Dear Friends and Fellow Zoroastrians: It is important that I
mention right at the beginning of my talk that I am not speaking in the capacity
of a research scholar or an authority on the subject of the Zoroastrian
Religion, but as a lay-person, informing the listeners about a movement, a
philosophy and a world-conception which deeply reveres the teachings of
Zarathushtra, and which has an approach to the subject which is different from
the conventional approach. Where this difference lies, I shall try to elaborate
and clarify in my talk, which has the sole purpose of providing information for
listeners. It should in no way be regarded as trying to convince or convert.
One of the fundamental principles underlying this philosophy and movement is the
principle of freedom, and accordingly this speaker wishes to leave listeners
free to accept or reject what is being presented. This very principle of freedom
also underlies the basic tenets of the Zoroastrian religion, so there we have
the foundation on which to base a dialogue.
Over the years scholars, historians, theologists and archeologists have
toiled, studied and done research in various academic fields in order to provide
information for those interested in these subjects. In their writings,
commentaries and interpretations, these scholars make valuable information
accessible to those who don't have the opportunity to be scholars but who,
nevertheless, have the desire for more knowledge. Much knowledge which in former
times was remote and the domain of a chosen few is now open to all who wish to
acquire it. Yet time and again we observe that these research scholars also
differ in their views, in their interpretations, sometimes even on very basic
ideas, depending on the school they represent or the mode of interpretation they
use. Why is this so? No doubt the method of research is scientific, the theories
well-founded and the data meticulously worked upon by the highly qualified and
well-trained scholars, but this does not change the given situation that
external science can have recourse only to data of the material world. Scholars
and scientists must rely on experimental results and documentation, which is not
always available to lay inquirers.
Great truths of the past ages, spiritually significant events, had their
physical-material working on the earthly plane, and these facts were documented
by the seers and the scribes of those times. In later times, these truths have
to be imparted in a form suitable for the epoch in which they are communicated.
In our present epoch, the scientific one, the form of communication is
scientific too, hence material.
In ancient times, when scientific thinking and intellectual activity, through
which we can perceive the realities of the physical-material world, were not yet
consolidated to such a degree as is the case in our times, there lived
clairvoyants who could perceive, and thereby had direct access to, the realities
of the supersensible and the spiritual worlds. Today in many circles one cannot
even mention such things any more, because of a general tendency to deny the
existence of a world other than the one which can be perceived by the senses.
But even if individuals of the present times do not possess the gift of
clairvoyance, the realm of pure thought has been proven to act as an organ of
perception for realities which transcend the momentary and the visible. The
proof of this is communicated to us by the seers.
At the turn of the 19th to the 20th century there lived an Austrian by the
name of Rudolf Steiner. He was gifted with the rare combination of clairvoyance
and highly developed scientific thinking. These faculties, combined with his
love for humanity, enabled him to develop and establish a philosophy and
Weltanschauung---(world conception) which he called Anthroposophy, the wisdom of
the human being. Later he founded the Anthroposophical Society which has members
from all walks of life in all parts of the world.
Dr. Steiner had a close connection to, and was influenced by, the teachings
of Zarathushtra. These teachings are in harmony with the ideas of Anthroposophy,
the spiritual science which Steiner inaugurated. According to Steiner, the
evolution of humanity is directly linked with the development of human
consciousness. The great initiates who have brought decisive impulses of
spiritual and cultural renewal to their people and their times have the task on
one hand to lead them and give them guidance, and on the other hand to form a
link in general cultural and spiritual development over the ages.
Zarathushtra was the great initiate and spiritual leader of his people for
his time. Every spiritual stream in the world has its particular mission. These
streams are not isolated and are separated only during certain epochs; then they
merge and mutually nourish each other. But conceptions of the world and life do
not move through the air as pure abstractions. They are borne by Beings, by
Individualities. When a system of thought comes into existence for the first
time it must be presented by an Individuality, and when these spiritual streams
unite and influence each other, something definite must also happen in the
Individualities who are the bearers of the world-conceptions in question.
It was the Being of Zarathushtra, his Individuality, which was destined to
receive the spiritual and cultural impulses in ancient Persia and impart it to
the people of his times and of times to come. So lofty was the stage of
development of Zarathushtra, that he could make provision in advance for the
streams of culture which were to follow.
Occult research has shown how this has been possible. In order to understand
and accept what one reads in the field of occult research, it is necessary to
acquaint oneself with certain theories, one of them being the theory of
reincarnation. Great initiates who have lived on earth in various epochs have
had their pupils carry on their work in a different form in a later age because
they could carry this knowledge with them from life to death into rebirth. This
would have to be explained to those who do not believe in reincarnation.
A certain religion or a particular school of philosophy finds a renaissance
in another epoch in a different part of the world and reappears in a
metamorphosed form, as a new impulse. But when one follows the stream of thought
and comes to the source, one observes that it is fundamentally the same
spiritual impulse now in a new form. One can explain this phenomenon at various
levels, one of them being from the point of view of the theory of reincarnation,
that great souls closely connected to the founder of a religion or a philosophy,
in later incarnations bring back the spiritual impulse, at a later period in
another part of the world, in a form suitable for the prevailing circumstances.
It is this renewal which saves the religion or philosophy from dying out, or
even worse, from hardening into a set of laws and dry theories which have no
relevance to the life and times of present -day human beings striving for self
-knowledge and an understanding of the world. This renewal further saves the
religion or philosophy from gross misinterpretation at the hands of
unenlightened people. Here again, freedom has to be exercised. Everyone
encountering a new, or renewed, religious teaching must evaluate it by sound
judgement and a feeling for truth, before he or she can believe in it and be
nourished by it.
Anthroposophy as a spiritual science helps contemporary people to become
aware of the spiritual side of earthly events in a language easily understood by
means of pure reason and reflection.
For one born of Zoroastrian parents, basic knowledge of the Good Religion is
acquired by means of stories, books, rituals and ceremonies. It is the bond of
religious tradition, strengthened through active participation in religious
ceremonies and prayers, that is maintained within the family and handed down
from generation to generation. Yet time and again we see that many a pious
follower of the Good Religion reaches a stage in his or her life when doubt and
questioning begin to cloud the mind.
One reason that can be given for this attitude is that practical
understanding of the religion and its impact on daily living is at times not
strong enough to connect the follower of the religion to his or her general
activity in daily life. There are fundamental principles of the religion which
tend to remain only ideas and ideals, because practical life in modern times has
changed to such a degree that it cannot cope with the ideals. The idea fails to
become reality. Let us take an example: agriculture. It was Zarathushtra who
showed the people of his times that the earth, if left barren and untended,
would fall prey to the dark forces. For this reason agriculture, the culture of
cultivating the earth so that it would become a bearer of the corn and the fruit
which would grow by means of the light of the life-giving sun, the rain and the
air, became the principle culture of our forefathers.
In this manner, the four elements combined to provide the human being with
nourishment which would sustain him and help him to fight the good fight against
the dark forces as represented by Ahriman. Through the intake of this food, the
human being imbibes also the forces of the sun which free in him the light which
vitalizes the knowledge and carries it into human life through right activity.
But in our increasingly materialistic world, which is being dominated by Ahriman
to an alarming degree, even agriculture has been adversely affected. Artificial
chemical fertilizers, poisonous insecticides and lack of understanding of the
advantages of crop rotation
have damaged the living organism that is earth. Anthroposophy has recognized
the working of Ahriman also in this sphere according to Zarathushtra's teachings
and a new form of agriculture, bio-dynamic agriculture, has been developed which
enables the farmer to cultivate the earth and grow corn and fruit without the
dependence on destructive methods which the farming industry in present times so
willingly employs. The idea is re-humanization in all spheres of active life by
means of which the sun-being can assert itself through the good deeds of
consciousness. In this manner the power and influence of Ahriman recedes into
Materialism, which kills all religious belief and feeling and which
dehumanizes the human being, may not disappear completely, but can be dealt with
or balanced out in this manner. Materialism is a necessity in modern times; it
cannot be overlooked nor can it be denied. It is excessive materialism which
binds and chains the human being to the domain of the Ahriman forces. By
harnessing this force and using it in the interest of spiritual progress, one
can overcome its negative qualities and thereby free oneself. The Zarathushtrian
teaching stresses the revitalizing and renewing of the earth through righteous
activity. It is the will which frees us to choose the Good, even though Ahriman
appears in us and around us in the most varied forms imaginable, increasing his
influence with the passage of time.
Steiner stresses the need of modern human beings not to take this ethical and
cosmic battle as an abstract concept, but to recognize its reality through
wakefulness, through consciousness. Right consciousness is the best weapon
against Ahriman. It is this very wakeful consciousness which has the freedom to
choose between the light forces, rather than choosing the narrow confines of
hardened intellect which fail to transcend the world of the senses in all its
limitations. Thus the ancient religion of Zarathushtra has to be experienced
anew and made relevant for all aspects of human life on earth.
Another realm which is not sufficiently taken into consideration in our lives
is the realm of sound. When a Zoroastrian says his daily prayers and understands
what he prays, he can consider himself fortunate for having had the possibility
to learn the language of our prayers. The force of thought behind the prayer
intensifies the effect.
But the power of sound alone, when the prayers are recited correctly has an
effect too, because the use of the consonants and the vowels and their
combination within the words helps us to connect ourselves with the positive
aspects of the stars and the planets, thereby weakening the negative aspects.
This science of understanding the workings of the spoken word helps us to use
the word as a means of healing education. What is taught is very important, but
even more important is the manner in which it is taught. Within the time given
to me to speak on the subject today, I have tried to make my listeners aware of
one approach to our religion, without going into details of the actual results
such a method of investigation delivers.
You will agree with me when I say that our religion can be understood and
practiced on many levels, depending upon the individual; it is a state of mind.
I am sure there are no two Zoroastrians who have an identical understanding of
the good religion and its practice, but that each one strives to the best of his
efforts and abilities to realize in daily life by one's actions, what one thinks
and feels, so that one's thoughts, words and deeds should be good and in harmony
with the environment.