ZOROASTRISM: AN AFTERWORD

A.W. [could be Alexander Wilder]

as published in “Theosophical Siftings” - Volume -7- [1894-1895]

IN order to describe a religion accurately, one ought to have believed in it; and if the meaning of a writer is to be ascertained we should, in our thought, place ourselves in his condition and surroundings. The affectation of critical acumen should be laid entirely aside. We dissipate our powers of discerning aright, when we dwell too much upon verbal technology or external considerations. These requirements are imperative, if we would peruse intelligently the teachings of the great Apostle of Mazdaism.

When I read and contemplate the oracular utterances of Spitaman Zarathustra, I am impressed most vividly with their sweetness and purity, and by the familiarity full of reverence which he always exhibits in his intimate communings with the Divine Being. When the mind is thoroughly pervaded with this sensibility, it can be no impossible matter, nor by any means unwarrantable to eliminate from the Discourses whatever is foreign or heterogeneous. Historic and hermeneutic criticism will sanction this proceeding. It should be borne in mind, that it was a practice in former centuries for scribes and teachers to incorporate their own glosses, notions and explanations into the text of great writers; and that few books that were extant before the invention of the art of printing have escaped such tampering.

The Zoroastrian religion is a very exalted monotheism. It was such in its inception; it continued such all through the times when evil and persecution overshadowed its fortunes; it is such now as professed by the Ghebers and Parsis. A fire so perpetual, a light so extensive, an energy so penetrating, can proceed but from the one fountain. True, they are like utterances in the Rig-Veda, and the fragments that remain of the lore of the Akkadians, Assyrians and Egyptians. But these remain rather as historic monuments, while Zoroastrism is still a faith that inspires a people to virtue and goodness.

The plurality of good and bad spiritual powers which tainted the vulgar worship with polytheism and idolatry was a pure concept with those who first described them. "The different gods are members of one soul", says Yaska, B.C. 400. “God, though he is one, has yet many names", says Aristotle; "because he is called according to the states into which he always enters anew". To the popular apprehension, the nomina became NUMINA, Yet, perhaps this sentiment of multiplicity could not [Page 19] well be avoided. No one term in human speech can express the All of the Divinity. We ourselves behold the One or the Many as we contemplate Godhood from the interior or the external vision.

The seven Amshaspands of Zoroastrian literature were but the one Ahur' Mazda or Living Essence manifested in seven qualities, as Intelligence, Goodness, Truth, Power, Will, Health and Immortality. The Rig-Veda declares that "the wise in their hymns, represent under many forms, the spirit who is but one". So, as Mr. Robert Brown ingeniously remarks: "The Ameshaspentas equally resolve themselves, so far as actual objective existence is concerned, into thin air".

The innumerable spiritual essences, the Yazatas and Frohars, that are treated of in the Avesta need embarrass no one. It is hardly rational, when we observe the endless forms and grades of living things in the realm of objective nature, that we should imagine a total blank of all life about the spiritual being. Our plummet may not find a bottom to the Infinite, enabling us to dredge up living substances on the floor of that ocean ; yet we are not authorised, therefore, to affirm that there is no God, or to deny that there are intelligent spiritual beings. Our own souls are of this nature, and we are conscious that they, therefore, rule our life and destiny through the power of the Father. We have to look but a step further in order to perceive the Foreworld, of which we, and all the bodied and unbodied souls are denizens alike. By our good disposition and activity we bring the good about us, while evil thought and action evolve the evil.

The "Dualism" of the Parsi philosophy denotes simply and purely the two aspects of the Divine operation — the interior and external, the spiritual and natural, subjective being and objective existence, organisation and dissolution. So far as relates to their respective functions, both are right as well as necessary; but the latter, when it is exalted and esteemed above the former, like Science above Philosophy, thereby becomes perverted and morally evil. It is thus a liar ab initio and father of lies.

The essential difference between the nations of the Erânians and their Aryan brethren was social and ethical. The true Mazdean regarded it as his duty to till the soil and live in orderly society. The Parsi Creed, of which that of Islam is a plagiarism, thus describes it:

"The religion of goodness, truth and justice,
Bestowed upon his creatures by the Lord
Is the pure faith which Zarathustra taught."

In the Ahuna-Vairyo (the will or law of God) the entire belief and philosophy of the Parsis is given. The latest version of this formula which I have seen may be given in smoother expression as follows:

"As is the will of the Eternal One
So through the Harmony of perfect thought
His Energy brings forth the visible world,
And his power sustains the rolling spheres,"

[Page 20] Darius Hystaspês appears from the proclamation at Behistan, to have first established Mazdaism as the religion of the Persian dominions. He came to the throne by the overthrow of the Magians, and he confirmed his power by the instituting of the Erânian worship. The decree recites the matter:

" Says Darius the King:

'I have made elsewhere a Book
in the Aryan language that formerly did not exist.
And I have made the text of the Divine law (Avesta),
and a Commentary of the Divine Law,
and the Prayer, and the Translation.
And it was written, and I sealed it.
And then the Ancient Book was restored by me in all nations,
and the nations followed it'. "

Perhaps from this fact the several notions originated that the first Zoroaster was contemporary with Darius, and that Darius himself had been instructed by the Brachmanes (or earlier Hindu Sages) and had combined their teachings with Magism. At any rate, it seems to me that to find any sentiment or illustration in the Avesta, that was originally Jewish or Semitic at all, would require the eye of a vulture, the lantern of Diogênes or the ken of an archangel. Nor does human progress appear anywhere in “in a straight line of continuous advance”. Life is rounded, history is in cycles, and civilisations come and go like the seasons. At the heel of them all is savagery; but everywhere about them is the life eternal.

 


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