14 September 2015
#History of World Civilization, Day Fourteen
What were the basic teachings of Zoroastrianism? Why is it considered a highly moralistic religion? How did Zoroastrianism influence other religions?
Zoroastrianism is a religious system that arose in ancient Persia sometime in the early second millennium BC. It is a monotheistic philosophy, believing in a single, creator god named Ahura Mazda. It was developed by the prophet Zoroaster (or Zarathustra) in reaction to the pagan, polytheistic religions on the ancient Indo-Iranians, and their rituals of animal sacrifice and the use of mind-altering substances. Zoroaster taught that only Ahura Mazda was worthy of worship, and any other seeming “deities” were evil spirits, servants of Angra Mainyu, the evil counterpart, or opposite of Ahura Mazda in a somewhat dualistic belief. Ahura Mazda rules his creation according to universal laws, the Daena, which is good, ordered, and perfect. Anything against the Daena is, by definition, evil, disorder, chaos, etc. Mortal beings must actively support the Daena by the three basic tenets of Zoroastrianism: Good Deeds, Good Thoughts, and Good Words. Humans are expected to participate actively in the battle between good and evil by observing the three tenets.
Since all Zoroastrian practice is focused on the actions, words, and thoughts of a person, moral uprightness is the paramount goal, and any failure of such is disorder, decay, chaos, etc. It is considered moralistic for its emphasis on good human behavior. Each person is directly responsible for his or her moral choices, and must actively make good moral choices. More than simply refraining from evil, they must not fail to do acts of good. To fail to do good deeds is to choose and empower evil. Earthly pleasures are allowed, so long as they are indulged in moderation and not by defrauding another.
Zoroastrians believe that creation will one day be remade by Ahura Mazda, in the final destruction of Angra Mainyu. All human beings, even those whose souls were cast into darkness for moral failure in life, will be joined with Ahura Mazda in a new, perfect world, free of defect. Scholars believe Christian eschatology recorded in the New Testament book of The Revelation was heavily influenced by this “new earth” concept, and the idea that the morally corrupt will be cast out into darkness. Christian concepts of fallen angels, or demons, resemble Zoroastrian beliefs of evil spirits as servants of Angra Mainyu. Islam eventually supplanted Zoroastrianism, but its emphasis on rituals, rules, and a strict code of conduct may have Zoroastrian roots. The Zoroastrian concept of Daena is closely related to the Buddhist concept of Dharma, and is often translated as such in Hindu.