History of religion

Religions of Antiquity X: A Persian Bringer of Truth: Zarathustra

(Published in GralsWelt 20/2001).

In Germany the name is Zarathustra (Greek Zoroaster) especially through Friedrich Nietzsche became known, the main work of which bears the name of the Persian priest. However has Nietzsches philosophical fictional figure with this model only has the name in common.

“I was not asked, I should have been asked what the name Zarathustra means in my mouth, in the mouth of the first immoralist: for what makes that Persian so unique in history is precisely the opposite. Zarathustra first saw the real wheel in the gears of things in the struggle of good and evil: the translation of morality into the metaphysical, as force, cause, purpose in itself is his work. "                     Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900).

Like Nietzsche himself says that the religious reformer is an antipole to the atheistic-nihilistic way of thinking of the German philosopher.

What do we know about the ancient Persian founder of the religion, who may have been the first to announce the only God?

The life of Zoroaster
In ancient times, a religious reformer lived in Persia whose teachings can only be reconstructed with difficulty from fragmentary traditions. It is uncertain when he lived; estimates vary between 600 B.C. and 1,500 B.C. Philologists and archaeologists differ widely in their dates. Should the latter time (around 1,500 B.C.) be accurate, then Zarathustra before Akhenaten (Amenophis IV, 1384-1347 BC), Moses (c. 1,225 B.C.), both of which proclaimed monotheistic religions, and long before Buddha (560-480 BC) lived. He would be the first monotheist in the history of religion.

Zarathustra was a trained priest from a respected, aristocratic family who felt pressured to reform the Altar religion practiced in his homeland.

The pre-Zoroastrian society was divided into 3 classes: nobility, priests, peasants and shepherds, with the warrior nobility as the ruling class.

A multitude of gods were worshiped with Mithra as the supreme god, whom the Greeks equated Zeus.

The religious rites, under the influence of Haoma (Indian "soma", an intoxicant), culminated in orgiastic excesses that went to frenzy. Animals such as oxen were cruelly sacrificed.

So far passed down, left Zarathustra at the age of twenty his place of birth (either Raga in western Iran or Shiz on Lake Urmia in today's Azerbaijan) and devoted himself to religious reflections. At the age of 30 the angel appeared to him on the Daitya (Oxus) river Vohu Mano (good sense) and led him to the throne of the highest God Ahura Mazdawho revealed himself to him. Zarathustra thus had a calling experience similar to that of Old Testament prophets and also of Mohammed reported.

Afterwards Zarathustra tried in vain for 12 years to win followers for his "revealed religion". Only after he had succeeded in meeting the prince in Bactria (Eastern Iran) Vishtaspa and to convert his wife, as well as the court nobility, Zarathustra gained influence. As a neighbor prince Vishtaspa attacked and invaded its capital, was Zarathustra Killed in combat at the age of 77.

The teachings of Zarathustra
Zarathustra condemned bloody victims and the use of the haoma. He wanted to overcome the worship of numerous deities, called devas, through his monotheism. He proclaimed the highest God Ahura Mazda, the creator of all things, from whom all good things proceed.

But there are also two driving forces (mainyus) with which a person is confronted. One is “spenta” (holy, virtuous) and Ahura Mazda assigned, the other is "angra" (evil, hostile). Spenta Mainyu and Angra Mainyu are irreconcilable towards each other and every person is called to agree Spenta Mainyu to confess as the originator of life and progress, and of Angra Mainyu which means non-life and regression.

Probably for the first time in the history of religion appears the duality between good and evil, which is also in Christianity as a struggle between Jesus and Lucifer continues.
There is a compromise between the two contrary principles for Zarathustra not. Good and bad oppose each other harshly until the end of the day Ahura Mazda enforces a final judgment in which good and bad receive their reward. That is the great decision towards which the whole course of the world aims. This Last Judgment appears here for the first time in a religion; only later will Jewish, Christian, Islamic preachers speak of the “last judgment”.

on Zarathustra also goes back the doctrine of the world ages, which later such as Christian mystics Joachim of Fiore (around 1130-1202) plays an important role. Zarathustra speaks of 4 ages of 3,000 years each, so that the whole cycle of the world lasts 12,000 years. So we lived in the last of these ages, in which every 1,000 years a gifted person should appear until the last of these God messengers, the Saoshyant (Helper) brings about the resurrection of the dead. This is followed by the final battle, the one with annihilation Angra Mainyus and all evil ends.

Next to Ahura Mazda as the highest and the pair of opposites Spenta Mainyu - Angra Mainyu the Zoroastrian religion still knows a hierarchy of spirits that correspond to angels, beings (devas), demons and devils.

That from Zarathustra Required good behavior requires not only benevolent behavior but also the fight against enemies of faith, the “comrades of lies”. The followers Zoroaster are responsible for their thoughts and actions; not only as far as humans are concerned, but also towards animals, especially cattle. The conscientious rancher is for Zarathustra the symbol for a pious person. This view was not without social explosives in its time, since the cattle breeders were counted to the lowest social class. (The “Good Shepherd” is also praised in the Bible).

So every person has to choose between good and bad in his or her actions. After his death he can either go to paradise or must go to hell. For those whose good and bad deeds are balanced, there is an intermediate state. At the end of the world, soul and body will be put together again and each individual will be finally decided in the Last Judgment. Corresponding ideas of paradise, purgatory, hell, resurrection of the dead and the last judgment can be found in Christianity.

The problem of theodicy also appears for the first time Zarathustra the question of whether God can be both good and omnipotent when he tolerates so much evil in the world. (Read about this "Why does God allow all of this?", under “History of Religion”).

Zarathustra proclaims that a good God does not produce anything evil, so that an "antigod", an apostate spirit, is responsible for all evil; a show that Christianity has adopted.

The Zoroastrian cult
Fire plays a central role in the cult of the Zoroastrians. The “holy fire” burns in the temple, stoked five times a day by a priest, and a hearth fire burned in every home that served two purposes: Meals were cooked on it and it had to be carefully kept clean so that the family prayers could be said to it could become. The fire was not allowed to be contaminated, for example by burning rubbish, only clean, dry wood was to be used.

The cremation of corpses that were considered unclean was no more an option than an earth burial, which would pollute the earth. So there are still the "Towers of Silence" in India today, in which "Parsees" leave their dead to the vultures.

Zoroastrianism according to Zarathustra
To Zoroaster With death, the doctrine he had denied spread over Persia. In the Persian empire of the 3rd and 4th centuries BC, Zoroastrianism became the state religion. From then on, the Persians adhered to their particular religion until AD 641. Islamic Arabs conquered the Persian Empire.

From then on, followers of the Zarathustra suppressed in their homeland and many of their scriptures burned. It was not until the 20th century that the reprisals against non-Muslims in Iran were eased.

In 936 AD many followers wandered Zoroaster to India. There these “Parsees” had to adapt to the customs of their new homeland, but were allowed to keep their faith. Today they form the largest closed group that professes Zoroastrianism.
There are smaller Zoroastrian communities in England, Canada and the USA. These are faced with the problem of adapting to the western environment without losing their religious identity. -

The Awesta, the sacred script of the Zoroastrians, was codified quite late, around the time of Sassanid King Shapur II (A.D. 309-379). About a quarter of the Awesta is currently preserved, the rest fell victim to Arabs and Mongol storms.
The Awesta consists of:
1. The Gathas, the original quotations of Zoroaster
2. The Yasnas are liturgical texts
3. The Vispered, ie a liturgical pamphlet with hymns of praise
4. Den venidad, ie a priestly code of conduct
5. The Yashts, a collection of hymn sacrificial songs
6. The khorda, a devotional and prayer book
The Yashts and Yasnas are considered to be as old as the Gathas, although their linguistic form appears somewhat younger.


Good spirit, unlike the devas. In India, Devas are the good and Ahuras are the bad, just the opposite of Zarathustra.

Ahura Mazda (all-wise lord)
For Zarathustra, Ahura Mazda is the one, true, all-powerful and all-wise creator god, who differs from pre-Zarathustrian deities. This one God is something fundamentally new that overcomes traditional notions of deities. In the Gathas Zarathustra says:
“Who is the producer, the forefather of divine right?
Who set the course for the sun and the stars?
Who is it through whom the moon soon waxes and soon fades?
Who holds the earth below, as well as the heavens,
That they don't fall? Who the waters and the plants?
Who harnesses the racing duo to the wind and the clouds?
Which master created the lights and the darkness?
Which master made sleep and wake?
Who is it, through which mornings are noon and evening,
Admonishing those who are responsible about their duty? "(3, p. 185)

Angra Mainyu, Ahriman (angry spirit)
at Zarathustra a twin brother of the Spenta Mainyu. Angra Mainyu decides against the "order of truth" and in favor of lies and becomes the source of evil. Together with the host of angels who had joined him, he became of Spenta Mainyu overturned:

“But when these two spirits met, they donated it for the first time Life and death, and that in the end
Evil existence awaits the lying servants - but the best sense of the orthodox ..
From these two spirits the lying spirit was chosen to work evil,
But the divine right was chosen by the Holy Spirit, who has the firmest heavens for his garment,
And choose all those who willingly seek to please the All-Wise Lord through pure deeds. " (3, p. 170).

Through the waste Angra Mainyus and the devas seduced by him, death had arisen for the first time, which - as in the Bible - is interpreted as separation from God, the eternal source of life.

Awesta (knowledge, basic text)
The Awesta is the sacred writing of Zoroastrianism, of which only about ¼ has been preserved. The oldest part, the gathas, become Zarathustra attributed to. The originals of Awesta are written in the old Iranian language, some of which were no longer understood in ancient times. Zoroastrian priests therefore made translations into Central Iran and wrote comments. This duplicate is called "Zend-Awesta", "Commentary and Basic Text".

Deva, Daeva
Name of gods which corresponds to the Latin "deus". Zarathustra fought the ancient Persian religion, which was similar to the Vedic religion of the Indians, and interpreted the devas in the sense of demons.
In today's esotericism, angels or natural beings (beings) are sometimes referred to as devas.

The oldest part of the Awesta that is on Zoroaster should go back itself.
The Gathas are written in a very ancient language, which enables special poetic forms that make the Gathas a poetic-religious work of art of the first order. This skill of the poet cannot be conveyed in translations.

Old Iranian name of a medicinal and magical plant of the genus Ephedra, from which a drinking potion was prepared. He played an important role in animal sacrifices, especially in the cult of Mithra. Was from Zarathustra forbidden.

Mazdaism (after Ahura Mazda)
Name for the teaching of Zarathustrawhose followers are also known as "Mazdayasnians".

Parse, parse
The descendants of those Persians who did not want to accept Islam and who emigrated to India in the 10th century, where they only married each other. To this day they form a closed community of around 100,000 people in India.

Spenta Mainyu (Holy Spirit)
Zarathustra looks in Spenta Mainyu the firstfruits and Son of God. Under the direction of the Father, He created all things, including the world of animals, plants, and water. Clad with the firm heavens, he lives as Lord of the kingdom in paradise, which he allows to develop on behalf of God. Together with God he devised the right order, the laws and the plan of salvation. On the last day, at God's command, he will judge the righteous and the unrighteous; for he knows the secret counsel of the Father, with whom he is one for eternity. (After 3, p. 137).

A teaching within Zoroastrianism that arose in the Sassanid period (224-642 AD). She wants the dualism between Ahura Mazda and Ahriman overcome by the monistic thought that both emerged from “zervan akarnan” (enduring time).

Name for the from Zarathustra (Zoroaster) founded religion that underwent changes after his death.
The winged man, ie the female genius of Ahura Mazda, is a symbol of the Zoroastrian faith. He is represented as a person who is in a winged solar disk.

(1) Eliade, Mircea / Coulino, Ioan P. “Handbook of Religions”, Artemis & Winkler, Zurich / Munich 1990.
(2) Glasenapp Helmuth “The Non-Christian Religions”, Fischer, Frankfurt 1957.
(3) Hinz, Walther "Zarathustra", W. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1961.
(4) König, Franz "Christ and the Religions of the Earth", Herder, Freiburg 1951.
(5) Tworuschka, Monika and Udo “Religions of the World”, Orbis, Munich 1996.
(6) Widengren, Geo “The Religions of Irans”, Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1965.