Zoroastrianism Zoroastrianism is a religion from ancient Iran whose theology has been up to much debate over the years by historians. Many saw this religion as a bridge between Eastern and Western religions. Zoroastrianism has been said to been practiced in Ancient Iran around 6th century B. C. E. This was one of the first monotheistic religions shining out among the clutter of polytheistic religions in the east and west. The worship was to maintain the natural order, truth, and righteousness of the universe. Zoroastrianism was founded by Zarathushtra a Persian prophet, would said he had a vision of a God named Ahura Mazda.
He was known as the great reformer and lived about 1100 to 550 B. C. E. He was a trained priest in the Indo-Iranian tradition. Zarathushtra was a mystical speaker who spent many years in spiritual retreat. All throughout Iran he was know as Mazdayasna to the people who met and heard of his teachings. Zarathushtra believed in Ahura Mazda as the creator God. He believed he was pulled up to heaven and had a conversation with Ahura Mazda. Zarathushtra denounced all forms of cruelty, destruction, and hypocrisy. Ahura Mazda was said to create only good and should be worshipped by good thoughts and good deeds only.
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Adoration was showed to “the supreme” by rhythmic verses called Gathas. These have been the main source into the inside of Zoroastrian theology. Zoroastrianism was first spread and accepted by King Vishtapa in his state and has the required religion for 50 years until his death. Over the years the spread of Zoroastrianism has been a very difficult process and faced many threats to it existence. Many Jews adapted beliefs of the religion to the Jewish principles practiced over the years in the Jewish religion. In 331 B. C. E. spiritual devotion to Ahura Mazda was threatened by invasion of Alexander in Iran.
He destroyed temples, burned libraries and holy scriptures, and killed man Zoroastrian priests. The religion was re-established in an Iranian empire by the Pathians, but many things were added and changed in the religion. As time continued the number of Zoroastrians dwindled under Muslim dominance in India. When the prophet Zarathushtra died the beliefs of Zoroastrianism seemed to merge with polytheistic religions and uncertainty about his teachings arose. Zoroastrianism was focused on only one divine being who creates and orders the universe.
Their God was called Ahura Mazda, by masculine gender and was said to have six divine powers. Zarathushtra believed that Ahura Mazda’s six divine powers were The Goal Mind, Righteousness, Absolute Power, Devotion, Perfection, and Immortality. As time passed and Zarathushtra died these attributes began to be worshiped as beings. They were described as Ameshta Spenta, a luminous deity or guardians of Ahura Mazda’s creation, the chief among angels. Zarathushtra believed in cosmic dualism which was where Ahura Mazda was opposed by a dark force of equal power.
Mazda was the good creator who created only perfection and purity. The battle between god and evil spirits was between Spenta Mainyu and Angra Mainyu. Spenta was the good spirit who stood for life order, perfection, health, happiness, and increase. Angra the evil spirit stood for chaos, imperfection, disease, sorrow, and destruction. Like many western religions Zoroastrianism believed that humans must dedicate themselves as spiritual warriors in order to fight against the Angra Mainyu. Zarathushtra believed that humans had enough free will and mental capacity to choose what they wanted to do.
He believed that non-loving acts in the name of religion aided the cause of evil. It was thought that all acts must be good and loving so to praise Ahura Mazda. In Zoroastrianism it was believed that each of us is judged in the end according to the total of goodness or evilness of our thoughts, words, and deeds. Where you ended up after life was all about what you did here on earth. As a Zoroastrian the greater the goodness you preformed in life “the wider the bridge” to heaven. Heaven was known as The Kingdom of Light where souls reside after they die.
The greater the evil preformed in your life “the narrower the bridge” to hell. It kept becoming narrower and narrower until souls could not cross. It was believed when narrower enough the people would fall into hell or “the House of Lie”. It was believed when after you died soul’s actions were weighed, but by a different judge than Mazda. There form of life after death was natural law, that good deeds bring rewards and in the end evil brings punishment. Zoroastrians believe effect of actions while alive will be felt in the present and the afterlife.
Zarathushtra believed that there was no external hell, because good was ultimately coming. The world was said to gradually reach a state of perfection, because all souls dead and alive would be released from evil. The revival of the world was called Frashokenti which meant refreshment. The coming of Frashokenti put emphasis on the moral responsibilities of individual people because their acts tied into the revival of the whole world. The Zoroastrianism holy book was called the Avesta or book of the law. This book was filled with sacred writings and liturgical works in hymns.
As well it contained invocations, and rituals. This book even went as far as to have spells against demons and medical prescriptions for purification. This book however was not completed until 226-641 B. C. E. Rituals were a major element of Zoroastrian practices. One was the sacred cord which would be tied around the mid-section 5 times a day. This whole process was called the Kutsi, and it was worn by males and females while a prayer was being said. Zoroastrians believed in the general equality of men and women. Many of the rituals preformed were focused on purity.
Water and fire were used as methods of purification for the body and soul. It was considered a great sin to pollute water because the natural world was to be viewed in reverence. When the physical body dies, Zoroastrians carry the body to a Tower of Silence. The top of the tower is upon to the sky, so the rituals can be preformed to the body. The body is left up there and vultures eat the flesh at the top, to avoid pollution of the world with decaying flesh. Fravashi was the eternal principle and guide, which is invoked when a person passes. Today in Iran there is little incentive to convert to Zoroastrianism.
Soon after 637 C. E Zoroastrianism disappeared almost all over the world except in Persia because of Muslim invasion. Over the years many believers in Zoroastrianism became ashamed of the mystical part of their faith. Many tended to de emphasize the rituals and beliefs in the evil spirits because they wanted their religion to be accepted. No however as historians begin to dig into the sacred text of Zoroastrianism in hopes of translating the beliefs new found passion is coming back to the practices of the religion based on its new found “popularity”.