Thinking about God and man and our place in the world changed enormously
after Zarathushtra. Up until his teachings, ancient peoples viewed human
history as an endless series of cycles, set in motion by the Gods. The
course of the world was immutable: there were periods of security, of
fertility of the land, of victory in war; but these were always followed by
flood, drought, plague, and defeat. The cycle of recovery and decline
offered no real hope for the future. Many ancient peoples explained these
cycles by referring to one or another of the various combat myths: stories
of divine warriors that enabled humanity to survive by always fighting the
demons that troubled the world. This was a very static view of things: the
idea of progress did not exist. The future was distrusted.
Zarathushtra presented a completely different view. He taught that Ahura
Mazda is a creative force and nature is a process in time with limitless
potential for renovation and transformation. Spenta Mainyu, the
universal force of creativity, is the “self-generating energy that leads to
the creation and evolution of the universe” (F. Mehr, Introduction to the
Gathas). Thus, the process set in motion by God and continued with the
cooperation of humans is one that finds its ultimate meaning and expression
in an endlessly expansive future. Questions of justification are referred to
the future. Our role in this world is to work at creating a human future
that is continuously better and better.
This view of the future and our responsibility in building it has had the
most profound consequences in the history of civilization. When humans do
not understand the reality of progress and the possibility of the future,
they have no motivation toward social action; no enthusiasm for righteous
behavior; no inclination to improve the conditions of life.
the world that Zarathushtra described, humanity could build confidently and
feel justified in making provisions for the future. Struggle and sacrifice
to help create a good society made sense. Education to develop humanity in
developing this world became increasingly important.
Although Zarathushtra opened people’s minds to the future, this radical idea
has been interpreted and reinterpreted in many different ways throughout
history. Zarathushtra inspired thoughts that were often quite different from
his original teachings. Christianity, for example, embraced the idea of
progress but aimed toward the
of Heaven and not at transforming this world.
Zarathushtra’s rejection of the static world-view and his introduction of
the idea that our future can be made better than our present has had such
powerful consequences through the ages that they are impossible to
calculate. Religious movements, philosophical and theological speculations,
political parties—so many have arisen from Zarathushtra’s inspiration. Yet
his original message of future hope is more simple and more profound than
any that have followed: the humanity of the future will be better than the
humanity of the present in ways that we cannot now even imagine. The
God-given capacity for self-creation means that human beings can make their
own world and, indeed, have a responsibility to do so. Despite frequent and
tragic setbacks, we are on a forward course.
 Article featured in the Winter 2002 issue of the
FEZANA journal. Reproduced with permission from the author and the guest
editor of the FEZANA issue, Dr. Mehrborzin Soroushian.