Indo-Aryan religious culture is probably the best term to use here. Thanks for the impasse!
The point being that if you read ancient Zoroastrian texts - like The Gathas - understanding the Indo-Aryan religious culture within which they were developed, you are just far more likely to hit the deeper and inner meanings of the texts than if you read the texts through the lenses of other religious cultures like the semitic religious cultures within which Judaism, Christanity and Islam were developed (which is not only geographically but also chronologically distant from Indo-Aryan religious culture).
I believe there is wide agreement among Zoroastrians on this issue. The disagreements usually rather concern what constitutes Indo-Aryan beliefs and what constitutes Semitic beliefs. Anthropology gives us quite a few clues but how to interpret them is often an open issue. So we have ended up with two schools: Ali Jafarey promotes the idea that Zarathushtra is the beginning of monotheistic dualism (influencing Judaism, Christianity and Islam, which explains why Jafarey's readings are close to the semitic religions). Zarathushtra was then a major innovator who broke radically with Indo-Aryan paganism. What later followed westwards were inferior abbreviations from the one and original best monotheistic religion. This is why "restoration" is a key word for Jafarey's theology.
Parviz Varjavand and I instead promote the idea that Zarathushtra is more a summarizer of the thinking of his time rather than a radicalizer of pre-Zoroastrian Mazdayasna (as a general term for Indo-Aryan religious culture). So what we read into The Gathas etc is not a new religion but a continuum which places Zarathushtra far closer to his contemporary Brahmanist thinkers in India. The only major difference between Zarathushra and the Brahmanists is then Zarathushtra's unique POSITIVITY about existence (the world is good, just like Spinoza believed) against the NEGATIVITY of Brahmanism (most clearly cut out in the disgust towards physicality in Jainism). This belief is shared by the Hindus who have converted to Zoroastrianism (like my old friend Gautam Bhattacharyya). It is therefore not the monism/Pantheism the ex-Hindus are after in Zoroastrianism (which they believe is shared by all Indo-Aryan religions) but rather the POSITIVE attribution of the One (Brahman or Ahura) which is unique to Zoroastrianism.
2008/7/31 Peter M. Schogol
Alexander and all,
I'm making my way through the archive and I've noticed some statements about Mazdayasna being an Indo-European religion. I have a couple of questions about this. If they've already been addressed could you steer me to that part of the archive?
If I understand correctly, "Indo-European" is a family of languages. People of many races and religions speak Indo-European languages, and I would guess that those languages have from their very beginning been influenced by neighboring language families.
Not being an anthropologist I wouldn't know if the Bactria of Zarathushtra's day was ethnically or racially homogenous, but I think it's fair to doubt. So my first question is what would be the value of considering Mazdayasna an Indo-European religion?
I've read other scholars speaking of an Indo-Aryan religious culture. Would this be more to the point (assuming that such is a fact)?
My second question follows: Is there a value in excluding an interpretive lens from Judaism, Christianity, or Islam simply because they are originated in Semitic-language environments, especially as some contemporary Jewish, Christian, and Islamic teachers who color outside the lines have themselves borrowed from Hinduism, Taoism, and Buddhism?