torsdagen den 31:e juli 2008

Indo-European Religion

Dear Peter

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?


tisdagen den 29:e 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.>>

måndagen den 28:e juli 2008

Zarathushtra, Truth and Tolerance

Dear Parviz

An extremely good question!!!
Why not check out WHAT Zarathustra's so called religion consists of?
Have you never heard that the one thing Tolerance is intolerant of is Intolerance?
Tolerance has to be intolerat towards Intolerance to stay Tolerance, otherwise Tolerance would not have any meaning as Tolerance whatsoever.
I would say exactly the same thing goes for Zarathushtra.
His "religion" is not his property, the way Islam is Muhammed's property (Allah is God and Muhammed is his prophet etc) and the way Christianity is the property of Christ (after all, Christ and nobody else is the Son Of God, God incarnated). THERE we can speak of two intolerant religions. Obey, or go to hell!
But what is Zarathushtra saying?
He is saying that MAZDA (intellect) is the ONLY thing worth worshipping/celebrating for us as human beings. But what is Mazda then?
Zarathushtra frankly does not care whether we regard this message as his "property" or not. He is totally open to the possibility that we can reach this conclusion without him. This is the exact opposite of Islam and Christianity with their "copyright founders".
Because against Truth stands Falsity and Truth is never Truth unless it is intolerant towards Falsity.
That's just the way it is, whether you like it or not. This is why Mazdayasna is both the religion of choice and the religion of truth (whether you call yourself a Mazdayasni or not).
Mazdayasna is not permanent anymore than Truth is permanent. Wherever Truth goes, Mazdayasna goes with Truth (because Truth is what Mazdayasni worship!!!). Which is precisely why we can not fix Mazdayasna within a book anymore than we can fix Truth within a book of science.
But what we can fix is what is not true. Santa Claus does NOT live on Greenland. And that we can fight against, intolerantly, as to save Truth and the Tolerance Truth requires to thrive.


2008/7/28 Parviz Varjavand

Translated Text:

This I ask You, tell me truly, Lord.
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.

Parviz Varjavand

lördagen den 26:e juli 2008

Going where you want to go

Dear Parviz

I can't say I really "want" any of these things. However, I believe that's exactly how things are.
What is the truth about the world and what is the truth about Mazdayasna, before, including and after Zarathushtra.
I probably would have reached this conclusion myself on the nature of things and would have been happy to join a religion presenting these beliefs and made friends with those who share my beliefs within such a religion.
But why found a new religion when there has been one for 3,700 years with these beliefs already in place?
So I share your beliefs even if we have come to our conclusions for very different reason and through very different methods.
And that's what counts. At the end of the day, what a majority of Zoroastrians believe will also constitute what contemporary and future Zoroastrianism is. We canät accept interpretations of old texts that run counter to our own beliefs because then we would also kill or faith and our religion.
The debate will only sharpen our minds and force us to be more precise. And that can only be for the good.


2008/7/26 Parviz Varjavand

I want my Mazdaism school to have:

Ahoora to mean "That Which IS".
Mazda to mean "That Which THINKS".
Asha to mean "The force that animates all of the cosmos".
I want Asha and Ahoora Mazda to be one and the same.
I want Asha to be present in every particle of the cosmos.
I SEE ASHA PRESENT IN EVERY PARTICLE OF THE COSMOS; so why should I say that Asha dwells somewhere outside the cosmos!?

It is sad that I have to repeat what "I WANT" so many times, it is ugly and it is selfish, I know. But there is no other way. If you know where it is that you want to go, it is up to YOU to stir your car and go there. Others will take you where they want to take you, and if you yank the stirring wheel from them haphazardly, the car will hit a tree or have a crash and you don't want that.

Parviz Varjavand

fredagen den 25:e juli 2008

Ahura Mazda vs God

Dear Dina

You may have as many frustrations as you like, but frustrations are extremely lousy compasses towards finding out the truth about existence.
The real truth is that only human beings have a need for "God". No plants or animals could care less. So we have invented "God" for the world to make sense to us. Because we are ultimately narcissistic creatures who hate to think that we are not "important" and "valuable" to smoebody else, whoever this may be.
The truth is also that it is precisely the people who find it hard to relate to other human beings who seem to "need God" the most and show the most "frustration".
This is why Ahura Mazda is the opposite to the concept of "God".
Zarathushtra realised that human beings are to provide each other with meaning and love, NOT an external God to replace human beings. This is why Ahura Mazda is NOT an ersatz Father for the lousy fathers among us, and no ersatz mother either.
Instead, Ahura Mazda is when human beings get together and use their minds to create a world for themselves, a civilisation. The universe is Ahura, but Ahura Mazda is the mind WITHIN this universe.
Searching for a God outside of the universe is not only meaningless in the sense that you will never find this God any more than children find Santa Claus on Greenland, it also ultimately leaves you with the necessary idea that God is superior to The Universe.
And then you're back in the same boat with the Muslims and the Christians who hate this world and wait for something superior. Which again is the exact opposite of Mazayasna.
Physical reality is immanent, mind is transcendent (albeit not transcendental). Ahura is immanence and Mazda is transcendence. Zarathushtra knew this already 3,700 years ago. Western culture did not realise this until Immanuel Kant in the 18th century. When can we please stop retarding our beautiful and wise religion into an illogical and unfounded Islam-Light, OK?
And it is precisely when you can only base our beliefs on literal readings of poetic verses from The Gathas that the faith loses all credibility. This is just turning Mazdaysna into another stupid superstition among others. Belief without mind is not Mazdayasna. Gathas verses read literally in opposition to modern science are useless, even to Zarathushtra himself.

Alexander Bard

2008/7/25 :

Dear Shahrooz,

You express a view (and frustrations) that I share regarding the belief that "God" has no reality outside of the physical universe. And, as I have said before, if the physical universe is all there is, then where is the need for "God". Where does "God" come into the picture. In this respect, you have expressed my view much better than I have done. My sincere respect and admiration.

But your argument is valid only against the kind of 'pantheism' that believes that "God" has no existence outside of the physical universe. Like you, I do not see that kind of belief in the Gathas.

The immanence that I see implied in the Gathas and some later texts does not limit the existence of Ahura Mazda to the physical universe. As I understand the Gathas, the physical existence is a temporary experience to enable the perfecting process.

So what existence is there outside of this physical one? Zarathushtra is so honest, that he does not specifically address the subject of the after life (i.e. of life or existence after death). But in 1,001 subtle and beautiful ways, he implies that there is indeed an existence after this one existence that we experience on earth.

If you believe that there is an afterlife, then, so far as humans are concerned, we have a physical existence, and also an existence that is not limited to the physical. While we are alive, in this physical r eality, we are a part of it, we are integrated with it, but we are not limited to it -- there is more to us than our physical reality. In the same way, Mazda, as part of the life force that we all share, is a part of the physical reality, but not limited to it. There is more to Mazda than the physical realilty. That is what I see implied in the Gathas and in some later texts.

Wishing us the best,

Dina G. McIntyre

torsdagen den 24:e juli 2008

God? Really???

Dear Shahrooz

The idea that the universe or the world equals God is actually the oldest form of theism, predating any mono- or polytheistic variety. The vast majority of pagan religions are pantheistic. The "people" who you talk about who "mean" something whe they say God are not a monolithic mass. God means very very different things in different cultures and in different contexts. The idea that God is a big, old man sitting bored above the clouds interfering in our loves and being endowed with male genitals is only shared by a few and not even all Jews, Muslims and Christians. It does not exist in any other religions.

However, none of this matters to us as Zoroastrians. Because we don't believe in God anyway, we believe in Ahura Mazda. The word God does not appear anywhere in our religion, especially not in The Gathas since the concept of the monotheistic God was invented 400 years after Zarathushtra. If you find any Avestan word for God, I would be most interested to share this knowledge wirh you. This does not mean that Ahura Mazda can not have God-like features. Ronald Delavega certainly beloves so and many Zoroastrians share his conviction. But Ahura Mazda is still not at all like the Christian God or the Muslim Allah, and we should keep it that way too.


----- Original Message -----
To: Parviz Varjavand ; Ushta Ushta ; zoroastrians
Sent: Wednesday, July 23, 2008 9:49 PM
Subject: RE: [zoroastrians] Mazdaism is not Monism

Linguistic and conceptual problems associated with Pantheism/Monism.

The concept of God, is not the same as, the concept of the universe. We already have a word for the universe, and we do not need another one. When we say God we mean a different concept than the concept of the universe. You are not using the language correctly.

What you can say, and should say, is that, there is only the universe and no God. When people say God, they do not mean the universe. When we say Banana, we do not mean an Elephant, and, we say an Elephant we do not mean a Banana. This is what you are doing.

Owen (1971: 69-70) says, "if 'God' (theos) is identical with the Universe (to pan) it is merely another name for the Universe. It is therefore bereft of any distinctive meaning; so that pantheism is equivalent to atheism.

" Similarly, Schopenhauer (1951: 40) said that "to call the world 'God' is not to explain it; it is only to enrich our language with a superfluous synonym for the word 'world'."

Christopher Rowe (1980: 54-5) says, "When Cicero's Velleius describes Speusippus' pantheism as an attempt to 'root out the notion of gods from our minds'.

Schopenhauer, Coleridge, Owen etc. can show, that pantheism can be explained in terms that would either eliminate the notion of deity from pantheism altogether, or that it is incoherent. They want to show that believing in a pantheistic God is a convoluted and confused way of believing in something that can adequately be described apart from any notion of deity.

Pantheism has a lot more problems than Dualism. Their supporters have failed to address the problems associated with pantheism. And, attacks on dualism will not hide the problems pantheism faces.

1. Pantheism claims there is only the universe, Material world, only substance. This means, there is no God, and thus Atheism. Note: in Zoroastrianism there clearly is a God, Ahura Mazda. Thus Pantheism is not compatible with Zoroastrianism in terms of God.

2. If the world is just substance (Material), then there is no FREE WILL because, every physical event must have a physical cause. Note: Zoroastrianism clearly believes in free will. Thus Pantheism is not compatible with Zoroastrianism in terms of FREE WILL.

3. If the world is just substance (Material), then there is no MIND, only the BRAIN. Thus, they should stop using the word MIND, and should start using the word BRAIN. If not, then once again they are misusing the language. Note: in Zoroastrianism there clearly is the concept of the Mind (Mana). Thus Pantheism is not compatible with Zoroastrianism in terms of the MIND.

4. If the world is just substance (Material), then every physical event must have a physical cause. This also means; no ethics, no right and wrong, no one is blame worthy or praise worthy, there is no difference between Hitler and Jesus. Note: in Zoroastrianism there clearly is the concept of right and wrong (Ethics), and taking responsibility for ones action. Thus Pantheism is not compatible with Zoroastrianism in terms of ethics.

Therefore, it is absurd to claim Zoroastrianism believes there is no; Free will, Right and Wrong (Ethics), no God (Ahura Mazda) and no Mind. Zoroastrianism is not compatible with pantheism. Zoroastrianism is to beautiful to be degrade with pantheism's
dark and cold outlook.

Wishing you all the best (BEHESHT)
Shahrooz Ash

tisdagen den 22:e juli 2008

The Mazda of Mazdaism - and its relation to Pantheism

I suppose the correct thing would be to say that Ahoora is existence, and also the cause of existence. There is no reason to a Zoroastrian to divide the two. In modern physics, Existence and the Cause of Existence are one and the same thing, Existence is its own cause.
Mazda is mind, which makes Zoroastrians worship "the Mind of Existence" (or as it is often correctly translated "the supreme wisdom").
So it is correct that we do not worship Everything as a whole, rather we worship that of the whole which has mind. This makes Zoroastrianism (with its support for Constructive or Mindful Mentality against Destructive or rather Mindless Mentality) different from outright Pantheism and its cold and cynical attitude towards existence (as exemplified in Buddhism and Brahmanism).
Arthur Perarlstein and I have discussed this issue before and explained that this important difference explains precisely why we became Zoroastrians rather than Taoists or Buddhists when we chose our religious affiliation.

2008/7/22 Parviz Varjavand :

>>>"what the Gathas say about the Ahura (that is the Exalted, High, Great, Supreme, ra, Being/Person, ahu,) who is the personification of Spenta, Asha, Spenta, Vohu, Manah, etc; and who, according to the Gathas, is the Birther, Creator, Designer and Maker of the Cosmos, >>Ronald Delavega"<<<

Dear readers,

The first scholar to relate Ahoora to the root word AH which means EXISTANCE was Zabih Behrooz. By his definition, Ah means Existence and Ahoora simply means THAT WHICH EXISTS or THAT WHICH HAS EXISTENCE. I am a student of Behrooz and that is why I maintain that it would be a most ridiculous statement to say that Ahoora dwells outside Existence. That would be paramount to saying " That which exist, exists outside existence".

Ahoora is Existence, it is larger than Mazda. All that exists does not think, all that is Ahoora is not Mazda. Ahoora and Existence are one and Mazda occurs at the peak of the Ahooraic pyramid. This is why Mazdaism is not Monism; Mazdaism is Mazdaism.

Parviz Varjavand

Progress vs Perfection

Dear Parviz and Ali

If I can add my own ten cents to this most interesting issue:
I believe the Zoroastrian concept of "progress" is strictly inward-relative.
This means that progress if not progress from a certain Position A towards a certain Position B where Position B is in advance superior or more perfect than Position A. Because Zarathushtra had no Platonic concept of "ideas being superior to matter". To Zarathushtra, matter was all and was sacred.
The Zoroastrian "progress" is instead a changing/altering/expanding progress moving from a smaller but still perfect Position A to a more expanded but equally perfect Position B. Quite like Spinoza's concepts of change in the monist whole (attributes vs the world-as-one).
To get at this, we just have to remove our PLATONIST projections on these concepts. And with Zarathushtra living 1,200 years before Plato, this also makes perfect sense historically.
This also explains why I have advocated that "haurvatat" should not be viewed as merely a goal (implying that something which has not yet reached haurvatat is not yet perfect for what it is). Haurvatat is rather a state of mind which comes and goes, and our goal is to maintain and dwell within haurvatat as often and as long as we possibly can.
And what is haurvatat then? Haurvatat is whenever and wherever things occur in accordance with asha. And ameretat is the foundation against which all things occur, the timeless qualities of existence.
Try and apply these concepts to Zarathushtra's words in The Gathas and you will soon arrive at a rather complete and sensible worldview!

Alexander Bard

måndagen den 21:e juli 2008

Interpretation and Progress - as positive and creative concepts in Zoroastrianism

Dear Ali

Thank you so much for your wise and thoughtful replies!!!
I have no doubt whatsoever that your intention is to merely translate and not interpret Zarathushtra's texts for the good of the Zoroastrian community.
My point is merely that in modern textual analysis (such as Jacques Derrida's famous method of deconstruction) ALL rewriting (and a translation is after all a re-writing in a different tongue than the original text) is also a form of interpretation. Actually, interpretation is a NECESSARY activity that we begin to conduct the very same second we read a text. As we put a text into our private universe of past experience throughout our lives, we also interpret the effects of that specific text on our own worldview. Without interpretation, there can therefore not be any learning to begin with.
This kind of interpretation is CREATIVE and good and constructive in all the ways we are supposed to be as good Zoroastrians. This interpretation is what makes us human beings rather than robots. So it is not a problem. It is rather a condition for studying a text and APPLYING its message onto our own lives. I would even go so far as to say that to Zarathushtra interpretation (understood in this modern way) is a SACRED activity. A joyous activity, as part of the minds we as Mazdayasni celebrate.
We should just be honest enough to all admit that we are ALL taking part in this process of interpretation: as readers, as writers, as interpreters, as debaters, and as consumers and re-producers of other people's interpretations, and so on and so forth. Having said this, I have always recommended your translations, Ali, as the best available in contemporary English. Simply for being so intentionally true to the original meanings.
As for Progress, I have always used this term for The Community as a whole. This progress is the process we can refer to as "building on other people's experiences", or in other words: Building, maintaining and re-building a civilisation. This is why I have always refered to Zoroastrianism as the one and only CIVILISATIONIST (or PROGRESSIVE) religion. This includes Zoroastrianism being the only pro-Darwinian religion. So I'm glad to say we agree on this issue.
I'm just a bit careful to apply Progress as concept on a single human being's life. After all, as we get old, we also begin to forget things. ;-) But by that time, our best ideas have probably been picked up and maintained and even developed (after having been interpreted) by younger members of our own community. So Progress in itself dwells in the realm of The Sacred Community of the Mazdayasni.

Alexander Bard

2008/7/21 <>:

Comment: Thank you. I state it again that I only TRANSLATE the Gathas and if a stanza does not provide the entire picture, I only EXPLAIN it with the help of other 240 stanzas. My explanation is fully within the Gathic boundary. I do not INTERPRET because I do not conceive in the light of an individual belief, judgment, or circumstance. Please, prove your point by quoting a few instances of my "interpretations." It will help me in correcting myself if I have made a wrong statement about the Divine Doctrine of Zarathushtra.

I do not translate the Gathas only based on my knowledge of Avesta. As those who know for some 70 years, I am a scholar, learning and teaching my Good Conscience religion and my mother tongue Persian, Urdu/Hindi (my second), English (now my national and the world's widest language), Arabic (my fourth language), plus I have a good standing in Baluchi, Gujarati, Kutchi, Punjabi, Rudbari (Southern Kerman), Seraiki, and Sindhi. I am acquainted with the different dialects of these languages. I know Avesta, Old Persian and Pahlavi and have a fair knowledge of Sanskrit that helps me to solve philological problems. I am a writer, editor, translator, researcher, philologist, anthropologist, lecturer, teacher and student. I have composed poetry in Persian, Urdu and English. Yet as a precaution, I refer to the translations by as many top translators of the Gathas as are available. This is to make sure that if I have missed what they have understood better than I do, I correct myself. All these, I state only, to show that with them in mind, I can easily comprehend the message and need not indulge in interpretation. All this and yet I am proposing since 1964 that a qualified team of Avesta, Sanskrit, Pahlavi and Persian scholars, Indo-Iranian anthropologists, poets and more experts come together and give us the best of translations. Even that will be subject to improvement with the advance of liguistics.

And Zarathushtra, I repeat what I have repeatedly said, has his MESSAGE for the entire humanity to understand and not to indulge in interpretation and imagination. The few allegories he uses, were fully understood by the people, who heard him. And today, the Indo-Iranian literature, particularly poetry, has retained those and more for us to comprehend his mânthras, thought-provoking words and poetry.

Question: <<>>

Answer: The terms spenta and mainyu have been rendered by most of the translators as "holy" and "spirit." It is me who have stated that they mean progressive and mentality. I have given my philological reasons for it.

Our progress, especially keeping our way of life as fresh as possible, is directed towards "haurvatât, entirety and ameretât, the eternity." Zarathushtra discovered "evolution" 3500+ years before Charles Darwin did.(see my essay "Spenta" posted on 24 April 2001)

Let us look at our own creation. We discover or invent a thing and with the passage of time, we watch it, maintain it, and improve it. This is what progress does. According to the Gathas, Mazda Ahura is doing the same—creating, maintaining and promoting it towards entirety and eternity. And let us not forget that compared to the Cosmos, our earth is just a tiny particle and we are, compared to this tiny particle, far, far tinier particles, and yet what creations we have done, "godlike" deeds with our mini minds!

söndagen den 20:e juli 2008

Contemporary Zoroastrianism and its two main interpretations

Dear Kamran

The pattern we have seen develop over the last few years is that there are two main interpretations of contemporary Zoroastrianism:

- There is a more eastward-looking "cultural" Zoroastrianism connecting the religion to its Eastern relatives like Brahmanism and Zen Buddhism. This version sees Zoroastrianism as a pantheistic and monist faith. It holds Zarathushtra and The Gathas in the highest regard but focuses on the fact that The Gathas is a collection of poems/songs within a larger cultural context and which should therefore be read metaphorically and in spirit rather than literally and in word.

- There is equally a more westward-looking "theological" Zoroastrianism closer connecting the religion to its Western relatives like Islam, Christanity and Judaism, even seeing Zoroastrianism as the inspiration for the latter. This version sees Zoroastrianism as a monotheistic and dualist faith. It naturally holds Zarathushtra and The Gathas in the highest regard but focuses on The Gathas as the literal foundation of Zoroastrianism, preferring to understand The Gathas literally and in word rather than metaphorically and in spirit.

Naturally, there are also several other varieties, but they are all chiefly in between the two "extremes" I have presented above. Dina McIntyre has for example presented a "panentheistic" variety of our faith, to my understanding mixing the two main interpretations, which is most interesting.

The good thing though is that there is these days a general understanding that both main interpretations of the religion can be viewed as correct and in accordance with both The Gathas and Zoroastrian history in general. So we can all definitely get along under one and the same roof. The ultimate evidence of this is that the two main interpretations seem to be equally popular both within our Iranian and Indian communities and have ancient and credible origins. So there is even more of a reason to combine the two under one organisational roof.

Alexander Bard
- Dölj citerad text -

2008/7/20 Kamran Jamshidi <>:
Dear Alex
I will do that, but the main reason I have taken this matter to the group is that
1- I believe that the group's (more individuals) thought/ideas can help to solve more problems
2- This way more will feel themselves active and engaged
3- The ideas/interpretations which are actively discussed here are from the different "walks" of "Z"
and this kind of diversity with its counterparts among community members could help us to make
better decisions.
Any way, I personally welcome different ideas but strongly recommend for uniting these ideas under one paraply.

2008/7/20 Alexander Bard <>:

Dear Kamran

I don't think we should speculate at this stage at this group, but rather we should all wait for your report from your conference and hear what your friends and colleagues have to say on these matters.

With great anticipation

2008/7/20 Kamran Jamshidi <>:

Dear all: Alex, Dina, Jafarey, Mehran, Parviz, Zaneta ...
Thank you all for taking the time to answer my question.
These are my conclusions from you words, which I agree with:
1- "Freedom" is absolutely something to respect and preserve.
2- Community is essential to Z. which is in extension global and universal.
3- Free thinkers can band together and be strong through Hamazoori.
4- Z. encourages a direct relationship between God (I read Mazda) and each individual.
At the same time:
5- There needs to be rules for the social interaction to work and a doctrine to follow
6- There have to be some parameters which govern a religion, to give it identity
7- There would be some limitations in any community/society
Now my further wonderings:
A) In our Z community, WHO (in plural) and HOW are legimited enough to put forward the "rules", "parameters", "limitations"
B) Which "doctrine" should all follow which is "true" and doesn't lead to anarchy and destructive divisions.
Dear all:
As I expereince and percieve, Our tiny community (though with great potential) is going through a very "special" faze. I really believe that either we are going to decline to a certain "death" or we (this good daena, whether Zartoshti or Mazda Yasna or ...) will expand to its righthous place and bless the humanity on this earth of ours.
But for the latter to happen, we have to organize us and act systematically and organized. It is time to:
- Accept and appreciate the freedom of though and diversity.
- Stablish and agree on a basic doctrine.
- Organize us internationally and act uopn it.
In coming days I am joining a gathering of some of Zs in Europe. I shall talk to as many Zs as I can to undesrtand better the people's thoughts and ideas.
If I get more responses to my wonderings, will get back to you.
With love and logic

lördagen den 19:e juli 2008

Feelings of the heart - and the beauty of interpretation!

Dear Parviz

We appreciate that you shared your views and feelings with us all.
I trust you completely that this is all heartfelt.
And what is said through the heart from a man of your enormous integrity deserves to be taken seriously in every way possible.
I'm personally very happy to again being able to have a dialogue with our dear brother Ali Jafarey.
I still disagree with his idea that he only quotes and does not interpret Zarathushtra's writings. I don't think the claim is true and it also creates a false sense of authority, probably not intended but still unfortunate.
I believe we all have to be humble enough to acknowledge that we ALL interpret these sacred old texts before us.
Interpretation starts when we READ a text. And why all the extensive comments on the texts if there is no interpretation? Especially the extremely intelligent and learned and devoted comments from Ali Jafarey himself??? Ali's texts are not identical to the original text, they ADD to the original text, interpretations are a force for good, expanding our religion, making us all the wiser for it.
Having said this, I enjoy studying your interpretations, Ali's interpretations, Dina's interpretations, many other interpretations, even my own little mind's interpretations. They all accumulate to make a beautiful religion even more varied and beautiful.
That Gathas ia a fantastic source of enjoyment for us all. It just isn't Ahura Mazda personified. We are ourselves! Our minds are!


2008/7/19 Parviz Varjavand <>:
Dear Ostad Jafarey,
I was born and raised in a very closed and strict religion whose members had made every sacrifice possible for more than a thousand year in order to preserve its sacred fires and meaningful rituals. Yet thanks to teachers like you and good other scholars like Poordavood and Behrooz, we learned to adapt and change the structure of many of our beliefs and rituals within the past fifty years. The reason we could do that was that the foundation of the religion was sound and allowed for change that was logical. The religion was Mazdayasni and celebrated the understanding of new and constructive ideas. Our religion chose to be unique amongst religions by being receptive to constructive change.
We dared attack some of the most basic assumptions of our forefathers, so why not attack some of the mistakes that you are making. Many have commented that we have a problem because our religion is progressing along the lines of Baha'ism and other religions that belong in that grouping. Yet you hear not and act hurt when someone speaks their mind about the path you are traveling on and taking the religion with you.
I call you Ostad, kiss your hands and bow in front of you because once you were my teacher and it is my duty to respect you and your work. I also bow in front of the great dastoors and kiss their hands (what am I saying, I have never bowed down and kissed anybodies hands, it is degrading. Saluted you and others and kissed your face I have done and will do again) for keeping our sacred fires and rituals alive for thousand of years. Yet once that basic jester to loyalty is made, freedom must also have a chance to take a breath. If I tell the great dastoors that turning their backs to the daughters of our religion who marry outside the faith is wrong, why should I not tell you that making another infallible book out of the Gatha is also wrong? The path that the religion will take when that is done is the path that Baha'ism travels upon and it will take us to the wrong house.
Parviz Varjavand
P.S. I am answering you publicly because you did not tell me that your letter was private or not. wrote:
Dear Mr. Varjavad,
Here is an e-mail sent to me by an anonymous person. It is a reaction on what you wrote: <>
Thank you for your remark <>. It fits us well. You and Mr. Bard are the bright free thinkers. I wish your school grows on the global size.
Mehr afzun,
Ali A. Jafarey

Celebrating Dina McIntyre's teachings

Dear Dina

I am ALWAYS interested in your writings.
This is also why I am perhaps a little bit too pre-occupied with what you write. If you find me too observant, then excuse me for being so.
I expect only but brilliance from you, I suppose.
But then I always considered you - despite your humble disagreements - as one of our very best and most prominent scholars. Your postings on the various Zoroastrian fora deserve to become a book in the near future.

Alexander/also agrees with Dina on the sacred but secondary role of Scipture in Zarathushtra's philosophy (in the posting addressed to Kamran on Community); for Zarathushtra our own critical thinking is the most important, which is precisely why a Zoroastrian textual fundamentalism is self-contradictory and totally against the spirit of Zarathushtra's thinking, where Cyrus The Great would have agreed wholeheartedly with such a mind-worshipping rather than text-worshipping approach...

2008/7/18 <>:

Dear Alexander,

You never cease to amaze me. My sincere respect and admiration for a beautiful post below (even though I may disagree here and there).

Some time back, I did a piece for Hamazor called The Paradox of the Individual and the Community. I attach it herewith, in case anyone is interested.

Wishing us the best,

Dina G. McIntyre.

-----Original Message-----
From: Alexander Bard <>
Cc: Zoroastrian Friends <>; Zoroastrians <>
Sent: Fri, 18 Jul 2008 10:26 am
Subject: [ZFriends] Religion and community in Zoroastrianism

Dear Kamran

Community is absolutely essential to Zoroastrianism.

When Zarathushtra reacted against the short-sightedness and irresponsibility of the nomadic tribes that attacked the agricultural Iranians, he took the first known stance in the history for UNIVERSALISM as opposed to tribalism. To Zarathushtra, the primary responsibility in all ethics is towards The Community, and the community is in extension global and universal rather than local and tribal.

This is the foundation on which later Zoroastrians such as Cyrus The Great built the principle of human rights, an innovation which Cyrus and his co-religionists deserve full credit. Community takes PRECEDENCE to dogmatic ideology! This, as we all know, 2,000 years later became the foundation of Democracy in Europe and America! But what to politics is merely a pragmatic necessity, is to Zoroastrianism in itself a SACRED phenomenon.

I would say that the progress towards religion-ness (the healing of social bonds) in Zoroastrianism is equal to the progress towards complete human community. By coming nearer through our social bonds (and reconciling ourselves with strangers and those who differ from us in appearances and opinions), we create not only a community but also manifest Ahura Mazda in human beings (Ronald Delavega would equal this process with us becoming more god-like, which I agree with, since it is the same thing seen from the opposite end and a correct reading of The Gathas).

Christianity picked up this idea in the concept of The Holy Spirit (as the third leg of The Trinity). So in a way we could say that Zoroastrianism gets rid of the father and the son and only keeps The Spirit from The Trinity. This is Ahura Mazda, becoming manifest (and thereby creating "religion") through the successful aliance of The Community. What use is then "the father" and "the son". Everybody is included!

Merely the fact that Zoroastrians get together socially is therefore IN ITSELF a sacred activity.

Alexander Bard

Babysitting qualifications

Dear Dina

Let's be honest here: You just don't like to use words that may come across as offensive.
If you save the baby before the dog you have shown through your ACTION that you value the baby higher than the dog (in Zoroastrianism, actions and words and thoughts should ALWAYS be in unison, remember?). You have thereby SUBJECTIVELY chosen to make the baby superior and the dog inferior.
The problem with people who are afraid of offending (for lack of energy to then having to explain their position) is that they then proceed and write things that sound nice and sweet but are frankly blatantly untrue.
I would appreciate if you in the future spoke more clearly and honestly and not minced words.
Instead of trying to flatter somebody or everybody (and ending up impressing nobody) by presenting ideas that are frankly not yours, perhaps it is better to just say things as they actually are?
So no more babble about how you prefer animals to people because of the nasty things people do to the earth etc. We don't need such new age rubbish here. And you are far too intelligent and have far too much integrity to proceed with such talk. OK?
We all know you would save the baby first. You are probably the world's best babysitter. But then you should also defend human beings for being human beings and sacred DESPITE their shortcomings as human beings.
That is REAL love towards human beings. Don't you agree?

All the very best intentions

2008/7/18 <>:
Dear Alexander,

Since you ask, I will answer:

If a dog and a baby whom I loved were both in danger of being burned, I would save the baby first, not because the dog is inferior, but because I love the baby more.

If a dog (or a dog I love) and a strange baby were both in danger of being burned, I would still -- without thinking -- save the baby first, because a baby is more important to me. Not because I regard the dog as inferior. If, after the event, I took the time to think about why I had saved the baby first, I might reason that we are inclined to save something of our own species before we save something of another species, but again, not because of inferiority or superiority, but more because of what we might call the 'clan mentality'. We would save a son or daughter before saving a cousin. We would save a cousin before saving a stranger. We would save a stranger human being before saving an animal of another species.

There are many other bases for deciding which life to save first. For example, some time back, I was flying over the ocean, approximately an hour after take-off, and the pilot told us we had developed engine trouble, which would necessitate dumping our fuel and returning to the airport. At that time I looked around the cabin and saw how many young people were there, fathers, mothers, children, all with their lives before them to live. Whereas I have already lived a long and adventurous life, and am ready to depart anytime (without rushing things). So if I had to choose between saving two people -- an old person who had already lived a full life (including myself) or a young person who has his life before him -- I would probably choose to save the young person. Again, not because of inferiority or superiority. But because the old person has had his chance at life. The youngster has not. Would I make the same choice if the old person was Einstein, and the youngster was a juvenile delinquent? I don't know. I don't have all the answers, and I sincerely hope that I might not be in the position of having to make such a choice.

What I am trying to demonstrate is that ethical choices are made based on many and varied reasons -- none of which need to be superiority or inferiority. In my view there is no such thing as inferiority or superiority in living things -- just differences. So I decline to make an ethical choice based on a non-existent status. I am glad that we agree that classifications of inferior and superior have no objective reality.

And I agree with you that such classifications are always subjective. It is precisely for that reason that we should not, in my view, use them to determine ethical conduct.

Wishing us the best,

Dina G. McIntyre.

fredagen den 18:e juli 2008

Religion and community in Zoroastrianism

Dear Kamran

Community is absolutely essential to Zoroastrianism.

When Zarathushtra reacted against the short-sightedness and irresponsibility of the nomadic tribes that attacked the agricultural Iranians, he took the first known stance in the history for UNIVERSALISM as opposed to tribalism. To Zarathushtra, the primary responsibility in all ethics is towards The Community, and the community is in extension global and universal rather than local and tribal.

This is the foundation on which later Zoroastrians such as Cyrus The Great built the principle of human rights, an innovation which Cyrus and his co-religionists deserve full credit. Community takes PRECEDENCE to dogmatic ideology! This, as we all know, 2,000 years later became the foundation of Democracy in Europe and America! But what to politics is merely a pragmatic necessity, is to Zoroastrianism in itself a SACRED phenomenon.

I would say that the progress towards religion-ness (the healing of social bonds) in Zoroastrianism is equal to the progress towards complete human community. By coming nearer through our social bonds (and reconciling ourselves with strangers and those who differ from us in appearances and opinions), we create not only a community but also manifest Ahura Mazda in human beings (Ronald Delavega would equal this process with us becoming more god-like, which I agree with, since it is the same thing seen from the opposite end and a correct reading of The Gathas).

Christianity picked up this idea in the concept of The Holy Spirit (as the third leg of The Trinity). So in a way we could say that Zoroastrianism gets rid of the father and the son and only keeps The Spirit from The Trinity. This is Ahura Mazda, becoming manifest (and thereby creating "religion") through the successful aliance of The Community. What use is then "the father" and "the son". Everybody is included!

Merely the fact that Zoroastrians get together socially is therefore IN ITSELF a sacred activity.

Alexander Bard

2008/7/18 Kamran Jamshidi <>:

Dear Parviz, and all of you others,

Alex, Dina, Jafarey,…. who have been a good help for me (and other readers) to learn through your thought provoking discussions.

As I myself don't like (neither have the time for) to write or read long writings, Then I will try to keep it short, though I understand that often the questions are short but the answers could be long.

Any way, as for myself and where I stand, I just can say that I always find a part of "truth"in all sides and parts.

This issue of:

Religion=being together=hamazoori VS free thinkers is very interesting for me to get your ideas about, as I consider it as a basic problem/ equation for our society.

Free thinkers have always tendency to be "free" of any kind of rule/agreement which is necessary for being together/hamazoor.

How can we have rules (of course based on mutual understanding) and live upon them and at the same remain "free". And think that I am talking about a community/society based on "religion".

Your answers/ideas about this subject will be appreciated.


Kamran Jamshidi

2008/7/18 Parviz Varjavand <>:

Ritciousness (Righteousness) is not Religion
Religion is banding together, Hamazoori, and its symbol in Zoroastrianism is the Barsam and in Mithraism the Facias. The act of tying the individual sticks together in a Fascia was called Religare in Latin and from that word we have the word Religion.
The Barsam can be tied for good or for bad. In and of itself, it has no ethical value; it only bonds participants together and makes them strong. Bad persons can get into Hamazoori and bully others. The Fascists did just that, their Facias progressed to be a Barsam of darkness rather than one for light.
If the Righteous band and bond together, then their Hamazoori can be a Religion for the good. Otherwise just having Hamazoori can progress into gangsterism for the bullying of others into submission to the will of the gang and the self-righteous. The self-righteous (something that our religion is full of) are the greatest enemies of free thought. This is why in Zoroastrian religion we must be constantly on the watch for the bully, the one who wants to Dictate to us what we should or should not believe.
We should not give into the Vandidad bullies as much as we should not give into the self-righteous Pristine Purist Gatha bullies. They only deserve each other; we do not deserve either of them. We deserve bright free thinkers. This is the only message I have been dedicating so much of my time and life trying to get across to my fellow Zoroastrians. (What a waste of time and life!)
Parviz Varjavand

The burden of proof?

Dear Shahrooz

The problem with the belief that there is a God living outside of The Universe is that nobody who claims to believe this has shown how this God ciómmunicates or rather interactis with The Universe.
Through which medium? And where are the traces of such a communication???
Or like Stephen Hawking says:
"People can believe in God as much as they like. The problem is that there is nothing for such a God to do in the actual universe. Which is why the onluy credible religion is Pantheism, where God and The Universe are one and the same thing."
Einstein believed the same thing.
The two alternatives are not equally valid. Science is completely on the side of those who believe that there is only one universe, whether we consider it divine or not. The burden of proof lies completely with those who claim there is a God outside of The Universe.
There is no such burden on Atheists or Pantheists, because they have got NOTHING TO PROVE.
A god exisiting outside of The Universe? Well, Santa Claus could be alive and well on Greenland too. This is at least more feasible.

Alexander Bard

2008/7/17 SHAHROOZ ASH <>:
A creator living outside His creation is a possibility. No one can know this for sure, because the logical arrow goes both ways here, no one can prove a God exists, no one can prove that God does not exist outside the universe.

torsdagen den 17:e juli 2008


Dear Sharooz

This is a great text on the philosophy of Spinoza.
However, what I disagree with are the negative valuations thrown in here: Spinoza's philosophy is described as "ice-cold" et cetera. These are also attributes often thrown at Zarathushtra for his concept of Ahura Mazda, especially from Muslims and Christians. Which should make us pay attention. While the facts are basically correct, the valuations are not.
We of course know these valuations are deeply unfair and untrue. No religion is warmer towards us as human beings than Zoroastrianism. And the all-encompassing divinity, the monist pantheism of Spinoza is according to Spinoza himself a divinity of "joy", a message of "joy" and "joy" is the ethical imperative of Spinoza's philosophy.
What we also need to remind ourselves is that the Sufism and Jewish mysticism that inspired Spinoza was in itself originally Zoroastrian. It is hardly a secret that Sufism first appeared as a strong Zoroastrian influence on Islam, even possibly as a way of maintaining Zoroastrianism under an Islamic umbrella well into the middle ages and beyond.
What we should rediscover is therefore the ENORMOUS influence Zoroastrian thought has had on both Eastern thinking (especially Chan and Zen Buddhism, founded by the clearly Zoroastrian Persian prophet Bodhidharma) and via Sufism on Spinoza and thereby on Western philosophy.
Several Western converts to Zoroastrianism like myself and Arthur Pearlstein were originally Spinozist pantheists who joined Zoroastrianism as a declaration of "the roots of our beliefs". It is a recognition that proto-Spinozist thought does not begin with neither Spinoza himself or with Sufism, but starts within Zoroastrianism itself, among the wise philosophers of Persia.
And as for te issue of free will: What do we mean by will? What do we mean by freedom? The bodies in Spinoza's philosophy clearly have will and this will operates within different possibilities (offering freedom). This is not the Christian concept of free will, but we Zoroastrians never believed in the Christian free will (nor in the Christian concepts of sin and forgiveness), Zarathushtra's free will is radically different from the Christian variety and much closer to Spinoza's "mechanical" will and "direct" freedom.
And meanwhile the mystery of the mind as an attribute of the physical remains truly divine and sacred to us. Perhaps with or without Spinoza's support. But then we are not primarily Spinozists but truly Zoroastrians!


2008/7/17 SHAHROOZ ASH <>:

Shahrooz Ash
Spinoza was Jewish and came from a Spanish family, he eventually moved to Holland. He claimed, God had a physical body. And for this reason the Jewish community did not want to be associated with him, they did not want people to think that this was the view of the Jews, because this view was considered to be heresy. Spinoza's universe is very cold and impersonal, his system has one idea in its meta-physics, "God is the only thing that exists". According to Spinoza, God is perfect and the only thing that exists, apart from God there is nothing. We are all a part of God, and the world is a part of God, the world is physical and that's why God is physical. Everything is God.
We do not exist permanently, we die and turn into something else. Mind and Consciousness loses its nature, but, it does not disappear, our mind is part of God and our consciousness is part of God. The world and nature is a part of God, if this is the case, then, does this mean God is just nature? God is just thinking of nature, it's the conception of nature. But it's even more than that, God is a substance, it is something that can exist independently. Hence God is the only existence.
God also has an Essence, and his essence has Attributes, God has an infinite number of attributes. Out of all the infinite attributes we only know of two.
1. Thought
2. Extension > (leads to)> Space.
God has no purpose, he is not making things more perfect or better for us. This is because God is already perfect. So, what is Thought, and, is Thought nature? And since we don't know the rest of the attributes, then we can never know it. It is beyond anything we can ever know. We exist among the attributes of Thought, Mind and Extension, which is body.
So you and I don't exist permanently, we pass away. We are modifications of the attributes. We are like waves in the ocean, and God is the ocean, God creates the waves and not us. Water will always be there in the ocean, that's God. But waves are gone, while the water is still there. God causes everything that happens in the world. Spinoza does not believe in free-will he is a Determinist, God does everything. This means no one is ever praise or blame worthy, Evil ultimately does not exist. He also likes Occasionalism, one of Descartes students came up with it, his name was Malbranche. Causes are not a cause, they are an occasion of the effect, God creates both of them.
Spinoza likes occasionalism and determinism. This is because of the Islamist theology which was around during his time in the Middle Ages in Spain and Holland. Why did Spinoza like this as a person? God is impersonal, and God does not care about us. It's all good to God whatever that happens, but, how about us. There is another connection, this can be traced to the middle ages of Judaism and Islam. It is Mysticism, there is a mystical side to Spinoza, an Islamic parallel.
The Mutazilites (an Islamic school of thought) believed in free will and justice of God. But, by the Middle Ages we get the Ashrites (which is another Islamic school of thought), they opposed the existence of free will. They believed in the power of God and God's free will. God does what he pleases, and if God leads a person stray then you just have had it. So, if God decides to mess you up, you have had it. The Ashrites believed, if God is to be Omnipotent (All Powerful), then God must be permitted to do anything. If God is to be all powerful, then this means God cannot be all good, because, this will limit God. Man cannot be free, because, our freedom will reduces God's freedom and power, and this would mean God will no longer be all powerful and free. It is selfish to look at things that affect us, to Spinoza we are nothing.
1. Free-will
a: Matazilites > freewill > justice of God
b: Ashrites > no freewill > power and freedom of God.
2. Occasionalism
a: Al-Ghazzali
3. Mysticism
a: Sufism > compare to God we are nothing > they want to obtain "Extinction" of self.
Sufism of the time had many similar beliefs; one such common belief amongst most of these different Islamic sects is this, a person should try and reach the state which enables one to get absorbed by God, so one becomes extinct. God is so overwhelming, we are nothing. According to Spinoza, you and I, do not exist apart from God. Spinoza was like Hallaj in Sufism. Hallaj said, "Extinction of Self". Spinoza wants to lose the sense of himself, and achieves extiction so that he can get absorbed by God. He has no separate freewill and his will becomes God's will.
God is free because of his nature, God could not do anything different. But, the fact that God could not do anything different becomes a problem, because, does this mean God is limited? Why do things exist? Why are things the way they are? And why is God the way he is? Spinoza's answer is, you would know this if you saw God. All the Mysticism was a big deal in the Medieval times, Islamic and in some cases even Jewish mysticism, (things like the Cabbala).
To Spinoza God is perfect, and individuals such as Hitler and Jesus are each a part of God, this means there is no difference between the two in terms of ethics. The interesting thing here is, despite the view that there is no difference between Hitler and Jesus in terms of ethics, Spinoza actually develops a system of ethics. How he explains this no one knows. However, the system of ethics which he developed is constructed like Geometry, he does Philosophy like Geometry which is what Aristotle would have expected. If we claim God's causes makes things happen, and his causes came from the past and the past makes things happen, then the future is determined by his causes of the past. Because of this we are not in control of the future events.
Human freedom will reduce and restrict God's power and he will no longer be all powerful. This idea is strange and foreign in Zarathushtrianism, one of the most important concepts introduced by Zarathushtra is free-will and choice by individuals. In Zarathushtrianism human free-will does not limit the power of God, in fact it increase god's power. So in terms of free-will Zarathushtra and Spinoza are not similar.
Since God has no purpose and all causes are Gods, then evil does not exist. Hitler and Jesus are a part of God and there is no difference between the two. God is not making things perfect and better, because he is already perfect. So, for a perfect God there cannot be any imperfection in terms of values, there is no wrong for a perfect being. God is already perfect, so it has no purpose. Thus, God has no ethical value per-say in terms of right and wrong. God does not have a will and does not act for a good, or an end, but for his nature. With the issue of there not being any difference between Hitler and Jesus in terms of ethics, Zarathushtra would disagree. In this respect the two are a world apart and not similar at all.
For every physical event there is a physical cause, because of this there is no free will when it comes to humans, because humans are physical objects. Furthermore every event or state of affairs is brought about by previous events or states of affairs due to universal causal laws that govern the universe. This means, the state of the world and the position of things at any instant determines the state of the world and the position of things in the future. At any given time, given the past, only one outcome is possible in the future.
The theory of knowledge. How do we know what we know in terms of knowledge. It takes the form of questioning, doubt and being sceptic of what we know. Is the origin of our knowledge experience or reason and how certain are we of our methods of deriving to true knowledge. Also as our conception of the world changes do we need to change our previous understanding and form of knowledge. The concern is how reliable is our knowledge which leads us to the truth.
The 4 causes:
This is related to Aristotle.
1. Efficient cause; this is the type of Cause which makes something Happen.
2. Final cause; this is a Purpose, to lead us to the end of the Action, which an event Aims at.
Everything that happens has an efficient, and, a final cause.
3. Material cause; this is Matter, that leads to Power and the Potential to be actual.
4. Formal cause; this is Form, to Aristotle the Form is Substance which leads to Actuality.
It is thought and intelligence. Aristotle's God is pure form, thinking itself.

Human value

Dear Steve

Of course all human beings have equal value as humans.
Even the most intelligent and excellent human beings in every regard only become what they are by being part of a WHOLE as humanity. So it is not as individuals we carry any value but it is rather by being part of humanity that we get our value as human beings.
Zoroastrianism even extends this further: It is precisely as human beings we are also part of and manifest Ahura Mazda. Some people may think more or sounder than others, but the worship of mind as such is not limited to individuals but rather it is a worship of the capacity of all humanity to think, reflect and most of all, ENJOY life!

Alexander Bard

Posted by: "My Home is In the Delta" myhomeisinthedelta

Wed Jul 16, 2008 8:45 am (PDT)

Where do we draw the line at human value? What about a retarded person or an autistic person? Or someone with schizophrenia?

Are they equal to someone who has a university degree? Are they just as important? Most people would think the person with the PhD is better or more important since they have a stronger brain than people who are retarded.

Since I work part time with people who have disabilities and part time at a university I can tell you that often the person with autism or retardation is a far better human being than many of the people I've met who have high intelligence and waste their precious mind and talent.


Superiority vs Inferiority in Zoroastrianism

Dear Dina

Then I must offer friendly disagreemant in return, for two reasons:

- Wait a second. Don't put words in my mouth that I did not use. When I say inferior I mean inferior and inferior only. To stamp inferiority onto something (like a dog) does not allow for any exploitation in itself (although the fact that you do keep your dog locked up and that you own it is in itself an admittance of your "exploitation" of the dog). But lets not mix two things which in themselves are separate. Inferiority is a subjective value applied to something which HAS to be applied. Ranking things is a necessary thing for us to do in life, it is all about making ehtical priorities, something which we can not avoid. The question for us as Zoroastrians is not whether to rank or not but how we should or could rank WELL. This is precisely what the celebrated Zoroastrian freedom of choice is all about.

- I have NEVER spoken of OBJECTIVE superiority or inferiority and I have again and again stressed that there exists no such things (all things are sacred). Have you niot listened to me, Dina? So why are you then throwing objective values into the mix when I have made great efforts to avoid this? I speak of superiority and inferiority as NECESSARY and SUBJECTIVE valuations. This is all about priorities. You seem to prioritize animals before human beings. This is your choice, but don't you ever expect me to hire you as a babysitter in that case. OK? Which leads us onto the third issue at stake here:

- You are trying to avoid the uncomfortable question which still HAS to be answered: If a fire breaks out, which do they save first? The little baby or your pet dog? I MUST INSIST on your answer before I ever again recommend anybody to hire Dina McIntyre as a babysitter. Even worse than picking the dog first would be if Dina does not even have a clue in advance of what she would do, which would leave both the dog and the baby dead in the fire. So what is you answer, dear Dina? The bay or the dog first? And do you not honestly thereby RANK betwen the baby and the dog???

I even believe that proper druj in Mazdayasna is not to rank wrong but to refuse to rank at all. This is a despicable attitude to Zarathushtra for whom the existential act of ranking, of taking on life aesthetically, is what makes us beautiful and unique as human beings. But then Zarathushta LOVED people even as an imperative, he did not hate human beings which seems to be a popular and rather disturbing trend these days.

Alexander Bard

2008/7/16 :

Dear Alexander,

I must offer friendly disagreement. In my view, ideas as to the perceived "superiority" or "inferiority" of living beings are precisely what should not determine the resolution of ethical problems, and difficult human choices.

When we designate something as 'inferior', that is the first step towards exploiting it, or leaving it outside the pale of the laws that protect "superior" beings, because we do not consider the "inferior" being as deserving of the same consideration, or the same protections, or the same rights and privileges, as we "superior" beings.

The history of the human race is replete with examples of how the label of "inferiority" preceded the exploitation, degradation, and abuse of other life forms and also other human beings.

This negative consequence of designating other living things as "inferior" can be seen in the way in which animals are hunted for sport. Some species were hunted into extinction, and some into near extinction for no reason other than entertainment.

The negative consequences of designating other living things as "inferior" can also be seen in the dealings of human beings with each other, where there are differences of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, et cetera, and, as Steve pointed out, mental abilities as well. It should come as no surprise that those who made the designation of 'inferior' or 'superior' always placed themselves in the 'superior' category, and were=2 0those who stood to benefit in one way or another by classifying other life forms, or other human beings, as 'inferior'.

In my view, regarding living things as somehow "inferior" or "superior" is one of the most deadly, pernicious criterion that can be used in determining ethical choices and human behavior.

Sure, we all have to make choices in our relationships with animals and other human beings. But they don't have to be made on the basis of a perceived "inferiority" or "superiority".

My own view is that I should not kill any living thing unless it is necessary, in which event, I should do it quickly and humanely, so that it feels as little pain or terror as possible. That is the way I deal with insects that sometimes invade my house. Not because I think they are inferior. I just don't want them in my house.

If we believe in the notion of immanence -- that the divine is present in all things -- (as you and I both do), how can we classify anything as "inferior" or "superior"? The indicia by which such classifications are usually made -- mental ability, physical ability, good looks, wealth, aristocratic birth, race, religion, gender, et cetera, are all so irrelevant to whether or not a person is living a good life, and making a positive, constructive, contribution to the people and environment in which he finds himself.

Many years ago, when this same question of animals20being considered inferior was raised on these Lists, you posted a very wise comment. At least, I thought it was wise. You said something to the effect that animals are not inferior, they are just different from human beings. I really liked that.

Wishing us the best,

Dina G. McIntyre.

onsdagen den 16:e juli 2008

Bard vs Jafarey: Clarifications on "The art of following the spirit of Zarathushtra"

Dear Ali

Thank you for your excellent clarifications. I believe we can agree that concerning the issues at stake here, our differences are mostly semantic. I obviously did not mean anything demeaning by referring to Zarathushtra as "illiterate" and there are also many other explanations to the word "illiterate" (in addition to the quotes you have provided) in English that are not demeaning. And I wrote "betrayal" and not betrayal, to mark the unusual positive connotation I ascribed of the term "betrayal". What I speak about is the way a son is supposed to "betray" his father to find an identity of his own, and positive and creative "betrayal" within the very spirit of that which is betrayed. It is the spirit of Zarathushtra we stay true to as proper Mazdayasni.

My point is to stress that what was the most important thing to Zarathushtra, was to follow him in mind and in spirit rather than word-by-word. Zarathushtra was concerned with us being alive, with us being intelligent and appreciative of life for our own sake, for us to become enlightened brothers and sisters of him. He was not interested in us becoming slaves or robots in an army of Zoroastrians like so many other religions dupe its followers into.

This makes Zoroastrianism stand out. What in other religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity is merely at best to be found as marginal mystical movements (such as Zen, Brahmanism or Sufism) is within Zoroastrianism the mainstream religion itself: The desire to become one with Ahura Mazda, and learning and experimenting towards this goal, is not something mystical and marginal to us, it is rather the very core of the Mazdayasna faith and practice.


2008/7/16 <>:
- Dölj citerad text -

In a message dated 7/15/2008 6:57:42 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time, writes:
Dear Ali

There is less of a conflict here than you might be think. But let's be clear about our possible differences and then offer friendly disagreement if we must do so. Mazdayasna will be all the richer for it.
Comment: This what I have been saying and agreeing.
First of all, Zarathushtra WAS an illiterate. But what is wrong with that? There was no written language around at the time when he lived in Central Asia over 3,700 years ago. Instead, he composed his texts as poetic songs, PRECISELY so that they could be remembered and verbally passed on from one generation to the next. Mazdayasni of later generations then wrote down his songs and thereby turned them into a text. These are all historical facts. I see no reason to argue about them. And this is also why Mazdayasni people throughout the ages never portray Zarathushtra WRITING any texts. Because he never did.
Comment: We all know beyond doubt that the mode of writing did not exist at time in northeast Iran. But, let us look at the impression this word gives. Here is the definitions of an "illiterate" by the Merriam-Webster's Dictionary:
<<1 : having little or no education; especially : unable to read or write *an illiterate population*
2 a : showing or marked by a lack of familiarity with language and literature *an illiterate magazine* b : violating approved patterns of speaking or writing
3 : showing or marked by a lack of acquaintance with the fundamentals of a particular field of knowledge *musically illiterate*
synonyms see IGNORANT.>>
Does it apply to Zarathushtra, the Discoverer of MAZDA, Super-Intellect and the Expounder of the Primal Principles of Existence? He was and is an Intellectual Par-Excellent. He is LITERATE--educated and cultured.
My point is not to degrade Zarathushtra by stating this fact. If you believe illiteracy is degrading for human beings, then that is YOUR prejudice, Ali, I have no such prejudices. How learned a person is does not affect that person's value as ahuman being, far from it. It is also irrelevant to whether a person is wise or not. There are many uniwise learned people and many wise unleraned people. And there were also people who were learned while still being illiterate where literacy was an uncommon quality.

Instead, my point is that Zarathushtra did NOT have any ambition whatsoever to turn The Gathas into a bible or a qoran for the followers of his religion. He couldn't have had, anymore than Jesus could have expected televangelists to spread his message 2,000 years after his death. Therefore, trying to turn Zoroastrianism into a religion of the book, the way Christanity, Judaism, Islam is, is historically incorrect, goes against the wishes of Zarathushtra himself, and is alien to the religion we have lived with for the past 3,700 years. I therefore strongly (albeit friendly) oppose such attempts. I resent Zoroastrianism becoming a Christianized or Islamized religion. We worship our living minds and not dead texts. That's all there is to it.
Comment: Then let us have him at the grade he is. Why obsessed by the Bible and Quran? Why not by the way Hindus, Buddhists, Jainists and especially the Sikhs hold their sacred literature, now in form of books? Gita of Krishna stands high among them. Can we call them the "People of the Book"?
The Gathas have nothing in common with the Semitic books and just have a traditional style with the Indian scriptures.
I would not compare the Gathas with any of them. The Gathas stand unique in their contents--THE EVER-FRESH MESSAGE..
The Gathas are, according to Yasna 55, composed a short time after Zarathushtra, worthy of dedicating our "entire life, body, bone, life, form, strength, and knowledge to the progressive Gathas, the prime prayers, ... [which are] the support, refuge and food for wisdom; the support, refuge, and food for soul, ... the Primal Principles of Life ... meant to renovate life as God wishes..." And this is how we hold them. I do not need to keeping on repeating that the Gathas are "OUR GUIDE" to progress and up-to-datedness. That makes it so dear to us. And the Gathas do NOT make themselves a "Book" for us. Far from it. They are MANTHRAS, Thought-provokers in mind, memory, words and deeds, in fact, in every phase of our good and progressive way of life.
As for you and me: We SHARE an enormous admiration for Zarathushtra. We both follow his doctrine and consider it one if not the outmost accomplishment in the history of philosophy and religion. You refer to this doctrine as "divine". I would be careful to make such an attachment since it again folds Zoroastrianism among the "revelationist" and "supenertural" faiths of the deserts to the west of Iran (where Zoroastrianism simply does not belong). But I will conclude that Zarathushtra's doctrine is a formidable and most inspiring human doctrine, still valid after three millennia, and as such unique in human history and a superb platform for a religious conviction (which is why we both have chosen to convert to Zoroastrianism).
Comment: I am sorry. It neither makes Good Conscience "revelationist" nor "supernatural." It is Zarathushtra whose search and research raised him to REALIZE Mazdâ Ahura, the Super-Intellect Essence, the Creator, Maintainer and Promoter of the created Cosmos. And that is what makes his Doctrine Divine.
However, The Gathas is NOT a science book and we are not doing Zarathushtra any justice by making such claims. He was interested in ethics and creating a credible, timeless faith for all humankind. Science was not even on the agenda. Science is therefore better understood through reading science books, which good Madayasni ought to do as well. The Gathas is a good start but not the end of our studies. It is an inspiration.
Comment: The Gathas are a guide to science and ethics is a part of science. The Gathas are fully based on science, logic and ethics, all in one. Yes, an inspiration and inspiration guides.
Let's always remember that while Muslims believe that Muhammed is Allah's ONLY prophet and Christians go so far that they believe their founder Jesus is outright divine, we have no such beliefs in Mazdayasna. Zarathushtra is 100% human, just like the rest of us, he is not divine and neither is The Gathas. Our divinity is Ahura Mazda and Ahura Mazda only, not humans nor books. And Ahura Mazda manifests itself thorugh our MINDS by which we are to judge everything for its own merits (including The Gathas itself). This is what it means to be a true Mazdayasni.

Comment: You are just agreeing to what I have stated and written for the last 40+ years, plus that the Gathas are "Inspiration and Inspiring." They are "Divine."
Ali A. Jafarey