Along with Hermes in Egypt, there was the great Persian teacher Zoroaster or in Persian, Zarathushtra, which means ‘Shining Light’.

The time of Zoroaster’s life is not known or even, whether there was a lineage of teachers bearing that name, but suggested dates range from around eight thousand years ago to around two thousand six hundred years ago. Many scholars date him as living between 1500 and 1200 BC, while some propose that he maybe lived even earlier than eight thousand years ago. Some stories claim him as one of the teachers of Pythagoras, which would place him living around 600 BC, but that could also be interpreted as a claim that Pythagoras studied with a Zoroastrian teacher rather than the master himself, as that date does seem to be rather too late. In any case it is clear that Pythagoras was well aware of Zoroastrian teachings and had studied with teachers of that tradition.

Zoroaster was well named; his role was to shine light on the source of our ignorance, the ‘shadowy light’ of the shimmering illusions offered by the astral plane.

Zoroaster held that there was a single Divine Source from which everything in the cosmos proceeds, but that within creation here on earth there were two energies at work, that of the Light and that of the Darkness. The energy of the Light comes directly and unrefracted from God, who is called Ahura Mazda, ‘the Wise Lord’, but the energy of the Darkness, while ultimately sourced from God, as all is, is twisted by the forces of evil, the astral plane, a plane of existence of beings who, though also created by God, work to oppose his Plan for the evolution and expansion of all. The energy of the Darkness pulls humanity away from God’s Plan for evolution and higher states of awareness and existence and mires us deeper into the delusions and corruption of selfish indulgences in the pleasures and strife of incarnation in the world.

The energies of the Light and the Darkness are described as ‘the Holy or Bountiful Spirit’ and ‘the Opposing Spirit’, concepts which find their garbled way into Christianity as ‘the Holy Spirit’ and ‘the Devil’. The physical plane of existence in human incarnation is the battleground between these two energies. Unlike some later traditions that spun off from Zoroastrianism, Zoroaster himself did not see the physical world as evil and a place to withdraw from. It is a battleground, yes, but one in which we must be fully engaged in order to defeat the twisted energy of the Darkness and free ourselves of the ignorance and delusions that come from it. We defeat the energy of the Darkness by making right choices.

Zoroaster recognised the fundamental principle of free will, given to all of us by God, by virtue of our Divine origin.

We have the freedom by Divine right to either align ourselves to the energy of the Light or of the Darkness. If we choose the latter, we mire ourselves deeper in the pain and suffering of incarnation in this world and retard our evolution out of it, while if we choose the Light we accelerate our own and others’ evolution back to our Divine Source. Whether our lives are blessed by growth and joy, or blotted by degradation and misery, is entirely the result of our own choices to align either to the truth of the Light or the delusion of the Darkness. And we make right choices by cultivating True Intelligence or Wisdom, which is listening to the pull of our Soul and acting responsibly in accord with its call, so as to realise the Highest Truth or Righteousness.

The moral code that stems from this and will build higher awareness of truth through the pull of the Soul, is summarised in the trilogy: ‘Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds’.

When Righteousness is fully established on Earth by humanity making right choices and living in full in accord with True Intelligence, humanity will quit Earth and enter a new higher plane of discarnate existence called Heaven, another teaching smuggled, but corrupted, into Christianity from Zoroastrianism as the final resurrection. But until this point, we will continue to re-incarnate after death into a new physical body.

Zoroaster explicitly acknowledged and taught reincarnation.

He described it symbolically in terms of a scenario in which the spirit after death comes to a bridge, where it is met by a young girl the symbol of the Soul). If the girl remains young and beautiful (a reflection of your connection to your Soul by the quality of how you have lived your life in truth and awareness), you pass over the bridge and enter the House of Songs (Heaven). If, however, the girl turns old and ugly (a reflection of the dissolute and wayward way in which you have lived your life), you are not permitted to cross over the bridge, but fall from it into the House of Lies (this material world benighted by the Darkness) into another life in incarnation, and yet another chance to learn to live righteously in the Light. This will continue until we all learn to arise from our delusions in the Darkness and ascend into the Light.

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  • By William Foley, University Professor: BA, Brown University MA, PhD University of California, Berkeley Fellow, Australian Academy of the Humanities

    I am a Professor of Linguistics. I am interested in how peoples of different cultural and linguistic backgrounds communicate and how we can increase understanding and brotherhood across these differences.