Zarathustra (Zend.) The great lawgiver, and the founder of the religion variously called Mazdaism, Magism, Parseeїsm, Fire-Worship, and Zoroastrianism. The age of the last Zoroaster (for it is a generic name) is not known, and perhaps for that very reason. Xanthus of Lydia, the earliest Greek writer who mentions this great lawgiver and religious reformer, places him about six hundred years before the Trojan War. But where is the historian who can now tell when the latter took place? Aristotle and also Eudoxus assign him a date of no less than 6,000 years before the days of Plato, and Aristotle was not one to make a statement without a good reason for it. Berosus makes him a king of Babylon some 2,200 years B.C.; but then, how can one tell what were the original figures of Berosus, before his MSS. passed through the hands of Eusebius, whose fingers were so deft at altering figures, whether in Egyptian synchronistic tables or in Chaldean chronology? Haug refers Zoroaster to at least 1,000 years B.C.; and Bunsen (God in History, Vol. I., Book iii., ch. vi., p. 276) finds that Zarathustra Spitama lived under the King Vistaspa about 3,000 years B.C., and describes him as “one of the mightiest intellects and one of the greatest men of all time.” It is with such exact dates in hand, and with the utterly extinct language of the Zend, whose teachings are rendered, probably in the most desultory manner, by the Pahlavi translation—a tongue, as shown by Darmsteter, which was itself growing obsolete so far back as the Sassanides—that our scholars and Orientalists have presumed to monopolize to themselves the right of assigning hypothetical dates for the age of the holy prophet Zurthust. But the Occult records claim to have the correct dates of each of the thirteen Zoroasters mentioned in the Dabistan. Their doctrines, and especially those of the last (divine) Zoroaster, spread from Bactria to the Medes; thence, under the name of Magism, incorporated by the Adept-Astronomers in Chaldea, they greatly influenced the mystic teachings of the Mosaic doctrines, even before, perhaps, they had culminated into what is now known as the modern religion of the Parsis. Like Manu and Vyâsa in India, Zarathustra is a generic name for great reformers and law-givers. The hierarchy began with the divine Zarathustra in the Vendîdâd, and ended with the great, but mortal man, bearing that title, and now lost to history. There were, as shown by the Dabistan, many Zoroasters or Zarathustras. As related in the Secret Doctrine, Vol. II., the last Zoroaster was the founder of the Fire-temple of Azareksh, many ages before the historical era. Had not Alexander destroyed so many sacred and precious works of the Mazdeans, truth and philosophy would have been more inclined to agree with history, in bestowing upon that Greek Vandal the title of “the Great.”

Zoroaster. Greek form of Zarathustra.

Magi (Lat.) The name of the ancient hereditary priests and learned adepts in Persia and Media, a word derived from Mâha great, which became later mog or mag, a priest in Pehlevi. Porphyry describes them (Abst. iv. 16) as “The learned men who are engaged among the Persians in the service of the Deity are called Magi,” and Suidas informs us that “among the Persians the lovers of wisdom (philalethai) are called Magi.” The Zendavesta (ii. 171, 261) divides them into three degrees: (1) The Herbeds or “Noviciates”; (2) Mobeds or “Masters”; (3) Destur Mobeds, or “Perfect Masters.” The Chaldees had similar colleges, as also the Egyptians, Destur Mobeds being identical with the Hierophants of the mysteries, as practised in Greece and Egypt.

Mazdeans. From (Ahura) Mazda. (See Spiegel’s Yasna, xl.) They were the ancient Persian nobles who worshipped Ormazd, and, rejecting images, inspired the Jews with the same horror for every concrete representation of the Deity. They seem in Herodotus’ time to have been superseded by the Magian religionists. The Parsis and Gebers, (geberim, mighty men, of Genesis vi. and x. 8) appear to be Magian religionists.

Mazdiasnian. Zoroastrian; lit., “worshipping god.”

Key Texts

Avesta (Zend.). Lit., “the Law.” From the old Persian Âbastâ, “the law.” The sacred Scriptures of the Zoroastrians. Zend means in the “Zend-Avesta”—a “commentary” or “interpretation.” It is an error to regard “ Zend” as a language, as “it was applied only to explanatory texts, to the translations of the Avesta” (Darmsteter).

Zend-Avesta (Pahl.). The general name for the sacred books of the Parsis, fire or sun worshippers, as they are ignorantly called. So little is understood of the grand doctrines which are still found in the various fragments that compose all that is now left of that collection of religious works, that Zoroastrianism is called indifferently Fire-worship, Mazdaism, or Magism, Dualism, Sun-worship, and what not. The Avesta has two parts as now collected together, the first portion containing the Vendîdâd, the Vispêrad and the Yasna; and the second portion, called the Khorda Avesta (Small Avesta), being composed of short prayers called Gâh, Nyâyish, etc. Zend means “a commentary or explanation,” and Avesta (from the old Persian âbashtâ, “the law.” (See Darmsteter.) As the translator of the Vendîdâd remarks in a foot note (see int. xxx.): “what it is customary to call ‘the Zend language,’ ought to be named ‘the Avesta language,’ the Zend being no language at all and if the word be used as the designation of one, it can be rightly applied only to the Pahlavi.” But then, the Pahlavi itself is only the language into which certain original portions of the Avesta are translated. What name should be given to the old Avesta language, and particularly to the “special dialect, older than the general language of the Avesta” (Darmst.), in which the five Gathas in the Yasna are written? To this day the Orientalists are mute upon the subject. Why should not the Zend be of the same family, if not identical with the Zen-sar, meaning also the speech explaining the abstract symbol, or the “mystery language,” used by Initiates?

Vendîdâd (Pahl.). The first book (Nosk) in the collection of Zend fragments usually known as the Zend-Avesta. The Vendidâd is a corruption of the compound-word “Vidaêvo-dâtern,” meaning “the anti-demoniac law,” and is full of teachings how to avoid sin and defilement by purification, moral and physical—each of which teachings is based on Occult laws. It is a pre-eminently occult treatise, full of symbolism and often of meaning quite the reverse of that which is expressed in its dead-letter text. The Vendîdâd, as claimed by tradition, is the only one of the twenty-one Nosks (works) that has escaped the auto-da-fé at the hands of the drunken Iskander the Rûmi, he whom posterity calls Alexander the Great—though the epithet is justifiable only when applied to the brutality, vices and cruelty of this conqueror. It is through the vandalism of this Greek that literature and knowledge have lost much priceless lore in the Nosks burnt by him. Even the Vendidâd has reached us in only a fragmentary state. The first chapters are very mystical, and therefore called “mythical” in the renderings of European Orientalists. The two “creators” of “spirit-matter” or the world of differentiation—Ahura-Mazda and Angra-Mainyu (Ahriman)—are introduced in them, and also Yima (the first man, or mankind personified). The work is divided into Fargards or chapters, and a portion of these is devoted to the formation of our globe, or terrestrial evolution.

[See also Vispêrad.]

Yasna, or Yacna (Pahl.) The third portion of the first of the two parts of the Avesta, the Scripture of the Zoroastrian Parsis. The Yasna is composed of litanies of the same kind as the Vispêrad (the second portion) and of five hymns or gâthas. These gâthas are the oldest fragments of Zoroastrian literature known to the Parsis, for they are written “in a special dialect, older than the general language of the Avesta” (Darmesteter). (See “ Zend”.)

[See also the five Gathas of Zarathustra.]

Desatir. A very ancient Persian work called the Book of Shet. It speaks of the thirteen Zoroasters, and is very mystical.

Javidan Khirad (Pers.) A work on moral precepts. [see Ancient Iranian and Zoroastrian Morals]

Theosophical Glossary, H. P. Blavatsky


Selected Articles, Commentaries, etc.

Zoroastrianism in the Light of Theosophy: Being a Collection of Selected Articles from the Theosophical Literature (PDF Version, Full HTML Version)