The Zoroastrianism and Zoroastrianism (also: Zoroastrianism or Zoroastrianism ) is a religion with still about 120 thousand to 300 thousand followers who believed in Bactria (today's northern Afghanistan) in the eastern Iranian highlands arose and until about the fourth century BC in the seventh. In the Iranian cultural area (in Persia and in the Central Asian area). Its founder was Zarathustra , about the date of which there is disagreement in research (between 1800 and 600 BC). The Zoroastrians are Zoroastrians or Zoroastrians called. Until the late 1st millennium AD, Zoroastrianism was a world religion with millions of followers, which had a significant influence on other belief systems such as Christianity or Islam. Larger communities live in India , Iran and the USA . The following in today's India and Pakistan is also known as parsing .
At the center of the belief traced back to Zarathustra, which goes back to older Iranian cults, is the creator god Ahura Mazda / Ohrmazd (hence sometimes “Mazdaism”). He is accompanied by immortal saints ( Amescha Spenta ) and his adversary, the evil demon Angra Mainyu ( Ahriman ). According to several researchers, however, a Zoroastrian orthodoxy only developed after the end of late antiquity , before several heterodox currents such as Zurvanism existed on an equal footing.
Although the Zoroastrians know several deities ( Anahita or Mithra ) who support Ahura Mazda , the religion is fundamentally shaped by the dualism between Ahura Mazda and Ahriman : “And in the beginning these two spirits, the twins, who, according to their own words, were good and evil in thinking, speaking and doing are called. Between them those who do well have chosen correctly. ”The struggle between good and evil finds its expression in people between good ( Vohu Mano ) and bad thoughts ( Ahem Nano ).
The religious belief of Zoroastrianism evaluates the creation of the god Ahura Mazda as good, since the world was created by God in its goodness. In this world, however, being good wrestles constantly, in a perpetual battle, between the good ( Ahura Mazda ) and the bad ( Angra Mainyu ) powers. Ahura Mazda's good creation includes animals, people, plants, fire, water, earth and metal.
According to the Zoroastrian idea, the world is divided into a kingdom of light, in which Ahura Mazda (Ohrmazd), the Lord of wisdom dwells for all eternity , and an abyss of darkness, which his adversary Angra Mainyu (Ahriman), the power of negation, of destruction and death. This battle rages between the Lord of light and that of darkness, the scene of which is the earth. A fight that lasts until Ahura Mazda has pushed the demonic opposing powers back into their abyss.
Ahura Mazda created human beings, or rather those human beings who are accessible to beings of light on earth. The beings of light are the holy immortals, besides Ahura Mazda there are six archangels as creators of different areas:
- Three male archangels. These created as
- (Vohu) Manah , "(good) sense", the entire animal kingdom,
- Arta (Vahishta) , "(best) truth", the fire and the warmth,
- Xshathra (Vairya) , "(desirable) rulership", the realm of metals.
- Three female archangels. These created as
- (Spenta) Armaiti , "(holy) devotion," the earth and woman,
- Haarvatat , "integrity", the realm of water,
- Amertat , "immortality", the plant world.
In these areas created by them, the (receptive) person can encounter the powers of light and participate in their work of redemption. The individual person thus has an individual responsibility and an existential decision-making situation to stand for or against the kingdom of Ahura Mazda .
In Zarathustra, the Lord of Wisdom always appears surrounded by six powers of light, with which he is the first (or seventh) to form the divine seven. As seven powers they are called Amahraspands ( Amerta Spenta ), "the holy immortals". Her holiness is an energetic radiance that gives all things their overflowing being. These seven immortals are called the seven archangels of Zarathustra.
Zoroastrianism not only teaches a division of the world into a cosmic dualism of good and evil, it also separates the physical from the spiritual sphere. In the world created by God, man is called upon to strive for truthfulness, well-being, but also to strive for devotion.
After the death of their earthly shell, human souls arrive at the bridge of divorce (Činvat bridge). The bridge stretches from the mountain (Hara-Berezaiti), which lies in the middle of the world, to a peak on the edge of the sky. But while the souls who walked on the paths of truthfulness (Asha) then go to Paradise (Garodemana or Garotman), the souls of the wicked go down to Hell. The three judges of the dead, Mithra, Rashnu and Sraosha weigh the souls of the dead. But also the dark Daevas Aeshma and Astovidatu, who belong to the host of Ahriman, lurk here to seize the human soul.
In late antiquity , the Zurvanist variant of Zoroastrianism was widespread among the Sassanids , in which the good and the bad spirit were considered children of "infinite time" ( Zurvan / Zervan, New Persian Zaman). The Sassanids claimed to be king of the kings of Ērān and Anerān , some of which were based on older Zoroastrian ideas.
Zoroastrianism is based on the sacred Avesta script . Images of God are alien to Zoroastrianism. He knows, however, fire temples , in which a constantly burning fire (as a sacred flame ) is guarded, which is considered a symbol of deity and perfect purity.
The Avesta (Zendavesta)
The most reliable source for the traditional knowledge of Zarathustra's teachings is the collection of the Gathas or songs contained in the Avesta (also Zendavesta ), the religious book of the Zoroastrians , which are either written by Zarathustra himself or by his disciples. It originally consisted of 21 books. As Yasna refers to the traditional 72 chapters of the Avesta (which are still used in the Zoroastrians in the service), said section 16, which can gathas (songs), probably directly attributed to Zarathustra.
According to this, God , who created and sustains the world, which is the beginning and the end, is Ahura Mazdā (the wise Lord). Him six good spirits go (Archangel), which later AMESA Spenta ( "Holy Immortals") that virtue , truth and holiness , good attitude, humility and wisdom , dominion or ownership , health and longevity and immortality hot . They are pure allegories and are often invoked , especially the last two, as goods which Ahura Mazdā is asked to bestow on the pious.
The “good spirit” (Spenta Mainyu) is contrasted with Angra Mainyu (later Ahreman in Middle Persian and Ahriman in New Persian ), i.e. the “evil spirit” (cf.: devil ), which is opposed to him in thoughts, words and works . The two together are represented as the "twins" who created good and bad, and there are just as many evil spirits confronting the six good spirits, created by Angra Mainyu, of which only the "lie" and the "evil disposition". already appear in the Gathas, while the rest are only a product of the later development of the Zoroastrian doctrine.
In the human world there are just as harshly people who have chosen good, the pious or believers, and idolaters who have chosen evil. The latter are referred to as "the blind and the deaf". The pious one who walks in the paths of truthfulness ( asha ) and wisdom attains wealth, progeny and power, health and longevity in this life. After death, the souls reach the Činvat Bridge . Judgment of good and bad is held here (see also: Last Judgment of the Revelation of John ). The bridge is wide as a path to the righteous person, and narrow as a knife blade to the other. The good get into the blissful realms of the paradise Garodemäna (later Garotman ), the “place of praise”; but the soul of the evil one ends up in the “worst place”, that is to say in hell . Parallels exist with notions of the Last Judgment in later Christianity and with eschatology in Islam .
The struggle between good and evil lasts four periods of 3000 years each. The realm of Ahura Mazdā is at the end of the battle. A world judgment will take place that will punish the wicked and reward the good. And one day, when the world ends, the last judgment will take place, the evil spirit will disappear and a new, eternal kingdom of Ahura Mazdā will arise.
Ahura Mazdā corresponds in essence to the Indian Varuna and is in some places understood as a reflex of the sky god, who was already worshiped by the Indo-Europeans . The battle between the good forces of light and the evil forces of darkness and dryness is an age-old idea. It was increased to power in Iran by placing the latter under a head and surrounding this with a court similar to that of the head of good creation.
Truth appears as the main axis of Zoroastrian ethics, the great importance of which we encounter in the Gathas, among other things, in the particularly frequent and pleading invocations by the person of Zarathustra.
Other deities or demons from previous religions found no place in the spiritualistic and philosophical doctrine of Zoroaster, as follows:
- the sun god Mithra ( Avestisch Miθra- and Miθrō , old Persian Miθra- ) who had been the inseparable companion of the sky god in primeval times;
- the god Haoma ( Soma ), the personification of the drink, which was offered to the gods in sacrifice in order to be intoxicated with it;
- the Fravashi or souls of the deceased, in whose honor an (ancient) worship service was held, which was also preserved among the Romans in the well-known cults of the Manen ;
- the cloud serpent Aschi ( Ahi ), who is forced by the god of light with his lightning weapon to give back the fertilizing water of the rain that has abducted them.
These and other sensual-realistic deities of prehistoric times, however, asserted their rights again in the later Zoroastrianism, as it is in the younger parts of the Zendavesta and the statements of the Greeks about the religion of the Iranians, since the priesthood found it advantageous to use the to flatter the folk spirit filled with inherited ideas.
Personifications of the pure elements, above all of fire, which is worshiped in various forms, and of water, which is embodied in the Ardvisura Anahita , which was later mixed with the Middle Eastern mylitta , played an outstanding role in the heavily populated gods of later Zoroastrianism. Because of her worship of fire, she was known in the Greek world ( Herodotus ) as a "fire worshiper". Hardly less numerous are the evil spirits, called Daevas , Drudsch , Pairikas ( Peri ) and sometimes thought of as fiends who are in carnal intercourse with bad people and seek to seduce the good, sometimes as treacherous demons, which dryness, deformity, Inflict epidemics and other plagues on the world.
A systematizing tendency, which arose in the schools of the priests, led to a complete distribution of creation down to the animals among the two heads of the good and the bad creation. Therefore, one of the most important duties of the priests, who were provided with a special instrument for this purpose, is to exterminate the animals of the evil spirit, snakes, mice, and ants, while, on the other hand, the intentional or unintentional killing of animals of the good spirit , like beavers, dogs, etc. a., had to be atoned for with heavy penances.
According to the teaching of the Parsees, of which Plutarch was already instructed, the whole of world history consists in a great battle between Ahura Mazdā and Anramainyu, which is said to last for a total of 6,000 years.
Creation, struggle between good and evil, redemption
The creation story of Zoroastrianism says that in the first 3000 years, Ahura Mazdā first created the egg-shaped sky and then the earth and the plants through a long breeze. In the second cycle of 3000 years the primeval animals and then primeval man emerged. Then the onset of the Anramainyu took place, killing primitive man and the primitive animal and opening a period of struggle that only ended with the birth of Zarathustra. This event coincides with the 31st year of King Vistaspa's reign . And from then on, 3000 years will pass again until the savior Saoschjant is born, who will destroy the evil spirits and bring about a new, immortal world; the dead will also rise from the dead.
Instead of the one Messiah , three are mentioned in other passages, which means that this teaching differs from the corresponding one in the Old Testament. On the other hand, the doctrine of the resurrection even agrees in details with the Christian one: the assumption of a borrowing of the Christian doctrine from the religion of the Zoroastrians neighboring the Hebrews has a not insignificant probability. However, the resurrection phenomenon in itself is a very old religious phenomenon. a. can be found in the ancient Egyptian religion.
In the past it was customary among the Zoroastrians to lay corpses for aerial or sky burial in dakhmahs . In these round "Towers of Silence", open at the top, the meat and soft parts of the deceased can be eaten by birds, but not by land animals . Since 1970 this type of burial has been banned in Iran for reasons of hygiene. Since then, Zoroastrians have been buried in concrete graves. Traditional burials are still practiced in India, for example in Mumbai. There, the bodies of the deceased are placed on high towers and serve as food for the birds of prey. The seven " Towers of Silence " surround the hanging gardens on Malabar Hill , in the middle of the city. So there are always complaints and discussions, as parts of the corpses are dropped by birds of prey.
Development and expansion
In later epochs of Zoroastrianism, several splits formed, which sought to resolve the antithesis between Ahura Mazda and Ahriman in a higher unity by accepting time, fate, light or space as the common source of both.
The best known of these is the already mentioned group of the Zurvanites , whose doctrine that immortal time ( Zurvan ) is the primal principle of things, apparently the dominant religion in New Persian in the 5th century AD under King Yazdegerd I ( Iesdegerd ) Became Sassanid Empire ; the “immeasurable time” ( zrvan akerene ) is already invoked in the Zendavesta. The time god, Zervan or Zurvan , is represented as a four-form god (Ahura Mazdā, goodness, religion and time). He is above God and the devil who are his sons. Zurvan is the infinite space and the infinite time. With the emergence of God and evil, light is separated from darkness.
Contrary to the earlier research, Zoroastrianism was most likely not the "state religion" of the old Persian Empire of the Achaemenids , which was destroyed by Alexander the Great . Rather, its meaning is unclear at this time; some researchers believe that the Achaemenids were not Zoroastrians but worshiped Ahura Mazda in a different form.
Contrary to what is often assumed, Zoroastrianism then seems to have played a rather significant role under the Parthians , rather than a minor one. An important archaeological site, which indicates a settlement in the style of Persian Zoroastrianism, is Grakliani in Georgia . In the Sassanid Empire (3rd to 7th centuries AD), religion then became the most important (but not the only permitted) religion and experienced its peak. Although the followers of other religious groups, such as Buddhists , Christians , Jews and Manichaeans , were persecuted and murdered at times , as the inscriptions on Mobed Kartir show, modern research usually assumes that political rather than religious motives were decisive. However, several details regarding Zoroastrianism in Sassanid times are controversial. The fact that the vast majority of Zoroastrian sources only emerged after the fall of the empire and therefore perhaps paint a distorted picture makes it difficult to make reliable statements.
As a preferred religion, Zoroastrianism lost its importance as a result of the Islamic conquest of the Sassanid Empire in the years after 636. Islam, on the other hand, grew steadily in importance, but it was only around 900 that Muslims made up the majority in Iran. Many Iranian festivals contain the Zoroastrian heritage and are still celebrated in Shiite Iran, sometimes in syncretical form. The most important of these festivals is the “New Year's Festival” Nouruz , whose roots go back even further.
With the spread of Islam in Iran, Zoroastrianism was increasingly suppressed and the persecution of Zoroastrians began, which is why many Zoroastrians emigrated around 1000 years ago, especially to the area of today's India and today's Pakistan , where they are called Parsees (i.e. Persians ) gave. There are approximately 120,000 members of the Zoroastrian religion worldwide, most of them in India. A not insignificant number of Zoroastrians also live in Tajikistan . There is currently a movement in the commune to unite all those belonging to the Zoroastrian faith under the term "Zoroastrian" in order to be able to appear more united again.
The number of Zoroastrians has increased in Iraq in recent years, particularly as a result of conversions by former Muslims. The Zoroastrians are currently seeking official status for their religion in the Kurdish Autonomous Region . It is estimated that around 150,000 people in the Kurdish part of Iraq profess Zoroastrians.
The name Zarathustra became better known in the modern western world primarily through Nietzsche's book Also sprach Zarathustra and Richard Strauss ' symphonic poem of the same name , although both works have little reference to the historical Zarathustra.
Zoroastrianism exists in very different forms. This is particularly due to the very changed situation of the trailers. The modern Zoroastrians live widely: about 65,000 live in India , where they are called Parsees . In recent years (as of 2019), religion in Iran has regained importance, especially among younger people. It is understood as part of a specifically Persian , and therefore non-Islamic, identity. There are currently over 25,000 Zoroastrians living in Iran, including around 10,000 in the desert city of Yazd . They belong to the fastest growing religious groups here (in 2006 just under 20,000). In the USA and Canada there are around 18,000–25,000, in Pakistan a maximum of 5,000, others scattered in other western countries. Overall, the number is estimated at 120,000–150,000 Zoroastrians.
The particular form and interpretation of religion is different for each of the various geographically separated groups. There are particularly striking differences between Indian and Iranian Zoroastrianism.
In India, influenced by Hinduism, the belief in the existence of the Amesha Spentas is very much in the foreground, as a result of which the Zoroastrian belief has got polytheistic tendencies there. Rituals play a big role.
In Iran, Zoroastrianism has developed into a highly inward-looking, very rational, ethical philosophy. The focus is on the belief in a good, just, omniscient God Ahura Mazda. This good God is served by "thinking well, speaking well and acting well" (out of free will).
- Xerxes I (Persian Khashayarshah , 519–465 BC), Persian great king from the Achaemenid dynasty
- Shapur I , also called the Great († around 270 AD), Persian great king from the Sassanid dynasty
- Dadabhai Naoroji (1825–1917), Indian (Parish) politician, first member of the British House of Commons from Asia in 1892
- The Tata family , an Indian entrepreneurial dynasty
- Pherozeshah Mehta (1845–1915) and Bhikaiji Cama (1861–1936), Indian freedom fighters
- Kaikhosru Sorabji (1892–1988), British composer
- Homi Jehangir Bhabha (1909–1966), Indian atomic and elementary particle physicist of Parsi descent
- Feroze Gandhi (1912–1960), from the Nehru Gandhi family , husband Indira Gandhi and father Rajiv Gandhis and Sanjay Gandhi
- Farhang Mehr (1923–2018), former Deputy Prime Minister of Iran
- Zubin Mehta (* 1936), Indian conductor
- Freddie Mercury (actually Farrokh Bulsara , 1946–1991), singer in the rock band Queen
- Kasra Vafadari (1946–2005), former President of the University of Tehran and President of the Society of Iranian Zoroastrians; last taught Persian early history at a chair at the University of Paris and was murdered on May 16, 2005 in Paris
- Alexander Bard (* 1961), Swedish singer, author and actor (converted to Zoroastrianism)
Influence on other religions and world views
As the only monotheistic religion, Judaism was able to adopt many images from Zoroastrianism, the main religion of that time, in the years after the Babylonian exile (6th to 4th centuries BC), the most important element of which was probably the belief in the end of the World is: The two most important pre-Christian references, the Book of Daniel and the Book of Enoch , (presumably) arose during this time. The devil as an opponent of God probably goes back to Ahriman. The terms heaven and hell were unknown in older Judaism; here an influence of Zoroastrianism, but also of the Greek idea of a Hades , may have occurred. Through the Jewish tradition, these ideas have also entered the Christian and Islamic religions and have become central elements there. The extent to which Zoroastrianism directly influenced early Islam in Persia is difficult to prove in detail.
Evidence for the far-reaching historical influence of Zoroastrianism on the religions of neighboring peoples is provided by Mithraism , which spread through Western Asia at the time of the Roman Empire to the West, and the religion of Mani , Manichaeism , which was introduced in the 3rd century AD a fusion of the Zoroastrian with Christian and Buddhist teachings emerged and for a time it was spread from China to Central Asia to Italy, Spain and southern France. In contrast to Zoroastrianism, which was practiced by a few, but still consistently, Manichaeism completely disappeared in the 14th century.
The Mazdakites , active around 500 AD , about whom little has been recorded, are also likely to have been Zoroastrians.
The Yazidi author Darwis Hasso takes the position that Yezidism developed from Zoroastrianism.
In addition, there is a new split outside of the classical directions of Zoroastrianism, the Mazdaznan . The term Mazdaznan denotes a religious doctrine which, according to our own understanding, is based on a reformed Zoroastrianism. It was founded by Otoman Zar-Adusht Ha'nish, probably bourgeois Otto Hanisch , who himself stated that he was born on December 19, 1844 in Tehran; he died on February 29, 1936 in Los Angeles. It is a mixed religion of Zoroastrian, Christian and some Hindu and Tantric elements.
Zoroastrianism also has a not inconsiderable influence on anthroposophy , the teaching of Rudolf Steiner , especially with the inclusion of Ahriman - albeit with a strong deviation of the attributes originally ascribed to him - in a Christian context .
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