Sacraments

I am serious about my religion.
I don’t take its sacraments lightly.
They may cause you discomfort:
A long walk, a trusted companion, an open fire.
I cannot imagine a relic, a book, or a doctrine more sacred.
Perhaps you doubt them.
Perhaps I doubt yours.

A walk through a wood
A walk through a world
A friend
“Man’s best friend”
A crackling campfire
“The most tolerable third party”
A sworn companion
The Logos fire
Henry David Thoreau
A boiling star

Mimi

Our daughter wants access to photos of Mimi from her summer camp; an excellent excuse to cease neglecting this blog …

Mimi's Humane Society Photo

Mimi's Humane Society Photo

Back on June 17, just three days before Mom’s heart attack, we adopted this darling gal from Humane Society Silicon Valley. She had lost her home when her family of seven years had moved—another foreclosure? She had spent three months in foster care, with a student at Palmer College of Chiropractic here in San Jose, who did a great job of bringing her weight down, which was particularly important for her, as she suffers from bilateral hip dysplasia.

Mimi Upon Her Throne

Mimi Upon Her Throne

Mimi is definitely pure mutt, a noble mix of Australian shepherd, maybe blue heeler, and Labrador retriever. She seems to have got her dense, black coat, webbed feet, and love of water from her Labrador pedigree. She also seems to have a rather soft (gentle) mouth. When she first entered our back yard, she plopped right into our little fish pond, which has not been the same since.

Uvas Falls

Uvas Falls


She loves to prance, wade, and swim in Uvas Creek. She even jumped from a cascade down into one of the creek’s little pools.

Mimi is our first mammalian family pet. I’ve cared for strays before, and even had strays spayed and put down, but never “owned” either a dog or cat. I’ve always wanted a dog. I like cats, but I love dogs, which is precisely the reason why I’ve avoided ownership, knowing that dogs in particular need activity, attention, and maintenance.

Mimi is no exception. In fact she’s downright bossy when it comes to getting her walk, but she’s worth it. She’s pulling her weight. Besides infusing our lives with affection, play, and loyalty, she’s helping one of us overcome her acute fear of dogs, and teaching our rambunctious little human pup how to be a little more gentle!

Priest Dogs of Iran

Georgie (snapshots.parade.com)

Georgie (snapshots.parade.com)

This is a continuation of a thread on dogs.

Zoroastrian funerary rituals appear to indicate that ancient Iranians believed that dogs had a unique power to discern whether the life had departed from a body.

What follows next is known as the dog-sight (sagdid) ceremony. A dog, generally a “four-eyed” dog (a dog with two eye-like spots just above the eyes), is presented so that it gazes at the corpse. Although various reasons are assigned to this ceremony, the purpose in ancient times was to ascertain whether or not life was altogether extinct.

Solomon Alexander Nigosian, The Zoroastrian Faith

It may be due to this high regard for the perceptiveness of dogs, and not merely the loyalty and utility of dogs, that lead ancient Iranians to treat the corpses of dogs with the same care that they treated human corpses.

Not only did ancient Iranians believe that dogs could alone tell whether a human was truly deceased, they also believed that dogs guarded the bridge to heaven. They may have even believed that these dogs guided souls across that bridge into heaven.

In line with this, dog breeding is a religious matter in Zoroastrianism, and canine pregnancy is treated quite seriously:

It lies with the faithful to look in the same way after every pregnant female, either two-footed or four-footed, two-footed woman or four-footed bitch.

Vendidad, Fargard 15

The Vendidad establishes that people have a moral obligation to care for pregnant strays and the pups of strays. The book lays out—in detail—how to determine who is responsible for a pregnant stray. And upon whomever the responsibility lies, negligence is murder:

If he shall not support her, so that the whelps come to grief, for want of proper support, he shall pay for it the penalty for wilful murder.

Vendidad, Fargard 15

Rough treatment of pregnant dogs is a punishable offense:

It is the third of these sins when a man smites a bitch big with young or affrights her by running after her, or shouting or clapping with the hands; If the bitch fall into a hole, or a well, or a precipice, or a river, or a canal, she may come to grief thereby; if she come to grief thereby, the man who has done the deed becomes a Peshotanu (deserving of two hundred strokes or a proportional fine).

Vendidad, Fargard 15

Similar penalties are established for abuse of dogs in general:

It is the second of these sins when a man gives bones too hard or food too hot to a shepherd’s dog or to a house-dog; If the bones stick in the dog’s teeth or stop in his throat; or if the food too hot burn his mouth or his tongue, he may come to grief thereby; if he come to grief thereby, the man who has done the deed becomes a Peshotanu. He who gives too hot food to a dog so as to burn his throat is margarzan (guilty of death); he who gives bones to a dog so as to tear his throat is margarzan.

Vendidad, Fargard 15

Unfortunately, the attitude toward dogs in modern Iran is quite the opposite.

Another means of distressing Zoroastrians was to torment dogs. Primitive Islam knew nothing of the now pervasive Muslim hostility to the dog as an unclean animal, and this, it seems, was deliberately fostered in Iran because of the remarkable Zoroastrian respect for dogs.

Mary Boyce, Zoroastrians, pg. 158

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!)