James George Roche Forlong.

Short studies in the science of comparative religions, embracing all the religions of Asia ; online

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at its best, and this in the Shdh-ndmeh of Firdusi, which was
written in our Middle Ages.

The three great divisions of the Avasta Zand are —

The Vindidad or Genesis being mostly moral and purgatoria
laws, some mythology and history.


The VisPiRAD — Litauies used in worship, at sacrifices, &c.
„ Yashna — Do. do. Here are five of the most ancient
Gathas, of which the principal are the Ahun-Avaiti and
These Gathas are held to be "the prophet's own words, as
revealed to him when in an extatik state by angels whispering
them in his ear." They are headed : " The revealed thought,
word and deed of the righteous Zoroaster," and are said to have
been found in original MSS. They are written in an altogether
different dialect to that of the rest of the sacred writings,
which Darius 1. says appeared in his day in Arian — a proto-
Median lanQ;uao-e. He had the whole Biblia translated into his
Iranian tongue, and required all the subjects of his vast empire
to read and obey it. See his Behistun inscriptions.

The entire Bible or Avasta Zand is termed in its Pahlvi
commentary : " The Whole Laio and its Traditional Revealed
Explanations ; " and the three books are said to have been
found in the original MSS. written in the Zand language, but
in two ways: viz., each book by itself, and with a Pahlvi
translation ; and secondly, in an edition where all three books
are mingled suitably for reading at sacrificial and general
worship. This last is called " The Vendlddd Sadah " or
" Pure Vendidad," of which, apparently, there was no trans-
lation, showing that priests and peoples were then supposed
to understand the Zand language. In addition, there is the
Khord or Small Avasta — the Missal of the faith — a
collection of all the required daily prayers and recitations.
These five books constitute the sacred scriptures of Mazdahans
which have come down from very ancient times, and form
" The Avastan and Zand." They first appeared in Akkadian
kuniform skript, and in the composite Iranian language of the
Akhaimenian monarchs, and never passed into the modern
Shemitik Persian. Between these two Persian tono;ues there
intervenes a philological desert of five or six centuries ; the
border lands being the Iranian Avasta Zand, Akhaimenian
inscriptions and Firdusi's Shdh-hdmeh of our tenth century.

There is a well marked kinship, mythological and religious,
between Vedas and Avasta, which only difi'erentiated when the


sister-peoples separated north of the Kiikases. The ludian
section evidently feared to plunge headlong into a Daitya or
" Infidel" land, and those who crossed the Araxes or "Drdtya
river" have ever since been Daityas to the Indo- Aryan.
They were held to be seduced by Magian sorcerers, then
Zoroastrians and ignikolists, all of whom have, however, been
to Iranians even more distinct sects than are Pharisis and
Sadukis, or Protestants and Catholiks.

The earliest Zoroastrians had apparently neither Fire,
Solar nor Mithras worship, but possibly the Bodhism and then
Buddhism of Baktria as developed by Kasyapa and other
pre-Gotama Buddhists. Those who dwelt among the fire
founts of Atropatene could not avoid the worship of Atar,
Adar, or Agni — one of the most ancient of faiths : yet
Lenormant said that Zoroaster seems to have somewhat
repudiated it, and that it only came in with the ]Medo-Magians
after which came Mithraism, which must therefore be placed
much later than the perfervid hymns of the Veda to Agni.
He was thus addressed in the Eig : " We invoke Thee,
Agni, before all gods, pronouncing the venerable name before
all other Immortals. Whoever be the god honored by our
sacrifices, always to thee do we off"er the holokaust." The
whole Eig abounds with his praises, which, of course, is true
Magianism, and next to this sacred fire came the worship of
the heavenly hosts — first mentioned in the Vendlddd Sddi,
Fargard xxi., but until then probably considered a heresy
received from the Babylonians. Chald. Magic, 267.

The solar development is seen in the seven colored
planetary walls of Ekbatilna, the seven stories of the Borsipa
pyramid, &c., and in the Zand scriptures where Sol is Vayu,
"the good shepherd," the I^dma-Jtvdstra, or Mithra — "Lord
of wide pastures." Here too the Zoroastrian would glean a
rich harvest of spiritual lore and language from the fertile old
Turanian mythologies.

Every Iranian acknowledged his Mdga-indn, Magos,
Athra-van or " Fireman," the Greek Pur-aiihos. He was
priest, the " man of god, nay a demi-god, who alone knew the
will and ways of the heavenly powers, and could manage the


much feared gods, but doubly feared and revered demons ; and
this high status pertained to the Furaithoi till the sword and
teaching of Mahamad dissolved the charm. It ruthlessly
swept aside all the spiritualistic settings, never again to apj^ear
except in a clever small remnant, who escaped by the Makran
coast of the Indian ocean, carrying with them their magical
fire, threads, barsam and other interesting symbolisms.

It could scarcely have been otherwise, even if Iranians had
given birth to a succession of great Khosrus. The faith had lived
its long life of twenty-three centuries, and was then pressed on
all sides by younger faiths. It fell before the vigorous assaults
of the youngest, aided by internal disease and a wavering con-
fidence in itself The masses were groaning under the ever
tightening priestly bonds of rites, rides and customs which
encompassed them in every hour of private as well as public
life, while they saw around them freer and yet religious
peoples, though lacking the acknowledged higher and purer
ethikal relio;ion of their Avasta. Islam therefore meant to them
emancipation; and thus the great old faith died as all "Religions"
(but not religion) must. Springing from our common nature
they have no immunity from the universal law. Here the
dualistik fell before the simpler monotheistik, the former
like Christianity being too complicated for the masses. What
could they grasp in such priestly teaching as that : " A
paternal good monarch or spirit ruled as he best could in
the presence of an evil one who mostly controlled all matter ;
that the good monad posited or generated an only son who
sits beside him " shining forth with intellectual beams and
governing all things" — a virtual Trinitarian creed as the
Rev. J. Maurice shows in Ind. Ants., iv. 250, &c. Such
complicated faiths are not adapted to popular intelligence,
and therefore Islam everywhere swept the field, especially as
she spared not the sword.

Mazdean priests taught that under great Ormazd are six
Ameslia Sjjentas — the Am shaspands of Parsis — heavenly bene-
factors and guardian archangels ; and under them are innum-
erable hosts of Yazatas, Yasads or Izads, who follow the behests
of Sraosh, the Holy Spirit. As the executive of The Supreme, he


guards tlie universe " against the machinations of Aharam with
his six opposing arch-demons and their hosts, who can only be
controlled by the Word of the Lord." Hence arose sacred texts
which became spells and magical talismans, but this idea was
older than Zoroaster, for the most ancient pietists of Babylon
used to affix these, as does Europe to-day, on the walls of their
rooms, over their beds, &c.

The Mazdean believed that every person and element had
a Yazata or spirit — a Fravashi or guardian angel, being that of
a deceased, living or future person. Therefore were the dead
worshiped with sacrifices and prayers as in the Srddhas of
Hindus and the Manes of the west. Even Zarathustra had a
Fravash, as had Elohim a Ruh, Jehovah or Adonis, a Logos
or Spirit of Wisdom, and the New Testament Theos, a
Holy Ghost.

Zoroaster and Buddha were worshiped, as Arabs, Jews and
Syrians worshiped Adam, Seth, Abraham and Moses ; and so
the older Nature cult made itself a home in the new, however
ethikal and abstruse. Mazdahism had also its arborial, elemental
and bestial stage, just as had the faiths of Hebrews and others.
The Mazdahan priest cherished and venerated Imlls, cows, cocks,
dogs, &c., as " belonging to the good Creation," and hated ser-
pents, frogs, mice, &c., as a lower stage of the older paganism
" belonging to the bad Ahriman." These creatures w^ere
really symbols of attributes and principles which were liked or
disliked. The bull and cow represented the Yang and Yin of
China and the lingam and sakti of India, or the princijDles of
creative force. The cock — " the solar anouncer " stood lat-
terly for Sraosh, " the Angel of Light," and the dog was the
valuable early scavenger — the vulture of Egypt, which with
Parsis became the attendant on the dead, and with Greeks and
Hindus the guardian of the lower regions — the Kerberos and
Sarama, the dog of ludra and mother of the Sarameyas, Yama's
four-eyed watch dogs.

The mystikal ceremonies and symbolisms of Mazdahans
became as numerous and tiresome as those of Christians and
Buddhists ; yet Zoroaster as little intended this as did Christ
and Gotama. Besides the altar prayers and fire rites, there


were ceremonies concerning mystikal charms, cups, barsom,
crosses, svastikas, holy water or Zaothra, holy wine or Haoma,
buns or altar bread, sacred twigs and pomegranates ; and
Christian-like palm leaf rites, analogous to the sacred " Branch "
of Ezek. viii. 17, the Hebrew " Sprig of Almond," &c. There
were Mithraik eucharistik fetes nearly as old as those of
Egypt, where consecrated bread and wine were solemnly offered
on tables and altars, and partaken of as by Christians to-day,
in honor of the sun and of the dead ; and there were confessions
and consecrations after more or less purificatory rites, and often
with Ni7Xing (urine of bulls and cows) and occasionally with
human urine, see Bourke's Scatalogical Rites.

The Zoroastrian followed the Egyptian, but not the Kal-
dean, in declaring that our life here determined our life here-
after ; that we must work out our own salvation, and that
heaven keeps an hourly record of our deeds, good and bad — a
debit and credit account which no amount of prayers, rites or
sacrifices can efface, and this account is presented for immediate
execution on the bridge of Sraosh. A Savior is to appear in
the latter days for the guidance of the good and establishment
of a kingdom of righteousness, but no vicarious sacrifice is pos-
sible in this faith. Good works and virtues can alone discount
evil doings or the neglect to do good.

It remains that we go into some textual details to see how
the faith stands in the science of Comparative Eeligions, that
is, in regard to other faiths: without this, we cannot fairly judge
it, and it is now a universally accepted axiom that he who studies
only one religion can neither know it or other faiths aright.

The Mithraik- Savior- Idea, M. Lenormant traces from the
Turano-Akkadian Apollo, Silih-Mulu-khi, through Marduk, who
became with Zorastrians Saoshyant or Sraoscha, " The Holy
and Strong " — " the Son of the Lawo-iver still unborn." " At
His appearance Angra Mainyu and Hell will be destroyed ; men
will arise from the dead and everlasting happiness reign over
the world" (Darmesteter). Here was a sufficient base for the
Hebrew and Christian Messiah and the legends of "graves,
yielding up the dead."

The Rev. Dr Mills, in the Nineteenth Cent. Rev. of Jan. 94,


wrote, quoting S. B. of E., that according to "Zoroastrian Soteri-
OLOGY, a Virgin conceives without the loss of virginity from
the seed of Zoroaster miraculously preserved," and so the Savior
will be produced in the latter ages. " The seed was caught up
h}^ two angels and guarded by myriads in the lake Kasava, till,
at the end of the earthly cycle, a maid Ey^etdt-fedhri bathing
in the lake will conceive by it and bring forth the last Saosh-
yant or Savior. There were two predecessors similarly en-
gendered," just as there were Buddhas before Gotama,

In the words of the sacred Yashts —
xiii. 142. " We worship the guardian spirit of the holy virgin
Eretat-fedhri, who is called 'The All Conquering,'
for she will bring forth him who will destroy the
malice of demons and men.
xix. 92. Astvatereta (the Savior of the Restoration) will arise
from the waters of Kasava (like Sargon and
Moses), a friend of Ahura Mazda, a son of Vispa-
taurvi, the All Conquering," &c., &c. ; see some
coarse details in Bund : and S.B.E., v. 144.
The Rev. Dr Mills puts the date of this writing as early as
/' 600 B.C., and not later than 300," and says that Eastern Magi
would be familiar with the idea of the Virgin-l)orn babe of Bethle-
hem and ready to believe that he would be "King of Jews." He
shows mildly but clearly how the Judeo-Christian idea of the
Teniptation arose. Thus in Vindlddd xix. 43, " Zoroaster is be-
sought by the Evil One to abjure his religion and to obtain a
reward such as an evil ruler oot." After " much shoutino- " and
angry declamation at a council in hell, Angra Mainyu said : " Let
us (demons) assemble on the top of (the high mount) Areztiixi, for
born indeed is He, the righteous Zarathushtra of the house of
Pourushpa, (the Hindu Purusha or divine primeval man). He
is a Druj of the Druj (a Destroyer of the Destroyer), the
demon's foe . . . slay the holy Zarathushtra now no longer
just born, but in the vigor of his age." This assault is repelled
by prayer, sacrifices and the fervent recital of the creed ; when
Satan confesses " there is no death for Hmi ; oiorious is tlie
righteous Zarathushtra." " He knowing the heart of the demons
said : evil-minded Angra Mainyu ; I will smite the creation of


demons, even Nasu and the fairies who seduced earlv sages until
the Victorious One — the Savior — is born from the waters of
Kasava," probably the Kaspian or a sacred affluent.

Angra Mainyu then shouted : " Slay not my creatures, but
renounce the worship of Mazda and obtain the reward. ... I
know thou art Pourushaspa's son." To which Zarathushtra —
" Never shall I abjure the faith," &c., &c. The Evil One angrily
replied: " By whose word wilt thou conquer or abjure? By
what weapon canst thou conquer my creatures ? " Zarathushtra
answered : " With the Haoma" and like holy symbols and rites,
" and the Word which God pronounced. . . . With that word
shall I be victor and expel thee. ... It is the weapon . . .
forged by the Bounteous Spirit in boundless time . . . and given
to the Immortals to enable men to rule aright." ..." The
demons shouted . . . and fled away to the bottom of the Place
of Darkness . . . the frightful Hell."

Though here skiping too briefly through the Yashts, the
analogies with the Gospel story are as Dr Mills says " very strik-
ing." Compare the words " high mountain : cried with a loud
voice : my name is Legion. . . . Art thou come to destroy us ?
. . . The Holy One. , . . Led up into Wilderness to be tempted.
... I know Thee who thou art. . . . All these things I wiU give
Thee. . . . Thou shalt worship the Lord God. ... It is written
. . . get Thee hence. . . . The sword of the spirit. . . . Him
only shalt thou serve. . . . The devil leaveth him and goes into
the abyss," &c. Much more might be added to the same efi^ect.

The translations and notes thereon by Dr Mills show how
almost everywhere and closely the Judean writers have followed
the Zoroastrian ; cf. the garden legend of the first Mazdean
parents and quasi Fall. There it is distinctly told that the
Tempter was " the old serpent, the evil Spirit," which Hebrews
and Christians believe, though this is not stated in Genesis.
The Evil One opposes every good object of creation," with the
result that the pair are expelled from Eden, and sin and misery
abound to the present time.

Now these legends were from the earliest days of Mazdean-
ism familiar to every dweller in and around Babylonia : as Dr
Mills says, from " 1000 to 1500 or earlier . . . they must have


struck the attention of every learned scribe and been constantly
repeated, and would therefore mould Jewish and Christian
expressions," as we find they do through all the ages.

"The Asmodeus of Tobit iii. 8, 17 is positively the Aesh-
Madaeva of the Avasta, Y. 47. 7, &c. If the priests of Cyrus
conferred to the smallest degree with those of Ezra, then not
only the Gnostiks felt its influence, but the pre-Christian and
Christian theology. . . . Thus Tohit refers to 'the Seven
Spirits,' and Zechariah (iv. 10) speaks of the seven which are
the eyes of the Lord which run to and fro throughout the Earth ;
. . . further expanded in Rev. v. 6, where the Lamb has seven
horns and seven eyes which are the seven spirits of God sent
forth into all the earth."

The " attributes of Ahura the Mazdah," continues Dr Mills,
were defined "about B.C. 1000-1500 or even earlier, and were
those adopted by Hebrews for their Yahve. Ahura was " Our
Creator, and in a theological sense. Sovereign. A discern-
ing Arbiter, the Omniscient . . . our Judge and Lawgiver —
the Friend, Protector and Streng^thener — the LTnchang^eable . . .
the Establisher of Evil for the evil, and blessing for the good.
He was Mazdah, ' the Great Wise One.' "

The " Maga " of Cyrus was " with little doubt Avestic ;
for Maga as ' The Holy Cause,' occurs repeatedly in the Gathas
. . . but was pre-Gathic by centuries, and may have been
carried down to Akkadia by Turanians, cp. Y. 46. 12. . . .
Had Cyrus the Mazdah-worshiper not sent the Hebrews back,
later prophets might not have spoken in Jerusalem, nor Jesus
been born and taught at Bethlehem. . . . For a considerable
period after the Return, Jerusalem was in many respects a
Persian city . . . hence the rise of Pharisees or Farsees and
the later Parsls ; " and hence the many Pursian or Fire rites
of the Jewish temple.

The people were then Persian subjects still gazing afar on
their familiar and greater synagogue in Babylonia. As Dr
Mills says, " no Persian subject in the streets of Jerusalem —
even for long after the Return (400-390 B.C.) — could fail to
know " all the above as well as the doctrines of Angels, Resur-
rection and Immortality ; till then unformulated by Hebrews


and denied even long after Christ's time by their leading body
the Sadducees or Tsadukim.

" The Zoroastrian Scriptures, adds Dr Mills, are one mass of
spiritualism referring all results to the Heavenly or Infernal
worlds . . . and an unending futurity therein . . . Immortality
is a spirit. Ameretatdt — one of the six personified attributes
of the Deity, as never dying life." Heaven and hell appear in
the earliest Avastan age as chiefly mental states. For the
wicked is ordered the worst life (hell), for the holy, the best
mind (" Heaven," Y. xxx. 4, 20). The wicked are said to
have " curst their souls and selves by their own deeds, and
their bodies are therefore to rest for ever in the Home of

The soul departs to its own land before the resurrection,
and meets the body on Chin vat, the bridge of judgment, where
it appears as the Conscience, and in the case of the good man
as a beautiful and pure maiden who welcomes him thus : " I am
Conscience, thy good thoughts, words, and deeds, thy very
own." Who he says sent thee ? Answer : " Thou hast loved
me and desired me . . . even thy good thoughts, words, and
deeds," and she then rehearses his good and pious life, adding,
" this it is which has made me loving and beautiful ; " but the
man is incredulous and replies, as Dr Mills remarks, like the
pious ones in Matt. xxv. 37 : " When saw we thee a- hungered
and fed thee ? " and is answered that he was ever the friend of
righteousness, &c. Then he is led over the Chin vat Bridge to
the golden throne where is seated Voliu Manah, "The Good
Mind," who rises and welcomes the now united soul, and asks
various questions as to where he left " the perishable world . . .
found salvation, &c. " The first step places him in the entrance
of the threefold heaven — The good Tliought ; the second step
in that of The good Woixl, and the third, in The good Deed
heaven," and so "to the throne of Ahura Mazda and the golden
thrones of the bountiful immortals and to the abode of sublimity
or song ; even to Ahura Mazda s and the other homes of

All this is reversed in the case of the wicked. The soul
or conscience that awaits him is a hideous hag, and " Angra



Mainyu is there to laugh and mock liim until he himself rushes
into the hell of all evil thoughts, words and deeds." Vind. xix.

The Mazdahan is enjoined to strictly cherish the " Three
Great Precepts " which must guide his conduct through life, and
as aid to his memory, to wear a triple girdle. He must remem-
ber that Asha — " Kightness " or " Righteousness," will not alone
suffice ; neither will belief, nor any dogmas, necessary though
these be to the perfecting of the saint. " He is gifted with
Free Will and must earn his salvation," says Professor Sir M.
Williams, " by his benevolence, benedicence and beneficence, for
he is not here the helpless slave of fate, and will therefore
be judged according to his deeds " — a doctrine which Christians
and others have too scrupulously accepted ; for free will is not
a Zoroastrian dogma, and a very thorny question we must
refrain from entering on.

From Zoroastrianism, Shemites and others would get their
dogma : " the soul that sinneth, shall die," for as seen, no sacri-
fice or substitute — religious merit or self-mortification — was
accepted even in extenuation for unrighteous ways or neglect
of duty. Zoroastrians so dogmatized 1000 years B.C., and this
teaching is reiterated by Hebrews in Ezekiel some 400 years
later (chap, xviii.), and in apokalyptik writers like Enoch
and others.

Zoroaster does not seem to have sharply distinguished
good and evil, but rather to have held, like some in our
days, that these are abstract ideas and opposite conditions of
our nature, changing with the age, culture and circumstances.
Even the evil and good spirits seem to have been crystalized
by the illiterate into harder conceptions than the prophet's
philosophy admitted of. He simply considered them to be two
opposite but not opposing principles or forces (he calls them
" twins") inherent in God's nature, and even set in motion by
Him. The one was constructive, the other destructive, and
both are said to be necessary in moulding and recreating —
doctrines taught by Vedantists in their cult of Brahma, Vishnu
and Siva. Hindus constantly reiterate : " There can be no life
without death ; light without darkness ; reality without un-
reality, or truth without falsehood." "Only by these opposites,"


says Professor Williams, " was eternal and immutable law
evolved," nor till much later l)y Hebrews and Christians. We
are, nevertheless, as far as ever from clearing up this mystery.
It is only complicated by religions, for they posit the creation
or permission of evil, sin and miseries by a perfectly good, wise
omnipresent all-mighty and omniscient God. From " The
Supreme " flowed both good and evil, said Greeks as well as the
Hebrew Isaiah (xlv. 6) : indeed, the oftentimes querulous Yahve
Ale-im inspired evil as well as good, false as well as true pro-
phets, battle, murder, and sudden death, and brought misery
unspeakable upon his own and all other peoples.

As races became more logical and inquisitive, a devil spirit
became a necessity, and was perhaps first produced in Angro-
Mainyus — the Anlio or Anhas — " Evil "-Mainyus or Spirit,
abbreviated in Ahriman ; and this led to Ahura being called
the Spento-Mainyus or "Beneficent Spirit." But he, like
Yahv6, was unable without the co-operation of Angra Mainyus
to evolve kosmikal being, and without " the Fall " there could
have been no kosmos ; no hioidedge of good and evil, no pluck-
ing of "the Tree of Knowledge," no propagation of mankind,
no Savior or scheme of salvation.

Zoroastrians were satisfied with their Dualism up to the
Greek age of the Sasanians, when it became distasteful to the
better educated. Then, as now, men laboured to define and
see their god-idea more clearly, but a " god explained is a

Online LibraryJames George Roche ForlongShort studies in the science of comparative religions, embracing all the religions of Asia ; → online text (page 20 of 63)