tisdag 29 juli 2008

Progress according to Zarathushtra - a proposal

Dear Ali and Parviz

Thank you both for excellent and most interesting postings!!!
May I just add that there is no reason for us to assume that the Zoroastrian concept of "progress" indicates a move from inferior towards superior etc as in much western philosophy (like GWF Hegel and Karl Marx) and which therefore has "colored" the understanding of the word among our contemporaries.
Instead, the kind of progress we discuss here with Zarathushtra is more like the progress we assume as a human being "progresses" through life from child to grown-up to a geriatric.
This is the kind of progress which merely indicates "change" as a good in itself rather than a historiological movement from inferior towards increasingly superior. The way also an aristocrat is seen as superior to a peasant, a man is seen as superior to a woman etc. As Zoroastrians, we do not believe in any such hierarachy but are rather adamantly opposed to it.
Grown-ups are clearly not superior to children in Zarathushtra's worldview. Rather we are speaking of different stages which together make the world sacred and worthy of our admiration and worship, precisely as a MULTITUDE of states and stages.
So sometimes it makes sense for us to point out that "progress" in our worldview as Mazdayasni indicates a "change for the good of change and multitude in itself". Ahura Mazda asks us to "co-create" towards making the world ever more varied and beautiful.
This again indicates that Zoroastrian thought is extremely closely related to Spinozist thought in the history of western philosophy (and consequently modern philosophers like for example Gilles Deleuze in France and Manuel Delanda in the United States). To Spinoza, the world is One but has an infinite set of Attributes which together contribute exactly the quality which makes the world sacred (adding the "theos" to Spinoza's particular form of Pantheism).
Spinoza got these ideas of the sacred multitude from the Sufis, and we certainly know where the Sufis got their ideas from. ;-)



My dear Mr. Varjavand,

Ushta, Enlightenment
Dorud, Health!

You have sent a few e-mails and I am replying in a single e-mail because I am a little preoccupied.

You wrote on 21 July: <
1- Ahoora Mazda dwells outside of His/Her creation.

2- Ahoora Mazda is progressive.

3- His/Her creation is also progressive.

This world view raises the following issues for me:
To be progressive, one must progress. To progress means that one must go from a less than perfect state to a more perfect state.
Thus Ah/Maz is NOW not as perfect as He/She will be in the FUTURE. Also the creation of this imperfect God is imperfect.
Why an imperfect God would choose to live outside His/Her imperfect creation is something that greatly puzzles me. (Mormons believe in exactly such a God, but Mormons believing anything will not surprise me)
If the imperfect God dwelled in Its imperfect creation, that would make sense to me somehow, as then everything would be imperfect moving towards perfection. But the news of an imperfect God living outside Its imperfect creation (based on how you have translated the Gatha) makes the situation harder for my mind to grasp. But then, my mind being what it is, what is there to grasp!? >>

Answer: The difference between Mazda Ahura, the Super-Intellect Essence, realized by Zarathushtra Spitama, from the God/gods, as seen in other religions, is that in those religions, whether monotheistic or polytheistic, the deity/deities has/have finished with its/their task of creation and is/are only maintaining it. The deity/deities is/are all perfect and need not progress. It/they is/are static.

Zarathushtra has realized a Creator, Maintainer and Promoter, who is not static. Both Mazda and the Creation are progressing. The difference, in my opinion, is the difference of zillions of light years in time and zillions of kilometers in speed between the two. The two are perfect and up-to-second, at the same time, not static and stale.

Your wrote on 21 July: < Take the word Yasna for example. Many very good scholars argue that it should be translated as Worship. So if someone calls me a Dog Yasna, it means that I am a person who worships dogs. To me, it means Celebration and Joy and relates to the root word Jashn. So in my Nomenclature, Dog Yasna would mean a person who likes Dogs, enjoys petting them, raising them and running in the park with them. No act of worship is going on here, just acts of a relationship based on Joy.
Div may mean a Demon to someone, an abstract evil creature with fangs and horn that does nasty things. Div in my nomenclature means powers beyond the reach of human understanding while Mazda means powers within the reach of human understanding. Mazda to others may mean Wisdom Deified. I like that word I just made up, Wisdom Deified or Wisdom turned into a Div, a power whose source we can not understand.>>

Answer: Philology is a well advanced science of studying a language as thoroughly as possible. Nomenclature is merely naming and making terms with the desired meanings. No competent philologist will disagree with another of his/her stature. The disagreements, we see in a translation between two or more translators, are because they have not sat together to examine the text. That is why I have been calling for a team of competent philologists, anthropologists, archeologists and other relevant scholars to sit together and give us an standard translation of the Gathas. The British Christians, under King James I in 1604 CE, did a wonderful job of having a joint translation of the Bible, which is the standard in English. In spite of it, philological progress amends, done by a philological team in charge, whenever there arises a necessity.We could do the same--a common edition, open to philological improvement.

Philologically Yasna means "Reverence, veneration" and it is from the root yaz in Avesta and yaj in Sanskrit, meaning "to adorn, to revere, to venerate" and therefore, "to worship.". No doubt that the modern Persian "jashn" is the same but semantics, a branch of philological science, has evolved a new notion of "celebration." The Persian "div" is semantically "Daeva" in Avesta, "daiva" in Old Persian and "deva" in Sanskrit. It is from the root "div -- to shine" and means "shining, brilliant." Zarathushtra's realization of Mazda proved them to be fantasies fancied by certain exploiters of the simple laity. He is the foremost in guiding humanity to wisdom to progress and not to lag behind with superstitions. According to the Gathas, the fancied deities do not exist. Calling them "demon" is a post-Gathic development.

Mazda, Super-Intellect, is Ahura, the Being, the Essence, the Entity. Zarathushtra did not deify any fantasy or un-deify any factuality. He named his realization as "Mazda," because he found super-wisdom behind the Cosmos.

You wrote: <>

Answer: I am sorry. I learned in 1940's from Dr. Maneck Pithawalla and Dastur Maneck Dhalla, my two mentors, that "Ahura" is from "ah -- to be, to exist + agentive suffix of "u" to make "ahu" mean "existence" and "existing" + adjectival suffix "ra" to render it only as "existing, being, essence." I also learned from my mentors' personal libraries that "ahura/asura" was explained to have its root in "ah/as -- to be, to exist" by Ervad K.E. Kanga in his Avesta Dictionary (1900 CE) and Sir Monier Monier-Williams Sanskrit dictionary (1899), and a little later in Vaman Shiram Apte's "The Student's Sanskrit-English Dictionary (1890). The modern etymology is more than 100 years old.

You wrote on 23 July: <>

Answer: I would have made my concluding comments after reading Dastur Dhalla's "History of Zoroastrianism" (1938) on Ahura Mazda in the Gathas (Chapter V of 6 pages), Ahura Mazda in the post-Gathic period of Avesta (Chapter XIX of 3 pages) and "Hormazd" in the Pahlavi period (Chapter XXXVIII of 7 pages). One would be in a better position to make a conclusion.

You have quoted and then concluded:

How does serenity come to those

to whom, Wise One, Your religion is taught?

I recognize You to be the beginning.

All others I consider mental repugnants.

(Gathas: 9-11)

Summary Substance: Zarathushtra asks to be sure that serenity and tranquility come to those who have learned the best religion, the one which promotes the living world. Considering all the points mentioned in the preceding stanzas of the song, Zarathushtra recognizes Mazda, the Super-Intellect to be the beginning. All other conceptions of god/gods are seen by him as strong mental antagonism.

Pondering Points: Best religion brings peace of mind and matter. Intellectual mind sees Super-Intellect as foremost. Inconsiderate thinking breeds harmful fancies.

What am I supposed to learn from this? That the religion that Zarathustra brought is the best and all that other religions belive in are "Mental Repugnants". I find this kind of thinking rather repugnant if I may be bold and say so.>>

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