Zoroaster (more correctly Zarathustra, which in Greek and Latin was corrupted into Zarastrades and Zoroastres, while the Persians and Parsees changed it into Zerdusht) was the founder of the Parsee religion. The original meaning of the word was probably that of "chief," "senior," "high-priest," and it was a common designation of a spiritual guide and head of a district or province. Indeed, the founder of Zoroastrianism is hardly ever mentioned woithout his family name Spitima. He was a native of Bactria. He applied to himself the terms Manthran (reciter of "Manthras"), a messenger sent by Ahura- Mazda, or a speaker, one who listens to the voice of oracles given by the spirit of nature, one who receives sacred words from Ahura-Mazda through the flames. His life is covered with obscurity. The accounts of him are legendary and unhistorical. In the Zend writings he is to a great extent represented, not as a historical, but as a dogmatical personality, vested with superhuman, or even divine, powers, standing next to God. His temptations by the devil, whose empire was threatened by him, form the subject of many traditional stories and legends. He is represented as the fountain of all wisdom and truth, and the master of the whole living creation. One of the prayers of the Fravardiul Yasht declares —
"We worship the rule and the guardian angel of Zarathustra Spitima, who first thought good thoughts, who first spoke good words, who first performed good actions who was the first priest, the first warrior, the first cultivator of the soil, the first prophet, the first who was inspired, the first who has given to mankind nature, and reality, and word, and hearing of word, and wealth, and all good things created by Mazda, which embellish reality; who first caused the wheel to turn among gods and men, who first praised the purity of the living creation and destroyed idolatry, who confessed the Zarathustrian belief in Ahura-Mazda, the religion of the living God against the devils.... Through him the whole true and revealed word was heard, which is the life and guidance of the world.... Through his knowledge and speech the waters become desirous of growing; through his knowledge and speech all beings created by the Holy Spirit are uttering words of happiness." In the older Yasna alone he appears like a living reality, a man acting a great and prominent part, both in the history of his country and that of mankind.
I. History. — Zoroaster's father seems to have been called Purusbaspa, and his daughter, the only one of his children mentioned, Puruchista. But the time when he lived remains very obscure. He is usually said to have flourished in the reign of a king Gushtasp, who has, on apparently sufficient grounds, been identified with the Darius Hystaspis of the classical writers (Malcolm, Hist. of Persia, 1:234). The dates generally given are as follows: Xanthos of Lydia places him about six hundred years before the Trojan war; Aristotle and Eudoxus place him six thousand years before Plato; others, again, five thousand years before the Trojan war. Berosus, a Babylonian historian, makes him a Babylonian king, and the founder of a dynasty which reigned over Babylon between 2200 and 2000 B.C. .The Parsees place him at the time of Hystaspes, the father of Darius, whom they identify with a king mentioned in the Shah-Nameh, from whom, however, Hystaspes is wholly distinct. This account would place Zoroaster at about 550 B.C. Yet there is scarcely a doubt that he must be considered as belonging to a much earlier age, not later than 1000 B.C. It is almost certain that Zoroaster was one of the Sosbyantos, or five priests, with whom the religious reform first arose, which he boldly carried out. The Aryans seem to have originally led a nomad life, until some of them, reaching, in the course of their migrations, lands fit for permanent settlements, settled down into agriculturists. Bactria and the parts between the Oxus and the Jaxartes seem to have attracted them most. The Iranians became gradually estranged from their brother tribes, who adhered to their ancient nomad life, and by degrees came to consider those peaceful settlements a fit prey for their depredations and inroads. The hatred thus engendered and nourished soon came to include all and everything belonging to those devastators — even their religion, originally identical with that of their own. The Deva religion became, in their estimation, the source of all evil. Moulded into a new form, styled the Ahura religion, the old elements were much more changed than was the case when Judaism became Christianity. Generation after generation further added and took away, until Zarathustra, with the energy and the clear eye that belongs to exalted leaders and founders of religions, gave to that which had originally been a mere reaction and spite against the primitive Brahminic faith a new and independent life, and forever fixed its dogmas, not a few of which sprang from his own brain.
II. Doctrines. — Zoroaster is commonly spoken of as the great reformer of the Magian system after it had suffered corruption; but it would be more correct to say that on the primitive dualistic worship pf the Persians he superinduced some notions borrowed from the element-worship, with which Magism at a later period coalesced. His doctrines, as far as they call be gathered from the extant fragments of the Zend-Avesta, especially the Vendidad Sade, and from the Ulemai Islan (a treatise on the Parsee doctrine by an Arabic writer, supposed to belong to the 6th or 7th century of our mera), relate principally to theology and ethics, with occasional references to questions of a cosmological and physiological character. The problem of the world in relation to God he answers by reference to the antithesis of light and darkness, good and evil; all things, according to him, consist in the mingling of antitheses. His primary physical principle is the Zerwane Akerene, the Endless Time (with which may be compared the τὸ ἄπειρον of Anaximander; see Arist. Physic. 1:4, 5; 3:4-7). Everything else save time has been made. The original spiritual power was Ormuzd, the luminous, the pure, the fragrant, devoted to good and capable of all good. Gazing into the abyss, he beheld, afar off, Ahriman, black, unclean, unsavory, the evil-doer. He was startled at the sight, and thought within, himself, I must put this enemy out of the way; and set himself to use the fit means for this end. All that Ormuzd accomplished was by the help of Time. After the lapse of twelve hundred years the heavens and paradise were made, and the twelve signs which mark the heavens were fixed there. Each sign was formed in one thousand years. After the first three were formed, Ahriman arose to make war on Ormuzd, but failing of success he returned to his gloomy abode, and remained there for other three thousand years, during which the work of creation advanced, and three other signs were made. During this period the earth and the sea were also formed, man was created, and plants and animals produced. Again Ahriman assailed heaven with all his: might, but failing in this, he attacked the world. He afflicted Kajumert, the first man, with a thousand plagues till he was destroyed; but was himself taken and driven into hell through the same opening by which he had come into the world.. In man there is much of Ormuzd and much of Ahriman: in his body are fire, water, earth, and air; he has also soul, understanding, judgment, a ferver ("principe des sensations," Anquetil), and five senses. By the soul are moved all the members we possess, and without the soul we are nothing. All these he has from Ormuzd. From Ahriman he has desire, need, envy, hatred, impurity, falsehood, and wrath. When a man dies, the four elements of which his body is composed mingle with the four primitive elements; his soul, understanding, and judgment unite with the ferver, and all become one. In this state man goes to judgment, and according as his good works or his bad works have preponderated during life, he is rewarded with immortality in paradise, or punished by being cast into hell. During life he is in constant conflict with the Dews or Divas, a class of beings possessing a body formed of the four elements beings essentially evil, and who tempt men to sin but at the resurrection they shall be annihilated, and all men at last shall be received into paradise. Even Ahriman himself shall be accepted and blessed; for the Dews are gradually abstracting from him the evil and darkness that are in him, so that at last he shall be left pure and bright (see Hyde, Hist. Rel. Vet. Pers. [Oxon. 1700]; Anquetil du Perron, Zend-Avesta [Par. 1771, 3
volumes, 4to]; Vullers, Fragmente uber die Rel. des Zoroaster [Bonn, 1831]).
It is chiefly from the Gathas, however, that Zarathustra's real theology, unmutilated by later ages, can be learned. His leading idea was monotheism. While the five priests before him, the Sosbyantos, worshipped a plurality of good spirits called Ahuras, as opposed to the Indian Devas, he reduced this plurality to unity. This one supreme being he called Ahuru- Mazda, or the creator of the universe-the Auramazda of the cuneiform inscriptions of the Achemenidian kings, the Ahurmazd of Sassanian times, and the Hormazd, or Ormuzd, of the modern Parsees. This supreme god is, by Zoroaster, conceived to be "the creator of the earthly and spiritual life, the lord of the whole universe, at whose hands are all the creatures." Ahura-Mazda is to Zoroaster the light and the source of light. He is wisdom and intellect; he possesses all good things, temporal and spiritual, among them the good mind, immortality, wholesomenesss, the best truth, devotion, piety, and abundance of all earthly good. All these gifts he grants to the pious man who is pure in thought, word, and deed. He rewards the good and punishes the wicked; and all that is created, good or evil, fortune or misfortune, is his work alone.
Nothing was further from Zoroaster's mind than to assume anything but one supreme being, one and indivisible. But the great problem of the ages, the origin of evil and its incompatibility with God's goodness, holiness, and justice, he attempted to solve by assuming two primeval causes, which, though different, were united, and produced the world of the material things as well as that of the spirit. The one who produced the reality is called Vohu-Mano, the good mind; the other, through whom the non- reality originated, is the Akem -Mano, the evil mind. To the former belong all good, true, and perfect things; to the second, all that is delusive, bad, wicked. These two aboriginal moving causes of the universe are called twins. They are spread everywhere, in God as in man. When united in Ahura-Mazda they are called Spento-Manyus and Angro-Manyus, i.e., white or holy, and dark or evil, spirit. It is only in later writings that these two are supposed to stand opposed to each other in the relation of God and devil. The inscriptions of Darius know but one God, without any adversary whatsoever. But while the one side within him produced all that is bright and shining, all that is good and useful in nature, the other side produced all that is dark and apparently noxious. Both are as inseparable as day and night, and, though opposed to each other, are indispensable for the preservation of creation. The bright spirit appears in the blazing flame, the presence of the dark is marked by the wood converted into charcoal. The one has created the light of the day, the other the darkness of the light; the former awakens men to their duty, the other lulls them to sleep. Life is produced by the one and extinguished by the other, who also, by releasing the soul from the fetters of the body, enables her to go up to immortality. SEE DUALISM.
Thus the original monotheism of Zoroaster did not last long. False interpretations, misunderstandings, changes, and corruptions crept in, and dualism was established in theology. The two principles then, for the first time, became two powers, hostile to each other, each ruling over a realm of his own, and constantly endeavoring to overthrow the other. Hence monotheism was, in later times, broken up and superseded by dualism. But a small party, represented by the Magi, remained steadfast to the old doctrine, as opposed to that of the followersof the efalse interpretation, or Zend, the Zendiks. In order to prove their own interpretation of Zoroaster's doctrines they had recourse to a false and ungrammatical explanation of the term Zervana Akarana, which, merely meaning time without bounds, was by them pressed into an identity with the Supreme Being; while the passages on which the present Parsee priests still rest their faulty interpretation, simply indicate that God created in the boundless time, or that he is from eternity, self-existing, neither born nor created.
The following is a brief summary of the principal doctrines of Zoroaster, drawn from certain passages from the Gathas, which probably emanated from Zoroaster himself.
1. Everywhere in the world a duality is to be perceived, such as the good and the evil, light and darkness; this life and that life, human wisdom and divine wisdom.
2. Only this life becomes a prey to death, but not that hereafter, over which the destructive spirit has no power.
3. In the universe there are, from the beginning, two spirits at work, the one making life, the other destroying it.
4. Both these spirits are accompanied by intellectual powers, representing the ideas of the Platonic system on which the whole moral world rests. They cause the struggle between good and evil, and all the conflicts of the world, which end in the final victory of the good principle.
5. The principal duty of man in this life is.to obey the word and commandments of God.
6. Disobedience is punished with the death of the sinner.
7. Ahura-Mazda created the idea of the good, but is not identical with it. This idea produced the good mind, the Divine Spirit, working in man and nature, and devotion — the obedient heart.
8. The Divine Spirit cannot be resisted.
9. Those who obey the word of God will he free from all defects and immortal.
10. God exercises his rule in the world through the works prompted by the Divine Spirit, who is working in man and nature.
11. Men should pray to God and worship him. He hears the prayers of the good.
12. All men live solely through the bounty of God.
13. The soul of the pure will hereafter enjoy everlasting life; that of the wicked will have to undergo everlasting punishment, or as modern Parsee theologians explain, to the day of the resurrection.
14. All creatures are Ahura-Mazda's.
15. He is the reality of the good mind, word, and deed.
III. Literature. — Haug, Essays on the Sacred Language, Writings, and Religion of the Parsees (Bombay, 1862); Spiegel, Evanische Aterthumskunde (Leipsic, 1871-78, 3 volumes); Darmsteter, Ormuzd et Ahriman (Paris, 1877); Ursinus, De Zoroastre (Nuremberg, 1661); Mulert, De Nomine et Vita Zoroastris (Wittenberg, 1707); Clarke, Ten Great Religions (Boston, 1871); Hardwick, Christ and Other Masters (London, 1855-57; 2d ed. 1863); Muller, Chips from a German Workshop (Index). See also the following with the references under them: SEE AHRIMAN; SEE GUEBERS; SEE MAGI; SEE ORMUZD; SEE PARSEES; SEE ZEND-AVESTA.