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appointed time and place; and the stars that shine in the night know where to go when the day is breaking. There is a God who fixed that never-failing law, and on whom it rests for ever.
There is a war in nature because it contains powers that work for good, and powers that work for evil. There are such beings as benefit man, and such beings as injure him; these are good spirits and bad ; they struggle on, never more apparent than in the storm, in which, under our very eyes, the fiend that carries off the light and the fertilising streams of heaven fights with the god who gives them back to man and to the thirsty earth.
There was, therefore, in the Indo-Iranian religion, a latent monotheism and an unconscious dualism, both of which, in the further development of Indian thought, slowly disappeared; but Mazdeism lost neither of these two ideas, and its tendency was to cling strongly and equally to both and to push them to an extreme.*
The war in nature was waged, as we have seen, in a storm. The Vedas describe it as a battle fought by a god, Indra, armed with the lightning and thunder, against a serpent Ahi, who has carried off the dawns or the rivers, symbolically described as spiritual beings, and who keeps them captive in the folds of the cloud. In the Avesta, the serpent becomes Azi Dahaka, a threeheaded dragon, who strives to put out the light, the glory from above. In this mythology, the fiend is not described as a serpent because the serpent is a subtle and crafty reptile, but because the storm-fiend envelops the goddess of light with the coils of the cloud, as with a snake's folds,
In the writings of Zoroaster, the Supreme Being is Ahura Mazda, signifying Omniscient Lord ; the evil principle is sometimes called Druj, sometimes Angra Mainyu, which latter name, or its equivalent form of Ahriman, ultimately prevailed.
To Ahura Mazda was assigned a court of powerful spirits, who were the chief executors of his will, at first indefinite in number, afterwards seven, the Amesha Spentas, or Immortal Holy Ones. These are sometimes regarded as distinct beings, corresponding to the seven archangels of the Jews; sometimes rather as attributes of the Most High, reminding us of the passage in the prophet Zechariah, where we read of the seven eyes (or watchers) of Jehovah which run to and fro through the whole earth,' and of the 'seven spirits before the throne in the
* See The Supreme God in the Indo-European Mythology,' by Professor Darmesteter.—'Contemporary Review,' Oct. 1879.
Revelation of St. John. The names given to the Amesha Spentas signify respectively-Truth, Life, Beneficence, Power, Wisdom, Perfection, Immortality. In later times, the doctrine of angels was largely developed, including a belief in guardian angels named fravashis, which were assigned to all true believers. These are regarded as so linked to men as to form virtually a part of human nature, and to be practically indistinguishable from souls. The fravashi is the ideal man, such as God destined him to become. The word may originally have denoted the spirits of the dead, then the heavenly prototypes of all beings of the good creation ; or, again, the idea is that of the personified conscience of each individual man or woman.
No people outside the direct line of revelation, as the word is generally understood, ever came nearer to monotheism than the Persians. Celsus calls them an inspired race' (ěvdeov έθνος). Hyde, one of the glories of old Oxford, remarks on the peculiar love of God for the Persian people, shown especially in His manifestation of Christ to the Magi. The spiritual character of the religion, in its earlier and purer form, is abundantly testified by the sacred books. Fellowship with God is held forth as the great aim of the future : ‘To the end that our minds may be rejoiced, and our souls may be the best, may our bodies be glorified as well ; and let them, O Mazda, go likewise openly unto heaven; and may we see Thee, and, approaching, come round about Thee, and attain to perfect fellowship with Thee' (Yasna lx. 11).
The kind of offerings which are proposed in the Gâthas are not sacrificial beasts or fruits, but the actions of the devout citizen whose soul is intimately united with righteousness, the homage of prayer and the songs of praise. “And Thou, O Ahura, do Thou Thyself arise to me, arise to give me power and a wide understanding, that I may behold the depth and extent of Thy wisdom; do Thou reveal to me Thy nature, O Ahura, and that of Thy holy: kingdom. ... Thus, as an offering, Zarathustra gives the life of his very body. And he offers likewise, O Mazda, his eminence gained by his holy reputation among the people ; and he offers above all his obedience to Thee in deed and in speech' (Yasna xxxiii. 13, 14). Moreover, it would be but a weak statement of the truth to say that the future rewards held out in the Gâthas were largely, if not chiefly, spiritual. The truth is that the spiritual heaven and hell with which we are now familiar as the only future states recognised by intelligent people
-conceptions which, in spite of their familiarity, can never lose their importance-are not only used and expressed in the Gâthas, but expressed there, so far as we are aware, for the first time in history. Whilst mankind were delivered up to the dread of a
. gross materialistic future replete with horrors, arbitrarily visited upon them from without, the early Iranian sage announced the eternal truth that the rewards of heaven and the punishments of hell are chiefly from within. He gave us, we may fairly say, through the systems which he has influenced, that great doctrine of subjective recompense which must work an essential change in the mental habits of every one who receives it.
The Zoroastrian code of morals is one of the most complete and comprehensive to be found in any system of religion. Not only what we commonly regard as crimes, but laziness, cheating, selfishness, and envy are distinctly defined as such, and their opposites as virtues. Kindness to animals is specially enjoined, and it is considered a sin to ill-treat animals of the good creation, such as cattle, sheep, horses, or dogs, by starving, beating, or unnecessarily killing them. But with true practical wisdom this precept is not carried to an extreme, as in the case of the Brahmans, so as to prohibit altogether the taking of animal life, which is expressly sanctioned when necessary. This sober practical wisdom, or, as Matthew Arnold expresses it, 'sweet reasonableness,' is a very characteristic feature of Zoroaster's teaching, and is remarkable as having been set forth at so early a period in the history of civilisation.
Another precept, which might well be made and enforced by every English Board of Health in this nineteenth century, or by those who have control over our rivers, is never to pollute water by throwing impure matter into it.
The influence of the early Persian faith was for many centuries widespread and powerful, and it has left its mark not only on Judaism and Mohammedanism, but also on Christianity itself.
On this subject there may be an opportunity of saying some words in a second paper. It remains now to speak briefly of the more recent fortunes of the disciples of Zoroaster. In less than a century after the defeat of the Persians by the second successor of Mohammed, nearly all the conquered people were brought over to the faith of their new rulers, either by force or policy, or the attractive power of a simpler form of creed (for their own had in later ages been disfigured by much superstition). But many of those who clung to the faith of their fathers went and
sought abroad for a new home, where they might freely worship in the old accustomed way. That home they found at last among the tolerant Hindus, on the western coast of India, and in the peninsula of Guzerat.
Within the last two centuries they have settled at Bombay, which now contains the bulk of the Parsee people, nearly 90,000 souls. Whilst they have prospered and increased in India, the ranks of their co-religionists in Persia are daily thinning and dwindling away. A century ago, it is said, they still numbered nearly 100,000 ; but there now remain no more than eight or nine thousand, scattered in Yezd and the surrounding villages.
The Parsees of India are honourably distinguished for upright dealing, intelligence, public spirit, and benevolence. They have raised themselves to a prominent position in our Indian empire, and take a leading part in its commerce and industrial enterprise. The chief ship-builder at Bombay, the first great native railway contractor, the founder of cotton factories, are all Parsecs ; and they are found as merchants, traders, and shopkeepers in all the chief towns of British India, and in distant places such as Aden and Zanzibar. They have twenty large commercial houses at Hong Kong, and four in London. Their integrity is proverbial ; and, as in England, they have comparatively few written agreements, the word of a Parsee, like that of an Englishman, being considered as good as his bond. Their high character and practical aptitude for business are attested by the fact that the first mayor or chairman of the corporation of Bombay was a Parsee, who was elected by the unanimous vote both of Europeans and natives.
The position of woman in any community affords one of the surest tests of its civilisation and intrinsic worth. The Parsees in this respect stand high, far higher than any other Oriental people, and in the opinion of some who know them well, on a level with the best European civilisation. The equality of the sexes is distinctly laid down in the Zoroastrian sacred books. Unlike other inhabitants of India, Parsee ladies may be seen everywhere in public, enjoying as much liberty as their sisters in Europe or America. And an eager desire for education is a prominent feature among all classes. Parsee women and girls attend lectures in the higher schools and colleges, a thing which might have been thought impossible in India.
Nor is the Parsee nobleman, Sir Jamsetji Jijibhai, the only example among them of princely munificence in the cause of VOL. 85 (V.--NEW SERIES). 13
wise charity, although his name is probably the best known in this connection. Hardly a year passes without some wealthy Parsee coming forward to perform a work of public generosity. Quite recently, one of their number gave £16,000 towards the establishment of a hospital for women, under the care of ladydoctors, although the benefit of such an institution would be confined principally to Mohammedan and Hindu women, Parsee women having no prejudice against accepting the services of male doctors.
The Parsees are now purely monotheistic, but they retain some singular superstitions. Among the ceremonies attendant on a death is that a dog is brought in to take a last look at his inanimate master, in order to drive away the evil spirits. The dog was always held in honour by their forefathers, unlike his treatment by many Eastern races; and it is remarkable that the first mention of the dog as the companion of man, in any Jewish writing, is in the apocryphal Book of Tobit, a book largely influenced by Persian ideas, where we read (v. 16), 'So they went forth both, and the young man's dog with them.'
The Parsees are said to be the only people in the world who never smoke tobacco, or some other stimulating weed. This is probably owing to their reverence for fire as the emblem of spiritual light. For some thousands of years they have been accustomed to the refinement of finger-bowls after meals, and their attention to personal cleanliness is exemplary. Of their ancient sacred books, the Zend-Avesta, some account shall be given in a future paper.