Dualism in Zoroastrianism and why Goodness is independent of evil
Before we examine dualism in Zoroastrianism, I shall emphasize that the ancient Zoroastrian religion like any other philosophy and/or religion must be understood on its own terms and context.
To label Zoroastrian beliefs with biblical or Judeo-Christian notions such as dualism and polytheism is dull and senseless.
The Zoroastrian vision shows a remarkable degree of coherence and consistency. Monism, dualism and polytheism represent each an essential part of the Zoroastrian theology and are ALL so closely intertwined in the Zoroastrian religion that it is impossible to separate them from each other.
To begin with, Zoroastrianism is based on the Monism of spirit/mind. The material universe (gätig) is derived from the universe of spirit/mind (menög.)
In fact, everything in the countless worlds is originated in the realm of spirit/mind. The Avestan root man denotes “spirit/mind, will power, sensuous force, fiery passion.”
The supreme god of Zoroastrianism Mazdá, is the paradigm of “spirit/mind, will power, sensuous force, fiery passion, creativity and imagination.”
Mazdá and/or Ma(n)zdá (*mens-dheh-) incorporates the Indo European noun *mens of the stem ménos (spirit/mind, will power, sensuous force) and the verb dheh “to set, establish, do, create.” (Courtesy of Didier Calin)
Hence, Mazdá means “setting mind power, spirit, sensuous force, fiery passion to do, create.” Mazdá can be compared with the Vedic Meðá. (Courtesy of Didier Calin)
In the poetic gathas, the Aryan prophet asks Mazdá to give him the gift or quality of being like Mazdá, (See Yasna 34.13, 3rd rhymed verse line and Yasna 40.1, 1st rhymed verse line.)
Mazdá creates by his superb mind power “Vôhü Manö.” Vôhü represents “radiance, brightness, goodness.”
In the poetic gathas, Vôhü Manö is the same as Speñtá Mainyü “splendid, auspicious, brightly illuminated mind energy, (See Yasna 34.2, 1st rhymed verse line, Yasna 44.7, 5th rhymed verse line and Yasna 47.2, 1st rhymed verse line.)
Mazdá creates through his bright, good thoughts. Ma(n)zdá thinks all splendid, wondrous things into existence, his creation is ex ménos.
The Speñtá Mainyü or “splendid, auspicious, brightly illuminated mind energy” is primary and original, (See Yasna 28.1, 2nd rhymed verse line.)
The will power, mind energy or sensuous force is in essence “vigorous, bright, auspicious and good.”
In the poetic gathas, mind/spirit or sensuous force is on an odyssey of eternal progress, happy discovery and exploration. Mazdá Ahûrá (God) is the paradigm of this progressive journey of “mind energy, creativity and sensuous force.”
Evil on the other hand is fear, grief and anguish of mind and low spirits (Avestan aká manah.) The chief epithet of evil, Añgrá means “agony, narrowness, limitation, gloom.”
Añgrá appears without mainyü or the word for “mind energy” in the poetic gathas, (See Yasna 44.12 and Yasna 45.2.)
The poetic gathas and Zoroastrianism, see Evil in weakening of the Will Power, the draining of the sensuous force, limitation and narrowness of spirit/mind, (See the Varsht-mánßar commentary of Yasna 32.7, 2nd rhymed verse line and Yasna 44.5, 3rd rhymed verse line.)
When the spirit/mind or sensuous force wishes not to rise and ascend, as it is true and original to its nature, evil and gloom ensue.
The Avestan term for that is “nöit ereš višyátá” when the wish desire is not right, (See in Yasna 30.5.) Avestan ereš means “right” as well as “arise” “ascend.” The prophet masterfully plays with poetic words here. The true nature of spirit/mind is to ascend/rise and NOT to become limited and narrow.
Hence evil is connected to lie or drûj. The Avestan word drûj means literally “a tangle of trickery, deceit and lies.” Evil is what is not original and real.
Hence, evil has NO material creation that would correspond to the creativity of spirit/mind and/or fiery passion of the will power. Evil is a draining of the sensuous force and as such has only a parasitic existence. Evil cannot create but only afflict and entangle.
The demonic powers or daævás are expressions or faces (čithr) of aká manah or “beaten/anguished mind,” (See Yasna 32.3, 1st rhymed verse line.)
While brightness/goodness of the mind energy creates the life force, the anguish and stagnation of the spirit/mind negates vigor and vitality, (See Yasna 30.4, 2nd rhymed verse line.)
The Zoroastrian lore accounts that Mazdá Ahûrá counseled añgrá to convert back to brightness, radiance and vigor. Yet, añgrá (narrowness, limitation) chose to stay in his gloom, frustration and agony.
As I stated earlier, Zoroastrianism teaches that everything in essence is “mind energy, sensuous force and passionate will.”Mazdá Ahûrá or God is the paradigm of this eternal progress of “creativity, mind-will power.”
However, when the mind energy stagnates and refuses to progress and evolve; evil enters the word.
This stagnation of creativity and limitation of will power, is something that spirit/mind could suffer in its odyssey to greatness and eternal progress.
It is a suffering due to lack of knowledge, foresight and vision, (See Yasna 30.3, 3rd rhymed verse line and the Südgar commentary on Yasna 46.10, 5th rhymed verse line.)
But because limitation/narrowness is untrue to the inherent “fiery passion, splendor, brightness” of the mind energy and creativity; evil is only temporary.
The ages of this this world will bring about the timeless triumph of the spirit, (See Yasna 44.17, 2nd rhymed verse line.)
Limited vision of evil will see the excellence, luminosity and goodness of Mazdá, (See Yasna 49.1, 2nd rhymed verse line.)
Immortality will win over the demonic gods and mortal men, (See Yasna 48.1, 3rd rhymed verse line.) A splendid, fresh age of eternal progress of the worlds will usher in; where all limitations will be overcome and creation will become pristine and godlike, See Yasna 28.11, 3rd rhymed verse line.)
Comment from an insightful reader “Goodness is the only investment that doesn’t fail,” Henry David Thoreau. I feel this quote truly embodies the Zoroastrian perspective. In a world where evil seems to overpower the good, it is reassuring to know that evil is not constant but only temporary. In this vast experience we all share known as life we do not stop moving forward we only hit little road bumps here and there. Furthermore, the repeated theme of good thoughts and good beliefs is very evident through Mazdá being able to create goodness through his thoughts. Not only this, but also the ideology that we must be constantly evolving and progressing for goodness is truly invigorating. We as a people must be open to ideas and experiences and allow goodness in our hearts. All people should actively spread goodness for not only a happy life, but a happy world.
ahriman is not creative. ahriman or the evil spirit of agony only spoils, plagues and afflicts. It is Not creation but degeneration and mutation
a very positive hopeful message of victory is in this lovely article-thank you
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