Maybe it’s the statistics, maybe it’s ethnocentrism, but one doesn’t hear too much about Zoroastrianism these days.
The 9th quadrennial World Zoroastrian Congress convened recently to discuss this ancient religion’s future.
The declining number of Zoroastrians was a preoccupying issue: Zoroastrian tradition is endogamous, so conservative delegates talked about making the Zoroastrian equivalent of JDate.com to facilitate marriages within their small population. Whether to accept interfaith families or converts is a divisive issue.
Endogamy (the custom of marriage within a particular group) is a tricky issue: compare the Shakers (the last remaining community has 3 living members) with the Jews (in the millions).
As the oldest known monotheism, Zoroastrian theology predates and influences Judaism, Islam, and Christianity.
These ethics-focused tenets have informed human rights, women’s rights, and eco-friendly practices in Zoroastrianism:
- Humans have the free will to choose between right and wrong/light and dark, represented by Ahura Mazda and Aura Mainyu (respectively).
- Humans can evolve towards perfection by cultivating a good conscience.
- Deeds, words, and thoughts affect lives after death.
- The individual soul is judged after death.
- All humankind will be judged after a general resurrection.
Since tomorrow is Epiphany, it is worth mentioning that scholars think the wise men who visited Jesus at his birth were Zoroastrian priests.
Dualism is an important theme in Zoroastrian theology.
The Zoroastrian concept of dualism is unfairly associated with Manichaeism, which is more of a spin-off than an off-shoot.
Started by Mani, a wandering preacher/self-styled prophet from Mesopotamia, Manichaeism was condemned as a Christian heresy despite its vision of itself as a “new religion.” Mani proclaimed himself last of the prophets (Adam, Zoroaster, Buddha, and Jesus) of ‘true religion’.
Manichaeism was revived in the Middle Ages by sects like the Albigensians, who became targets of one of the lesser-known Christian vs. Christian Crusades.
Zoroastrianism highlights many themes common in human religious experience and philosophy. We’ve still got a lot to learn from one of the world’s oldest monotheistic traditions.
BBC guide to Zoroastrianism
Zoroastrianism is eco-friendly
Zoroastrianism and multicultural identity
A believer’s perspective
Journey of the Magi by T.S. Eliot
Interesting commentary on aforementioned poem
Those magic men the Magi/Some people call them wise/ Or Oriental, even kings/Well anyway, those guys:
Home by Another Way by James Taylor