Gimme that Old Time Religion

Yeah, that’s right, I consider myself a Mazdean, among other things. I’m sure that there are a lot of Mazdeans who would not consider me a Mazdean, but that doesn’t matter to me. They won’t be around for long anyhow.


Why, you may ask, have I adopted such an ancient, backward, and dying religion? Well it’s not just because I want my corpse to be devoured by birds.

Here are the principles of Zoroastrianism as I see it. How does it stack up against your fundamentals? Tell me what you think.

American Transcendentalism by Philip F. Gura
  • Cosmic Dualism. Traditional Zoroastrianism is chiefly about a universal war between Good and Evil. I, like Henry David Thoreau, see morality in every aspect of our lives, just as Heraclitus saw that “war is the master of all”. I interpret the cosmic battle between Good and Evil existentially, that is, that the phenomena of consciousness are fundamentally moral, and that our very existence is saturated with a sense of good and bad, that is to say, perception is value-laden. Some might prefer to say that our perceptions are aesthetic, but I don’t think that “aesthetic” is a strong enough term for our involvement in the world.The Zoroastrian God is benevolent, but not omnipotent. The key point of this is that the only legitimate object of worship is the Good, or one might say Beauty (in the word’s broadest sense), and that no compensation can supersede the value of the Good. In other words, the Good is the only reward.
  • Universal Salvation. Zoroastrian salvation is ultimately the salvation of existence itself. Personal salvation is secondary to world reform.
  • Fire (Atar). Fire is the symbol of universal order, just as it was for Heraclitus. It’s also a beacon of a somewhat moral character; a temple in its own right. It’s more than a mere symbol of life, illumination, transformation, and purification; it’s a tangible phenomenon, and, as combustion, it is our very life force, and the most ancient companion and technology of our species.
  • Life (Getig). I believe in affirming and celebrating life—this life, in recognizing the Good in life, and living wholly within the present day and the present world. “One world at a time.” (Thoreau)
  • Truth (Asha). Asha vs. Druj: truth vs. the lie. I believe that a proper understanding of the Zoroastrian principle Asha, which is symbolized by fire, must be understood in the context of its opposition to Druj. Like Sir Walter Raleigh and Henry David Thoreau, I revere the truth, though I do not believe in confession. Most of all, I strive against the inner lie.”Every violation of truth is a stab at the health of human society.”—Emerson

    “There is no wisdom save in truth.”—Martin Luther

    “Sincerity is impossible unless it pervades the whole being, and the pretense of it saps the very foundation of character.”—James Russell Lowell

  • Wisdom (Mazda). As with Heraclitus, divinity is characterized best as wisdom. The traditional name for Mazdaism, “Mazdayasna”, literally means “wisdom worship”, not terribly unlike the original meaning of the word “philosophy.”
  • Partnership (Hamkar). Men are free agents, and potential allies of Good Lord Wisdom (who is not omnipotent) in working toward world reform.
  • Sustenance and Sustainability. The heart—or gut—of Good Religion is to feed the people, and to refrain from acting recklessly with the bounty of the earth (natural resources). Zoroastrians are famous gardeners.
  • Camaraderie with beneficial mammals (“dogs”). In most cases, animals such as sheep dogs, hedgehogs, and otters are considered allies and equals of man.

Zoroastrianism is a very ancient religion, and its scriptures take us back to a primitive society that hardly seemed to know civilization or large-scale warfare. It is a close cousin of the religion of the Vedas, and so it is like that Olive Tree in the Qur’án which is neither of the East nor the West (yes, Iran is indeed within the native range of the olive). Furthermore, it is the ancient root of my religious heritage, not only in the sense that it has influenced the Bahá’í Faith, but also in its influence of Shí’a Islám, Islám in general, and Judaism and Christianity.

In a sense, I was born a Zoroastrian. I was, in fact, raised to believe that Zoroaster was a perfect incarnation (“manifestation”) of God, which is not at all how I have come to see Zoroaster. I now see him as an inspiring myth for mankind, which is a better thing than any divine prophet idol could ever hope to be.

If that doesn’t convince you to convert, here: Freddie Mercury was a Zoroastrian! (Say no more!)