BBC - Culture - The obscure religion that shaped the West
Jews and Zoroastrians share a number of beliefs and features; to such an extent that some people find it difficult to differentiate the two. Despite. The main contact between westerners and Zoroastrians came in India were the close and friendly relations between Persians and Jews. It is likely that Zoroastrianism influenced the development of Judaism and the birth of for the opposition between good and evil is not the same as the one between Again, the historical connection with Zarathustra—whom Herodotus also.
All investigators, however, are agreed that his teachings were generally in force throughout Iran before the time of the Jewish Captivity. His name in its ancient form in the Avesta is "Zarathustra," and in later Persian, "Zardusht"; the form "Zoroaster," which is now common, has been adopted from the Greek and Latin "Zoroastres. This defender of the faith was a king named Vishtaspa, or Gushtasp, a name identical with that of Hystaspes, the father of Darius, although the two personages are not to be confounded, as has sometimes been done.
Tenets of the Faith. Zoroaster was originally a Magian priest, but he appears to have reformed or purified the creed of the Magi. His religious teachings are preserved in the Avesta. The character of the Persian religion before Zoroaster's time is not known, but a comparison with that of India shows that it must have had much in common with the early religion of the Hindus. It may be presumed that it was a modified nature-worship, with polytheistic features and some traces of demonistic beliefs.
One or two superstitious practises which he describes, such as the propitiation of the powers of evil ib. The Kingdoms of Good and Evil. One of the characteristic features of Zoroastrianism is the doctrine of dualism, recognizing the powers of good and evil as two personified principles at war with each other.
Bands of angels and archangels follow the divine leader, while troops of demons and archfiends hasten after the evil lord. The angels and lesser divine beings are termed Yazatas "Worshipful Ones" and are very numerous, although twenty-one of them are more prominent than the rest; these include divine embodiments of the sun, moon, stars, fire, earth, water and air, the spirits of the righteous called "fravashis"and also several abstract concepts, like victory, religion, kingly glory, and the divinity known as Mithra, an incarnation of light and truth.
The conflict between the opposing kingdoms of light and darkness forms the history of the world, which lasts for 12, years and is divided into four great eons. The first 3, years is the period of spiritual existence. Ormuzd knows of Ahriman's coexistence, and creates the world first in a spiritual state before giving it a material form, the "fravashis" being the models of the future types of things.
Ahriman is ignorant of his great rival's existence, but on discovering this he counter-creates the hosts of demons and fiends. In the second 3, years, while Ahriman and his host have been confounded by Ormuzd, the latter creates the world in its material form, and the world is then invaded by Ahriman. The third 3, years is the period of conflict between the rival powers and the struggle for the soul of man, until Zoroaster comes into the world.
His birth inaugurates a new era, and the fourth and last 3, years begins. These final millennial eras are presided over by Zoroaster himself and his three posthumous sons, who are to be born in future ages in an ideal manner, the last being the Messiah called Saoshyant "Savior," "Benefactor"; lit. In its general bearings this dualistic scheme of the universe is theologically monotheistic in so far as it postulates the final predominance ofOrmuzd; and it is optimistic in its philosophy, inasmuch as it looks for a complete regeneration of the world.
In all this struggle man is the important figure; for the ultimate triumph of right depends upon him. He is a free agent according to Zoroaster "Yasna," xxx. The purpose of Zoroaster's coming into the world and the aim of his teaching are to guide man to choose aright, to lead him in the path of righteousness, in order that the world may attain to ultimate perfection.
The advent of the Messiah Saoshyant will be accompanied by the resurrection of the dead and the general judgment of the world, which thenceforth will be free from evil and free from harm.
Ethical Teachings and Religious Practises. Man in his daily life is enjoined to preserve purity of body and soul alike. He is to exercise scrupulous care in keeping the elements earth, fire, and water free from defilement of any kind.
On the other hand, ever since they were attacked by Christian missionaries for their dualism, they have been emphasizing the monotheistic aspect of their doctrine. The Siroza enumerates the deities presiding over the 30 days of the month. The yasht s hymns are each addressed to one of 21 deities such as Mithra, Anahita, or Verethraghna.
It was then about four times larger than what has survived. Finally, there are Zoroastrian books written in Persian, either in verse or in prose. He emphasized the central importance of his god, the wise Ahura, by portraying him with an escort of entities, the powers of all the other gods, in an array against the forces of evil.
The moral dualism expressed in the opposition Asha —Druj truth—falsehood goes back at least to Indo-Iranian times, for the Veda knows it too, as rita -druh, though the contrast is not as sharply defined as in the Avesta.
Between these two principles, the Twin Spirits made an ominous choice, the Bounteous One becoming in thoughts, words, and deeds a partisan of Asha, ashavanwhile the other became dregvantpartisan of the Druj. To the army of the ashavans, headed by the Bounteous Spirit, was counterposed the host of the dregvants, under the Destructive Spirit, Angra Mainyu.
Each combatant faced his exact counterpart: In this battle the whole material universe is, through the entities, potentially enrolled, the Bounteous Spirit being the patron of humankind, Asha of fire, the Good Mind of the Ox, the Dominion of the metals, Aramaiti of the earth, Integrity and Immortality of the waters and plants. Moreover, since the entities are at once divine and human because both the spiritual and material qualities of man partake of divineeveryone faithful to the wise Ahura can commune with him.
After Zarathustra, considerable changes occurred in the theology he had professed. The entities were reduced to mere deities, which were even separated into male and female. Never again were their names used to designate human faculties.
This is probably a consequence of the resurgence of the ancient gods.
Zoroastrianism | Definition, Beliefs, Founder, & Facts | meer-bezoekers.info
The question of their origin is ignored, but it was implied, ever since Ormazd had taken the place of his Bounteous Spirit in the struggle against the Destructive Spirit. A solution was provided by Zurvanism: But this solution upset the very essence of Mazdaism and was therefore condemned as heretical.
Traces of it are found in Mazdean orthodoxy, some features of which cannot otherwise be explained. In Mazdean orthodoxy, when Ormazd created the material world, he first produced from Infinite Light a form of fire, out of which all things were to be born.
The Mazdean quaternity is reflected in the calendar at Nisa in 90 bce. The Zurvanite speculation that preceded it probably dates back to the first centuries of the Arsacid period and thus was born in the wake of Hellenism and in connection with the spread of astrology.
Cosmology In order to vanquish Ahriman, Ormazd created the world as a battlefield. He knew that this fight would be limited in time—it would last 9, years—and he offered Ahriman a pact to that effect.
He was then stirred up by the prostitute Primal Woman and went back to the attack, this time in the material universe. He killed the Primal Bull, whose marrow gave birth to the plants and whose semen was collected and purified in the moon, whence it would produce the useful animals. A part of it would produce the rhubarb from which the first human couple would be born.
Ormazd and Ahriman then fight on equal terms until Ormazd, at the end of the last 3, years, finally will triumph. Humanity The idea of a human being as a microcosm, already illustrated in the cosmogony, is further developed in the Bundahishn. But one does not die altogether. There are five immortal parts of a human being: This originally aristocratic notion seems to have been vulgarized in the same way as, in Greece, any dead person came to be considered a hero, or, in Egypt, an Osiris.
Indian and Iranian beliefs in the afterlife have many features in common, probably dating back to the Indo-Iranian period: Either before this encounter or after, according to the various texts, the soul must cross a bridge.
This, with the young girl and the gods, is attested in India in the Yajurveda and the Upanishads. It leads the good souls to paradise, but the bad ones fall into hell.
The soul has also to undergo a judgment; it appears before Mithra and his two companions, Sraosha and Rashnu. In the Veda it is said only that the sojourn of the good deed is beyond the path of the sun. Hell also has, symmetrically, four levels. For the souls whose good actions exactly balance their evil ones, there is an intermediate place.
Eschatology Zarathustra used to invoke saviours who, like the dawns of new days, would come to the world. He hoped himself to be one of them. After his death, the belief in coming saviours developed. Zarathustra was expected to return, if not personally, at least in the form of his three sons who would be born, at intervals of a thousand years, from his semen.
The last of these saviours, Astvat-ereta, or justice incarnate, was also simply called the Saviour Saoshyans. Only in the Pahlavi books is this theme systematically developed.
The obscure religion that shaped the West
It is dominated by the idea of a final return to the initial state of things. The first human couple had at first fed on water, then on plants, on milk, and at last on meat. The people in the last millennia will, at the advent of the three successive saviours, abstain in the reverse order from meat, milk, and plants to keep finally only water.
The primeval combatants also have their counterparts at the end of time.
Zoroaster – forgotten prophet of the one God
The dragon that was killed in order to liberate the imprisoned waters will appear again at the resurrection to be killed by another hero.
In the last great struggle, the host of good and the host of evil will vie with each other, and each soldier of Ormazd will defeat and kill his own special adversary. This will restore the state of peace that had prevailed initially. The wicked will then submit to an ordeal of molten metal and fire. Fire and Airyaman will cause the metals of the mountains to melt and to flow down as a river of fire.
The whole of resuscitated humankind must traverse it; it will burn only the wicked, whereas to the just it will be as sweet as warm milk.