måndagen den 30:e mars 2009

Alevism and Zoroastrianism, Part 2

Here is a fact sheet I found on the web on the issue of Alevism.
It sounds like we could definitely speak of a lot of similarities between Alevism in Turkey and Zoroastrianism in Iran.
Please also note that the word "alev" means "flame" in Turkish...
Ushta
Alexander

+ Pantheism, they don't see Allah as a god of justice, of punishment or of reward as in the Koran.
+ Otherwise they recognize the Koran, but as an irrelevant book that should be read esoterically.
+ They reject the existence of Heaven and Hell, and commonly they adhere to the reincarnationist belief.
+ Almost no Alevi practices ritual prayer five times a day or goes to a mosque [cami] for the prayer service at noon
on Fridays. Assemblies [cuma aksamlari, literally, "Friday nights"] have been traditionally held on Thursday by night
and are conducted with great secrecy in lodges [tekke] inside of particular houses. The assembly is leaded by a guru
[dede], performing animal sacrifices [kurban], and leading the members - males and females - when dancing the
"Semah", a dance characterized by turning and swirling, and symbolizing the putting off of one's self and union
with God (ecstasy). Sins must be confessed at the guru.
+ Avatars: the most important of them would be Ali (from there "Alevism"); he is seen as semi-divine, or even as a
sort of Christian Logos.
+ Existence of innumerable superstitions.
+ The Sufi elitist variance of the Alevism, the Bektashi sect, is usually antinomian (ideological immoralism) at least
in appearance: due to their most high knowledge, it allows them to don't follow the Islamic mandates or laws
(Shariah). Also hermetism and initiations are maintained. The most radicals of them hold the belief that the orthodox
Muslims are in fact devil-worshippers and get the figure of Ali, killed by the orthodox Muslims, as a flag against them.
Also, they do not recognize Mohammed and do not view the Koran as a perfect book.

Alevism and Zoroastrianism

Dear Robert

All Indo-European religions have a common heritage and Zooastrianism is certainly an Indo-European religion with its origin among the Iranian tribes of central Asia (as is Yezedism). I believe today there is a split between those Zoroastrians who regard their religion as pantheistic (monistic) and those who regard Zarathushtra's message to be panentheistic (a soft dualism). The Gathas does not answer the question so this split is left open and much discussed which I find quite fruitful. What both convictions have in common is a disregard for the Abrahamic form of strong dualism.

However,there are apparently several forms of sufism and possibly other forms of Islam with a pantheistic theology which of course interest us as Zoroastrians. I would say that the sufism of Ibn Arabi och the Turkish branch of Alevism would most definitely be two of them. Would you regard a Zoroastrian influence on Alevism? Yezedis have long been counted as brethren among the Zoroastrians. The Yezedi community in Sweden, consisting mostly of Kurdish immigrants, is widely regarded as part of the Zoroastrian community here.

Ushta
Alexander

2009/3/30

Dear Alexander,

I would not say that they are totally separate. There are some
similarities, maybe, if you allow me the comparison, like Yezidis and
Zoroastrians. However, Nusayri-Alawi are more 'Semitic' in their
heritage, while the Alevis have a strong Turko-Iranian, or
Irano-Turkic heritage. They do not share, for example, their saintly
figures. This is quite distinct, like are their rituals. The Anatolian
Alevis have a strong tradition of a collective worship service called
_cem_ (djam´). The Nusayri-Alawi do not have such a thing.

Nevertheless, some modern Alevis and Alawis do not know much, and do
not care much, about religious history (and theology etc by the way).
Turkish Alevis see the Alawis as their Arab counterpart, like you did.
Alawis in Turkey (not in Syria, of course), as I mentioned, mingle
sometimes with Turkish Alevis, especially in migration contexts when
they are far from their traditional structures, such as in Turkey's
larger cities and in Europe.

As for your question: I must admit, I cannot answer that; out of my
insufficient knowledge of Zoroastrian theology on the one hand, on the
other hand, because I, as a scientist, hesitate to find an essence of
'a' certain religious tradition. What would you define as
'Zoroatrianism' to compare to 'Islam'? Is Zoroatrianism pantheistic? I
francly do not know. (Alevism, by the way, is decidedly pantheistic,
at least in modern Alevi 'theology'.)

Concerning 'heritage' of structures, figures, rituals, the Yezidis to
my impression are the closest to Zoroastrianism as I know it (I work
mainly on religious practices, not on ideas). However, the Yezidis do
not consider themselves as Muslims (anymore), although they have
strong Islamic elements included in their practices, repertoire of
saintly figures, terminology etc.

Best wishes,

Robert Langer

Zitat von Alexander Bard :

> Dear Robert
>
> I must say this is a first-rate aha experience to me!!!
> I was always of the conviction that the Alevis and the Alawis were one and
> the same movement, albeit in different countries. But I believe you when you
> say they should be regarded as totally separate movements.
> And as for Islamic movements with close ties to Zoroastrianism, which one
> would be regarded the closest? Perhaps the Pantheistic version of Sufism
> presented by Ibn Arabi? Or are there other candidates?
>
> Ushta
> Alexander

söndagen den 29:e mars 2009

Qizil (Red) Part 2

Dear Robert

I must say this is a first-rate aha experience to me!!!
I was always of the conviction that the Alevis and the Alawis were one and the same movement, albeit in different countries. But I believe you when you say they should be regarded as totally separate movements.
And as for Islamic movements with close ties to Zoroastrianism, which one would be regarded the closest? Perhaps the Pantheistic version of Sufism presented by Ibn Arabi? Or are there other candidates?

Ushta
Alexander

2009/3/29
- Dölj citerad text -

Dear Alexander,

no, Turkish/Kurdish Alevis (Bektashi-Alevis and Kizilbash-Alevis) and
Arabic-speaking ´Alawis (Nusayri) are not the same. For that reason I
did not count them within the mentioned data on Alevis.

Of course, far back in history they might share the heritage of
"extremist Shiism" (_guluww_; ghulaat = 'exaggerators' in worshipping
the Emams/Ahl-e Beyt). But they have no common history and no
connections in terms of theology and organisation in times when we
have sufficient data (late Middle Ages, Modern Times). (Sunni Muslim
heresiographs and following that modern scholars were rather quick to
blame always 'Iranians' for all heterodoxy.)

On the other hand, recently, Alevis and Nusayri-Alawis became
affiliated partly in Turkey and in the Western Diaspora, where
Arab-Nusayri-Alawi from Turkey organise sometimes within Turkish Alevi
groups in lack of having their own organisations. They can associate
of course on the basis of 'love for Ali', hence their identical name:
´Alevii = ´Alawii.

On the other hand, in their traditional regions in Turkey (region of
Antioch = modern Antakya, officially Hatay) and in Syria on an
official level at least (the presidential family especially) they
present themselves as 'good Muslims', in Turkey by building their own
mosques (which neither Alevis nor Alawis traditionally used), in Syria
by participation in mosque prayer on official holidays by the
president for example.

In that context, the Nusayri-Alawi present themselves as more orthodox
Shiites as they ever were and on that basis, as you rightly observed,
linked themselves, albeit more on the state level, with Iran and
Shiites in Lebanon. In Turkey, there were some Turkish Alevi dedes
('priests') who visited Iran for 'education', and we have a Turkish
Alevi organisation in Turkey and in the diaspora that presents itself
as rather mainstream Shii (the _Ehlibeyt Vakfi_; we even encountered
Iranian mission among Turkish Alevis in Bulgaria, where they built a
mosque for them!). However, on a broader level this is prevented by
harsh Turkish nationalism (and Kurdish nationalism, one must add)
among the Alevis, which excludes any possible alliance with
(Shiite-Persian) Iran or Arabs, how much Shiite they may be.

Another reason for a distinctiveness of Alevism and (mainstream
Twelver) Shiism in Turkey is that there exist 'normal' Twelver Shiites
too in Eastern Turkey, a remnant of Safawid and Russian rule over
North-Eastern Anatolia: Azeri Turks so to speak. In Turkey, they have
their own organisations and mosques, too. They call themselves Caferi
(after Emam Ja´far a.s-.Saadeq), not Alevi.
Best wishes,

Robert

Zitat von Alexander Bard :

> Dear Robert
>
> Many thanks for the information!
> I believe it is good for us here on Ushta to understand the religious
> traditions (and contemporary situation) in the Middle East better.
> Are the Alevis in Turkey and the Alawis in Syria the same group? If so, I
> would expect some 15% of Syrian to be Alawi and hold many powerful positions
> in that country. Which in turn could explain the strong links politically
> between today's Syria on hand and the Shia government if Iran and Hizbollah
> in Lebanon on the other. What do you think?
>
> Ushta
> Alexander
>
> 2009/3/28
>
>> Dear Alexander,
>>
>> again, a difficult question. First of all, who counts as Alevi?
>> Moreover, who counts himself as Alevi? We have groups, which are
>> counted as Alevis by the majority, but insist that they are not
>> (certain rural 'Bektashis' for example; Iranian Ahl-e Haqq, on the
>> other hand, claim that Anatolian Bektashis are a sub-group of
>> themselves). But let's keep that aside and look to those groups as
>> well the academic as the average Alevi functionary might consider as
>> Alevi:
>>
>> The second problem in that case is that we do not have official census
>> data as the Alevis are not recognised as a distinct denomination,
>> especially in Turkey, where they are simply counted for as 'Müslüman'
>> or 'Islam'. (One exception was interwar Albania, where the Albanian
>> Bektashis were recognised as religious group with their own school
>> textbooks alongside with catholic and greek-orthodox Christians and
>> Sunni Muslims.)
>>
>> But estimates for Turkey are 5--30 percent. Turkey's population: 71.5
>> mio / let's say 15 percent =
>> 10.73 million
>> Migration diaspora in Europe, America etc. approximately
>> 1.25 million (??)
>> Balkan Turkic subgroups (Bulgaria, Makedonia, Romania, Kosova, Greece)
>> 0.5 million (??)
>> Iraq (Shabak and other designations), including other regional
>> subgroups (Qizilbash in Syria, Bektashis in Egypt ??)
>> 0.25 million
>> Albania / Albanians
>> 0.25 million ???
>>
>> Total ca.: 13 million (just a rough estimate)
>>
>> It is not clear what remains of Qizilbash religious traditions under a
>> Twelver Shiite surface (Republic of Azerbayjan, Iran). However, as the
>> very active Alevi organisations did not find counter-organisations or
>> at least some individuals there to cooperate with, there might not be.
>> However, I met an Iranian Qashqa'i in Estanbul who claimed that their
>> religion is the same. He was working for Alevis as a translator
>> (Persian-Turkish).
>>
>> Best wishes,
>>
>> Robert

Qizil (Red)

Dear Robert

Many thanks for the information!
I believe it is good for us here on Ushta to understand the religious traditions (and contemporary situation) in the Middle East better.
Are the Alevis in Turkey and the Alawis in Syria the same group? If so, I would expect some 15% of Syrian to be Alawi and hold many powerful positions in that country. Which in turn could explain the strong links politically between today's Syria on hand and the Shia government if Iran and Hizbollah in Lebanon on the other. What do you think?

Ushta
Alexander

2009/3/28

Dear Alexander,

again, a difficult question. First of all, who counts as Alevi?
Moreover, who counts himself as Alevi? We have groups, which are
counted as Alevis by the majority, but insist that they are not
(certain rural 'Bektashis' for example; Iranian Ahl-e Haqq, on the
other hand, claim that Anatolian Bektashis are a sub-group of
themselves). But let's keep that aside and look to those groups as
well the academic as the average Alevi functionary might consider as
Alevi:

The second problem in that case is that we do not have official census
data as the Alevis are not recognised as a distinct denomination,
especially in Turkey, where they are simply counted for as 'Müslüman'
or 'Islam'. (One exception was interwar Albania, where the Albanian
Bektashis were recognised as religious group with their own school
textbooks alongside with catholic and greek-orthodox Christians and
Sunni Muslims.)

But estimates for Turkey are 5--30 percent. Turkey's population: 71.5
mio / let's say 15 percent =
10.73 million
Migration diaspora in Europe, America etc. approximately
1.25 million (??)
Balkan Turkic subgroups (Bulgaria, Makedonia, Romania, Kosova, Greece)
0.5 million (??)
Iraq (Shabak and other designations), including other regional
subgroups (Qizilbash in Syria, Bektashis in Egypt ??)
0.25 million
Albania / Albanians
0.25 million ???

Total ca.: 13 million (just a rough estimate)

It is not clear what remains of Qizilbash religious traditions under a
Twelver Shiite surface (Republic of Azerbayjan, Iran). However, as the
very active Alevi organisations did not find counter-organisations or
at least some individuals there to cooperate with, there might not be.
However, I met an Iranian Qashqa'i in Estanbul who claimed that their
religion is the same. He was working for Alevis as a translator
(Persian-Turkish).

Best wishes,

Robert

Zitat von Alexander Bard :

> Dear Robert
>
> No problem, we take a very large and general view of Zoroastrianism here on
> the Ushta List. You've stayed very true to the aims of this forum indeed.
> Many of the western converts to Zoroastrianism are also Spinozists
> (believing that the strongly Sufism-isnpired Spinoza was a European
> Zarathushtra) so Spinozism is for example an issue that is also discussed
> here. I wonder if you have any serious estimate on how many Alevis there are
> in the world today?
>
> Ushta
> Alexander

The story of Sunpadh

Dear Robert
So would you say that this socialist tradition within Middle Eastern culture has Zoroastrian origin?
Did not this movement after all begin with Mazdak and all followers since are proto-Mazdakists in one form or the other? Would Baathism in Syria and Iraq and the strength of Iranian Marxism in the 1950s and 1960s be related to this movement?
Ushta
Alexander

2009/3/28
- Dölj citerad text -

Dear Alexander,

it is sometimes Abu-Muslim (among many other social revolutionaries /
'heretics') which Alevis refer to as their--at least
ideological--ancestors. But this is no evidence that there is a direct
line of transmission. This line of charismatic persons referred to
follows all such historical personage from Mazdak to Babak,
Abu-Muslim, Ali, Hoseyn, the twelve Emams or people connected to them,
Mansur-e Hallaj, Baba Ishaq, Shah Esmail up to Pir Sultan Abdal (16th
c Anatolia) (in concrete form I encountered in Qizilbash-Alevi
Anatolian houses portrait galleries which even included modern
20th-century Turkish/Kurdish revolutionaries and even Che Guevara).

Shortly said, it is not easy (if not impossible) to decide whether
there is an 'authentic' conncetion. For example, Soviet Aserbaidschan
made use of historiography of such figures (even including Zoroaster
himself) to construct a history of socialist revolution from early
times on in the region. This historiographies were recepted by people
on the other side of the 'Iron Curtain' (e. g. Turkish Kurds listening
to Soviet Kurdish radio programmes; books etc.).

Best wishes,

Robert

Zitat von Alexander Bard :

> Dear Friends
>
> The story of Sunpadh and his attempt to merge Islam with Zoroastrianism in
> the 9th century is quite stunning:
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunpadh
> Do we know what happened with the followers of Sunpadh, and how have they
> influenced both Islam and Zoroastrianism?
>
> Ushta
> Alexander

torsdagen den 12:e mars 2009

Change, mobility, relativism and pragmatism

Exactly!!!
And THIS is the break that Zarathushtra is making with the nomadic tribal circular worldview of pre-Zoroastrianism.
My point has all along been that Zarathushtra never was a RELIGIOUS pioneer. Zoroastrianism as a religious practice existed long before Zarathushtra (although under a different label, of course) and changed very little during his lifetime. This is why Parviz Varjavand is completely right about "Mazdayasna" as far more than a Gathic enterprise.
But the PHILOSOPHICAL aspects of Zarathushtra's revolution were truly dramatic. Zarathushtra created the first philosophy and philosophical lifestyle in history which put change, mobility, pragmatism and relativism at the forefront (long before Daoism did the same in China and Heraklitus did the same in ancient Greece). This explains everything about The Gathas, making its message coherent, and about the culture that the arrival of The Gathas fostered (with Cyrus The Great etc).
As I've always said, Zarathushtra is both The Original Spinoza and The Original Lao Tze!
Ushta
Alexander

2009/3/12 Special Kain

Dear Alexander,

I believe that Zarathushtra was the first to come up with the concept of contingency and an indeterministic world. Before him, time was circular: everything was repeating itself over and over again, and will be doing so forever, with little to no variation. Zarathushtra introduced the concept of an open future to his and other tribes. If everything was repeating itself again and again, there would be no need for civilization, religious tolerance, equality between the sexes and ecological recycling. He was the first to say that time was linear, stressing the choices we could make in life. Without contingency, no freedom of choice.

Ushta,
Dino

--- Alexander Bard schrieb am Di, 10.3.2009:


Von: Alexander Bard
Betreff: [Ushta] Why freedom of choice is a better concept than freedom of will
An: Ushta@yahoogroups.com
Datum: Dienstag, 10. März 2009, 16:23

Dear Dino

I agree. Free will can really only exist in a strictly dualist environment. Because it requires for there to be something that wills in the first place (a soul isolated within and from the body). In addition, the concept of freedom is far from clear. Free from what? Free to do what? I prefer to emphasize that the world is indeterministic and that within an intedeterministic world no outcome can be totally determined. This open up the future to a multitude of possibilities and it is more meaningful for us to talk about an open future than to discuss any freedom of will. To Zarathushtra, the freedom of the will is of no concern whatsoever, Instead, his focus is on our (ethical) identity. He is concerned that we should understand that WE ARE the thoughts, the words and the actions that are bodies produce. It is merely as a feedback loop of those phenomena that Zarathushtra is concerned with an ethical "freedom" of sorts.

Ushta
Alexander

2009/3/10 special_kain

Dear friends,

To ask whether we have a free will or not is not the most sophisticated philosophical question, but it's important and getting more so in the light of brain research. Benjamin Libet's experiment allegedly proved that we can't want what we want, that decisions were taken subconsciously (or preconciously) and we only had the possibility to react and say "No!" (veto). Libet's experiment and theory became extremely popular amongst neuroscientists, evolutionary biologists and some philosophers, psychologists and sociologists. Fortunately, Libet's experiment didn't prove anything at all. Anyone interested in free to find the important and convincing methodological objections on the net.
But hasn't this debate been way too tiring? Of course, there's no free will in the sense that there was a totally unconditioned will: past experiences, socialization, cultural norms, biological and neurophysiological restrictions and other influencing factors do exist, for better or worse. But Zarathushtra's freedom of choice comes handy right here: there are restrictions, yet there's also contingency. And freedom of choice acknowledges the fact that restrictions and contingency exist. So there are options that we can choose from and other options that we can create for ourselves. Freedom of choice is a more pragmatic concept than freedom of will. Freedom of choice doesn't mean that there wasn't any free will - of course, there's self-control and there are more complex decisions to be made than grabbing an apple when being hungry! We can learn from our past experiences, we can use our (more or less) wise minds. So we can make free choices based on reasoning and past experience. We can create alternatives to those restrictions mentioned above (even though they'll continue to exist), widening our range of freedom.

My two cents on a Tuesday morning,
Dino

tisdagen den 10:e mars 2009

Freedom of choice vs Freedom of will

Dear Dino

I agree. Free will can really only exist in a strictly dualist environment. Because it requires for there to be something that wills in the first place (a soul isolated within and from the body). In addition, the concept of freedom is far from clear. Free from what? Free to do what? I prefer to emphasize that the world is indeterministic and that within an intedeterministic world no outcome can be totally determined. This open up the future to a multitude of possibilities and it is more meaningful for us to talk about an open future than to discuss any freedom of will. To Zarathushtra, the freedom of the will is of no concern whatsoever, Instead, his focus is on our (ethical) identity. He is concerned that we should understand that WE ARE the thoughts, the words and the actions that are bodies produce. It is merely as a feedback loop of those phenomena that Zarathushtra is concerned with an ethical "freedom" of sorts.

Ushta
Alexander

2009/3/10 special_kain

Dear friends,

To ask whether we have a free will or not is not the most sophisticated philosophical question, but it's important and getting more so in the light of brain research. Benjamin Libet's experiment allegedly proved that we can't want what we want, that decisions were taken subconsciously (or preconciously) and we only had the possibility to react and say "No!" (veto). Libet's experiment and theory became extremely popular amongst neuroscientists, evolutionary biologists and some philosophers, psychologists and sociologists. Fortunately, Libet's experiment didn't prove anything at all. Anyone interested in free to find the important and convincing methodological objections on the net.
But hasn't this debate been way too tiring? Of course, there's no free will in the sense that there was a totally unconditioned will: past experiences, socialization, cultural norms, biological and neurophysiological restrictions and other influencing factors do exist, for better or worse. But Zarathushtra's freedom of choice comes handy right here: there are restrictions, yet there's also contingency. And freedom of choice acknowledges the fact that restrictions and contingency exist. So there are options that we can choose from and other options that we can create for ourselves. Freedom of choice is a more pragmatic concept than freedom of will. Freedom of choice doesn't mean that there wasn't any free will - of course, there's self-control and there are more complex decisions to be made than grabbing an apple when being hungry! We can learn from our past experiences, we can use our (more or less) wise minds. So we can make free choices based on reasoning and past experience. We can create alternatives to those restrictions mentioned above (even though they'll continue to exist), widening our range of freedom.

My two cents on a Tuesday morning,
Dino

torsdagen den 5:e mars 2009

How does one define a religion? Part 3

Dear Jehan, Dina, Dino

Thank you for brilliant postings on this topic.
Zoroastrianism s nit only a philosophy, to the ancient Persians Zoroastrianism WAS philosophy itself. Therefore the label Mazdayasna (the celebration of wisdom).
This philosophy became a religion through customs and practices.
So the correct answer in moden English would be that Zoroastrianism is both philosophy and religion, and then we mean religion in its original sense (as religare).

Ushta
Alexander

2009/3/4 Jehan Bagli

Dear Friend:

In this discussion of Philosophy versus religion, I notice a major conventional parameter of 'customs and practices' is missing. I believe that all religions start as a philosophy, advocating a way of life, which Dina has so eloquently pointed out for Zarathushtrians. However as the belief in Divinity pervades though that way of life, with time, humankind makes effort to commune with the Divinity. This invariably results in the emergence of customs and rituals that transforms the philosophy to a religion. These customs ad practices also contribute to some degree, the binding within a community that Perviz referred to as 'Relegare'. Almost invariably all religions, institutionalized or otherwise, encompass some kind of individual or congregational ritual practices that philosophy does not. Unfortunately at times these the practices are so heavily enforced by the institutional infrastructural hierarchy that the philosophy implied in the religion is overshadowed and the some religions become a multi-level marketing industry. Zarathushtra's philosophical teaching of Spenta way of being was essentially overshadowed in the Sasanian era of Iranian history.

With Peace and Enlightenment from Mazda

Jehan Bagli

On 4-Mar-09, at 8:56 AM, DINAMCI@aol.com wrote:

> Dear Helen,
>
> That is a legitimate and difficult question to answer. The ancient Greeks did indeed consider Z's teachings to be a philosophy. Eudoxus (of Cnidus) who (dare I say this on Alexander's List!) was a disciple of Plato, is said to have thought it to be "the noblest and most useful of the schools of philosophy." (quoting from Prof. Humbach's book, Vol. 1, page 24).
>
> Philosophy means "love of wisdom". And mazdayasna means "worship of wisdom". And to Zarathushtra, worshipping means to think, speak and act in an ashavan way, with a foundation of love (Y51.22). So mazdayasna is indeed a love of wisdom.
>
> Today, the difference between a philosophy and a philosophical "religion" as I understand it is that the latter includes a belief in the Divine (thought not necessarily the conventional idea of "God") whereas the former does not. This distinction does not apply to Zarathushtra's teachings, however. Some of my Z friends (including a dear friend in London) are quite comfortable being followers of Zarathushtra who see Mazda as an allegory -- the idea of wisdom personified -- rather than a real life form. While I do not think this view accords with the evidence of the Gathas, it is certainly held by a number of Zoroastrians.
>
> As with so many labels, perhaps the distinctio n between "philosophy" and "religion" is an artificial one which we have created. As a species, we are very much given to categorizing, and classifying. But sometimes, such distinctions (like other labels for different thought systems) do not accurately reflect a given reality.
>
> Wishing us the best,
>
> Dina G. McIntyre.
>
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Helen Gerth
> To: Ushta@yahoogroups.com
> Sent: Tue, 3 Mar 2009 5:20 pm
> Subject: Re: [Ushta] Reply to Helen re How does one define a religion
>
> Dear Dina,
>
> How would one then distinguish it from 'philosophy'... religion of course includes a philosophy of a way of living...but philosophy is not always a religion...
>
> Obviously I have a particular thought in mind...hence the question to see if others see it the same way....or how it is different...
>
> Thank you!
>
> Peace and happiness always,
> Helen
>
> --- On Tue, 3/3/09, DINAMCI@aol.com wrote:
>
> From: DINAMCI@aol.com
> Subject: [Ushta] Reply to Helen re How does one define a religion
> To: Ushta@yahoogroups.com
> Date: Tuesday, March 3, 2009, 1:08 PM
>
> Dear Helen,
>
> If you want a definition in a nutshell, I would say that religion according to Zarathushtra means using your mind / heart to search for what is true and right, and think it, speak it, and do it in all the many and varied circumstances of your life. In other words, it is a beneficent way of living.
>
> Wishing us the best,
>
> Dina G. McIntyre.
>
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Helen Gerth
> To: Ushta
> Sent: Tue, 3 Mar 2009 3:16 pm
> Subject: [Ushta] How does one define a religion
>
> Dear all,
>
> What is the definition of a religion.... and20how does Zoroastrianism meet this definition?
>
> Up front I will say that I have no expectations. ..and I realize that there will be numerous different answers...
>
> Thank you for indulging me if you have time or interest...
>
> Ushta te,
> Helen

Religare

Dear Parviz

This is most enlightening!!!
This also shows that religion is a concept with Zoroastrian and not European roots since it arrived as part of Mithraic culture (the part of Zoroastrian history that you and I seem to love the most).
We should educate the world about this fact: Remove the concept of religion from Christianity and its Manichean roots and return the concept of religion to the world of Zoroastrianism and Mithraism.
Because if religion is that which ties human beings together, then religion is indeed a beautiful thing.

Ushta
Alexander

2009/3/4 Parviz Varjavand

Dear friends on Ushta,

I did go look up the word and it is spelled Religare (and not Relegare) in Latin.

I like to associate the word Religion with its Latin root Religare as it tells me a lot. In Zoroastrianism we have a ritual in which a bundle of twigs are tied together with a Koshti or a white woolen cord and this represent Hamazoori or strenght in union. Many cultures have this image, but I believe that the Persian Version as incorporated in Mazdayasna may be the oldest. The Mithraists have this ritual and they tie the Rods together with a red cord representing Love or Mehr (The Love aspect of Mithra).

Your friend and mine ;-) Benito Mussolini used this Barsam image to form the Italian Fascist party. (As the Coffe-net in Tehran is closing, I will post this now and continue it later)

Ushta,
Parviz varjavand

tisdagen den 3:e mars 2009

How does one define a religion? Part 2

Dear Helen and Friends
Dina's definition of religion is not the definition used academically.
Religion instead refers to a belief system based on a specific divinity or set of divinities. A foundation Dina illuminatingly has left out.
What Dina is referring to is what since the Greeks has been called "philosophy", "the admiration of knowledge".
But Dina's definition is interesting nevertheless, since Zoroastrianism is not a religion in the classic sense.
Which just goes to prove the post-colonial studies thesis that ALL belief systems prior to the Greeks have clumsily been referred to as "religions" to keep the European monopoly on the innovation of the discipline of "philosophy". This myth needs to be exposed and any serious acadmic would of course do precisely that.
Zoroastrianism is "a way of life", "a culture", "a belief system". For example, n my native tongue Swedish, the term religion is rarely used for a phenomenon like Zoroastrianism, the proper word is instead "livsåskådning", meaning "a way of looking at existence" (and I'm sorry if English is a poorer language than the Scandinavian tongues in this department).
Ushta
Alexander

2009/3/3 Helen Gerth

Dear Dina,

How would one then distinguish it from 'philosophy'... religion of course includes a philosophy of a way of living...but philosophy is not always a religion...

Obviously I have a particular thought in mind...hence the question to see if others see it the same way....or how it is different...

Thank you!

Peace and happiness always,
Helen

--- On Tue, 3/3/09, DINAMCI@aol.com wrote:

From: DINAMCI@aol.com
Subject: [Ushta] Reply to Helen re How does one define a religion
To: Ushta@yahoogroups.com
Date: Tuesday, March 3, 2009, 1:08 PM


Dear Helen,

If you want a definition in a nutshell, I would say that religion according to Zarathushtra means using your mind / heart to search for what is true and right, and think it, speak it, and do it in all the many and varied circumstances of your life. In other words, it is a beneficent way of living.

Wishing us the best,

Dina G. McIntyre.


-----Original Message-----
From: Helen Gerth
To: Ushta
Sent: Tue, 3 Mar 2009 3:16 pm
Subject: [Ushta] How does one define a religion

Dear all,

What is the definition of a religion.... and how does Zoroastrianism meet this definition?

Up front I will say that I have no expectations. ..and I realize that there will be numerous different answers...

Thank you for indulging me if you have time or interest...

Ushta te,
Helen

How does one define a religion?

Dear Helen
The concept of religion was invented by Europeans as a distinction against the world of philosophy.
Religion comes from the Latin word for "reconnection".
So Zoroastrianism is not really a religion at all but a complex set of beliefs and cultural codes.
But it is comfortable for Eruopeans to refer to Zoroastrianism as a "religion" because then they can maintain the myth that the Greeks invented "thinking" 1,200 years after Zarathushtra.
Ushta
Alexander

2009/3/3 Helen Gerth

Dear all,

What is the definition of a religion....and how does Zoroastrianism meet this definition?

Up front I will say that I have no expectations...and I realize that there will be numerous different answers...

Thank you for indulging me if you have time or interest...

Ushta te,
Helen

Guiding principles...

Dear Helen

What you seem to be missing is a Zoroastrian MORALITY.
But there is no such thing. Zoroastrians have SUCCESSFULLY lived without a morality for 3,700 years and seeing the misery morality has caused to their neighbors they certainly have no desire whatsoever to introduce a baseless morality NOW. We ahve no ten commandments and there is a REASON for that. It is also a cause of our immense pride.
Rather, Zoroastrians are ETHICAL people, even obsessed with ethics.
You are what you think, you are what you say, you are what you do. If you think, speak and act differently from what you DESIRE to be, then go ahead and CHANGE your thoughts, language and actions. That's Zarathushtra's message in a nutshell that we repeat and meditate over again and again, every day of our lives.
That's all. Now you just need to learn to live with that (or in your case, learn to UNDERSTAND that).
If you miss morality that much (since morality makes life easy to live, but ultimately a fake life) then go somewhere else. The world is full of stupid moralisms. They will welcome you with open arms with their "ready-to-go" religions. But to us the question and the answer remain:
- What is the right or the wrong to do?
- Well, that always DEPENDS ON THE SITUATION.
That's ethics for you, hardcore Zoroastrian ethics!!!

Ushta
Alexander

2009/3/3 Helen Gerth

Dear Dino,

You say "But there are certain guidelines and ideas
that I'm attracted to..."

My sense often is of a contemporary Zoroastrianism that has exceptionally few guidelines when it is described by some....and sometimes your discussions seem more like you see Zoroastrianism as something that you can select parts as from as a philosophy rather than a religion...it lends a 'flavor' of a religion with few if any tenets or guides....

I see Asha presented in discussions as a guiding principle...but there is nothing but one's own internal sense of right and wrong for a compass...

Celebrating 'Mind' and one's own right to ethical choice and making 'good' choices is a guiding principle....but there is no clear definition of 'good' as a compass since it is up to individual interpretation...and the consequences one might be willing to tolerate are different from another's....

If you were to finish the manifesto that was started and post it on the intro to the group...what would it consist of as a clear statement of guiding principles?

These are of course the thoughts of someone who is looking for a clear cut definition of Contemporary Zoroastrianism as some see it here...and of course there may not be one as from the outside the sense I have of some discussions here is that it is in a process of transformation and is constantly evolving...though of course there are some here who have very concrete definitions of what Zoroastrianism is for them.....

Alexander - Is this perhaps something that could be set down and posted on the intro??

Ushta te,
Helen

måndagen den 2:e mars 2009

Mind vs Wisdom (What is Mazda?) Part 3

Arthur is absolutely right and Parviz can rest assured that there is a dramatic difference between the experiments of Aleister Crowley and the ethics of Zarathushtra. Zarathushtra goes way beyond "do what you will". My point is that there is no contradictition in Zarahushtra's message: Zarathushtra is obsessed BOTH with the fact that there is something rather than nothing (and that that which exists has a value precisely because it exists) which is what he refers to as ASHA (and celebrates as asha) and with the fact that we can make choices that we identify with (ethics rather than moralism) and there we should as Zoroastrians and Civilizationists celebrate the GOOD choices over the bad, nurturing a constructive and joyful mentality rather than a destructive and depressed mentality. This is celebrating Ahura Mazda.
Ushta
Alexander

2009/3/2 special_kain

Dear Arthur,

That's all part of what choosing authenticity and making authentic
choices means to me. :-)
You can't make authentic choices without drawing distinctions or
considering others making equally authentic choices. And reality would
be one giant blurred mess, if we didn't draw any distinctions (see
Spencer-Brown and Luhmann, for example).

Ushta,
Dino


--- In Ushta@yahoogroups.com, Arthur Pearlstein wrote:
>
> Friends,
> Zarathustra's philosophy goes beyond doing what " we wilt." I believe
> the key is in the importance he places in the making of distinctions ,
> particularly between creative and destructive thoughts/words/deeds.
> The capacity to make these critical distinctions is an essential part
> of what it is we celebrate in mind, is it not? Is this not why
> Alexander has (correctly) referred to Zarathushtra as the first
> "civilizationist?" We celebrate the existence of mind, yes for sure.
> We identify our desires. But we test our desires in light of these
> distinctions, understanding that there are an awful lot of other
> people doing "what they wilt." Appreciating and applying these all
> important distinctions is what I think is meant by vohuh manah, good
> mind.
> Ushta,
> Arthur

söndagen den 1:e mars 2009

Change is good in itself!

Dear Dino and Dina

Dinos is saying that change is good in itself.
Dino is right.
Dina is arguing that all change is not good in itself.
But that is not what Dino said.
There is a dramatic difference between saying that "change is good in itself" and saying that "all change is good in itself". Does Dina agree with me here?

Ushta
Alexander

2009/2/28 special_kain

Dear Dina,

Please be assured that I don't disagree with you. All I said was that
change is good in itself, which means that we shouldn't demonize
contingency. Life is unfair, but should this make me feel miserable?
Would it help anybody if I felt miserable? I don't think so.
I didn't say that all outcomes of every change are good or that we
should accept the status quo as it is. If you want to change things
for the better, I don't have a problem with that - quite the opposite!
Because Zoroastrianism is the religion of creative openness: We're
encouraged to actively participate in the creating of this world.

Ushta,
Dino

--- In Ushta@yahoogroups.com, DINAMCI@... wrote:
>
> Dear Dino,Â
>
>
>
> I doubt that all change is good in itself. Â To give you some
extreme examples: Â Lenin took over control of the Russian revolution

from the Trotskyites and instituted a repressive regime. That was
change. Â Khomeini's intolerant theocracy took over control of the

Iranian revolution from its secular leaders who wanted to institute a
democratic form of government. Â That was change. Â Not all change is

good.
>
>
>
>
> I also must offer friendly disagreement when you question why we
need a purpose or goal (implicit in the notion of evolving or growing
towards a wholly spenta way of being). Â Acceptance of the status quo

means that we accept all the wrong choices that cause humans misery
and suffering -- injustice, cruelty, fraud, oppression, et cetera. Â I

accept that such things exist, but I cannot accept that I should not
do what I can (in however small a way) to try to change such
destructive conditions, and at least try to alleviate the suffering
they bring about.
>
>
>
>
> Wishing us the best,Â
> Dina G. McIntyre

Mind vs Wisdom (What is Mazda?) Part 2

Dear Dina
Of course there is no celebration of the harmful mind in Zoroastrianism. I never said such a thing.
But neither is there a celebration of the constructive mind only either. Not as a pre-programmed mind that can not choose. You may want that to be the case, for simplicity's sake, but that is not what you find in The Gathas.
What Zarathushtra celebrates is the EXISTENCE of mind and its capacity to choose. This is what the term "Mazdayasna" literally means!
It is the FREEDOM of the mind which we celebrate. Otherwise we could just celebrate robots who can do no wrong. And what's the point with that? It's a dead and unimaginative religion. The beauty is that there IS a mind and that this mind CHOOSES. The outcome of the choice is secondary and not what we celebrate as Mazdayasni.
Just like you as a parent should not celebrate that your child does exactly what you want but that the child does what the child wants to do with his or her own life.
Ushta
Alexander

2009/2/28


Dear Alexander,

I guess we will have to agree to disagree. There is no celebration of a destructive, harmful, inimical mind in Zarathushtra's thought.

I know we all like to gasp in admiration at the ability of a human being to think, to reason -- priding ourselves that this places us at the apex of existence. Well, sure, the ability to think is indeed a great capability. But it is only one of many great tools available for the growth (or evolution) of life forms. Imagine a person who could "think" but not feel any emotion. You would have a robot -- not exactly the apex of existence.

True, as Zarathushtra uses the term mind, it includes not only such things as rationality, judgment, analysis, etc. but also such as emotions, creativity, et cetera. But even with such an expanded idea of 'mind' -- it is still capable of both "good" activities, as well as destructive or harmful activities.

It is not mind, but a good mind (vohu manah) that is celebrated in Zarathushtra's thought.

It is not being (mainyu) but a benevolent way of being (spenta mainyu) that is celebrated in Zarathushtra's thought.

Wishing us the best,

Dina G. McIntyre.



-----Original Message-----
From: Alexander Bard
=0 ATo: Ushta@yahoogroups.com
Cc: zoroastrians@yahoogroups.com
Sent: Wed, 25 Feb 2009 7:19 am
Subject: [zoroastrians] Mind vs Wisdom (what is Mazda?)

Dear Dina

I must offer friendly but immediate disagreement.
It is true that Mind can be used for both good and bad.
But what we mean with the concept of Mazdayasna is that THE VERY EXISTENCE of Mind in itself is what is worth celebrating.
It is the existence of mind which is sacred to us, not what these minds produce. And there is an enormous difference between the capacity of something and the outcome of something.
So it is indeed MIND we mean with Mazda and not wisdom even though wisdom is of course preferrable to nonsense.

Ushta
Alexander