Dr. Darius Jahanian
State of Illumination
The Light of
men, through illumination of the mind, envision The Light. Shah
Nematollah Wali, a fifteenth-century Persian Sufi, expresses this state
of mind: "Be sure that any eye which sees Light has seen it only by
the Light itself."(1) In
a simpler term, "One should illumine in order to see the
Light." The state of illumination and beholding light is reflected
in different verses of the Gathas, e.g., in 31.8, Zarathushtra realizes
God by grasping Him in vision,(2),(3),(4) and in 45.8, the Prophet declares, "I beheld Him
clearly in my mind's eye."(5)
Yasna 43 reflects meditation and attainment of divine
illumination as correctly titled by Bode, since many verses begin with
"I realized You God when I was encircled by good mind VohuMana,"
and Yasna 29.8 indicates a relevance when VohuMana picks Zarathushtra
for prophet-hood as it allegorically illustrates that the prophet
through VohuMana (contemplation) has attained illumined mind and the
knowledge of God. Finally, Zarathushtra discovers that silent meditation
is the best for attainment of spiritual enlightenment (43.15),(5)
and in two verses (43.4-43.9)he alludes to the envisioned fire.
key is VohuMana or good mind, wisdom and good thinking, which has a very
prominent place in the Gathas. Wisdom stands first among the list of the
divine attributes, whereby the others (Truth, Strength, Love, Wholeness
and Immortality) are perceived and imbibed, the path to God is treaded
and the state of illumination attained, at which point man beholds The
Light and becomes one with God. This is indeed a state of extinction in
which man's being incorporates into God.
God upholds the best mind, which brightens our mind (31.7). He
pours out His holy wisdom on all living beings (45.6).(5)
Through His Wisdom, God Has fashioned the world (31.11), ordained the
creation with universal order (Asha)(31.7), and granted man free will to
make his choice (31.11). The divine dominion (Khashathra) is the fruit
and blessing of wisdom (30.8, 31.5, 31.6, 33.15), and through wisdom God
is realized (28.6, 33.6, 34) and the path to God is found (28.5- 5.6).(6)
Good thinking generates good words and good deeds, which lead the world
to evolution and perfection.
of Light and the True Meaning of Fiery Test
Islam, "God is The Light of the heavens and the earth, Koran XXIV,
35"(I) In the Bible, "God is a consuming fire, Himself comes
very fire and in The Old Testament and the Koran, He manifests to Moses
In the Gathas, the envisioned light is a divine one and fire is
only a faculty of God which, like other divine qualities, is shared by
man. It represents the divine wisdom (VohuMana) and man's knowledge of God.
When VohuMana comes to Zarathushtra he Realizes God, and it is VohuMana
who picks him for prophet-hood (29.8). This fire is called by
Zarathushtra Mainyu Athra (31.3), which means spiritual or mental fire,
an abstract or inner fire and not a physical one. It is radiated by The
Divine Wisdom or the best mind (VohuMana) 43.9 and VahishtaMana 31.7),
brightens mind (31.7) and brings the strength of VohuMana
(wisdom)(43.4). The working of the divine fire and wisdom in hardship
enlightens one’s inner-self, whereby one receives salvation (46.7
The divine fire is empowered by truth (Asha)~(34.4-43.4), whereby the
rewards of two groups of righteous and wrongful are determined
(31.3,31.19, 34.4,43.4,47.6), hence Asha, or truth and justice prevails
This is the fiery test (or ayangha Khshushta 51.9 and 32.7,30.7,
literally molten metal) that illustrates The Law of Asha or action and reaction(12)
and once comprehended many seekers will convert (31.3-47.6). As
noted, the fiery test is also a spiritual one. In this context the
unburning fire that the legendary Seyavash, for the proof of his
innocence, passed through,(13)
and the unburning molten zinc that Adharbad Maraspand, for the
proof of accuracy of the religious books, applied to his chest,(14)
should be construed in allegorical and spiritual terms.
Light of Lights and Absolute Wisdom
to the Gathas, The Divine Light radiates other lights (31.7)(6)
(Light of lights), God upholds the Best Mind (or Vahishta Mana) that
brightens minds (31.7),(6)
his wisdom pervades all the living beings (45.6).(5)
Sobravardi, a twelfth-century Persian philosopher,
compares God to Light of lights(4)(15)
from Whom other lights are radiated that are not separated from
the Source, but enriched by it and the first light or the most proximal
one to the Source is Bahman (VohuMana). Considering the above analogy,
one can conclude that the Divine Light in Yasna 31.7 signifies God and
the radiated lights are indeed His attributes the prominent one being
His Absolute Wisdom from which man's wisdom emanates.
Sohravardi, in another text, defines God as the essence of First
Absolute Light who gives constant illumination whereby it is manifested.
. Everything in the world is derived from the Light of His Essence…
and to attain fully to this illumination is salvation.(1)
(State of illumination—also see 46.7)
Seyyed Ahinad Alavi, a prominent scholar of the school of illumination (eshragh)
after discussing the concept of emanation of existence from the Source
(God) or derivation of many from a single unit which is the
essence of Sohravardi's view, maintains that this notion is from
The concepts of illumination and joining the beloved (God), unity
of mankind and oneness of their origin, have profound roots in the
Persian mysticism and they derive from the Gathas. Persian mysticism may
be compared to a river that temporarily went underground but eventually
surfaced during the Islamic period. In the words of Jami, a
fifteenth-century Persian poet.(1)
The Essences are each a separate Glass
Through which the Sun of Being's Light is passed.
Each tinted fragment Sparkles in the Sun
A thousand colors but the Light is One.
And in the words of Saadi:(17)
Mankind is the body, men as
Of one essence at the dawn of genesis.
of Illumination in the Islamic Period of Iran
Iranian gnostics of the Islamic era have contributed to the Persian
mysticism by utilizing the philosophy of ancient Iran.(16)
They were able to differentiate the Gathic songs of Zarathushtra
from the religion introduced by the clergy of the Sassanian era. These
writings present the true philosophy of Zarathushtra and the concept of
illumination. The founder of this school of Islamic era is Sohravardi
(Sheikh el Eshragh or the Sheikkh of illumination), who for his
Zoroastrian views was martyred and is known as Sheikh the martyr.
He certainly had access to Zoroastrian literature and at his time
the spoken language of the city of Zanjan where he lived was Pahlavi.
Three of the followers of this school are Mirdamad and his two students,
Ashkevari and Mulla Sadra.(18)
Fire in this school is a Gnostic term and is used as a means of
enlightening or consuming a devotee to attain truth and love, and join
the abode of the beloved (God).
In the ancient Iranian mysticism, the true Gnostic is KeiKhosrow, who,
prior to his ascension, undergoes physical cleaning, wears white attire
and resides in a fire temple so that by proximity to the symbolic fire,
his being purifies as pure gold. This is an allegorical expression of
enlightenment or illumination in which one ecstasies and feels
nonexistent and his being becomes incorporated in the Essence of God. In
mystical terms, hard hearts melt by this fire as a molten iron, in the
words of Movlavi Roomi who vociferates: “I am fire, I am fire."
The term of molten metal in the philosophy of ancient Iran or
"glowing and consuming in oven" is an allegorical means of
attaining the Ashoi, Truth and Love. This fire, in its broadest mystical
term, is the science of discovery and recognition of God, the divine
knowledge that descends as fire to Zarathushtra.
It is said he holds it in hands without being burned. It should
be added that God’s being manifests as a glaring fire to Zarathushtra,
and VohuMana, which signifies the perfect knowledge of God, is presented
to the prophet as a man embodied in absolute light.(16)
In the Koran, too, Moses beholds a distant fire and tells
his wife, “I will bring a part of it or will lead myself into its
and fiery test should be construed in spiritual terms. Fire in the
Gathas represents the divine wisdom that on reckoning delivers justice.
In humans, it indicates illumination or bright mind, whereby God is
realized; hence, in its broadest mystical term, it is the science of
discovery of God. Fiery test, or the test of molten metal, is indeed a
spiritual purification and refinement process to attain love and
perfection an4 join the abode of the Beloved. This process is summarized
by Movlavi Roomi: “I was raw, I was roasted, I was consumed." In
the words of Zarathushtra such a person who has passed the fiery test,
has attained physical and spiritual strength, wisdom, truth and love
with serenity (30.7), and belongs to God.(2)
1 Nasr, S. II., Iran. the Bridge of Turquoise.
Ali A., The Gathas, Our Guide.
D., An Introduction to the Gathas of Zarathushtra, No.10, July
H., A Research in the Zoroastrian Culture,(in Persian).
F. A., Songs of Zarathushtra.
I. S., The Religion of Zarathushtra.
7 Isaiah 66.16.
8 Hebrews 12.29.
9 Koran, Teh9-10.
10 Exodus 3:2-5.
11 Koran, 20.10-12,27.7-9, 28.29-30.
12 Mehr, F., The Philosophy of Zarathushtra,
p.110 (in Persian).
Aazam, A., The Fiery Test.
Azargoshasb, F., Gathas, The Songs of Zarathushtra, (in
Vahidi, H., Concept of Asha, (in Persian).
Razi, H., Ghotbeddin Ashkevari, monthly Faravahar, No.334
Translatjan by D. Jahanian.
Other scholars mentioned include: Haj Mohammad Hidaji, Shamseddin
MohammadShahrzuri, Abu Yazid Teyfur, Javanmard (Fati) Peysa (Beiza) or
Hallaj, AbolAbbas Ghassab Amoli, AbolHassan Kherghani, and Henry Corbin,
a French author.
Sethna, T.R, The Teachings of Zarathushtra.
Cama, L., An Introduction to the Gathas of Zarathushtra,
No.7, July 1990,
Jafarey, A., Stot Yasn, (in Persian).