An American Look at Restored Zoroastrianism
An American Look at Restored Zoroastrianism
by Pat Hale
In a world being torn apart by differences in religion, it would be wonderful if we could focus on a universal religion based on love. While researching the Magi, I believe I’ve found just that.
The Way of
PART ONE: Uniting the World
It’s the end of the World…as we know it. Genocide and war have infected the Earth in the name of religious beliefs. Differences in the way mankind chooses to worship are being used as excuses for mass murders, greed, and terrorism. But during this time of revealing wisdom and knowledge, a new religion, based on ancient traditions, could conceivably unite the world in a way never thought possible.
There is a thread that runs through every major faith. It is the love of our Creator for creation. This is the great truth. So, if we have faith in one God, if we trust in the love of that God, no matter what name we assign to that Creator, we must reconsider our intolerances and begin to respect.
There is a religion, a religion once observed by the Ancient Persians, which is very simple yet demands that people think good thoughts, speak good words, and do good deeds. It supposes freewill and the ability to choose, to decide what is right and what is wrong. It says worship is how we live our lives and use the abilities given to us by our Creator. It is the Way of Good Conscience that we may refer to as “Z.”
As in most religions, false ideas and changes crept in to this religion of good conscience over the years to mask its original intent. But along with prophets and originators of various religions, we can come to realize that mankind can know so little about the Creator we call God, yet we can know GOD LOVES CREATION.
We see the truth of the Creator’s love in nature and in one another. We achieve transcendence of thought through the wonders we see, hear, and feel. Therefore, it is only a small step to equate God with this most powerful of all characteristics. GOD, (among many inconceivable things), IS LOVE. This being true, we should base our worship and praise on the faith that a love worthy of God would be unconditional. And that would make God too wondrous for any ONE religion, or any part of any religion, that is not based on the strict standard of unconditional love.
Those who claim they do not believe in the existence of God, even in another dimension, quote a Bible verse which declares, “The fool says in his heart there is no God,” (Psalm 53, The Holy Bible, NRSV, Graded Press, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, 1990, p.521.), and they add to it, “but the wise man shouts it from the roof tops.” But, even if the beauty of the Earth was not enough to convince us of an all-powerful presence, if the longing in the hearts of humans to honor someone more powerful than ourselves was not so overpowering in our thoughts, we would still have to argue with science to deny the existence of God.
Statistical probabilities of life on planet Earth; in the star system Sol, in the Milky Way Galaxy of this universe; are such that most human beings are inclined to believe in an Intelligent Designer.(See Strobel, Lee with Jane Vogel, “The Cosmos on a Razor’s Edge:The Evidence of Physics and Astronomy,” The Case for a Creator:A Journalist Investigates Scientific Evidence That Points Toward God, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2004, pp.43-59.)
The European background of most American fore-parents causes most English speaking human beings to refer to this Designer as the “Creator, or God.” Please let us try to use this reference without all of its traditional baggage, and let us use the name God for the power responsible for all creation. Of all the names we people have used for this Designer; including Elohim, Jehovah, Al Lah, Ahura Mazda, Brahman, the Source, the Great Spirit, the Architect of the Universe, and many others; the three letter name God seems the most simple. And simplicity is basic to reverence.
Toleration is only the beginning of the Creator’s will for us, yet we find so little of it among our world’s major religions. We humans tend to use our religious differences as an excuse to “hate” or to “exalt ourselves” above others. God appears to love order. We appear to love chaos.
Still, we can all know that CREATION IS GOOD. When we study the complexity of a single atom, a strand of DNA, a water molecule, or an oak tree, we are amazed at the structural organization and function of creation. When we see the mountains, waterfalls, rainbows and flowers of this world, we are thrilled by the beauty of creation. When we connect the flutter of butterfly wings with weather changes and thermal currents in the oceans with whale migration, we are left in awe of the inter-connective-ness of everything that exists. Continuing creation, change, restructuring happen everyday. The Creator made creation good, self-healing, and in a sensitive balance for our very existence. The Intelligent Designer designed creation to continue in its development.
Everything changes…even the way we think of creation and the Creator. That does not mean that God has changed. GOD DOES NOT CHANGE. The way human beings have come to conceive of God has changed as our thought processes have changed.
From the Stone Age to the Age of Technology, God has been one, many, material, spiritual, angry, awesome, judgmental, forgiving, and loving. But these were the many ways mankind “thought” of God. Each age was simply following its own views in a world it perceived as material, angry, judgmental or forgiving. When the way our fore-parents conceived of their world changed, the way they thought of God changed. Still, God has been, is, and will be forever the same. (A good evaluation of these changes can be found in Armstrong, Karen, A History of God:The 4000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, New York: Ballantine Books, 1993.)
Unknown to those who could not, can not, or will not see…GOD IS LOVE. That premise was the foundation of the 8,000-year-old religion of the Persians that has come to be called Zoroasterism or Zartoshti. And this writing is one American’s look at that point of Persian pride. We will try to grasp the simple logic of it without the Persian words that seem so strange to English- speaking Americans. If more history and philosophy is desired, there are plenty of websites and formal texts available to confound the intellectual researcher. But this is a universal belief open to all who would choose to accept it. Let us strive, here, to KISS…keep it simple.
Part Two: The First “Z”
Archeologists have suggested that mankind’s first idea of God was as one entity. Then came the division of God as Sky God (or Heavenly Father) and Earth Goddess (or Mother Nature). Later mankind realized the energy of God (or Spirit of God) in all wonders of nature. These parts of God became known as gods themselves.
There were the tree spirits of the Druids, the animal spirits of the Native Americans, the spirits of lakes and rivers and all sorts of traditions that developed around the idea of God inside nature. Eventually, the object lost the concept of one God in all things, and the object itself was thought of as a god.
There were still unseen gods, but they were worshipped through seen objects or idols. And, there were also seen gods in the object itself…a river, the wind, etc. Even non-objects like strength, knowledge, love became known as gods.
Communities believed in a god for their own city, village or tribe. Egypt had Amon-Ra, Horus and Isis. Greece had an entire world of gods atop its Mount Olympus. Assyria had Ishtar, Babylon had Marduk, and Canaan had Baal. Stone Age Indo-Europeans had gods of war, harvest, wisdom, and others they called Ahuras. One of these gods was the sun god Mehr.
The name of the founder of the first one god religion, or monotheistic religion, has been lost to history. Some researchers think it may have been the Mehr prophet Mahabad. Later, Mehr came to be known as Mitra, but he was still the sun god. (Price, Massoume, “Zoroaster and Zoroastrians in Iran,” Dec. 2001, http:www.Iranchamber.com/religions/articles/Zoroaster_Zoroastrians_in_Iran.php, accessed 3-4-2009.)
Around 9700 BC, Mehr was the worship of one Ahura, one spirit, who was accompanied by the prophet Mitra. In 6184 BC the Indo-Europeans were either worshipping many spirits, Ahuras, or one god known as Ahura in the religion of the prophet Mehr or Mitra. And, it was at about this time, researchers debate, that a man named Zarathustra was born and reared in this Mithran tradition. Or, he may have been born much later…around 850 BC. His birth date remains unclear, and we may never know for certain.
Progression in this religion was divided into seven stages or ranks. Its followers had to go through at least three of these stages to continue living in the community. The other four ranks were voluntary.
The compulsory stages were practiced from ages five to fifteen. The first rank was learning the basics of their religion. The second was the physical training stage in which the boy or girl was taught horseback riding, body building, and endurance. They were also taught the merits of friendship and human sympathy, and the obedience of men and horses. They were taught truth, commitment to contracts, justice and righteousness. And the third stage was dedicated to combat, how to fight.
After completing the three ranks or stages the student underwent a very difficult final exam and was awarded a wide leather belt as the symbol of graduation. Those who could not graduate remained under the control of their tutors.
The other stages were voluntary, but rulers of the land were only chosen from fourth stage graduates. Governors of other lands came from the fifth stage graduates. And, the general-of-the-army, and all Senate members, was only chosen from sixth rank graduates of Mehr.
Our man Zarathustra attained the seventh rank and was confirmed to be a prophet of the Mehr religion. Only prophets were trusted to amend the ancient monotheistic religion. And he did.
At the ripe old age of thirty, Zarathustra changed the religion of Mehr or Mitra and introduced the philosophy we now call Zartoshti. The Greek name for Zarathustra was Zoroaster, but he also had the nickname Zartosht. To differentiate between the modern day religion of Zoroastrianism and Zarathustra’s original teachings, we will, within this writing, call the later Zartoshti or Z.
The prophet Mitra was considered the guardian of the earth. Each year he would descend and sacrifice a cow. He would have a last supper with his followers and then, again, ascend to the heavens. Or, at least, that was the legend or tradition of these worshippers.
Evidence suggests that Zarathustra, Zartosht, had been born of a father who worked with horses and a mother who was a dairy maid. Worshippers of Ahura, the Mithran name for God, or the Great Spirit, sacrificed many animals, especially cattle. But our Mithran Priest, or prophet, Zartosht had a great fondness for animals. It seems his greatest love was for the harmless and self-giving cow. One of the first amendments he made to the Mehr religion was to eliminate the rite of sacrifice. He taught that animal sacrifice was not necessary.
Why had there been animal sacrifices to gods in the first place? Well, man simply wanted to give his god “the best.” And there was nothing more important to man than blood. Stone Age man had noticed that when too much blood left the body…man died. So, he assumed blood to be the most valuable thing on Earth. Rather than give his own, though, man chose to give the blood of animals to his god. Go figure!
Also, the ancient Babylonians, Canaanites, and Sumerians believed sacrifice was necessary to return life force, power, to the gods. Zartosht realized that sacrifices of bulls and goats, and cows, were something a God who created everything would not really need or even want. He believed God to be Ahura Mazda, or the Lord of all wisdom and knowledge. We will just use the name God to mean the God Zartosht was talking about…Ahura Mazda.
This ancient teacher believed it took a God who was wise and knowledgeable to create such a complex, ever-changing, ever-developing world. And, although material objects and plants and animals all contain some of God’s energy, they are not gods in themselves. Human beings contain the most creative energy and have the potential to be creative and maintain, and even improve, creation; especially themselves. They are not gods, but they were created in the image of God. Some call this belief, that God is in everything, pantheism.
God, according to Zartosht, is completely and totally good. Anyone who enjoys nature; animals, plants, landforms, etc.; can not help but agree with this ancient teacher. All creation is the handiwork of a good and loving God. Creation was created good.
Not only is God’s creation good, complex, awe-inspiring and inter-connective; it is continuously changing and developing toward perfection. God made it good. God wants it perfect. And that includes human beings. Humans are made to be good. God wants us to develop toward perfection in goodness and righteousness and justice. That, said Zartosht, is our obligation to God and the way we worship God.
We worship by our good thoughts, good words, and good deeds. God could have made everything perfect in the beginning, but God chose to give us freewill. We have a purpose. We get to choose.
Zartosht, priest of Mehr, tried to change the world by changing Mithraism. He didn’t intend to start a new religion, great minds never do, but to reform the religion he was following back 6184 years before the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. (Or, was it only 850?) What actually happened was a split into Mithraism and Zartoshti. And, unfortunately, when the teacher died, the two beliefs merged, again, into Zoroastrianism. Since we will be concentrating on the original teachings of Zartosht, we will refer to the restored version as Zartoshti and what is traditional as Zoroastrianism.
The great man looked at the wonders of nature and the many gods, or aspects of god, worshipped in his day and said something to the effect of, “I believe there is only one God of all knowledge and all wisdom, and I believe all God wants of us is good thoughts, good words, and good deeds.”
It was a simple way to live, because Zartosht believed a God of good, a God of love, would not want to make religion complicated or harmful. He said no priest or intercessor is needed, because God, our Creator, hears us when we talk to God in prayer or meditation. He said no temples or churches are needed, because God created our physical body to be the temple of our spiritual soul.
Zartosht taught that God gives everyone abilities and talents, and God wants us to use what we have been given in the best way. If one can dig a ditch, for example, he or she should be the best ditch-digger ever. We should take pride in our work, because God gave us the ability to work.
What we call freewill Zartosht called choice. He taught that human beings are free to choose between having a good mind and having a bad mind. Since God is totally good, God always chooses to “do good.” God has the ability to do anything, but not the desire to do anything but good. Nothing can make God do otherwise.
God did not create evil. Just as darkness is an absence of light and cold is an absence of heat, evil is an absence of good, or love, or God. People choose to think, speak, or do bad things because they do not love enough. In other words, if we love someone we will not steal from them or kill them. We will not lie to them. We only do “good” to those we love. Therefore, there is no sin in the teachings of Zartosht. There is only the good mind, leading to good choices, or the bad mind, leading to bad choices.
God is good. In our time we say that God is love. It made sense to Zartosht that if God is good…there is no evil in God. In fact, he believed that the greatest kind of love possible is in God.
Here on Earth we say the greatest form of love is the love of a mother for her child. She loves them even when they choose to do bad things. Zartosht realized that kind of love in God. God the Creator loves the creature, us, even when we choose to do bad things.
Zartosht taught that every child of the Creator God would be patiently led back to good after a life of bad choices…not punished in an eternal hell. His or her own conscience would judge him or her at death. He or she would realize how far his or her life had strayed from perfection. We become our own judgment. Therefore, sin does not “exist,” hell does not “exist,” only choices exist. Choices in love; good thoughts, good words, good deeds; and choices without love; the things of the bad mind; exist, and we are free to make those choices. If our judgment is a hell…then we will have been the creator of our own.
The teacher said we choose to make a heaven or a hell on earth by what we think, say and do. Death is just a step in the process of our eternal existence, so we should not be afraid of it, unless, of course, we have lived unwisely and will be facing a very painful judgment, convicted by our own conscience.
At the time he established it, Zartoshti was, “…the first truly ethical religion of mankind and [taught] that mortals achieve their goal of god-likeness and spiritual completeness by fighting evil through good thoughts, words and deeds.” (www.Zoroastrianism.cc/universal_religion.html, accessed 3-12-2009.)
Zartoshti, “…teaches the equality of all mortals before their wise creator God; who only sees a difference in righteousness among mortals. Thus there is equality of race, nation, gender and social position.” (Ibid.)
The following ten points are what most modern Zartoshtis believe about God.
“1.God is not about fear, guilt and condemnation.
God is wisdom, love and logic.
God does not have favorites and does not discriminate on the basis of nationality, sex, race or class.
God treats humans with dignity and respect.
God is not a slave master, or despot, among his serfs.
God is man’s Soul Mate and Partner.
God is not jealous, wrathful or vengeful.
Man is not sinful, fallen or depraved.
God has no opponent, and heaven and hell are states of mind and being.
10. Man was created to progress to the likeness of God and eliminate wrong from the universe in partnership with God.” (Ibid.)
Part Three: God of Love
Rather than assume that the wonders of creation happened by an astronomically improbable chance, let us simplify matters by agreeing that “an intelligence” designed Earth. Let us disagree with Scientologists that this designer was an advanced civilization of space aliens. Let’s say a Creator was responsible. THERE IS A GOD.
Next we have the logical step of defining God. Who, what, when, where, how and why is God? The last prophet gives us the greatest logical reasoning of the nature of God.
In Islam, the prophet Mohammed, may his name be praised, led his people to these conclusions.
“…neither the structure of the dimensional universe nor its structural causes – its material and formal components are self-existent. They owe their existence to some creative or producing factor of immaterial and non-dimensional nature which is not part and particle of the structure, but has a hold over the structure and its material and formal causes.” (Pooya, Haji Mirza Mehdi, Fundamentals of Islam According to the Qur’an, as presented by Mohammed and Ali-Mohammed, Karachi: Pakistan Herald Press, 1972, p.5.)
In other words, the matter of which the universe is made came from some non-dimensional creator not made of matter.
Muslims reason that:
“…the SELF-EXISTING BEING must be unlimited, not presentable in…terms of Space and Time…beyond all dimensional and undimensional limitations and as such it cannot be but ONE; because the idea of…TWO SELF-EXISTING BEINGS implies limitations of both, having a common aspect of being self-existent and the aspect by which they are distinguished from each other; hence composite and dependent on their parts.” (Pooya, p.6.)
Can we not see the logic here? Two, or more, beings would be limited by what makes them different. Therefore, if God is unlimited, God has to be ONE.
Islamic reasoning goes on to conclude that:
“…the SELF-EXISTING BEING IS ONE, the Real Unit which is not divisible at all, in any sense of the term, and in any respect or form or any aspect imaginable. Therefore, it is the Real Unique, the like of it in any sense is not possible.” (Ibid.)
Christians, on the other hand, are Trinitarians. They believe in a three-in-one God, sort of like a peanut M&M. They have God as father – the central nut, God as Son – the chocolate coating, and God as Holy Spirit – the colorful candy shell.
Augustine explained that God is One but reveals Himself in three personae or manifestations. (Armstrong, p.119.) Christians accept this three-in-one view, but the Hindu honors multiple manifestations of God, and Muslims will not view God in any sort of distinct characteristics which they say are attempts to divide what is total unity, ONE. Some theologians believe all these religions are recognizing the ONENESS of God and differ only in their terminology, a difference of semantics.
But as late in Christian history as 361 AD the Christian Church was still divided into followers of Arias (who believed Jesus was a man, a mighty prophet), and the followers of Athanasius (who believed he was a deity, the actual, literal union of the Virgin Mary with the Spirit of God).
Still, Jesus never claimed to be anymore a son of God than anyone else who did the will of the Father. He told his followers that each man was a son and each woman a daughter of God. This was in keeping with the Hindu belief of his day that God could be loved as a father, mother, brother, sister, child, friend or even as a lover or soul mate.
The Hindu is very tolerant in his religion. They say God is one, Brahman, but allow their people to sacrifice to the various aspects of God. They deny, strongly, that these representations are idols. They are reminders of the many characteristics of one God.
Brahma is the creative characteristic of God. Vishnu is the sustaining characteristic of God. Shiva is the destructive characteristic of God. And Gamesha, the elephant son, represents God as the patient remover of obstacles. They have many aspects of one God.
Although a worshipper may need to start with physical aids, such as temples and physical representations, the aim in Hindu is to be able to visualize God without them. (www.geocities.com/Athens/Forum/9410/hindu1.html?200528, accessed 6-28-2005.)
Those who no longer need a material object to remind them of God’s nature do not sacrifice flowers, food and water in temples. Hindus are not polytheists but, rather, monotheists like Christians, Muslims and Jews. (For a general knowledge of other religions try Smith, Huston, The Religions of Man, New York: Harper & Row, 1958, or Bowker, John (Ed.), The Cambridge Illustrated History of Religions, Cambridge: University Press, 2002.)
When Zartoshtis look at Judaism, they reject many stories of the Hebrew Scriptures, because it is not a God of unconditional love who orders cities and nations destroyed. God is the God of Ninevah’s salvation, not the God of Canaan’s demise. God is not a vengeful God to be feared but a creator to be adored.
If any man ever believed he heard God say destroy, he did not hear correctly. God was never what man thought of Him. He does not have man’s blood lust or seek revenge. God was never cruel.
Jesus of Nazareth taught the difference between law, justice and compassion. He healed on the Sabbath because the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. He said law was given for men, not men for the law. The Jews had their priorities out of order. Man was more important than rules. Man was more important than laws.
The whole idea of an eye for an eye was an improvement over slaughtering every person in a family or tribe for the offense of one member. Law was the first attempt to curb man’s inhumanity toward man. No civilization could survive without rules, laws, justice. But law was the beginning of goodness…not the ultimate achievement of mankind.
To live in the Kingdom of God, one had to go beyond law to justice, compassion and, ultimately, to love. In God’s Kingdom the prodigal and his brother did not get what they deserved according to either law or justice. They received such compassion and love from their father that his actions seemed foolish to the Jews whom Jesus was instructing. They could not understand that the Kingdom of God is not law, is not even justice, it is love. LOVE. Justice does not rule in God’s Kingdom. Illogical love rules there.
God has not placed one religion above another. God has spoken love through them all. Wherever words of love and goodness can be found…we find God’s inspiration. Therefore, we may judge the Preacher, the Priest, the Pope, the Imam, the Mullah, and even the martyr by his or her words and deeds of love. We can do this because we know that true inspiration is limited to goodness and compassion.
What we might call spirit or soul may be applied to the Muslim concept of conscious. They argue that,
“…whatever is undimensional is conscious and whatever is conscious is undimensional. Therefore the Absolute Unit by which all beings exist and stand is necessarily present with every being, as its holding or sustaining factor is self-conscious and conscious of all that exist by it, hence Living. Therefore, the reference to the Absolute Unit responsible for the whole Phenomenon called Universe, should be in terms of He instead of it.” (Pooya,p.7&8.)
So, since God is self-aware and aware of all creation, God is the Living God. And, since God is living, God is not an it. Of course, there would be nothing wrong with referring to God as She since gender is not specified by the term living.
Muslims go on to say that,
“A self-existent unlimited being is not definable so any attempt to conceive Him by an external or internal means of our limited power of understanding is futile. But He is realizable by every being, in the sense, that every limited being can realize His Existence and Essence as manifested in His Attributes. His Attributes can be presented in two ways – Affirmative…and Negative…. All His Affirmative Attributes refer the assertion of His Absolute Unity. All His Negative Attributes refer to negation of limitation and composition….
“…the Negative Attributes can be explained as follows. He is not describable in any physical or anthropomorphic terms. He is not consisted of body, colour and size. It is not possible for any creature to see or sight Him, to imagine and conceive Him. He is not to be presented in the terms of substance or contingent, matter or form. It is not possible to localize Him in any part of space or confine Him to any part of time. He is not to be aligned and counted with any being, Although as a Creator He is with everything but nothing can be coexisted or coextended with Him. All these negations mean the negation of limitation and composition.” (Pooya, p.9.)
Even our concept of God as unconditional love; the best, greatest, most compassionate, most forgiving, dearest attribute we can imagine for God; does not begin to define God. Jesus was laughed out of town when he tried to explain the justice of God. The mind of man cannot conceive the Creator’s love for the creature.
The human idea of unconditional love means love without conditions, or limits, or end. If God has this most powerful attribute, we can forget about hell, sin, or even the existence of evil. A God of such a characteristic would not design a hell, concern God’s self with our sins, or create evil.
There is no trinity or even dualism concerning God. God has no opposite. God did not create bad, evil or sin. God gave mankind freewill. When mankind chose to not do good…man called that choice bad. When he or she did not love…the result was something man termed evil. When man felt remorse for failing to do good, failing to love, he named his own loveless acts sin. God didn’t create sin…man did. So, God doesn’t require sacrifice, ritual, or hell fire and brimstone.
For the beauty of the earth…one means of transcendence.
Part Four: True Freedom of Religion
Some historians list Zarathustra Spitaman as the founder of the first religion on record and the first to preach monotheism. Others point to evidence that he was a priest of Mehr…a religion that already worshipped one god under the teachings of a prophet named Mehabad. (www.Iranchamber.com/religions/articles/Zarathustra_first_monotheist_prophet.php,accessed 3-4-2009.)
But we can claim, for Zartosht, these firsts. He was the first to teach a universal message for all mortals. “He was the first to preach equality of all regardless of race, gender, class or nationality.” (www.Zoroastrianism/Zarathustra_biography.html, accessed 3-12-2009.) He was the first to sow the seeds of democracy by teaching that a leader must be chosen for his or her righteousness. He was the first to introduce ecology by claiming that God wants humans to promote and preserve God’s good creation. And he passed along his teachings in seventeen songs or hymns that were handed-down, by oral tradition or memory, from one generation to the next until they could be preserved in writing. (Ibid.)
These songs were recorded in an archaic language, related to the Rig Veda of the Hindu, around 1700 BC. “The Rig Vedas and the Gathas are contemporary and their language is extremely close. There are certain persons that appear in both.” (Ibid.) These teachings of Zartosht were added to after his death and became the Avesta of the modern-day Zoroasterians and the Parsees of India.
From the Gathas of the Avesta we can derive these concepts:
God created the world by His evolving, growing, uplifting and edifying mindset or disposition.
2. The Ordering Principle of Creation is Righteousness, Order and Truth.
Human beings are endowed with a Good Mind that enables them to comprehend the ordering principle. They are able to make the right choices that lead the world toward Righteousness, Order and Truth.
4. Human beings have an inherent quality; Serenity, Right-mindedness, Piety, Devotion, or Benevolence; that spurs them to translate good thinking into actions that are in accord with the Ordering Principle of Creation; Righteousness, Order and Truth.
Man must strive for the ideal social order.
Perfection on Earth is the ideal God wants mankind to achieve.
There is a state of immortality. (Ibid.)
Zartosht’s original message was lost in thousands of years of reformation, compromise, and war. Only in the last two-hundred years have hundreds of scholars been able to retrieve it. His, “…is a message about a spirituality that progresses towards self-realization, fulfillment and completeness, as a good creation of a totally good God. It is a message of freedom – freedom to choose, freedom from fear, freedom from guilt, freedom from sin, freedom from…rituals, superstitious practices, fake spiritually and ceremonials…. God…does not care what you wear, what and when you eat or where and when you worship. God instead cares how righteous, progressive and good you are.” (www.Zoroastrianism.cc/universal_religion.html. accessed 3-12-2009.)
What do we mean by freedom? We are free to choose. Freewill is the bases of choice. “Freedom does not mean use and abuse of oneself, other human beings and/or the environment. The entity that does that is not free but totally determined by its evil nature…the exploitative approach to the world is not based on freedom. It is a compulsive act. Exploitation, abuse and plunder of the world and its inhabitants are not compatible with the [Zartoshti]…understanding of freedom…. An act is free when it is not compulsive, when it is not against ones reasoned decisions.” (www.Iranchamber.com/religions/articles/moral_philosophy_Zarathustra.php, accessed 3-4-2009.)
“Following one’s greed, for example, is not an act of freedom, because the greedy man is unable to act against the wishes and desires of his ego. Only the ability to potentially act against one’s own best interests (against the desires of the ego) is indicative of developed freedom (and wisdom).”(www.Iranchamber.com/religions/articles/freedom_eternity_Zoroastrianism.php, accessed 3-4-2009.)
We are born with “…a potential for obedience. We all secretly long for someone to tell us what to do; we long for gurus, specialists and wise men…. [But]…the [Zartoshti] must decide for himself, freely as a mature individual, whether he wishes to participate with…[God]…in the creative process or not….Of all the chaotic interior voices just on the borders of consciousness,…listen only to the wise and the gentle ones – to conscience…or…the other voices reflective of an enlightened mind.” (Ibid.)
We are to listen to truth, consider it with a clear and an open mind, and decide for ourselves, personally, individually, which path to take, either the good or the not good. (Ibid., Adapted by Azargoshasb from Yasna 30.2.)
Zartosht didn’t think of himself as a prophet or any kind of go-between in man’s relationship to God. He had simply asked questions and reasoned answers. The answer he discovered about man’s purpose on Earth was:To live a full life, take responsibility for our own actions or inactions, and to progress toward perfection…being “ like” God in our nature. The progression from chaos, to order, to justice, and finally to love would achieve that perfection.
Zartosht found what he called the seven eternal laws.
He taught that we are to use our brains for good and to their maximum capacities.
He said we must seek knowledge, good science (good discoveries and good inventions), and live in harmony with nature and the natural laws.
We must establish good laws, give good guidance to others, make good products (pride in workmanship), give good services and live in harmony.
We must be righteous and keep our desires within the law; no war, no pollution, no lies, no stealing, no rape and no fear.
We should strive toward perfection in mind, in body, and in spirit.
We should free ourselves from the fear of death and fear of the unknown with the realization that our energies are immortal. Our spirits, souls, that which makes us who we are, do not belong to the material world but, rather, to a world where time and death have no meaning.
When we have attained perfection in love we will lose all sense of fear, understand, and become one with the wisdom of creation and the creator of all wisdom and knowledge. (Paraphrased from the website of Fariborz Rahnamoon on May, 30, 2003.)
Zartosht taught that no renouncing of anything, or paying penance for anything, or disruption of ordinary life is necessary. He said humans can acquire unlimited knowledge. We need to realize that the mind is subject to two forces, and we should keep our minds free of evil tendencies. For example, the “good mind” helped man learn to fly and discover the atom. But the “bad mind” used airplanes to wage war and created atomic weapons. We can have knowledge about everything around us, and we should use that knowledge to make helpful changes. (Ibid.)
Zartosht taught that we should make laws and rules that help us conduct our worldly affairs in tune with the laws of nature, and do nothing to disrupt the harmony of nature. Such disruptions are chaos in a world which needs order. (Rahnamoon) Punishment maintains a desire for order and must be rendered according to law and justice. But no energies should be driven from a body except by process of law or by an official in his or her duty to maintain order. Also, suicide denies our energies the opportunity to follow the process of God’s will for us.
We contain, within our bodies, energies that could be tapped and focused toward marvelous goals. Without order we can not direct those energies. They could be directed to aid healing, or reach a state of peaceful mind, or send energy toward the healing of others. Prayer, meditation, and other methods of focusing energy can put untapped abilities to good use.
Recreational drugs block our ability to focus our energies. Things harmful to our health; like smoking, alcohol consumption, and over or under eating; block our energies. Exercise can increase our energies. Education and learning can increase our energies. A smile can increase our energies. A kind thought, word, or deed can increase our energies. Since our bodies house our energies, they must take-in energy-supporting fuels like fruits and vegetables, water and oxygen. The drinking of adequate amounts of clean water, and the deep inhaling of clear air, give support to our energies and should be the right of every creature of God.
Human beings have been burdened with the guilt of sin. But if bad and evil are only concepts in the mind of man, the lack of good or absence of love, then sin does not exist. There is no need for repentance, confession, sacrifice or atonement for something that does not exist. Feel cold? Add heat. Can’t see in the darkness? Turn on a light. Realize there is a problem? Add love. Choose to do good. There is no cold, there is no darkness, there is no sin. There is only a lack of what truly does exist; the energies of warmth, light, and love.
So, Zartoshti is the simplest yet most profound way of life and worship ever discovered. All it requires are good thoughts, good words, and good deeds. We know the difference in what is just and righteous and what is not. We get to choose for ourselves.
Part Five: Lessons of History
Part Six: God Our Righteousness
Why make good choices? According to D.J. Irani’s translation of Yasna 43.3, “The choice of Righteousness is its own vindication. The choice of Evil, its own undoing.” (“Concepts of Freedom and Eternity in Zoroastrianism,“ by Ryszard Antolak, December 2004 http://www.iranchamber.com/religions/articles/freedom_eternity_zoroastrianism.php, accessed 3-4-2009) So, when it comes to choices, I am, “…not seeking a reward; nor am I following a divine commandment…I do it because it is the right thing to do.” (Ibid.)
Zartosht said God is our Righteousness. But who is a righteous person? I know I’ve met some people in my life who made me feel honored to be in their presence. One could almost see an aura of love radiating from them. I image Buddha, Jesus and Ghandi to have been like that.
Any word of distain, envy or wrath would have been the last thing you would expect from their mouth. Their strength was contagious, their sense of justice unquestionable. You wanted to linger in their presence, to learn from them, to enjoy them. You just knew they were honest and wise.
Righteousness is more than good, even more than love. You would trust your very life to a righteous person. You would be willing to die for a righteous person. You would will them your most prized possessions, even your own children. You expect no lies, no taunting, no violence from a person of righteousness.
You feel safe around a person of righteousness. Even though they appear meek, they are the first to oppose cruelty. They would give their life to prevent your pain.
Today we say God is great, God is good. Some know God as love. But some eight-thousand years ago, Zartosht was close enough to God to say, with total confidence and conviction, that God is righteousness.
The best, most kind, most giving, most loving person we’ve ever met is only a poor reflection of our righteous God. And our Creator God wants us to be righteous…for righteousness’ sake. Choose to think, say and do good because it’s the right thing to do…not because you’ve been threatened with punishments or promised rewards.
Until we come to realize that righteousness is its own reward, that it leads to happiness and peace, we will miss out on the perfection God wants for each of us. We should trust our life, our soul, our eternity to the God of love, because GOD IS OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.
Both the Zarathustrians and Hindu developed an understanding of God as love and all religions as ways of finding and praising that God of love. Both respect the religions of others because they believe that God the all-compassionate will accept any and all attempts to live in good and in love. So, we don’t worry about others, and we wish they would not worry about us. We trust God.
Kambiz Sakhai tells us, “…forced action and blind faith are the enemies of reason.” (“Moral Philosophy of Zarathushtra,” by Kambiz Sakhai, http://www.iranchamber.com/religions/articles/moral_philosophy_zarathushtra.php, accessed 3-4-2009) So let us not accept blindly. Let us reason intelligently. The faith that is required is faith in a loving God. The trust that is necessary is trust in our Creator.
Zartosht said we are to love God as God loves us. But what is love? We know it when we feel it. How do we explain it?
Ryszard Antolak, in his article, “Light in the Philosophy of Zoroaster.” described love in a very spiritual way. He defined Zartosht’s vision of God as, “…that of a good God: wholly benevolent, totally loving, the author of all quality, beauty, and of everything life-enhancing and positive.” (“Light in the Philosophy of Zoroaster” by Ryszard Antolak, October 2004, http://www.iranchamber.com/religions/articles/light_philosophy_zoroaster.php, accessed 3-4-2009)
Then he speaks of the “…primordial light, uncreated because it was a natural property of the deity…[and] was the energy out of which [God]…created everything in existence…an intrinsic property of matter.” (Ibid.)
Antolak says, “Man was not placed into the universe like an object among other objects in the way that the God of the Old Testament placed Adam into an already – completed garden. Rather he was born out of his environment like an apple from a tree, or ripples from a pond.” (Ibid.) In other words, time meaning so little to eternal God, creation was designed to be a continuing process. Who are we to place limits on God’s method of our own creation?
Then, when Zartosht looked at the physical world, he “…was confronted by the goodness of Ahura Mazda [God] reflected, in some form or another, in every object and being which he saw.…” (Antolak) The teacher was able to perceive of God, I like to say the energy that holds everything in the universe together, in all matter. It’s sort of like saying God is that strong force that keeps the nucleus of each atom together even though opposite charges attract and like charges should repel each other. The light of God, or energy of God, is in everything so that matter can stick together to make material, physical things. Without God, there would be no big bang or the formation of all that exists in the physical world. Zartosht was able to recognize God’s energy in every thing, and he realized it was good.
Antolak said we can “…experience a human being in one of two ways: [we either see someone] as an object…or as a person…. [But the difference in our perception is amazing.] Once an object is perceived as a person, a mysterious new dimension opens us: we recognize something that exists on a higher level than mere sensory perception. We respond to the infinite within the finite.” (Ibid.)
I remember when I first met one particular person, I thought she was the ugliest old crone I’d ever seen. But when I got to know her, and we became friends, it was as if I was seeing her again for the first time. She was a lovely person. I couldn’t understand how I could ever have seen her as ugly. I think that, once I got to know her, I was responding to the likeness of God that lived within her, and my perception of her physical appearance totally changed. Weird, or a miracle of God’s love?
Perhaps, that’s the difference between being able to kill an enemy or giving one’s life for a friend. It could be the exact same person. It all depends on our perception of God-likeness in that one human being.
“Once the internal world of another individual is reveled, by virtue of our recognition of him as a person (an object open to infinity), [says Antolak], the whole world of human relations suddenly becomes possible: co-operation, intimacy, compassion, understanding, love….” (Antolak)
What is love? Why is it so special? Why does it cause us to go crazy? Antolak is able to explain that concept without having to use a poem or a song. He does it intellectually rather than emotionally. He says:
“When we fall in love with another human being, we are seeing that individual as more than just a person. For a time, the image we have of him or her is complete…whole…. That atmosphere of wonder…that suddenly surrounds the object of our attentions (when coincidences abound, when the world suddenly becomes saturated with meaning and everything in creation revolves around this single human being), is a quality of…[this light of glory]. We are loving someone who does not (yet) exist. We are seeing them as they will appear (one day) in the full light of…[perfection].” (Antolak)
When we are truly in love, we see the person we love in perfection. We are alone when we are not with them. We imagine seeing them everywhere. We long for them constantly. We would do almost anything for them. We crave the touch of their hand. We are seeing them with the eyes of love…as perfect.
Antolak suggests that this is where the idea of a halo atop one’s head comes from. “Each of us has set at least one halo ablaze in the course of our lives. When we fall in love, it is as if we have lit up the beloved’s halo. Perceiving their dimension of transcendence, we recognize the divine in them. For what is a halo but a human being lit up with the light of great love, value, or destiny?” (Ibid.)
There is as much a difference between infatuation and love as there is between love and lust. Looks are just advertising. They don’t last. It’s the heart, the soul, that which makes us who we are, that is most important, that lasts when the going gets tough. We expect our relationships to give us heaven on Earth. When they don’t, we dream of finding heaven with someone else. We want this lasting relationship to be given to us instead of having to work to make it happen. Americans are the worst because of our desire for instant gratification.
Antolak nails the definition of true love when he says:
“A lover does not love the physical body of his beloved at all, but the ideal image of her, the angel to whom she corresponds. Of course he does love her body also, but for the sake of her person: because it belongs to her and manifests her reality. That physical body can be as old as a grandmother, sick, diseased, (barely recognizable as a human being), punctured by tubes and plugged into monitors, but still loved and adored for the person within it.” (Antolak)
If we can love our soul mates in that way, why would anyone believe that the Creator of us all does not love us with a love that sees only what we are capable of becoming and wants only the best for us? We can forget sin, sacrifice, atonement, ritual and live the way of good conscience. This was Zartosht’s universal message for all human beings.
The missionary spirit of Zartoshti is not that old, classical, proselytizing style with which Christianity and Islam seem to be so comfortable. Instead, Zartoshti , “…invites the seeker to compare….” (www/Zoroastrianism.cc/conversion_in_mazdayasna.html, accessed 3-12-2009.)
“We do make clear to people that the choice of life style and religion is of utmost importance and that such a choice should only come after careful reflection, with a clear and unbiased mind, on the choices before the person. This implies the utmost importance of not only choice, but only of a choice that is free and informed.” (Ibid.)
Some people think Zartoshtis are fire worshippers. Not even traditional Zarathustrians worship fire. To them, fire represents the warmth and light of God. There is no cold, there is no darkness, there is no sin…just the energy of God…warmth, light, and love. Cold, dark, and sin are the lack of those energies.
There are no tithes in Zartoshti, (unless you choose to do good that way), no alms, no send in your checks. We know how to do good deeds. Just do them. No churches, no mosques, no temples are required beside one’s own body. No priests, no intercessor is needed, because we are God’s creatures, human beings, one on one with God. There are no creeds, no rituals, no holy rites, no sacraments in Zartoshti. Those are complications of man. Why would a God of love want to make a complicated religion?
Americans like simple unless it cramps our style. The idea of one on one with God and living the good life (good thoughts, good words, good deeds) may even sound too simple for Americans. But when we learn the finer points of good (giving instead of loaning, doing without instead of borrowing, never lying) we may decide doing what is right is too difficult after all. But that, too, is Zartoshti. Man’s complexity is usually easier than God’s simplicity. And, it’s extremely difficult for the followers of tradition, of today’s major world religions, to even image anything else.
Whenever someone asks me my religious preference, I tell them Zartoshti. The next word out of their mouth is always, “What?” They want to know where I worship. I worship everywhere. They want to know whom I worship. I worship God who created me. They want to know how I worship. I worship in Spirit and in Truth by thinking good thoughts, speaking good words, and doing good deeds just as God, who is good, and love, and righteousness, wants me to. I have faith that God will love me forever, as God will love all creation forever. No fear.
No one knows what Zartosht looked like, but these are some possible representations. It is believed that he was born in North Eastern Iran or Western Afghanistan. His grandfather was Haechadaspa of the Spitama family. His father was Pourushaspa and his mother was Dughdova. His wife was Hvovi. He had six children; a son, Isat Vastar, a daughter, Freni, a daughter, Thriti, a son, Urvatat-Nara, a son, Hvare chithra, and his youngest was a daughter, Pouruchista. He was a man who reasoned that God is goodness, love, and righteousness; and he reasoned that all God wants of us is good thoughts, good words, and good deeds. The rest is faith; trust in God.