Very interesting thoughts!!!
I would like to add though that we can not take the Christian worldview as our starting point as if it was the norm. This is precisely the colonalist mistake that western scholars have been doing for the past 200 years that we must now try to avoid. Let's only judge people from their own histories and worldviews. And defiance of death is then an ATTITUDE among Indo-Europeans, it is NOT a belief in a possible conscious after-life. Even the early Greeks, prior to the arrival of Egyptian thinking, has no such ideas.
The standard in nomadic cultures was instead to see the world not as a world of individuals who live along a time line, hoping to transgress this line to keep living as the very same individuals forever. This was instead the worldview that began to take root among the Egyptian upper classes (and then among the upper classes only and nowhere else, peasants and slaves were never buried) along the Nile to later spread in the western half of the Middle East. Cremations stopped and instead bodies were buried deep underground and preferrably in pyramids. The radical move of Christianity was to present this concept of immortality as universally possible and even necessary for all human beings. Zoroastrianism never had any such ideas, if it had then Christianity would never have been perceived as radical, which it truly was, Egyptian religion for the masses. This was absolutely unheard of in Persia.
So Zoroastrianism was never a part of this thinking. Neither was Brahmanism in India or the myriad of paganisms prevalent from Western Europe across the Eurasian continent to Siberia in the east. They instead kept a nomadic idea of what it means to be human: It means to be part of a larger whole, recycling and not linearity is the founding principle for existence (just look at our Zoroastrian holidays, you have no idea how important Norwuz and Mehrgan was to Zoroastrians). So a dead body is a dead person but this is rather meaningless, what matters is the life of the tribe and the life of nature. Only when nature is bedeviled does a need rise to separate body and soul, Man and God, and with this dualism arrives with the construction of massive pyramids. Please note how Zoroastrian towers of silence were COLLECTIVE sites whereas pyramids and Christian graves are INDIVIDUAL sites (or possibly family entities).
None of this dualist stuff was ever Zoroastrian. Even the Sassanids passed the corpses of their dead on to vultures. What more proof do you need? And if there were earth burials in Central Asia, they definitely disappeared with the arrival of the Indo-Europeans. We know this because that was how we discovered that there were Indo-Europeans in the Indus Valley and Central Asia in the first place.
So George is right, amordad is a-death, but that is certainly not the same as the concept of immortality. There is an attitude here - that which within us which strives to transcend - but certainly no belief in a conscious life beyond death as the Egyptians imagined.
I'm with you, George. Wouldn't there be a different prefix for resistance or defiance, cognate to the Greek or Latin "anti-"? "A-" is simply a negative. As I think about immortality, I think about the various traditions concerning such a state, and they do not always agree on how that state is reached, how it works and what it entails, exactly. I cannot believe that a person was mortal, then because of some spiritual attainment, is now immortal. But I can believe that birth and death are phenomena that arise and pass away, and that a perspective can change to where neither are of ultimate significance. When this perspective change happens, no-death becomes the point of view from which a person approaches the world, and one's own life. Birth has happened, and death will happen too, but these are things that are happening to you, they are not YOU. You rest in the House of Songs always, and watch death and birth and death and birth and death and birth around you, then happen to you, and are entirely whole, or haurvatat, no matter what. If the Buddha used the metaphor of a ferry across the river, then Zarathushtra saw a bridge across a chasm. I would argue that ethical behavior is a foundational aspect of getting across that bridge, but alone is not enough.
--- In Ushta@yahoogroups.com, "Georgios"
> Dear Alexander,
> I've been reading your messages and you insist that Amordad still means "defiance of death" or "resistance towards death".
> I am not convinced by your statements since in wikipedia it says: "Etymologically, Avestan ameretat derives from an Indo-Iranian root and is linguistically related to Vedic Sanskrit amá¹›tatva", which literally means "that which is immortal".
> Although I am NOT an expert, I know that the prefix a- means "without", it's the same in Greek by the way. The rest of the word "mordad" derives (in modern farsi) from mordant which means to die. So I'd understand amordad as "athanasia" (a+thanatos=death) in Greek, roughly translated in English as non-death or immortality.
> Of course this has nothing to do with the concept of time, except the detail that sooner or later we will all shall die. So death might be related to the limited time of our life. This could be irrelevant.
> Besides this subject I am trying to understand your efforts to prove that the Indo-Iranians were cremating their dead. Does this practice mean that they did not believe in after life of some sort? Ancient Greeks, as Indo-Europeans, would also cremate their dead but there was a strong belief in an underworld. you know very well that all we can say about tribes that lived 3, 4 or 5 thousands years ago can only be speculations. Only some sort of deciphered text would be a firm evidence about the beliefs of prehistoric people. By definition though, prehistoric periods remain without written & deciphered records.