The modern world has elevated the cult of the personal to an art; so much is this the prevailing ideal that in dealing with old world documents up-to-date savants forget that spiritual teachers of yore labored for the impersonal; they not only advocated for their pupils, and themselves practised, the destruction of the sense of separateness, which is the soul of that cult, but also applied the principle in and to their own public and exoteric work.
In every case we find the personality of the teacher almost lost in the mass of teachings and traditions which have gathered round his name. The name itself becomes the mask that hides more than one personality. It was an universal custom in the ancient world for the Teacher to assume a Name-Title occultly indicative of his mission and those who continued His work adopted it; thus the teacher’s name invariably became a generic appellation of the School he founded, e.g., the name-title of the Iranian Reformer Zorathushtra—the STAR who contemplates and sacrifices to the Living SUN. Of course, in the progress of time with the rise of ambitious and unscrupulous persons within the fold, came the faithlessness to the cause for which the School itself was founded. For example, the name-title of one of the greatest of Adepts, Shankar-Acharya, has been used in India these many centuries, by the Schools (Mathams) which came into being under His influence. The official manager-expounder in each of such schools called himself Shankar-Acharya, in conformity with the practice of the old occult traditions; their duty was to preserve intact and prevent any violation of the teachings of the Adept in their respective schools. To this day, in India several Shankar-acharyas have spiritual sway over large masses of Hindus, but they are more rivals than co-operators, and hardly any impart the pure and genuine doctrines of the original Reformer. The form has survived, but the Soul is absent.
Like all other tradition-institutions this is rooted in truth. The teaching about the Guruparampara Chain which has deteriorated into the grotesque and immoral doctrine of Apostolic Succession has an occult aspect, viz., that the office of the Teacher is never vacant and that orphan humanity is never without its Guides and Gurus. The highest title of the Buddha—and there are as many Buddhas as there are Sankaras—is Tathagata, he who is like his predecessors and successors. And what is true of Buddha, the Enlightened One, is equally true of Christ, the Anointed One.
In studying ancient Theosophies this is a factor the student has to keep well in mind. Thus in the consideration of Zoroastrian Theosophy we have to remember that the School represented by Zoroaster is very ancient. Writes H.P.B.:
If we had to describe broadly the origin of this religion from the standpoint, and upon the authority of the Occult teachings, we would call it by its original, primitive name, that of Magianism. Locating its first development in those vast regions which would have to be described as the whole area between the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Okhotsk in its length, and that which stretches through the unexplored deserts between the Altai and the Himalayan mountains in its breadth, we would place it back at an epoch, undreamt of by modern science and, therefore, rejected by all but the most speculative and daring anthropologists. We have no right to give out in this journal the correct number of years or rather of ages upon ages, since—according to the doctrines of the Secret Science—the first seeds of Magianism were sown by the hand of the BEING to whose duty it falls to rear, nurse and guide the tottering steps of the renascent human races, that awake anew to life on every planet in its turn, after its periodical “obscuration.” It goes as far back as the days of our local Manvantara, so that the seeds sown among the first “root-race” began sprouting in its infant brain, grew up, and commencing to bear fruit toward the latter part of the second race, developed fully during the third, into what is known among Occultists as the “Tree of Knowledge,” and the “Tree of Life”—the real meaning of both having been, later on, so sadly disfigured and misinterpreted by both Zoroastrians and Christians.
Now, Occult Records claim to have the correct dates of each of the 13 Zoroasters. According to the said Records, Zoroastrianism as a distinct religio-philosophic school is of early Atlantean origin, i.e., before spiritual sinfulness overtook that race. The founding of this School coincides with the beginning of the cycle of the Iranian branch of the Aryan stock; this event is marked by the physical incarnation of the first Zoroaster from whose psycho-spiritual seed sprang the builders of Iranian Mysteries and culture. In the narratives of his life-labors, mythical and astronomical events were incorporated, as said in the previous article of this series. Parts of this narrative are to be found in the Vendidad.
Originally the Vendidad was preeminently an Occult treatise; it has passed through innumerable vicissitudes and distortions during these thousands of years, as through scores of editions in the course of the evolution of languages; in its present form it is but a fragment, and a patched-up one at that—put together mostly from memory and surviving documents, some of doubtful authenticity from the occult point of view, after the exploits of the vandal Iskander, whom the West knows as Alexander and calls “Great”!
Since the days of the first Zoroaster this School (like the Sister Schools in other lands) has bent to the blows of cyclic law; it became greatly corrupted in its exoteric ranks at times and became only a surviving esoteric centre; flourished through its beneficent and influential works at others. During this ebb and flow Adept-Teachers of different ranks restored the teachings and resuscitated the work; all of Them were reformers and protestants against anti-Theosophic doctrines and practices; one of them protested and led a revolt against the Vaidic corruptions when cultured intercourse between India and Persia was close and intimate; another reformed the magic-practices of Egyptians and Chaldeans in their sub-cycles of degradation. In doing all this they always employed the name-title of the Original Founder and with good reason; for they were, one and all, but Incarnations, however limited, of the Original Influence.1 The last one to do this was the builder of the Temple of Azareksh, many ages before the historical era; he was the Mage who taught the doctrines of Divine Magic which spread from Bactris to Medes and thence under the name of Magism were used by the Adept-astronomers in Chaldea which influenced considerably the Mosaic doctrines; he was the author of the Zend-Avesta which, as Darmesteter explains, is “a commentary or explanation of the Law”, i.e., he was the transcriber and annotator of the works on the primeval sacred Magian religion. The original Zend is a secret code of certain words and expressions agreed upon by the original compilers, and the key to which is but with the Initiates. Neither was The Avesta of Ardeshir identical with that which was brought out and given to Gushtasp, by Zara-Ishter the 13th prophet of the Desatir; nor that of the latter quite the same as the original Zend, although even this one was the exoteric version of the Zen-Zara.
While certain Persian books repeating the Occult teaching speak of 13 Zoroasters, we must not forget that there were other individuals connected with the exoteric side of the School who also claimed from time to time the name-title of Zoroaster for themselves. Such claimants distorted and disfigured the pure teachings and have left their mark and impress on the outer story of the School. Naturally, these spurious claimants do not form part of the Occult Records about the true Zoroasters.
The original treatises—codes of law like the Vendidad, or hymns like the five Gathas, or litanies like the Yasna are almost all extinct. The sparse fragments we now possess are worse than fragmentary, for interpolations have taken place. All the same they are full of high philosophy, noble ethics, and not altogether devoid of occult lore and esoteric teachings, though they are rightly called “the ruins of a religion”.
The extant Zoroastrian texts and documents will not be appreciated till all this is kept in mind. What we now possess is the residue of centuries of trials and tribulations through which Iranian culture came to birth, culminated, declined and from all appearances is becoming extinct—this last is one phase of the communal karma which the modern Parsis, only some 95,000 strong, are facing today.
Highly mixed as this residue is, there is enough of Theosophy not only to interest but also instruct our readers. We will here examine some of its metaphysical propositions, then turn to its cosmo- and anthropo-genesis, and finally to its psychology, and gain inspiration from its noble ethics.
As in all true Theosophical expositions the conception of a personal God is absent. Writes H.P.B.:
Magianism, in the days of its full maturity and practice, and long ages before the first of the 12 great religions, its direct offshoots—mentioned and feebly described by Mohsan Fani in the Dabistan,—ever saw light; and even much anterior to the appearance of the first devotees of the religion of Hush-ang, which, according to Sir W. Jones, “was long anterior to that of Zeratusht, the prophet of the modern Parsis,” that religion, as we can undeniably prove was, “ATHEISM”. At any rate, it would be so regarded now, by those who call Kapila and Spinoza, BUDDHA and our MAHATMAS, Brihaspati of the Charvack and the modern Adwaitees, all alike, nastikas or atheists. Assuredly no doctrine about a personal God, a gigantic man and no more—was ever taught by the true Magi. Hence Zoroaster—the seventh prophet (according to the Desatir, whose compilers mixed up and confused the 14 “Zaro-Ishtars,” the high priests and initiates of the Chaldean worship or Magian Hierophants—the 13th)—would be regarded as an atheist in the modern sense of the word.
Omnipresent Deity, a Living Nature are the central truths of Zoroastrianism. The physical and visible Nature is energised by the psychical and both are ensouled and enveloped by the spiritual. Ahuramazda, the Sovereign Spirit, is the Universal Power, one with his manifestation. Of course he is personified and the latter has become an object of prayer and worship with the ignorant. The Ahuramazda Yasht is highly reminiscent of the 9th, 10th, and 11th discourses of the Bhagavad Gita. Like Shri Krishna, Ahuramazda in answer to his favorite disciple, Zoroaster, describes his own nature. He gives his own many names, characteristic of that Nature and starts with—”Ahmi–I am.” The original construction (no doubt purposely employed just as Krishna plays on the word Atma in the 6th Gita) also leads to the translation: “I am That about which every one enquires and questions.” The second name which has puzzled Orientalists and even Parsi philologists is rendered “Herd-giver” by Darmesteter among the former, and as “protector and nourishers of the Herd” by Ervad Kanga among the latter. It really refers to the character of Ahuramazda as constituting the hierarchy of beings which is immanent in the manifested universe; in his transcendent nature he is the energising ensouling Power who, like Krishna, having established this whole Universe with a fragment of himself, remains separate.2 The very third name, “I am the one strength in everybody,” and those which follow, are clearly indicative of the all-pervasive nature of Ahuramazda—Wisdom Incarnate.
Zoroastrianism is not a monotheistic religion, however much some of its Anglicized adherents of today make that claim, imitating the unphilosophical churches of Christendom; nor is it polytheistic, though among the superstitious of the community there prevails ceremonial and other worship of the elemental, psychic and spiritual forces, personified in the Zend Avesta; nor is it even pantheistic as pantheism is conceived by the modern West. It is a philosophic hylo-zoism in which matter and life are inseparate and inseparable, the Unit made up of numberless units, each a manifestation of Wisdom Divine—Mazda Ahura—which is the container and common link of its two aspects.
On the subjective side Zoroastrianism teaches the doctrine of emanations, on the objective that of evolution. These Emanations (like the Syzigies of Simon Magus) are always in pairs, one of the pair itself an emanation of the other. Thus Ahura-Existence-Beness, and Mazda—Absolute Wisdom—are a pair; Mazda the coeval and coeternal emanation or inherent radiation of Ahura. Then Ahuramazda emanates Vohu Mano—the Good Mind, and these two labor for the spiritual unfoldment of the manifested universe. For this purpose is begotten Asha Vahishta—Divine Harmony the third of the Amesha Spentas; thus the 1st and the 2nd, the 2nd and the 3rd, the 3rd and the 4th, the 4th and the 5th, the 5th and the 6th, the 6th and the 7th, and the last Ameretat—Immortality—and the first Ahura Mazda, work for the preservation and regeneration of all. The last pair represents the end of toil—Immortal Repose, Equipoise, Nirvana. Thus the Seven Primal Builders emanate one from the other and form the Great Circle—the Circle of Everlasting Divinity knowing Its own immortal nature. The Great Dragon of Wisdom, Ahuramazda, biting his own tail, Immortality-Ameretat, remains forever and ever in limitless Duration—Zrvan Akarana, and periodically casts its shadow, Zrvan Daregho-Khaodata—the Circle of Time, the Chakra-Wheel of Periodicity.3 Zrvan Daregho-Khaodata is the eternity of the universe in toto as a boundless plane periodically the playground of numberless universes; Zrvan Akarana is the Vibrant Sphere of Duration, boundless and limitless, of which sphere the Zrvan Daregho-Khaodata is the plane-circle. The Cycle in motion is the emanation of the Sphere which is Motionlessness—such is the Zoroastrian mode of expression about the Absolute and the Great Breath.
Thus we have the root of cycles of differing periods in the concept of Zrvan Daregho-Khaodata—Circles of Manifested Time, each of which has a beginning and therefore an end; this latter is the second of the pair, the first being Zrvan Akarana, “Limitless Time”, which is Duration beginningless and endless. Every orthodox Parsi in reciting his matin prayers repeats: Zrvan Akarana yazmaidae, Zrvan Daregho-Khaodata yazmaidae—“Sacrifice of praise unto the Boundless Duration, sacrifice of praise unto the sovereign Time of the Great Period.”
Unfortunately, however, this primal metaphysical duality in time concept is not given (by modern students of Zoroastrianism) the consideration it deserves. There is another pair which meets with a similar fate—Ahuramazda—Absolute Wisdom which manifests itself as Ahuna Vairya—the Veracious Word.4 The abstraction Mazda Ahura—the Wisdom which IS—becomes incarnate, expresses itself as the Word, as Brahman becomes Pranava.
This Word, Ahuna Vairya or Honover, is composed of three couplets and twenty-one words. From Pahlavi and Persian books we learn that these twenty-one words are the names of the twenty-one Sacred Books of the Holy Law which are mostly destroyed; fragments of fragments only are available at present. This Veracious Word is like the sacred formula of the Buddhists—Om Mani Padme Hum—or like the Brahmanical Gayatri. It is at once a mantra with tone effects, a colorful ideograph, an occult cipher to be deciphered according to the true science of Numbers. Metaphysically speaking, it unveils the nature of Deity and Cosmos, and from the psychological viewpoint is the Soul-Power which all true men and good use to destroy the mighty magic of Ahriman, following the example of Zoroaster himself.5 It is called the “axe of victory” by which man hews down the Tree of Evil.
This Word was the primary manifestation and came into being before the Universe, hence, as Darmesteter points out (Sacred Books of the East,—Vol. 4, pp. 206-07) “in the boundless Time”; i.e., the Word and the Cycle or Period of Time are coeval and coeternal—two aspects of the one. This manifestation of the Word is described in some detail in Yasna XIX. The chanting of this Word has several meanings, cosmical and human; it contains the three stages, like the Three Steps of Vishnu and Jehovah Elohim by which Ahuramazda completed his task of creation;6 it is the Note struck for his people by the first Zoroaster, a cyclic avatara; it is the knowledge about 3 X 7 = 21 natures of man; 7 Spiritual-monadic, 7 Intellectual-individual, and 7 Formal-personal, so that every one can employ the Word in pursuance of the injunction “Man know thyself.” Of it the record stands:
“Ahunem Vaiream Tanum Payatae
The Word sustains the Body.”
1. Cf. Secret Doctrine, I, 359.
2. Cf. Bhagavad-Gita, x, 42.
3. Zad-Sparam., I, 24. The reference is not to Zrvan Akarana but to Zrvan Daregho-Khaodata.
4. Cf. Yasna viii, 1.
5. Cf. Vendidad xix.
6. Cf. Secret Doctrine, I, 113.