söndag 28 september 2008

Free will - and social studies

Dear Dino

I'm proud to consider myself a "liberal democrat" since it irritates so many of the postmodernist thinkers. Zizek has repeatedly referred to me as the ultimate Deleuzian of the right, which I suppose is also as an acknowledgment of my intellectual achievements (he has also called me half-jokingly a Stalinist due to my determinist approach to technological history).
To me, the development of different identities within a consumer-capitalist culture is not problematic in itself. Rather I see this as a truism. Capitalism is even a productive force, it stimulates creativity and differentiation, so what is then the problem (Zizek and Badiou would agree with me all the way to the idea of the problem involved, so they see a problem where I rather just see a phantom of theirs)? The problem is rather one of social justice, but the Scandinavian countries (which basically ignored classic Marxism with its revolution romanticism and went for Kautskyian social democracy) have shown that it is perfectly feasible to create the most democratic, just, affluent and egalitarian socities mankind has ever known using Kautskyian ideology.
Even now to the point that liberalism is a superior alternative to socialism to take society forward in a progressive manner.
I also believe this is a more ZOROASTRIAN approach to politics and social justice. Zarathushtra was opposed to dramatic political upheaval and is therefore a healthy antidote to Marxists and other western hotheads of political philosophy. Zarathushtra's approach to politics would rather be one of constraint, dialogue, democracy and giving voice to all. That's pragmatic liberalism by another term.


Dino wrote:

Alright, let me sum up the results from my studies:
According to Judith Butler, identity can never be free. Even if we consciously choose an identity, it is still interwoven in power relationships. There's always a moment of violence in every act of identification. There's no escape, we're always trapped. No exit!
In his later works, Foucault grew out of his own fatalism and (mis-)understood the Iranian Revolution as an event taking place beyond the system of complex power relationships - a genuine act of liberation.
Thus, identities are not free from power relationships, but we could be free to choose any identity we desire. And this very act of identification now affects the existing order of things, slightly changing the preconditions for further acts of identification.
The main problem with postmodernist reasoning on such matters it that, for example, Butler's ideal of multiple identities is perfectly in tune with late-capitalism's demands. It is not "against the systeam", so to speak. Late-capitalist consumer culture asks us to change our identity according to different circumstances. A postmodern identity is affirming existing power relationships. Just see Slavoj Zizek for that!

Now I'm going to read an essay by Paul Simpson, and it will hopefully inspire me, since I can't answer the problem formulated by Foucault and his allies.


Would it be better to reject any 'identity offerings'? Can there be any kind of identity beyond existing power relationships? I can't say.

Kind regards, Dino

Freedom, queer theory and gender studies

Dear Dino

I totally agree!!!
This is why I would refer to most of what is being created in the name of gender and queer studies as "vulgar Foucauldianism". Foucault himself was quite worried and expressed doubts about the early queer theory being developed in the early 1980s before his own tragic death (I unfortunately never had the chance to meet Foucault before he passed away, despite having many friends in common). I guess that says it all.
I know Judith Butler well and she is a great Hegelian philosopher. But I agree in your stance for Nietzsche and Spinoza and against Butler. Even Slavoj Zizek, the greatest Hegelian alive today, is much more of a Nietzschean than Butler is.
Modern gender and queer studies how much to learn from Zoroastrian culture about Zoroastrianism's long history of gender equality and its npragmtic and tolerant approach towards sexual minorities. Sure, there are extremely homphobic passages in the Vendidad and there is still quite a lot of homphobia prevalent among Parsees in India. But Zoroastrianism has one great benefit: Homophobia is NOT sanctioned within the theology itself. Especially as homophobia is strictly a moralization and incompatible with pure ethics. Zarathushtra himself would be aggressively against homphobia.
But Zoroastrians also have much to learn from queer and gender studies. Especially when it comes to learning how Zoroastrians can present their proudly socially progressive agenda to outsiders and show people that Mazdayasna has been a harbor of tolerance and curiosity towards various human expressions for over 3,700 years.


2008/9/28 Special Kain

- Dölj citerad text -

Dear Alexander,

Before answering your question exhaustively, let me just add that Foucault was often mistaken by many researchers in the fields of Gender and Queer Studies. He was a proto-positivist, trying to identify the mechanisms of discourses, instead of making up abstract theories (which is rather common in Queer Studies).
We can learn from Foucault (and Nietzsche) that freedom doesn't exist from the very beginning, but it's something that we can work towards. After Foucault there is a certain kind of defeatism or fatalism when it comes to power relationships - just look at Judith Butler! I truly respect her, but Foucault still believed in a realm beyond such power relationships. Thus, we can really experience more and more freedom, the more we know about how our identities come to life and how we identify with such social constructs. That's why I LOVE the word "queer" as it refers to an identity without an essence.

Kind regards, Dino

--- Alexander Bard schrieb am Sa, 27.9.2008:

Von: Alexander Bard
Betreff: [Ushta] 'Free will' vs interactive learning process (was: Being vs Becoming)
An: Ushta@yahoogroups.com
Datum: Samstag, 27. September 2008, 23:55

Dear Dino

I agree, this is MOST interesting.
Zarathushtra definitely sees us as the creators of our own freedom. This is why he emphasizes that we must identify ourselves with our thoughts, words and actions but also points out that we can affect them in advance and that we ARE precisely this very choice.
So freedom must then lie in between that which we discover that we are too ourselves and that which we could have anticipated ourselves to have become. It is never freedom in relation to anything EXTERNAL to ourselves (such as a Big Other or a God-Judge of any kind).
How did yu experience the concepts of identity and freedom during your gender studies and queer theory studies? I know Michel Foucault has had enormous influence on these fields. Foucault was a Nietzschean at heart and Nietzsche was as we all know inspired by Zarathushtra and "the dilemma of ethics and morality".


lördag 27 september 2008

In Search of Freedom (by Parviz Varjavand)

In Search of Freedom

The key to proper choices in search of freedom we make needs as a tool proper labeling for the choices that we have available. There are many so called names of God in Zoroastrianism. Bogh is one, Ahoora, Mazda, Spenta Mind, Asha, Dey, all the names of the Ameshaspands and the 101 names in the Avesta are all God names. I chose two in order to make a very definite distinction in my choices; Mazda and Dey.

Dey is linguistically related to Deity and Devine (also Div, but let us forget that negative connotation). Dey means divine powers coming from the metaphysical realm and beyond the realm of our mental powers to decipher them. Mazda means "That which can Think" and refers to the realm of powers our mind can hope to decipher, now or some day soon. Asha is the name of laws Mazda can work with and try to decipher.

Yasna and Yasni (in Mazdaism) means to Celebrate (not to worship but to have a Jashn or celebration). As a Mazdean, my mind should know if it is engaging in celebrating the Mind or in celebrating the Divine (beyond the reach of the mind). We do Mazda-yasni work or we do Dey-yasni work.

My loved one is sick. I go to the temple and with all sincerity pray to Divine powers to make him/her well. Nothing to be ashamed of, my Dey-yasna part of the psyche needs it. Then I go to the doctors, I do the lab works needed, and give the patient the medications prescribed. I engage here in Mazda-yasni works. The patient gets well. I thank God and His Divine powers, because there was so much powers at work that I did not understand. I also thank and celebrate Mazda and all that worked by using the proper Asha that persons with minds did to make the sickness go away.

As a Mazdean, I am an Ashavand and Mazdayasni first; I trust and work with and celebrate the results given by Mazda to me. I am also not ashamed to do Dey-yasni works, because I know how small I am with the tiny amount of Mazda lodged in my head in relation to the enormity of the Asha that runs around in the universe. The key to my sanity is that I do not run around calling the Dey by the name of Mazda or Mazda by the name of Dey. I recognize the times I celebrate the Mind and times I celebrate the Dey or powers beyond the reach of my mind.

Ushta to us,
Parviz Varjavand

Mazda and Dey

Dear Parviz

This is a BEAUTIFUL DESCRIPTION of what it means to be a true Mazdayasni. Thank you for your wise words!!!
We are Mazdyasni or Ashavand first and foremost.
But we also realise the human need for the metaphysical realm to explain that which to us remains unexplainable. Also we need this last resort of hope. This is why we treat those with dignity to do their Dev-Yasni practice as well. Because sooner or later we know that we are bound to be Dev-Yasni too. It is those who deny us the Dev-Yasni potential which are mistaken. They may know the world as facts and figures but they have still to figure out what it means to be truly human. And thereby their Mazda-Yasni onesidedness is not truly Mazda-Yasni at all, it remains onedimensional when it should and could have had at least two dimensions.


2008/9/27 Parviz Varjavand

As a Mazdean, I am an Ashavand and Mazdayasni first; I trust and work with and celebrate the results given by Mazda to me. I am also not ashamed to do Dey-yasni works, because I know how small I am with the tiny amount of Mazda lodged in my head in relation to the enormity of the Asha that runs around in the universe. The key to my sanity is that I do not run around calling the Dey by the name of Mazda or Mazda by the name of Dey. I recognize the times I celebrate the Mind and times I celebrate the Dey or powers beyond the reach of my mind.

Ushta to us,
Parviz Varjavand

Romanticism in Zoroastrianism

Dear Dino

I would add that the true romanticism is the belief that we are obliged to love the world as it is no matter what. To hold the world sacred, even if we can't find any logical reason to do so. Wgen we return the obvious indifference from Existence as such with our complete love and desire. If only because we no nothing better. I actually believe this is what Zarathushtra did. I believe this is what Lao Tze, Spinoza and Nietzsche did too, only far later in history. And I believe this is the only romanticism which is well founded. Because, if we don't just DECIDE in an existential act that we embrace Existence as it is, what else are we to do? If the capacity to love Existence is there, let's do it!

Fairytale nonsense and superstitions is an altogether different story. If we desire to love Truth for being the only thing that exists, then we also obliged towards Truth to removed that which egts in the way, that which is Untrue. And I believe this is what Zarathushtra does when he holds asha separate from druj (or if we personify asha and druj, we speak of Ahura Mazda versus Ahriman). This is what Zoroastrian romanticism is all about. And this is what makes it different from all the other religions.


2008/9/26 Special Kain

Dear Zaneta,

Yes, romantic ideas are appealing in general, I assume, and I enjoyed them for a long time. I'm still romantic to a certain extent - or differently romantic now. But I'm well-aware that those romantic ideas are here to comfort us, not to guide us towards the truth. Many people enjoy to rest within such cosy romantic ideas. And then those people get lazy and defend their cosy prejudices with fire and fists! ;-))
But all of this isn't that bad, as long as we aknowledge that we're co-creators of this wonderful world, and we can responsibly turn some of those romantic ideas into reality.

Kind regards, Dino

--- Zaneta Garratt schrieb am Fr, 26.9.2008:

Von: Zaneta Garratt
Betreff: RE: [Ushta] Being vs Becoming (was: Spinozism and existentialism)
An: ushta@yahoogroups.com
Datum: Freitag, 26. September 2008, 10:40

Hi Dina, I happen to like the romantic ideas, maybe they appeal to me more because I am a woman but I did look up the guy you mention but I could not make head or tale of what he was going on about as my mind does not think in the same way as his, sorry about that, but thanks for your letter and Best wishes from Zaneta

torsdag 25 september 2008


Dear Parviz and Dino

I definitely agree with both of you. Totally.
Mazdayasna is Pantheism Plus - as I have often referred to our faith.
And I became convinced about this during one of our debates. It was Parviz and Arthur - and to some extent Dina - who brought me in this direction.
This is precisely why I describe Mazdayasna as a PANTHEISTIC religion rather than just plain Pantheism.
To call yourself a Pantheist is basically saying that you believe that everything in the world is interconnected as one substance (monism) and that this whole is sacred, as a whole.
Mazdayasna covers far more than Pantheism. This is why it is Pantheism Plus. I can even tell the diference in how Mazdayasni see the world and how other Pantheists see the world. Our faith features far more.
And I agree with Dino that the concept of Ahura Mazda covers both immanence and transcendence, both Becoming and Being. With the added belief that Becoming takes precedence to Being.
Or to use Parviz' terminology: Will is fascinating, Mind is not just fascinating but also sacred.


2008/9/25 Special Kain :

Maybe this is too daring, but why don't we define Ahura Mazda as the unity or rather union of transcendence and immanence? Since Ahura is "all which exists", it is immanence. Mazda as "the mind" could therefore be seen as transcendence, since we're able to change all which exists (poetically, not empirically).
To me, the dao always seemed to represent this union or identity of transcendence and immanence, and it is what the German sociologist Niklas Luhmann once coined as GOD.

My two cents,

--- Parviz Varjavand schrieb am Do, 25.9.2008:

Von: Parviz Varjavand
Betreff: [Ushta] Mazdaism
An: "Ushta Ushta"
CC: "Ali Jafarey"
Datum: Donnerstag, 25. September 2008, 5:55

Dear Alexander,

I would like to bring up once more the idea that Mazdaism is different from Pantheism. I feel that when we describe Mazdaism as a Pantheist phenomenon, we are trying to pour it into a Western mold of measuring religious ideas and some very important distinctions may get washed out in the process.

Ahoora pointing to "Existence or Universe as a Whole" is correct. AH is "That which Exists" and Ahoora is anything and all that has existence. But Mazda or that part of existence that has a Mind is a very special and limited part of Existence. A rock is not part of a process of "Becoming" or "Moving" in order to progress and some day have a Mind, or is it? Also you talk about cosmos and chaos; Ahoora is clearly the Cosmos, but Mazda is not Chaos, is it? Do you suggest that Chaos is that part of the Cosmos that Thinks?

I feel amongst religions, Mazdaist Zoroastrianism is the only school giving emphasis to the role of the Mind, and as such, we need to discuss it at length in order to get a special feel for it.

Parviz Varjavand

onsdag 24 september 2008

Will and freedom

I agree, I agree, I agree!!!
Where did you get your SMART brain from?
The will is not the problem, it never was. Every body has a will (or rather a multitude of wills). And wills are fascinating in themselves. Because what is the life we hold so sacred if not the wills involved?
The creative problem is rather what we mean with "freedom".
As I see things, there is really no freedom involved in the immediate act since we act as we are programmed to act at a given moment. This is also Zarathushtra's point with the all-important ORDER of thoughts, words and then actions last. The focus is on the THOUGHTS because only there and then can we adjust ourselves to prepare ourselves for the coming actions.
But, and this is the important but, acts of the future are an entirely different thing.
Our identity is intertwined with the choices we make towards how we should react in the future. This is where a "freedom" appears, the freedom to choose between different "programs on how to act". For example: Reading an emergency plan when we enter an airplane we decide then and there how we should act SHOULD en emergency occur. Once the emergency does happen, we act as we had planned to act.
It is this TIME perspective which I find unique in Zoroastrian ethics.
But the normal religious freedom FROM something is unnecessary here. There is no judge beside the internal judge in ourselves (our superego, as Freud would have it) involved. Not as far as I can see. Rather, Zoroastrian ethics is to UNITE superego and ego and make them one as much as possible.
Please correct me if you find me wrong. Or if you want to dig deeper into the issue.

- Dölj citerad text -
2008/9/23 Special Kain

- Dölj citerad text -

Dear Alexander,

I'm quite familiar with the distinction between philosophies of Being and philosophies of Becoming, since I'm not new to the history of philosophy and have always been fascinated with the philosophers and schools of thought concerned with Becoming rather than Being. :-)
The question I'm interested in is not if there is any free will as an abstract absolute at all, shining brightly in a transcendental sky, but whether it's a will free from something or free to do / towards something. Bearing this in mind most claims and teachings concerned with the old distinction between free will and fate / determinism seem completely obsolete.
Thus, free will doesn't exist from the beginning. There's a deliberating learning process towards increasing independence, there's the ability to learn and apply the things we learn to our future thoughts, words and deeds, there's trained self-control.
Some postmodernists think of themselves as the smartest thinkers on Earth, but Peirce was a lot smarter almost 100 years before them!

Kind regards, Dino

tisdag 23 september 2008

Being vs Becoming

Dear Dino

Philosophical history is often divided between the philosophies of Being (such as Plato, Descartes, Kant) and the philosophers of Becoming (such as Heracleitus, Spinoza, Nietzsche). Deleuze has written on this topic at great length. What we need to explain to westerners is that the philosophy of Becoming did not originate among the Greeks but rather in Asia and - if not even earlier - by no other thinker than Zarathushtra.
Actually, more than anything else, Mazdayasna is the RELIGION of Becoming. The theme of Becoming is also central to Daoism and Zen (I hope Peter can correct me here if I'm wrong). But in Mazdayasna it is everywhere.
Philosophy of Becoming is evident when we see things as flows and stops, causes and effects constantly intervowen with each other, rtaher than as a universe consisting of isolated objects. Monism is another distinction common to philosophies of Becoming. Plus of course the idea that values and valuations are relative and constitutive to the subject rather than constructed by an external judge (such as God) as it is in moralistic religions and philosophies.
Since "freedom" and "will" are central themes (especially when combined) in all philosophies of Being, we need to stress that as Mazdayasni we are interested in "will" as an indepedent force on the move, more or less requiring no freedom to exist. Because what would the will need to be free from, if there is no paternalistic external judge waiting in the wings?
In Mazdayasna, we are our own judges. We might even be tougher than any extrernal judge would be. But at least this is where things are at. It is the truth we are confronted with.


2008/9/23 Special Kain

One more thing:
Maybe the 'free will vs determinism' game is also rooted in the distinction between nature and culture, something that we've gotten past thanks to Gender Studies and Queer Theory.
According to my humble opinion, everything is natural and our perception, understanding and interaction is always culturally mediated and biased. Thus, we don't have to keep the distinction between nature and culture anymore.
Just collecting,

söndag 21 september 2008

Free will - or just will?

Dear Dino

I actually think that the deterministic reading of Spinoza is a vulgar one.
Spinoza is far less deterministic than the paper in question admits. Spinoza allows for determinism to leak in many areas. But what is important to stress is that both Zarathushtra and Spinoza question the concept of "freedom".
They both agree that will is what exists. But a "freedom" of this will assumes that the will is internally divided. I don't see any such division within the will of Zarathushtra or Spinoza. There is NO CONFLICT between body and soul in Zarathushtra (as there is in Judaism, Christianity and Islam). There is NO SIN!
And why is that? Well, first of all, Zarathushtra does not recognize a soul separate from the body (the soul is merely a different attribute of the body, not a separate entity as in the Abrahamic faiths).
And the concept of "freedom" is completely meaningless when there is no concept of sin (as in a division between the will of God and the will of man).
Ahura Mazda wills through us, as we are manifestations of Ahura Mazda. So will is just pure will. And that's the beauty of will. Another word for will is namely: Asha!


2008/9/21 Special Kain

Dear Alexander,

That's exactly what's written in Khan's essay. :)

I think that Zarathushtra's ethics is a little more activist in nature than Spinoza's, because in Spinozist philosophy there's only one logical necessity after another while Zarathushtra highlighted freedom of choice not only in terms of attribution, but also in terms of action.

Kind regards, Dino

--- Alexander Bard schrieb am So, 21.9.2008:

Von: Alexander Bard
Betreff: [Ushta] Spinozism and existentialism
An: Ushta@yahoogroups.com
Datum: Sonntag, 21. September 2008, 1:46

The important thing to stress is that Spinoza RELIEVES westerners from the angest and the guilt of Judaism and Christianity. To us as Mazdayasni there is no such angest and guilt to begin with. We have an amoral religion already - as proposed by Spinoza - with an ethics which is just as hard and relentless but also beautiful and realistic as the ethics of Spinoza. To Spinoza, this is an ethics of attribution. And this is almost identical to Zarathushtra's radical proposal that thoughts PREDATE words which in turn PREDATE actions. Zarathushtra therefore reminds us that while direct actions are NOT within our control, the thoughts that predates the words that predates the actions ARE within our control. Identifying ourselves with our thoughts is then an identical ETHICAL rather than moralizing position within Mazdayasna and Spinozism. If we then apply this combination of thoughts (attribution) and identity to our experience of existence, I guess we arrive at a Zoroastrian form of existentialism. Although to me, Sartre and Camus are of little or no interest, since they still dwell within the post-Christian experience of nihilism. Spinoza was already beyond that, way ahead of his time, only being fully applied with the arrival of Gilles Deleuze in the late 20th century. So let's use the term existentialism here with a bit caution.

lördag 20 september 2008

Dancing around Ahura Mazda

Dear Parviz

I actually don't go back and forth on the issue of Ahura Mazda.
I rather go around the issue (dance around the issue) since it is not yet fully developed (by anybody) and since I also believe this is the best way to understand the concept and make it ours, emotionally and credibly.
So I believe that "the going-around" and the constant debate on the issue of Ahura Mazda is the most fruitful way to understand the concept, identify with it, live it and breathe it. Reducing such an important concept to dogma is almost like killing it.
What is clear is that Ahura Mazda has two components: One describing Existence or the Universe as a whole, the other pointing out and giving value to that which has substance in this universe (which to us as Mazdayasni is that which we consider "mind"). In classic philosophy this would be the combination of Being and Becoming, stability and movement, cosmos and chaos, eternity and change etc. Hegel would indeed have loved this combination, this dialectical relationship WITHIN the divinity. This is what Hegel himself referred to as "Spirit".
It is clear that what Zarathushtra was aiming at was an all-encompassing concept of divinity and sacredness so that he could radically remove or make all other separate divinities redundant.
I believe you would agree with me on the issue, right?


2008/9/20 Parviz Varjavand

Dear Alex,

I would like to hear once and for all your final view of Ahoora Mazda.
You seem to go back and forth on this and please give me your final take.


--- On Fri, 9/19/08, Alexander Bard wrote:

From: Alexander Bard
Subject: Re: [Ushta] Any good book about Spinoza?
To: Ushta@yahoogroups.com
Date: Friday, September 19, 2008, 1:59 PM

Deleuze actually wrote two books on Spinoza, they are both brilliant!!!
Deleuze is the modern philosopher who understood and respected Spinoza the most.
And Spinoza is the best way for westerners to understand Zarathushtra.
Even though I must admit that there is a lot of Zarathushtra in Hegel and Nietzsche too.
Especially the concept of Ahura Mazda would have thrilled Hegel, had he known about it.

Spinoza and existentialism

The important thing to stress is that Spinoza RELIEVES westerners from the angest and the guilt of Judaism and Christianity. To us as Mazdayasni there is no such angest and guilt to begin with. We have an amoral religion already - as proposed by Spinoza - with an ethics which is just as hard and relentless but also beautiful and realistic as the ethics of Spinoza. To Spinoza, this is an ethics of attribution. And this is almost identical to Zarathushtra's radical proposal that thoughts PREDATE words which in turn PREDATE actions. Zarathushtra therefore reminds us that while direct actions are NOT within our control, the thoughts that predates the words that predates the actions ARE within our control. Identifying ourselves with our thoughts is then an identical ETHICAL rather than moralizing position within Mazdayasna and Spinozism. If we then apply this combination of thoughts (attribution) and identity to our experience of existence, I guess we arrive at a Zoroastrian form of existentialism. Although to me, Sartre and Camus are of little or no interest, since they still dwell within the post-Christian experience of nihilism. Spinoza was already beyond that, way ahead of his time, only being fully applied with the arrival of Gilles Deleuze in the late 20th century. So let's use the term existentialism here with a bit caution.

2008/9/19 Special Kain

Another two cents:

I've just found an essay on Spinozism and existentialism (haven't read it all) by Fahim Khan (don't know him at all). Maybe you'll like it, maybe you'll leave it.



--- Special Kain schrieb am Fr, 19.9.2008:

Von: Special Kain
Betreff: AW: [Ushta] Asha vs Karma
An: Ushta@yahoogroups.com
Datum: Freitag, 19. September 2008, 13:51

Dear Alexander,

I just stumbled upon another nice analogy. :-)
Asha is the truth and righteousness. So it could be TRUTH and JUSTICE. The Egyptian goddess Ma'at has a similar meaning: She represented TRUTH and JUSTICE, equating the two as essentially the same 'thing'.

My two cents, Dino

--- Alexander Bard schrieb am Do, 18.9.2008:

Von: Alexander Bard
Betreff: [Ushta] Asha vs Karma
An: Ushta@yahoogroups. com
Datum: Donnerstag, 18. September 2008, 9:22

Dear Ronald

What makes Zoroastrianism distinctly different from Hinduism and Buddhism is the priority we give to asha (the truth about existence, the laws of the universe, and the laws in accordance with which we exist; asha can also mean rightfulness, as in living in accordance with asha) rather than karma. You are very unlikely ever to hear Zoroastrians - even the Parsees in India - speak about karma. But the term asha is in constant usage. As Zoroastrians (or Mazdayasni), we often debate what asha means to us in our daily lives and in our beliefs. The closest thing to asha I could think of in any other religion or philosophy is the concept of "dao" in Daoism.


onsdag 17 september 2008

Life after Death in Zoroastrianism

Dear Ronald

1. Most modern Zoroastrians do not believe in a CONSCIOUS afterlife. Still, many do, for various reasons. So there is a wide agreement within the community to disagree peacefully, between the monists (who do not believe in any conscious afterlife) and the dualists (who often do, believing there is a soul separate from the body). Most Zoroastrians rather refer to the concept of the after-life more in the patter of "we return to where we come from", death is the return to the world-as-one, we are no longer separated from the world the way we must be as individuals. Such a belief can be encompassed by monists and dualists alike. Many Zoroastrians, including most of the western converts, are also Spinozists. They prefer to regard Zarathushtra as a precursor to Spinoza (there is even a historical link between Zoroastrian and Spinozist philosophy via the Sufis). There are also many Zoroastrians who have taken a string interest in Zen and Daoism, which seem quite compatible with Zoroastrian thinking.

2. Reincarnation is not a widely spread belief among Zoroastrians, neither historically nor in modern Zoroastrianism. There is no foundation for reincarnation in The Gathas or in the larger Avesta. The concept of reincarnation seems to have been adopted in India after the Iranian and Indian tribes were separated from each other. This does not mean that occasional Zoroastrians cling to such beliefs. But they have little support in Zoroastrian history, scripture or tradition for such beliefs.

3. Zoroastrianism is most of all a RELATIVISTIC religion, it always has been. To Zoroastrians, searching for truth, improving and testing your ideas constantly is a good in itself. This is the search for asha. This also explaisn why the religion has strong ethics but no moralism and why it is more than anything TOLERANT. It is the ATTITUDE towards life as sacred and open and interesting, which all Zoroastrians have in common. Dogma is far less important than attitude. So feel free to conduct your own search for the truth and still regard yourself as a Zoroastrian!


2008/9/17 Zaneta Garratt

Hi Ronald, there are 2 Parsi groups, Iln-I-khshoom and the Pundol group, that believe in reincarnation but they are very different from the rest of the Parsis-they are quite mystical and a bit hindu-influenced in a way- but as far as I can see I imagine you will find a few Parsis who do not belong to these groups who still believe in reincarnation anyway, there are a few Christians too who believe in this, but most Parsis and even Christians believe in an afterlife without reincarnation- Best wishes to you from zaneta

To: Ushta@yahoogroups.com
From: ronald33@ymail.com
Date: Wed, 17 Sep 2008 16:30:20 +0000
Subject: [Ushta] Re: Life after Death in Zoroastrianism.

Hello Zaneta,

Thank you very much for this Verses of the Gatha. I think that the
Zoroastrians which believe in Reincarnation are the Indian Parsi, or
is this wrong? I heard that the Indian Parsis are influecend from
Hinduism, but i don't know if this is really right.

For me this Verses of the Gatha - are speaking about Life after


lördag 13 september 2008

Religion vs Science

I believe the important point to stress is that if there are similarities between religious beliefs and scientific findings they are coincidental. The only truly scientific-religious position is of course to claim that the world is whatever it is, and that it is the job of science to find out how it works. And then whatever science finds is to be deemed as sacred (as in Mazdayasna, where knowledge is sacred while guesswork is not). If we take religion as s starting point and the go and try to find patterns in science that fit into our religious fantasies we will soon be either deeply disappointed or get a fundamentally distorted view of the world. Like in the contemporary obsession with forcefully combining Daoism with Science (no predestined natural connection in itself) with both the theology and the science ending up being sloppy and off the mark. And there is really no connection between free will and indeterminism (or determinism for that matter). Free will of coyrse being an issue (just like God) where the issues gets lost in the question: Without any answer to what we mean with freedom and with will, we can naturally not even discuss the issue of free will.

2008/9/13 Special Kain

All of this is poetically interesting, but empirically debatable.
For more than hundred years, several esoteric teachers have tried to combine scientific discoveries with religious experiences. There's a quantum theology ("What the BLEEP do we know?"), making quantum effects the foundation of man's free will, there's also a networking theology, originating from Humberto Maturana's constructivism, even chaos theory was picked up by many occultists, creating different schools of occult thought, with the Liber Kaos as most prominent manifestation of that misunderstanding.

My two cents,

--- Zaneta Garratt schrieb am Sa, 13.9.2008:

Von: Zaneta Garratt
Betreff: RE: [Ushta] Fw: [Abhinavagupta] The Dance of Shiva and Sub Atomic Particles
An: ushta@yahoogroups.com
Datum: Samstag, 13. September 2008, 12:18

Thanks, Yazad, this is really pretty -it relates to a connection between religion and science-I sent it on to two of my children who are interested in science as I found it so thought-provoking -Gary Zakov's "The Dancing Wu Li Masters " does this also-but there is too much physics here for me so I gave it to one of my children-however I do have several of Gary Zakov's books and I have really enjoyed reading them, best wishes from Zaneta

Ahura Mazda and the God word (The Dance of Shiva and subatomic particles etc)

Dear Yezad

Very good points!
In addition, please note that in the debate on whether God can exist or not, there is also always a THIRD position which is unfortunately often ignored:
This position is that whether God can exist or not clearly depends on what we MEAN with the term God.
Different religions not only believe that God is different (Allah clearly has different characteristics than the Christian God or the Jewish Jehovah or the Brahmanist Brahman etc) but they also have radically different ideas of what the word God means.
As Zoroastrians, we ALL believe in the existence of Ahura Mazda. We just have different ideas of what Ahura Mazda IS. Some people seem to think that Ahura Mazda is identical with Allah (although Allah was invented som 2,000 years after Ahura Mazda), probably because they have grown up in societies dominated by Islam and are too eager to please the Muslims by not being too differen from them. Others seem to think that Ahura Mazda is identical with the Christian God, because they have grown up in largely Christian societies (although the Christian God was invented at least 1,700 years after Ahura Mazda, again not really making any sense).
Both such beliefs are of course completely off the mark.
Ahura Mazda is not God in any of these senses. Maybe it is then better to say that Ahura Mazda is not God at all? I believe this is what Parviz Varjavand has suggested and I totally support him. Maybe it is just better and fairer to say that Ahura Mazda is Ahura Mazda and that's it?
So we can then skip the God word altogether and discuss what our beloved Ahura Mazda is. And provoke our surroundings and make them MORE interested in our faith.
I hate to see Zoroastrianism understood as an INFERIOR religion to Islam and Christianity. So why not then provoke them and say that: Ahura Mazda is what exists (actually by its very definition), you can have your God or gods but we could not care less. As long as we pretend that we share THEIR gods they will always look down on us as primitive and inferior.
And that's of course utterly wrong. If anybody should lay claim to the popular term "Eastern wisdom", then why not us?



Hello Everybody,

With our members expressing differing views on the existence of God and its (in)compatibility with modern science I thought it might be interesting for all us to read this mail which a friend of ours passed on to us.


Subject: [Abhinavagupta] The Dance of Shiva and Sub Atomic Particles

Date: Friday, September 12, 2008, 11:01 AM

Courtesy of Gautam Sen and Nathan Katz.

The relevance of Shiva-Natarâja is all the greater because this particular experiment intended, if I'm not mistaken, to resolve a long-standing debate around the existence and role of 'dark matter' in the universe, which would correspond in mythology to the cosmic dance of destruction and ritually to the Vedic notion of nirrti.


-----Original Message-----
From: [Nathan Katz]
Sent: Friday, September 12, 2008 12:50 PM
To: Gautam Sen
Subject: Re: Fwd: The Dance of Shiva and Sub Atomic Particles

Thanks, Gautam. This is EXTREMELY cool!Science, physics, metaphysics, mysticism all at the same time. Einstein must be smiling in Heaven.

Nathan Katz
Professor of Religious Studies
Florida International University
Miami FL 33199
www.indojudaic. com
http://spirituality .fiu.edu

---- Original message ----
>Date: Fri, 12 Sep 2008 12:58:22 -0400
>From: "Gautam Sen"
>Subject: Fwd: The Dance of Shiva and Sub Atomic Particles
>To: [...]
> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> From: [DK Sarkar]
> Date: Fri, Sep 12, 2008 at 11:01 AM
> Subject: The Dance of Shiva and Sub Atomic Particles
> To: [...]

> Lord Shiva veritably presided over the world's
> largest experiment as scientists today sent the
> first beam of protons zooming at nearly the speed of
> light around the world's most powerful particle
> accelerator at the CERN laboratory near Geneva in
> search of the 'God particle'.
> Next to the 2m statue of the dancing Shiva or
> Nataraj at the European Center for Research in
> Particle Physics in Geneva is a plaque that explains
> the connection: "It is the clearest image of the
> activity of God which any art or religion can boast
> of" ... "Hundreds of years ago, Indian artists
> created visual images of dancing Shivas in a
> beautiful series of bronzes. In our time, physicists
> have used the most advanced technology to portray
> the patterns of the cosmic dance. The metaphor of
> the cosmic dance thus unifies ancient mythology,
> religious art and modern physics."
> The Significance of Shiva's Dance:
> This cosmic dance of Shiva is called 'Anandatandava,
> 'meaning the Dance of Bliss, and symbolizes the
> cosmic cycles of creation and destruction, as well
> as the daily rhythm of birth and death. The dance is
> a pictorial allegory of the five principle
> manifestations of eternal energy � creation,
> destruction, preservation, salvation, and illusion.
> According to Coomaraswamy, the dance of Shiva also
> represents his five activities: 'Shrishti'
> (creation, evolution); 'Sthiti' (preservation,
> support); 'Samhara' (destruction, evolution);
> 'Tirobhava' (illusion); and 'Anugraha' (release,
> emancipation, grace).The overall temper of the image
> is paradoxical, uniting the inner tranquility, and
> outside activity of Shiva.
> A Scientific Metaphor:
> Fritzof Capra in his article "The Dance of Shiva:
> The Hindu View of Matter in the Light of Modern
> Physics," and later in the The Tao of Physics
> beautifully relates Nataraj's dance with modern
> physics. He says that "every subatomic particle not
> only performs an energy dance, but also is an energy
> dance; a pulsating process of creation and
> destruction�without end�For the modern
> physicists, then Shiva's dance is the dance of
> subatomic matter. As in Hindu mythology, it is a
> continual dance of creation and destruction
> involving the whole cosmos; the basis of all
> existence and of all natural phenomena."
> The Nataraj Statue at CERN, Geneva:
> In 2004, a 2m statue of the dancing Shiva was
> unveiled at CERN, the European Center for Research
> in Particle Physics in Geneva. A special plaque next
> to the Shiva statue explains the significance of the
> metaphor of Shiva's cosmic dance with quotations
> from Capra: "Hundreds of years ago, Indian artists
> created visual images of dancing Shivas in a
> beautiful series of bronzes. In our time, physicists
> have used the most advanced technology to portray
> the patterns of the cosmic dance. The metaphor of
> the cosmic dance thus unifies ancient mythology,
> religious art and modern physics."
> To sum up, here's an excerpt from a beautiful poem
> by Ruth Peel:
> "The source of all movement,
> Shiva's dance,
> Gives rhythm to the universe.
> He dances in evil places,
> In sacred,
> He creates and preserves,
> Destroys and releases.
> We are part of this dance
> This eternal rhythm,
> And woe to us if, blinded
> By illusions,
> We detach ourselves
> From the dancing cosmos,
> This universal harmony

torsdag 4 september 2008

Religion and memetic diversity

Dear Friends

I believe that if anybody should be credited with having invented "memetic variety" as "a good in itself", it must be none other than Cyrus The Great. So I agree with Osred's sentiment, just wanting to add that at the end of the day we are dealing with serious and living beliefs. And people believe whatever they believe. It is meaningless to practice a religion which doesn't mean anything to the practicioner. That is not keeping a religious practice alive, that is just pretendeing to keep a religious practice alive. Religion deserves to be taken seriously. So seriously that genuine beliefs must be one thing and librarianism another. And in thise sense, Dino is right. Beliefs come and go, most of them die but instead leave space for others to grow.


2008/9/4 osred90
- Dölj citerad text -

I feel I'm responding to a mix of ideas but I'll try and answer.

1. I'm proposing the 'Good Librarian Meme' - the idea that it is good
for a society to keep a record of as many cultural artefacts which
some people at some time have found worthy regardless of whether they
seem worthy to the current generation or not. A Good Librarian has
the humility to not let their personal judgement of what is worthy
decide what should be kept in the record and what should be erased.
Their job is to stand against the Puritans and prevent book burning.
The 'Good Librarian Meme' helps society by ensuring that future
generations have a range of ready-made cultural templates to evaluate
and choose between - so they won't have to create them all from

An example of such a cultural artefact is one that encodes the idea
of ritual purity (such as is encoded in traditional Zoroastrianism).
Many people today would argue that such ideas of ritual purity are
obsessive and irrational. They say that perhaps they were related to
past need for hygiene but that with modern hygiene methods they are
superseded. They might argue that practising purity rituals has a
harmful psychological effect on the people concerned, and that it
would be better to eradicate the practice.

However a 'Good Librarian' doesn't judge whether ritual purity is
good or bad but notes the fact that many people have thought it a
good thing at some time in the past and therefore the concept of
ritual purity needs to be kept alive in society's memory.

Perhaps it is the case that the 'ritual purity meme' doesn't do well
in the current society, but if the memory of it kept alive then each
future generation has the chance to have a look at it and see if they
want to make use of it.

2. In our library metaphor there are actually three operations - i.e.
a) to store a book,
b) to read a book to see what it says and make a judgment
c) to use a book to bring alive cultural patterns encoded within it

So when I talked about 'judging what books to be read' I actually
meant judging what books have useful lessons for us to put into
practice. Obviously a Zoroastrian will have to literally read all of
the books first so that they can form an opinion on them.

The point made about what knowledge serves what interest group is
exactly what I am concerned about. Many of our opinions of things are
shaped by mass media itself shaped by powerful interests. So we can't
rely on our gut reactions of what is good or bad. Exactly the things
we have been educated to believe are the worst may in fact be the
best. However if memory of these things (like ritual purity) survives
there is a chance somebody will discover their true worth and revive
them. However if the record is fully erased it will be a long and
painstaking process of reinvention before we see something like them
again. In practice in a human lifetime we won't see them back at all.

The analogy with biological diversity is relevant. In the past for
instance there was a rich variety of types of food plants and animals.
However nowadays most food we eat in the West comes from just a few
strains of a few species. Some might argue that these strains are the
best, they've won the evolutionary struggle to be the most productive
food for man, and deserve to oust all the less productive food
plants, which we don't need any more. However if we get some disease
that attacks and wipes out all these 'winning' strains we will
suddenly wish we had kept the old rich diversity after all.


--- In Ushta@yahoogroups.com, mehmet azizoglu wrote:
> Dear Kain,
> well said...
> "The same applies to cultural evolution. Most ideas die out -
they're not fit enough to spread and affect (or be affected by) other
ideas composing other cultures"
> what you said above is exactly in line with evolution, which
Dawkins labeled as "meme" , a cultural units that pass from one
generations to the next. good point...
> I think Osred should explain what these religious cultures are
composed of...how should we judge that what part of religion must be
discarded and other parts be kept in " our memory"?
> thanks
> Mehmet
> ----- Original Message ----
> From: Special Kain
> To: Ushta@yahoogroups.com
> Sent: Thursday, September 4, 2008 3:50:22 AM
> Subject: AW: [Ushta] Re: Tolerance and intolerance in the age of
> Dear Osred,
> I completely understand your sentiments leading up to your
conclusion, but I can't agree. If we choose to have a look at
evolution, we realize that most species that ever walked the earth
are now extinct. The same applies to cultural evolution. Most ideas
die out - they're not fit enough to spread and affect (or be affected
by) other ideas composing other cultures. You can't help it. It is
really fascinating that Zoroastrianism has survived - literally! -
for so many centuries. It's one of the very few cultural practices
that did. I'm not saying that we should always do our best and try to
get rid of anything old-fashioned, but we should keep the wise things
and let go of anything unwise.
> Now here comes your "judging which books should be read". Who are
we to judge which books should be read? Isn't it a question of which
knowledge is serving what interest group's desire for (more) power?
Or should we stick by the rules of modern science and dismiss
anything unscientific - while science is constantly changing,
rediscovering once dismissed areas of knowledge and coming up with
completely new research questions? Here we have a problem that we
can't solve now, in my humble opinion. But we don't have to. As
Zoroastrians we are free to learn more and change our attitude
accordingly and make better and wiser decisions everyday. It's
fallibilism: We may be wrong, but we are willing to account for it
and know that we'll know better one day, picking better books from
the shelf.
> Kind regards,
> Dino
> --- osred90 schrieb am Do, 4.9.2008:
> Von: osred90
> Betreff: [Ushta] Re: Tolerance and intolerance in the age of
> An: Ushta@yahoogroups. com
> Datum: Donnerstag, 4. September 2008, 0:51
> Alex,
> I'm not sure that I've got my view worked out properly. But I think
> am saying that we should keep all religious cultures alive enough
> that they don't completely disappear completely from human memory.
> This is like saying that if we have a library of books then we
> shouldn't burn any because we might want to refer to them sometime.
> In many cases it might be enough to record religious practice in
> books or film, but in some cases religious traditions can't be
> recorded in this way and an unbroken chain of practitioners is
> if memory of them is not to be lost.
> However this is not the same as saying that we have to consider
> all traditions equally credible or valuable. It would be very
> difficult if not
> impossible for any person to consider every religious idea equally
> valid anyway. Also religion is a force to change the world - and a
> whole mix of conflicting religions may not produce the best outcome.
> So while we might keep all the books in the library we need to
> which books deserve to be taken out and read.
> +++
> Zoroastrian ideas were at the foundation of Western culture - so a
> Westerner becoming a Zoroastrian is discovering his cultural roots.
> However there may be things that a Parsi considers part of his
> Zoroastrianism that are out of place in an Anglo-Saxon,
> or European Zoroastrianism.
> Osred

tisdag 2 september 2008

The history of pragmatism

And before the American pragmatists there was Friedrich Nietzsche, the great German pragmatist, and after them all there was Gilles Deleuze in France (who heavily celebrated and promoted not only Nietzsche but also Charles Peirce and William James to the French) and of course the great contemporary American pragmatist, Richard Rorty. Pragmatism has an amazing history. And I agree, Zarathushtra should be credited as the global originator of pragmatism. We have him to thank for having started a wonderful thread of thought.

2008/9/2 Special Kain

Dear Ushta friends,

I already stated that I see a strong connection between Zoroastrian and pragmatist thinking. Here's an article, "What Pragmatism Is", written by Charles Sanders Peirce, founder of American pragmatism and fallibilism (which would later inspire Karl Raimond Popper's critical rationalism).




Tolerance and intolerance in the age of religious diversity

Dear Osred

Not to oppose you in any way, but...
The intellectaul challenge is that this TOLERANT attitude is in itself intolerant towards intolerance. So we can not logically propose that all religions that exist should keep existing as if we are running some sort of ideological zoo where variety is more important than quality. After all, we have to deal with what is true and enlightened versus what is bigotted and limited. Not all ideas are of equal value to humanity. There is for example no reason why we should keep religious beliefs alive which discriminate against women, gays and people of other races than our own. So in this sense, we have to maintain the requirement that a religion has to be at least minimally tolerant to be accepted by us as a credible alternative. And westerners converting to Zoroastrianism is in many ways not so much as a conversion as a renaissance, As I've said many times before, if only Zarathushtra had been a Scandinavian rather than an Iranian, I would not have been the one who would have had to convert. ;-) I believe you agree with me on this, right?


2008/9/1 osred90


My inclination is to see something of value in most of the different
religious stances. Whether this is rationalism or ritualism ,
radicalism or conservativism, ethno-specificity or universalism.

I don't want to say absolutely one path is right and one is wrong.
Each path/stance/outlook/practice can have some value. Let them all
co-exist to some degree all the time - i.e. let there always be some
people keeping all these different positions alive.

So yes I think Zoroastrianism must ALLOW FOR differences of opinion -
and the development of new ideas. However I am wary of the dangers of
this going too far - if everybody bends the religion to fit their
personal preconceptions and never let the religion challenge them.

I've mixed feelings on Westerners taking up traditional

On the one hand it is a priority to keep the traditional Zoroastrian
religion alive and to spread knowledge of it. So it would be good
for some Westerners to take it up wholeheartedly.

On the other hand you might expect the Iranians and Parsis to fit
into traditional Zoroastrian culture better than outsiders.

So it would be better for the majority of Anglo-Saxons (like myself)
to look at developing a more Anglicized variety of Zoroastrianism -
one that mixes Germanic and European culture with the Iranian to
create something that fits them more naturally.


--- In Ushta@yahoogroups.com, "Alexander Bard" wrote:
> Dear Osred
> Exactly!!!
> Please note that there is also a THIRD option available:
> This version is to endorse the Zoroastrian religion, tradition,
culture and
> rituals as a WHOLE and still be pro both conversions and change
> (relativism). Its is for example not only the Gathas-only camp
which is for
> conversions.
> Actually this third option is probably the most popular and
widespread in
> the Zoroastrian global community today. This view has for example
> endorsed by the Council of Mobeds in Tehran and I have myself had
my navjote
> (sudreh kushti) performed accordingly by mobed Kamran Jamshidi,
> more or less the full rituals according to the Yasna while still
> accepted fully by the Zoroastrian community as a convert.
> If I read you correctly, you yourself subscribe to this third
option too.
> The thing is that Zoroastrianism has always been a RITUALISTIC and
> relativistic religion rather than a "protestant faith of the book".
> practice rather than a dogma. It is a culture and a way of life
allowing for
> personal interpretation and disparate beliefs rather than a dogma
set in
> stone. Do I understand you correctly if you've come to this
conclusion too?
> Ushta
> Alexander