World Religions: Zoroastrianism


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World Religions: Zoroastrianism

  1. 1. World Religions Zoroastrianism
  2. 2. Overview• The ancient religion of Persia• Founded by the prophet Zarathustra c. 3500 years ago (Zoroaster (GK) in the West, Zarthsht in Persia and India)• Zarathustra was one of the first monotheists in human history—this in spite of the polytheistic traditions of India and Iran• Zoroastrian tradition dates Zoroaster at about 600 BC, modern estimates at about 1500 to 1000 BC• Legends say that demons tried to kill him as an infant
  3. 3. Overview• Later served as a priest of his religious order• At 30 received a revelation from the angel Vohu Mana, who told him there was only one true god, Ahura Mazda, and that Zoroaster was to be his prophet• For 10 years there were no converts, then Zoroaster’s prince converted and the faith spread rapidly• After Persia conquered Babylon in 539 BC, the faith became an influential power in that part of the world. It remained so until the rise of Islam in the 7th century AD
  4. 4. Overview• Most responsible for the spread of the faith were the Magi (who were often chaplains traveling with the Persian army), and priests of the Zoroastrian tradition• At the time of Jesus, Zoroastrianism vied with Judaism as the most influential religious tradition• Zoroastrians have endured much persecution in the 1300 years since the Muslim conquest• In the 10th century a small group left Iran for India and established a sect known as Parsis. They continue there to this day
  5. 5. Belief System• Gathas – a set of 5 poetic songs composed by Zoroaster forming the basic Zoroastrian scripture• Through the years other scriptures accumulated, but the Gathas are still the core text of the faith• The Gathas say that there is one transcendent god, Ahura Mazda• Though transcendent, Mazda is in constant relationship with human beings and the world he created through his attributes—which are the means by which the world reaches god and god reaches the world
  6. 6. Belief System• Amesha Spentas (Bounteous Immortals)—Ahura Mazda’s attributes• Each one embodies an attribute of god, as well as a human virtue. They are also symbols of the various sectors of creation over which god watches The Attributes Ahura Mazda Virtues •Vohu Manah Good Thought Animals •Asha Vahista Justice & Truth Fire & Energy •Kshathra Dominion Metals & Minerals •Spenta Armaiti Devotion & Serenity Earth & Land •Hauvatat Wholeness Water •Ameretat Immortality Plants •Spenta Mainyu Creative Energy Human Beings
  7. 7. Belief System• The Gathas are sometimes just ideas or concepts. In later tradition they were personified, becoming like archangels, but never worshipped The Dualism of Zoroastrianism In early traditions—those closest to the Gathas—thedualism was an Ethical dualism Spenta Mainyu—the “Holy Creative Spirit”—is opposed by the “Hostile Spirit” Angra Mainyu The conflict is in the human heart and mind; a constant struggle between good and evil in human beings
  8. 8. The Dualism of Zoroastrianism (cont.)• In later traditions there developed a Cosmic dualism – It takes into account the material world, dividing the universe into two camps – Each camp is ruled by either the good god or the evil spirit Some Zoroastrians believe in cosmic dualism, others in ethical dualism. The teachings of the Gathas, the original work of Zoroaster, tend toward ethical dualism.
  9. 9. Belief System• Worship involves prayers and symbolic ceremonies around a sacred fire – Fire was used as a god-symbol and the ideal sign of god to demonstrate light, warmth, and energy – Fire was not, is not, worshipped in and of itself – Fire is used for its symbolic or iconic value as a means to focus worship  Human souls are judged Zoroastrianism was one of the first based on amount of goodreligions to give the afterlife a moral works v. bad works dimension  Good go to heaven, “best Do not believe in karma or existence” reincarnation  Bad go to hell, “worst existence”
  10. 10. Belief System• Believe in the progress of sacred time, and the eventual end of time• Believe in the “frasho-kereti” or “making fresh” (renewal). That is, the collective good acts of humanity will slowly transform the imperfect material world into its heavenly ideal• The end result of the “frasho-kereti” is that, at the end of time, everything and everyone will be purified, even the souls in hell (thus, hell is not eternal)Zoroastrians contend that their ideas of moral dualism, heaven and hell, sacred time, and angelic beings have influenced Judaism andChristianity, during centuries of contact in the Middle east. What do you think?
  11. 11. Belief System The Threefold Path Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds• The threefold path is the center of the faith• One knows what is good through the divine help of Vohu Manah (good mind) and a divinely inspired conscience (Daena)• By thinking good thoughts, one is moved to speak good words, and that leads to good deeds “Falsehood brings an age-long punishment, and truth leads on to fuller, higher life” (Yasna 30:11).