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Sunday, December 04, 2016
Mazdaism, worship of the Cosmic Good
I may have found a religion whose assumptions most closely approximate my view of the multiverse. That would be the religion brought by Zoroaster. Or whoever it was who composed the Gathas and the Yasna Haptanghaiti...
This based on Almut Hintze, "Monotheism the Zoroastrian Way". I found this piece at a campus library; I do not see it online. There is a summary of Hintze's views here though. Smoke if you got 'em.
According to Hintze, in the Gatha / Yasna cosmos, the cosmos itself is everything. (Much like as it was with Baruch Spinoza.) Ahura Mazda is Spirit and, to a lesser extent, Word within this cosmos - and not outside it; his offspring is Truth. One serves Truth by tending the cosmos like a gardener his garden, weeding out impurity - the Lie (Druj). Fire, as a destructive chemical process, is God's own tool of purification.
As to the issue of "polytheism", this doesn't matter within the theology as extrapolated from the Gathas and the Yasna H. If the god serves truth and purity, it is within the cosmos, so worshipping such a god (if not to excess) doesn't hurt the Good.
If Hintze holds up, I have some observations:
From a Mimetic-Theory standpoint, I note that this view of Life-the-Universe-and-Everything will encourage Iranians on Earth to tend gardens, I mean with plants and stuff, and to make these gardens as ideal as possible. Hence, the Persian Paradise; so renowned, the Jews and Christians modeled their Eden upon it. If this faith was around in Media, it must have influenced the Hanging Garden too - at least the myths of it, which involve the Median-born queen.
The Sasanian Role.
I agree that the Gathas are ancient, and maybe the Yasna too. But I don't know to what extent Zoroaster was responsible for them. I've suspected that the Sasanians found those writings in the East and foisted them upon the West, like so much of their un-Achaemenid culture. Zoroaster was the prophet of the Aryans from the time of Herodotos (400 BC), but at that time the Achaemenids were holding him out as a recent preacher. For Iranians he was a totem, a chosen-prophet, a muhammad. As to polytheism-within-the-world, this looks royally Convenient: a way for official piety to make its peace with the popular (hinterland) Aryan religions.
For context, when the Sasanians took over Iraq, there were already Christians there developing a theology. In the West, between Nestorius and Chalcedon, the apologists there had vindicated the Church of the East's budding dyotheletism. The Christians thereby had the moral basis to preserve truth(s) against tyrants - at least in the West, and the Eastern Church was assuredly going to catch up with them. Any rival to that was going to have to figure out a theology of its own, and Manichaeanism wasn't going to fit that bill - it was already failing everywhere. Besides Manih had relied too hard on the Semitic religions and the Sasanians needed something for Iran.
So here was the Sasanian response: the Semites' transcosmic god cannot exist; what they worship opposes the "god of this world" and is therefore an agent of the Lie. If it's a book and a prophet they expect... let us look... oh here's some! All of it's really old so you know it's legit.
And then in 450 AD the mobeds changed their minds again: Mazda was a transcosmic god after all.
The Big Bang happened and therefore we know we inhabit a universe, a bounded four-dimensional spacetime. If a similitude thou seekest, thou mayst find it in CS Lewis' Out of the Silent Planet: whoever be the prince of this world, this world is all he got. But outside our bounded cosmos other Gods can exist so - by Murphy's Law - do. That means Lovecraft was right, too, which sucks for us. More: even if the Other Gods never do tear us apart with their rugose tentacles, our universe is damned to entropic death. But there does, still, remain a transcosmic point of pilgrimage, through the chaos and damnation.
So the Zoroastrian assumptions are correct but, where applied to this world, incomplete. Their programme to "tend the garden" is futile. A better theology would be to find a god willing to guard us against Tiamat as we travel on our way. The Abrahamic traditions claim that they have found one.
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