We must begin with some background information. If you would like the explanation for the above graphic click on the image.
About 5000 years ago, i.e. around 3000 B.C.E. a group of people called the Proto Indo-Iranians lived on the South Russian Steppes, to the east of the river Volga [Boyce]. The Proto Indo-Iranians believed in a primitive concept of order (called rta in Sanskrit). They knew that order existed in the universe because night followed day, the moon waxed and waned and each year the seasons followed one another. They believed that this law was guarded by divinities or gods called Asuras, among which Varuna and Mithra were most popular. The Proto Indo-Iranians worshiped instinctively and often through fear. For example, when they saw lightning and heard thunder they thought that the gods were angry at them. For every natural phenomenon such as earthquakes, volcanoes, snow storms, hurricanes they would make sacrifices of animals and food to their deities in order to appease them. About a thousand years later i.e. 2000 B.C.E., the Proto Indo-Iranians split into two groups. One group migrated westwards and came to be known as the Iranians while the other group went east and was known as the Vedic Indians or Vedic Aryans. Because of this common root the early religious scriptures of the Indian and the Iranian have some similarities but after the split each of them developed separately. The Iranians were mostly nomads, they did not have a fixed place to live, for they herded cattle and would keep moving around in search of fresh pasture and water. Since they lived in the open they worshiped nature and they had a god or goddess for each of the elements of nature, i.e. they believed that one god looked after the sky (Asman), another took care of the Earth (Zam), the third looked after the Moon (Mah) and a goddess called Anahita looked after the waters. They called this whole pantheon of gods and goddesses as Ahuras. The word Ahura comes from the root Ah meaning "to be", so Ahura can be derived as the Being. The Iranians believed their Ahuras to be very powerful and their priests called Karapans had many rituals and made sacrifices of animals and plant food to fire and water. Their Ahuras were similar to Asuras of the Proto Indo-Iranians and of the Rig Vedas. Several hundred years later the Iranians learned the use of bronze and developed horse drawn chariots. Some Iranians abandoned the task of herding cattle, became warriors and would go from place to place raiding cattle. These lawless people worshiped the gods of war and were called Daevas. Their priests were called Kavis who were very shrewd and practiced black magic. It was during this time somewhere around 1500 B.C.E. that Zarathushtra/Zoroaster was born. As a young boy he was interested in nature and wanted to know as to how the world was created. His search for creation and the creator lead him to God with who he communed after several years of meditation. When he was 30 years old, he introduced a religion known today as Zoroastrianism. Zarathushtra was known to the ancient Greeks as Zoroaster and hence his followers are called Zoroastrians. Some followers who live in India prefer to be called Zarathustis.
Zoroastrianism, named after the Persian prophet known also as Zaratust, Zathraustes, Zarathustra, etc., was for centuries embraced by those ancient Caucasians known as Aryans or Iranians; and it became for them an instrument of national policy in their bitter conflicts against surrounding nomadic tribes and Semitic nations, represented primarily by the "Turanians," Babylonians, Assyrians, Phoenicians, and Arabians. With the emergence of the first Persian Empire under Cyrus and its further expansion under Darius the Great Hystaspes, 521-486, B.C.E. the worship of Ahuramazda dominated twenty-three nations. These Iranians did more than drive the Semitic races into permanent eclipse: themselves descended from the older Sumerians, they were the prehistoric conquerors of Egypt and India as well as the progenitors of the Greeks, the Romans, and the Teutons: in short, they have ruled most of the civilized world for two and a half millenniums.
In that ancient world, one empire succeeded another, and throughout the domains of each, religious doctrines and ceremonials were carried from one country to another along the caravan routes. The Assyrian Empire with its capital at Nineveh, dominated Asia Minor from the twelfth century to about 612. B.C.E. After a brief resurgence of the Egyptian power, Nebuchadnezzar overwhelmed it in 605 B.C.E. and extended the Babylonian Empire from the African desert to the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea. These Chaldeans, however, did not remain long in control; for in 538 B.C.E., Cyrus captured Babylon; and thirty years later Darius ruled an empire which stood astride the world from Libya and Greece to the center of India, a territory comprising two million square miles and including dozens of great and populous cities, of which Babylon was the most fabulous. This vast domain continued substantially intact until it toppled overnight before the fierce onslaught of the Macedonians around 330 B.C.E. About 250 B.C.E. Arsaces established the loose confederation known as the Parthian Empire, which continued for four hundred and seventy-five years and in which a modified form of Zoroastrianism was the prevailing religion.
The history of Mazdeismthe worship of the sun and of fire out of which Zoroastrianism grewspans some four thousand years. It began among the prehistoric Iranians, occupying an upland area between the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf. The Zoroastrians of Iran (pre-Islamic) were members of the Indo-European family known as the Aryans. They called themselves Zoroastrians because they believed in the teachings of the first Aryan prophet, Zarathushtra; also called Zoroaster. Although we cannot be sure just when Zoroaster lived, we need not doubt his historicity. Zoroaster was the first prophet to preach a monotheistic religion, and he was born in Iran about 1500 to 660 years B.C.E. Scholars are unsure as to his date of birth. He revealed that there was only one God, Ahuramazda and that life in the physical world was a battle between good and evil. As per man's actions, he would either cross the "Chinvato Peretu" or the sword bridge after death, and reach Heaven, or fall from it and go to the abode of the evil one. In the final days there would be a battle between good and evil, evil would be vanquished and the world would be purified by a bath of molten metal. Mazda would then judge the world, resurrecting the dead and His Kingdom would be established on earth. Surprisingly, many so-called Christian concepts actually were derived from Zoroastrian Aryan ideas which thrived in Iran for thousands of years until the Arab invasion of Iran around 1300 years ago. Concepts such as heaven and hell, God and the evil adversary Aharman, the coming of the Saviour or Saoshyant born of a virgin, the end-time purge of the world by Fire followed by the resurrection of the dead (Ristakhiz), the making fresh of the world (Frashogard) and the final battle between good and evil leading to the final defeat of evil. These beliefs filtered down to Judaism during the reign of King Khushru (Cyrus) of Iran.
Although proud to be Aryans, Zoroastrians also believe that all races in the world are created by God and are equal - a true sign of the real ancient Aryan's nobility and tolerance. Cyrus, King of Iran who was an Aryan rebuilt the temple of the Jews after freeing the Jews from Babylon - for this, he is still remembered by the Jews and called the "Anointed of the Lord" in the Bible. The Jews still celebrate that act of the true Aryans in a festival. Many Jews then stayed in Iran under Cyrus and his successors such as Darayus, as equal subjects under the King. Books of the Bible written after this stay have taken all these Zoroastrian religious concepts, from there they came to Christianity and other religions and can be found embedded within the New Testament as tenants of the early Christian Church. There are scholars who consider Zoroastrianism as such to be the mother religion of the present day world's faiths.! So, it is probable that the Jews were influenced by the Zoroastrian faith of Iran in those days - and took on the religious concepts of:
All these concepts being Zoroastrian. There are other similarities too - certain purificatory observances such as the impurity of menstruation etc. are found in both faiths. Indeed, the very idea of the Messiah, and the very concept of Jesus could be Zoroastrian in origin.
Zarathushtra's songs are called the "Gathas" which linguistically may be older than the Indian Vedic scriptures. The Gathas are written in an ancient Avestan dialect. This is a sister language to Sanskrit of India, and Greek and Latin of the West. The reason is, the common ancestors (common to the ancient Iranians, Ancient Indians, Greeks, and Europeans) were one and the same - the Indo-European or Aryan peoples. The Gathas, which are psalm-like utterances, are full of personal references and were probably composed by the prophet himself. E. W. West, who translated the Pahlavi Texts, published in Max Muller's Sacred Books of the East, places the birth of Zoroaster in 660 B.C.E. and his death in 583 B.C.E. His teachings achieved a firm foundation with the conversion of King Vishtasp, which occurred when the prophet was forty-two. Zoroaster appeared as his people were emerging from a nomadic state into a settled agricultural economy; he exerted his utmost influence to accelerate this process and place upon it the stamp of divine approval.
After the conversion of Kai-Vishtasp, the Iranians became bolder and refused tribute to the northern "Turanians." A series of wars ensued in which the Persians were victorious, and during which the new faith was consolidated. With the advent of Cyrus and the fall of Babylon, Zoroastrianism entered upon the stage of authentic history and became a preponderant world-force. Under the Achaemenides, the Avesta became the world's foremost sacred book. The great fire-temples in time erected to the glory of Ahuramazda appeared everywhere and in them burned perpetually his sacred flame. A vast literature proliferated, and tradition records that Alexander the Great seized and destroyed two copies of the complete scriptures each written on twelve thousand cowhides.
The aggressive expansion of the Persian Empire, however, came to a sudden halt with three great defeats inflicted by the Greeks: Marathon, 490 B.C.E.; Plataea, 479 B.C.E; and the decisive naval engagement at Salamis, 480 B.C.E. Had the Persians been victorious, Zoroastrianism would have conquered Europe, and it might conceivably have become the religion of mankind.
However, for better or for worse, this was not to be: and in 330, B.C.E. Alexander crushed the Persian power, and attempted to establish a new and unified world, in which race, creed, and nation were to be submerged and superseded by a universal brotherhood in which values would be determined, not by any supernatural revelation, but by the all-conquering force of Greek enlightenment. Had Alexander lived the full span of human life, he might have succeeded in this grandiose objective, but he died at the age of thirty-three and his newly-born empire was split into four divisions by his generals who were soon at war with each other.
In 226 A. D., Zoroastrianism began its great renaissance. In that year, Ardashir overthrew the Parthian Empire; this was the more remarkable, since this achievement forever eluded Roman arms. Ardashir established the Sassanian dynasty, which inaugurated the second Parthian Empire with its capital at Persepolis; and from 226 until 642 A.D. this included most of the countries over which Darius had once held sway. As soon as Ardashir came to power, he commanded the priests to compile and reconstitute the sacred scriptures. Although this was not entirely possible, the new documents were no doubt substantially the same as those used during the first Persian Empire.
What no other conqueror had been able to do in twelve centuries was accomplished by the Moslems in ten years. Islam toppled the Sassanian Empire and replaced Zoroaster; the Koran became the sacred scripture in all the lands over which Darius had ruled, and remains so to this day.
A few of the Parsees, however, who would not renounce their ancient faith fled to India, where they settled in and around Bombay. About 100,000 of them still live in that land where, since the Buddhist revolution, every religion has been tolerated. They still revere the doctrines and practice the ceremonials of Zoroaster; they are monotheists; they are distinguished from the Hindus who surround them by their thrift, industry, prosperity, and complete freedom from caste.
The oldest portions of the Zoroastrian scriptures, known as the Avesta, were written in an ancient Persian dialect. Among them are the Gathas (psalms), Vendidad (laws), and the Yasts (liturgies). However, during the millennium preceding the Moslem conquest, another literature grew up, now known as the Pahlavi Texts, or commentaries on and elaborations of the Avesta, written in the Parthian dialect during the Arsacid and Sassanian dynasties. European scholars have mistakenly called the whole the Zend-Avesta; actually, the correct name is Avesta and Zend, which means revelation and commentary.
As with other great personalities, tradition recorded certain historical facts concerning Zoroaster; but around these there soon grew up a periphery of myth, the purpose of which was to establish his authority and divinity. We are told that the spiritual body of Zaratust was created by Ahuramazda some six thousand years before his earthly manifestation (Dinkard, VII, ii, 14). During this period of celestial pre-existence, he dwelt with the creator and the seven archangels. Fifteen years before his birth, this supreme glory, that is, the spiritual body of the prophet, entered the wife of Frahimrvana-zois, and by this miraculous immaculate conception, she gave virgin-birth to Dukdaub, the destined mother of Zaratust (Ibid., VII, ii, 2-3; Zad-Sparam, XIII, 1).
Thus filled with supernatural glory, Dukdaub (the mother of Zoroaster) became so radiant that she aroused the hatred of the devas, who brought winter, pestilence, and marauders upon the district; and they caused the neighbors to accuse the divine maiden of witchcraft, so that she was banished (Dinkard, VII, ii, 6). Her father sent her to the home of Padiragtaraspo, father of Purushaspo, to whom she became betrothed (Ibid., 10). At this juncture, Ahuramazda sent the archangels Vohu Manu and Ashavahisto into the world; they gave the sacred hom-juice to Purushaspo and caused two virgin cows to conceive. Dukdaub drew milk from these and gave it to her betrothed, who mixed it with the hom-juice. The nature of Zaratust's spiritual body was miraculously present in this divine mixture (remember the Eucharist and the mass?);and as Dukdaub drank of it, she conceived Zaratust, who was the fleshly incarnation of his own pre-existing spirits (Ibid., VII, ii, 10-51; Zad-Sparam, XIII, 1). The immaculate conception of Mary became in due course the Catholic equivalent of the miraculous origin of Dukdaub.
At the age of twenty, the young prophet became a wanderer, seeking "Who is the most desirous of righteousness and the nourishing of the poor" (Zad-Sparam, XX, 7); and is said to have journeyed as far as India and China. And, like Jesus, at the age of thirty, he began his active ministry with a sacred baptism and "exaltation" in the waters of the Daitih (Zad-Sparam, XXI, 1-6; Dinkard IX, xiii, I). Thus ordained for his great work, Vohu Mano led him into the presence of Ahuramazda and the archangels (Ibid., XXI, 8-11). There were altogether seven such conferences and apocalyptic visions (Zad-Sparam, XXII, 1) during ten years (Ibid., XXIII, 1) in which Ahuramazda revealed the mysteries of time and eternity to Zoroaster:
All this, which Zaratust wrote down as he emerged from his successive trances, was therefore later considered the unalterable word of God, which must stand for ever and ever.
Just as Zoroaster was approaching the period of his great ministry, he, like Buddha and Jesus, was subjected to his Great Temptation (Vendidad, XIX); Angra Mainyu (Angry Spirit, or Aharman, or Ahriman, as he is known in the later documents) "the Maker of the Evil World," assailed the prophet with fearful terrors and tempted him with magnificent promises; he offered to make him "the ruler of the nations" if he would but "renounce the good religion."
The holy man rejected the offer with scorn. "By whose word wilt thou strike, by whose word wilt thou repel . . . my creatures, who am Angra Mainyu?" Zaratust replied: "The sacred mortar, the sacred cup (Eucharist), the Haoma, the Word of God as taught by Mazda, these are my weapons."
Answer for yourself: Does this sound familiar yet?
Matt 4:3-11 3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. 4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. 5 Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, 6 And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. 7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. 8 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; 9 And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. 10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. 11 Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him. (KJV)
Answer for yourself: Does this sound familiar yet?
Zaratust tried desperately to win converts, but he was rebuffed wherever he went; for all were wicked unbelievers and heretics, the ungodly, ruffianly, two-legged ashemaogha. But at last, in his fortieth year, he converted a relative and then Frashaostra, his future father-in-law; and then, two years later, King Vishtasp accepted the good religion and Zaratust became the first Zarathrostema, or high priest, of the faith. According to tradition, the prophet was slain at his own altar by the Turanians in his seventy-seventh year (Dinkard, VII, v, 1).
Zoroastrianism was a lusty, life-embracing cult, which sought and promised every physical and material advantage in this life. It like Christianity had its own "prosperity message." Although it was based upon a concept of cosmic metaphysical dualism, it taught also the freedom of the will: it was too primitive an ideology to draw ethical conclusions from speculative doctrines. That it was primitive is obvious:
Since life and vegetation are impossible without water, thus water became sacred to a vigorous people living on upland plains and was regarded as the holy gift of Ahuramazda (god); and it was given divine personification in the goddess Ardvi Sura Anahita (Cf. Aban-Yast). Water had the power to purify whatever it touched (holy water), and could cleanse the believer from a multitude of deva-impurities: it was therefore used as the sacrament of baptism (wash away sin).
But even more sacred was living fire: for by its agency a higher culture became possible: food could be cooked, houses warmed, metals forged into tools and weapons. Fire was said to be the Son of Ahuramazda (Vendidad, VIII, p. 246), then this "son" of God became the supreme gift of the Creator to mankind! Before the sacred fire, the devas fled cowering. A woman about to give birth kept it always aflame in her chamber, as did the priests within their temples. And, since the gentle breeze was a welcome relief from the fierce summer heat of the upland plains, this came to be known as the Pure Wind, or the Holy Spirit of Ahuramazda.
Matt 3:11 11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: (KJV)
We see above again the Essene influence when John the Baptist, a devoted Essene himself, declared (Matt: 3:11) that he could baptize with water but that after him would come one who would baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, John the Immerser was uttering words which came directly from the heart of Zoroastrianism.
Answer for yourself: Is this just a coincidence?
Zoroaster regarded the nomadic tribes to the north as the especial enemies of Ahuramazda; everything from that direction was of Angra Mainyu, and to be ruthlessly destroyed. As a settled agricultural life only was sacred, it became the duty of those of the good religion to stamp out the roving and plundering nomad" creatures of sin and darkness. The cold north wind was a creation of the Evil One; in Zoroastrian mythology, the near-destruction of the human race had once occurred through the cold of Angra Mainyu, who killed all the crops with frost for seven years, and only a remnant had been saved by Yima, who had thus become, like the Babylonian Noah, a second progenitor of the race (Vendidad, II). To the upland Iranians, cold was a destroyer; to the people living in the valley of the Tigris-Euphrates, it was the flood.
The Zoroastrians conceived of the world as a vast battleground on which the forces of good wage a fierce and constant struggle against the powers of darkness. Whenever the beneficent creator brought forth a good thing, Angra Mainyu counter-created an evil one. When Ahuramazda created the good and pleasant land, Iran, "thereupon Angra Mainyu, who is all death, counter created by his witchcraft the serpent in the river, and winter'' (Ibid., I, 3). Ahuramazda created the plain, and the good land of Baktria in which to grow the golden grain; but Angra Mainyu created drought, frost, mice, locusts, ants, and other khafstras to destroy it; and among the human kind he sent sin, unbelief, grief, pride, unnatural intercourse, witchcraft, abnormal issues in women, etc.... Ahuramazda gave flocks and herds, but Angra Mainyu sent nomadic robbers to kill and plunder. Ahuramazda created the virtuous wife, Angra Mainyu the vile and wicked courtesan; to frustrate man's sexual virility and women's fecundity, Angra Mainyu created impotence and frigidity; to offset the good dog, he made the wolf; to harass the healthy, handsome man and the well-shaped, industrious woman, he devised 99,999 diseases. To counteract the work of the Mazdean priests, he filled the world with witches and sorcerers. To mislead and destroy humanity, he sowed abroad various false religions, which were later identified as Judaism, Christianity, Manichaeism, and Mohammedanism. To attack the pure worship of the invisible and spiritual Ahuramazda, he inspired men to become heretics and unbelievers and caused them to carve idol-statues and thereby to worship devas in their devil-temples.
Ahuramazda gave his people 10,000 plants, his sacred water, fire, and haoma-juice; he gave also his irresistible Word, the Ahuna-Vairya, the holy formula, by which to exorcise the foul fiend: "I confess myself the worshiper of Mazda, a follower of Zarathustra, one who hates the Daevas, and obeys the laws of Ahura" (Yasts, SBE, XXIII). This served exactly the same purpose as the Sign of the Cross among the Catholics.
The Zoroastrian world was literally alive with good and evil spirits. Whenever anything unpleasant happened to a Mazda-worshiper, this was the work of Aharman; and whenever anyone opposed the good religion, or accepted any other, this was conclusive proof that he was possessed by a deva. A thousand years later, the Roman popes were to proclaim a parallel doctrine.
Like the priests of Judaism, Brahmanism, and the Catholic Church, the Zoroastrian hieratics claimed the prerogative of universal legislation. The laws dictated by Ahuramazda to Zoroaster and written down by him in the Vendidad cover not only all religious duties, but all civil relationships and ethical values as well. Zoroastrianism was thus a quasi-form of priest-state.
Since every physical ill was considered the result of direct interference by Angra Mainyu or his princes of darkness, every case of human illness, including insanity, heresy, or any other aberration, indicated possession by a fiend. The problem was to separate the deva from the victim upon whom it had seized; and this could be accomplished only by superior spiritual power, by spells and exorcisms. This belief and practice are reflected in the New Testament and were absorbed by the Catholic Church, where vestiges of them still continue, even in the United States.
The hoary-tree and the Haoma-juice had been regarded as divine many centuries before Zoroaster reorganized and reformed the Mazdean faith. "Every one who eats of it," declared the prophet, "becomes immortal'' (Bundahis, XXVII, 4). The Haoma was an intoxicating drink, the predecessor of wine, which imparted a sense of exhilaration, mistaken by millions of primitive people for a divine afflatus. The Zoroastrians believed that it contained a supernatural essence which conferred immortality. At their sacrifices, they ate the sacred mortar, and drank the holy elixir, which were supposed to transform body and soul into eternal essences, suitable for the blessed life in the regions of celestial light.
In Zoroastrianism, there is no soter/savior; that is, there is no god-man who dies for mankind and whose body and blood must be consumed in a holy sacrament as we have seen before. Yet we find in it another Eucharist possessing a certain affinity to Osiris-Dionysus, yet entirely independent in origin. The same yearning for immortality in Egypt and in Persia produced in both a modus vivendi for achieving it: a ritual in which a divine food and drink were to confer eternal life. This was natural since primitive people in many lands believed that we become what we eat. We cannot study the Christian Gospel objectively without realizing that in it the religions of Iran and the Nile met and coalesced.
Herodotus declared that the Persians had no images or altars, considered the gods to be supernal spirits, and worshiped the moon, sun, earth, fire, water, and wind (Persian War, I, 131). We read that Ahuramazda is "all-ruling, all-knowing, and almighty . . . a spirit even among spirits; and from his self-existence, single in unity, was the creation of the faithful" (Sikand-Gumanik-Vigar, I, 1-3). At least insofar as the good world was concerned, the Zoroastrians were monotheists.
However, their theology was inseparable from their dualist cosmology, in which we have, on the one hand, the entirely Good Creator, who dwells in the Endless Light; and, on the other, the Evil Creator, Angra Mainyu, who rose from the primeval darkness. It is true that the sacred literature emphasizes the ultimate superiority of Ahuramazda: for he alone has omniscience, prescience, and mercy (Bundahis, I, 1 ff). Angra Mainyu did not even know that his opposite existed (Ibid., 9). Ahuramazda, however, is neither omnipotent nor omnipresent; nor is he the creator of the entire universe since the vast realm of Aharman is not the production of the Good Spirit. These two are primordial and uncreated powers which stand opposed throughout what is known in Zoroastrian chronology as Time. Thus we have a gigantic dualism which governs every phase of nature and affects every thought, word, and deed of every human being.
In the Zoroastrian system, time consists of twelve thousand years, divided into four tri-millenniums. In the first of these, all creation lay in quiescence; during the second and third, Ormazd and Ahriman reigned successively; but during the fourth, the two contend for mastery, and at its conclusion in the year 2401, A. D., the God of Light is at last to be victorious.
Ahuramazda had created a whole hierarchy of assistants: first among these, whom he had created from his own splendor (Dinai-i Mainog-i Khirad, VIII, 7). were the seven archangels, the Amesha-Spentas, and the Spirit of Wisdom, his active, creative agency in the universe: a concept startlingly similar to the logos of Zeno the Stoic, Philo Judaeus, and the Fourth Gospel. In the Gathas, the Holiest Spirit appears as the creator of the Ox, the Waters, and all creatures (Yasna, LI, 7). Ahuramazda is called "the holy Father of this Spirit" (Yasna, XLVII, 3).
We find, beyond these, a whole pantheon of other divinities, probably inherited from a much older Mazdeism or Magianism, all "made by Ahuramazda":
We find reflections of these supernatural beings in Jewish literature, beginning with Daniel (apocalyptic literature which was the foundation of the Essenes).
Zoroastrianism postulates a definite ditheism during twelve millenniums of time, while the two great spirits stand opposed to each other for it cannot be denied that Aharman was as unoriginate as Ahuramazda; he was, as it were, the evil and obverse twin of the God of Light (Cf. Gathas, Varna, XXX, 4-5). And it is quite possible that, according to the Zoroastrian system, with prescience, the wicked spirit might ultimately have seized the upper regions, annihilated the Celestial Light, and reduced the universe to chaotic and Stygian darkness. Nevertheless, at the renovation of the world, Aharman and all his irredeemable creatures are to be annihilated, his realm of darkness is to be recovered for the universe of light, and God is to reign alone in the cosmos. Then "all things shall be subdued into him . . . that God may be all in all'' (I Cor. 15:28).
This dualism has been impugned because it limits the omnipotence and omnipresence of the creator-god; but it furnishes a logical explanation for the existence of evil. A Zoroastrian author of the ninth century castigates his Christian and Mohammedan opponents because they postulate a single supreme being (In the Sikand-Gumanik-Vigar). He declares that they cannot escape the horns of an obvious dilemma: either their deity is impotent because He permits evil to exist; or else He is unjust and wicked because He punishes His own creatures for the wickedness which He Himself brings upon them. According to the Zoroastrian, it is idle to say that man has free will and is thus morally responsible; for God made him also susceptible to temptation and sent the devil (Ibid., XV, 142) to seduce and destroy him. Curiously enough, the Zoroastrian author quotes passages from the Gospels to prove that Jesus Himself embraced and taught the Zoroastrian doctrine of duality: for He told the Jews that they did the works of their father, the devil; and, since He declared that every tree not sown by the Father must be cast into the fire, there must be another sower or creator (Ibid., XV, 144-145). The fact is, of course, that Essenism, which was the principal source of the Gospel, drew heavily upon Persian ideology.
The truth is also that Christianity adopted the Persian Aharman, who has no counterpart in authentic Jewish or any other primitive theology, and called him the devil. But it failed to grant him an independent or eternal origin, or to endow him with natural powers sufficient to wreak the devastation attributed to him.
The Zoroastrians demanded:
The Jewish-Christian God, therefore, must be either wicked or impotent.
The Zoroastrians admitted candidly that the God of Light is neither omnipresent nor omnipotent and that evil exists because Ahuramazda can neither destroy the Evil One nor prevent his activity (Ibid., III, 14-16). The Good Principle cannot destroy Aharman until the appointed ages have run their course. Nor is it possible for Ahuramazda to transform the nature of Aharman or to change darkness into light (Ibid., 18). Actually, there can be no Supreme God until the renovation of the universe has occurred. Thus, evil is inextricably intermingled in the world and in the human soul, and can be extirpated only by degrees until the final consummation (Ibid., IV, 55-59).
Ahuramazda, the G- of light, took further steps to insure his own ultimate victory: first, he caused the archangels to fashion the spiritual body of Zoroaster, the pre-existing savior (which we shall see in the Essenic Book of Enoch) who then dwelt for six thousand years in the Supreme Heaven with the archangels; and, second, he built an impregnable rampart about the heavenly mansions, so that Aharman could never seize this ultimate bastion.
In the year 6000 of Time, the tri-millennium of Aharman began. At the head of millions of fiends, he rushed into the material world, mixed smoke with fire, corrupted the waters, sowed thorns in the earth, covered the trees with bark, destroyed the vegetation, killed the Primeval Ox and distressed Gayomard, and created billions of noxious creatures such as ants, lice, locusts, and destructive beasts. He also dug a great hole in the earth and established there the infernal regions of hell and purgatory. He debased all mankind by filling them with evil thoughts and wicked desires; he made them vicious and corrupt. He filled the world with misery; nature itself served his evil purpose, and generated storms, drouth, earthquakes, and devastating cold. The human race seemed destined only for suffering, extinction, and the everlasting fires of hell. At one time, Aharman sent continuous and murderous frost for seven years and almost succeeded in extirpating mankind. And had it not been that by means of the good Yima Ahuramazda saved a remnant in a well-stocked cave, all would have died about the Zoroastrian year 6300, which corresponds to 3300 B. C.
The complete dominion of Aharman ended with his tri-millennium; for Ahuramazda had not merely fortified his mansions, but had, as we have noted, prepared the instrument (the pre-existent Savior) by which the Enemy would ultimately be destroyed. Aharman could not know that a series of Christs would walk the earth, who would appear to be men among men but who would actually be supernatural incarnations. Over these "anointed ones" Aharman could not defeat; for they would win over the human race to the good religion and, as a consequence, reduce the fiend to impotence; and thus it would eventually be possible to crush and destroy the cosmic monster himself.
And so (in the Zoroastrian year 8970, which was 660 B.C.E. by our reckoning), Ahuramazda sent the great prophet, Zoroaster, into the world. The tenth Zoroastrian millennium and its final tri-millennium began with the ministry of the great prophet, when he was thirty years old, in 630 B.C.E.
One of the prophet's most celebrated visions is related in the first chapter of the Bahman Yast. Zoroaster was shown all that would happen during his millennium, that is, the period before the coming of the first Messiah, Hushedar, due A. D. 371. Zaratust saw a great tree with four branches, which symbolized the four ages of his millennium: that of gold, under King Vishtasp; those of silver, steel, and mixed iron under successively degenerating regimes. In another visioned the tree had seven branches, which symbolized "the seven periods which will come." Again, the golden age, like that of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel, was that of Vishtasp, when "Aharman and the demons rush back to darkness." Then follow the ages of silver, brass, copper, tin, steel, and iron, in which at last the world is again dominated by the fiends. The end of the tenth millennium was to be heralded by the coming of "myriads of demons with disheveled hair, the race of Wrath" (Bahman Yast, II, 24) who were later identified as the Christians. And by what token will men know that the end of the millennium is nigh and the appearance of Hushedar at hand? Ahuramazda declares that in the last days "all men will become deceivers" and affection will depart from the world; the father will hate the son, the son the father; brother will hate brother; "the son-in-law will become a beggar from his father-in-law, and the mother will be estranged from the daughter'' (Ibid., 30). All the sacred ceremonials will be treated with contempt; wrath and avarice will take over; and apostasy will be all but universal (Ibid., II, 37). In those terrible days the sun and the moon will show signs; there will be frightful storms (Ibid., III, 4); there will be wars and rumors of wars, and earthquakes, there will be great battles, and so many soldiers will be slain that a thousand women will seek to kiss one man (Ibid., III, 21-22). But Mitro will be victorious and will at last destroy the idol temples and restore the good religion of Ahuramazda (Ibid., III, 36). And then Hushedar (Messiah) will come (Ibid., III, 43-44).
It is evident that the apocalyptic tribulations of Daniel and those described in the New Testament (Matt: 10:5-23, 24:6-31; Mark 13) are appropriated from the literature of the Zoroastrians, who, curiously enough, were persuaded that the conflicts and defeats which beset them about 350 A.D. as a result of Christian aggressions and Manichaean apostasy were the very ones which would precede the coming of their first Messiah, Hushedar, due in 371 A.D..
At the close of each of the last three millenniums of Time (after 6000 years), a great savior was to appear, who would reconstitute the good religion; each of these was to be born through a virgin-birth from a maiden directly descended from Zoroaster himself, and therefore of the divine spiritual body first produced by the archangels in the year 3000 of Time.
Thus, in the Zoroastrian year 9970, the virgin Shemig-abu, who, although of the ripe age of fifteen, has never known a man, "walks up to the holy water" (Ibid., VII, ix, 18-20) and becomes pregnant with Hushedar, the first reincarnation of the Zoroastrian Messiah. At the age of thirty, in the year 10,001 of Timewhich falls in A.D. 371 the sun was to stand still for ten days and Hushedar was to ascend into the eternal light and confer with the archangels. He was then to return to the earth, re-establish the good religion, and one third of the human race was to be converted (Dinkard, VII, viii, 55-60).
As in the previous formula, in the year 10,971, which was A.D. 1341, the fifteen-year-old maiden Shapirabu, who "has not before associated with men; nor yet afterwards, when she becomes pregnant . . . walks up to the water" and, through contact with this holy element, conceives Aushedar-Mah, upon whose arrival at the age of thirty, the sun was to stand still for twenty days; he too was to have conferences with the archangels, return to the earth, and so thoroughly establish the good religion that two thirds of the human race would become Mazda-worshipers.
Finally, in the year 11,001 of Time, which fell in A.D. 1371, the twelfth and final millennium was to begin. During this period, such great advances were to be made in medical science that no one would die of sickness or disease; and all wars would cease. During the progress of the millennium, all men and women were to become Mazda-worshipers. In the year 11,941 A.D. the great Soshans (Saoshyant) would be born of the virgin Gobak-abu; she too would conceive by contact with the holy water and give birth to the great benefactor of mankind. At the age of thirty, he too is to have conferences with the archangels, and the sun is to stand still for thirty days. After his birth, there are to be "seventeen years of vegetable-eating, thirty years of waterdiet, and ten years of spiritual food" (Dinkard, VII, xi, 4). Thus the earthly life of Soshans was to comprise fifty-seven years, and the end of Time was to occur in the Zoroastrian year 12,000 which would be 2,400 A. D. During this period, iniquity is gradually to decrease on earth, disease and decrepitude are to disappear, death and persecution will not occur, and multitudes are to be united in the religion of Ahuramazda (Ibid., 4, 6).
Nevertheless, Aharman will be able to mobilize a vast army which will march upon Iran, the holy nation, where the great and final Armageddon will be fought. The slaughter is to be so great that the rivers of blood will reach the girths of the horses. Soshans smites the hordes of unbelievers and demons, and ushers in the kingdom of righteousness (Bahman Yast, III, 18-21). The great fiend AziDahak, long since defeated by Fredun, and now in the infernal pit (Dinkard, IX, xxi, 10-11), is released, as in Revelation 20:7, and rules for a year and a half with fearful devastation; he slays one third of mankind, and destroys one third of all cattle, sheep, and other creatures (Bahman Yast, III, 56), he smites the water, fire, and vegetation (Ibid., III, 57-58).
After this, comes the resurrection, the final judgment, and the renovation of the world, in which complete triumph is to be achieved by Soshans and Ahuramazda for the benefit of the faithful. That much older Zoroastrian prophecy is simply recreated in our Revelation, in which the Soshans becomes the Judaic Christ, should be sufficiently obvious.
We cannot be certain whether the Zoroastrians or the Brahmanas first developed the intense and highly personalized concepts of hell which permeated the Eurasian world centuries before the advent of Christianity; but we know that it was the Zoroastrians who conceived of an intermediate stage, Hamestagna, which became the Manichaean and Catholic purgatory.
According to Zoroastrian doctrine, when a man or woman dies, the disembodied soul remains near the corpse for three days, after which the good soul is approached by a beautiful maiden, who personifies its good conscience; the evil soul, on the contrary, by a fearfully ugly old woman, who symbolizes the evil perpetrated during life (Yast, XXII). Each soul is conducted to the Kinvad Bridge, which separates this life from the next, where it is judged by Mithra, Sraosha, and Rashnu, according to its works of charity, even as in Matthew 25:31-46. If the good thoughts, words, and deeds, outweigh the evil, by so much as "one filament of the hair of the eyelashes" (Sad Dar, II, 3), the Kinvad Bridge becomes a broad highway, and the soul enters the position in heaven which it has earned: the greatest saints proceed to the realm of Endless Light, where they will sit on thrones.
If, however, its evil outweighs the good, the Kinvad Bridge becomes like a razor blade, and the hapless soul falls headlong into hell, which "is sunken, deep, and descending, most dark, most stinking, and most terrible . . . the place of demons and fiends. . .; in it are all stench, filth, pain, punishment, distress, profound evil, and torture" (Dadistan-i Dinik, XXVII, 2), which must continue until the Last Judgment.
But there is a third place, called Hamestagna, which is reserved for those in whom good and wicked works balance and who must remain in a place of considerable discomfort but without intense torture. Hell and Hamestagna (purgatory) are within the circumference of the earth, as in Dante.
Upon physical death (which is seen as the temporary triumph of evil), the soul will be judged at the Bridge of the Separator as stated above, where the soul, it is believed, will receive its reward or punishment, depending upon the life which it has led in this world, based upon the balance of its thoughts, words and deeds. If found righteous, the soul will ascend to the abode of joy and light, while if wicked, it will descend into the depths of darkness and gloom. The latter state, however, is a temporary one, as there is no eternal damnation in Zoroastrianism. There is a promise, then, of a series of saviours the Saoshyants, who will appear in the world and complete the triumph of good over evil. Evil will be rendered ineffective and Ahuramazda, the Infinite One, will finally become truly Omnipotent in Endless Light. There will then take place, a general Last Judgement of all the souls awaiting redemption, followed by the Resurrection of the physical body, which will once again meet its spiritual counterpart, the soul. Time, as we know it, will cease to exist and the seven creations of Ahuramazda will be gathered together in eternal blessedness in the Kingdom of Mazda, where everything, it is believed, will remain in a perfect state of joy and undyingness.
The Bundahis (XXX) contains detailed exposition of Zoroastrian eschatology. We are told that during the fifty-seven years of the Soshans, all the dead are to be resurrected, righteous and wicked alike; each is roused on the spot where he died; earth and sea surrender their dead, who assume their former bodies. All are gathered before the great judgment seat of the Soshans in the assembly known as Sadvastaran: the wicked, as conspicuous as black sheep among white, are separated from the righteous, and cast into the depths of hell, where frightful punishment is inflicted upon them. As they depart to undergo this torture, they weep so that the tears run down to their legs (Bundahis, XXX, 14), and they upbraid their righteous brethren and friends who did not teach them the good religion during the earthly life.
Then comes the great fire in which the world burns in fantastic holocaust. The earth becomes as it were a river of molten metal, like the Platonic Periphlegethon, and all men, righteous or wicked, must walk through this liquid fire. To the righteous it will be like a pleasant bath of warm milk, but to the wicked it will be indescribable torture. But "by that pre-eminent ablution, they are thoroughly purified from guilt and infamy . . . and become saintly'' (Ibid., XXX, 26).
"All men become of one voice and minister loud praise to Ahuramazda and the archangels" (Ibid., XXX, 23).
The Soshans will prepare a hush, or Eucharist, made from the fat of the ox and from white hoary; this will 'be administered to all men, and make them immortal. In addition, each adult will assume a body of forty years, and all children one of fifteen. Each man will receive again his own wife and children, but there will, as in Mark 12:25, be no more begetting in the heavenly kingdom, in which all mankind become celestial spirits (Ibid., XXX, 26). Thus we see that Zoroastrianism was the world's first universalist faith, for in the end all men were to be redeemed.
But the end is not yet: even when all men are safely in the supernal regions and human labor is necessary no more, Aharman and his first lieutenant, Azi-Dahak, though defeated, are still present in the sublunary world. Auharmazd and Saoshyant now attack them, and the seven archangels assail the seven archfiends (Ibid., XXX, 29); all these creatures of darkness take refuge in the pit of hell (Ibid., XXX, 30), where they and Aharman, the great serpent, are burned "in the melted metal, and the stench and pollution which were in hell are burned and hell becomes quite pure." Aharman and all his minions are annihilated at last and their like can never exist again.
Auharmazd now "brings the land of hell back for the enlargement of the world; the renovation of the universe arises at his will, and the world is immortal for ever and everlasting" (Ibid., XXX, 32). The earth at last becomes an iceless, slopeless plain; even the mountain whose summit is the support of the Kinvad Bridge, "they keep down, and it will not exist" (Ibid., XXX, 33). Out of the final holocaust, arises a new earth, a renovated universe; in this, all evil is at last destroyed, and all men become blessed saints.
Such was the religion of the Zoroastrians. Their magnificent prophecies, their grandiose hopes, have suffered the same fate as every other religious expectation which has ever been proclaimed. Their Hushedar (Messiah) is now 1600 years overdue and AushedarMah is tardy by 600 years. We find here the progenitors of all apocalyptic prophecy. It is true that later writers twisted dates and facts in an effort to make Ardashir into Hushedar; but all such attempts remained feeble and unconvincing. And certainly there has been no vestigial Aushedar-Mah.
From its very beginning, Zoroastrianism envisioned a nation and finally a world united in the worship of the Lord Mazda; to the inspired prophet it was inconceivable that any other cult should dare to advance its pretensions against the God of Light. Zoroastrianism did not seek simply redemption for single, sinful individuals, but the total transformation of the world and of the human race. All who opposed it were agents of Aharman, minions of the foul fiend, children of darkness, as in I Thess. 5:5. With such an orientation, the creed could not avoid extreme intolerance. Zaratust declares that he hates all who do not embrace his religion (Gathas, Varna, XLIV, 11); that to those who do not practice it "shall be woe at the end of life"(Yarna, XLV, 3); and that there can be no well-being in any land where heretics exist, who must be "smitten to death on the spot" (Vendidad, IX, 56). Apostates, made by Aharman, must perish when the good religion is victorious (Dinkard, IX, liii, 2); all who adopt a foreign faith "are worthy of death" (Dadistan-i Dinik, XLI, 3).Ahuramazda commands the prophet to curse all who do not accept the good religion (Dinkard, IX, xxxvii). And again: "There is no other creed through which it is possible for one to obtain the treasure of the worldly and spiritual existences" (Dina-i Mainog-i Khirad, XIII, 17), which is thus paraphrased in Acts 4:12: "There is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved."
In its original form, Zoroastrianism was never to be a universal religion and could never be acceptable to anyone except an Iranian; for it was proud and without a guilt-complex, intensely nationalistic, an instrument of Persian policy, and could, therefore, never voice the needs of other races or nationalities. Further more, expressing, as it did, the interests of the dominant classes, it could never appeal to the poor, the defeated, the miserable, the exploited, the downtrodden, the frustrated, the propertiless, as did Buddhism and Christianity, which directed their appeal to the great majority, who, having nothing and never expecting to be anybody in this world, were interested primarily in escaping the bonds of economic servitude.
The permanent contribution of Zoroastrianism to European life and culture has come to us through its enormous influence upon the New Testament via the Essenes. Among the basic elements which the Synoptics obtained from Zoroastrianism we may mention the following:
In addition, Paul, Revelation, and the Fourth Gospel drew heavily upon Zoroastrianism for elements which are absent from the Synoptics:
In Revelation, as in Zoroastrianism, seven is a holy and mystical number. Furthermore, we may note that until the middle of the third century, the Catholic Church shared with the Zoroastrians their horror for all idols, images, and altars. In the fifth century, the Church began accepting the doctrine of purgatory and early in the seventh this became established dogma.
And there were at least three other elements which Catholic Christianity drew from or shared with Zoroastrianism:
The Church took this infernal character to its heart and made of him the cornerstone of its speculative system.