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THE SUN HIEROGLYPHIC OF GOD,
the monuments of its faith, liturgic books, whose religious practice and civil customs are at once the witness and the commentary.
These books form the breviary of the Parsee priests; they read them continually; it is not rare to meet with Mobeds who recite them from memory. They furnish the basis of divine worship, and of most of the Parsee prayers.
The Zend-avesta differs widely in its character from those treatises in which Zoroaster seems to have developed the philosophy of his faith. These, less interesting to the mass of the people, have fixed the attention of a few disciples: it is this philosophical side which was known to the Greeks and Romans, and we have hitherto formed our ideas
upon theirs. The character revealed by the Zend is that of a legislator, the founder of a religion, an enthusiast; who speaks less to the mind, than to the senses, the imagination, and the heart. The people have preserved these works suited to their own level; the priests have retained them; they form part of the external body of the religion. The Zend books have never, as has been supposed by persons superficially informed in Oriental literature, been called books of Abraham. They contain no quotations from the Psalms, nor a word of the Jews and their patriarchs. The historian Hermippus, praised by Pliny for his exactness, confidently cites works of Zoroaster about 240 or 250
after him. Dion Chrysostome relates the sublime manner in which Zoroaster has celebrated the car of the chief of nature, and ascribed to him the hymns sung by the Magians in the celebration of their mysteries ; and Suidas indicates the different matters treated of in his works.
The learned bishop Eusebius, so profoundly versed in antiquities, in acquainting us with the Persian collection of liturgic books, does not hesitate to name thus the works of Zoroaster.
Those who attach much interest to the question of personal authenticity, may consult farther on this subject the memoir of M. Anquetil Du Perron in the tome trente huitiême de l'histoire de l'académie des sciences et des lettres.
The Magian religion was at first a pure theism ; but as early as the time of Abraham, had become mingled with heterodox notions. They always, however, preserved zealously their faith in the unity of God, and we are not to conclude, from their reverence for the Sun or for fire, that they have ever paid a merely material or sensual worship to this element and this star.
Zoroaster prescribes indeed the rite of turning towards the Sun or
fire in praying, but in the formula and prayers accompanying this direction of the body, they are considered as symbols which assist in the direction of the soul towards the Supreme Being. Amongst some sects water was held in reverence as well as fire; they were forbidden to muddy it, as no filth was to be cast into the fire. The visible and material Sun was recognized by them as the limited providence and dispenser of life to our planetary system, as Ormusd, the Spiritual Sun, was worshiped as the Creator and fountain of inspiration, for the spirits embodied in those organic lives. They have more ceremonies and formulas of preparation, initiation, adoration, and expiation than any other people, and practice all with scrupulous exactitude, however burdensome and fatiguing by their multiplicity and length.
Though not restricted by their law in regard to food, the Parsees, who preserve this worship in India, abstain with the Brahmins from beef, and with the Mahommedan and Jew from pork.
Their marriages are blessed by the priests, and their death-beds consoled by prayers; but no priest approaches the bodies of the dead, which are exposed upon the “tower of silence,” and quickly consumed by birds of prey, that they may not infect fire, water, earth,
They were divided into three classes or grades :
The lowest performed the services of the temple, subject to the authority of the others.
There were three sorts of temples
A Basilisk of the Archmagi, where adorers went to pay their most solemn devotions. *
* Thus the Catholics have oratories, chapels, and cathedrals; and high mass on their solemn occasions is only performed in the cathedrals.
Not to change their prayers or forms of worship.
Not to dwell far from the temples, and to enter them privately and without exhibition.
To guard the sacred fire.
To allow no impure desire in the heart, no perverse thought in the mind.
To shun deceit and falsehood.
To meditate the sacred word, the Zend-avesta, as the only law, whose corruption will be visited by the condign punishment of heaven.
To fear God alone.
To await the day of the Lord's appearance, and be always prepared for it.
To remember Zoroaster to the end of the ages.
To perform acts of beneficence, as the noblest employment of wealth.
To live by one's labor.
The Magian confined himself in marriage to his own sect and even family.
MAXIMS OF THE MAGIAN RELIGION.
Magian doctrines, with the fire worship and open honor of the Sun and heavenly bodies, were established in the Babylonian and Assyrian Empires, and among other people of the East, long before the foundation of the Persian Empire. Zoroaster was only a restorer, or reformer, who regulated its ceremonies and gave laws to its ministers. He established the Pyrea-temples where the sacred fire was preserved.
The destruction of Ahriman (the principle of evil, darkness, ignorance, disorder) being impossible, say the Parsees, there remained only to take from him his influeuce over the creatures whom he besieged, and to fortify them against his attacks. Such is the object of the law brought by Zoroaster, the expression of the word of Ormusd.
The first Apostle of this law was Hom, a celebrated personage, who presided over the distribution of the waters and instructed the animals. He taught men to celebrate the Ferouers,* for whom the world has been produced. His principal occupation, say the Parsees, is still to practise the ceremonies of the law.
You are the first, O great Hom, says Zoroaster, to whom Ormusd has given the Evanguin and the Saddere, useful garments sent from heaven, with the pure law of the Mazdeiesnans. Having girded the Evanguin on high ranges of mountains, you announced the word upon the mountains. Hom, chief of places, chief of streets, chief of cities, chief of provinces.
Zoroaster then teaches that Hom was the first priest of the law which he announces, and that this law was from the beginning practised in Heaven, whence the same Hom received its destructive symbols, the girdle Evanguin, and a species of shirt called Saddere.
But it seems that in the time of Hom, the law had not that apparatus of ceremonies which afterwards accompanied it, and that but few persons followed it.
This induced Ormusd to propose it anew to Djemschid, a son granted to the prayers which Vivengham, his father, had addressed to Hom. The pure Djemschid, says Ormusd, chief of the people and of herds, O holy Zoroaster, is the first man who has consulted me, who am Ormusd, as thou dost, O Zoroaster.
I said to him in the beginning, I, who am Ormusd, submit to my
* The Ferouers are the spiritual principles, divine ideas, and first models of beings.
law pure Djem, son of Vivengham. Meditate it, bear it to your people. But the pure Djem answered me, o Zoroaster, I am not just enough to practise thy law, to meditate on it and to bear it to
Then I said to him, I who am Ormusd, o Zoroaster, if Djem cannot practise my law, meditate it and bear it to men, at least let him render happy the world which belongs to me, let him render my world fertile and abundant, let him care for it and govern it.
Djemschid consented, on condition that under his reign death and evil should disappear from the world, and Ormusd granted this.
This prince practised the substance of the law. Instructed by Hom, he ordered the girdle called Kosti to be worn. The establishment of six feasts, called Gahanbars, is attributed to him. He paid special respect to fire. And the simple law, which recognized one supreme being and two subordinate principles, and whose few feasts and ceremonies recalled the origin and arrangement of the universe, is what is called Poeriodekesch, signifying first law, and its followers, the men of the first law. It sufficed to the favorites of Ormusd. The Ferouers, says Zoroaster of the Poeriodeschans, or men of the first age,
who have been instructed by the ear, these pure ones whose bodies and souls have been submitted to the law, are in the abodes of the saints. I make them izeschne (religious salutation.) Custom had continued, this religion, though not without alterations, to the reign of Gustasp. The fire worship remounted to that of Djemschid, whom, the Boun Dehesh tells us, raised altars to this element. Ke Khosro had the same respect for this element. But there were few Atescgahs or places of fire in Persia before the time of Zoroaster. Its adoration was not an act of necessity, and men not being restrained by fixed externals of religion founded on practices which continually recalled to them the Supreme Being, allied the worship of the first principle with that of the stars, the elements, and evil genii. Some had even substituted the worship of stars for that of the Supreme Being, or adored simply the Dews and idols.
To remedy these abuses, Zoroaster proposed as obligatory the ceremonies before practised freely and sanctioned by custom.
He collected at the same time the doctrines and customs preserved by tradition, those which he held from his Chaldean masters, and those which he believed or pretended to have been communicated to him personally by Hom. This body of doctrine, accompanied by a morality founded in reason and sustained by a pompous apparatus of ceremonies relative to the theological system of Zoroaster, forms the