Zoroastrianism is the ancient
religion of Persia. It was founded about 3500 years ago by the prophet
out of the polytheistic traditions of ancient India and Iran, he was one
of the first monotheists in human history.
Zarathushtra preached that there was
one God, whom he called Ahura Mazda. Ahura means "Lord," and Mazda
means "Wise," so Zoroastrians call God the "Wise Lord." Zarathushtra has
been known in the West as Zoroaster, from the Greek transliteration
of his name; in Persia and India he is known as Zarthosht.
No one knows exactly when Zarathushtra lived. Zoroastrian tradition places
him at around 600 B.C.E., but this date is thought by modern scholars to
be far too late. The modern estimate of Zarathushtra's date is anywhere
from 1500 to 1000 B.C.E.
The basic scripture of Zoroastrianism is a set of 5 poetic songs called
The Gathas_, which were composed by Zarathushtra himself and have been
preserved through the millennia by Zoroastrian priests. Over the years
many other scriptures have accumulated around these Gathas. Much of these
scriptures were destroyed by
the Greek, Muslim, and Mongol invasions, but some remain. The Gathas are
still the core text of the faith.They are composed in a very ancient
language known as Avestan, which is closely related to
Sanskrit. The evidence scholars use to give a time reference to
Zarathushtra is linguistic: the language of the hymns composed by the
Prophet is similar to the Sanskrit of the Rig-Veda, an ancient
Hindu text which has been dated to the period of 1500-1000 B.C.E.
In the Gathas, Zarathushtra preached that the One God, Ahura Mazda, is
transcendent, but he is in constant relationship with human beings and the
world God created through his Attributes.
These Attributes are how God reaches the world, and how the world reaches
God. Zarathushtra did not specify a fixed number of Attributes, but soon
after the Prophet they were specified into seven. These attributes are
called the Amesha Spentas, or "Bounteous Immortals." Each
one of these embodies an attribute of God, as well as a human virtue. They
are also symbols for the various sectors of Creation over which God
Vohu Manah - Good Thought - connected with Animals
Asha Vahishta - Justice and Truth - Fire and Energy
Kshathra - Dominion - Metals and minerals
Spenta Armaiti - Devotion and Serenity - The earth and land
Haurvatat - Wholeness - Waters
Ameretat - Immortality - Plants
Spenta Mainyu - Creative Energy - Human beings
In the Gathas these are sometimes personified, and sometimes just Ideas or
concepts. In later traditions, they are
personified, and become like archangels. They are never worshipped on
The "dualism" of Zoroastrianism is known in the "West," but is mostly
misunderstood. In the Gathas Spenta Mainyu, the "Holy
Creative Spirit," is opposed to Angra Mainyu, the Hostile Spirit. This
conflict takes place in the human heart and mind, not in the
material Universe. It is the constant struggle between good and evil in
human beings. This is ethicaldualism, the dualism of Good and Evil.
In later traditions this changed into a dualism that took in the material
world, dividing the Universe into two camps, each ruled by the Good God or
the Evil Spirit. This is called "cosmic" dualism.
Some Zoroastrians believe in "cosmic" dualism, others in ethical dualism.
The teachings of the Gathas, the original work ofthe Prophet, tend toward
Zoroastrian worship involves prayers and symbolic ceremonies said before a
sacred fire. This fire, which was a God-symbol even before Zarathushtra,
was used by the Prophet and by his followers ever after as the ideal sign
of God, who is light,
warmth, energy. Zoroastrians do NOT worship fire, as some people believe.
They use Fire as a symbol, or an icon, the focus of their worship.
Zoroastrianism does not teach or believe in reincarnation or karma.
Zoroastrians believe that after life on earth, the human soul is judged by
God as to whether it did more good or evil in its life. Those who chose
good over evil go to what Zarathushtra referred to simply as the "best
existence," or heaven, and those who chose evil go to the "worst
existence," or hell. Zoroastrianism was one of the
first religions to give the afterlife a moral dimension.
Zoroastrianism also believes in the progress of sacred time, and the
eventual end of time. The belief is that the collective good acts of
humanity will slowly transform the imperfect material world
into its heavenly ideal. This is known as the "frasho-kereti," or
"making-fresh," that is, renewal. At the end of time everything and
everyone will be purified, even the souls in hell - so hell is not
Zoroastrian ideas of moral dualism, heaven and hell, sacred time, and
angelic beings have influenced Judaism and Christianity, during long
centuries of contact between these faiths in the Middle
The most important thing about Zoroastrianism is the dedication to ethical
and moral excellence. The motto of the faith is:
GOOD THOUGHTS, GOOD WORDS, GOOD DEEDS.
This threefold path is the center of the faith. One knows what is good
through the Divine help of Vohu Manah (Good Mind) and divinely inspired
If there is anything to remember about Zoroastrianism, it is this
threefold path. By thinking good thoughts, one is moved to speak good
words, and that leads to good deeds. This is a practical and
world-affirming faith, that does not hate the world nor dwell on sin and
Zoroastrians are mostly of Persian origin, though the recent breakup of
the Soviet Union has revealed isolated groups of Central Asian and
Armenian Zoroastrians as well. In the 10th century A.D.
groups of Persian Zoroastrians fled an oppressive Muslim regime and
settled in Gujarat, in western India. These are the Parsis of India, who
are a major influence today. From India and Iran Zoroastrians have spread
all over the world, and there are communities in England, Australia,
Canada, the United States, and other countries. These diaspora communites
now face the problems of how to adapt their ancient religious traditions
to a modern world.
To learn about Zoroastrainism you can go to the following links or
perform your own research: