ourselves and the animals, as there is between all individuals and kingdoms, each giving and taking and being enriched by the other.
Why does man liken his beloved to the deer and the peacock? Perhaps it is because in the Zoroastrian “family” there is no high, no low, only equals, each member having an independent, intelligent immortal soul — though some know it not. “Whatever is on earth is the resemblance and shadow of something that is in the Sphere. . . . that light is the shadow of something more resplendent than itself; And so on up to Me, who am the Light of Lights” (The Desatir, p. 90).
Every individual, the Zoroastrians believe, is a microcosm of the Great Man, of the Vast World, containing and produced with the same “combination of parts.” Springing forth from the “first Intelligence and the first Reason [Logos]” are: a second Intelligence or Spirit; a Soul or Mind; and a body (ibid., p. 3.) This manifold division is repeated, reflected downwards, from the divine to the spiritual, to the material levels or worlds. Each — having been, not created, but “arranged and fashioned” by its superior — fashions its own inferior world. In man, it is his conscious soul which, centered between its celestial Intelligence and its material form, draws sustenance from the higher as it functions in and through the lower.
The simplification of the higher as good and the lower as evil in the Mazdean scheme does not imply that these are qualities in themselves, but are so judged only according to whether their influence upon the soul is elevating or degrading. Good thoughts, words and acts enable one to purify his lower aspects so that they reflect the higher whose shadow they are. In this way he is fruitful, fulfills his divine potential, and multiplies the blessings of Good.
Is this then the fable’s “great Secret”? The Persians have always endeavored to harmonize spiritual and worldly priorities, believing that the beauty, goodness, love and responsibility of natural life are realizations of divine law. Heaven and the celestial hosts never seem remote to the Iranian nomad or villager. Sun, planet, space and deity are ever present, are the essence of life and the seeming beginning and ending of all. “That person is born blind who saith that He cannot be seen. He is blind from the womb who cannot perceive the Self-existent in this splendor which is His” (The Desatir, p. 73).
But to know God, they explain, one must know himself. By knowing the small you shall know the great.
If you open the eye of your heart you will perceive that the heaven is the skin of this great Individual; Kywan (Saturn) the spleen, Barjish (Jupiter) the liver, Behram (Mars) the gall, the Sun the heart, Nahid (Venus) the stomach, Tir (Mercury) the brain, the Moon the lungs, the fixed Stars and the Mansions of the Planets the veins and nerves. . . . — The Desatir, p. 72
Hints such as these bear the seal of the ancient gnosis, which was the inner core of the sacred teachings not only of the Zoroastrians but of all peoples of the Hither East.
The Desatir’s seven classes of animals may represent also the seven principal parts or properties of man’s nature which the Avesta sums up succinctly in this verse from Yasna, ch. 54:
We declare and positively make known that we offer (our) entire property — the body (the self, consisting of) bones, vital heat, aerial form, knowledge, consciousness, soul and spirit to the prosperous, truth-coherent (and) pure Gathas.
Technically these are described as: (1) Tanwas, our physical body which with the Zoroastrians is as necessary to the soul as clothing is to the body;( 2 ) Ushtanas, the vital spirit or force which gives and preserves life; (3) Keherpas, our astral image or aerial form; (4) Tevishis, will or sentient consciousness; (5) Baodhas, our egoity which functions in and through physical and mental sensations and perceptions, instincts, memory, imagination, etc.; (6) Urvanem, our spiritual soul — the Lord which has dominion over himself, over his body, vitality, consciousness and spirit; (7) Fravashem, the first shadow of God, our divine spark which dwells in the presence of Ahura and leads us to Good. If for any reason the Fravashem is separated from the body, “the body is weakened and remains inactive, just as a house falls into ruin if the repairs are not attended to.” (“Theosophy and the Avesta,” The Theosophist, IV, 20-22, October, 1882; R. C. Zaehner, The Dawn and Twilight of Zoroastrianism, pp. 269-74).
In a lighter vein but equally cryptic, the Avesta likens man’s principles to seven dogs which are described by color as blue, yellow, spotted, etc. — as the prickly-backed dog (hedgehog), shepherd-dog, house-dog; or by characters, resembling a priest, a warrior and a husbandman, etc. The hedgehog Vanghapara,” the good creature among the creatures of the Good Spirit that from midnight till the sun is up goes and kills thousands of the creatures of the Evil Spirit” (Vendidad, Farg. XIII: 1), apparently represents our spiritual conscience that guards and protects us as we pass from our childhood of ignorance to spiritual enlightenment. Whoever “kills” this prickly-backed dog, they tell us, shall after death be unable to find his way over the Chinvat Bridge into Paradise. The house-dog and shepherd-dog metaphorically correspond to our spiritual and intellectual principles, the one guarding our “house” from all evil, and the other the extensive property of our thoughts. There are also the masterless vagrant-dog, the trained- or hunting-dog, the water-dog, etc., all most likely relating to characteristics of our psychological, vital, astral and physical principles.
As commander-in-chief of material creation, it is our mission in life, therefore, to marshal the forces of all seven principles and “conquer the Lie.” For the foes of our spirit, those noxious animals of Ahriman — deceit, greed, heresy, anger, envy — which so relentlessly prey on body and mind, are determined to destroy all that is good. It is only we who can deter them, and in so doing raise others, for we are their representative and their protector. The weaknesses we conquer in ourselves give strength to all who struggle toward the Supreme, Ahura Mazda.
Those accustomed to thinking of man as composed solely of body and mind may find The Desatir’s division of our nature into so many parts or “inferior angels,” unusually complicated. Yet once the specific function and character of these different facets of our being are grasped, many of the mysteries of consciousness are clarified. We can understand, for example, how our awareness can pass in a matter of seconds, from this world’s immediacies to distant galaxies, can ascend to heavens of love, sink into nightmares of hell, and trespass the far regions of sleep. It also explains how, if shattered, our “parts” become deranged, dislocated, in psychotic behavior.
But man is not the only multiprincipled being; all forms of life are, and the earth also. On this subject the Avesta adds dimension and reinforces both Vedic and modern theosophic teachings that our earth is not merely this, its physical body, but is a sevenfold being consisting of seven karshvars, earths or worlds, which are separated one from the other by an Ocean of Space. These disconnected, and to us imperceptible, karshvars, the Persians relate, fit together concentrically like a bird encircling her egg. We can picture these worlds as ringing our material globe, as six successive, concentric mountain ranges that, composed of “rock-crystal,” are located in the three cosmic realms: the terrestrial that extends to the region of the moon; the atmospheric that extends to the stars, and the heavenly realm or plane that extends beyond all. (H. P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine; Mary Boyce, A History of Zoroastrianism, pp. 78, 132-5; The Zend-Avesta, Part 2, Sacred Books of the East, p. 123; Zand-akasih, Iranian or Greater Bundahisn, p. 171.)
Such a metaphoric description of the three — and sevenfold — nature of our earth has puzzled Orientalists for centuries. But it need not have, had they conceived of the earth as being composite as is man. Metaphysically, these six other karshvars may be regarded as our earth’s superior monads, a concept so clearly echoed in Ezekiel’s “wheels within wheels” and in the Greek crystalline spheres, that many are convinced that Biblical writers borrowed directly from Persian mystical doctrines, and some ancient authors speculate that Pythagoras was a disciple of Zoroaster.
Analogically, as the Mazdeans felt, there is little difference between man and planet. For are we not, while housed in a body of bones — or rock-crystal — a similar compartmentalized conglomerate not only of elemental, mineral, vegetable, animal, human and god kingdoms, but of thoughts, desires, and of innumerable interacting forces, within which we reside as the central, overseeing Superior? Are we not able at times to contact the Essence within, which connects, inspirits; and inspires the healthful and harmonious operations throughout? Just so, they believe, the seven karshvars are mystically connected by a great world-benefiting Mount Hara, the peak of which is circled by a magnificent “sun” which warms, enlightens, and brings Day to all of the lives within the realms of the seven karshvars.
It is here, however, on the most material of the manifest worlds, that man, struggling towards goodness and truth, shall in time rise equal in station and knowledge to the celestials. Great men, the Zoroastrians believe, and prophets particularly, have already so purified, coordinated and attuned their various parts that whenever they desire, they are able to reach and to understand the superior Intelligences. Though “the speech of God is not breath, does not possess sound,” they will find it descends on their hearts as holy inspiration. (The Desatir, pp. 24, 35.)
This is the way, it is said, The Desatir was revealed, and its prophets instructed to translate its truths into language that would nourish men’s souls.
— By Eloise Hart, Sunrise magazine, December 1976
The Story of Beginnings
The Persian story of beginnings is of the rebecoming, the renovation, of what has ever existed and is repeatedly refashioned in manifested appearances. These appearances are accomplished in Grand Periods of symbolic 12,000 year duration. During the first quarter, the “original” creations, of both the Spirit of Light, Ahura Mazda, and of the Spirit of Darkness, Ahriman, are purely subjective and on such a high level of spirituality they are utterly beyond our comprehension. The second stage, which passes entirely according to the will of Ahura, sees the emergence of the manifest worlds with the commencement of self-impelled evolutionary development. The third 3,000 year period is a “mingled state” of contests between the forces or “instruments” of Goodness and of Darkness. While in the final period, all finite “destructive and evil” spirits are vanquished and absorbed in Infinite Being, in Ahura Mazda.
According to Zoroastrian tradition, this original creation unfolded from out of the infinite Circle of unknowable Time and Space (Zervan Akarana). At the first vague dawning of finite time there emanated forth, from out of the Void where Darkness mingled with Light Everlasting, the glorious Seed of all seeds, Ahura Mazda. Lord of Light and of Spirit, he held enfolded in his being the spiritual souls, the fravashis, of all to be manifest. Himself without beginning or end, past, place or position, Ahura fashioned by his thought the first invisible, intangible, uncompounded primal matter into the conceptual form of the worlds that were to be born — this form of himself and his creatures remaining for 3,000 years in a spiritual state, unthinking, unmoving, intangible.
Although worshipped as one and supreme, Ahura Mazda is considered to be of two natures: of Light-Goodness-Truth, and of Darkness, the shadow-reflection, unreal and nonliving, of true Being. It was during the first 3,000 year cycle that this Spirit of Darkness, Ahriman, stirred and awakened and, seeing the Light of Ahura, was filled with such wonder he arose from the abysmal gloom to attain it. But lacking wisdom, he failed, and fled back into Darkness confused yet determined that if he could not obtain it, he would produce demons to assail, corrupt and destroy all of the productions of the Creator. Whereupon the all-knowing Ahura urged him to desist and, considering the inevitable victory of the positive forces of spirit, to spare himself and his creatures-to-be great pain by joining the forces of Good in the beginning. But Ahriman, blinded by his own backward thinking, refused absolutely to join or ever assist the righteous. This refusal thereupon inaugurated ages of conflicts that not only shattered the stability of the visible and of the invisible worlds but also indirectly so strengthened Ahura’s creations that, during the final quarter, they would be able to quell the demons entirely.
While Ahriman had remained in confusion, the high Master, Ahura, produced from himself, as aspects of his effulgence, six glorious Immortals –– Amesha-Spentas — who together with him arranged, supported, benefited and protected the spiritual, stellar and terrestrial worlds and all of their innumerable inhabitants — each of which was provided with a divine Intelligence, an intelligent spirit-soul and a body, and each was invigorated with a flame of the Fire of Ahura Mazda.
In seven creations these Amesha-Spentas, together with the necessary spiritual fravashis involved, brought forth: (1) the great crystalline sky — whose spirit is an Intelligence which thinks and speaks, acts and produces sons and flocks — the sun, moon, stars and twelve zodiacal constellations which form, under the surveillance of their chiefs in the north, east, south, west and the great one in the center of the sky, a vast and united army that overcomes the Destroyer and safeguards their regions from harm. (These “chiefs” are usually considered to be Ursa Major, Sirius, Fomalhaut and Antares, with Regulus in the middle.) The blessed Amesha-Spentas laid down also the paths of these stars, of the everlasting lights, and of the winds and clouds, all of which formerly stood in the same place unmoving, but now hastened onward.
They fashioned next (2) the bright waters upon which all beings depend for their life and well-being, and which formerly stood created yet unmoving, but now flowed forth freely. Out of the midst of these waters they formed (3) the earth with its rivers and oceans, its continents and abundance of minerals and (4) sweet vegetation which nourishes (5) the beneficent animals — the next kingdom created, which contained so many species that should one kind perish, others would remain. Then they fashioned (6) mankind, the “small world” reflecting the Greater. For each of these myriad individuals, families, species and kingdoms they provided chieftains and guides and protectors. And finally they produced (7) fire — a ray from the everlasting Light of Ahura. (These creations are discussed in: Mary Boyce, A History of Zoroastrianism, vol. 1:132-46; R. C. Zaehner, The Dawn and Twilight of Zoroastrianism, pp. 250-60; Zand-akasih, Iranian or Greater Bundahisn, pp. 23 et seq.)
Mazdean teachings regarding the earth are most suggestive to those familiar with mystical traditions of invisible worlds and of the forces and lives that circulate through the spiritual, celestial and terrestrial realms but have baffled for centuries those who would try to find geographic locations for the regions, rivers and mountains they mention symbolically.
Earth, they tell us, is composed of seven disconnected karshvars (regions, earths or worlds), each separated one from the other by oceans so that “it is not possible to go from region to region, save by the guidance and radiance of the Yazats [celestial spirits]” (Zand-akasih, p. 91). Further, they place the karshvar Arezahi in the west, Savahi in the east, Fradadhafshu in the southwest, Vidadhafshu in the southeast, Vourubaresti in the northwest, Vourugaresti in the northeast and Hvaniratha, the only karshvar (presently) inhabited by men, in the center. H. P. Blavatsky interprets this last-named karshvar as being, not in the middle as if surrounded by concentric circles or by a necklace of globes, but rather as being centered as the lowest in a chain with the other six earths grouped round, above, our globe. She supports this opinion by citing the Vendidad’s description of our earth as imat “this,” and the six other karshvars as avat “that” or those upper earths, diagramming this “very graphic and accurate description of the ‘chain’ of our planet, the Earth, . . . ” as the familiar theosophical depiction of globes A through G of the earth planetary chain, Vourubaresti and Vourugaresti on the highest plane, Arezahi and Savahi on the second plane, Fradadhafshu and Vidadhafshu on the third plane, and Hvaniratha alone on the lowest plane. (The Secret Doctrine 2:758-9.)
Although the six upper earths evidently pertain to different states of consciousness and are imperceptible to our physical senses, to their inhabitants they are solid globes and each has, the Mazdeans believe, continents, seas, mountains and races of evolving beings. However, it is only on and from our man-bearing earth that arises the great world-benefiting Mount Hara, that grew like a tree, its ‘roots’ sinking deep underground to invisibly connect and nourish all of its chain. At the peak of this mountain is attached the Chinvat Bridge of Judgment over which pass souls freed from their bodies of earth to continue their unending progression through regions of bliss, or to purgation and hell, “the place of worst purpose” — according to their “works of merit.”
The top of high Hara is circled by the stars, moon and sun, from which shower down upon earth both light and life-giving waters. The sun coming out to warm, enlighten and bring day first to the three, and half of the fourth worlds in the west, and then, leaving them as in darkness, it illumines the three and a half on the eastern side of the peak. All the while the ‘waters’ continuously flow in a wondrous, spiraling sweep through and about the seven karshvars. The Vendidad describes how these cosmic waters and lights periodically issue anew from the peak of Mount Hara, pour down to the sea, Vourukasha, and from there flow forth as two mighty rivers, one to the east and one to the west. These circle the earth and are cleansed, to return first to the Vourukasha sea, and then to the peak of the mountain, again to descend, again reascend, in perpetual motion:
. . . rising up and going down, up the aerial way and down the earth, down the earth and up the aerial way:
Thus rise up and roll along! thou in whose rising and growing Ahura Mazda made everything that grows.
Up! rise up, ye deep Stars, that have in you the seed of waters; Rise up above Hara Berezaiti, and produce light for the world (and mayst thou [O man!] rise up there . . ), along the path made by Mazda, along the way made by the gods, the watery way they opened. –– Vendidad, Farg. XXI, iiic
Centered within this vast scope of universal life and essential to it in the Persian scheme is Man, for human beings were held to be not mere earthlings confined to this globe, but in their higher parts divine agents who have since the beginning circulated, commingled and participated in operations of macrocosmic life. Thus they regarded Ahura Mazda not as a creator outside and alone, but one whose productions are accomplished and perfected by and through the spiritual power of the souls of human beings who live, have lived, and who will live by the righteous Law. It is, they say in a hymn, by the souls of these men and women that the heavens and the earths are spread out and sustained, by them that “the waters flow, the plants grow, the winds blow,” sun, moon and stars pursue their beautiful paths, and by them equilibrium is preserved between the attracting forces of the creator-preserver, and the repelling forces of the disruptor-destroyer. And, in this world, it is by and through human behavior that concord will finally be achieved and evil transmuted into good, for here on this karshvar Hvaniratha the greatest strife is produced and the greatest good also.
It was before the material worlds had appeared, and during the original creation, that Ahura Mazda had first spoken to the fravashis, the pre-existent spirits of the men-to-be, who at that time surrounded him in his high ramparts like “warriors on horseback,” preventing the intrusion of evil. He had asked them then to assist him as his principal agents in preserving the manifest worlds from evil. And he had told them to choose freely whether, when they incarnated on earth in bodily form and confronted the Aggressor, they would prefer having his assistance and protection, or whether they would prefer to face evil on their own, and risk becoming confused by illusions. The fravashis, foreseeing that though the struggles would be mighty, the suffering extreme, their final victory would be indescribably sweet, unanimously chose to descend alone. Not for a moment did they doubt that they could overcome the creatures of evil, and that they would themselves return immortal, undecaying and undisturbed. (Zand-akasih, p. 45; Dawn and Twilight of Zoroastrianism, pp. 146, 261.)
The first mankind of the ten species created is depicted in their writings: as the shining and white-eyed Gayomart (lit. “mortal life”), who was apparently egg-shaped — “bright as the sun, and his height was four measured poles, and his breadth just as much as his height.” (History of Zoroastrianism, p. 139 — Greater Bundahisn, I, a.13.) Although blessed and righteous, he was not prepared to withstand the evil of Ahriman, who had even then produced demonic beings who mingled gloom and black smoke with bright fires, who sullied the waters with salt, confused the movements of planets and constellations, shook earth with such violence that mountains arose; who blighted the luxurious growth of the plants and caused tender trunks to be covered with thorns and rough bark, and in some mixed the sap with vile poisons. Among gentle beasts they caused wildness, and plagued all with 99,999 varieties of sickness and death.
Although Ahriman caused illness to overcome Gayomart, so that he collapsed on the ground and “from the left side, deathfulness entered into the body of Gayomart; and thereupon deathfulness came to all the creatures up to the renovation of the universe,” his victory was short-lived. The seed of this first man, buried in the ground and “filtered by the light of the Sun” grew up from the earth after forty years as two mortals, Masya and Masyani. (Zand-akasih, p. 127 et seq.) Like one plant they grew, joined together in such a way that one could not distinguish the male from the female, nor determine which if either possessed the soul-glory. Of which Ahura Mazda had said:
“The glory was created by me before; afterwards, for him who is created, the glory is given a body so that it may produce activity, and its body is created only for activity.” And, afterwards, they changed from the shape of a plant into the shape of man, and the glory went spiritually into them.-– Zadh-sparam, X, 5-6
And Ahura explained to Masya and Masyani that he had produced them, man and woman, the parents of the races to come. He told them to abide by the Law, to think good thoughts, speak good words, do good deeds, and worship no demons.
At first they were filled with the wonder of life and obeyed, but when Ahriman assailed them with suspicions and intriguing temptations, they forgot the words of the Lord and succumbed to indulgence. Then, after fifty winters had passed, they gave birth to a son and a daughter, but “owing to the sweetness of the children, the mother devoured one, and the father one; then, Ohrmazd removed the sweetness of the children from the thoughts of the begetters, and left to them as much as requisite for the bringing up of the children” (Zand-akasih, p. 133). And they brought forth more offspring who became the continuous generations and races of men. And Ahura himself watched over, taught and protected them from the influence of evil.
But even so, a few of those early descendants were corrupted and in time produced monsters, the strange man-like creatures of the earth: the water-men, the breast-eared, the breast-eyed, the one-legged, those with wings like a bat’s, and those of the forest with tails and hair on their bodies. And later, when for a time reason and the glory of spirit had departed from them, some took ‘demonesses’ as wives, who gave birth to tailed apes — said to be the lowest of mankind — and other species of degeneracy.
The first mortal with whom Ahura spoke regarding the wisdom of Mazda was Yima, a descendant of Masya and Masyani. The Wise Lord asked him to receive the Law and take it to mankind, but Yima refused, for he was not prepared. Instead he became a Good Shepherd and, with the golden ring and poniard given him by Ahura, so effectively ruled, nourished and protected the world from heat and cold, disease and death, that all prospered. In fact, men and animals replenished themselves so rapidly there was room for no more.
Then Yima, obedient to the will of Mazda, commanded the Genius of the Earth to “open asunder and stretch thyself out” to make room for new flocks and herds, and men and plants. Three times the globe became overpopulated; three times Earth stretched herself out, and each time Yima brought forth new lands where new races of men with their cattle, flocks, dogs, birds and red blazing fires could dwell.
As each of these stretchings had been accompanied by “evil winters” and floods that threatened to destroy all life in the material worlds, Ahura had instructed Yima to build a vara, an “enclosure” or ark — to crush the earth with a stamp of his heel, to knead the ground with his hands as the potter does. And Yima built such a vara in a square two miles on each side, with streets and dwelling places with balconies and courtyards. Into the ark he placed “water that flows” and “food that never fails,” and the seed of the greatest, the best and the finest of every creature on this earth, as well as the red blazing fires and the heavenly bird, Karshipta who, it is said, being one of the spiritually awakened Saoshyants or Saviors, brought the religion of Ahura into the ark and taught the people there to recite the Avesta in the language of birds. Finally, Yima sealed the enclosure with his golden seal, and made a door and a “window self-shining within.” . . “And the men in the vara . . . live the happiest of lives. They live there for 150 years; some say, they never die.” (The Sacred Books of the East, vol. IV, The Vendidad, pp. 10-20. The Tree of Life, ed. Ruth Smith, pp. 318-21.)
Toward the ending of the fourth and final period of cosmic duration, towards the first vague beginnings of the New Dawn, the Zoroastrians believe holy Saoshyants will be born. They will assist earth and her creatures to prepare for the Consummation, when men, becoming immortal, will desist first from eating meat, then from drinking milk, from eating vegetables and bread, and finally will live without even water. They will assist also the evil ones who, then purified from their hells of molten metal, will arise redeemed and attain the glory they had desired to possess in the beginning of Time. Then all motion will cease and all activity. Infinite Time and Space will stretch out once more as an iceless, shapeless plane with even Mount Hara leveled and gone. (Zand-akasih, pp. 285, 293; Sacred Books of the East, vol. V, Pahlavi Texts, pp. 126-30.) Ahura Mazda himself, his creations and shadow, will vanish away, and there will be nothing but a boundless Void, and “All-made-perfect-in-Light.”
— By Eloise Hart, Sunrise magazine, January 1977
The Prophet of Light
Aid me by light, and vivify me by light, and guard me by light, and unite me unto light! I ask of Thee, O Worthy of Adoration! — The Desatir
The light and mystic joie de vivre so characteristic of the Zoroastrian religion were proclaimed by its prophet at the moment of birth — he laughed; laughed with such gladness the midwives marveled and his father exclaimed: “Surely this babe is of God. All with the exception of him weep on coming into this world.” (Moshan Fani, The Dabistan, trans. David Shea and Anthony Troyer, pp. 121-3.)
Legends substantiate this observation again and again, as adversity is turned into beneficence. First as an infant, when evil ones, plotting his destruction, had Zoroaster kidnapped and thrown into a blazing mountain of fire, the flames changed into water and his frantic mother “rescued” her child from among the cool embers, peacefully sleeping. Again, when scoundrels abandoned him in a den of wolves whose cubs they had savagely slaughtered, the wolves, instead of devouring him, gathered around like solicitous nurses, and at the same time two ewes came in from the mountains that he might suckle their milk.
These and other stories of his early years lead one familiar with the symbolic accounts of the temptations and purifications of world saviors to believe that Zoroaster was an initiate of high degree. In the Oriental Mystery tradition he combined at his birth the three elements of an avataric descent: (1) the khwarr, his heavenly glory which, it is said, passed down for this incarnation from the world of Light to the sun, to the moon, stars, hearth-fire, and into his mother-to-be; (2) the fravashi, his guarding and informing soul escorted to earth after having dwelt as one with the holy Amesha-Spentas; (3) the tan-gohr, his pure physical substance, previously tended and nourished by lords of water and plants. These three came together and he was born of human parents, normally but wondrously. (Mary Boyce, A History of Zoroastrianism, I, 184, 277-8.)
Zoroaster himself did not realize this high potential until his thirtieth year. It was during the spring equinox when he, having entered the “River of Four Streams” to obtain water for the haoma ceremony, suddenly saw a figure of light standing before him on the river bank. The figure beckoned and led him into the presence, first of the Blessed Immortals, and then of Ahura Mazda. There, with the light of the Lord upon him, Zoroaster saw unfolded the secrets of Being: of creation, of the celestial spheres, and of the past, present and future; saw and understood his mission — to promulgate this world-benefiting wisdom to all creatures on earth.
After this experience he traveled widely for ten years, but made few converts. Then one day he entered the court of the Bactrian king Vishtaspa and, approaching the monarch, he placed in his hands a blazing flame which miraculously caused him no harm. Vishtaspa was impressed, but even more so by the words of the prophet. However, the Priests of the court, the astrologers, scientists and bards were suspicious and hostile. They devised every possible means to confound, refute and belittle him, even having him thrown into prison. But Zoroaster’s patience and vision never wavered and, when he was freed after having cured the king’s hopelessly ill horse in a most extraordinary manner, he won the wholehearted support not only of the royal family but of their sages as well. And thereafter his teachings spread throughout and beyond the Iranian empire.
Historically little is known of Zoroaster’s life. Some place him as a contemporary of Pythagoras around 600 BC. Others like the famed Egyptologist Baron Bunsen, who described him as “one of the mightiest intellects and one of the greatest men of all times,” place him at about 3,000 years BC. Aristotle believed “the ancient sage” lived 6,000 years before Plato, and Plutarch says he was born 5,000 years before the Trojan wars. Undoubtedly this discrepancy is due to the fact that a series of early sage-astronomers and prophet-reformers were called Zarathustra, a name variously translated as “living star,” “teacher of star wisdom,” and even “the Golden Hand . . . which received and scattered celestial fire.” This succession of teachers, which extended from the divine Zarathustra of the Vendidad to the Iranian prophet, corresponds to the Brahmanic Manus, the Buddhist Living Buddhas and the Jain Tirthankaras, all of whom came to instruct mankind at cyclic and/or critical periods.
In fact, Mazdean parable relates that shortly before Zoroaster was born, Mother Earth had cried out to the mighty Ahura: “I have been oppressed and outraged by tyrants . . . send a hero to rescue me.” And the Lord felt her suffering and promised to send her a savior: Zoroaster was soon born, a prince of the royal house of Iran, in the city of Ragha. In The Desatir this Zoroaster is the thirteenth of their fifteen great prophets. Lawgiver and reformer, he was the teacher who built the renowned fire-temple of Azareksh, whose message won the allegiance of the royal houses of the Vishtaspa, and later of the Achaemenians; and whose religion spread from the Iranians to the Medes as Magism, and to the Chaldeans who, adding their particular characteristics, greatly influenced the Mosaic and Christian doctrines.
Cyrus, conqueror of Babylon, Darius, Xerxes and Artaxerxes all declared their loyalty to Zoroastrianism on magnificent rock carvings. Those at Behistun, for instance, which heroically depict the figures of Darius and his triumphant procession, proclaim in Elamite, Persian and Akkadian cuneiform inscriptions that it was through the grace of the supreme Ahura Mazda — who is pictured as the winged solar deity hovering protectively overhead — that “I am king” and have “brought it about that no man should slay another. . . . nor the strong threaten the weak.” (R. C. Zaehner, The Dawn and Twilight of Zoroastrianism, pp. 155-60.)
This, and the other phenomenal attainments of the Achaemenians may well have been the result of their religious conviction that whatever is productive and beneficial to the general good, imitates and extends divine creativity. But as religions, like empires, have cyclic rises and falls, Zoroastrianism’s survival was threatened more than once: when Alexander’s armies confiscated and burned the scriptures that scribes had so recently transcribed from oral tradition onto parchment; and again in the 7th century AD when Moslem Arabs mercilessly plundered Persian treasures and later forced all but a few Zoroastrians to flee their homeland and seek refuge in India. There, where according to Max Muller their religion originated in pre-Vedic times, a relatively small community of their descendants have preserved their perspective on truth.
The Zoroastrians believe in one Supreme God, Ahura Mazda, “Lord Wisdom,” “the Self-existent, without what or how,” from whom all issues forth and into whom all returns. In their earlier scriptures he is Light, and Light-made-visible in manifested “appearances,” i.e., in duality, or as bipolar aspects of the eternal One. “By a single flash of the Creator both worlds became visible” (Desatir, p. 72). Later, in their exoteric doctrines, this duality is presented as an eternal antagonism between Ahura Mazda, personification of the forces of goodness and truth which produce life, health-harmony, beauty and intelligence; and Ahriman, personified as a veritable satan of darkness who produces “not-life,” deception, destruction, temptation and pain. As such, Ahriman is often pictured in their writings and art as the mighty bull that the good in everyman, as Ohrmazd (Ahura Mazda), wrestles with and destroys. Commentators explain that when the Self-existent, undifferentiated One “split” into two spirits of opposite polarity, stability was instantly established and has continuously maintained universal harmony, keeping the spheres in their orbits and the cells in our bodies functioning healthily.
In the beginning of time, the Avesta records, Ahura Mazda emanated forth from himself six glorious rays, characterized as the divine Amesha-Spentas or Immortal Benefactors who, with Ahura, are seven — “of one mind, of one voice, of one act.” Together they fashioned and regulated the heavens and stars, earth and mankind. Particulars of the nature, attributes, characteristics and functions of these seven distinctive, individual consciousness-forces, and of how they relate to and work through the cosmic elements and planes, through the planetary mansions, kingdoms of nature and principles of man, are hinted at throughout their scriptures and differ little from descriptions of the Greek Kosmokratores, the Hebrew Sephiroth, and the Hindu Dhyan-chohans and Manasaputras. For like them, when aspected as Staryazatas, “the shining, having efficacious eyes” (Khordah-Avesta, xxxv, iii), they preside over the planets and become, when mankind is ready, the awakeners of mind and bringers of civilization.
In order that we may understand and aspire towards attaining something of the quality of their virtuous nature, these Beneficent Immortals are enumerated as: Asha-Vahishta, divine will which is made manifest through righteousness and willing obedience to divine law. This is the first of the cosmic rays and the one which pervades all others, as does the fire of life of which it is the guardian. Vohu-Mano, divine wisdom and compassion, reflected on earth as love of all things, and as intuition, the instant and compassionate understanding of the heart. Khshathra-Vairya, power supreme, divine creativity, realized by the right and holy activity of karma-yoga or service. Spenta-Armaiti, “Mother Earth,” inflexible faith in, and devotion to the spiritual self within oneself. Haurvatat, wholeness, the perfection of the Supreme and of all its children souls, which is attained by purity, harmony and health. Ameretat, associated with the mystic Tree of Life, the immortality which frees one from the fear of death. (The Cultural Heritage of India, ed. Haridas Bhattacharyya, IV, 538-41.)
Although seldom named, these Amesha-Spentas have their lower, vehicular or negative aspects, the false gods, the daevas who “chose not rightly, because blindness came upon them as they consulted, so that they chose the worse purpose” (Yasna 30, 6), and created ajyati, not-life, which is destructive and preys on the righteous.
Just as the earth rotates completely around to receive the life-giving dawn, so we individually, the Zoroastrians feel, approach Ahura Mazda when we turn toward the radiance of these glorious Immortals. Such “turning” means simply purification — refining and spiritualizing the entire fiber of our being until we are of their substance. Noble thoughts, kind words, good deeds — wisdom, love, service — alone can do this, freeing us from the contamination and weight of physical, psychic, and mental defilements. “Hear with your ears the best things,” the Yasna advises, “look upon them with clean clear-seeing thought.” And The Desatir continues:
For in everything, and in every action thou hast Me with thee: and findest My light in every thing and in every place: and perceivest the grandeur of the Unity of My Being by all its shadows: and comprehendest all the splendor of My existence, and hearest My word from all in every thing, since all are in search of Me: and smellest Me in every thing, and hast tasted the flavour of My knowledge, and art nigh unto Me. — p. 68
Such attainment, however, comes not by resolution, but by lifetimes of effort. For those temporarily confused, distressed and impeded by what seem insurmountable evils, there is explanation: “Those who, in the season of prosperity, experience pain and grief, suffer them on account of their words and deeds in a former body . . . every joy, or pleasure or pain that affects us from birth till death, is wholly the fruit of past actions which is now reaped” (Desatir, p. 9). There is also assurance: the mists will lift, the winters of darkness, when individuals and whole races succumb to corruption, change into spring. Earth is replenished. New prophets arise, and benevolent rulers; justice, truth and virtue prevail and the good enter the path of the gods.
In the meantime, however, when circumstances prevent one from living as he would, the Zoroastrians imagine, creatively achieving the nobility they desire, building and sowing interiorly for their future life or lives. Intervention of priest or exterior deity has no place in their philosophy. Emphasis is on individual free will, on one’s innate divine dignity, and his obligation to choose and boldly to pursue the upright way. “Look to your acts and words, for they produce their sure effect, the same seed that people sow, such the harvest they shall reap” (Dabistan, p. 138). Thus each man is his own warrior and seer, each advances as he conquers the degrading tendencies within himself, the basest of which is the Lie, and next, being in debt, for one in debt easily yields to the Lie.
There are some, The Desatir (p. 97) says, who like a bat receive light from the sun indirectly, reflected from the moon; not because the sun lacks power to illumine, but because the bat lacks capacity to endure its brilliance. Yet even the bat is in essence divine and can, as we, develop the sight of the “other eye” — the “eye” of the heart and spiritual mind — and thus in time come to know by direct experience the “One-who-has-no-properties.”
The charm and logic of these homely metaphors are appealing and convincing: purity of thought, word and deed raising all souls, no matter how lowly their station or circumstances, “to the Celestials.” Each soul, they explain, learns, expands; first through the fleeting and external physical sensations — for the powers that see, hear, smell, taste, touch are terrestrial angels and servants of the soul which directs them; then, through those intellectual powers that awaken understanding of the laws operating in both earthly and celestial nature. It is this knowledge, derived from higher faculties, that endures and, surviving the dissolution of the body, aids the soul’s progress in future incarnations. (The Desatir, pp. 86, 135-6.)
Such development, the Mazdeans feel, does not require withdrawal from the world. Quite the opposite. As Ahura Mazda expands and excels in manifestation, so we, through daily pursuits, can strengthen our faculties, develop creativity and add increasingly to the material and spiritual progress, prosperity and happiness of the family of all life. This is our khwarr, our higher destiny — which was “put into the body of him for whom it was created,” even before the physical body was formed. (A History of Zoroastrianism, 1, 167n; Dawn and Twilight of Zoroastrianism, pp. 151-3, 268.)
Khwarr is a word authorities interpret differently. Some derive it from hvar, the sun, and regard it as the “solar fluid” which gives growth and prosperity to all. Others believe it is an individual’s, and a nation’s, intrinsic spiritual character, their latent good fortune, or “talents” as in the Bible. As such, it is part of the patvandishni o Frashkart, the “continuous evolution toward the Making Excellent” of many things through each individual — here again expressing the Zoroastrian ideal that each life well lived benefits the universal family materially and spiritually with abundance and joy.
— By Eloise Hart, Sunrise magazine, February, 1977
The “Vast Individual”
Mazdean teachings explain that because all creatures are equally important parts of one “Vast Individual,” whatever gives pleasure or pain to one, affects for good or ill all others. Thus it behooves us to recognize all beings, whether visible or invisible, low or high, as our kinfolk. Again and again their scriptures remind us: one’s wife or husband, one’s family, neighbor and “children” — the animals, vegetables, minerals and elements — must be well treated. Animals must be cared for with kindness, plants nurtured to their full growth, metals kept bright and untarnished. Earth, rivers and lakes must not be defiled or dirtied by any pollution, whether by interring the dead or disposing of waste. Air must not be spoilt with bad odors, nor fire contaminated in any way. These rules were strictly observed by the priests who kept themselves and their paraphernalia scrupulously clean, pure and consecrated, even wearing masks lest their breath pollute the elements. Laymen also followed these practices at home and in business.
All of which demonstrates the respect and concern the Zoroastrians felt and showed for the elemental creatures, and for the unseen souls and intelligences of which these forms are the “shadows.” The compassion and care with which they tilled the soil, watered their gardens and tended their cattle were indicative of their conviction that in so doing they were not only benefiting, and strengthening, these lower life forms, but also their polar extensions, the cosmic powers which infill all beings.
Water and the plants it nourishes represented to them wholeness and immortality, for water was not only the liquid of our rivers and seas but the Waters of Life which pervade and sustain the entire living world. In the wind they saw diverse forces of life, including the psychospiritual vitality that survives physical death. They used fire as a symbol of the ever-mysterious Essence which permeates and enlightens all things and, when identified with the “life-giving sun,” finally draws the soul upward at death. This spiritual “fire of the sky” they represented as Ahura Mazda and also as a lion, both frequently pictured with wings to suggest the transcendent nature of this first, most nearly divine element.
Although the Zoroastrians have been called “fire worshipers,” they never worshipped the visible flame; rather they honored the Light of lights, the glorious “Band” or hierarchy of solar divinities who, “admitted into the secrets of His essence,” protect and illumine the worlds throughout. In daily affairs fire is a comforting friend — love-wisdom-light all together — it sparks from a rock, dances in the hearth, glows under our pots, and showers down upon us rays from the stars. (The Desatir, trans. Mulla Firuz Bin Kaus, Wizards Bookshelf, 1975; p. 62.)
Long ago, it is told, their destur mobeds, their “perfect masters,” brought fire from the heavens, by magic, to their altars, and their priests preserved it undying for hundreds of years. Later priests combine, for their temples, the purified fires from a thousand different sources: One from the many, One in the many. They collect earth-fires from coal, wood, gas, from kilos, pits and stoves, and “transform” them by igniting each with a bit of sulphur, of cotton, of sandalwood shavings, repeatedly relighting the flames until the dross is purged and the etheric, spiritual essence fit to be placed on the altars of their mountaintop temples. It was this “fire” of their teachings that Zoroaster placed in the hands of Vishtaspa; this “radiance,” which Mazdean Magi brought from the East to the newborn Christ; which illumined medieval alchemists; and which, even today, their provocative writings pass on to us.
Until the 5th century BC, the Zoroastrians had, according to Herodotus, “no altars, no temples, no images; they worshipped on the tops of mountains. They adored the heavens and sacrificed to the sun, moon, fire and water.” Later, however, they preserved their mystical traditions in architecture and temple carvings. Their first temples were high-roofed, open-sided “forests of pillars,” into which flooded the radiance of sun and of stars — refreshing contrasts to the dark interiors of other religious structures. After a time, construction became more elaborate. Alexandre Dumas, Sr. mentioned one castle-cathedral-like building in his Travels in the Caucasus: the sacred Attesh-Gag, located on the shores of the Caspian Sea. This was carved out of solid rock in whose center a high tower rested on four huge columns, through which an inexhaustible fire “from the heart of the mother-rock” was drawn upwards into the atmosphere, a fire that had burned undiminished for three thousand years — until the late nineteenth century when it was replaced by a Russian oil refinery! (H. P. Blavatsky: Collected Writings, edited by Boris de Zirkoff, Theosophical Publishing House, 2:122-30.)
Equally impressive were their observatories. The “Grotto of Zaratushta,” for example, is:
a vast cave in the deserts of Central Asia, where into light pours through its four seemingly natural apertures or clefts placed crossways at the four cardinal points of the place. From noon till an hour before sunset that light streams in, of four different colors, as averred — red, blue, orange-gold, and white — owing to some either natural or artificially prepared conditions of vegetation and soil. The light converges in the center around a pillar of white marble with a globe upon it, which represents our earth. — The Secret Doctrine, 1:464
Another ‘observatory,’ much admired by the Byzantine emperor, Heraclius, in the city of Bazaeum, was an immense machine that depicted the planets — each with its presiding angel — revolving in their orbits.
A most graphic demonstration of man’s interrelation with the planetary beings, however, was not in their observatories, but in their “celestial” cities. The Dabistan (pp. 2 et seq.) describes one laid out with separate temple-complexes and dedicated to the different planets. Each temple exemplified in structure, operation and practice the nature and qualities of one particular planet. The temple of Saturn, for example, was built of black stone, its ministers were people of dark complexion who wore blue clothes, finger rings of iron, and who taught such subjects as mathematics, medicine and pharmacology. The Jupiter temple-complex was of earth-colored bricks. Its officials and the statesmen, judges, scribes and priests who lived in its vicinity, wore robes of yellow and white, and silver rings with signets of carnelian. So likewise were temples dedicated to Mars, Venus, Mercury and the moon.
The most resplendent of all was the temple of the sun. Its golden dome was iridescent with jewels, its ministers and attendants dressed in garments of spun-gold girdled with diamonds and rubies. And in its environs lived members of the royal family together with nobles and distinguished scientists.
Connected with each of these temples were lodgings, restaurants and hospitals where the ill, aged or weary travelers could find refreshment and care in surroundings compatible with whichever of the seven planetary groups they belonged to. For in those days the Iranians were versed not alone in the movements of the stars and planets, but also in the varying degrees of both the beneficent and the maleficent influences that flow from celestial to terrestrial planes. Never would they worship, conduct business, wear clothes, or take medicine inappropriate to the particular stellar angel who presided over this or that event, hour, day and month.
Their priests, physicians and astrologers knew considerably more. They understood how the powers of the Amesha Spentas — characterized as the Star-Yazatas whose bodies we see as the planets and stars — mystically function as “builders” and “watchers” of man’s and of the earth’s sevenfold being; understood also how each planet’s distinctive essence and motions affect individuals, races, cycles and events. They could when they wished, catch, direct or crystallize specific cosmic emissions for particular use — perhaps to promote fertility, agricultural abundance, or success in some business or spiritual endeavor. If they desired to create something of a Venusian quality, they would assemble objects related to that planet: pearls and diamonds, fragrant white flowers, cereal grains, musicians, artists and innocent girls. Then, at the moment of Venus’s greatest effulgence, they would capture with these earthly “receivers” her celestial radiance and direct it into and upon the select terrestrial object or undertaking.
Cosmogonically, they felt, these various influences had been instrumental in the formation of earth and in the development of the mineral, vegetable and animal productions as well as of the human physical, psychological, mental and spiritual evolutionary progress. Each phase of which development, the Mazdeans believed, had its specific, proper and propitious time-periods. For instance, they divided time into a sequence of one thousand year cycles during which a particular planetary regent rules, first alone and then in combination with other regents. Thus, they spoke of Saturn as the King or Lord who ruled alone for a thousand years, where upon he chose a planetary partner with whom he presided. A similar course was followed by each of the planets until the moon’s cyclic term was completed and the succession ended. After this a period of rest ensued before a second Grand Cycle, with a second Lord and his series of celestial associates was begun. At the termination of each Grand Period all living beings on the earth are restored to their former “designations and distinctions,” ready to begin a new order. (The Desatir, pp. 14-l5, Moshan Fani, The Dabistan, trans. David Shea and Anthony Troyer, Tudor Publishing Co., 1937; pp. 17-18.)
Every form and image, which seems at present effaced,
Is securely stored up in the treasury of time
When the same position of the heavens again recurs,
The Almighty reproduces each from behind the mysterious veil. — The Dabistan, p. 19
Moshan Fani cites this passage to describe how at the beginning of each Great Period “the rapidly-sketching painter of destiny” drew forth the flowers and fruits, minerals and gems, laid out the cities and the arts, sciences and religion that would benefit mankind. And how, as the revolving worlds continue, the scattered members — the lower counterparts of the now transcendent beings — reassemble and reassume a figure, property and shape similar to that which they had had in the former Grand Cycle.
Zoroaster evidently wanted to know more about the re-creation of man, for he asked Ahura Mazda: “Whence shall they re-form the body which the wind has blown away, and the water has dragged down, and how shall resurrection occur?” In reply the Zandakasik gives a beautiful step-by-step account of the creation of the world and of man, and then adds, “what has been can be again; behold, . . . at that time, I will demand the bony-frame from the spirit of the earth, the blood from the water, the hair from the plants, and the life from the wind, as they had received at the beginning of creation.” (Zand-akasih, Iranian or Greater Bundahisn, trans. Behramgore Tehmuras Anklesaria, p. 285.)
Other Mazdean writings continue this primeval history by describing, in the metaphor and with the numerical figures used by initiates of every age, the rising and sinking of continental landmasses, the succession of early races, and the gradual awakening of man’s “celestial” intelligence. Further, in the story of Yima ( Vendidad, Farg. II), they tell how three times the over-crowded earth was “stretched out” to make room for new lands, races of men, cattle and the “red blazing fires”; how these “stretchings” were accompanied by earthquakes, fires and floods from the melting of snow. And how Yima, the first “Good Shepherd,” preserved in an ark the seed of the best and the finest of all life on earth so that at the New Time the globe was replenished as before. (The Vendidad, Fargard II, The Sacred Books of the East, vol. 4, trans. James Darmesteter.)
There is in the Baghdad Museum an interesting Zoroastrian relief carving from a temple at Hatra, which in its way quite effectively preserves ancient Mazdean teachings. Especially noteworthy is that section of the carving which resembles an elongated caduceus, composed of their sacred poniard, the wand of the Magi, encircled by seven different rings, semi-rings, or circular objects. To those familiar with ancient lore, this may suggest the cyclic “earth-stretchings” that brought about the rising and sinking of earlier continental land massifs. Or, it may suggest to some the seven planets, or even the seven principal facets of our human nature, with the poniard as the spiritual thread of consciousness interpenetrating and connecting the whole, just as the mystical Mount Hara is said to connect the earth’s seven karshvars (our globe with its six invisible mansions).
Then again, this caduceus-like figure may represent the different “kinfolk” or classes of beings that compose the “Great Man,” whose Body, Tehim, the Universe, is made up of stars and planets, of men, animals, plants metals, earth, water and fire; whose Soul is composed of all souls, and whose Intelligence, of all intelligences. The Desatir (pp. 71-4, 90) elaborates this basic Zoroastrian idea by explaining that each individual within the “Great World” will discover in time that, although he too is composed of bodies, of souls and intelligences, although he too functions through an infinite multiplicity of forms and conditions and worlds, visible and invisible, there is in reality but one life, one spirit — one Vast Individual.
— By Eloise Hart, Sunrise magazine, April, 1977
The Vision of Ardai Viraf
Happiness comes to him, through whom happiness goes out to others. — Ushtavaiti Gastha
Alexander’s conquest of the 4th century BC brought with it a soul-shattering invasion of ideas which swept into even the most devout Zoroastrian communities. Alien interpretations were given to their teachings, and rites and sacrifices instituted which not only polluted but threatened to terminate the flow of divine revelation. Several centuries later, King Ardeshir Babagan, greatly concerned, called together forty thousand scholars and priests to decide what could be done to again “bring intelligence from the spirits.” After deliberation the assembly selected seven of their wisest and purest, and asked them to choose from among themselves the one best qualified to enter the supernatural worlds and to receive the inspiration that would purify and invigorate their religion.
These seven unanimously chose Ardai Viraf, an upright and respected priest from Persepolis, for the perilous journey. However, his seven sisters, “who were to him as wives,” feared for his life and begged the assembly to consider another. But the desturs spoke to them calmly and promised that Viraf would return healthy and safe after seven days. The meaning of “sisters who were to him as wives” may be drawn from an old Mesrobian manuscript which advises a would-be initiant: “He who would penetrate the secrets of (sacred) Fire, and unite with it must first unite himself soul and body to the Earth, his mother, to Humanity, his sister, and to Science, his daughter.” In this instance, Viraf’s sisters could symbolize the candidate’s own attainments that guard and protect his body and soul as he undergoes the trials of spiritual initiation.
The “Vision of Ardai Viraf” is related in the Pahlavi texts, smuggled into India when the Moslems conquered Persia, which synthesize the mystical teachings of the ancient Zoroastrian prophets and priests. It is found in The Sacred Books and Early Literature of the East, 7:185-207; in Moshan Fani, The Dabistan, translated by David Shea and Anthony Troyer, pp. 144-154; and is also discussed in Henry S. Olcott’s Theosophy, Religion and Occult Science, pp. 301-48.
The story tells how Ardai Viraf on entering the holy fire-temple of Azar Khurdad drank three cups of “hallowed wine” and lay down on a golden couch. As his body “slept” entranced, his soul arose fully conscious and traveled into the ethereal realms of the heavens and hells. All the while his sisters and the desturs and mobads guarded his body, tended the ever-burning flames on the altar, and recited verses from the Avesta. On the eighth day he awoke and related to a scribe and to those present the extraordinary experiences he had just had.
At first, he told them, he was welcomed by angels: by the sublime Ataro and the pious Srosh who watches and protects the world from the demons at night. Although he had “come when it is not [his] time,” they took his hands and led him upwards three steps to the Chinvat Bridge of Judgment, and there paused so he could watch the progress of the souls of the dead. Good men and women, whose goodness had benefited others, found the Bridge broad and strong, and for three days and nights they tasted “as much of pleasure as the whole of the living world can taste.” (Yasht 22, 1, 2, The Sacred Books of the East, vol. 23, trans. James Darmesteter). Whereupon each of these souls was approached by a beautiful maiden, personifying the totality of his thoughts, words and deeds since his maturity, who evaluated the good he had accomplished, the destiny met and made, and then pronounced judgment on his life. If worthy, she escorted him onwards to Paradise, “the bright House of Song,” where roses bloom and hummingbirds shine like rubies. But the souls of the wicked, of the greedy and cruel, found the Bridge sharp and razor thin, the maiden a hideous hag, and the three days and nights like nine thousand years of anguish.
Viraf described the agony of these souls with such feeling that even today men and women weep unashamed when his words are read to the congregation. He told, for example, of a miser who had so corrupted his soul that in death it suffered greatly, mourning the loss of the wealth coveted on earth. “I saw it creep along in fear and trembling, and presently a wind came sweeping along, laden with the most pestilential vapors, even as it were from the boundaries of hell. In the midst of this wind appeared a form of the most demoniacal appearance.” The soul of the miser tried to escape but in vain and, terrified, it cried out, “Who art thou, than whom I never saw anyone uglier, or filthier, or more stinking?” She replied, “I am thy bad actions, O youth of evil thoughts, of evil words, of evil religion. It is on account of thy will and actions that I am hideous and vile, . . .”
Ardai told also of the anguish of a husband and wife who at death were to be parted: the husband’s soul destined for heaven, the wife’s for hell. But the wife clung to her husband, imploring his help: “What is it that tears us apart?” When the husband reminded her that she had neglected her religious duties, she reproached him for not teaching her of them. Her soul was filled with repentance, and although in hell she suffered no more than from “darkness and stench,” her husband, in the midst of the righteous in heaven, was agonized with shame for having failed to instruct, and thus share with his wife the benefits he could easily have provided had he not been so intent on acquiring for himself spiritual attainments. (Bundahish, ch. 30, 11, The Sacred Books of the East, vol. 5, trans. E. W.. West, p. 124n.)
Every spirit, Ardai continued, after crossing the Chinvat Bridge was drawn into realms appropriate to its nature. Those whose good and evil thoughts and deeds were equal, and those who, because of some physical or mental infirmity, had remained secluded or inactive, remained in the joyless, sorrowless shadowland of Hammestagan, the “Ever-Stationary,” until the time of their future existence. However, “if they possessed an additional particle of virtue, equal in weight to one of the hairs of the eyelash, they would be relieved from this calamity.” (Dabistan, p. 146.)
Other souls rose to the realms of the “star tracks,” of the “moon tracks,” or “sun tracks.” He then described the various heavens and hells: the joys experienced by the good, the bliss enjoyed by the best in Garodman, the all-glorious “heaven of heavens”; and he told of the descent of the wicked who sank beneath the sphere of the moon and were self-impelled into worlds of purgation.
At one point in his journey, Viraf’s angel-guide complimented him on the purity of his soul that enabled him to pass unharmed through both the perishable, evil regions and the luminous spheres of Ahura and of the guardian angels of the prophets. At these regions and at the “stations” of the planets, the regents of each revealed to him the laws and conditions of life in their system so that on returning to earth, he could inform mankind. Finally, after showing and explaining to him the nature of the manifold planes and of the spheres thereon, Srosh the pious and Ataro the angel brought Ardai’s soul back to his body and bade him farewell.
This story, of course, is not unique with the Persians. The Egyptian “Vision of Hermes,” Dante’s Divine Comedy, the writings of Plato, Bruno, Swedenborg and others also follow the soul’s exploration of invisible worlds during the “drugged” trance of initiation into the Greater Mysteries
The term “drugged” was used symbolically by the Zoroastrians, as were the words “entombed” and “crucified” by the Christians. It signified the death-like, inert state of the candidate’s body when his soul arose fully conscious. Equipoised, as it were, at the focus between acquiring for matter and spirit, the soul was illumined, and able to “see” in both worlds. Henceforth with eyes open it could travel the course taken heretofore unconsciously during the darkness of night and of death. The “hallowed wine” or juice of the haoma plant was not a drug — the Mazdeans condemned and strictly forbade the use of narcotics — but a transformation of consciousness enabling one to perceive higher and lower and inner ranges of being.
This “vision” popularized and clarified the archaic Mazdean traditions regarding the three phases of death. The first stage is the physical demise when the soul, man’s “image of the highest,” divests itself both of its “body of bones,” which disintegrates into the elements of the earth, and of its ushtanas, or vitality, which returns to the winds. To hasten this disintegration, the ancient Zoroastrians placed the corpse of the dead in a vessel of aqua-fortis, which so effectively dissolved the body that it could be buried or poured into a designated place far from habitation. Later, the dead were exposed in Towers of Silence to the rays of the sun, which drew the souls upward in the path of its light, a process called khorshed nigaresh, “beholding by the sun.” Even today they allow no odor or contagion to pollute the air, fire, water or earth when their dead are exposed in these towers. Vultures quickly denude the bones, and the tropical Indian sun dries them to a powder which is then placed in a mountain cave, a niche, or dropped into special wells and covered with charcoal and sand.
The second phase consists of the succeeding “three days and nights” when the soul, now having entered ethereal worlds, sees with the understanding of its higher awareness the panoramic review of the life just completed. It sees the justice and value of every experience, understands the real conquests and failures, which during life may have been erroneously judged because perceived with the senses and faculties of the lower mind and emotions. Now the thoughts and acts of the past are evaluated in relation both to its spiritual and terrestrial evolution, and how they contribute to future endeavor.
The third stage of death occurs when the spiritual soul, divesting itself of the psychological body it had built during life — the fears, desires and memories of its animal-human components — enters the heaven, hell or intermediate realm it had “gained by affinity” when alive. These various heavens and hells are delineated as having each its appropriate location, characteristics, inhabitants, quality of pleasure or pain, and as being subject to a particular planetary influence. None, however, is eternal. Zoroaster himself declared that evil-doers will not abide “in hell forever; when their sins are expiated, they are delivered out of it” (Dabistan, p. 139) — out even of the “hell of hells,” the “dwelling place of Worst Purpose” (Yasna 32:13), which consists of the human soul’s entry into the bodies of beasts, of vegetables, and on rare occasions into mineral forms. For by the end of this Grand Period of manifestation the souls of all creatures on earth shall have reascended to higher spheres and regained their original goodness and splendor.
The Desatir and Avesta especially elaborate these ages-long peregrinations as the soul migrates “from body to body in a state of progressive improvement.” The soul of the good, they relate, passes out of one lower body after another, finally rising, emancipated from attractions of matter, to the celestial abodes of the Amesha Spentas who preside over the planets, and then on to the fixed stars and to union with God. And because, as seems evident, each of these bodies contains and is built of the thoughts, deeds and religious beliefs sown by the soul at that stellar station in a previous visit, it there enjoys or suffers consequences of its own past making.
These teachings evince remarkable knowledge of man’s spiritual nature and destiny. They also carry dramatic moral implication. If life is continuous — if, as the heroic Rust declared: “the death of the body is to the spirit the bestowing of life; . . . when the cloud of the body is removed, the sun of spirit shines more resplendently” (Dabistan, p. 104) — then the course of our future is being charted here now. Whether we, as souls, shall travel to one or another of the heavens or hells, and where we shall then continue, depends upon our conduct today. And as conduct is guided by knowledge the Zoroastrians placed great emphasis on the attaining of wisdom. Ardai Viraf’s “intelligence from the spirits,” while reviving the teachings of their ancient prophets and seers, continues today to awaken men’s souls to the truths that exist in all ages for those pure of heart to discover. Humata, hukhta, huvarshta, the Mazdean priests proclaim: “purity of thought, purity of word, purity of deed.” This is the kindling which nurtures the “Fire” within — that Fire which burns undiminished in the scriptures and symbols of this oldest and most mystical of religions.
— By Eloise Hart, Sunrise magazine, July 1977
Thoughts on Ormuzd and Ahriman
No more philosophically profound, no grander or more graphic and suggestive type exists among the allegories of the world-religions than that of the two Brother-Powers of the Mazdean religion, called Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu, better known in their modernized form of Ormuzd and Ahriman. Of these two emanations, “Sons of Boundless Time” — Zeruana Akarana, itself issued from the Supreme and Unknowable Principle — the one is the embodiment of “Good Thought” (Vohu Mano), the other of “Evil Thought” (Ako Mano). The “King of Light” or Ahura Mazda emanates from Primordial Light and forms or creates by means of the “Word,” Honover (Ahuna Vairya), a pure and holy world. But Angra Mainyu, though born as pure as his elder brother, becomes jealous of him, and mars everything in the universe, as on the earth, creating sin and evil wherever he goes.
The two powers are inseparable on our present plane and at this stage of evolution, and would be meaningless, one without the other. They are, therefore, the two opposite poles of the one manifested creative Power, whether the latter is viewed as a universal cosmic Force which builds worlds, or under its anthropomorphic aspect when its vehicle is thinking man. For Ormuzd and Ahriman are the respective representatives of good and evil, of light and darkness, of the spiritual and the material elements in man, and also in the universe and everything contained in it. Hence the world and man are called the Macrocosm and the Microcosm, the great and the small universe, the latter being the reflection of the former. Even exoterically, the God of Light and the God of Darkness are, both spiritually and physically, the two ever-contending forces, whether in heaven or on earth. The Parsis may have lost most of the keys that unlock the true interpretations of their sacred and poetical allegories, but the symbolism of Ormuzd and Ahriman is so self-evident, that even the Orientalists have ended by interpreting it, in its broad features, almost correctly.
As J. Darmesteter, the translator of the Vendidad, writes: “Long before the Parsis had heard of Europe and Christianity, commentators, explaining the myth of Tahmurath, who rode for thirty years on Ahriman as a horse, interpreted the feat of the old legendary king as the curbing of evil passions and restraining Ahriman in the heart of man.” The same writer broadly sums up Magism in this wise:
The world, such as it is now, is twofold, being the work of two hostile beings, Ahura Mazda, the good principle, and Angra Mainyu, the evil principle; all that is good in the world comes from the former, all that is bad in it comes from the latter. The history of the world is the history of their conflict, how Angra Mainyu invaded the world of Ahura Mazda and marred it, and how he shall be expelled from it at last. Man is active in the conflict, his duty in it being laid before him in the law revealed by Ahura Mazda to Zarathustra. When the appointed time is come a son of the lawgiver, still unborn, named Saoshyant (Sosiosh) will appear, Angra Mainyu and hell will be destroyed, men will rise from the dead, and everlasting happiness will reign over all the world. — Introduction, p. Ivi
Attention is drawn to the sentences italicized by the writer, as they are esoteric. For the Sacred Books of the Mazdeans, as all the other sacred Scriptures of the East (the Bible included), have to be read esoterically. The Mazdeans had practically two religions, as almost all the other ancient nations — one for the people and the other for the initiated priests. Thus, Angra Mainyu being confessedly, in one of its aspects, the embodiment of man’s lowest nature, with its fierce passions and unholy desires, “his hell” must be sought for and located on earth. In occult philosophy there is no other hell — nor can any state be comparable to that of a specially unhappy human wretch. Ahura Mazda alone, (Ahura Mazda stands here no longer as the supreme One God of eternal Good and Light, but as its own Ray, the divine Ego which informs man — under whatever name.) being the divine, and therefore the immortal and eternal symbol of “Boundless Time,” is the secure refuge, the spiritual haven of man. And as Time is twofold, there being a measured and finite time within the Boundless, Angra Mainyu is only a periodical and temporary evil. He is heterogeneity as developed from homogeneity. Descending along the scale of differentiating nature on the cosmic planes, both Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu. become, at the appointed time, the representatives and the dual type of man, the inner or divine Individuality, and the outer personality, a compound of visible and invisible elements and principles. As in heaven, so on earth; as above, so below. If the divine light in man, the higher spirit-soul, forms, including itself, the seven Ameshaspends (of which Ormuzd is the seventh, or the synthesis), Ahriman, the thinking personality, the animal soul, has in its turn its seven Archidevs opposed to the seven Ameshaspends.
In verse 16th of Yast XIX we read:
I invoke the glory of the Ameshaspends, who all seven, have one and the same thinking, one and the same speaking, one and the same doing, one and the same lord, Ahura Mazda.
During our life cycle, the good Yazatas, the 99,999 Fravashi (or Ferouers) and even the “Holy Seven,” the Arneshaspends themselves, are almost powerless against the host of wicked Devs — the symbols of cosmic opposing powers and of human passions and sins. Fiends of evil, their presence radiates and fills the world with moral and physical ills: with disease, poverty, envy and pride, with despair, drunkenness, treachery, injustice, and cruelty, with anger and bloody-handed murder. Under the advice of Ahriman, man from the first made his fellowman to weep and suffer. This state of things will cease only on the day when Ahura Mazda, the sevenfold deity, assumes his seventh name or aspect. Then will he send his “Holy Word” Mathra Spenta (or the “Soul of Ahura”) to incarnate in Saoshyant (Sosiosh), and the latter will conquer Angra Mainyu. Sosiosh is the prototype of “the faithful and the true” of the Revelation, and the same as Vishnu in the Kalki-avatar. Both are expected to appear as the Saviour of the World, seated on a white horse and followed by a host of spirits or genii, mounted likewise on milk-white steeds.
And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him . . . and the armies followed him upon white horses. –– Revelation xix, 11-14
And then, men will arise from the dead and immortality come.
Now the latter is of course purely allegorical. . . . Materialism and sin being called death, the materialist, or the unbeliever, is “a dead man” — spiritually. Occultism has never regarded the physical personality as the man; nor has Paul, if his Epistle to the Romans (vi-vii), is correctly understood. Thus mankind, arrived “at the appointed time,” at the end of the cycle of gross material flesh, will, with certain bodily changes, have come to a clearer spiritual perception of the truth.
The deadly strife between spirit and matter, between light and goodness and darkness and evil, began on our globe with the first appearance of contrasts and opposites in vegetable and animal nature, and continued more fiercely than ever after man had become the selfish and personal being he now is. Nor is there any chance of its coming to an end before falsehood is replaced by truth, selfishness by altruism, and supreme justice reigns in the heart of man. Till then, the noisy battle will rage unabated. Man, following the Delphic injunction, has to become acquainted with, and gain the mastery over, every nook and corner of his heterogeneous nature, before he can learn to discriminate between HIMSELF and his personality. To accomplish this difficult task, two conditions are absolutely requisite: one must have thoroughly realized in practice the noble Zoroastrian precept: “Good thought, good words, good deeds,” and must have impressed them indelibly on his soul and heart, not merely as a lip utterance and form observance. Above all, one has to crush personal vanity beyond resurrection.
Here is a suggestive fable and a charming allegory from the old Zoroastrian works. From the first incipient stage of Angra Mainyu’s power, he and his wicked army of fiends opposed the army of Light in everything it did. The demons of lust and pride, of corruption and impiety, systematically destroyed the work of the Holy Ones. It is they who made beautiful blossoms poisonous; graceful snakes, deadly; bright fires, the symbol of deity, full of stench and smoke; and who introduced death into the world. To light, purity, truth, goodness and knowledge, they opposed darkness, filth, falsehood, cruelty and ignorance. As a contrast to the useful and clean animals created by Ahura Mazda, Angra Mainyu created wild beasts and bloodthirsty fowls of the air. He also added insult to injury and deprecated and laughed at the peaceful and inoffensive creations of his elder brother. “It is thine envy,” said the holy Yazatas one day to the unholy fiend, the evil-hearted. “Thou art incapable of producing a beautiful and harmless being, O cruel Angra Mainyu”. . .
The archfiend laughed and said that he could. Forthwith he created the loveliest bird the world had ever seen. It was a majestic peacock, the emblem of vanity and selfishness, which is self-adulation in deeds.
“Let it be the King of Birds,” quoth the Dark One, and let man worship him and act after his fashion.”
From that day “Melek Taus” (the Angel Peacock) became the special creation of Angra Mainyu, and the messenger through which the archfiend is invoked by some and propitiated by all men. The Yezidis, or “Devil Worshipers,” some of whom inhabit the plains of ancient Babylonia, to this day worship Melek Taus, the peacock, as the messenger of Satan and the mediator between the Archfiend and men.
How often does one see strong-hearted men and determined women moved by a strong aspiration towards an ideal they know to be the true one, battling successfully, to all appearance, with Ahriman and conquering him. Their external selves have been the battleground of a most terrible, deadly strife between the two opposing principles; but they have stood firmly — and won. . . . Every lower instinct, melting like soiled icicles under the beneficent ray of Ahura Mazda, the radiant Ego-Sun, has disappeared, making room for better and holier aspirations. Yet, there lurks in them their old and but partially destroyed vanity, that spark of personal pride which is the last to die in man. Dormant it is, latent and invisible to all, including their own consciousness; but there it is still. Let it awake but for an instant, and the seemingly crushed-out personality comes back to life at the sound of its voice, arising from its grave like an unclean ghoul at the command of the midnight incantator. Five hours — nay, five minutes even — of life under its fatal sway, may destroy the work of years of self-control and training, and of laborious work in the service of Ahura Mazda. . . .
Great is the power of Ahriman! Time rolls on, leaving with every day the ages of ignorance and superstition further behind, but bringing us in their stead only centuries of ever-increasing selfishness and pride. Mankind grows and multiplies, waxes in strength and (book-)wisdom; it claims to have penetrated into the deepest mysteries of physical nature; it builds railroads and honeycombs the globe with tunnels; it erects gigantic towers and bridges, minimizes distances, unites the oceans and divides whole continents. Cables and telephones, canals and railways more and more with every hour unite mankind into one “happy” family, but only to furnish the selfish and wily with every means of stealing a better march on the less selfish and improvident.
Few are those who would confess or even deign to see, that beneath the brilliant surface of our civilization and culture lurks, refusing to be dislodged, all the inner filth of the evils created by Ahriman; and indeed, the truest symbol, the very picture of that civilization is the last creation of the Archfiend — the beautiful Peacock. — Compiled from the editorial in Lucifer, March 1891.
— By H.P. Blavatsky, reprinted from Sunrise magazine, May 1971
Articles from Universal Brotherhood Magazine
Zoroaster, The Father of Philosophy
Seven cities are named as claiming to have been the birthplace of Homer. His great poem is the classic above other literary productions, but the personality of the man, as well as the period and place in which he lived, is veiled in uncertainty.
A similar curious indefiniteness exists in regard to the great Oriental sage and teacher of a pure faith, Zoroaster. There have been credited to him not only the sacred compositions known as the Vendidad and Yasna, the remains of which sadly interpolated, are preserved by the Parsis of India, but a large number of Logia or oracular utterances which have been transmitted to us by writers upon ancient Grecian philosophy and mythology.
Mr. Marion Crawford has presented him to us in the character of a young Persian Prince, a pupil of the prophet Daniel, who had been made governor of Media by Nebuchadnezzar. He is described as learned in all the wisdom of the prophet himself, and the learning of the wise men of Assyria. Dareios Hystaspis having become the “Great King,” Zoroaster is compelled by him to forego the warmest wishes of his heart, and becomes an ascetic. Having retired to a Cave, he performs the various rites of religion, and passes into trances. His body appears as dead, but the spirit is set free, and goes to and fro returning to its place again. Thus he attains the intuitive comprehension of knowledge, to the understanding of natural laws not perceptible by the corporeal senses alone, and to the merging of the soul and higher intelligence in the one universal and divine essence.
The late Dean Prideaux propounded somewhat of a similar statement many years ago. He did not scruple, however, to represent this Apostle of the Pure Law as a religious impostor and made much account of the theory of Two Principles, as evidence of his perversion of the true doctrine.
The conjecture that Zoroaster flourished in the reign of Dareios Hystaspis, is chiefly based upon two ancient memorials. The Eranian monarch Vistaspa is several times named in the Yasna and other writings, and many identify him with the Persian King. Ammianus the historian declares that Hystaspis, the father of Dareios, a most learned prince, penetrating into Upper India, came upon a retreat of the Brachmans, by whom he was instructed in physical and astronomic science, and in pure religious rites. These he transferred into the creed of the Magi.
Some countenance for this conjecture appears from a reading of the famous trilingual inscription at Behistun. This place is situated just within the border of Media on the thoroughfare from Babylon to Ekbatana. The rock is seventeen hundred feet high, and belongs to the Zagros 1 range of mountains. This was engraved about three hundred feet from the foot, and was in three languages, the Skythic or Median, the Persian and the Assyrian. Sir Henry C. Rawlinson first deciphered it, and found it to be a record of Dareios. The monarch proclaims his pure royal origin, and then describes the conquest of Persia by Gaumata the Magian, the suicide of Kambses, and the recovering of the throne by himself. He distinctly intimates that he was first to promulgate the Mazdean religion in the Persian Empire. The Kings before him, he declares, did not so honor Ahur’-Mazda. “I rebuilt the temples,” he affirms; “I restored the Gathas or hymns of praise, and the worship.” Doctor Oppert, who read the Medic inscription, asserted that it contains the statement that Dareios caused the Avesta and the Zendic Commentary to be published through the Persian dominion.
On the tomb of this king he is styled the teacher of the Magians. In his reign the temple at Jerusalem was built and dedicated to the worship of the “God of heaven” thus indicating the Mazdean influence. Dareios extended his dominion over Asia Minor and into Europe, and from this period the era of philosophy took its beginning in Ionia and Greece.
Porphyry the philosopher also entertained the belief that Zoroaster flourished about this period, and Apuleius mentions the report that Pythagoras had for teachers the Persian Magi, and especially Zoroaster, the adept in every divine mystery. So far, therefore, the guess of Crawford and Dean Prideaux appears plausible.
It should be remembered, however, that other writers give the Eranian teacher a far greater antiquity. Aristotle assigns him a period more than six thousand years before the present era. Hermippos of Alexandreia, who had read his writings, gives him a similar period. Berossos reduces it to two thousand years, Plutarch to seventeen hundred, Ktesias to twelve hundred.
These dates, however, have little significance. A little examination of ancient literature will be sufficient to show that Zoroaster or Zarathustra was not so much the name of a man as the title of an office. It may be that the first who bore it, had it as his own, but like the name Caesar, it became the official designation of all who succeeded him. Very properly, therefore, the Parsi sacred books while recognizing a Zarathustra 2 in every district or province of the Eranian dominion, place above them as noblest of all, the Zarathustrema, or chief Zoroaster, or as the Parsis now style him in Persian form, Dastur of dasturs. We may bear in mind according that there have been many Zoroasters, and infer safely that the Avesta was a collection of their productions, ascribed as to one for the sake of enhancing their authority. That fact as well as the occurrence that the present volume is simply a transcript of sixteen centuries ago, taken from men’s memories and made sacred by decree of a Sassanian king, indicates the need of intuitive intelligence, to discern the really valuable matter. Zoroaster Spitaman himself belongs to a period older than “Ancient History.” The Yasna describes him as famous in the primitive Aryan Homestead — “Airyana-Vaejo of the good creation.” Once Indians and Eranians dwelt together as a single people. But polarity is characteristic of all thinking. Indeed, the positive necessarily requires the negative, or it cannot itself exist. Thus the Aryans became a people apart from the Skyths and Ethiopic races, and again the agricultural and gregarious Eranians divided from the nomadic worshippers of Indra. 3 The resemblances of language and the similarities and dissimilarities exhibited in the respective religious rites and traditions are monuments of this schism of archaic time. 4 How long this division had existed before the rise of the Great Teacher, we have no data for guessing intelligently.
It may be here remarked that the world-religions are not really originated by individual leaders. Buddhism was prior to Gautama, Islam to Muhamed, and we have the declaration of Augustin of Hippo that Christianity existed thousands of years before the present era. There were those, however, who gave form and coherence to the beliefs, before vague and indeterminate, and made a literature by which to extend and perpetuate them. This was done by Zoroaster. Hence the whole religion of the Avesta revolves round his personality.
Where he flourished, or whether the several places named were his abodes at one time or another, or were the homes of other Zoroasters, is by no means clear. One tradition makes him a resident of Bakhdi or Balkh, where is now Bamyan with its thousands of artificial caves. The Yasna seems to place him at Ragha or Rai in Media, not far from the modern city of Tehran. We must be content, however, to know him as the accredited Apostle of the Eranian peoples.
Emanuel Kant affirms positively that there was not the slightest trace of a philosophic idea in the Avesta from beginning to end. Professor William D. Whitney adds that if we were to study the records of primeval thought and culture, to learn religion or philosophy, we should find little in the Avesta to meet our purpose. I am reluctant, however, to circumscribe philosophy to the narrow definition that many schoolmen give it. I believe, instead, with Aristotle, that God is the ground of all existence, and therefore that theology, the wisdom and learning which relate to God and existence, constitute philosophy in the truest sense of the term. All that really is religion, pertains to life, and as Swedenborg aptly declares, the life of religion is the doing of good. Measured by such standards, the sayings of the prophet of Eran are permeated through and through with philosophy.
Zoroaster appears to have been a priest and to have delivered his discourses at the temple in the presence of the sacred Fire. At least the translations by Dr. Haug so describe the matter. He styles himself a reciter of the mantras, a duta or apostle, and a maretan or listener and expounder of revelation. The Gathas or hymns are said to contain all that we possess of what was revealed to him. He learned them, we are told, from the seven Amshaspands or archangels. His personal condition is described to us as a state of ecstasy, with the mind exalted, the bodily senses closed, and the mental ears open. This would be a fair representation of the visions of Emanuel Swedenborg himself.
I have always been strongly attracted to the Zoroastrian doctrine. It sets aside the cumbrous and often objectionable forms with which the ceremonial religions are overloaded, puts away entirely the sensualism characteristic of the left-hand Sakteyan and Astartean worships, and sets forth prominently the simple veneration for the Good, and a life of fraternalism, good neighborhood and usefulness. “Every Mazdean was required to follow a useful calling. The most meritorious was the subduing and tilling of the soil. The man must marry, but only a single wife; and by preference she must be of kindred blood. It was regarded as impious to foul a stream of water. It was a cardinal doctrine of the Zoroastrian religion that individual worthiness is not the gain and advantage of the person possessing it, but an addition to the whole power and volume of goodness in the universe.
With Zoroaster prayer was a hearty renouncing of evil and a coming into harmony with the Divine Mind. It was in no sense a histrionic affair, but a recognition of goodness and Supreme Power. The Ahuna-Vairya, the prayer of prayers, delineates the most perfect completeness of the philosophic life. The latest translation which I have seen exemplifies this.
“As is the will of the Eternal Existence, so energy through the harmony of the Perfect Mind is the producer of the manifestations of the Universe, and is to Ahur’ Mazda the power which gives sustenance to the revolving systems.”
With this manthra is coupled the Ashem-Vohu:
“Purity is the best good; a blessing it is — a blessing to him who practices purity for the sake of the Highest Purity.”
But for the defeat of the Persians at Salamis it is probable that the Zoroastrian religion would have superseded the other worships of Europe. After the conquest of Pontos and the Pirates the secret worship of Mithras was extended over the Roman world. A conspicuous symbolic representation was common, the slaying of the Bull. When the vernal equinox was at the period of the sign Taurus, the earth was joyous and became prolific. The picture represented the period of the sun in Libra, the sign of Mithras. Then the Bull was slain, the blighting scorpion and the reversed torch denoted winter approaching to desolate the earth. With the ensuing spring the bull revives, and the whole is enacted anew. It is a significant fact that many religious legends and ceremonies are allied to this symbolic figure. It was, however, a degradation of the Zoroastrian system.
It is a favorite notion of many that Zoroaster taught “dualism” — -that there is an eternal God and an eternal Devil contending for the supreme control of the Universe. I do not question that the Anhra-mainyas or Evil Mind mentioned in the Avesta was the original from which many of the Devils of the various Creeds were shaped. The Seth or Typhon of Egypt, the Baal Zebul of Palestine, the Diabolos and Satan of Christendom, the Sheitan of the Yazidis and the Eblis of the Muslim world are of this character. Yet we shall find as a general fact that these personages were once worshipped as gods till conquest and change of creed dethroned them. This is forcibly illustrated by the devas, that are deities in India and devils with the Parsis. Whether, however, the Eranian “liar from the beginning and the father of lying,” was ever regarded as a Being of Light and Truth may be questioned. Yet there was a god Aramannu in Ethiopic Susiana before the conquest by the Persians.
Zoroaster, nevertheless, taught pure monotheism. “I beheld thee to be the universal cause of life in the Creation,” he says in the Yasna. The concept of a separate Evil Genius equal in power to Ahur’ Mazda is foreign to his theology. But the human mind cannot contemplate a positive thought without a contrast. The existence of a north pole presupposes a south pole.
Hence in the Yasna, in Dr. Haug’s version we find mention of “the more beneficent of my two spirits,” which is paralleled by the sentence in the book of Isaiah: “I make peace and create evil.” Significantly, however, the Gathas, which are the most unequivocally Zoroastrian, never mention Anhra-mainyas as being in constant hostility to Ahur’ Mazda. Nor does Dareios in the inscriptions name Anhra-mainyas at all. The druksh or “lie” is the odious object denounced. But evil as a negative principle is not essentially wicked. In this sense it is necessary, as shade to light, as night to day — -always opposing yet always succumbing. Even the body, when by decay or disease it becomes useless and an enthraller of the soul, is separated from it by the beneficent destroyer. “In his wisdom,” says the Yasna, “he produced the Good and the Negative Mind. . . . Thou art he, O Mazda, in whom the last cause of these is hidden.”
In his great speech before the altar, Zoroaster cries: “Let every one, both man and woman, this day choose his faith. In the beginning there were two — the Good and the Base in thought, word and deed. Choose one of these two: be good, not base. You cannot belong to both. You must choose the originator of the worst actions, or the true holy spirit. Some may choose the worst allotment; others adore the Most High by means of faithful action.”
The religion of Zoroaster was essentially a Wisdom-Religion. It made everything subjective and spiritual. In the early Gathas he made no mention of personified archangels or Amshaspands, but names them as moral endowments. “He gives us by his most holy spirit,” says he, “the good mind from which spring good thoughts, words and deeds — also fullness, long life, prosperity and understanding.” In like manner the evil spirits or devas were chiefly regarded as moral qualities or conditions, though mentioned as individuated existences. Their origin was in the errant thoughts of men. “These bad men,” the Yasna declares, “produce the devas by their pernicious thoughts.” The upright, on the other hand destroy them by good actions.
In the Zoroastrian purview, there is a spiritual and invisible world which preceded, and remains about this material world as its origin, prototype and upholder. Innumerable myriads of spiritual essences are distributed through the universe. These are the Frohars, or fravashis, the ideal forms of all living things in heaven and earth. Through the Frohars, says the hymn, the Divine Being upholds the sky, supports the earth, and keeps pure and vivific the waters of preexistent life. They are the energies in all things, and each of them, led by Mithras, is associated in its time and order with a human body. Every being, therefore, which is created or will be created, has its Frohar, which contains the cause and reason of its existence. They are stationed everywhere to keep the universe in order and protect it against evil. Thus they are allied to everything in nature; they are ancestral spirits and guardian angels, attracting human beings to the right and seeking to avert from them every deadly peril. They are the immortal souls, living before our birth and surviving after death.
Truly, in the words of the hymn, the light of Ahur’ Mazda is hidden under all that shines. Every world-religion seems to have been a recipient. Grecian philosophy obtained here an inspiration. Thales inculcated the doctrine of a Supreme Intelligence which produced all things; Herakleitos described the Everlasting Fire as an incorporeal soul from which all emanate and to which all return. Plato tells Alkibiades of the magic or wisdom taught by Zoroaster, the apostle of Oromasdes, which charges all to be just in conduct, and true in word and deed.
Here is presented a religion that is personal and subjective, rather than formal and histrionic. No wonder that a faith so noble has maintained its existence through all the centuries, passing the barriers of race and creed, to permeate the later beliefs. Though so ancient that we only guess its antiquity, we find it comes up afresh in modern creeds. It is found everywhere, retaining the essential flavor of its primitive origin. It has nobly fulfilled its mission. “I march over the countries,” says the Gatha, “triumphing over the hateful and striking down the cruel.”
It has survived the torch of Alexander and the cimiter of the Moslem. Millions upon millions have been massacred for adhering to it, yet it survives as the wisdom which is justified by her children. The Dialectic of Plato has been the text-book of scholars in the Western World, and the dialogues of Zoroaster with Ahur’ Mazda constitute the sacred literature of wise men of the far East.
“The few philosophic ideas which may be discovered in his sayings,” says Dr. Haug, “show that he was a great and deep thinker, who stood above his contemporaries, and even above the most enlightened men of many subsequent centuries.”
1. Occult symbolism, says Mr. Brown in Poseidon, has frequently availed itself of two words of similar sound or of one word of manifold meaning. We notice many examples of this in the old classics and in the Hebrew text of the Bible. This name Zagros is strikingly like Zagreus, the Bacchus or Dionysus of the Mysteries, and his worship was carried from this part of Asia. In an inscription of Nebuchadnezzar, we find the name “Shamas Diannisi,” or Shamas (the sun-god) judge of mankind. Osiris, the Egyptian Bacchus, had also the title, apparently a translation, Ro-t-Amenti, the judge of the West. The Kretan Rhadamanthus, doubtless here got his name.
The Zagros mountains were inhabited by the Nimri and Kossaeans, which reminds us of the text: “And Cush begat Nimrod.” For the ancient Susiana is now called Khusistan, and was the former AEthiopia. Assyria was called the “land of Nimrcd,” and Bab-el or Babylon was his metropolis. (Genesis x — 8, 10, 11, and Micah v — 4.) The term nimr signifies spotted, a leopard; and it is a significant fact that in the Rites of Bacchus, the leopard skin or spotted robe was worn.
2. It is not quite easy to translate this term. The name Zoroaster, with which we are familiar, seems really to be Semitic, from zoro, the seed or son, and Istar, or Astarte, the Assyrian Venus. Some write it Zaratas, from nazar, to set apart. Gen. Forlong translates Zarathustra as “golden-handed,” which has a high symbolic import. Intelligent Parsis consider it to mean elder, superior, chief.
3. The name of this divinity curiously illustrates the sinuosities of etymology. It is from the Aryan root-word id, to glow or shine, which in Sanskrit becomes indh, from which comes Indra, the burning or shining one. The same radical becomes in another dialect aith, from which comes ether, the supernal atmosphere, and the compounded name Aithiopia. It is therefore no matter of wonder that all Southern Asia, from the Punjab to Arabia has borne that designation.
4. Ernest de Bunsen suggests that this schism is signified by the legend of Cain and Abel. The agriculturist roots out the shepherd.
— Alexander Wilder, Universal Brotherhood, September 1898
The Wisdom Religion of Zoroaster
“The primeval religion of Iran,” says Sir William Jones, “if we ” rely on the authorities adduced by Mohsan Fani 1 was that which Newton calls the oldest (and it may justly be called the noblest) of all religions: — ‘a firm belief that one Supreme God made the world by his power and continually governed it by his providence; a pious fear, love and adoration of him; a due reverence for parents and aged persons; a fraternal affection for the whole human species, and a compassionate tenderness even for the brute creation.'”
The believers in a Golden Age preceding the ruder and unhappier periods of human history readily trace in this a confirmation of their cherished sentiment. Those who contemplate religions as substantially the same in their essential principles, can subscribe heartily to the statement. Even they who ignore and repudiate the past as solely bestial and barbarous, and place everything in the future as a goal of effort and expectation, will not hesitate to accept the proposition as an ultimate attainment.
Yet that which is to be must be to a large degree something that has been, and a rehabilitation of the old. It must have existed in idea, or it would not be evolved in manifested existence. Religions may have their Apostles, but Apostles are not the first creators of religions. For religion has its inception not from the logical reason, but in the human heart, in the passionate desire for the better and more true, for that which is superior to the present selfhood. It comes into existence as an infant child, and grows gradually, taking form and shape according to the genius of those by whom it is adopted and cherished.
When the first Zarathustra was born, Mazdaism was already divergent not only from Turanian Shamanism but likewise from the Aryan Deva-worship of archaic India. The pioneers of Eran were tillers of the soil and dwellers in ceiled houses and walled villages, while the followers of Indra and Saurva were still nomadic shepherds and fed their flocks wherever pasture was afforded, little regardful even of any respect for the enclosed and cultivated fields of their brethren. Yet at that period the two had not become distinct communities. “Hard by the believers in Ahura live the worshippers of the devas,” says Zoroaster.
Much curious speculation has been bestowed in regard to the identity of the Great Sage and Prophet of archaic Eran. Some modern writers have even suggested that he was simply a mythic or ideal personage described in ancient hyperbole as a Son or Avatar of Divinity, because of representing the religious system of which he was the recognized expositor, Plato more rationally styles him “the Oro-Mazdean,” who promulgated the learning of the Magi, by which was meant the worship of the Gods, and being true and truthful in words and deeds through the whole of one’s life. “By means of the splendor and glory of the Frohars or guardian spirits,” says the Fravardin-Yasht, “that man obtained revelations who spoke good words, who was the Source of Wisdom, who was born before Gotama had such intercourse with God.”
We find him accordingly set forth in the Gathas, the most ancient literature of his people, as an historic person of the lineage of Spitama, with a father, remoter ancestors, kinsmen, a wife, and sons and daughters. 2 The Yasno, or Book of Worship, declares the following: “Then answered me Homa the righteous: ‘Pourushaspa has prepared me as the fourth man in the corporeal world; this blessing was bestowed upon him that thou wast born to him — thou, the righteous Zarathustra, of the house of Pourushaspa, who opposest the devas, who art devoted to the Ahura religion and famous in Airyana-Yaejo, the Aryan Fatherland.'”
He seems to have begun his career as an humble student and reciter of the chants and prayers in the presence of the Sacred Fire, but to have been developed in maturer years into an apostle and speaker of oracles which should impart the true wisdom to all who heard. He gave a rational form to the religious thought of his countrymen, elaborated it into a philosophy, and began lot it the preparation of a literature by which it should be perpetuated.
Nevertheless we may not accept for him much that has been published under the name or title by which he is commonly known. Whether he actually wrote much we do not know. Generally, the disciples, and not the Masters, are the ones most prolific in literary productions. Besides, there have been many Zoroasters, or spiritual superiors, who succeeded to the rank and honors of Zarathustra Spitaman. All these who made contributions to the Sacred Oracles, appear to have received acceptance like that awarded to the Mazdean Apostle. Nor does the distinction seem to have been confined to the Eranian country, nor even to the collections of the Avesta. When conquest extended the Persian authority to other regions, it was followed by religious propagandism. In this way the Zoroastrian faith burst through the limitations of a single people and country, and for a period of centuries appeared likely to become the principal religion of the world. It was supreme in the Parthian dominion clear to Kabul 3 or further, and it extended over the Roman Empire as far as Germany and Scotland. As conquest removed the lines of partition between peoples, religion and philosophy met fewer obstacles. The “pure thought” and doctrine may have been greatly changed by the commingling with the notions of the newer receivers, as we observe in the Mithra-worship and the various forms of Gnosticism. We also find men in different countries of the East who, for their apperception and superior intelligence bore the same honorary designation as the Sage of the Avesta, which has created some uncertainty in later times in distinguishing the individual who was actually first to bear the title.
The Mazdean faith has left a vivid impress upon the doctrine and literature of other religions. The Hebrew Sacred Writings of later periods treat of the “God of Heaven,” and the “God of Truth,” 4 and contain other references significant of acquaintance with the Persian theosophy.
The New Testament is by no means free from this influence; the Gnosis or superior wisdom is repeatedly mentioned; also guardian angels, and various spiritual essences. The reference in the Apocalypse to the tree of life, the second death, the white pebble inscribed with an occult name, the procession in white robes, and the enthronement, are taken from the Mithraic worship.
The pioneers of the later Platonic School distinctly named Mithras as the central divinity. He had to a great degree displaced Apollo and Bacchus in the West, and ranked with Serapis in Egypt. Porphyry treats of the worship of the Cave, the constructing of a Cave by Zoroaster with figures of the planets and constellations overhead, and declares that Mithras was born in a petra or grotto-shrine. 5 He describes the Mithras-worship as being in touch with the Esoteric philosophy, and his famous Letter to Anebo, the Egyptian prophet, appears to have been called forth by the apprehension of an endeavor to qualify or supersede it by a theurgy which was chiefly deduced from the occult Rites of Serapis and the Assyrian theology.
In connection with their expositions of the Later Platonism, the various philosophic writers, as for example Synesios, Proklos, and Damaskios, quoted selections from the Oriental literature. These have come to us under the general name of “Chaldean Oracles,” but later redactors have styled them “Ta Tov Ζωροαστρου λογία” the Memorable Sayings of the Zoroaster. 6 They exhibit a remarkable similarity to the Neo-Platonic teachings, and we have the assurance of a distinguished Parsee gentlemen famous alike for his profound attainments and his extensive liberality, 7 that they are genuine. He declares that there is no reason to doubt that the Persian doctrine was based upon that of the Chaldeans and was in close affinity with it, and he adds that the Chaldean doctrine and philosophy may be taken as a true exposition of the Persian.
We may remark that much of the religious symbolism employed by the Persians was identical with that of the Assyrians, and the explanations given by M. Lajard in his work, La Culte de Mithra, plainly accepts rites and divinities from the Chaldean worship.
Many of the Maxims attributed to the Eranian Zarathustra, as well as the Memorable Sayings of the Chaldean Zoroaster are replete with suggestions in regard to the true life of fraternity and neighborly charity, as well as information upon recondite and philosophic subjects. They are inspired by a profound veneration as well as intuition. Every family was part of a Brotherhood, and the districts were constituted of these fraternities.
The Zoroastrian designation of the Supreme Being was Ahura and Mazda, the Lord, the All-Wise, Mazdaism or the Mazdayasna is therefore the Wisdom-Religion. The Divinity is also honored as the Divine Fire or inmost energy of life — in his body resembling light; in his essence, truth.
Mithras was the God of Truth. The Zoroastrian religion was an apotheosis of Truth. Evil was hateful as being the lie. Trade was discouraged as tending to make men untruthful. “The wretch who belies Mithras,” who falsifies his word, neglecting to pay his debts, it is said, “is destructive to the whole country. Never break a promise — neither that which was contracted with a fellow-religionist, nor with an unbeliever.”
As Ahur’ Mazda is first of the seven Amshaspands, or archangels, so Mithras is chief of the Yazatas or subordinate angels. “I created him,” says Ahur’ Mazda, “to be of the same rank and honor as myself.” Mithras precedes the Sun in the morning, he protects the Earth with unsleeping vigilance, he drives away lying and wicked spirits, and rewards those who follow the truth.
Those who speak lies, who fail to keep their word, who love evil better than good, he leaves to their own courses; and so they are certain to perish. His dominion is geographically described in the Mihir-Yasht as extending from Eastern India and the Seven Rivers to Western India, and from the Steppes of the North to the Indian Ocean.
Although much is said about “dualism” and the corporeal resurrection, it is apparent that it is principally “read into” the Zoroastrian writings rather than properly deduced from them. Opportunity for this is afforded by the fact that the vocabulary of the different languages was very limited, and single words were necessarily used to do duty for a multitude of ideas. We notice this fact, by comparing them, that no two translators of passages in the Avesta give the same sense or even general tenor. We are often obliged to form a judgment from what is apparent.
This text from Dr. Haug’s translation seems explicit: “Ahura Mazda by his holy spirit, through good thought, good word and good deed, gives health and immortality to the world.” Two ideas are distinct: 1, that all real good is of and from Divinity; 2, that intrinsic goodness on the part of the individual, makes him recipient of its benefits.
It seems plain, also, that in the mind of Zoroaster, as of other great thinkers, life is sempersistent. The Yasna and Hadokht- Yasht, both “older Scriptures,” declare this plainly. They recite the particulars of the journey of the soul, the real self, from the forsaken body to the future home. It waits three days by the body, as if not ready to depart forever. The righteous soul, then setting out, presently meets a divine maiden, its higher law and interior selfhood, who gives the joyful assurance: “Thou art like me even as I appear to thee. I was beloved, beautiful, desirable and exalted; and thou, by the good thought, good speech, and good action, hast made me more beloved, more beautiful, more desirable, and exalted still higher.” So the righteous soul having taken these three steps, now takes the fourth, which brings it to the Everlasting Lights.
Here is no talk about the resuscitating of anything that had really died. There is recognized a continuing to live, and for the worthy one, this life is eternal, or what is the same thing, divine.
For the others, there is the counterpart, a meeting with an impure maiden figure, a falling under the sway of the Evil Mind with the probations which this entails. Nevertheless we may not consider this Evil Mind as sempiternal, or all-powerful; else there would be two Intelligences in conflict for dominion over the universe, and so the shifting scenes of human life could be only an absurd, pitiful farce. In the nature of things, evil must exist as the correlative of good; but it is never an essence or a principle. It is always self-destroying and never permanent in any form. In most old copies of the Hadokht- Yasht, we notice that no fourth step is mentioned, in the case of the wicked soul; though far from righteousness, it is not consigned to perpetual hell.
The primitive Mazdean doctrine was philosophic on these subjects as well as moral, “All good has sprung from Ahur’ Mazda’s holy spirit,” the Yasna declares: “and he who in his wisdom created both the Good and the Negative Mind, rewards those who are obedient. In him the last cause of both minds lies hidden.”
Further we are told of the real origin of devas or devils, that those who do not perform good works actually themselves “produce the devas by means of their pernicious thoughts.”
In the end, however, the Savior is to make the whole world immortal. Then the Truth will smite and destroy the lie, and Anhra Manyas, the Evil Mind, will part with his rule.
By this we are not to understand any coming crisis of the external world, but a palingenesis or restitution and regeneration in each person individually. It was a true saying in the Gospel: “This is the crisis or judging: that the Light comes into the world, and men love the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil.”
Both the Memorable Sayings, and the recorded utterances of the Avesta which are still preserved, abound with philosophic and theurgic utterances. Many of them are very recondite, others excel in sublimity. The following selections are examples.
“The Paternal Monad (or Divine Fire) is: It is extended and generates the Twin. For the Dual sitteth close beside the One, and flashes forth mental promptings which are both for the direction of all things and the arranging of every thing that is not in order.”
“The Paternal Mind commanded that all things should be divided into Threes, all of them to be directed by Intelligence.”
“In all the cosmic universe the Triad shines, which the Monad rules.”
“Understand that all things are subservient to the Three Beginnings. The first of these is the Sacred Course; then in the midst is the region of Air; the third, the other, is that which cherishes the Earth with fire — the fountain of fountains and Source of all fountains, the womb containing all; from hence at once proceeds the genesis of matter in its many shapes.”
“The Father takes himself away from sight; not shutting his own Fire in his own spiritual power. For from the Paternal Beginning nothing that is imperfect gyrates forth. For the Father made all things complete and delivered them to the Second Intelligence which the race of men call the First.”
“He holds fast in the Mind the matters of mind, but sensibility he supplies to the worlds. He holds fast in the Mind the things of mind, but supplies soul to the worlds.”
“The Soul being a radiant fire by the power of the Father, not only remains immortal and is absolute ruler of the life, but also holds in possession the many perfections of the bosoms of the world; for it becomes a copy of the Mind, but that which is born is somewhat corporeal.”
“Let the immortal depth of the soul lead and all the views expand on high. Do not incline to the dark-gleaming world. Beneath is always spread out a faithless deep and Hades dark all around, perturbed, delighting in senseless phantasms, abounding with precipices, craggy, always whirling round a miserable deep, perpetually wedded to an ignoble, idle, spiritless body.”
“Extend the fiery mind to work of piety and you will preserve ever changing body.”
“The mortal approaching the Fire will be illuminated from God.”
“Let alone the hastening of the Moon in her monthly course, and the goings forward of stars; the moon is always moved on by the work of necessity, and the progress of the stars was not produced for thy sake. Neither the bold flight of birds through the ether, nor the dissection of the entrails of sacrificed animals is a source to learn the truth; they are all playthings, supports for gainful deceptions; fly them all, if thou art going to open the sacred paradise of piety, where virtue, wisdom, and justice are assembled.”
Despite all these mentions of the Father and the Paternal Monad, no reference is made in the Avesta to God as a father. Nevertheless he exhibits all the qualities of a parent and protector; he gives happiness, rewards goodness, creates beneficent light and darkness, and loves all his creation.
Many of the Avestan utterances are sublime.
“My light is hidden under all that shines,” says Ahur’ Mazda.
“My name is: He who may be questioned; the Gatherer of the People; the Most Pure; He who takes account of the actions of men. My name is Ahura, the Living One; my name is Mazda, the All- Wise. I am the All-Beholding, the Desirer of good for my creatures, the Protector, the Creator of all.”
The Yasna abounds with expressive sayings, somewhat of the character of proverbs.
“He first created, by means of his own fire, the multitude of celestial bodies, and through his Intelligence, the good creatures governed by the inborn good mind.”
“When my eyes behold thee, the Essence of truth, the Creator of life who manifests his life in his works, then I know thee to be the Primeval Spirit, thee the All-Wise, so high in mind as to create the world, and the Father of the Good Mind.”
“I praise the Mazdayasnian religion, and the righteous brotherhood which it establishes and defends.”
In the Zoroastrian religion a man might not live for himself or even die for himself. Individual virtue is not the gain of only the soul that practices it, but an actual addition to the whole power of good in the universe. The good of one is the good of all; the sin of one is a fountain of evil to all. The aim of the Mazdean discipline is to keep pure the thought, speech, action, memory, reason and understanding. Zoroaster asks of Ahur’ Mazda, what prayer excels everything else? “That prayer,” is the reply, “when a man renounces all evil thoughts, words and works.”
Fasting and ascetic practices are disapproved as a culpable weakening of the powers entrusted to a person for the service of Ahur’ Mazda. “The sins of the Zoroastrian category include everything that burdens the conscience, seeing evil and not warning him who is doing it, lying, doubting the good, withholding alms, afflicting a good man, denying that there is a God, — also pride, coveting of goods, the coveting of the wife of another, speaking ill of the dead, anger, envy, discontent with the arrangements of God, sloth, scorn, false witness.
The soul of man is a ray from the Great Soul, by the Father of Light.
It is matter of regret that so much of the Zoroastrian literature has been lost. It is more to be regretted that it has not been better translated. Yet books do not create a faith, but are only aids. Men are infinitely more precious than books. The essence of the Wisdom-Religion was not lost when the Nasks perished. “The Zoroastrian ideal of Brotherhood is founded on a recognition of the Divine Unity, and does not represent an association of men united by a common belief or common interests.” There is no distinction of class or race. In the Zoroastrian writings the Frohars or protecting geniuses of all good men and women are invoked and praised, as well as those of Zoroastrians. Any one whose aspirations are spiritual and his life beneficent, is accepted, though not professedly of the Mazdean fellowship.
So much of the literature has an esoteric meaning that superficial students lose sight of, that the genuine Wisdom-Religion is not discerned. There are eyes needed that can see and apperceive. Then the symbols which materialists blunder over will be unveiled in their true meaning and there will be witnessed a revival of a religion devoid of elaborate ceremony, but replete with justice, serene peacefulness and goodwill to men.
1. Mohsan who is here cited was a native of Kashmir, and a Sufi. He insisted that there was an Eranian monarchy the oldest in the world, and that the religion of Hushan, which is here described, was its prevailing faith.
2. The father of the first Zoroasu-ter was named Pourushaspa, his great grandfather, Ha-katashaspa, his wife Hvovi, his daughters, Freni, Thriti, Pourushista. The daughters were married according to archaic Aryan custom to near kindred.
3. The Afghan language appears to have been derived from that of the Avesta. Perhaps the book was written there.
4. The name Mithras signifies truth. Falsehood was regarded as obnoxious to this divinity, and as punished with leprosy. (Kings II. v. 27.)
5. That ingenious writer “Mark Twain” calls attention to the fact that all the sacred places connected with the Holy Family in Palestine are grottoes. “It is exceedingly’ strange,” says he, “that these tremendous events all happened in grottoes,” and he does not hesitate to pronounce “this grotto-stuff as important.”
We may look further, however. The ancient mystic rites were celebrated in petras, or grotto-shrines, and the temples of Mithras bore that designation. The Semitic term PTR or peter signifies to lay open, to interpret, and hence an interpreter, a hierophant. It was probably applied to the officiating priests at the initiations, in the “barbarous” or “sacred” language used on such occasions. There was such an official at the Cave or Shrine of Mithras at Rome, till the worship was interdicted. In the Eleusinian Rites, the hierophant read to the candidates from the Petroma or two tablets of stone. The servants of the Pharaoh in the book of Genesis were sad at having dreamed when there was no peter to give a petrun or explanation. Petra in Idumea probably was named from the profusion of its petra; or shrines, and the country was famed for “wisdom” (Jeremiah xlix, 7). Apollo the god of oracles was called Patereus, and his priests paterae. Places having oracles or prophets were sometimes so named, as Pethor the abode of Balaam, Patara, Patras, etc.
6. An edition published at Paris in 1563 had the title of “The Magical Oracles of the Magi descended from the Zoroaster.” By magical is only meant gnostic or wise.
7. Sir Dhunjibhoy Jamsetjee Medhora, of the Presidency of Bombay who has written ably on Zoroastrianism.
— Alexander Wilder, Universal Brotherhood, October 1898
Zoroaster in History and Zarathushtra in the Secret Records
Zoroaster in “History” and Zarathushtra in the Secret Records
Unfinished, posthumously published article by H. P. Blavatsky (see “Note on Article” below)
Well-meaning blunders in history are often no better than willful misrepresentations in their effect, for they leave a false impression on the mind of the student difficult to efface. Thus some of our European philologists are unable to find a more philosophical meaning for Zend-A-Vesta, than that “it signifies a tinder box.”
Speaking of the religion of the great Aryan Reformer, in Nineteenth Century, Professor Monier Williams, after making the just observation that “perhaps few more remarkable facts have been revealed by the critical examination of non-Christian systems than the highly spiritual character of the ancient creed which it is usual to call the religion of Zoroaster,” makes it follow by some remarks, which, when analyzed . . . . . false . . . . . 1; as usual—with Christian professors—the whole truth is cleverly screened, and the spirit of partizanship—ever on the watch to make the best of the few meagre facts on hand—attempts, were it but inferentially, to glorify the Jewish Bible at the expense of all the other religions. So, for instance, he says:
Only within the last few years has the progress of Iranian studies made it possible to gain an insight into the true meaning of the text of the Avesta—popularly known as the Zend Avesta—which is to Zoroastrianism what the Veda is to Brâhminism. The knowledge thus obtained has made it clear that contemporaneously with Judaism an unidolatrous and monotheistic form of religion, containing a high moral code and many points of resemblance to Judaism itself, was developed by, at least, one branch of the Aryan race.
Nor does the certainty of this fact rest on the testimony of the Zoroastrian scriptures only. It is attested by numerous allusions in the writings of Greek and Latin authors. We know that the father of history himself, writing about 450 years before the Christian era, said of the Persians that “it is not customary among them to make idols, to build temples and erect altars; they even upbraid with folly those who do.” The reason of this Herodotus declares to be that the Persians do not believe the gods to be like men, as the Hellenes do, but that they identify the whole celestial circle with the Supreme Being.
We know, too, that Cyrus the Great, who must have been 8 Zoroastrian, evinced great sympathy with the Jews; and was styled by Isaiah “the righteous one” (xli, 2), “the Shepherd of the Lord” (xliv, 28), “the Lord’s Anointed” (xlv, 1), who was commissioned to “perform all God’s pleasure” and carry out His decrees in regard to the rebuilding of the temple, and the restoration of the chosen people to their native land. 2
Hundreds of students may read the above and yet not one of them notice the spirit of the inferences contained in those few lines. The Oxford professor would make his reader believe that the “nonidolatrous and monotheistic” Zoroastrianism was developed “contemporaneously with Judaism”; that is to say, if we understand the value of words at all, that the former system developed at the same period of history as the latter—than which statement nothing could be more erroneous or misleading. The religion of Zarathushtra is most undoubtedly attested by more than one well-known Greek and Latin author, in whose writings, by the way, one would vainly search for like reference to Judaism or the “chosen people,” so little were they known before the return (?) from the Babylonian captivity. Aristotle affirms that Zoroaster lived 6,000 years before Plato. 3 Hermippus of Alexandria, who claims to have read the genuine books of the Zoroastrians, shows the great Reformer as a pupil of Agonaces (Agon-ach or the Agon-God) and having flourished 5,000 years before the fall of Troy, his statement thus corroborating that of Aristotle, as Troy fell 1194 before our era and, on the testimony of Clement, some think that the Er or Erus, the son of Armenius, whose vision is related by Plato in his Republic, Book X, 614 ff., means no other than Zardosht. 4 On the other hand, we find Alexander Polyhistor saying of Pythagoras (who lived about 600 years B.C. ) that he was a disciple of the Assyrian Nazaratus; 5 Diogenes Laërtius 6 affirming that the philosopher of Samos was initiated into the mysteries “by the Chaldeans and Magi”; and finally Apuleius maintaining that it was Zoroaster who instructed Pythagoras. All those contradictions put together prove (1) that “Zoroaster” was a generic title and (2) that there were several prophets of that name. There was the primitive and pure Magianism, and one degraded later by priesthood, as is the case with every religion whose spirit is lost and the dead letter of it alone remains. Again we find the proof of it in Darius Hystaspes, shown in history to have crushed the Magi and introduced the pure religion of Zoroaster, that of Hormazd—he had, nevertheless, an inscription cut out on his tomb (recently found) stating that he, Darius, was “teacher and hierophant of Magianism.” But the greatest proof is found in the Zend-Avesta itself. Although not the oldest Zoroastrian Scripture, yet, like the Vedas in the case of the Deluge upon which they are completely silent 7 —these ancient writings do not show the slightest sign of its author having ever been acquainted with any of the nations that subsequently adopted his mode of worship, although there are several historical Zarathushtras: he who instituted sun worship among the Parsees; that other who appeared at the court of Gushtasp; and he, who was the instructor of Pythagoras . . .
Nor does the appellation bestowed by Isaiah upon Cyrus—”the Righteous One” and “the Shepherd of the Lord” prove much to any but those who believe in the divinity of Biblical prophecies; 8 for Isaiah lived 200 years earlier than Cyrus (from 760 to 710 B.C.) while the great Persian flourished and began his reign in 559. If Cyrus protected them after conquering Babylon, it is because they had long before become converted to his own religious system; and if he sent them back (and many a learned archaeologist strongly doubts today whether the Jews were ever in Palestine before the days of Cyrus) it was for the same reason. The Jews then upon their return were simply a Persian colony imbued with all the ideas of Magianism and Zoroastrianism. Most of their forefathers had once agreed with the Sabaeans, in the Bacchic-worship, the adoration of the Sun, Moon and Five Planets, the SABAOTH of the realm of light. In Babylon they had learned the worship of the Seven-Rayed god—hence the Septenary System running throughout the Bible and the Heptaktys of the Book of Revelation; and the sect of the Pharisees (150 B.C.)—whose name might with far more reason be derived from “Pharsi” or Parsi than from the Aramaic Perîshîn (separated)—whose greatest rabbi was Hillel the Babylonian, and whose “beliefs and observances by succession from their fathers . . . are not written in the law of Moses,” says Josephus, a Pharisee himself (Antiquities, XIII, x, 5 and 6). By these the whole Angelology and Symbolism of the Persians or rather the Zoroastrians was adopted. And the Chaldean Kabala extensively read and studied by them at their secret Lodge, whose members were called the Kabirim from the Babylonian and Assyrian Kabeiri—the great mystery-gods, are good proofs of the above. 9 The present Jews are Talmudists holding to the later interpretations of the Mosaic Law, 10 and the few learned Rabbis-Kabalists remain alone to give the student an inkling into the true religion of the Jews of the two centuries preceding and the first century subsequent to Christ.
The true history of Zoroaster and his religion was yet never written. The Parsees themselves have lost the keys to their faith and it is not to their learned men that they are to look for any information upon the subject. Whether we accept the time when Zarathushtra lived on the authority of Aristotle—6,000 years B.C.—or on the more modern ones of Naurozjî Farîdunjî of Bombay who fixes it in the 6th century B.C. (Tareekh-i-Zurtoshtee or “Discussion on the Era of Zoroaster”)—all is darkness and contradiction and every statement conflicts with insurmountable facts. Nor was the Rahnuma-e Mazdayasnan Sabha, the Society organized in 1851 for the restoration of the creed of Zoroaster to its original purity—any happier in its investigations. Can we wonder then at the discrepancies, often nonsense, given by our modern scholars, when these have no other authority to base their researches upon, than a few classical but for all that unreliable writers, who are found to have mentioned what they had heard in their days, about that grand prehistoric figure.
Aristotle, Diogenes Laërtius, Strabo, Philo Judaeus, Tertullian and finally Clemens Alexandrinus with a few others are the only guides that our European scholars have at hand. And how trustworthy are the latter patristic fathers may be inferred from what the Rev. Dr. H. Prideaux, treating of the Sad-dar says of the teachings of Zoroaster. The prophet—he tells us—preached incest! Zaratusht teaches “that nothing of this nature is unlawful; but that a man may not only marry his sister, or his daughter, but his mother”!! 11 The “Sage of remote Antiquity”—as Plato calls Zoroaster, is transformed by Christian bigots into a “slave of Daniel,” the very existence of the latter being now regarded by the men of science as a myth, and [they] accuse the “Prophet of the Persians” of having been “a false Prophet” and teaching “a doctrine stolen from the Jews”! (Dr. Prideaux.) Truly remarks Warburton in his Divine Legation that “the whole is a pure fable and contradicts all learned antiquity,” one Christian writer making Zoroaster “contemporary with Darius Hystaspes and servant to one of the Jewish Prophets—yet in another fit of lying, they place him as early as Moses, they even say he was Abraham, nay stick not to make him one of the builders of Babel.” The Zoroaster of Dr. Prideaux, says Faber, “seems to have been a totally different character from the most ancient Zoroaster.” (On the Mysteries of the Cabiri, II, 154.)
In this jungle of contradictions the point at issue is whether (1) there remains any possibility of obtaining anything like a correct information on the last, if not on the original Zarathushtra; 12 and (2) by what means is the true religion preached in the Avesta (with the older Gâthâs included in it) to be interpreted from the allegorical dialogues of the Vendidad. We know beforehand the answer: “The most learned Orientalists—Haug, Müller, etc.—having failed, there is no help for it.” The Avesta has become and must remain a sealed book to the Parsees, and the teachings of Zoroaster—a dead letter to the future generations.
We believe the notion is a mistaken one—at least as regards question the 2nd. If everything regarding the personality of the Founder himself, however well authenticated by identical traditions and material proofs in the shape of his statues in various parts of the world and especially in Central Asia, has to be regarded as simple tradition (and what else is History?) his religion at least could be restored as faultlessly as exact Science restores the shapes of the antediluvian animals from bits of fossile bones collected in a hundred different places. Time, Patience and especially sincere zeal, are the only requisites. Our Orientalists have never bethought themselves of the only sediment of genuine Zoroastrianism now left among the old records. Nay—till very lately they despised it and laughed to scorn its very name. Hardly half a century ago it was not yet translated, and up to this day is understood but by the very, very few true Occultists We speak of the Chaldean KABALA, whose very name is unknown to hundreds of educated men. Notwithstanding every denial of the ignorant, we say and repeat that the key to the right understanding of the Avesta and its subdivisions lies concealed at the bottom of the rightly interpreted books of the Kabala, 12 composed of the Zohar (Splendour) by Rabbi Shimon Ben Yohai; of Sepher Yetzirah or Book of the Creation 13 (attributed to the patriarch Abraham but written by a Chaldean priest); and of the Commentary of the Sephiroth—the latter being the creative Principles or powers identical with the Amshaspands. The whole of the Avesta is incorporated with the ethics and philosophy of Babylonia—hence must be sought for in the Chaldean Kabalistic lore, as the doctrines of Zoroaster spread through Zarathushtra the fifth Messenger (5,400 B.C.) from Bactria to Media and thence under the name of Magism (the Magavas or the “Mighty Ones”) became at one time the universal religion of the whole Central Asia. It is now called “monotheistic” on the same principle that vulgarized Magianism became the monotheism of the later Israelites. If the attributes of Ahuramazda or Ormazd are said to strongly resemble those of the Jewish Jehovah (albeit far more practical), it is not because either of the two was the true Mystery Deity—the INCOMPREHENSIBLE ALL but simply because both are human ideals evolved from the same stock. As Ormazd springing from Primordial Light, which itself emanated from a Supreme incomprehensible essence called “Zeruane-Akerene,” the Eternal or Boundless Time, comes but third in the deistic evolution; so Jehovah is shown in the Zohar as the third Sephiroth (moreover a feminine passive potency) denominated “Intelligence” (Binah) and represented by the divine name Jehovah and Àralim. Hence none of the two ever were the ONE “Supreme” God. With Jehovah it is EN-SOPH, the Boundless, the ONE from which emanates AUR—”Primordial Light” or the “Primordial Point” which, containing the all of the Sephiroth, emanates them one after the other, the totality representing the Archetypal man, Adam Kadmon. Jehovah then is but the tenth portion (seventh Kabalistically, for the first three are ONE) of Adam or the Intellectual world; whereas Ormuzd is at the head of the seven Amshaspands or their Spiritual totality—hence higher than Jehovah, yet —not the SUPREME.
Let us confess at once that, gross and material in our conceptions, we have anthropomorphized and, so to say, animalized every grand religious idea which has descended to us from the antiquity. Physically and intellectually we progress and grow in strength and wisdom, but lose daily in Spirituality. We may “wax in strength”—never in Spirit. It is but by studying the relics of old; by comparing, free from every sectarian bias and personal prejudice, the religious ideals of all nations, that we finally acquire the conviction that they are all streams from one and the same source. Many and various are the lights and shadows which our dazzled eye can hardly follow on a sunlit valley. The fool will exclaim: “That shadow is mine—it is cast by my house! . . .” The sage will lift his eyes heavenward, and calmly remark: “it is but an effect and temporary!” [and] will rivet his attention to the One Cause—the Great “Spiritual Sun.”
[An unfinished note in a handwriting different from H. P. B.’s, and obviously having to do with one of her footnotes in the above article.]
“I am he who lives and dies” is the inscription that runs around the waist-belt of his statue in the circular rock-temple of Bokhara. It was the old belief that Z renewed his life from time to time but whether or not in the same way as the Lamaists claim to return in the reincarnation of Buddha I cannot say. The brother who visited Armenia as I have told you, found near the Lake Van and the great mountain chain South of Bayazid, “a whole library of cylinders”—similar to the precious clay-cylinders exhumed by George Smith at Nineveh. And he says that these cylinders “may serve one day to strongly damage the wild theories and interpretations of the Anquetil-Duperrons, the Spiegels and Haugs.”
As the Hindu pilgrims affirm that on approaching the temple at Badrinath one sometimes sees far up amid the snow, etc., so in Armenia is there a similar tradition. The rumour is that daily at sunset there appears, etc.
[The second portion of H. P. B.’s manuscript is as follows It may have been intended at one time to be the continuation of the previous portion:]
Parsees justly complain that the Mobeds themselves have forgotten truth about their religion, and there are some learned scholars among them who try to unravel the mysteries of Zoroastrianism, but how? Not by reading and studying Zend MSS or exercising their own brain, but by giving forth to what the Western scholars tell them. How misrepresented is the religion of Zarathushtra can be inferred by a few instances. The Rev. Dr. H. Prideaux, for instance, commenting upon Sad-dar assures his readers that Zaratusht taught his people incest! “Zaratusht,” he says, “teaches that nothing of this nature is unlawful; but that a man may not only marry his sister, or his daughter, but his mother.” Only in support of his argument he quotes no Zend work, nothing written by a Parsee, but such Christian and Jewish authorities as Philo Judaeus, Tertullian, Clemens Alexandrinus (See An Universal History, as quoted above). Eutychius, a priest and archimandrite of the 5th century, of a cloister at Constantinople, writes on Zoroastrianism as follows: “Nimrod beheld a fire rising out of the earth, and he worshipped it, and from that time forth the Magi worshipped fire. And he appointed a man named Ardeshan to be the priest and servant of the Fire. The Devil shortly after that spoke out of the midst of the fire [as Jehovah to Moses out of the burning bush?]—saying, no man can serve the Fire, or learn Truth in my religion, unless first he shall commit incest with his mother, sister and daughter as he was commanded, and from that time the priests of the Magians practiced incest, but Ardeshan was the first inventor of that doctrine.”
Now what does that mean? Simply a dead letter misconstruction. In the secret doctrine, portions of which are committed to writing in old Armenian MSS or so-called Mesrobian MSS (until the year 312 the Armenians were Parsees) preserved to this day at Etchmiadzin, the oldest monastery in Armenia, it is said of the Initiate or Magi:—”He who would penetrate the secrets of (sacred) Fire, and unite with it (as the yogi unites his soul to the Universal Soul) must first unite himself soul and body to Earth, his mother, humanity, his sister, and Science, his daughter.” No need of explaining the symbolic meaning of this. Everyone knows in what respect Zarathushtra held Earth, how he taught kindness to all; and Knowledge or Science will never become the daughter or progeny of man, never evolve out of his brain in its purity, unless he studies the secrets of Nature and man which beget Science or Knowledge.
On the Trees of Life
As Yggdrasill is the Tree of Life of the Sandinavian Edda, so Haoma is the sacred Tree of Life of Zaratusht, which we may see represented in the Assyrian monuments (see Layard, Nineveh , p. 472). The Deity or God is Fire. The Rosicrucians understood it well and took it from the Magi, the successors of Zaratusht. There were several Zaratushts (a generic name). This is proved by himself in saying: “I am he who lives and dies”; but the Zoroaster of the Parsees appeared 5,400 B.C . and Persepolis (the City of Splendour) was founded according to the tradition of the secret records 5,000 B.C . by a Gian Jin, a priest of Oannes or Dagon (see Illarion’s letter in Theosophist). Its ancient name was Ista-char, the place sacred to Ista, or Ashtar, or Esta, who finally became Vesta to whom the Romans burnt inextinguishable fire. Vesta was the divine anthropomorphic Divine Fire or Holy Spirit. Char means on the Assyrian monuments the Sun and Istar or Ista-Char the Vesta of the Sun and throne of the Sun translated by the Greeks Perse-polis . “Char-is” is the City of Fire . Ceres was also the Deity of Fire, of Heat fecundating Nature, and at Cnidus she was called Kura, a title of the Sun, her Roman name Keres, not Ceres (as Cicero — Kikero), originally the name of a city, Charis . In Arabic the meaning of the radical word Char-is is to preserve, and of haris, “guardian,” “preserver” (of the fire.) Hence the name of Cyrus which is the male name of Ceres, the female. But the name is Indian (for Heres is the same as Char-is) and Hara or Hari is a name of Hara-Deva, Hari meaning Saviour, I think. Koros is a name of Bacchus the son of Keres or Ceres, and Koros is Divine Wisdom or the Holy Spirit. In the first Vol. of Father Bernard de Montfaucon’s Antiquity Explained, on a plate representing the Mother of Gods, one of her names is Suria, the Hindu name for Sun . On another plate she is called Mater Suriae, black with long hair (hence Syria the land). The red dress of the Roman Cardinals has the same origin as the bronze-red yellow dress of the Sannyasi and Buddhists, from Divine Fire—knowledge. As Zerah in Hebrew means rising of Light, so Surya means Sun and the name of Zarathushta is a combination of the Indian and Hebrew appellations. Sir William Drummond shows that Hyde has most erroneously placed Zoroaster as contemporary with Darius. Suidas fixes his era at 500 years before the Trojan war; Plutarch at 5,000 before that time and Pliny many thousands before Moses. All these contradictions show that there were several Zoroasters, one of which, he of the Parsees, was an historical personage, an Initiate, and Sir Wm. Drummond in his Oedipus Judaicus places Zoroaster many centuries before Moses. After calling him the greatest mathematician and the greatest philosopher of the age, Rev. H. Prideaux forthwith calls Zoroaster an “imposter and juggler” as the Christian newspapers call us.
Abul-Faraj [Bar-Hebraeus] in the Book of Dynasties (p. 54) states that Zaratusht taught the Persians the manifestation of the Wisdom (the Lord’s anointed Son or Logos), “Honover” (the living manifested Word, or Deific Wisdom), and predicted that a Virgin should conceive (Saoshyant) immaculately and that at the birth of that Messenger a six-pointed star would appear which should shine in the noonday, in the center of which would appear the figure of a Virgin. In the Kabala the Virgin is Astral Light or Akasa and the six-pointed star the emblem of the Macrocosm. The Logos or Saoshyant born means the Secret Knowledge or Science which divulges the Wisdom of God. The prophecy of the Epiphany is in the Zend-Avesta.
Into the hand of the Messenger Prophet Zaratusht were delivered many gifts when filling the censer with fire from the sacred altar as the Parsee Mobed did in ancient times (and the Roman Catholic does now, only getting his burning coals and fire for his censer out of the kitchen grate)—the fire meant heavenly truth, and the smoke of incense waved into the faces of the worshippers—imparting the knowledge thereof : the everlasting Fire-Word of Zaratusht. “The mortal who approaches Fire will receive a light from Divinity.” Krishna informs Arjuna in the Gita that God is in the fire of the altar. “I am the Fire; I am the Victim.” The Flamens (priests of the Etruscans) were so named because they were supposed to be illuminated by the tongues of Fire (Holy Ghost) and the Christians took the hat, the scarlet robes of the Cardinals symbolizing this Fire of Esoteric Divine Knowledge. “Pure and happy are they,” says Firdousi, the Persian poet, “who while worshipping One Supreme Wisdom, contemplate in sacred flame the symbol of Divine Light”—the Hiranyagarbha (ask Dâmodar for Sanskrit name) of the Vedas . “A mages,” says Pausanias, “when entering the temple performs an incantation and when finished, all the wood on the altar becomes enkindled without fire and emits a very splendid flame” ( Elis , I, xxvii, 6). Prometheus, or “Pra-Ma-Tha-Issa,” the divine Son of Issa in Sanskrit, brought fire from heaven . In an ancient Irish MSS Zaratusht is called Airgiod-Lamh, or the “Golden Hand,” the hand which received and scattered celestial fire (Sir Wm. Ouseley’s Oriental Collections, I, p. 303). He is also called Mogh Nuedhat , the Magus of the New Ordinance or Dispensation. Zaratusht was one of the first reformers who revealed what he had obtained at his initiation, the six periods, or Gâhambârs, or the periodical evolution of the world. The first is Maidyôizaremaya in which the heavens or canopy were formed; the second, Maidyôisema in which the moisture from the clouds became the origin of the waters; the third, Paitishahya when the earth became consolidated out of primeval cosmic atoms; the fourth, Ayâthrima in which earth gave birth to vegetation; the fifth Maidyâirya when the earth slowly evoluted into animal life; the sixth, Hamaspathaêdaya when lower animals culminated in man; the seventh period comes after the end of a certain cycle, after which will appear the Persian Messiah, seated on a Horse—i . e . , the Sun of our Solar System will be snuffed out—PRALAYA.
He who would unravel the mysteries of the sacred Parsee books has to study alike the Scriptures of other people and especially of the Hindus. Then he will find the mystery of the Sun, Fire and Horse . As his own Saoshyant, the Saviour of mankind, has to appear seated upon a white horse and followed by an army of good genii mounting milk-white steeds, so John in Revelation beholds a white horse with the “faithful and true” upon it and the armies that follow him are seated upon white horses, so Vishnu as the Kalki Avatara will appear as a warrior seated upon a white horse, etc., etc. The white horse is the horse of the Sun . “And I saw an angel standing in the Sun,” says John ( Rev ., xix , 17). “And he took away the horses that the kings of Judah had given to the Sun” ( II Kings, xxiii, 11)—”the fiery source of Spirit-Life.” The sacrifice of the Horses and the Sun, Asvamedha . The horses of the Sun are famous in all religions (Phaeton the Greek, driving the Chariot). The high priest or Mobed riding every morning to meet and salute the rising Sun is typical as the Chariot represents the body, the Horse the animating Principle and the four legs of the Horse—the four races of the world—the Black, the Russet, the Yellow and White, or Negro, Indian, the Mongolian and Caucasian (the four castes of Manu come from that); and the Chinese show it in their four orders of priests clothed in black, red, yellow and white; John saw these very colours in the symbolic horses of the Revelation.
There exists among the Persian Parsees a volume older than the Zoroastrian present writings. The title is Javidan Kherad, or Eternal Wisdom, a work on practical philosophy of magic with natural explanations Thos. Hyde speaks of it in his Preface to the Historia Religionis Veterum Persarum . The four Zoroastrian ages are the four races. Speaking of Zoroaster of whom he speaks as one possessed of an extensive knowledge of all the Science and philosophy then known in the world, Rev. George Oliver gives an account of the Cave-Temples of which much is said in the Zoroastrian doctrines.
[Zoroaster] retired to a circular cave or grotto in the mountains of Bokhara, which he ornamented with a profusion of symbolical and astronomical decorations, and solemnly consecrated it to the middle god or Mediator, Mithr-As, or as he was elsewhere denominated, the invisible deity, the parent of the universe, who was himself said to be born, or produced from a cave hewn out of a rock. Here the Sun was represented by a splendid gem, which, with an insupportable lustre occupied a conspicuous situation in the centre of the roof ; the planets were displayed in order round him, in studs of gold glittering on a ground of azure; the zodiac was richly chased in embossed gold, in which the constellations Leo, and Taurus, with a Sun and Lunette emerging from their back in beaten gold, were peculiarly resplendent. The four ages of the world were represented by so many globes of gold, silver, brass, and iron. 14
These “ages” were taught to the disciples as the 4 Races of men—the gold being the Mongolian, the silver the white or Caucasian; the brass—the Red Indian, and the iron the Negro. Minos received the laws from heaven in a Cavern on the Mount; Egeria gave his stabula to Numa in a grotto or cave on a hill; Moses receives on Sinai, etc.
Daghdai is the name of Zarathushtra’s mother and Vallancey shows it with this spelling to mean Holy Spirit (or Wisdom); and Faber who writes it Day-dae says it is Divine Fish— so the Parsees accept it, I think. Ask why did Zoroaster consecrate during the sacred rites—wine ( truth ) extracted from vine (parable of Jesus?), a rose (a phallus), a cup (the womb) and the kernel of a pomegranate (the Messenger). The rose was sacred to the Sun. Zoroaster retired to a mountain of Armenia (Ariman) to speak with Hormuzd; and when the mountain burnt with fire he was unhurt. Then on the Gordian mountain he wrote the first Zend-a-vesta.
1. Manuscript damaged.
2. “The Religion of Zoroaster,” Nineteenth Century, Vol. IX, January, 1881, p. 156.
3. Cf. Pliny, Nat. Hist., XXX, ii.
4. Clement Alex., Stromateis, V. xiv.
5. Zoroaster is often called by the Greek writers the Assyrian Nazaratus. [Cf. Clement, Strom., I, xv.] The term comes from the word Nazar and Nazir (set apart, separated), a sect of adepts very ancient and which existed ages before Christ. “They were physicians, healers of the sick by the imposition of hands, and initiated into the Mysteries”—See Mishnah Nazir in the Talmud, which has 9 chapters and gives statutes concerning Nazarenes.—I. M. Jost, Israelite Indeed, II, 238. They let their hair and beards grow long, drank no wine and pronounced vows of chastity. John the Baptist was a Nazarene, and Elijah of whom it is said in II Kings (i, 8) that “he was an hairy man.”
6. Lives: “Pythagoras,” § 3.
7. A fact going to well prove that the Vedas were in existence before the deluge, or that cataclysm which changed the face of Central Asia about 10,000 years B.C. Baron Bunsen places Zoroaster at Bactria and the emigration of Bactrians to the Indus 3784 B.C. and the historical and geological deluge at the date first mentioned, about 10,555 years before our era (Egypt’s Place in Universal History, Vol. V, pp. 77-78, 88).
8. Many critics (Christian) suppose the latter portion of the book of Isaiah (chap. xl to lxvi) to be by some author of the time of the captivity, whose name is unknown.
9. The Kabeiri were worshipped at Hebron, the city of Beri-Anak or Anakim.
10. No Hebrew MS is known to be older than Kennicott’s No. 154 which belongs to A.D. 1106 (Donaldson). “The Masorah was committed to writing in 506 A.D.” (Elias Levita).
11. An Universal History from the Earliest Accounts of Time to the Present, London, 1747-54. Vol. V, p. 405, quoting Prideaux.
12. It is said of Zarathushtra that he had a renewal of life. “I am he who lives and dies” is the inscription in the Avestan or old Bactrian language running around the waist of his gigantic statue which remains for ages in the circular cave in one of the Mountains of Bokhara. The cave is in a rock and consecrated to Mithr-Az—the invisible Deity produced from a cave hewn out of a rock . . .
12. The Hebrew word Kabbalah comes from the root “to receive.” It is then the record of doctrines received by the Chaldean Magi, and the initiated Jews (Daniel was chief of the Magi) from Zarathushtra, whose teachings on account of their profound philosophy were meant but for the few, while the exoteric rites of Magianism dwindled down to popular vulgar magic, Judaism, and other degraded anthropomorphic and ritualistic systems.
13. Rather Evolution. The book is the demonstration of a System whereby the universe is mathematically viewed, showing from the systematic development of “creation” and from the harmony reigning in all its laws that it must have proceeded from One Cause EN-SOPH—the Endless NO-THING. That it never had a beginning nor will it ever have an end; from which dead letter rendering in Genesis—incomprehensible without the help of the Kabalistic . . . . . [Manuscript cut off]
14. The History of Initiation, London, 1841, pp. 94-95.
Note on Article:
The following note precedes the above article in its reprinting in the Collected Writings of H. P. Blavatsky.
The original manuscript of this incomplete essay in H. P. B.’s own handwriting exists in the Adyar Archives. It was transcribed for the first time in 1958, and published in the pages of The Theosophist in October and November 1958. By consulting Colonel Henry S. Olcott’s remarkable lecture on “The Spirit of the Zoroastrian Religion,” which he delivered at the Town Hall in Bombay on the 14th of February, 1882, it will be seen that portions of it are identical with H. P. B.’s manuscript. It is most likely that Colonel Olcott was given special help with his lecture, and H. P. B.’s text itself, though fragmentary and obviously unfinished, bears in more than one place the characteristics of a higher authority. This is perhaps especially the case in regard to a long footnote concerning Zoroaster which was appended to Colonel Olcott’s lecture when it was published in book form, together with other lectures, under the title of Theosophy, Religion and Occult Science: (London: George Redway, 1885). On the authority of several of the early members, this footnote was supplied at the time by H. P. B. It is reprinted herewith also.
The facts outlined above date H. P. B.’s manuscript as of the early part of 1882, or possibly even earlier. It is evident that it represents but a rough draft of an essay in preparation. Rather than to make any changes, we have left unaltered a number of peculiarities in style, uncertainties in the use of quotation marks, and occasional grammatical errors, which, however, are only of minor importance.—Compiler.
The above mentioned footnote (appended to Colonel Olcott’s lecture) is not included in the above, but can be found in the Collected Writings of H. P. Blavatsky.
Karma in the Desatir
Karma in the Desatir
The Desatir is a collection of the writings of the different Persian Prophets, one of whom was Zoroaster. The last was alive in the time of Khusro Parvez, who was contemporary with the Emperor Revaclius and died only nine years before the end of the ancient Persian monarchy. Sir William Jones was the first who drew the attention of European scholars to the Desatir. It is divided into books of the different prophets. In this article the selections are from the “Prophet Abad.”
“In the name of Lareng! Mezdam 1 separated man from the other animals by the distinction of a soul, which is a free and independent substance, without a body or anything material, indivisible and without position, by which he attaineth to the glory of the angels.
1. Mezdam is the Lord God, so to say.
“By his knowledge he united the soul with the elemental body. If one doeth good in an elemental body, and possesseth useful knowledge, and acts aright, and is a Hirtasp, and doth not give pain to harmless animals; when he putteth off the inferior body I will introduce him to the abode of the angels that he may see me with the nearest angels.
“And every one who wisheth to return to the lower world and is a doer of good shall, according to his knowledge and conversation and actions, receive something, either as a King or Prime Minister, or some high office or wealth, until he meeteth with a reward suited to his deeds.
“Those who, in the season of prosperity, experience pain and grief suffer them on account of their words or deeds in a former body, for which the Most Just now punisheth them.
“In the name of Lareng! Whosoever is an evil doer, on him He first inflicteth pain under human form: for sickness, sufferings of children while in their mothers womb, and after they are out of it, and suicide, and being hurt by ravenous animals, and death, and being subjected to want from birth to death, are all retributions for past actions: and in like manner as to goodness.
“If any one knowingly and intentionally kill a harmless animal and do not meet with retribution in the same life either from the unseen or the earthly ruler, he will find punishment awaiting him at his next coming.”
Certain verses declare that foolish and evil doers are condemned to the bodies of vegetables, and the very wicked to the form of minerals, and then declare they so remain,
“Until their sins be purified, after which they are delivered from this suffering and are once more united to a human body: and according as they act in it they again meet with retribution.”
In the Desatir the doctrine is held that animals are also subject to punishment by retributive Karma; thus:
“If a ravenous animal kill a harmless animal it must be regarded as retaliation on the slain, since ferocious animals exist for the purpose of inflicting such punishment. The slaying of ravenous animals is laudable, since they in a former existence have been shedders of blood and slew the guiltless. The punisher of such is blest.
“The lion, the tiger, the leopard, the panther, and the wolf, with all ravenous animals, whether birds, quadrupeds, or creeping things, have once possessed authority; and everyone whom they kill hath been their aider or abettor who did evil by supporting or assisting, or by the orders of, that exalted class; and having given pain to harmless animals are now punished by their own masters. In fine, these grandees, being invested with the forms of ravenous beasts, expire of suffering and wounds according to their misdeeds; and if any guilt remain they will return a second time and suffer punishment along with their accomplices.”
— Bryan Kinnavan (aka William Quan Judge), Path, October, 1891