Ten Great Religions - An Essay in Comparative Theology
by James Freeman Clarke
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All this points at the great Iranic religion, the religion of Persia and its monarchs for many centuries, the religion of which Zoroaster was the great prophet, and the Avesta the sacred book. The king, as servant of Ormazd, is worshipping the fire and the sun,—symbols of the god; he resists the impure griffin, the creature of Ahriman; and the half-length figure over his head is the surest evidence of the religion of Zoroaster. For, according to the Avesta, every created being has its archetype or Fereuer (Ferver, Fravashis), which is its ideal essence, first created by the thought of Ormazd. Even Ormazd himself has his Fravashis,[109] and these angelic essences are everywhere objects of worship to the disciple of Zoroaster. We have thus found in Persepolis, not only the palace of the great kings of Persia, but the home of that most ancient system of Dualism, the system of Zoroaster.

Sec. 2. Greek Accounts of Zoroaster. Plutarch's Description of his Religion.

But who was Zoroaster, and what do we know of him? He is mentioned by Plato, about four hundred years before Christ. In speaking of the education of a Persian prince he says that "one teacher instructs him in the magic of Zoroaster, the son (or priest) of Ormazd (or Oromazes), in which is comprehended all the worship of the gods." He is also spoken of by Diodorus, Plutarch, the elder Pliny, and many writers of the first centuries after Christ. The worship of the Magians is described by Herodotus before Plato. Herodotus gives very minute accounts of the ritual, priests, sacrifices, purifications, and mode of burial used by the Persian Magi in his time, four hundred and fifty years before Christ; and his account closely corresponds with the practices of the Parsis, or fire-worshippers, still remaining in one or two places in Persia and India at the present day. "The Persians," he says, "have no altars, no temples nor images; they worship on the tops of the mountains. They adore the heavens, and sacrifice to the sun, moon, earth, fire, water, and winds."[110] "They do not erect altars, nor use libations, fillets, or cakes. One of the Magi sings an ode concerning the origin of the gods, over the sacrifice, which is laid on a bed of tender grass." "They pay great reverence to all rivers, and must do nothing to defile them; in burying they never put the body in the ground till it has been torn by some bird or dog; they cover the body with wax, and then put it in the ground." "The Magi think they do a meritorious act when they kill ants, snakes, reptiles."[111]

Plutarch's account of Zoroaster[112] and his precepts, is very remarkable. It is as follows:—

"Some believe that there are two Gods,—as it were, two rival workmen; the one whereof they make to be the maker of good things, and the other bad. And some call the better of these God, and the other Daemon; as doth Zoroastres, the Magee, whom they report to be five thousand years elder than the Trojan times. This Zoroastres therefore called the one of these Oromazes, and the other Arimanius; and affirmed, moreover, that the one of them did, of anything sensible, the most resemble light, and the other darkness and ignorance; but that Mithras was in the middle betwixt them. For which cause, the Persians called Mithras the mediator. And they tell us that he first taught mankind to make vows and offerings of thanksgiving to the one, and to offer averting and feral sacrifice to the other. For they beat a certain plant called homomy[113] in a mortar, and call upon Pluto and the dark; and then mix it with the blood of a sacrificed wolf, and convey it to a certain place where the sun never shines, and there cast it away. For of plants they believe, that some pertain to the good God, and others again to the evil Daemon; and likewise they think that such animals as dogs, fowls, and urchins belong to the good; but water animals to the bad, for which reason they account him happy that kills most of them. These men, moreover, tell us a great many romantic things about these gods, whereof these are some: They say that Oromazes, springing from purest light, and Arimanius, on the other hand, from pitchy darkness, these two are therefore at war with one another. And that Oromazes made six gods[114], whereof the first was the author of benevolence, the second of truth, the third of justice, and the rest, one of wisdom, one of wealth, and a third of that pleasure which accrues from good actions; and that Arimanius likewise made the like number of contrary operations to confront them. After this, Oromazes, having first trebled his own magnitude, mounted up aloft, so far above the sun as the sun itself above the earth, and so bespangled the heavens with stars. But one star (called Sirius or the Dog) he set as a kind of sentinel or scout before all the rest. And after he had made four-and-twenty gods more, he placed them all in an egg-shell. But those that were made by Arimanius (being themselves also of the like number) breaking a hole in this beauteous and glazed egg-shell, bad things came by this means to be intermixed with good. But the fatal time is now approaching, in which Arimanius, who by means of this brings plagues and famines upon the earth, must of necessity be himself utterly extinguished and destroyed; at which time, the earth, being made plain and level, there will be one life, and one society of mankind, made all happy, and one speech. But Theopompus saith, that, according to the opinion of the Magees, each of these gods subdues, and is subdued by turns, for the space of three thousand years apiece, and that for three thousand years more they quarrel and fight and destroy each other's works; but that at last Pluto shall fail, and mankind shall be happy, and neither need food, nor yield a shadow.[115] And that the god who projects these things doth, for some time, take his repose and rest; but yet this time is not so much to him although it seems so to man, whose sleep is but short. Such, then, is the mythology of the Magees."

We shall see presently how nearly this account corresponds with the religion of the Parsis, as it was developed out of the primitive doctrine of Zoroaster.[116]

Besides what was known through the Greeks, and some accounts contained in Arabian and Persian writers, there was, until the middle of the last century, no certain information concerning Zoroaster and his teachings. But the enterprise, energy, and scientific devotion of a young Frenchman changed the whole aspect of the subject, and we are now enabled to speak with some degree of certainty concerning this great teacher and his doctrines.

Sec. 3. Anquetil du Perron and his Discovery of the Zend Avesta.

Anquetil du Perron, born at Paris in 1731, devoted himself early to the study of Oriental literature. He mastered the Hebrew, Arabic, and Persian languages, and by his ardor in these studies attracted the attention of Oriental scholars. Meeting one day in the Royal Library with a fragment of the Zend Avesta, he was seized with the desire of visiting India, to recover the lost books of Zoroaster, "and to learn the Zend language in which they were written, and also the Sanskrit, so as to be able to read the manuscripts in the Bibliotheque du Roi, which no one in Paris understood."[117] His friends endeavored to procure him a situation in an expedition just about to sail; but their efforts not succeeding, Du Perron enlisted as a private soldier, telling no one of his intention till the day before setting out, lest he should be prevented from going. He then sent for his brother and took leave of him with many tears, resisting all the efforts made to dissuade him from his purpose. His baggage consisted of a little linen, a Hebrew Bible, a case of mathematical instruments, and the works of Montaigne and Charron. A ten days' march, with other recruits, through wet and cold, brought him to the port from whence the expedition was to sail. Here he found that the government, struck with his extraordinary zeal for science, had directed that he should have his discharge and a small salary of five hundred livres. The East India Company (French) gave him a passage gratis, and he set sail for India, February 7, 1755, being then twenty-four years old. The first two years in India were almost lost to him for purposes of science, on account of his sicknesses, travels, and the state of the country disturbed by war between England and France[118]. He travelled afoot and on horseback over a great part of Hindostan, saw the worship of Juggernaut and the monumental caves of Ellora, and, in 1759, arrived at Surat, where was the Parsi community from which he hoped for help in obtaining the object of his pursuit. By perseverance and patience he succeeded in persuading the Destours, or priests, of these fire-worshippers, to teach him the Zend language and to furnish him with manuscripts of the Avesta. With one hundred and eighty valuable manuscripts he returned to Europe, and published, in 1771, his great work,—the Avesta translated into French, with notes and dissertations. He lived through the French Revolution, shut up with his books, and immersed in his Oriental studies, and died, after a life of continued labor, in 1805. Immense erudition and indomitable industry were joined in Anquetil du Perron to a pure love of truth and an excellent heart.

For many years after the publication of the Avesta its genuineness and authenticity were a matter of dispute among the learned men of Europe; Sir William Jones especially denying it to be an ancient work, or the production of Zoroaster. But almost all modern writers of eminence now admit both. Already in 1826 Heeren said that these books had "stood the fiery ordeal of criticism." "Few remains of antiquity," he remarks, "have undergone such attentive examination as the books of the Zend Avesta. This criticism has turned out to their advantage; the genuineness of the principal compositions, especially of the Vendidad and Izeschne (Yacna), has been demonstrated; and we may consider as completely ascertained all that regards the rank of each book of the Zend Avesta."

Rhode (one of the first of scholars of his day in this department) says: "There is not the least doubt that these are the books ascribed in the most ancient times to Zoroaster." Of the Vendidad he says: "It has both the inward and outward marks of the highest antiquity, so that we fear not to say that only prejudice or ignorance could doubt it[119]."

Sec. 4. Epoch of Zoroaster. What do we know of him?

As to the age of these books, however, and the period at which Zoroaster lived, there is the greatest difference of opinion. He is mentioned by Plato (Alcibiades, I. 37), who speaks of "the magic (or religious doctrines) of Zoroaster the Ormazdian" (magedan Zoroastran ton Oromazon[120]). As Plato speaks of his religion as something established in the form of Magism, or the system of the Medes, in West Iran, while the Avesta appears to have originated in Bactria, or East Iran[121], this already carries the age of Zoroaster back to at least the sixth or seventh century before Christ. When the Avesta was written, Bactria was an independent monarchy. Zoroaster is represented as teaching under King Vistacpa. But the Assyrians conquered Bactria B.C. 1200, which was the last of the Iranic kingdoms, they having previously vanquished the Medes, Hyrcanians, Parthians, Persians, etc. As Zoroaster must have lived before this conquest, his period is taken back to a still more remote time, about B.C. 1300 or B.C. 1250[122] It is difficult to be more precise than this. Bunsen indeed[123] suggests that "the date of Zoroaster, as fixed by Aristotle, cannot be said to be so very irrational. He and Eudoxus, according to Pliny, place him six thousand years before the death of Plato; Hermippus, five thousand years before the Trojan war," or about B.C. 6300 or B.C. 6350. But Bunsen adds: "At the present stage of the inquiry the question whether this date is set too high cannot be answered either in the negative or affirmative." Spiegel, in one of his latest works,[124] considers Zoroaster as a neighbor and contemporary of Abraham, therefore as living B.C. 2000 instead of B.C. 6350. Professor Whitney of New Haven places the epoch of Zoroaster at "least B.C. 1000," and adds that all attempts to reconstruct Persian chronology or history prior to the reign of the first Sassanid have been relinquished as futile.[125] Doellinger[126] thinks he may have been "somewhat later than Moses, perhaps about B.C. 1300," but says, "it is impossible to fix precisely" when he lived. Rawlinson[127] merely remarks that Berosus places him anterior to B.C. 2234. Haug is inclined to date the Gathas, the oldest songs of the Avesta, as early as the time of Moses.[128] Rapp,[129] after a thorough comparison of ancient writers, concludes that Zoroaster lived B.C. 1200 or 1300. In this he agrees with Duncker, who, as we have seen, decided upon the same date. It is not far from the period given by the oldest Greek writer who speaks of Zoroaster, Xanthus of Sardis, a contemporary of Darius. It is the period given by Cephalion, a writer of the second century, who takes it from three independent sources. We have no sources now open to us which enable us to come nearer than this to the time in which he lived.

Nor is anything known with certainty of the place where he lived or the events of his life. Most modern writers suppose that he resided in Bactria. Haug maintains that the language of the Zend books is Bactrian[130]. A highly mythological and fabulous life of Zoroaster, translated by Anquetil du Perron, called the Zartusht-Namah[131], describes him as going to Iran in his thirtieth year, spending twenty years in the desert, working miracles during ten years, and giving lessons of philosophy in Babylon, with Pythagoras as his pupil. All this is based on the theory (now proved to be false) of his living in the time of Darius. "The language of the Avesta," says Max Muller, "is so much more primitive than the inscriptions of Darius, that many centuries must have passed between the two periods represented by these two strata of language[132]." These inscriptions are in the Achaemenian dialect, which is the Zend in a later stage of linguistic growth.

Sec. 5. Spirit of Zoroaster and of his Religion

It is not likely that Zoroaster ever saw Pythagoras or even Abraham. But though absolutely nothing is known of the events of his life, there is not the least doubt of his existence nor of his character. He has left the impress of his commanding genius on great regions, various races, and long periods of time. His religion, like that of the Buddha, is essentially a moral religion. Each of them was a revolt from the Pantheism of India, in the interest of morality, human freedom, and the progress of the race. They differ in this, that each takes hold of one side of morality, and lets go the opposite. Zoroaster bases his law on the eternal distinction between right and wrong; Sakya-muni, on the natural laws and their consequences, either good or evil. Zoroaster's law is, therefore, the law of justice; Sakya-muni's, the law of mercy. The one makes the supreme good to consist in truth, duty, right; the other, in love, benevolence, and kindness. Zoroaster teaches providence: the monk of India teaches prudence. Zoroaster aims at holiness, the Buddha at merit. Zoroaster teaches and emphasizes creation: the Buddha knows nothing of creation, but only nature or law. All these oppositions run back to a single root. Both are moral reformers; but the one moralizes according to the method of Bishop Butler, the other after that of Archdeacon Paley. Zoroaster cognizes all morality as having its root within, in the eternal distinction between right and wrong motive, therefore in God; but Sakya-muni finds it outside of the soul, in the results of good and evil action, therefore in the nature of things. The method of salvation, therefore, according to Zoroaster, is that of an eternal battle for good against evil; but according to the Buddha, it is that of self-culture and virtuous activity.

Both of these systems, as being essentially moral systems in the interest of humanity, proceed from persons. For it is a curious fact, that, while the essentially spiritualistic religions are ignorant of their founders, all the moral creeds of the world proceed from a moral source, i.e. a human will. Brahmanism, Gnosticism, the Sufism of Persia, the Mysteries of Egypt and Greece, Neo-Platonism, the Christian Mysticism of the Middle Ages,—these have, strictly speaking, no founder. Every tendency to the abstract, to the infinite, ignores personality.[133] Individual mystics we know, but never the founder of any such system. The religions in which the moral element is depressed, as those of Babylon, Assyria, Egypt, Greece, Rome, are also without personal founders. But moral religions are the religions of persons, and so we have the systems of Confucius, Buddha, Zoroaster, Moses, Mohammed.[134] The Protestant Reformation was a protest of the moral nature against a religion which had become divorced from morality. Accordingly we have Luther as the founder of Protestantism; but mediaeval Christianity grew up with no personal leader.

The whole religion of the Avesta revolves around the person of Zoroaster, or Zarathustra. In the oldest part of the sacred books, the Gathas of the Yacna, he is called the pure Zarathustra, good in thought, speech, and work. It is said that Zarathustra alone knows the precepts of Ahura-Mazda (Ormazd), and that he shall be made skilful in speech. In one of the Gathas he expresses the desire of bringing knowledge to the pure, in the power of Ormazd, so as to be to them strong joy (Spiegel, Gatha Ustvaiti, XLII. 8), or, as Haug translates the same passage (Die Gathas des Zarathustra, II. 8): "I will swear hostility to the liars, but be a strong help to the truthful." He prays for truth, declares himself the most faithful servant in the world of Ormazd the Wise One, and therefore begs to know the best thing to do. As the Jewish prophets tried to escape their mission, and called it a burden, and went to it "in the heat and bitterness of their spirit," so Zoroaster says (according to Spiegel): "When it came to me through your prayer, I thought that the spreading abroad of your law through men was something difficult."

Zoroaster was one of those who was oppressed with the sight of evil. But it was not outward evil which most tormented him, but spiritual evil,—evil having its origin in a depraved heart and a will turned away from goodness. His meditations led him to the conviction that all the woe of the world had its root in sin, and that the origin of sin was to be found in the demonic world. He might have used the language of the Apostle Paul and said, "We wrestle not with flesh and blood,"—that is, our struggle is not with man, but with principles of evil, rulers of darkness, spirits of wickedness in the supernatural world. Deeply convinced that a great struggle was going on between the powers of light and darkness, he called on all good men to take part in the war, and battle for the good God against the dark and foul tempter.

Great physical calamities added to the intensity of this conviction. It appears that about the period of Zoroaster, some geological convulsions had changed the climate of Northern Asia, and very suddenly produced severe cold where before there had been an almost tropical temperature. The first Fargard of the Vendidad has been lately translated by both Spiegel and Haug, and begins by speaking of a good country, Aryana-Vaejo, which was created a region of delight by Ahura-Mazda (Ormazd). Then it adds that the "evil being, Angra-Mainyus (Ahriman), full of death, created a mighty serpent, and winter, the work of the Devas. Ten months of winter are there, two months of summer." Then follows, in the original document, this statement: "Seven months of summer are (were?) there; five months of winter were there. The latter are cold as to water, cold as to earth, cold as to trees. There is the heart of winter; there all around falls deep snow. There is the worst of evils." This passage has been set aside as an interpolation by both Spiegel and Haug. But they give no reason for supposing it such, except the difficulty of reconciling it with the preceding passage. This difficulty, however, disappears, if we suppose it intended to describe a great climatic change, by which the original home of the Aryans, Aryana-Vaejo, became suddenly very much colder than before. Such a change, if it took place, was probably the cause of the emigration which transferred this people from Aryana-Vaejo (Old Iran) to New Iran, or Persia. Such a history of emigration Bunsen and Haug suppose to be contained in this first Fargard (or chapter) of the Vendidad. If so, it takes us back further than the oldest part of the Veda, and gives the progress of the Aryan stream to the south from its original source on the great plains of Central Asia, till it divided into two branches, one flowing into Persia, the other into India. The first verse of this venerable document introduces Ormazd as saying that he had created new regions, desirable as homes; for had he not done so, all human beings would have crowded into this Aryana-Vaejo. Thus in the very first verse of the Vendidad appears the affectionate recollection of these emigrant races for their fatherland in Central Asia, and the Zoroasterian faith in a creative and protective Providence. The awful convulsion which turned their summer climate into the present Siberian winter of ten months' duration was part of a divine plan. Old Iran would have been too attractive, and all mankind would have crowded into that Eden. So the evil Ahriman was permitted to glide into it, a new serpent of destruction, and its seven months of summer and five of winter were changed to ten of winter and two of summer.[135]

This Aryana-Vaejo, Old Iran, the primeval seat of the great Indo-European race, is supposed by Haug and Bunsen to be situated on the high plains northeast of Samarcand, between the thirty-seventh and fortieth degrees of north latitude, and the eighty-sixth and ninetieth of east longitude. This region has exactly the climate described,—ten months of winter and two of summer. The same is true of Western Thibet and most of Central Siberia. Malte-Brun says: "The winter is nine or ten months long through almost the whole of Siberia." June and July are the only months wholly free from snow. On the parallel of 60 deg., the earth on the 28th of June was found frozen, at a depth of three feet.

But is there reason to think that the climate was ever different? Geologists assure us that "great oscillations of climate have occurred in times immediately antecedent to the peopling of the earth by man."[136] But in Central and Northern Asia there is evidence of such fluctuations of temperature in a much more recent period. In 1803, on the banks of the Lena, in latitude 70 deg., the entire body of a mammoth fell from a mass of ice in which it had been entombed perhaps for thousands of years, but with the flesh so perfectly preserved that it was immediately devoured by wolves. Since then these frozen elephants have been found in great numbers, in so perfect a condition that the bulb of an eye of one of them is in the Museum at Moscow.[137] They have been found as far north as 75 deg.. Hence Lyell thinks it "reasonable to believe that a large region in Central Asia, including perhaps the southern half of Siberia, enjoyed at no very remote period in the earth's history a temperate climate, sufficiently mild to afford food for numerous herds of elephants and rhinoceroses."

Amid these terrible convulsions of the air and ground, these antagonisms of outward good and evil, Zoroaster developed his belief in the dualism of all things. To his mind, as to that of the Hebrew poet, God had placed all things against each other, two and two. No Pantheistic optimism, like that of India, could satisfy his thought. He could not say, "Whatever is, is right"; some things seemed fatally wrong. The world was a scene of war, not of peace and rest. Life to the good man was not sleep, but battle. If there was a good God over all, as he devoutly believed, there was also a spirit of evil, of awful power, to whom we were not to yield, but with whom we should do battle. In the far distance he saw the triumph of good; but that triumph could only come by fighting the good fight now. But his weapons were not carnal. "Pure thoughts" going out into "true words" and resulting in "right actions"; this was the whole duty of man.

Sec. 6. Character of the Zend Avesta.

A few passages, taken from different parts of the Zend Avesta, will best illustrate these tendencies, and show how unlike it is, in its whole spirit, to its sister, the Vedic liturgy. Twin children of the old Aryan stock, they must have struggled together like Esau and Jacob, before they were born. In such cases we see how superficial is the philosophy which, beginning with synthesis instead of analysis, declares the unity of all religions before it has seen their differences. There is indeed, what Cudworth has called "the symphony of all religions," but it cannot be demonstrated by the easy process of gathering a few similar texts from Confucius, the Vedas, and the Gospels, and then announcing that they all teach the same thing. We must first find the specific idea of each, and we may then be able to show how each of these may take its place in the harmonious working of universal religion.

If, in taking up the Zend Avesta, we expect to find a system of theology or philosophy, we shall be disappointed. It is a liturgy,—a collection of hymns, prayers, invocations, thanksgivings. It contains prayers to a multitude of deities, among whom Ormazd is always counted supreme, and the rest only his servants.

"I worship and adore," says Zarathustra (Zoroaster), "the Creator of all things, Ahura-Mazda (Ormazd), full of light! I worship the Amesha-cpentas (Amshaspands, the seven archangels, or protecting spirits)! I worship the body of the primal Bull, the soul of the Bull! I invoke thee, O Fire, thou son of Ormazd, most rapid of the Immortals! I invoke Mithra, the lofty, the immortal, the pure, the sun, the ruler, the quick Horse, the eye of Ormazd! I invoke the holy Sraosha, gifted with holiness, and Racncu (spirit of justice), and Arstat (spirit of truth)! I invoke the Fravashi of good men, the Fravashi of Ormazd, the Fravashi of my own soul! I praise the good men and women of the whole world of purity! I praise the Haoma, health-bringing, golden, with moist stalks. I praise Sraosha, whom four horses carry, spotless, bright-shining, swifter than the storms, who, without sleeping, protects the world in the darkness."

The following passages are from the oldest part of the Avesta, the Gathas:—

"Good is the thought, good the speech, good the work of the pure Zarathustra."

"I desire by my prayer with uplifted hands this joy,—the pure works of the Holy Spirit, Mazda,.... a disposition to perform good actions,.... and pure gifts for both worlds, the bodily and spiritual."

"I have intrusted my soul to Heaven.....and I will teach what is pure so long as I can."

"I keep forever purity and good-mindedness. Teach thou me, Ahura-Mazda, out of thyself; from heaven, by thy mouth, whereby the world first arose."

"Thee have I thought, O Mazda, as the first, to praise with the soul,.... active Creator,.... Lord of the worlds,.... Lord of good things,.... the first fashioner,.... who made the pure creation,.... who upholds the best soul with his understanding."

"I praise Ahura-Mazda, who has created the cattle, created the water and good trees, the splendor of light, the earth and all good. We praise the Fravashis of the pure men and women,—whatever is fairest, purest, immortal."

"We honor the good spirit, the good kingdom, the good law,—all that is good."

"Here we praise the soul and body of the Bull, then our own souls, the souls of the cattle which desire to maintain us in life,.... the good men and women,.... the abode of the water,.... the meeting and parting of the ways,.... the mountains which make the waters flow,.... the strong wind created by Ahura-Mazda,.... the Haoma, giver of increase, far from death."

"Now give ear to me, and hear! the Wise Ones have created all. Evil doctrine shall not again destroy the world."

"In the beginning, the two heavenly Ones spoke—the Good to the Evil—thus; 'Our souls, doctrines, words, works, do not unite together.'"

"How shall I satisfy thee, O Mazda, I, who have little wealth, few men? How may I exalt thee according to my wish!.... I will be contented with your desires; this is the decision of my understanding and of my soul."

The following is from the Khordah Avesta:—

"In the name of God, the giver, forgiver, rich in love, praise be to the name of Ormazd, the God with the name, 'Who always was, always is, and always will be'; the heavenly amongst the heavenly, with the name 'From whom alone is derived rule.' Ormazd is the greatest ruler, mighty, wise, creator, supporter, refuge, defender, completer of good works, overseer, pure, good, and just.

"With all strength (bring I) thanks; to the great among beings, who created and destroyed, and through his own determination of time, strength, wisdom, is higher than the six Amshaspands, the circumference of heaven, the shining sun, the brilliant moon, the wind, the water, the fire, the earth, the trees, the cattle, the metals, mankind.

"Offering and praise to that Lord, the completer of good works, who made men greater than all earthly beings, and through the gift of speech created them to rule the creatures, as warriors against the Daevas.[138]

"Praise the omniscience of God, who hath sent through the holy Zarathustra peace for the creatures, the wisdom of the law,—the enlightening derived from the heavenly understanding, and heard with the ears,—wisdom and guidance for all beings who are, were, and will be, (and) the wisdom of wisdoms; which effects freedom from hell for the soul at the bridge, and leads it over to that Paradise, the brilliant, sweet-smelling of the pure.

"All good do I accept at thy command, O God, and think, speak, and do it. I believe in the pure law; by every good work seek I forgiveness for all sins. I keep pure for myself the serviceable work and abstinence from the unprofitable. I keep pure the six powers,—thought, speech, work, memory, mind, and understanding. According to thy will am I able to accomplish, O accomplisher of good, thy honor, with good thoughts, good words, good works.

"I enter on the shining way to Paradise; may the fearful terror of hell not overcome me! May I step over the bridge Chinevat, may I attain Paradise, with much perfume, and all enjoyments, and all brightness.

"Praise to the Overseer, the Lord, who rewards those who accomplish good deeds according to his own wish, purifies at last the obedient, and at last purifies even the wicked one of hell. All praise be to the creator, Ormazd, the all-wise, mighty, rich in might; to the seven Amshaspands; to Ized Bahram, the victorious annihilator of foes."


"The star Tistrya praise we, the shining, majestic, with pleasant good dwelling, light, shining, conspicuous, going around, healthful, bestowing joy, great, going round about from afar, with shining beams, the pure, and the water which makes broad seas, good, far-famed, the name of the bull created by Mazda, the strong kingly majesty, and the Fravashi of the holy pure, Zarathustra.

"For his brightness, for his majesty, will I praise him, the star Tistrya, with audible praise. We praise the star Tistrya, the brilliant, majestic, with offerings, with Haoma bound with flesh, with Mauthra which gives wisdom to the tongue, with word and deed, with offerings with right-spoken speech."

"The star Tistrya, the brilliant, majestic, we praise, who glides so softly to the sea like an arrow, who follows the heavenly will, who is a terrible pliant arrow, a very pliant arrow, worthy of honor among those worthy of honor, who comes from the damp mountain to the shining mountain."


"Mithra, whose long arms grasp forwards here with Mithra-strength; that which is in Eastern India he seizes, and that which [is] in the Western he smites, and what is on the steppes of Rauha, and what is at the ends of this earth.

"Thou, O Mithra, dost seize these, reaching out thy arms. The unrighteous destroyed through the just is gloomy in soul. Thus thinks the unrighteous: Mithra, the artless, does not see all these evil deeds, all these lies.

"But I think in my soul: No earthly man with a hundred-fold strength thinks so much evil as Mithra with heavenly strength thinks good. No earthly man with a hundred-fold strength speaks so much evil as Mithra with heavenly strength speaks good. No earthly man with a hundred-fold strength does so much evil as Mithra with heavenly strength does good.

"With no earthly man is the hundred-fold greater heavenly understanding allied as the heavenly understanding allies itself to the heavenly Mithra, the heavenly. No earthly man with a hundred-fold strength hears with the ears as the heavenly Mithra, who possesses a hundred strengths, sees every liar. Mightily goes forward Mithra, powerful in rule marches he onwards; fair visual power, shining from afar, gives he to the eyes."


"I repent of all sins. All wicked thoughts, words, and works which I have meditated in the world, corporeal, spiritual, earthly, and heavenly, I repent of, in your presence, ye believers. O Lord, pardon through the three words.

"I confess myself a Mazdayacnian, a Zarathustrian, an opponent of the Daevas, devoted to belief in Ahura, for praise, adoration, satisfaction, and laud. As it is the will of God, let the Zaota say to me, Thus announces the Lord, the Pure out of Holiness, let the wise speak.

"I praise all good thoughts, words, and works, through thought, word, and deed. I curse all evil thoughts, words, and works away from thought, word, and deed. I lay hold on all good thoughts, words, and works, with thoughts, words, and works, i.e. I perform good actions, I dismiss all evil thoughts, words, and works, from thoughts, words, and works, i.e. I commit no sins.

"I give to you, ye who are Amshaspands, offering and praise, with the heart, with the body, with my own vital powers, body and soul. The whole powers which I possess I possess in dependence on the Yazatas. To possess in dependence upon the Yazatas means (as much as) this: if anything happens so that it behoves to give the body for the sake of the soul, I give it to them.

"I praise the best purity, I hunt away the Devs, I am thankful for the good of the Creator Ormazd, with the opposition and unrighteousness which come from Gana-mainyo, am I contented and agreed in the hope of the resurrection. The Zarathustrian law created by Ormazd I take as a plummet. For the sake of this way I repent of all sins.

"I repent of the sins which can lay hold of the character of men, or which have laid hold of my character, small and great which are committed amongst men, the meanest sins as much as is (and) can be, yet more than this, namely, all evil thoughts, words, and works which (I have committed) for the sake of others, or others for my sake, or if the hard sin has seized the character of an evil-doer on my account,—such sins, thoughts, words, and works, corporeal, mental, earthly, heavenly, I repent of with the three words: pardon, O Lord, I repent of the sins with Patet.

"The sins against father, mother, sister, brother, wife, child, against spouses, against the superiors, against my own relations, against those living with me, against those who possess equal property, against the neighbors, against the inhabitants of the same town, against servants, every unrighteousness through which I have been amongst sinners,—of these sins repent I with thoughts, words, and works, corporeal as spiritual, earthly as heavenly, with the three words: pardon, O Lord, I repent of sins.

"The defilement with dirt and corpses, the bringing of dirt and corpses to the water and fire, or the bringing of fire and water to dirt and corpses; the omission of reciting the Avesta in mind, of strewing about hair, nails, and toothpicks, of not washing the hands, all the rest which belongs to the category of dirt and corpses, if I have thereby come among the sinners, so repent I of all these sins with thoughts, words, and works, corporeal as spiritual, earthly as heavenly, with the three words: pardon, O Lord, I repent of sin.

"That which was the wish of Ormazd the Creator, and I ought to have thought, and have not thought, what I ought to have spoken and have not spoken, what I ought to have done and have not done; of these sins repent I with thoughts, words, and works," etc.

"That which was the wish of Ahriman, and I ought not to have thought and yet have thought, what I ought not to have spoken and yet have spoken, what I ought not to have done and yet have done; of these sins I repent," etc.

"Of all and every kind of sin which I have committed against the creatures of Ormazd, as stars, moon, sun, and the red burning fire, the dog, the birds, the five kinds of animals, the other good creatures which are the property of Ormazd, between earth and heaven, if I have become a sinner against any of these, I repent," etc.

"Of pride, haughtiness, covetousness, slandering the dead, anger, envy, the evil eye, shamelessness, looking at with evil intent, looking at with evil concupiscence, stiff-neckedness, discontent with the godly arrangements, self-willedness, sloth, despising others, mixing in strange matters, unbelief, opposing the Divine powers, false witness, false judgment, idol-worship, running naked, running with one shoe, the breaking of the low (midday) prayer, the omission of the (midday) prayer, theft, robbery, whoredom, witchcraft, worshipping with sorcerers, unchastity, tearing the hair, as well as all other kinds of sin which are enumerated in this Patet, or not enumerated, which I am aware of, or not aware of, which are appointed or not appointed, which I should have bewailed with obedience before the Lord, and have not bewailed,—of these sins repent I with thoughts, words, and works, corporeal as spiritual, earthly as heavenly. O Lord, pardon, I repent with the three words, with Patet.

"If I have taken on myself the Patet for any one and have not performed it, and misfortune has thereby come upon his soul or his descendants, I repent of the sin for every one with thoughts," etc.

"With all good deeds am I in agreement, with all sins am I not in agreement, for the good am I thankful, with iniquity am I contented. With the punishment at the bridge, with the bonds and tormentings and chastisements of the mighty of the law, with the punishment of the three nights (after) the fifty-seven years am I contented and satisfied."

The Avesta, then, is not a system of dogmatics, but a book of worship. It is to be read in private by the laity, or to be recited by the priests in public. Nevertheless, just such a book may be the best help to the knowledge of the religious opinions of an age. The deepest convictions come to light in such a collection, not indeed in a systematic statement, but in sincerest utterance. It will contain the faith of the heart rather than the speculations of the intellect. Such a work can hardly be other than authentic; for men do not forge liturgies, and, if they did, could hardly introduce them into the worship of a religious community.

The Avesta consists of the Vendidad, of which twenty-two Fargards, or chapters, have been preserved; the Vispered, in twenty-seven; the Yacna, in seventy; and the Khordah Avesta, or Little-Avesta, which contains the Yashts, Patets, and other prayers for the use of the laity. Of these, Spiegel considers the Gathas of the Yacna to be the oldest, next the Vendidad, lastly, the first part of the Yacna, and the Khordah Avesta.

Sec. 7. Later Development of the System in the Bundehesch.

The Bundehesch is a book later than these, and yet, in its contents, running back to a very early period. Windischmann,[140] who has recently given us a new translation of this book, says: "In regard to the Bundehesch, I am confident that closer study of this remarkable book, and a more exact comparison of it with the original texts, will change the unfavorable opinion hitherto held concerning it into one of great confidence. I am justified in believing that its author has given us mainly only the ancient doctrine, taken by him from original texts, most of which are now lost. The more thoroughly it is examined the more trustworthy it will be found to be."

The following summary of the Parsi system is mostly derived from the Bundehesch, and the later writings of the Parsis. We have abridged it from Rhode. In the time of Zoroaster himself, it was probably far from being so fully elaborated. Only the germs of it are to be found in the elder books of the Avesta. It has been doubted if the doctrine of Zerana-Akerana, or the Monad behind the Duad, is to be found in the Avesta; though important texts in the Vendidad[141] seem indeed to imply a Supreme and Infinite Being, the creator both of Ormazd and Ahriman.

In the beginning, the Eternal or Absolute Being (Zerana-Akerana) produced two other great divine, beings. The first, who remained true to him, was Ahura-Mazda, King of Light. The other was Ahriman (Angra-Mainyus), King of Darkness. Ormazd found himself in a world of light and Ahriman in boundless darkness, and the two became antagonists.

The Infinite Being (Zerana-Akerana) now determined, in order to destroy the evil which Ahriman had caused, to create the visible world by Ormazd; and he fixed its duration at twelve thousand years. This was divided into four periods of three thousand years each. In the first period Ormazd should rule alone; in the second Ahriman should begin to operate, but still be subordinate; in the third they should both rule together; and in the fourth Ahriman should have the ascendency.

Ormazd began the creation by bringing forth the Fereuers (Fravashi). Everything which has been created, or which is to be created, has its Fravashi, which contains the reason and basis of its existence. Even Ormazd has his Fravashi in relation to Zerana-Akerana (the Infinite). A spiritual and invisible world preceded, therefore, this visible material world as its prototype.

In creating the material world, which was in reality only an incorporation of the spiritual world of Fravashis, Ormazd first created the firm vault of heaven, and the earth on which it rests. On the earth he created the high mountain Albordj[142] which soared upward through all the spheres of the heaven, till it reached the primal light, and Ormazd made this summit his abode. From this summit the bridge Chinevat stretches to the vault of heaven, and to Gorodman, which is the opening in the vault above Albordj. Gorodman is the dwelling of the Fravashis and of the blessed, and the bridge leading to it is precisely above the abyss Duzahk,—the monstrous gulf, the home of Ahriman beneath the earth.

Ormazd, who knew that after the first period his battle with Ahriman would begin, armed himself, and created for his aid the whole shining host of heaven,—sun, moon, and stars,—mighty beings of light, wholly submissive to him. First he created "the heroic runner, who never dies, the sun," and made him king and ruler of the material world. From Albordj he sets out on his course, he circles the earth in the highest spheres of heaven, and at evening returns. Then he created the moon, which "has its own light," which, departing from Albordj, circles the earth in a lower sphere, and returns; then the five smaller planets, and the whole host of fixed stars, in the lowest circle of the heavens. The space between the earth and the firm vault of heaven is therefore divided into three spheres, that of the sun, of the moon, and of the stars.

The host of stars—common soldiers in the war with Ahriman—was divided into four troops, with each its appointed leader. Twelve companies were arranged in the twelve signs of the zodiac. All these were grouped into four great divisions, in the east, west, north, and south. The planet Tistrya (Jupiter) presides over and watches that in the east, and is named Prince of the Stars; Sitavisa (Saturn) presides over the western division; Vanant (or Mercury) over that of the south; and Hapto-iringa (Mars) over the stars of the north. In the middle of the heavens is the great star Mesch, Meschgah (Venus). He leads them against Ahriman.

The dog Sirius (Sura) is another watchman of the heavens; but he is fixed to one place, at the bridge Chinevat, keeping guard over the abyss out of which Ahriman comes.

When Ormazd had completed these preparations in the heavens, the first of the four ages drew to an end, and Ahriman saw, from the gloomy depths of his kingdom, what Ormazd had done. In opposition to this light creation, he created a world of darkness, a terrible community, equal in number and power to the beings of light. Ormazd, knowing all the misery that Ahriman would cause, yet knowing that the victory would remain with himself, offered to Ahriman peace; but Ahriman chose war. But, blinded by Ormazd's majesty, and terrified by the sight of the pure Fravashis of holy men, he was conquered by Ormazd's strong word, and sank back into the abyss of darkness, where he lay fettered during the three thousand years of the second period.

Ormazd now completed his creation upon the earth. Sapandomad was guardian spirit of the earth, and the earth, as Hethra, was mother of all living. Khordad was chief of the seasons, years, months, and days, and also protector of the water which flowed from the fountain Anduisur, from Albordj. The planet Tistrya was commissioned to raise the water in vapor, collect it in clouds, and let it fall in rain, with the aid of the planet Sitavisa. These cloud-compellers were highly reverenced. Amerdad was general deity of vegetation; but the great Mithra was the god of fructification and reproduction in the whole organic world; his work was to lead the Fravashis to the bodies they were to occupy.

Everything earthly in the light-world of Ormazd had its protecting deity. These guardian spirits were divided into series and groups, had their captains and their associated assistants. The seven Amshaspands (in Zend, Amesha-cpentas) were the chief among these, of whom Ormazd was first. The other six were Bahman, King of Heaven; Ardibehescht, King of Fire; Schariver, King of the Metals; Sapandomad, Queen of the Earth; Amerdad, King of Vegetables; and Khordad, King of Water.

So ended the second age. In it Ormazd had also produced the great primitive Bull, in which, as the representative of the animal world, the seeds of all living creatures were deposited.

While Ormazd was thus completing his light-creation, Ahriman, in his dark abyss, was effecting a corresponding creation of darkness,—making a corresponding evil being for every good being created by Ormazd. These spirits of night stood in their ranks and orders, with their seven presiding evil spirits, or Daevas, corresponding to the Amshaspands.

The vast preparations for this great war being completed, and the end of the second age now coming, Ahriman was urged by one of his Daevas to begin the conflict. He counted his host; but as he found nothing therein to oppose to the Fravashis of good men, he sank back in dejection. Finally the second age expired, and Ahriman now sprang aloft without fear, for he knew that his time was come. His host followed him, but he alone succeeded in reaching the heavens; his troops remained behind. A shudder ran over him, and he sprang from heaven upon the earth in the form of a serpent, penetrated to its centre, and entered into everything which he found upon it. He passed into the primal Bull, and even into fire, the visible symbol of Ormazd, defiling it with smoke and vapor. Then he assailed the heavens, and a part of the stars were already in his power, and veiled in smoke and mist, when he was attacked by Ormazd, aided by the Fravashis of holy men; and after ninety days and ninety nights he was completely defeated, and driven back with his troops into the abyss of Duzahk.

But he did not remain there, for through the middle of the earth he built a way for himself and his companions, and is now living on the earth together with Ormazd,—according to the decree of the Infinite.

The destruction which he produced in the world was terrible. Nevertheless, the more evil he tried to do, the more he ignorantly fulfilled the counsels of the Infinite, and hastened the development of good. Thus he entered the Bull, the original animal, and injured him so that he died. But when he died, Kaiomarts, the first man, came out of his right shoulder, and from his left Goshurun, the soul of the Bull, who now became the guardian spirit of the animal race. Also the whole realm of clean animals and plants came from the Bull's body. Full of rage, Ahriman now created the unclean animals,—for every clean beast an unclean. Thus Ormazd created the dog, Ahriman the wolf; Ormazd all useful animals, Ahriman all noxious ones; and so of plants.

But to Kaiomarts, the original man, Ahriman had nothing to oppose, and so he determined to kill him. Kaiomarts was both man and woman, but through his death there came from him the first human pair; a tree grew from his body, and bore ten pair of men and women. Meschia and Meschiane were the first. They were originally innocent and made for heaven, and worshipped Ormazd as their creator. But Ahriman tempted them. They drank milk from a goat and so injured themselves. Then Ahriman brought them fruit, they ate it, and lost a hundred parts of their happiness, so that only one remained. The woman was the first to sacrifice to the Daevas. After fifty years they had two children, Siamak and Veschak, and died a hundred years old. For their sins they remain in hell until the resurrection.

The human race, which had thus become mortal and miserable by the sin of its first parents, assumed nevertheless a highly interesting position. The man stands in the middle between the two worlds of light and darkness, left to his own free will. As a creature of Ormazd he can and ought to honor him, and assist him in the war with evil; but Ahriman and his Daevas surround him night and day, and seek to mislead him, in order to increase thereby the power of darkness. He would not be able at all to resist these temptations, to which his first parents had already yielded, had not Ormazd taken pity on him, and sent him a revelation of his will in the law of Zoroaster. If he obeys these precepts he is safe from the Daevas, under the immediate protection of Ormazd. The substance of the law is the command, "THINK PURELY, SPEAK PURELY, ACT PURELY." All that comes from Ormazd is pure, from Ahriman impure; and bodily purity has a like worth with moral purity. Hence the multitude and minuteness of precepts concerning bodily cleanliness. In fact the whole liturgic worship turns greatly on this point.

The Fravashis of men originally created by Ormazd are preserved in heaven, in Ormazd's realm of light. But they must come from heaven, to be united with a human body, and to go on a path of probation in this world, called the "Way of the Two Destinies." Those who have chosen the good in this world are received after death by good spirits, and guided, under the protection of the dog Sura, to the bridge Chinevat; the wicked are dragged thither by the Daevas. Here Ormazd holds a tribunal and decides the fate of the souls. The good pass the bridge into the mansions of the blessed, where they are welcomed with rejoicing by the Amshaspands; the bad fall over into the Gulf of Duzahk, where they are tormented by the Daevas. The duration of the punishment is fixed by Ormazd, and some are redeemed earlier by means of the prayers and intercessions of their friends, but many must remain till the resurrection of the dead.

Ahriman himself effects this consummation, after having exercised great power over men during the last three thousand years. He created seven comets (in opposition to the seven planets), and they went on their destructive paths through the heavens, filling all things with danger, and all men with terror. But Ormazd placed them under the control of his planets to restrain them. They will do so, till by the decree of the Infinite, at the close of the last period, one of the comets will break from his watchman, the moon, and plunge upon the earth, producing a general conflagration. But before this Ormazd will send his Prophet Sosioch and bring about the conversion of mankind, to be followed by the general resurrection.

Ormazd will clothe anew with flesh the bones of men, and relatives and friends will recognize each other again. Then comes the great division of the just from the sinners.

When Ahriman shall cause the comet to fall on the earth to gratify his destructive propensities, he will be really serving the Infinite Being against his own will. For the conflagration caused by this comet will change the whole earth into a stream like melted iron, which will pour impetuously down into the realm of Ahriman. All beings must now pass through this stream: to the righteous it will feel like warm milk, and they will pass through to the dwellings of the just; but all the sinners shall be borne along by the stream into the abyss of Duzahk. Here they will burn three days and nights, then, being purified, they will invoke Ormazd, and be received into heaven.

Afterward Ahriman himself and all in the Duzahk shall be purified by this fire, all evil be consumed, and all darkness banished.

From the extinct fire there will come a more beautiful earth, pure and perfect, and destined to be eternal.

* * * * *

Having given this account of the Parsi system, in its later development, let us say that it was not an invention of Zoroaster, nor of any one else. Religions are not invented: they grow. Even the religion of Mohammed grew out of pre-existent beliefs. The founder of a religion does not invent it, but gives it form. It crystallizes around his own deeper thought. So, in the time of Zoroaster, the popular imagination had filled nature with powers and presences, and given them names, and placed them in the heavens. For, as Schiller says:—

"'Tis not merely The human being's pride which peoples space With life and mystical predominance; For also for the stricken heart of Love, This visible nature and this lower world Are all too common."

Zoroaster organized into clearer thought the pre-existing myths, and inspired them with moral ideas and vital power.

Sec. 8. Relation of the Religion of the Zend Avesta to that of the Vedas.

That the Vedic religion and that of the Avesta arose out of an earlier Aryan religion, monotheistic in its central element, but with a tendency to immerse the Deity in nature, seems evident from the investigations of Pictet and other scholars. This primitive religion of the Aryan race diverged early in two directions, represented by the Veda and the Avesta. Yet each retains much in common with the other. The names of the powers, Indra, Sura, Naoghaithya, are in both systems. In the Veda they are gods, in the Avesta evil spirits. Indra, worshipped throughout the Rig-Veda as one of the highest deities, appears in the Avesta as an evil being.[143] Sura (Cura), one of the most ancient names of Shiva, is also denounced and opposed in the Avesta[144] as a Daeva, or Dew. And the third (Naoghaithya, Naouhaiti), also an evil spirit in the Avesta, is the Nasatya of the Veda,[145] one of the Acvinas or twins who precede the Dawn. The Dews or Daevas of the Avesta are demons, in the Vedas they are gods. On the other hand, the Ahuras, or gods, of the Avesta are Asuras, or demons, in the Vedic belief. The original land of the race is called Aryavesta in the Laws of Manu (II. 22), and Aryana-Vaejo in the Avesta. The God of the Sun is named Mithra, or Mitra, in both religions. The Yima of the Parsi system is a happy king; the Yama of the Hindoos is a stern judge in the realms of death. The dog is hateful in the Indian system, an object of reverence in that of Zoroaster. Both the religions dread defilement through the touch of dead bodies. In both systems fire is regarded as divine. But the most striking analogy perhaps is to be found in the worship paid by both to the intoxicating fermented juice of the plant Asclepias acida, called Soma in the Sanskrit and Haoma in the Zend. The identity of the Haoma with the Indian Soma has long been proved.[146] The whole of the Sama-Veda is devoted to this moon-plant worship; an important part of the Avesta is occupied with hymns to Haoma. This great reverence paid to the same plant, on account of its intoxicating qualities, carries us back to a region where the vine was unknown, and to a race to whom intoxication was so new an experience as to seem a gift of the gods. Wisdom appeared to come from it, health, increased power of body and soul, long life, victory in battle, brilliant children. What Bacchus was to the Greeks, this divine Haoma, or Soma, was to the primitive Aryans.[147]

It would seem, therefore, that the two religions setting out from the same point, and having a common stock of primitive traditions, at last said each to the other, "Your gods are my demons." The opposition was mutual. The dualism of the Persian was odious to the Hindoo, while the absence of a deep moral element in the Vedic system shocked the solemn puritanism of Zoroaster. The religion of the Hindoo was to dream, that of the Persian to fight. There could be no more fellowship between them than there is between a Quaker and a Calvinist.

Sec. 9. Is Monotheism or pure Dualism the Doctrine of the Zend Avesta?

We find in the Avesta, and in the oldest portion of it, the tendencies which resulted afterward in the elaborate theories of the Bundehesch. We find the Zearna-Akerana, in the Vendidad (XIX. 33,44,55),—"The Infinite Time," or "All-embracing Time,"—as the creator of Ahriman, according to some translations. Spiegel, indeed, considers this supreme being, above both Ormazd and Ahriman, as not belonging to the original Persian religion, but as borrowed from Semitic sources. But if so, then Ormazd is the supreme and uncreated being, and creator of all things. Why, then, has Ormazd a Fravashi, or archetype? And in that case, he must either himself have created Ahriman, or else Ahriman is as eternal as he; which latter supposition presents us with an absolute, irreconcilable dualism. The better opinion seems, therefore, to be, that behind the two opposing powers of good and evil, the thesis and antithesis of moral life, remains the obscure background of original being, the identity of both, from which both have proceeded, and into whose abyss both shall return.

This great consummation is also intimated by the fact that in the same Fargard of the Vendidad (XIX. 18) the future restorer or saviour is mentioned, Sosioch (Caoshyanc), who is expected by the Parsis to come at the end of all things, and accomplish the resurrection, and introduce a kingdom of untroubled happiness.[148] Whether the resurrection belongs to the primitive form of the religion remains as doubtful, but also as probable, as when Mr. Alger discussed the whole question in his admirable monograph on the Doctrine of the Future Life. Our remaining fragments of the Zend Avesta say nothing of the periods of three thousand years' duration. Two or three passages in the Avesta refer to the resurrection.[149] But the conflict between Ormazd and Ahriman, the present struggle between good and evil, the ideal world of the Fravashis and good spirits,—these unquestionably belong to the original belief.

Sec. 10. Relation of this System to Christianity. The Kingdom of Heaven.

Of this system we will say, in conclusion, that in some respects it comes nearer to Christianity than any other. Moreover, though so long dead, like the great nation of which it was the inspiration and life,—though swept away by Mohammedanism,—its influence remains, and has permeated both Judaism and Christianity. Christianity has probably received from it, through Judaism, its doctrine of angels and devils, and its tendency to establish evil in the world as the permanent and equal adversary of good. Such a picture as that by Retzsch of the Devil playing chess with the young man for his soul, such a picture as that by Guido of the conflict between Michael and Satan, such poems as Milton's Paradise Lost and Goethe's Faust, could perhaps never have appeared in Christendom, had it not been for the influence of the system of Zoroaster on Jewish, and, through Jewish, on Christian thought. It was after the return from Babylon that the Devil and demons, in conflict with man, became a part of the company of spiritual beings in the Jewish mythology. Angels there were before, as messengers of God, but devils there were not; for till then an absolute Providence ruled the world, excluding all interference of antagonistic powers. Satan, in Job, is an angel of God, not a devil; doing a low kind of work, indeed, a sort of critical business, fault-finding, and looking for flaws in the saints, but still an angel, and no devil. But after the captivity the horizon of the Jewish mind enlarged, and it took in the conception of God as allowing freedom to man and angels, and so permitting bad as well as good to have its way. And then came in also the conception of a future life, and a resurrection for ultimate judgment. These doctrines have been supposed, with good reason, to have come to the Jews from the influence of the great system of Zoroaster.

There is no doubt, however, that the Jewish prophets had already prepared a point of contact and attachment for this system, and developed affinities therewith, by their great battle-cry to the nation for right against wrong, and their undying conviction of an ultimate restoration of all good things. But the Jews found also in the Persian faith the one among all religions most like their own, in this, that it had no idols, and no worship but that addressed to the Unseen. Sun and fire were his symbols, but he himself was hidden behind the glorious veil of being. And it seems as if the Jews needed this support of finding another nation also hating idolatry, before they could really rise above their tendency to backslide into it. "In the mouth of two witnesses," the spiritual worship of God was established; and not till Zoroaster took the hand of Moses did the Jews cease to be idolaters. After the return from the captivity that tendency wholly disappears.

But a deeper and more essential point of agreement is to be found in the special practical character of the two systems, regarding life as a battle between right and wrong, waged by a communion of good men fighting against bad men and bad principles.

Perhaps, in reading the New Testament, we do not always see how much Christianity turns around the phrase, and the idea behind it, of a "kingdom of Heaven." The Beatitudes begin "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven." Both John the Baptist and Christ announce that the kingdom of Heaven is at hand. The parables revolve round the same idea of "the kingdom." which is likened first to this, and then to that; and so, passing on into the Epistles, we have the "kingdom of Heaven" still as the leading conception of Christianity. "The kingdom of God is not meat nor drink";—such are common expressions.

The peculiar conception of the Messiah also is of the King, the Anointed one, the Head of this divine Monarchy. When we call Jesus the Christ, we repeat this ancient notion of the kingdom of God among men. He himself accepted it; he called himself the Christ. "Thou sayest," said he, to Pilate, "that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth."

All through antiquity there ran the longing for a communion or association of the wise and good, in order to establish truth and justice in the world. The tendency of error is to divide; the tendency of selfishness is to separation. Only goodness and truth are capable of real communion, interpenetration, and so of organic life and growth. This is their strength, power, and hope. Hence all the efforts at associated action in antiquity, such as the College of Pythagoras, the ideal Republic of Plato, the Spartan Commonwealth, the communities of the Essenes, the monastic institutions of Asia and Europe; and hence, too, the modern attempts, in Protestantism, by Fourier, the Moravians, the Shakers, Saint-Simon, Robert Owen, and others.

But among the Jews this desire appeared, first in their national organization, as a theosophic and theocratic community, and afterward, when this broke down and the nation was divided, in a larger prophetic hope of the Messianic times. There is a tendency in the human mind, when it sees a great work to be done, to look for a leader. So the Jewish hope looked for a leader. Their true King was to come, and under him peace and righteousness were to reign, and the kingdom of heaven begin on earth. It was to be on earth. It was to be here and now. And so they waited and longed.

Meantime, in the Persian religion, the seed of the same hope was sown. There also the work of life was, to unite together a community of good men and good angels, against bad men and devils, and so make a kingdom of heaven. Long and sore should the conflict be; but the victory at last would be sure. And they also looked for a Sosioch, or Mediator, who was to be what the Messiah was to be to the Jews. And here was the deep and real point of union between the two religions; and this makes the profound meaning of the story of the Star which was seen in the East and which guided the Magi of Zoroaster to the cradle of Christ.

Jesus came to be the Messiah. He fulfilled that great hope as he did others. It was not fulfilled, in the sense of the letter of a prophecy being acted out, but in the sense of the prophecy being carried up and on to its highest point, and so being filled full of truth and value. The first and chief purpose of Christianity was, not to save the souls of men hereafter, as the Church has often taught, but to found a kingdom of heaven here, on earth and in time. It was not to say, "Lo here!" or "Lo there!" but to say, "Now is the accepted time"; "the kingdom of God is among you." In thus continuing and developing to its highest point the central idea of his national religion, Jesus made himself the true Christ and fulfilled all the prophecies. Perhaps what we need now is to come back to that notion of the kingdom of heaven here below, and of Jesus the present king,—present, because still bearing witness to the truth. Christians must give up thinking about Christianity as only a means of escaping a future hell and arriving at a future heaven. They must show now, more than ever, that, by a union of loving and truthful hearts, God comes here, immortality begins here, and heaven lies about us. To fight the good fight of justice and truth, as the disciples of Zoroaster tried to fight it,—this is still the true work of man; and to make a union of those who wish thus to fight for good against evil,—this is still the true church of Christ.

The old religion of Zoroaster died, Taut as the corn of wheat, which, if it die, brings forth much fruit.

A small body of Parsis remain to-day in Persia, and another in India,—disciples of this venerable faith. They are a good, moral, industrious people. Some of them are very wealthy and very generous. Until Mr. George Peabody's large donations, no one had bestowed so much on public objects as Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeeboy, who had given to hospitals, schools, and charities, some years since, a million and a half of dollars. During our Rebellion, some of the Parsis sent gifts to the Sanitary Commission, out of sympathy with the cause of freedom and Union.

Who can estimate the power of a single life? Of Zoroaster we do not know the true name, nor when he lived, nor where he lived, nor exactly what he taught. But the current from that fountain has flowed on for thousands of years, fertilizing the souls of men out of its hidden sources, and helping on, by the decree of Divine Providence, the ultimate triumph of good over evil, right over wrong.

Chapter VI.

The Gods of Egypt.

Sec. 1. Antiquity and Extent of Egyptian Civilization. Sec. 2. Religious Character of the Egyptians. Their Ritual. Sec. 3. Theology of Egypt. Sources of our Knowledge concerning it. Sec. 4. Central Idea of Egyptian Theology and Religion. Animal Worship. Sec. 5. Sources of Egyptian Theology. Age of the Empire and Affinities of the Race. Sec. 6. The Three Orders of Gods. Sec. 7. Influence of Egypt upon Judaism and Christianity.

Sec. 1. Antiquity and Extent of Egyptian Civilization.

The ancient Egyptians have been the object of interest to the civilized world in all ages; for Egypt was the favorite home of civilization, science, and religion. It was a little country, the gift of the river Nile; a little strip of land not more than seven miles wide, but containing innumerable cities and towns, and in ancient times supporting seven millions of inhabitants. Renowned for its discoveries in art and science, it was the world's university; where Moses and Pythagoras, Herodotus and Plato, all philosophers and lawgivers, went to school. The Egyptians knew the length of the year and the form of the earth; they could calculate eclipses of the sun and moon; were partially acquainted with geometry, music, chemistry, the arts of design, medicine, anatomy, architecture, agriculture, and mining. In architecture, in the qualities of grandeur and massive proportions, they are yet to be surpassed. The largest buildings elsewhere erected by man are smaller than their pyramids; which are also the oldest human works still remaining, the beauty of whose masonry, says Wilkinson, has not been surpassed in any subsequent age. An obelisk of a single stone now standing in Egypt weighs three hundred tons, and a colossus of Ramses II. nearly nine hundred. But Herodotus describes a monolithic temple, which must have weighed five thousand tons, and which was carried the whole length of the Nile, to the Delta. And there is a roof of a doorway at Karnak, covered with sandstone blocks forty feet long. Sculpture and bas-reliefs three thousand five hundred years old, where the granite is cut with exquisite delicacy, are still to be seen throughout Egypt. Many inventions, hitherto supposed to be modern, such as glass, mosaics, false gems, glazed tiles, enamelling, were well known to the Egyptians. But, for us, the most fortunate circumstance in their taste was their fondness for writing. No nation has ever equalled them in their love for recording all human events and transactions. They wrote down all the details of private life with wonderful zeal, method, and regularity. Every year, month, and day had its record, and thus Egypt is the monumental land of the earth. Bunsen says that "the genuine Egyptian writing is at least as old as Menes, the founder of the Empire; perhaps three thousand years before Christ." No other human records, whether of India or China, go back so far. Lepsius saw the hieroglyph of the reed and inkstand on the monuments of the fourth dynasty, and the sign of the papyrus roll on that of the twelfth dynasty, which was the last but one of the old Empire. "No Egyptian," says Herodotus, "omits taking accurate note of extraordinary and striking events." Everything was written down. Scribes are seen everywhere on the monuments, taking accounts of the products of the farms, even to every single egg and chicken. "In spite of the ravages of time, and though systematic excavation has scarcely yet commenced," says Bunsen, "we possess chronological records of a date anterior to any period of which manuscripts are preserved, or the art of writing existed in any other quarter." Because they were thus fond of recording everything, both in pictures and in three different kinds of writing; because they were also fond of building and excavating temples and tombs in the imperishable granite; because, lastly, the dryness of the air has preserved for us these paintings, and the sand which has buried the monuments has prevented their destruction,—we have wonderfully preserved, over an interval of forty-five centuries, the daily habits, the opinions, and the religious faith of that ancient time.

The oldest mural paintings disclose a state of the arts of civilization so advanced as to surprise even those who have made archaeology a study, and who consequently know how few new things there are under the sun. It is not astonishing to find houses with doors and windows, with verandas, with barns for grain, vineyards, gardens, fruit-trees, etc. We might also expect, since man is a fighting animal, to see, as we do, pictures of marching troops, armed with spears and shields, bows, slings, daggers, axes, maces, and the boomerang; or to notice coats of mail, standards, war-chariots; or to find the assault of forts by means of scaling-ladders. But these ancient tombs also exhibit to us scenes of domestic life and manners which would seem to belong to the nineteenth century after our era, rather than to the fifteenth century before it. Thus we see monkeys trained to gather fruit from the trees in an orchard; houses furnished with a great variety of chairs, tables, ottomans, carpets, couches, as elegant and elaborate as any used now. There are comic and genre pictures of parties, where the gentlemen and ladies are sometimes represented as being the worse for wine; of dances where ballet-girls in short dresses perform very modern-looking pirouettes; of exercises in wrestling, games of ball, games of chance like chess or checkers, of throwing knives at a mark, of the modern thimblerig, wooden dolls for children, curiously carved wooden boxes, dice, and toy-balls. There are men and women playing on harps, flutes, pipes, cymbals, trumpets, drums, guitars, and tambourines. Glass was, till recently, believed to be a modern invention, unknown to the ancients. But we find it commonly used as early as the age of Osertasen I., more than three thousand eight hundred years ago; and we have pictures of glass-blowing and of glass bottles as far back as the fourth dynasty. The best Venetian glass-workers are unable to rival some of the old Egyptian work; for the Egyptians could combine all colors in one cup, introduce gold between two surfaces of glass, and finish in glass details of feathers, etc., which it now requires a microscope to make out. It is evident, therefore, that they understood the use of the magnifying-glass. The Egyptians also imitated successfully the colors of precious stones, and could even make statues thirteen feet high, closely resembling an emerald. They also made mosaics in glass, of wonderfully brilliant colors. They could cut glass, at the most remote periods. Chinese bottles have also been found in previously unopened tombs of the eighteenth dynasty, indicating commercial intercourse reaching as far back as that epoch. They were able to spin and weave, and color cloth; and were acquainted with the use of mordants, the wonder in modern calico-printing. Pliny describes this process as used in Egypt, but evidently without understanding its nature. Writing-paper made of the papyrus is as old as the Pyramids. The Egyptians tanned leather and made shoes; and the shoemakers on their benches are represented working exactly like ours. Their carpenters used axes, saws, chisels, drills, planes, rulers, plummets, squares, hammers, nails, and hones for sharpening. They also understood the use of glue in cabinet-making, and there are paintings of veneering, in which a piece of thin dark wood is fastened by glue to a coarser piece of light wood. Their boats were propelled by sails on yards and masts, as well as by oars. They used the blow-pipe in the manufacture of gold chains and other ornaments. They had rings of gold and silver for money, and weighed it in scales of a careful construction. Their hieroglyphics are carved on the hardest granite with a delicacy and accuracy which indicates the use of some metallic cutting instrument, probably harder than our best steel. The siphon was known in the fifteenth century before Christ. The most singular part of their costume was the wig, worn by all the higher classes, who constantly shaved their heads, as well as their chins,—which shaving of the head is supposed by Herodotus to be the reason of the thickness of the Egyptian skull. They frequently wore false beards. Sandals, shoes, and low boots, some very elegant, are found in the tombs. Women wore loose robes, ear-rings, finger-rings, bracelets, armlets, anklets, gold necklaces. In the tombs are found vases for ointment, mirrors, combs, needles. Doctors and drugs were not unknown to them; and the passport system is no modern invention, for their deeds contain careful descriptions of the person, exactly in the style with which European travellers are familiar. We have only mentioned a small part of the customs and arts with which the tombs of the Egyptians show them to have been familiar. These instances are mostly taken from Wilkinson, whose works contain numerous engravings from the monuments which more than verify all we have said.

The celebrated French Egyptologist, M. Mariette, has very much enlarged our knowledge of the more ancient dynasties, by his explorations, first under a mission from the French government, and afterward from that of Egypt. The immense temples and palaces of Thebes are all of a date at least B.C. 1000. We know the history of Egypt very well as far back as the time of the Hyksos, or to the eighteenth dynasty. M. Mariette has discovered statues and Sphinxes which he believes to have been the work of the Hyksos, the features being wholly different from that of the typical Egyptian. Four of these Sphinxes, found by Mariette on the site of the old Tanis, have the regular body of a lion, according to the canon of Egyptian art, but the human heads are wholly un-Egyptian. Mariette, in describing them, says that in the true Egyptian Sphinx there is always a quiet majesty, the eye calm and wide open, a smile on the lips, a round face, and a peculiar coiffure with wide open wings. Nothing of this is to be found in these Sphinxes. Their eyes are small, the nose aquiline, the cheeks hard, the mouth drawn down with a grave expression.

These Shepherd Kings, the Hyksos, ruled Lower Egypt, according to Manetho, five hundred and eleven years, which, according to Renan,[150] brings the preceding dynasty (the fourteenth of Manetho) as early as B.C. 2000. Monuments of the twelfth and thirteenth dynasties are common. The oldest obelisk dates B.C. 2800. Thanks to the excavations of M. Mariette, we now have a large quantity of sculptures and statues of a still earlier epoch. M. Renan describes[151] tombs visited by himself, which he considers to be the oldest known, and which he regards as being B.C. 4000,[152] where were represented all the details of domestic life. The tone of these pictures was glad and gay; and, what is remarkable, they had no trace of the funeral ritual or the god Osiris. These were not like tombs, but rather like homes. To secure the body from all profanation, it was concealed in a pit, carefully hidden in the solid masonry. These tombs belong to the six first dynasties.

The great antiquity of Egyptian civilization is universally admitted; but to fix its chronology and precise age becomes very difficult, from the fact that the Egyptians had no era from which to date forward or backward. This question we shall return to in a subsequent section of this chapter.

Sec. 2. Religious Character of the Egyptians. Their Ritual.

But, wonderful as was the civilization of Egypt, it is not this which now chiefly interests us. They were prominent among all ancient nations for their interest in religion, especially of the ceremonial part of religion, or worship. Herodotus says: "They are of all men the most excessively attentive to the worship of the gods." And beside his statement to that effect, there is evidence that the origin of much of the theology, mythology, and ceremonies of the Hebrews and Greeks was in Egypt. "The names of almost all the gods," says Herodotus, "came from Egypt into Greece" (Euterpe, 50). The Greek oracles, especially that of Dodona, he also states to have been brought from Egypt (II. 54-57), and adds, moreover, that the Egyptians were the first who introduced public festivals, processions, and solemn supplications, which the Greeks learned from them. "The Egyptians, then," says he, "are beyond measure scrupulous in matters of religion (Sec. 64). They invented the calendar, and connected astrology therewith." "Each month and day," says Herodotus (II. 82), "is assigned to some particular god, and each person's birthday determines his fate." He testifies (II. 123) that "the Egyptians were also the first to say that the soul of man is immortal, and that when the body perishes it transmigrates through every variety of animal." It seems apparent, also, that the Greek mysteries of Eleusis were taken from those of Isis; the story of the wanderings of Ceres in pursuit of Proserpine being manifestly borrowed from those of Isis in search of the body of Osiris. With this testimony of Herodotus modern writers agree. "The Egyptians," says Wilkinson, "were unquestionably the most pious nation of all antiquity. The oldest monuments show their belief in a future life. And Osiris, the Judge, is mentioned in tombs erected two thousand years before Christ." Bunsen tells us that "it has at last been ascertained that all the great gods of Egypt are on the oldest monuments," and says: "It is a great and astounding fact, established beyond the possibility of doubt, that the empire of Menes on its first appearance in history possessed an established mythology, that is, a series of gods. Before the empire of Menes, the separate Egyptian states had their temple worship regularly organized."

Everything among the Egyptians, says M. Maury,[153] took the stamp of religion. Their writing was so full of sacred symbols that it could scarcely be used for any purely secular purpose. Literature and science were only branches of theology. Art labored only in the service of worship and to glorify the gods. Religious observances were so numerous and so imperative, that the most common labors of daily life could not be performed without a perpetual reference to some priestly regulation. The Egyptian only lived to worship. His fate in the future life was constantly present to him. The sun, when it set, seemed to him to die; and when it rose the next morning, and tricking its beams flamed once more in the forehead of the sky, it was a perpetual symbol of a future resurrection. Religion penetrated so deeply into the habits of the land, that it almost made a part of the intellectual and physical organization of its inhabitants. Habits continued during many generations at last become instincts, and are transmitted with the blood.[154] So religion in Egypt became an instinct. Unaltered by the dominion of the Persians, the Ptolemies, and Romans, it was, of all polytheisms, the most obstinate in its resistance to Christianity, and retained its devotees down to the sixth century of our era.[155]

There were more festivals in Egypt than among any other ancient people, the Greeks not excepted. Every month and day was governed by a god. There were two feasts of the New-Year, twelve of the first days of the months, one of the rising of the dog-star (Sirius, called Sothis), and others to the great gods, to seed-time and harvest, to the rise and fall of the Nile. The feast of lamps at Sais was in honor of Neith, and was kept throughout Egypt.[156] The feast of the death of Osiris; the feast of his resurrection (when people called out, "We have found him! Good luck!"); feasts of Isis (one of which lasted four days); the great feast at Bubastis, greatest of all,—these were festivals belonging to all Egypt. On one of them as many as seven hundred thousand persons sailed on the Nile with music. At another, the image of the god was carried to the temple by armed men, who were resisted by armed priests in a battle in which many were often killed.

The history of the gods was embodied in the daily life of the people. In an old papyrus described by De Rouge,[157] it is said: "On the twelfth of Chorak no one is to go out of doors, for on that day the transformation of Osiris into the bird Wennu took place; on the fourteenth of Toby no voluptuous songs must be listened to, for Isis and Nepthys bewail Osiris on that day. On the third of Mechir no one can go on a journey, because Set then began a war." On another day no one must go out. Another was lucky, because on it the gods conquered Set; and a child born on that day was supposed to live to a great age.

Every temple had its own body of priests. They did not constitute an exclusive caste, though they were continued in families. Priests might be military commanders, governors of provinces, judges, and architects. Soldiers had priests for sons, and the daughters of priests married soldiers. Of three brothers, one was a priest, another a soldier, and a third held a civil employment.[158] Joseph, a stranger, though naturalized in the country, received as a wife the daughter of the High-Priest of On, or Heliopolis.

The priests in Egypt were of various grades, as the chief priests or pontiffs, prophets, judges, scribes, those who examined the victims, keepers of the robes, of the sacred animals, etc.

Women also held offices in the temple and performed duties there, though not as priestesses.

The priests were exempt from taxes, and were provided for out of the public stores. They superintended sacrifices, processions, funerals, and were initiated into the greater and lesser mysteries; they were also instructed in surveying. They were particular in diet, both as to quantity and quality. Flesh of swine was particularly forbidden, and also that of fish. Beans were held in utter abhorrence, also peas, onions, and garlic, which, however, were offered on the altar. They bathed twice a day and twice in the night, and shaved the head and body every three days. A great purification took place before their fasts, which lasted from seven to forty-two days.

They offered prayers for the dead.

The dress of the priests was simple, chiefly of linen, consisting of an under-garment and a loose upper robe, with full sleeves, and the leopard-skin above; sometimes one or two feathers in the head.

Chaplets and flowers were laid upon the altars, such as the lotus and papyrus, also grapes and figs in baskets, and ointment in alabaster vases. Also necklaces, bracelets, and jewelry, were offered as thanksgivings and invocations.

Oxen and other animals were sacrificed, and the blood allowed to flow over the altar. Libations of wine were poured on the altar. Incense was offered to all the gods in censers.

Processions were usual with the Egyptians; in one, shrines were carried on the shoulders by long staves passed through rings. In others the statues of the gods were carried, and arks like those of the Jews, overshadowed by the wings of the goddess of truth spread above the sacred beetle.

The prophets were the most highly honored of the priestly order. They studied the ten hieratical books. The business of the stolists[159] was to dress and undress the images, to attend to the vestments of the priests, and to mark the beasts selected for sacrifice. The scribes were to search for the Apis, or sacred bull, and were required to possess great learning.

The priests had no sinecure; their life was full of minute duties and restrictions. They seldom appeared in public, were married to one wife, were circumcised like other Egyptians, and their whole time was occupied either in study or the service of their gods. There was a gloomy tone to the religion of Egypt, which struck the Greeks, whose worship was usually cheerful. Apuleius says "the gods of Egypt rejoice in lamentations, those of Greece in dances." Another Greek writer says, "The Egyptians offer their gods tears."

Until Swedenborg[160] arrived, and gave his disciples the precise measure and form of the life to come, no religion has ever taught an immortality as distinct in its outline and as solid in its substance as that of the Egyptians. The Greek and Roman hereafter was shadowy and vague; that of Buddhism remote; and the Hebrew Beyond was wholly eclipsed and overborne by the sense of a Divine presence and power immanent in space and time. To the Egyptian, this life was but the first step, and a very short one, of an immense career. The sun (Ra) alternately setting and rising, was the perpetually present type of the progress of the soul, and the Sothiac period (symbolized by the Phoenix) of 1421 years from one heliacal rising of Sirius at the beginning of the fixed Egyptian year to the next, was also made to define the cycle of human transmigrations. Two Sothiac periods correspond nearly to the three thousand years spoken of by Herodotus, during which the soul transmigrates through animal forms before returning to its human body. Then, to use the Egyptian language, the soul arrived at the ship of the sun and was received by Ra into his solar splendor. On some sarcophagi the soul is symbolized by a hawk with a human head, carrying in his claws two rings, which probably signify the two Sothiac cycles of its transmigrations.

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