Zoroaster زرتشت Zartosht, زردشت Zardosht Ζωροάστρης Zōroastrēs also known as Zarathustra or as Zarathushtra Spitama, He was a Magician and said to be the inventor of magic. Also said to be the founder of Zoroastrianism. He was said to have lived in the eastern part of the Iranian Plateau, but his birthplace is unknown.
Zoroastrianism was the official religion of Persians located in Modern Iran and its distant subdivisions from 600 BCE to 650 CE. Zoroaster is traditionally dated from 628 to 551 BCE, and he is dated by scholars as a contemporary or near-contemporary of king Cyrus the Great. The religion named after him is not attested to historically until the 5th century BCE, where it appears in Greek sources.
The Zorastrian holy book is called the Avesta. This includes the original words of their founder Zarathushtra, preserved in a series of five hymns, called the Gathas. The latter represent the basic source of the religion. The Gathas are abstract sacred poetry, directed towards the worship of the One God, understanding of righteousness and cosmic order, promotion of social justice and individual choice between good and evil. The Gathas have a general and even universal vision. At some later date most scholars say. Many centuries after the death of Zarathustra, the remaining parts of the Avestas were written. These deal with laws of ritual and practice, with the traditions of the faith. The Zoroastrian community is sharply divided between those who would follow mostly or exclusively the teachings of the original Gathas, and those who believe that the later traditions are important and equally divinely inspired.
“”With an open mind, seek and listen to all the highest ideals. Consider the most enlightened thoughts. Then choose your path, person by person, each for oneself. ~ Zoroaster.””
“”I who have set my heart on watching over the soul, in union with Good Thought, and as knowing the rewards of Mazda Ahura for our works, will, while I have power and strength, teach men to seek after Right. I have become an alien in a foreign land. ~ Zoroaster.””
ZOROASTER, the magician, the son of Oromasius, flourished in the reign of Darius, the successor of Cambyses. All authors are full of variations in their accounts of this famous person, some making him of a much later date than others; however, we shall give what we have collected from those who appear most authentic, not omitting the traditional history extant amongst the Magi, with which our readers may compare the several stories of biographers, and accept that account which shall seem to them the most rational. Zoroaster, king of the Bactrians, was vanquished by Ninus, and passed for the inventor of magic. Eusebius places this victory of Ninus in the seventh year of Abraham: now several authors make Zoroaster appear much earlier.
It has been reported that Zoroaster laughed on the same day he was born, and that he was the only one to whom this happened, and that the palpitation of his brain was so strong as to repulse the hand, it being laid to his head, which they say was a presage of his future knowledge and wisdom. It is added, that he passed twenty years in the deserts, and there eat nothing but a sort of cheese which was never the worse for age; that the love of wisdom and justice obliged him to retire from the world to a mountain, where he lived in solitude; but when he come down from thence there fell a celestial fire upon it, which perpetually burned; that the king of Persia, accompanied with the greatest lords of his court, approached it for the purpose of putting up prayers to God; that Zoroaster came out from these flames unhurt; that he comforted and encouraged the Persians, and offered sacrifices for them to God; that, afterwards, he did not live indifferently with all sorts of men, but only those who were born for truth, and who were capable of the true knowledge of God, which kind of people are called among the Persians, Magi; that he desired his end might be this, to be struck with thunder, and consumed by celestial fire; and that he requested the Persians to collect his ashes, after he was consumed in this manner, and to preserve and venerate them as a pledge of the preservation of their monarchy; that they for a length of time paid great veneration to the relics of Zoroaster, but at length, neglecting them, their monarchy fell to ruin and decay. The Chronicle of Alexandria adds, that having held this discourse with them he invoked Orion, and was consumed by celestial fire. Many will have it that Ham was the Zoroaster of the eastern nations, and the inventor of magic.
Mr. Bochart refutes this falsity. Cedrenus observes that Zoroaster, who became so famous for wisdom among the Persians, was descended from Belus: this imports that he was descended from Nimrod. Some authors have taken him for Nimrod; others for Assur or Japhet. The ancient Persians believe that Zoroaster was before Moses. Some maintain he was the prophet Ezekiel, and it cannot be denied that they ground their opinions on the agreement of numerous particulars which belong to the one, and are related of the other. George Hornius foolishly imagines that he was the false prophet Balaam. Huetius shews that he was the Moses of the Jews, and mentions an infinite number of particulars in which the accounts we have of Moses agree with the stories related of Zoroaster.–How near all or any of these come to the probability of truth will appear in the sequel, where we have given the most probable and rational account of him, as far as we have been able to trace,
From the tradition of the magi, which we prefer before confused and partial accounts & vulgar extent. Those who believe that Zoroaster professed and taught diabolical are certainly in the wrong; the magic he taught was only the study of the divine nature, and of religious worship. Zoroaster was the promulgator of a doctrine of two principles , or two co-eternal causes, one of good, the other of evil things. of this doctrine Plutarch takes notice: he says, “that Zoroaster the magician, who is said to have li ved five thousand years” before the Trojan war, called the good God, Oromazes, and the evil, “Arimanius the real Satan” See Plut. de Iside & Osiride.
“”In the beginning there were two primal spirits,Twins spontaneously active,These are the Good and the Evil, in thought, and in word, and in deed. ~ Zoroaster.””
Dr. Hyde, in his excellent treatise on the religion of the ancient Persians, cites some authors who clear him on this head. We shall examine whether they deserve credit. It is affirmed that he was no idolater, either with respect to the worship of fire, or that of Mithra. What appears least uncertain, amongst so many things that are related of him is, that he was the introducer of a new religion into Persia, and that he did it about the reign of Darius the successor of Cambyses: he is still in great veneration among those Persians who are not of the Mahometan religion, but s till retain the ancient worship of their country. They call him Zardhust, and several believe that he came from China, and relate many miraculous things on that head.
Several authors affirm, that all the books published hitherto under Zoroaster’s name, some of which are yet extant, are supposititious. Dr. Hyde dissents from this opinion. Suidas affirms, that there were extant four books of Zoroaster: the first, “Of Nature,” a book of th e Virtues of precious Stones, called de Gemmis; and five books of Astrology and Astronomy, “Prædictiones ex. Inspectione Stellarum.” It is very likely that what Pliny relates, as quoted from Zoroaster, was taken from those books. Eusebius recites a passage which contains a magnificent description of God, and gives it as the very words of Zoroaster in his sacred commentary on the Persian rites. Clemens Al exandrinus says, that the followers of Prodicus boasted of having the secrets or secret books of Zoroaster. But most likely he meant that they boasted of having the secret books of Pythagoras. They were printed, together with the verses of the Sybils at Amsterdam, in the year 1689, according to Opsopæus’s edition, Oracula Magica Zoroastris, cum Scholiis Plethonis & Pselli.
“”Ability in a man is knowledge which emanates from divine light. ~ Zoroaster.””
The Author regrets, that, notwithstanding his laborious researches to obtain an authentic and satisfactory account of Zoroaster to present to his readers that a few generals, and not particulars, can only be given: indeed, the most serious and respectable historians differ so widely in their accounts o f him that nothing certain can from thence be deduced however, we have above recited s several authorities to which we have annexed various notes and commendations. it was said he was the inventor of magic and he was the first of all the magi, it was said that Zoroaster philosophised most judiciously upon the nature and influences of the stars and on the principle of the universe.
Thomas Stanleius, informs us that Zoroaster, according to Eusebius, was cotemporary with Semiramis; but it is certain, according to Eusebius, that he was vanquished by king Ninus. “Anciently the Assyrians and Bactrians, the former under the conduct of Ninus, and the latter under Zoroaster, fought against each other, not only with men and weapons, but also by the help of magic, and the secret discipline of the Chaldeans.” Hermippus, who has wrote cautiously on every thing relative to magic, and explained twenty thousand verses composed by Zoroaster, relates, that one Azonaces initiated him into this art, and that he lived 5,000 years before the Trojan war. St. Augustin and Orosius have followed the tradition mentioned by Justin.
Apuleius, in his Catalogue of all the most famous Magicians of Antiquity, with great justice places Zoroaster in the first rank, and proves him the most ancient of all: “Magicarum artium fuisse perhibeter inventor Zoroastres. who esteemed the art of magic to be accounted the noblest and most useful of all worldly knowledge, relates that Zoroaster lived six thousand years before the death of Plato. Note, that the same thing is affirmed by Aristotle. Agathias, who lived in the reign of Justinian, informs us, that, according to the Persians of that time, Zoroaster and Hystaspes were cotemporary; but they do not say whether this Hystaspes was father to Darius or any other.
Sir John Marsham positively decides that he was the father of Darius; and grounds his opinion on this, that one of the elogies engraven on the tomb makes him the instructor of the Magi; and that the same historian who makes Hystaspes excel in magic, calls him the father of Darius.
After the time of Zoroaster, reigned Hystaspes, a very prudent king, and the father of Darius. This prince, having boldly penetrated into the remotest parts of the Upper India, came at length to a solitary forest, where there dwelt, in awful and silent tranquility, the Brachmans. In this peaceful solitude they instructed him in the knowledge of the earth’s motion, likewise of the stars; and from them he learned the pure and sacred rites of religion. Part of this knowledge he communicated to the Magi, which, together with the art of predicting future events, they delivered down to posterity, each in his own family. The great number of men who have descended from these families, ever since that age down to the present, have all been set apart for cultivating the knowledge of the Gods.
But Ammianus Mercellinus was wrong in saying, that this father of Darius was a king; and no doubt he committed this blunder by having read in general that one king Hystaspes was a great magician, and thought there was no other Hystaspes than the father of Darius. But it is beyond dispute, that one Hystaspes, older than the foundation of Rome, and a great prophet, is mentioned by authors. “Hystaspes also, the most ancient king of the Medes, and from whom the river Hystaspes derives its name, is the most admirable of them all; for under the interpretation of the prophecy of a boy, he informed posterity that the Roman empire, nay, even the Roman name, should be utterly destroyed; and this he predicted a long time before the establishment of that colony of Trojans, Justin Martyr informs us, that he predicted the general conflagration of all perishable things, It is affirmed that Pythagoras was Zoroaster’s disciple, under the reign of Cambyses, the son of Cyrus: the words of Apuleius inform us of the fact. Some say that Pythagoras having been made a slave in Egypt, was transported into Persia; others will have transported him into Babylon, and there instructed by Zoroaster the Babylonian, whom they distinguish from the Persian.
We find no less than five Zoroasters mentioned in history: to these five may be added a sixth, mentioned by Apuleius. Thi s Zoroaster lived in Babylon at the time interpreter of all divine mysteries,” and says that Pythagoras was chiefly instructed by him. He appears to be the same with Zabratus, by whom Diogenes affirms Pythagoras was purged from all his former filth, and instructed in what is essentially necessary for good men to know, God, nature, and phil osophy: he is also the same with Nazaratus, the Assyrian, whom Alexander, in his book of the Pythagorical symbols, affirms to have taught Pythagoras. The same person Suidas calls Zares, Cyrillus, Zaranes, and Plutarch, According to the tradition of the Magi, we shall explain this fabulous and figurative description of Zoroaster’s end. The truth is, he enjoined the Persians rigidly to persevere in the laws he had framed, and the doctrine he had been at the labour to establish, which was, to live in the practice of moral virtue, to avoid all species of luxury, to promote the liberal sciences, to govern all their actions with prudence and integrity, and to meet misfortune with resolution, and t o encounter it with philosophy, and to endure the unavoidable calamities of life with fortitude: these, his disciplines, he left as a precious relic among them; which while they strictly adhered to, they need be under no apprehension of tyranny and oppression:–these they collected, and for some space of time religiously followed the precepts of this great philosopher: at length, human frailty and vice, corrupting their manners, caused the m to relax from their duties, upon which their empire fell into ruin and decay. The idolatry falsely imputed to this wise man, By his instituting the worshipping of fire, is thus to be interpreted.–Under the celestial symbol of fire was meant truth:–truth he ascribed purely as the great and wonderful attribute of the Godhead, which he acknowledged and worshipped, to wit, one only God, the eternal fire of wisdom and everlasting tru th, justice, and mercy!–His magic was the study of the religious worship of that Eternal Being. After Zoroaster, there were four persons chosen to educate the successor of the king of Persia. They chose the wisest, the most just, the most temperate, and the bravest man that could be found. The wisest man, (one of the Magi), instructed him in Zoroaster’s magic, the just in government, the brave in war, and the temperate in social virtu e and temperance.
Now observe, that Zoroaster is called the son of Oromasius, and that Oromasius is the name given by Zoroaster and his disciples to the good God, and this title was really bestowed upon him by the Persians; therefore, according to Plato, this Persian Magus, on account of his uncommon learning, religion, and wisdom, was, in an allegorical or figurative manner, was called the son of God, or the son of wisdom, truth.
Some Magi affirm that he is the same with Abraham, and frequently call him, Ibrahim Zerdascht, which is Abraham the friend of fire. As some myths say he was one of the descendants of Abraham the patriarch of the three main faiths of today.
The erroneous relations of the wisdom of the Magi. Those who desire to see a great many passages which testify that the magic of the Persians, instituted by Zoroaster, was the study of religion, virtue, and wisdom, let them refer to Brissonius de Regno Persarum, 1595. Nor are we ignorant that Gabriel Naude, hath most learnedly and solidly justified Zoroaster against the ignorant imputations of necromancy, and black arts.
It has been much contended by philosophers whether Zoroaster was the first suggester of this doctrine of the two principles: the one called by the Magi, Oromases the good, and Arimanius the evil principle. It is certain Zoroaster asserted the one, that of the good, or an essential uncreated self-existent principle, the cause of all good, called by him Oromasus, meaning a good God, In respect of the other principle, Arimanius, we must, before we decide either for or against Zoroaster, consider the nature of the thing in its most impartial sense Those who ever read Mr. Bernard’s journal, needs not be informed that the Historia Religionis veterum Persarum, published by Dr. Hyde (professor of the oriental languages in the university of Oxford) at Oxford, in the year 1700, is one of the most excellent pieces that could possibly be written on such a subject. The idea which the learned journalist hath given of this performance is sufficient to convince us that it contains a very curious erudition, and profound discussions, which discover many rare and uncommon particulars of a country which we scarce knew any thing of before. But to come to the point: Dr. Hyde affirms, that the ancient Persians acknowledge no more than one uncreated principle, which was the good principle, or, in one word, God: and that they looked upon the evil principle as a created being. One of the names, or attributes, which they gave to God, was Hormizda; and they called the evil principle, Ahariman; and this is the original of the two Greek words, one of which was the name of the good, and the other of the evil, principle, as we have seen above, in a passage of Plutarch. The Persians affirmed that Abraham was the first founder of their religion. Zoroaster afterwards made some alterations in it; but it is said he made no manner of change with relation to the doctrine of one sole uncreated principle, but that the only innovation in this particular was the giving the name of Light to the good principle, and that of Darkness to the evil one.
From a misconstruction put upon the doctrine of the Magi, some considerable misreports of their tenets have been propagated: I think none more curious than the following–“That a war arose betwixt the army of light and that of darkness, which at last ended in an accommodation, of which the angels were mediators, and the conditions were that the inferior world should be wholly left to the government of Arimanius for the space of 7000 years, after which it should be restored to light. Before the peace, Arimanius had exterminated all the inhabitants of the world. Light had called men to its assistance while they were yet but spirits; which it did, either to draw them out of Arimanius’ territories, or in order to give them bodies to engage against this enemy. They accepted the bodies and the fight, on condition they should be assisted by the light, and should at last overcome Arimanius. The resurrection shall come when he shall be vanquished. This they conclude was the cause of the mixture, and shall be the cause of the deliverance. The Greeks were not ignorant that Zoroaster taught a future resurrection.
The ancient Persian Magi never did divine honours to the sun or any of the stars. They maintain they do not adore the sun, but direct themselves towards it when they pray to God. It has been found amongst Zoroaster’s secret precepts, that we ought to salute the sun, but not that we should adore him with religious worship. He proves that their ceremonies might very justly pass for civil honours, and to this purpose he makes some exceeding curious observations. He applies to the fire what he says of the sun.
The bowings and prostrations of the Persians befo re the holy fire were not a religious observation, but only a civil one. The same thing must be attributed to their reported worship of fire, which, as I have said above, they kept in their Pyrea in imitation of the Jews. For though they paid a certain reverence to the fire, and that by prostration, yet this was not a religious, only a civil, worship; as it is from the force of custom that the eastern people prostrate themselves before any great man; (so they might with as much propriety be said to adore or worship him.) Believe me we ought to be the last to censure the eastern people with such gross idolatry as has been represented. The Persians, who have always been devoted to the highest study of wisdom, performed their duties in life for the honour of their God; and, although unenlightened and Barbarians, lived as men, and not as irrational creatures: whereas we, who know our duty so well, yet practise it so ill: for I may truly say, that notwithstanding. the great benefits we derive from the divine precepts of Christianity, yet I believe it will be found an incontrovertible fact that man to man is a serpent, a few individuals excepted. But to return to our subject: It was the ancient custom to fall prostrate to angels, as being the messengers and representatives of God. Besides, there are many examples of this kind of worship, not only in the Old, but New Testament, where the women who had been converted to the true faith, upon seeing the angels at the sepulchre of Christ, fell with their faces to the ground and worshipped. Yet they well knew that it was not God they saw, but his angels, as appears from their own confession–“we have seen a vision of angels.” Therefore they are wrongfully called Idolaters and worshippers of fire, for Zoroast er was the instrument of their continuation in the true faith. He was a man who had the knowledge of the true God, whom he peculiarly worshipped in a natural cave, in which he placed several symbols representing the world; Mithra, representing the sun, filled the master’s place. But it was not Mithra, but the true God, that he adored: and, lastly, as he was a true philosopher, a profound alchemist, greatly informed in all the arts of t he mathematics, strict and austere in his religion, he struck the Persians with an admiration of him, and by these means made them attentive to his doctrine. The sum of all is, that he lived in a cave, dedicated to the service of God, and the study of all natural and supernatural knowledge; that he was divinely illuminated, knew the courses of the stars, and the occult and common properties of all compounded and earthly things; that by fire a nd Geometry (i. e. by Chemistry and the Mathematics) he investigated, proved, and demonstrated, the truth and purity, or else the fugacity and vileness, of all things knowable in this mortal state of humanity. So that the fame, sagacity, wisdom, and virtue of Zoroaster induced some certain men wickedly and fraudulently to impose upon the unwary some false magical oracles, and diabolical inventions, written in Greek and Latin, as to the genuine works of the divine and illustrious Zoroaster.
“”Now the two primal Spirits, who reveal themselves in vision as Twins, are the Better and the Bad, in thought and word and action. Between these two the wise ones chose aright; the foolish not so. ~ Zoroaster.””
According to the Persians, there coexisted in eternity two principles. The first of these, Ahura-Mazda, or Ormuzd, was the Spirit of Good. From Ormuzd. “”He who upholds Truth with all the might of his power, He who upholds Truth the utmost in his word and deed,He, indeed, is Thy most valued helper, O Mazda Ahura ~ Zoroaster.”” Ormuzd came forth a number of hierarchies of good and beautiful spirits (angels and archangels). The second of these eternally existing principles was called Ahriman. He was also a pure and beautiful spirit, but he later rebelled against Ormuzd, being jealous of his power. This did not occur, however, until after Ormuzd had created light, for previously Ahriman had not been conscious of the existence of Ormuzd. Because of his jealousy and rebellion, Ahriman became the Spirit of Evil. From himself he individualized a host of destructive creatures to injure Ormuzd. Similar to the stories of the fallen angels and lucifer
“”In the Zorastrian holy book, the Avesta. single god Ahura Mazda who is supreme. Communication between Himself and humans is by a number of Attributes, called Amesha Spentas or Bounteous Immortals. Within the Gathas, the original Zoroastrian sacred text, these Immortals are sometimes described as concepts, and are sometimes personified. One school of thought promotes a cosmic dualism between the all powerful God Ahura Mazda who is the only deity worthy of being worshipped, and The evil spirit of violence and death, Ahriman – Angra Mainyu, who opposes Ahura Mazda. The resulting cosmic conflict involves the entire universe, including humanity who is required to choose which to follow. Evil, and the Spirit of Evil, will be completely destroyed at the end of time. Dualism will come to an end and Goodness will be all in all. Another school of thought perceives the battle between Good and Evil as an ethical dualism, set within the human consciousness.””
When Ormuzd created the earth, Ahriman entered into its grosser elements. Whenever Ormuzd did a good deed, Ahriman placed the principle of evil within it. At last when Ormuzd created the human race, Ahriman became incarnate in the lower nature of man so that in each personality the Spirit of Good and the Spirit of Evil struggle for control. For 3,000 years Ormuzd ruled the celestial worlds with light and goodness. Then he created man. For another 3,000 years he ruled man with wisdom, and integrity. Then the power of Ahriman began, and the struggle for the soul of man continues through the next period of 3,000 years. During the fourth period of 3,000 years, the power of Ahriman will be destroyed. Good will return to the world again, evil and death will be vanquished, and at last the Spirit of Evil will bow humbly before the throne of Ormuzd. While Ormuzd and Ahriman are struggling for control of the human soul and for supremacy in Nature, Mithras, God of Intelligence, stands as mediator between the two. Many authors have noted the similarity between mercury and Mithras. As the chemical mercury acts as a solvent (according to alchemists), so Mithras seeks to harmonize the two celestial opposites.
The Avesta Legends, which are probably not those of Zarathushtra’s original teachings, says After death, a person’s urvan (soul) is allowed three days to meditate on his/her past life. The soul is then judged by a troika consisting of Mithra, Sraosha and Rashnu. If the good thoughts, words and deeds outweigh the bad, then the soul is taken into Heaven. Otherwise, the soul is led to Hell.
“”The Mithraic cult is a simplification of the more elaborate teachings of Zarathustra “Zoroaster” the Persian fire magician. Alexander Wilder, in his Philosophy and Ethics of the Zoroasters, states that Mithras is the Zend title for the sun, and he is supposed to dwell within that shining orb. Mithras has a male and a female aspect, though not himself androgynous. As Mithras, he is the ford of the sun, powerful and radiant, and most magnificent of the Yazatas (Izads, or Genii, of the sun). As Mithra, this deity represents the feminine principle; the mundane universe is recognized as her symbol. She represents Nature as receptive and terrestrial, and as fruitful only when bathed in the glory of the solar orb. Mithraism, the worship of Mithra, the Iranian god of the sun, justice, contract, and war in pre-Zoroastrian Iran. Known as Mithras in the Roman Empire during the 2nd and 3rd centuries ad, this deity was honoured as the patron of loyalty to the emperor. After the acceptance of Christianity by the emperor Constantine in the early 4th century, Mithraism rapidly declined. Before Zoroaster (6th century bc or earlier), the Iranians had a polytheistic religion, and Mithra was the most important of their gods. First of all, he was the god of contract and mutual obligation. In a cuneiform tablet of the 15th century bc that contains a treaty between the Hittites and the Mitanni, Mithra is invoked as the god of oath. Furthermore, in some Indian Vedic texts the god Mitra (the Indian form of Mithra) appears both as “friend” and as “contract.” The word mitra may be translated in either way, because contracts and mutual obligation make friends. In short, Mithra was called the Mediator. Mithra was also the god of the sun, of the shining light that beholds everything, and, hence, was invoked in oaths. The Greeks and Romans considered Mithra as a sun god. He was probably also the god of kings. He was the god of mutual obligation between the king and his warriors, and, hence, the god of war. He was also the god of justice, which was guaranteed by the king. Whenever men observed justice and contract, they venerated Mithra.””
There are many points of resemblance in Christianity and the cult of Mithras. One of the reasons for this probably is that the Persian mystics invaded Italy during the first century after Christ and the early history of both cults was closely interwoven. The Encyclopædia Britannica makes the following statement concerning the Mithraic and Christian Mysteries; “The fraternal and democratic spirit of the first communities, and their humble origin; the identification of the object of adoration with light and the sun; the legends of the shepherds with their gifts and adoration, the flood, and the ark; the representation in art of the fiery chariot, the drawing of water from the rock; the use of bell and candle, holy water and the communion; the sanctification of Sunday and of the 25th of December; the insistence on moral conduct, the emphasis placed on abstinence and self-control; the doctrine of heaven and hell, of primitive revelation, of the mediation of the Logos emanating from the divine, the atoning sacrifice, the constant warfare between good and evil and the final triumph of the former, the immortality of the soul, the last judgment, the resurrection of the flesh and the fiery destruction of the universe–[these] are some of the resemblances which, whether real or only apparent, enabled Mithraism to prolong its resistance to Christianity,”
The rites of Mithras were performed in caves. Porphyry, in his Cave of the Nymphs, states that Zarathustra-Zoroaster, was the first to consecrate a cave to the worship of God, because a cavern was symbolic of the earth, or the lower world of darkness. John P. Lundy, in his Monumental Christianity, describes the cave of Mithras as follows: “But this cave was adorned with the signs of the zodiac, Cancer and Capricorn. The summer and winter solstices were chiefly conspicuous, as the gates of souls descending into this life, or passing out of it in their ascent to the Gods; Cancer being the gate of descent, and Capricorn of ascent. These are the two avenues of the immortals passing up and down from earth to heaven, and from heaven to earth.”
The so-called chair of St. Peter, in Rome, was believed to have been used in one of the pagan Mysteries, possibly that of Mithras, in whose subterranean grottoes the votaries of the Christian Mysteries met in the early days of their faith. In Anacalypsis, Godfrey Higgins writes that in 1662, while cleaning this sacred chair of Bar-Jonas, the Twelve Labors of Hercules were discovered upon it, and that later the French discovered upon the same chair the Mohammedan confession of faith, written in Arabic.
Initiation into the rites of Mithras, like initiation into many other ancient schools of philosophy, apparently consisted of three important degrees. Preparation for these degrees consisted of self-purification, the building up of the intellectual powers, and the control of the animal nature. In the first degree the candidate was given a crown upon the point of a sword and instructed in the mysteries of Mithras’ hidden power. Probably he was taught that the golden crown represented his own spiritual nature, which must be objectified and unfolded before he could truly glorify Mithras; for Mithras was his own soul, standing as mediator between Ormuzd, his spirit, and Ahriman, his animal nature. In the second degree he was given the armor of intelligence and purity and sent into the darkness of subterranean pits to fight the beasts of lust, passion, and degeneracy. In the third degree he was given a cape, upon which were drawn or woven the signs of the zodiac and other astronomical symbols. After his initiations were over, he was hailed as one who had risen from the dead, was instructed in the secret teachings of the Persian mystics, and became a full-fledged member of the order. Candidates who successfully passed the Mithraic initiations were called Lions and were marked upon their foreheads with the Egyptian cross. Mithras himself is often pictured with the head of a lion and two pairs of wings. Throughout the entire ritual were repeated references to the birth of Mithras as the Sun God, his sacrifice for man, his death that men might have eternal life, and lastly, his resurrection and the saving of all humanity by his intercession before the throne of Ormuzd. (See Heckethorn.)
While the cult of Mithras did not reach the philosophic heights attained by Zarathustra, its effect upon the civilization of the Western world was far-reaching, for at one time nearly all Europe was converted to its doctrines. Rome, in her intercourse with other nations, inoculated them with her religious principles; and many later institutions have exhibited Mithraic culture. The reference to the “Lion” and the “Grip of the Lion’s Paw” in the Master Mason’s degree have a strong Mithraic tinge and may easily have originated from this cult. A ladder of seven rungs appears in the Mithraic initiation. Faber is of the opinion that this ladder was originally a pyramid of seven steps. It is possible that the Masonic ladder with seven rungs had its origin in this Mithraic symbol. Women were never permitted to enter the Mithraic Order, but children of the male sex were initiates long before they reached maturity. The refusal to permit women to join the Masonic Order may be based on the esoteric reason given in the secret instructions of the Mithraics. This cult is another excellent example of those secret societies whose legends are largely symbolic representations of the sun and his journey through the houses of the heavens. Mithras, rising from a stone, is merely the sun rising over the horizon, or, as the ancients supposed, out of the horizon, at the vernal equinox.
John O’Neill disputes the theory that Mithras was intended as a solar deity. In The Night of the Gods he writes: “The Avestan Mithra, the yazata of light, has ‘10,000 eyes, high, with full knowledge (perethuvaedayana), strong, sleepless and ever awake (jaghaurvaunghem).’The supreme god Ahura Mazda also has one Eye, or else it is said that ‘with his eyes, the sun, moon and stars, he sees everything.’ The theory that Mithra was originally a title of the supreme heavens-god–putting the sun out of court–is the only one that answers all requirements. It will be evident that here we have origins in abundance for the Freemason’s Eye and ‘its nunquam dormio.'” The reader must nor confuse the Persian Mithra with the Vedic Mitra. According to Alexander Wilder, “The Mithraic rites superseded the Mysteries of Bacchus, and became the foundation of the Gnostic system, which for many centuries prevailed in Asia, Egypt, and even the remote West.” The most famous sculpturings and reliefs of this prototokos show Mithras kneeling upon the recumbent form of a great bull, into whose throat he is driving a sword. The slaying of the bull signifies that the rays of the sun, symbolized by the sword, release at the vernal equinox the vital essences of the earth–the blood of the bull–which, pouring from the wound made by the Sun God, fertilize the seeds of living things. Dogs were held sacred to the cult of Mithras, being symbolic of sincerity and trustworthiness. The Mithraics used the serpent a an emblem of Ahriman, the Spirit of Evil, and water rats were held sacred to him. The bull is esoterically the Constellation of Taurus; the serpent, its opposite in the zodiac, Scorpio; the sun, Mithras, entering into the side of the bull, slays the celestial creature and nourishes the universe with its blood.
Cited from BIOGRAPHIA ANTIQUA and MANLY, P HALLS, Secret Teachings of All Ages.
By: Paul Francis Young