« VorigeDoorgaan »
his followers, to be “all things to all men." The funda-
Any attempt to give a synopsis of the magian system would be fruitless, since most accounts confound it with the system of Zoroaster. Thus, Aristotle, Hermippus, Eudoxus,
* Vide Hyde, c. 8, 29.
# Strabo, lib. xv.
+ Prideaux, p. 223.
Theopompus,* and Plutarch, though giving lengthy developments on the religion of the magi, invariably treat us to the philosophic figments of Zoroaster. Abulfeda, an Arabian writer,t gives a far clearer though more succinct account of Magianism. He says that the ancient religion of the Persian magi was based on the veneration of light as the principle of goodness, and the avoidance of darkness as the principle of evil; that our body, weighing us down to the gross pleasures of earth, inclines us to darkness, but our soul, the seat of intelligence, tènds upwards and to the light; that our unhappiness proceeds from this antagonism within ourselves, which will not cease till dissolution has taken place; and, as our deserts may determine, we shall find eternal
peace in the bosom of light, or grope for ever in Cimmerian darkness. We here miss the emanations of Zoroaster, which were evidently borrowed from the Hindoos, and are led to infer that at this period the system of Persian religion was altogether indigenous, and in no way indebted to the Hebrews or the Hindoos. Moreover, we see no mention made of Mizra, or the supreme principle on which, according to Zoroaster, the secondary principles of light and darkness are dependent. Hyde, however, is of opinion that the magi believed in the supremacy of one God, but that through excessive reverence for his name they omitted the mention of it in their writings. Here, as in other things, Hyde has shown himself the warm champion of the Persians, and often the charge has been preferred against him that he attached more weight to the sacred writings of the ancient Persians than to the utterances of the Holy Scripture. Notwithstanding that many volumes have been written on the religion of the magi, little can be learned of those points in which it differed from the system of Zoroaster
Many historians maintain that the philosophy of Zoroaster not simple dualism like the Manicheism of some early Christians, but that he admitted one supreme deity, called Mithra, the source and principle of all existing things. This opinion is based on some obscure references in the Zendavesta to the Great Mithra, who controls the struggles of Ahriman and Ormuzd, and has determined the day which will bring victory to the latter. Beausobref and Hyde, on this ground, claim for the follow
Laert, lib. i. sec. 8. † Vide Pocock, Specim. Histor. Arab.,
| Beausobre, chap. XX., p. 161.
ers of Zeratusht a purer form of worship than is generally accorded by those who look upon them as mere fire-worshippers. Granting the greater probability that Ahriman and Ormuzd were the subordinate agents of the great Mithra, and that their struggle was carried on in conformity with his designs, yet these were the every-day deities at whose shrines the people paid devotion; there they respectively feared and loved and strove to win their favor.
Although the Zendavesta bas formed the subject of various commentaries, few are of accord in their views of the tendency and nature of the doctrines contained in it, Hyde, Bayle, and Prideaux insisting on discordant opinions. This. disagreement arises from the numerous Arabic interpolations, which render it difficult to distinguish the genuine text from what is spurious, and the difficulty is increased on account of the many Zoroasters who have lived at widely different epochs. Indeed, so obscure is the question of the identity of the author of Zendavesta that Greek, Mahometan, and Jewish writers differ in the most unaccountable way. Eutychius* and Abulpharaiust make him coeval with Cambyses, though. Brucker, together with Pocock, considers that he flourished at a period long prior to the time of Cyrus; and this opinion is strengthened by the discovery of a sacred Persian book entitled Ladder, which bears the mark of extreme antiquity in its style, and which thus speaks of the Zendavesta. We give Hyde's translation into Latin verse :
“ Zeratusht attulit religionem rectam
Nemo debet in hac religione esse remissus
Unde religio ejus in mundo celsa evasit.” But passing over this unsatisfactory question we will give a few propositions from the Zendavesta, divested of the allegorical drapery in which Zoroaster has clothed his doctrines, and thus we will be able to form a more distinct idea of the moral and metaphysical bearing of the Zendean philosophy:
“I. From nothing nothing comes.
“II. Therefore from all eternity a certain infinite principle has existed from whose bosom all existing ags have sprung.
“III. Since the emanation supposes the utmost life and power in its source, and since we can conceive nothing more perfect in those respects than fire, therefore fire is the eternal principle from which all things have emanated,
* Annal. Alexandrin., T. i., p. 263. † Dynast. v.
Bruckeri Historia Critica Philosophia, T. i., lib. ii., cap. iii.; De Philosophia Persarum, p. 145.
“IV. Whereas, there exists an irreconcilable diversity between spiritual and material natures, the two first emanations from fire, the one spiritual, the other material, must be arrayed against each other in ceaseless strife, a strife which is typified in the struggle between Ahriman and Ormuzd.
“ V. Since spiritual natures, in virtue of their greater perfection, are nearer to the source of their emanation, they partake more of the characteristics of that source, and hence the greater mobility and subtility of spirits.
“VI. Matter has emanated at the greatest distance from its source, and consequently is dark and inert.
“VII. This inertness is the result of the manner of emanation, and not intrinsic to the substance evolved.
“ VIII. Therefore the imperfections of matter did not proceed from God, but are the accidental conditions of its mode of evolution.”
We here find some important propositions as disclosing the acquaintance Zoroaster has had with the writings of the Jews and the Hindoos. The monotheistic principle on which this system rests is evidently borrowed from Moses, while the notion of emanation savors of the pantheism of the Hindoos, though it is much more philosophical than the crude idea of self-multiplication held by the latter. Indeed, nothing could be more ingenious than the way in which'the Supreme Deity is vindicated from the charge of imperfection, by referring the evils which exist in the world to the mode and not to the principle of emanation. This difficulty the Manicheans felt acutely, and though Bayle in taking their part exhausted his ingenuity to explain the apparent incongruity of good and evil in the world, he suggested no explanation half so simple and philosophical as that of Zoroaster. Besides the Zendavesta, Zoroaster has left other writings, the authenticity of which, however, is not beyond dispute, since they contain doctrines and ideas utterly at variance with those advanced in the Zendavesta. The concurrent opinion of most scholars attribute them to Zoroaster, and so, we always find them presented under his authorship. The most celebrated of his works, next to the Zendavesta, is entitled “ The Oracles,” and we depend on what Plato tells us for the nature of its contents. The principle is polytheistic, with the avowed supremacy of Zevs, or Jupiter, though we do not know what changes the followers of Plato may have introduced into the work.
The loyia were esteemed among the Greeks as containing the most precious relics of oriental philosophy,* and the portion which has come to us from the Platonists is accom-.
* Clement. Alexandr. Str. l. i., p. 304. Fabricius, p. 247. Beausobre, p. 314, et seq.
panied by innumerable commentaries. The fullest edition of the Oracles was edited by Francis Patricius, containing the commentaries of Hermias Olympiodorus, Synesius, Simplicius Damascus, and Nicephorus, blemished, however, by several inaccuracies and interpolations. The difficulty of stating the substance of the doctrines contained in the Oracles is enhanced by the highly allegorical manner in which they are presented, closely resembling, in this respect, the tenets of the Gnostics of early Christianity. The metaphysics of the Oracles are nearly the same as those of the Bhagavod-Gita of the Hindoos, and proclaim the identity of all things with the principle whence they emanated. According to Cudworth,* the Alexandrians, or neo-Platonists, borrowed their Triad from the “ Oracles," where we find the following proposition : “Unity begot duality, which duality resides constantly with unity, and all three, enthroned in inaccessible light, illumine and direct the world.” Some of the early defamers of Christianity asserted that the Christian notion of the Trinity was derived from the same source. Instead of attempting to drag down the sublime truths of Christianity to the level of the mystical dogmas contained in the writings of Zoroaster, the Fathers of the Church perceived in these latter, a twilight tradition of the great truths revealed at the creation, but which were gradually perverted by the vagaries of the human mind. This appears the more probable, for the reason that as we advance in the history of Persian religion and philosophy, we lose sight of those truths, and soon find ourselves immersed in gross idolatry. Thus Strabot says, that in addition to Ahriman and Ormuzd, the Persians worshipped Aman, Anandrate, and Anaitis, and erected fire temples to the sun. Nor did they stop here, for Herodotust tells us that they worshipped water, in which assertion Strabo and Agathias concur. According to Xenophong they worshipped the earth, and Straboll goes so far as to say that they paid divine honors to the sun, the moon, water, fire, air, and earth. Thus, togother with other eastern nations, they continued to plunge deeper and deeper into the mire of idolatry, till finally their excesses elected the well-known sarcasm of Juvenal:
“O sanctæ gentes quorum morsu cepe frangere nefas." After the purity of the Zendean religion had been once
* System. Intellect. 1. i., ch. 4, p. 134. L. ch. ii. Lib. i. & Cyropæd, lib. i. | Lib. xv.