The objective of this
study is to discuss and determine the most appropriate concept that
describes the message of Zarathushtra. This is in accordance to what he
intended to teach. In this sense, several terminologies will be analyzed
to find out the one that best fits such a definition within the frames of
the Gathic teachings. Pre-Gathic and Post-Gathic elements will not be
considered in this essay.
The terminologies involved
in this discussion are: religion, philosophy, and consciousness.
Philosophy and Zarathushtrianism.
When the following
concepts, stated by The Standard Encyclopedic Dictionary are studied:
Science that deals with the inquiry into the most comprehensive principles
of reality in general, or of some sector of it, as human knowledge or
human values. The love of wisdom, and the search for it (Greek).
A student or specialist in philosophy. Lover of wisdom (Greek).
It can be affirmed without
the slightest shadow of doubt that besides being a religious person,
Zarathushtra was the first historically known philosopher. It can be found
in many stanzas of the Gathas songs that Zarathushtra promotes the love
for wisdom, which meets the concepts previously depicted.
The name of Zarathushtra's God "Ahura Mazda" is a compound
one. Ahura, means Existing or Self-Existing One and Mazda means Wisdom;
also known as Lord Wisdom. For Zarathushtra, God is the personification of
a Super Intellect or Universal Wisdom.
The Philosophical Attitude.
For Albornoz (1998) this attitude is fundamentally
speculative. Speculation, as indicated by its etymology (specus-caverna)
means getting from itself. Speculation is a way of intuitive apprehension.
The speculative thought starts from experience, but does not remain in it.
It transcends, searching for universal relators. The philosophical
attitude is characterized by a permanent search for eternal questioning. A
questioning where the questions are more essential than the answers. In
this regard, Heidegger (1965) said that philosophy is an extraordinary
questioning for the extraordinary.
Zarathushtra has shown
a philosophical attitude; he was not limited in his questioning. This
affirmation is evident in the following stanza:
“I realized You, God
Wise, to be progressive when I was encircled by it (enlightenment) through
good mind and it asked: "Who are you? To whom do you belong? How would
you, in these days of questioning, explain the directives to the living
and to yourself?" (Gatha Song 8.7).
In addition in Gatha
Song 9 each stanza represents a question. In the Ushtavaiti Gatha itself,
there are 20 stanzas of questioning. In general, I have counted a total
of 69 straight questions in the whole Gathic document.
The knowledge that a philosopher is looking for can be
qualified as wider and more profound than the usual. This wish of
amplitude and the spirit of depth constitute the best virtue of a
philosopher and allow the submission of everything to a rigorous
For Plato, a philosopher is contemplative “embracing all
beings, seeing the eternal, the immutable, its ideas and essences and
expresses it in definitions”. In the case of Zarathushtra, this type of
knowledge can be seen in a well known stanza:
“This I ask You, tell
me truly, Lord. Who is the foremost creator and parent of righteousness?
Who made the sun and the stars in their paths? Who makes the moon wax and
wane? I am, Wise One, eager to know all this and more. (Song 9.3)
Zarathushtra obviously presented a philosophical attitude
as determined through the analysis of his Gathic writings.
The search for Wisdom and Truth.
One of the main characteristics of a philosopher is the
search for truth. Karl Jasper (1958) said that “philosophy is to go in a
journey. Its questions are more essential than its answer and every answer
becomes a new question. This journey brings the possibility of acquiring
happiness and achieving this reality. This is the main concept of
philosophy”. In addition, Rene Descartes affirmed that “philosophy is by
definition, the love and procurement of wisdom.
A traditional anecdote
written by Diogenes Laercio in “Lives and Opinions of Great Philosophers”
says that Pythagoras was the first to mention the word philosophy, calling
himself a philosopher in a conversation at Sicion with Leonte, tyrant of
Sicionans. It also has been accepted that the first thinker that used this
word with significance was Heraclitus, who wrote the following fragment:
“It is necessary that the lovers of wisdom (philosophers) are well
instructed in many things”.
The time of Pythagoras has
been placed in 580-500 BC and Heraclitus in 535-475 BC. Zarathushtra’s
search for wisdom began long before these times. In the first stanza we
can detect this effort to find wisdom:
“Mazda, Wise God, with a
bow and uplifted arms, I pray. First, I ask for support through
progressive mentality. Then I pray that I may perform all my actions,
based as they are on the wisdom of good mind, precisely according
to the laws of righteousness so that I please You and the soul of the
Living World” (Song 1.1).
In addition to this stanza
there are several other stanzas in the Gathas in which the manifestation
of Zarathushtra’s search for wisdom is clear:
One, shall those days dawn which will, for the maintenance of the
righteous world, motivate the wisdom of the benefactors with
advanced teachings. To whom shall this wisdom come with good mind to
help? For myself, Lord, I choose Your teachings”. (Song 11.3)
“….To whom shall the
wisdom of good mind come?” (Song 13.11)
“Wise One, where
are Your devotees who comprehend good mind, and despite retrogression
and failure, attend to inherited doctrines with wisdom? I have none
besides You. Therefore, protect me and my people through righteousness.”
“And may we be among
those who make this life fresh! You, lords of wisdom, who bring
happiness through righteousness, come, let us be single-minded in the
realm of inner intellect.” (Song 3.9)
In the book “The Hymns of
Zarathushtra” by Jacques Duchesne-Guillermin (1992), there appears a
statement of Mlle Simone Pétrement who says: “I do not know why scholars
avoid with a kind of horror representing Zoroaster as a philosopher or
having anything, however little, to do with philosophy. Yet if there is an
abstract and philosophical thought, it is indeed his. Why should one not
recognize it? Because it is very ancient? Everything is more ancient
than one thinks, even, and especially, philosophy. Before we ask ourselves
in what sense (obviously rather a different one from that inherited from
the Greek thinkers) the term philosopher is applicable to Zoroaster.”
Religion and Zarathushtrianism.
Hundreds of different definitions of religion exist, each
reflecting either a scholarly or a DOGMATIC bias depending as a last
resort on the PRESUPPOSITIONS of the person making the definition.
Religion contains intellectual, RITUAL, SOCIAL and ETHICAL elements, bound
together by an explicit or implicit BELIEF in the REALITY of an unseen
world, whether this belief is expressed in SUPERNATURALISTIC or IDEALISTIC
terms. A number of the more common definitions are in a final attachment.
However, for our study I will summarize the concepts of religion in the
definitions proposed by The American Heritage
Dictionary Of The English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000.
These concepts are as
Belief in and reverence
for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of
the universe. In includes a personal or institutionalized system
grounded in such belief and worship.
The life or condition of
a person in a religious order.
A set of beliefs,
values, and practices (rituals) based on the teachings of a spiritual
A cause, principle, or
activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion.
In Dr. Ali Jafarey’s
translation of the Gathas, the word religion is written in 10 occasions.
In his writings, Dr. Jafarey acknowledges that the teachings of
Zarathushtra can be called as “The Good Religion”. Following are the
stanzas to support the affirmation:
“…we shall convince the
barbarians to choose the right [religion].” (Song 1.5)
“…It is the
religion of the benefactors by which good deeds lead only through
righteousness to happiness….” (Song 7.13)
“This I ask You, tell
me truly, Lord. How shall I enliven for myself the religion the Master
of Beneficent Sovereignty teaches me? (Song 9.9)
“…religion is the
best for the living which promotes the world through righteousness,
and polishes words and actions in serenity.”(Song 9.10)
“…How does serenity
come to those to whom, Wise One, Your religion is taught?.” (Song
“…every person, who
has linked his religion with good mind through devotion and
invocation, is a noble person of serenity through righteousness.” (Song
“… the religion
which belongs to a Godlike person. (Song 14.6)
“… the religion which
God has granted to the benefactor. (Song 17.2)
It is well known that
in general, many religions include in their practices ritualistic aspects.
In this regard, Dr. Jafarey explains that “the Gathas do not furnish us
with an institutionalized religion, which is subject to
fossilization. Fossils have their archeological and ecological values and
meanings; fossilized ritual, especially in unintelligible languages,
archaic actions, and rigid rules do not have much in them”.
The primal principles
of life taught by Zarathushtra do not offer guidelines for rituals or
ceremonies. In this respect, Dastur Dr. Maneckjee N. Dhalla said “Ritual
is not a religion; but it is a powerful aid to religious life. It feeds
the emotional nature of man which plays the most prominent part in
religious life. It inspires devotional fervor and purity of thoughts.”
Dr. Jafarey continues
saying that “Rituals, in itself, are neither bad nor good. If our rituals
are true to the teaching of Zarathushtra, if they are beautiful and
inspiring, leading us to a deeper understanding of and commitment to the
Good Religion, then they are good. But if they are unintelligible, if they
are devoid of meaning, if they do not impart the truths of the religion to
the faithful, then they are worse than useless.”
The Gathas do not
prescribe rigid rituals, but show us the way to sublime ceremonies in
every walk of life. Ceremonies that are flexible and allow changes to
adapt to modern times and cultures.
As we have seen, the
Gathic view of Zarathushtrianism offers a unique perspective as a rational
religion, which does not forget to praise and offer devotions to the Lord
The Proposal for Zarathushtra.
Zarathushtra, as shown in Dr. Jafarey’s translation of the
Gathas, proposed the compound term of Daena Vañuhi for the
conceptualization of his teachings.
According to Dr. Jafarey,
these concepts can be explained in the following manner:
from di, “to see, conceive, perceive,” is a person’s
inner-perception, the conscience. It also stands for one’s chosen
religion. Zarathushtra named the religion he founded as Daena Vañuhi,
the Good Conscience.
meaning “the Good
Conscience” is the name given to the religion Asho Zarathushtra founded.
It is the inner-perception of a wise, discerning person which should guide
him well on the path of righteousness. And since a true perception must be
universal in validity, Daena, particularly in plural, means
religion of “Good Conscience”, or simply the “Good Religion”.
It is very important to
determine the meaning of Conscience or Consciousness and the meaning of
Perception, since these terms seem to offer the key to explain the roots
that can lead to a better understanding of the conceptual frame of
The Dictionary of
Philosophy of Mind defines perception as "A means of distinguishing how
things are from how a cognizer thinks they are". And the Cambridge
Dictionary of American English explains it as "an awareness of things
through the physical senses esp. Sight”; and as "a thought, belief, or
opinion, often held by many people and based on appearances. Even though
he had done nothing illegal, the public's perception was that he had acted
dishonestly, and he was forced to resign".
Dr. Sam Kerr (Sydney,
Australia) in an excellent essay called “The Philosophical Concept of
Consciousness in Zarathushtra’s Teachings” explains that “Consciousness
is the capacity to sense existence and value. It is a
notion that is recognised with the world around us and in our personal
experience. It naturally follows on the appraisal that accompanies the
experience of existence. The core sense of being “Conscious,”
involves a subjective condition of Access Consciousness,
which occurs when we are able to access or perceive through our
senses the world around us in a generalised state of alertness or
arousal. We are, then, able to respond or imagine i.e. when we are not in
deep sleep, in coma or under anaesthesia. Another form, a Phenomenal
Consciousness occurs when we are aware that we have a subjective
experience or feeling of phenomena, happenings andevents around us. A
third sense of (Objective) Consciousness is the awareness of our
being in a conscious state”.
Some concepts related to conscience and
consciousnesses have been used by several authors. These concepts are
State of Mind or State of being. Examples will be brought to our
Ervad Dr. Jehan Bagli,
in his paper titled “On the Fire of Aramaiti”, explained that “It is
through Aramaiti that we attain compassionate thinking, words and
actions”. And he added: “This is the state of Mind that harmonizes:
The Human mentality with the Spenta Mainyu, the Holy Mentality and The
Human Will with the will of God”.
Another example we can
find in an interesting article written by Dina G. McIntyre, called
“Zarathushtra’s Paradise: In this World and the Next”. She said that
“Zarathushtra's paradise of the spirit is not a geographic location. In
the Gathas heaven is not a physical place to which we go after we die. It
is the state of being that occurs when we have achieved completely,
God's divine values”.
of Mind or State of Being present three levels that can be considered:
Personal Level, Social Level and Daenic Level.
It is necessary to
note that at the three levels we have to take into account the interaction
of the Primal Principles of life in the configuration of those levels. Let
us remember that the primal principles of life are: Asha: Righteousness;
Vohumana: Good Mind; Seraosha: Intuition; Spenta Mainyu: Progressive Mind;
Vohu-Khashathra: Ideal Society; Haurvatat: Perfection; and Ameretat:
Immortality. All of these principles are inter-related among them and with
stages of consciousness, state of mind or state of being.
The Personal Level.
It represents the personal growth in the understanding of the primal
principles of life. The perfecting process of the perception in each
person until he or she is aligned with the ultimate truth. It is a form
of awareness that develops with the experience of the person in the same
measure in which he or she matures by acquiring experience.
The Social Level.
This level can be best described by a term used by Zarathushtra known as
Vohu-Khshathra or Ideal Society. Many individuals with a sense of mission
to create a better society are united at this level in order to achieve
higher goals. It is just the result obtained by the addition of the
various individual's consciousness. In this case, Vohu-Khshathra in the
Gathic view represents the collective human awareness or collective best
consciousness of humans.
The Personal and
Social Level run in an intimate parallel dimension. The more perfection an
individual acquires the more conscious or aware he/she is about his/her
role in the making of an ideal society (at the social level).
The Daenic Level.
This level may be beyond human understanding sometimes. However, it can be
reached by human beings and societies when they complete their perfecting
process and learn to be conscious of their role in the universe. It means
the full comprehension of the laws of creation. I relate this level to the
terms suggested by Zarathushtra as Haurvatat (perfection) and Ameretat
(immortality). Once we have learned the principles of life and have
perfection at the personal and social level, we can move to the Daenic
Level. I would like to quote Dina G. McIntyre, who said:
“When we have
succeeded in perfecting these divine values, in ourselves, and have
learned all the lessons life has to offer, we ultimately achieve
completeness and immortality. We become one with God.”
For a better
understanding in Figure 1 is shown a process of development that initiates
at the inner-self of the individual level and when he/she realizes the
inter-connections with other more expanded levels of consciousness he/she
can achieve the Daenic Level. It is a process of mental and spiritual
growth that implies the acknowledgement and respect of Universal Laws
(Primal Principles of Life).
Figure 1. The Three Levels of
Consciousness and the Primal Principles of Life
about the existence of the Daenic Level. In several occasions He makes
reflections that suggest my affirmation, and here are two: “I ask this:
How does a person, who strives for promoting the power of house,
district, or land with righteousness, becomes, Wise Lord, like You,
and by what deeds?” (Song 4.16)
“And may that person
get much good who teaches us the straight paths of progress. May he,
in his physical and mental life, truly attain the existence where God
dwells, for, Wise One, he is like You; sincere, noble, and
progressive”. (Song 8.3)
From my reflections
performed through the present study, I have concluded that Daenâ Vañuhi is
the best concept to explain Zarathushtrianism as a whole. Its components
go from the individual to the collective and then reach universal
principles. Philosophy and Religion also do a good job to explain
Zarathushtrianism with their own perspectives, but they are partial
explanations of the whole picture. I would place religion and philosophy
as parts of a more profound concept explained by Daenâ Vañuhi. In
this sense it is admirable to encounter the clarity of Zarathushtra in his
approach to the Gathic message.
It can be said that
perception plays an important part in how people conceive the message
contained in the Gathas. Thus, we can talk about a philosophical,
religious or daenic perception. However, I believe that the teachings of
Zarathushtra have a scope that is beyond the frontiers offered by both
religion and philosophy. The Daenic level provides with increasingly
expanded perceptions of reality and it is possible for those with an
expanded awareness to understand and live realities of the other levels.
At the Daenic level perception completely meets Asha (the ultimate truth).
The important thing to
acknowledge is that whatever our perception or concept is, we have to
respect other people’s views in our personal and social growth, as this is
an important practice to reach the Daenic level.
Finally, it is also of
importance to know that the levels of consciousness obey to a process of
natural or universal evolution (Spenta Mainyu), which is not limited to a
community and does not have under any circumstance social or individual
preferences. It is a systematic process that touches lives everywhere on
this planet. It is life in itself.
A Compilation of
BERGER, Peter - "the human
enterprise by which a SACRED cosmos is established."
DURKHEIM Emile - "a
unified system of BELIEFS and practices relative to SACRED things."
FRAZER, James - "a
propitiation or conciliation of powers superior to man which are believed
to direct or control the course of NATURE and human life."
HEGEL, George - "the
knowledge possessed by the finite mind of its NATURE as ABSOLUTE mind."
JAMES, William - "the
BELIEF that there is an unseen order, and that our supreme GOOD lies in
harmoniously adjusting ourselves thereto."
KANT, Immanuel - "the
recognition of all our duties as divine commands."
MARX, Karl - "the
SELF-conscious and SELF-feeling of man who has either not found himself or
has already lost himself again... the general theory of the world... its
logic in a popular FORM... its moral sanction, its solemn completion, its
universal ground for consolation and justification. It is the fantastic
realization of the human essence..."
- "a feeling for the infinite" and "a feeling of ABSOLUTE dependence."
SMART, Ninian - "a set of
institutionalized RITUALS with a TRADITION and expressing and/or evoking
sacral sentiments directed at a divine or trans-divine focus seen in the
context of the human phenomenological environment and at least partially
described by MYTHS or by myths and doctrines.
STARK, Rodney - "any
socially organized pattern of BELIEFS and practices concerning ultimate
meaning that assumes the EXISTENCE of the SUPERNATURAL."
WHITEHEAD, Alfred North -
"what the individual does with his own solitariness."
WEBER, Max - "to say what
it is, is not possible... the essence of religion is not even our
concern, as we make it our task to study the conditions and effects of a
particular type of SOCIAL BEHAVIOR."
DICTIONARY OF ENGLISH- The belief in and worship of a god or gods, or any
such system of belief and worship
WEBSTER DICTIONARY (from
religo, to bind anew; re and ligo, to bind). This word seems originally to
have signified an oath or vow to the gods, or the obligation of such an
oath or vow, which was held very sacred by the Romans.
1. Religion, in its most
comprehensive sense, includes a belief in the being and perfections of
God, in the revelation of his will to man, in man's obligation to obey his
commands, in a state of reward and punishment, and in man's
accountableness to God; and also true godliness or piety of life, with the
practice of all moral duties. It therefore comprehends theology, as a
system of doctrines or principles, as well as practical piety; for the
practice of moral duties without a belief in a divine lawgiver, and
without reference to his will or commands, is not religion.
2. Religion, as distinct
from theology, is godliness or real piety in practice, consisting in the
performance of all known duties to God and our fellow men, in obedience to
divine command, or from love to God and his law. James 1.
3. Religion, as distinct
from virtue, or morality, consists in the performance of the duties we owe
directly to God, from a principle of obedience to his will. Hence we often
speak of religion and virtue, as different branches of one system, or the
duties of the first and second tables of the law.
Let us with caution
indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion.
4. Any system of faith and
worship. In this sense, religion comprehends the belief and worship of
pagans and Mohammedans, as well as of Christians; any religion consisting
in the belief of a superior power or powers governing the world, and in
the worship of such power or powers. Thus we speak of the religion of the
Turks, of the Hindus, of the Indians, &c. as well as of the Christian
religion. We speak of false religion, as well as of true religion.
5. The rites of religion;
in the plural.
José. 1998. Nociones Elementales de Filosofía. Vadell Hermanos,
Jehan. “On the Fire of Aramaiti”. In www.vohuman.org
Maneckjee N. 1938. The History of Zarathushtrianism.
Jacques. 1992. The Hymns of Zarathushtra. Facsimile edition of the work
originally by John Murray in 1952. Charles E. Tuttle Company, Inc, of
Vermont & Tokio, Japan, with editorial offices at 77 Central Street.
Boston, Massachusetts 02109.
M. 1965. ¿Qué es eso de Filosofía? Edit.
Sur. Buenos Aires.
Ali. 1989. The Gathas, Our Guide. Published by Ushta.
Ali. 1992. Zarathushtrian Ceremonies. Published by Ushta.
Jasper. 1958. Filosofía. Edit. F.C.E. México.
Sam. “The Philosophical Concept of Consciousness in Zarathushtra’s Teachings”.
Dina G. “Zarathushtra’s
Paradise: In this World and the Next”.
Standard Encyclopedic Dictionary. Funk & Wagnalls. A Division of Reader’s
Books, Inc. Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 66-26533