Good and Evil

Good and Evil

Jehan Bagli

By : Mobed Jehan Bagli

The concept of Good and Evil is far more complex and deep seated than the two four letter words can express. On a logical plane, it is reasonable to assume that mankind in its early stages of evolution must have construed all life sustaining forces and phenomena as “Good”. In contrast, anything that endangered or threatened life must have been interpreted as “Evil.”


On a different plane however, Good and Evil are philosophical notions that take on a physical expression by the extent of the morality of human behavior. Prophet Zarathushtra visualized these two opposite orders of existence in reality and anchored them as the moral basis of human life. He speaks of these in the Gathas as “Twin Mainyus.” A point worthy of stress at this stage is the distinction between Ahura Mazda and the “Twin Mainyus.” Prophet Zarathushtra, in his innovative wisdom, consistently stresses the existence of a single “uncreated force” Ahura Mazda.He recites tribute to that “Lord of Wisdom” in Ushtavaiti Gatha (Y44) as the sole creator — the creator of light and the creator of darkness (Y44.5). He makes his unqualified pledge to serve him and eradicate evil through Good Thinking in another hymn (Y50.11), where he says:

“Yes, I shall swear to be your praiser, Wise One, and I shall be it, as long as I shall have strength and be able, o truth…”
(Y50.11, Insler translation).Insler translation).1

Let us now return to the discussion of the “Twin Mainyus“. In his sermon to the adherents the prophet speaks of the concept of existence (Y30.3,4) as follows:

“In the beginning the two mental aspects which (are) twin (being emanations of the same mind) mutually disclosed themselves…one as the better and the other (as) the evil…when the two mental aspects (mentalities) came together at the very commencement (they generated both life and the absence of life.”.2

In the above utterance, there are two important points on which we must focus: (a) that the two mainyus are twins, and (b) that they came together at the very commencement. These hymns, together with others, portray an image of existence where good and evil exist in a dynamic equilibrium, and the good must, in time, triumph over evil. The term “twin” has been interpreted by several scholars as the

“twin aspects of the human mind, and have no meaning apart from its workings and the moral choice of the individual.”3

The term “together” (in Avesta hem) has generally been overlooked by the scholastic community. The Gathas appear to suggest that the two mental aspects, although distinctly opposite, performed as a coalition by natural combination to create, and yet remained distinct in their opposite nature (Y45.2).

Much of the corpus of the Gathas has the prescription for its adherent to follow the path of Good. The path that the creator has shown through the Benevolent Mentality — Spenta Mainyu. The Hostile Mentality — Angra Mainyu is not mentioned in the Gathas as such. The fact that these two mentalities have their genesis in the Creating “Force” — Ahura Mazda is supported by the following quotation from Y47.3.

“Thou art the virtuous Father of this spirit, the spirit who fashioned the joy-bringing cow [metaphor for “the good vision, a view of the world governed by truth and good thinking 4for this world…”(Insler translation). 5

The above view that the two mentalities are in dynamic equilibrium, having their genesis in Ahura Mazda and that only the “Good” and righteous must prevail is, in simplified terms, the Gathic concept. This view however, has undergone a profound change over centuries. As pointed out by Mr. Choksy,

“a gradual transformation of the Zoroastrian world view occurred from the dynamic asymmetry of Gathas to the rigid cosmic dualism first visible in Videvdat.” 6

The aspect of Zoroastrian doctrine that postulates Ahura Mazda as the most righteous, perfect and good creator in all respects, precludes the genesis of Angra Mainyu from him. This paradox has led to two schools of thought among the scholastic community.

(a) The view of Derived Dualism, where Ahura Mazda is the supreme creator of all, and the two mainyus emanate from him. Rustom Masani, Framroze Bode, Zehner, Guillemin, Fox, Gershevitch and Pour-e-Davoud are among the Zoroastrian and non-Zoroastrian promoters of this view.

(b) In contrast, the other school of thought represents Primordial Dualism. This view promotes the notion that the two mainyus are primordial in nature and are responsible for two opposing creations. Among the supporters of this view are Mary Boyce, Henning, Shaked, Dastur Dhalla, and their colleagues. This viewpoint deviates from the Gathic concept in the following way: (1) it compels the equating of Spenta Mainyu withAhura Mazda, (2) elevates the evil mentality — Angra Mainyu to the highest level as “Uncreated Opponent” of Ahura Mazda, and (3) depicts the Creator less than omnipotent in the present — Gumezisn — era.

It is this view of “Primordial Dualism” that led the Greek historians of the fourth century BC to conclude that our faith supported the belief in two Gods — the God of Good, Ahura Mazda and the God of Evil, Angra Mainyu. This is certainly not what the Gathas convey to us. Professor Gershevitch in his analysis of the concept tells us:

“…the fourth century philosophers thought that the essence of the Magian doctrine consisted in the opposition of Oromasdes [Ahura Mazda] and Areimanios [in Avesta Angra Mainyu, in Pahlavi Ahriman], it is clear that the Magi professed a dualist doctrine which differed considerably from that of the Avesta.”77

Professor Douglas Fox, expressing his views on the subject, in his paper “Darkness and Light” says that

“It is probable that the Magi added a number of innovations to Zoroastrianism. None more significant than their clear-cut, rigid dualism in the concept of a deity. This they achieved by diminishing the individuality of Spenta Mainyu until he dissolved into Ahura Mazda and then setting Ahura Mazda in direct conflict with Angra Mainyu….”88

Regardless of the above discrepancy, the fact remains that the prophet Zarathushtra’s religious vision of a perfect ideal creation of Ahura Mazda, has fallen far short in reality, to be achieved as a physical way of life. The contemporary world view of the way of life is grossly contaminated and polluted by the “Opposing Mentality” of evil and has to be cleansed of its way in time.

What do we note within the divine plan of Ahura Mazda to achieve this reformation? How can He restore this afflicted existence on this planet to its primal state of pristine perfection and help achieve Frasho Kereti — Absolute Bliss?

This plan of effacing evil must include within it the supreme creation of Ahura Mazda — Humanity. Zoroastrianism postulates that Ahura Mazda created humans to aid him in his struggle against Angra Mainyu as pointed out by Gershevitch:

“God …stands outside the struggle which is waged between the forces of Truth and Falsehood. His only intervention consists in revealing to Zarathushtra the responsibility which rests with mankind: the support which each man lends to the side he has chosen will add permanent strength to it… therefore acts of man will weigh the scales in favor of the one side or the other.”9

It is generally accepted that souls that incarnate the world in mixed state of good and evil (in Pahlavi,Gumezisn), are beset with the responsibility to take up the cudgel to terminate evil.

According to Bundahisn 10 human souls consented to enter the physical world to further the cause of Good. This is described in the scripture as follows:

“The fravahrs of men saw, by means of the Wisdom of all knowledge, the evil that would arrive in the material world on account of the wicked Ahriman, and the final inoffensiveness of the Adversary, and they agreed to go to the material world, in order to become perfect and deathless again, in the final material life, up to eternity and the eternal progress.”11

Zarathushtra expresses this notion (Y31.11) when he speaks of the creation of the human body (in Avesta gaethaos), the conscience (in Avestadaenaos), the innate mental intelligence (in Avesta manangaha) and the vital life force (in Avesta ushtanem). A detailed account of this can be found in the Pahlavi Scripture 12 and in Yasna 55.1 (not a part of the Gathas).

From the information available to us from the scriptures, it can be inferred that the Creator has put together this mortal framework, interwoven with an erudite convergence of the forces of divinity and intelligence within it. To paraphrase the scriptures (Y45.9), the creator has assembled within this creation, the supreme attributes so as to give humans the maximum chance to make a “proper choice” and succeed (Y30.12) through good-thinking.

From a philosophical viewpoint, humans in every aspect are a synthesis: of finite and infinite, of temporal and eternal. Humans are the only creation of Ahura Mazda that have within them the potential of all the forces of creation and destruction that operate in the entire universe. Despite these gifts of the Creator, humans are often aware, neither of the possibilities of their greatness, nor the extent of their weaknesses.

Much of the corpus of the Gathas is directed towards humanity. In particular, many gathic verses instruct the adherents to find the path of righteousness (in Avesta asha) through the “excellent divine intelligence” (in Avesta vanghahevsha manangha). It is this prescription that pervades through the Gathas as the most fundamental principle that can lead to the “Proper Choice” and that will maintain harmony among humans and other elements and between human beings themselves.

After having established the concept of the coalition of the two opposite mentalities at the beginning of existence (Y30.3,4), the Gathas go on to explain the assimilation of this doctrine within the human creation. Prophet Zarathushtra, in his inborn wisdom was intensely perceptive of the reality. He addresses this issue when he speaks of the Good-thinking (ashaune) and evil-thinking (dregvatam) persons who put their minds on the respective paths of Good and Evil by making a choice of the appropriate mental aspects (Y30.4).

Yasna 31.11 pays tribute to the Wise Lord for the creation of humanity with freedom of expression and goes on in the next verse (Y31.12) to allude to the presence of two mainyus in the human mind. It further suggests that through devotion and piety, the revelation of ashoi(righteousness) will come to prevail over evil. Insler’s translation of Y31.12 expresses this as follows:

“…one raises his voice in accord with both his heart and his mind, be he false-speaking or true-speaking, be he knowing or unknowing. (But) in due course piety shall come to terms with one’s spirit where there has been opposition.”13

Y45 reinforces the message of choice between the two mentalities by the human mind. It reiterates to humanity that perfection and immortality will come to those who follow the path of righteousness through good-thinking. That good is one of two choices which the human mind can make is once again evident in the later part of this Gatha:

“…Him who left to our will (to choose between) the virtuous and the unvirtuous….” (Y45.9 Insler translation 14 )

It is thus abundantly clear that the GENESIS of Good and Evil resides in close proximity with the CHOICE made by HUMANITY through the exercise of FREE WILL. To make the PERFECT CHOICE of its own FREE WILL is the plane of evolution that will be synchronous with the beginning of the Frashokereti (Y34.13), the resurrection of absolute perfection. Through this plan Ahura Mazda — Lord of Wisdom — will restore His people to Himself.


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