before Abraham left Ur in Chaldea, the Zend-Avesta religion revered
in ancient Iran a ‘Lord of Lords’, a ‘supreme God’, named Ahura
in Pehlevi, or Middle Persian, as Ormuzd. Ahura Mazda has also
other names, such as Spenta Mainyu, literally: « the Holy
Ahura Mazda reigns
unique over all other, lower ranking, divinities, called ‘Gâthâs’.
Ahura Mazda being a
supreme God, far beyond human reach or understanding, the prayers of
the Zend-Avesta are addressed to the Gâthâs, rather than to Ahura
Mazda, though they are only ‘intermediate divinities’, or more
exactly ’emanations’ of Ahura Mazda.
The Yasna says about the Gâthâs: « All the
worlds, the bodies, the bones, the vital forces, the forms, the
consciousness, the soul, the Phravaṣi, we offer them all and
present them to the Gâthâs, Saints, Lords of time, pure; to the
Gâthâs who are for us supporters, protectors, a food of the
In Avestic, which is
the ancient Iranian language, Ahura means « lord ».
Mazda means « highly learned », according to the
eminent Burnouf, who breaks down the word mazda into maz –
dâ. Maz is a superlative, and dâ means « to
know ». In modern Persian, dânâ means « learned ».
There is also an equivalent in Sanskrit: « mêdhas« .
When asked by
Zoroaster about the meaning of his Name, Ahura
Mazda declared, as reported in the first Yast:
« My name is the
Sovereign, my name is the One who knows ».
Zoroaster did not
stick to this answer and continued to question Ahura Mazda. He urged
him to reveal what is most powerful, most effective against the
Spirit of Evil, Aṅra Mainyu (in Pehlevi: Ahriman),
and against all the demons.
Ahura Mazda replied
that what is most powerful is the names he bears.
And he added:
« My name is the One to be questioned; my second name is the Head of the flock; the Propagator of the law; the excellent Purity; the Good of pure origin; the Intelligence; the One who understands; the Wise; the Growth; the One who increases; the Lord; the One who is most useful; the One who is without suffering; the One who is solid; the One who counts the merits; the One who observes everything; the Helper; the Creator; the All-Knowing (the Mazda) (…). Remember and pronounce these names day and night. I am the Protector, the Creator, the Suspender, the Savior, the Most Holy Celestial Being. My name is the Auxiliary, the Priest, the Lord; I am called the One who sees much, the One who sees far away. My name is the Supervisor, the Creator, the Protector, the Connoisseur. I am called the One who augments; I am called the Dominator, the One who should not be deceived, the One who is not deceived; I am called the Strong, the Pure, the Great; I am called the One who has good science.
and pronounces these names will escape the attacks of demons. »ii
In passing, we note
the obvious analogy of these lines with comparable, but much later,
texts of Judaism, and even later texts of Islam.
Avesta has all the
characteristics of a revealed religion.
First of all, it was
God (Ahura Mazda) who initially revealed himself to the Mazdaites.
Then, the Avesta
refers to a great prophet, Zoroaster, who boasts of having served as
an intermediary between God and man, and who was the great reformer
of Mazdeism. The most recent scientific work shows that Zoroaster
lived before Abraham, between 1400 and 1100 BC. He was the prophet
who transformed the initial dualism of Mazdaism and the multiplicity
of the various Gâthâs into an absolutely transcendental monism,
after having discussed it directly with Ahura Mazda.
between Ahura Mazda and Zoroaster is not without analogy with the
encounter between God and Moses, several centuries later.
From this strident comparison we may derive the following rough alternative.
The « world from
above », the world of the divine, whose variations, analogies and
anagogies, similarities and echoes one tries to identify in the long
history of religious ideas, simply does not exist. The ‘spiritual’
world is really empty, there is no God, and it is the materialists
who are 100% right. So the wars of religion, the sacrifices, the
martyrs, the passions of belief, and all the blood shed today,
yesterday and tomorrow, are all facets of a sinister farce played by
scoundrels or Machiavellian policies at the expense of the
unfathomable naivety of peoples, victims of their credulity and
This farce is continually developed and rewritten over the millennia by the so-called ‘enlightened’, the mad, the deranged, the cynical and the war criminals, all contributing to making this Earth a place without meaning, without past and without future. In this hypothesis, the world would be condemned to self-destruction, moral suicide and absolute violence, as soon as the trickery is finally blown up.
The « world from
above » does indeed exist, in one way or another, but it escapes
our perception, our understanding and intellection. It’s a Mystery,
or the Mystery. In this case, there is a good chance that religions
that have appeared since the dawn of time, such as Shamanism, the
ancient Egyptian religion, Veda, Avesta, Mazdeism, Zoroastrianism,
Chaldaic magic, Orphism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, far from
being able to claim an elective singularity, are as many instances of
various perceptions and intuitions of the divine by man, as many
testimonies of the plurality of possible approaches to the Mystery.
Each one of these
religions represents a unique and special way of understanding the
divine emanation, more or less adapted to the time and the peoples
who receive it.
It would then be
futile to rank or classify religions among themselves. It would be
more productive, particularly from a forward-looking perspective, to
examine the systemic relationships between a given era and the way in
which religious fact is inscribed, at that moment in history, in the
social, cultural, political and economic fabric.
Let us add that the
general state of the world today, unfortunately suggests hat none of
the religions mentioned above is now in a position to claim a
monopoly on the ultimate truth or the final revelation on the
fundamental questions that humanity keeps asking itself since
If such a « world
from above », inaccessible to human reason, does in fact exist,
it also implies that something extremely important, vital, and also
beyond human comprehension, has been at stake for thousands of years
at the core of Mankind, with the active but hidden and (most of the
time) silent complicity of the Divine.
It should be assumed
that since the dawn of humanity there has been a kind of cosmic,
sidereal « great game », whose meaning and purpose are
clearly beyond our grasp, but in which men are invited to take part,
within the limits of their limited means.
Humanity is composed
of generations that fleetingly pass through the earth like insects in
the light on a summer evening. It is therefore very likely that these
successive generations can only apprehend in a deficient way, the
unspeakable challenge of this super-natural arrangement.
But it is possible to assume that successive human generations may from time to time generate in their midst enlightened spirits capable of intuitively perceiving, imaginalement (‘imaginally’), as Henry Corbin would say, the grandiose stake of this divine part.
All we can do in an
era like ours, where materialism seems to pervade everything, is to
refuse to let ourselves be caught up in the trap of preconceived
ideas, to refuse sectarianism, dogmatism, the prisons of thought and
imagination. We can actively contribute, soul by soul, to the slow,
fragile and ungraspable building of the immanent Noosphere, the
collective Unconscious of all humanity.
by Abel Hovelacque,
Avesta, Zoroastre et