torsdag 3 juli 2008

The existentialism of Zarathushtra - Bard's brotherly response to Parviz Varjavand and Ali Jafarey

Dearest Brother Parviz

You are one of the few people I know who have genuinely and instinctively understood the depth of the Mazdayasna faith. So no need to worry in that department.
There is nothing divine at all about Zarathushtra (and he never claimed there was either), the megalomanical and narcissistic "founders of religions" arrived much later in history, quite possibly starting with the amazing but philosophically inferior Akhnaten in Egypt (some 400 years after Zarathushtra), the main single inspiration for Judaism.
Zarathushtra did not even know there was a possibility to write down a text and distribute. All his gathas were strictly verbal and passed from ear to ear. So how could he have had that kind of self-absorbed madness when the MEDIUM to enable such madness did not exist yet in his lifetime?
Zarathushtra was rather the first of a long line of excellent independent existentialist thinkers who chose to IGNORE local mythologies and only take for granted that which was found around them as evident in nature. I count Bodhidharma (the Zoroastrian founder of Chan and later Zen Buddhism), Heraclitus among the ancient Greeks, some of the Sufi pantheists, and later on also western thinkers like Spinoza and Nietzsche among this breed.
Even modern America has its fair share of these existentialist thinkers, among them William James in the 19th century and Richard Rorty in the 20th. Much recommended!
There is nothing divine at play here. Just a CHOICE to embrace the world as it is and accept fate unconditionally since this is the only thing we CAN do. Zarathushtra does NOT allow for any bitterness towards our existence, he opposes all ressentiment. This is why the world is GOOD and material and good for being material.
This is why I say that Zarathushtra was the original existentialist. And as a consequence, he also invented ETHICS as opposed to morality. This is precisely why there are no dos and donts in our faith. There couldn't be. The freedom of choice as ESSENTIAL to our faith can not come with forced choices, in which case it would become meaningless and hypocritical. And it is PRECUSELY for this reason that we may also turn Zarathushtra's own guesses on their heads.
He would have APPLAUDED it! Because only the behdin who takes Zarathushtra's existentialist credo seriously and thinks for him- or herself even to the point of opposing Zarathushtra's secondary messages, only this behdin is a genuine brother or sister of Zarathushtra. His equal as a TRUE Mazdayasni.
And why stay with Zarathushtra only? For an even better example of PRACTICED Mazdayasna, in all its pragmatist existentialist glory, check out my favorite Cyrus The Great!
- Dölj citerad text -


2008/7/3 Parviz Varjavand <>:
Dear Alex,
I am drowning here and you go off to the deep end. Help me, answer me, am I being logical in the conclusions I drew or am I completely out of line? You may draw any conclusion you desire, and I think you have latched on to a good one, but I am also being logical in what I say. That is the problem with Divinely inspired abstract ancient texts specially if they are poetry. That is that if we pay too much attention to them, we become like the Jehovah's Witness or the Baha'is or what have you whose life becomes dedicated to hashing and rehashing the gibberish that has come in their sacred texts. Can Mazdayasna grow out of that straight jacket and actually think for itself once in a while or is our heads to be stuck in the Gathas, Gathas, and some more Gathas all the time.
Parviz Varjavand

Alexander Bard <> wrote:
Dear Parviz and Ali

The second stanza in the third gatha deserves to be referred to as the birth of existentialism in the history of philosophy.
That is how groundbreaking the stanza is.
The modern concept of "converting to a new religion" did not really exist at the time. And we should not really refer to Zarathushtra as the founder of a new religion but rather as a "reformer" who gave Indo-European thought "structure" and "public accessibility" (possibly even losing some of the original religion's grandeur in the process, but that's another story). What Zarathustra declared was a philosophy of how to build and maintain a civilisation (in its positive sense). His opposition (druj) was the IMPULSIVITY of those who did not build a world for the future. This is precisely why Mazdayasna invented egalitarianism and ecological recycling! Against druj, Zarathushtra set up another mental state, asha, which is the eagerness to think and act long-term, see the consequences of one's behavior as primary, build and maintain civilisation, etc.
If we follow this line, the stanza in question does not require us to choose a new religion but instead the focus is on our IDENTIFICATION with our choices. What we choose is in itself secondary (otherwise it would surely have been specifided as it is in the Ten Commandments in the Bible). It is our willingness to identify with the choices we make that is of essence here.
We become the decisions we make. The decisions form who we are to ourselves. It is because of this and nothing else our decisions are so important. Please note that the decisions are not tied to any specific outcome other than that of our own future identity.
A statement could not really be any more existentialist than this. Or to put it in other way: The primary importance of the terms "good thoughts, good words, good deeds" is not the three "goodnesses" in themselves but the ORDER in which they come.
And while speaking of goodness, this is of course not the optimal translation. We should always speak of "constructive mentality". Zarathushtra is OBSESSED with mentality, with mental states. He really doesn't care about anything else (which is why we would be wise to see anything outside of the concrete mental in Zarathushtra's texts as metaphorical; to do otherwise is to fundamentally mistake Zarathushtra's highly Mazdayasna intentions).


2008/7/3 Parviz Varjavand <>:
Dear Ostad Jafarey,
You take offence too easily and then you walk off the dialog. In many cases I agree with you as we have observed when the other side has become abusive and you had no choice but to do what you did. But I have no chip on my shoulder and I am no Gatha scholar to play the Gatha-Decipherment game with you. My point (if I have one) is that Gatha-Decipherment has reduced much of the discussions amongst Zoroastrian thinkers to be no thinking at all but a game like that of Bible scholars who do nothing more than go back and forth trying to decipher the Divine words of Jesus. I am trying to understand you by your own words, and the conclusions I have drawn have been based on observing what you have thought. Please be patient and tell me where I have gone wrong.
The passage under discussion is:
>>"Hear the best with your ears
and ponder with a bright mind.
Then each man and woman, for his or her self,
select either of the [following] two.
Awaken to this Doctrine of ours
before the Great Event of Choice ushers in."<<
(Gathas: Song 3 - stanza 2)
I thought that "the best" in the passage above referred to Zarathustra's own doctrine that he has brought forth. After being your student for almost fifty years, this is what I understood was meant. Either I am a very dumb student or your teaching is not straight forward. If I am correct, then I have answered your first question of me. If not, please correct me.
"Awaken to this Doctrine of ours" I thought was another way of saying "Convert to this Religion of mine". "Before the Great Event of Choice ushers in" I thought was another way of saying "Before the ability to make choices is taken away from you" and that in turn I thought meant "before you die". That is my answer to your second question.
Points 3, 4, 5, and 6 are conclusions I draw for myself and it is a matter of my personal opinion and feelings. I heard the "Best" that Zarathustra had to say. I pondered upon it with as bright a mind that I could master, and I reached those conclusions about the person who is making those statements.
Parviz Varjavand

1 kommentar:

Peter Schogol sa...

Ushta Alexander!

From the Pantheist formerly known as Peter Skye but now known for familial reasons as Peter Schogol I greet you. I stumbled across your blog with no intention of looking at anything at all Zoroastrian, but there you were!

Pulling together your Pantheist and Zoroastrian spirits fascinates me as I've been trying to find a way to connect my own spirits with as much courage and insight as you.

Be assured I will be reading your blog with the greatest interest.

Bright blessings