The Story of Beginnings

By Eloise Hart

The Persian story of beginnings is of the rebecoming, the renovation, of what has ever existed and is repeatedly refashioned in manifested appearances. These appearances are accomplished in Grand Periods of symbolic 12,000 year duration. During the first quarter, the "original" creations, of both the Spirit of Light, Ahura Mazda, and of the Spirit of Darkness, Ahriman, are purely subjective and on such a high level of spirituality they are utterly beyond our comprehension. The second stage, which passes entirely according to the will of Ahura, sees the emergence of the manifest worlds with the commencement of self-impelled evolutionary development. The third 3,000 year period is a "mingled state" of contests between the forces or "instruments" of Goodness and of Darkness. While in the final period, all finite "destructive and evil" spirits are vanquished and absorbed in Infinite Being, in Ahura Mazda.

According to Zoroastrian tradition, this original creation unfolded from out of the infinite Circle of unknowable Time and Space (Zervan Akarana). At the first vague dawning of finite time there emanated forth, from out of the Void where Darkness mingled with Light Everlasting, the glorious Seed of all seeds, Ahura Mazda. Lord of Light and of Spirit, he held enfolded in his being the spiritual souls, the fravashis, of all to be manifest. Himself without beginning or end, past, place or position, Ahura fashioned by his thought the first invisible, intangible, uncompounded primal matter into the conceptual form of the worlds that were to be born -- this form of himself and his creatures remaining for 3,000 years in a spiritual state, unthinking, unmoving, intangible.

Although worshipped as one and supreme, Ahura Mazda is considered to be of two natures: of Light-Goodness-Truth, and of Darkness, the shadow-reflection, unreal and nonliving, of true Being. It was during the first 3,000 year cycle that this Spirit of Darkness, Ahriman, stirred and awakened and, seeing the Light of Ahura, was filled with such wonder he arose from the abysmal gloom to attain it. But lacking wisdom, he failed, and fled back into Darkness confused yet determined that if he could not obtain it, he would produce demons to assail, corrupt and destroy all of the productions of the Creator. Whereupon the all-knowing Ahura urged him to desist and, considering the inevitable victory of the positive forces of spirit, to spare himself and his creatures-to-be great pain by joining the forces of Good in the beginning. But Ahriman, blinded by his own backward thinking, refused absolutely to join or ever assist the righteous. This refusal thereupon inaugurated ages of conflicts that not only shattered the stability of the visible and of the invisible worlds, but also indirectly so strengthened Ahura's creations that during the final quarter, they would be able to quell the demons entirely.

While Ahriman had remained in confusion, the high Master, Ahura, produced from himself, as aspects of his effulgence, six glorious Immortals -- Amesha-Spentas -- who together with him arranged, supported, benefited and protected the spiritual, stellar and terrestrial worlds and all of their innumerable inhabitants -- each of which was provided with a divine Intelligence, an intelligent spirit-soul and a body, and each was invigorated with a flame of the Fire of Ahura Mazda.

In seven creations these Amesha-Spentas, together with the necessary spiritual fravashis involved, brought forth: (1) the great crystalline sky -- whose spirit is an Intelligence which thinks and speaks, acts and produces sons and flocks -- the sun, moon, stars and twelve zodiacal constellations which form, under the surveillance of their chiefs in the north, east, south, west and the great one in the center of the sky, a vast and united army that overcomes the Destroyer and safeguards their regions from harm. (These "chiefs" are usually considered to be Ursa Major, Sirius, Fomalhaut and Antares, with Regulus in the middle.) The blessed Amesha-Spentas laid down also the paths of these stars, of the everlasting lights, and of the winds and clouds, all of which formerly stood in the same place unmoving, but now hastened onward.

They fashioned next (2) the bright waters upon which all beings depend for their life and well-being, and which formerly stood created yet unmoving, but now flowed forth freely. Out of the midst of these waters they formed (3) the earth with its rivers and oceans, its continents and abundance of minerals and (4) sweet vegetation which nourishes (5) the beneficent animals -- the next kingdom created, which contained so many species that should one kind perish, others would remain. Then they fashioned (6) mankind, the "small world" reflecting the Greater. For each of these myriad individuals, families, species and kingdoms they provided chieftains and guides and protectors. And finally they produced (7) fire -- a ray from the everlasting Light of Ahura. (These creations are discussed in: Mary Boyce, A History of Zoroastrianism, vol. 1:132-46; R. C. Zaehner, The Dawn and Twilight of Zoroastrianism, pp. 250-60; Zand-akasih, Iranian or Greater Bundahisn, pp. 23 et seq.)

Mazdean teachings regarding the earth are most suggestive to those familiar with mystical traditions of invisible worlds and of the forces and lives that circulate through the spiritual, celestial and terrestrial realms but have baffled for centuries those who would try to find geographic locations for the regions, rivers and mountains they mention symbolically.

Earth, they tell us, is composed of seven disconnected karshvars (regions, earths or worlds), each separated one from the other by oceans so that "it is not possible to go from region to region, save by the guidance and radiance of the Yazats [celestial spirits]" (Zand-akasih, p. 91). Further, they place the karshvar Arezahi in the west, Savahi in the east, Fradadhafshu in the southwest, Vidadhafshu in the southeast, Vourubaresti in the northwest, Vourugaresti in the northeast and Hvaniratha, the only karshvar (presently) inhabited by men, in the center. H. P. Blavatsky interprets this last-named karshvar as being, not in the middle as if surrounded by concentric circles or by a necklace of globes, but rather as being centered as the lowest in a chain with the other six earths grouped round, above, our globe. She supports this opinion by citing the Vendidad's description of our earth as imat "this," and the six other karshvars as avat "that" or those upper earths, diagramming this "very graphic and accurate description of the 'chain' of our planet, the Earth, . . . " as the familiar theosophical depiction of globes A through G of the earth planetary chain, Vourubaresti and Vourugaresti on the highest plane, Arezahi and Savahi on the second plane, Fradadhafshu and Vidadhafshu on the third plane, and Hvaniratha alone on the lowest plane. (The Secret Doctrine 2:758-9.)

Although the six upper earths evidently pertain to different states of consciousness and are imperceptible to our physical senses, to their inhabitants they are solid globes and each has, the Mazdeans believe, continents, seas, mountains and races of evolving beings. However, it is only on and from our man-bearing earth that arises the great world-benefiting Mount Hara, that grew like a tree, its 'roots' sinking deep underground to invisibly connect and nourish all of its chain. At the peak of this mountain is attached the Chinvat Bridge of Judgment over which pass souls freed from their bodies of earth to continue their unending progression through regions of bliss, or to purgation and hell, "the place of worst purpose" -- according to their "works of merit."

The top of high Hara is circled by the stars, moon and sun, from which shower down upon earth both light and life-giving waters. The sun coming out to warm, enlighten and bring day first to the three, and half of the fourth worlds in the west, and then, leaving them as in darkness, it illumines the three and a half on the eastern side of the peak. All the while the 'waters' continuously flow in a wondrous, spiraling sweep through and about the seven karshvars. The Vendidad describes how these cosmic waters and lights periodically issue anew from the peak of Mount Hara, pour down to the sea, Vourukasha, and from there flow forth as two mighty rivers, one to the east and one to the west. These circle the earth and are cleansed, to return first to the Vourukasha sea, and then to the peak of the mountain, again to descend, again reascend, in perpetual motion:

. . . rising up and going down, up the aerial way and down the earth, down the earth and up the aerial way:
Thus rise up and roll along! thou in whose rising and growing Ahura Mazda made everything that grows.
Up! rise up, ye deep Stars, that have in you the seed of waters;
Rise up above Hara Berezaiti, and produce light for the world (and mayst thou [O man!] rise up there . . ), along the path made by Mazda, along the way made by the gods, the watery way they opened. -- Vendidad, Farg. XXI, iiic

Centered within this vast scope of universal life and essential to it in the Persian scheme is Man, for human beings were held to be not mere earthlings confined to this globe, but in their higher parts divine agents who have since the beginning circulated, commingled and participated in operations of macrocosmic life. Thus they regarded Ahura Mazda not as a creator outside and alone, but one whose productions are accomplished and perfected by and through the spiritual power of the souls of human beings who live, have lived, and who will live by the righteous Law. It is, they say in a hymn, by the souls of these men and women that the heavens and the earths are spread out and sustained, by them that "the waters flow, the plants grow, the winds blow," sun, moon and stars pursue their beautiful paths, and by them equilibrium is preserved between the attracting forces of the creator-preserver, and the repelling forces of the disruptor-destroyer. And, in this world, it is by and through human behavior that concord will finally be achieved and evil transmuted into good, for here on this karshvar Hvaniratha the greatest strife is produced and the greatest good also.

It was before the material worlds had appeared, and during the original creation, that Ahura Mazda had first spoken to the fravashis, the pre-existent spirits of the men-to-be, who at that time surrounded him in his high ramparts like "warriors on horseback," preventing the intrusion of evil. He had asked them then to assist him as his principal agents in preserving the manifest worlds from evil. And he had told them to choose freely whether, when they incarnated on earth in bodily form and confronted the Aggressor, they would prefer having his assistance and protection, or whether they would prefer to face evil on their own, and risk becoming confused by illusions. The fravashis, foreseeing that though the struggles would be mighty, the suffering extreme, their final victory would be indescribably sweet, unanimously chose to descend alone. Not for a moment did they doubt that they could overcome the creatures of evil, and that they would themselves return immortal, undecaying and undisturbed. (Zand-akasih, p. 45; Dawn and Twilight of Zoroastrianism, pp. 146, 261.)

The first mankind of the ten species created is depicted in their writings: as the shining and white-eyed Gayomart (lit. "mortal life"), who was apparently egg-shaped -- "bright as the sun, and his height was four measured poles, and his breadth just as much as his height." (History of Zoroastrianism, p. 139 -- Greater Bundahisn, I, a.13.) Although blessed and righteous, he was not prepared to withstand the evil of Ahriman, who had even then produced demonic beings who mingled gloom and black smoke with bright fires, who sullied the waters with salt, confused the movements of planets and constellations, shook earth with such violence that mountains arose; who blighted the luxurious growth of the plants and caused tender trunks to be covered with thorns and rough bark, and in some mixed the sap with vile poisons. Among gentle beasts they caused wildness, and plagued all with 99,999 varieties of sickness and death.

Although Ahriman caused illness to overcome Gayomart, so that he collapsed on the ground and "from the left side, deathfulness entered into the body of Gayomart; and thereupon deathfulness came to all the creatures up to the renovation of the universe," his victory was short-lived. The seed of this first man, buried in the ground and "filtered by the light of the Sun" grew up from the earth after forty years as two mortals, Masya and Masyani. (Zand-akasih, p. 127 et seq.) Like one plant they grew, joined together in such a way that one could not distinguish the male from the female, nor determine which if either possessed the soul-glory. Of which Ahura Mazda had said:

"The glory was created by me before; afterwards, for him who is created, the glory is given a body so that it may produce activity, and its body is created only for activity." And, afterwards, they changed from the shape of a plant into the shape of man, and the glory went spiritually into them.-- Zadh-sparam, X, 5-6

And Ahura explained to Masya and Masyani that he had produced them, man and woman, the parents of the races to come. He told them to abide by the Law, to think good thoughts, speak good words, do good deeds, and worship no demons.

At first they were filled with the wonder of life and obeyed, but when Ahriman assailed them with suspicions and intriguing temptations, they forgot the words of the Lord and succumbed to indulgence. Then, after fifty winters had passed, they gave birth to a son and a daughter, but "owing to the sweetness of the children, the mother devoured one, and the father one; then, Ohrmazd removed the sweetness of the children from the thoughts of the begetters, and left to them as much as requisite for the bringing up of the children" (Zand-akasih, p. 133). And they brought forth more offspring who became the continuous generations and races of men. And Ahura himself watched over, taught and protected them from the influence of evil.

But even so, a few of those early descendants were corrupted and in time produced monsters, the strange man-like creatures of the earth: the water-men, the breast-eared, the breast-eyed, the one-legged, those with wings like a bat's, and those of the forest with tails and hair on their bodies. And later, when for a time reason and the glory of spirit had departed from them, some took 'demonesses' as wives, who gave birth to tailed apes -- said to be the lowest of mankind -- and other species of degeneracy.

The first mortal with whom Ahura spoke regarding the wisdom of Mazda was Yima, a descendant of Masya and Masyani. The Wise Lord asked him to receive the Law and take it to mankind, but Yima refused, for he was not prepared. Instead he became a Good Shepherd and, with the golden ring and poniard given him by Ahura, so effectively ruled, nourished and protected the world from heat and cold, disease and death, that all prospered. In fact, men and animals replenished themselves so rapidly there was room for no more.

Then Yima, obedient to the will of Mazda, commanded the Genius of the Earth to "open asunder and stretch thyself out" to make room for new flocks and herds, and men and plants. Three times the globe became overpopulated; three times Earth stretched herself out, and each time Yima brought forth new lands where new races of men with their cattle, flocks, dogs, birds and red blazing fires could dwell.

As each of these stretchings had been accompanied by "evil winters" and floods that threatened to destroy all life in the material worlds, Ahura had instructed Yima to build a vara, an "enclosure" or ark -- to crush the earth with a stamp of his heel, to knead the ground with his hands as the potter does. And Yima built such a vara in a square two miles on each side, with streets and dwelling places with balconies and courtyards. Into the ark he placed "water that flows" and "food that never fails," and the seed of the greatest, the best and the finest of every creature on this earth, as well as the red blazing fires and the heavenly bird, Karshipta who, it is said, being one of the spiritually awakened Saoshyants or Saviors, brought the religion of Ahura into the ark and taught the people there to recite the Avesta in the language of birds. Finally, Yima sealed the enclosure with his golden seal, and made a door and a "window self-shining within." . . "And the men in the vara . . . live the happiest of lives. They live there for 150 years; some say, they never die." (The Sacred Books of the East, vol. IV, The Vendidad, pp. 10-20. The Tree of Life, ed. Ruth Smith, pp. 318-21.)

Toward the ending of the fourth and final period of cosmic duration, towards the first vague beginnings of the New Dawn, the Zoroastrians believe holy Saoshyants will be born. They will assist earth and her creatures to prepare for the Consummation, when men, becoming immortal, will desist first from eating meat, then from drinking milk, from eating vegetables and bread, and finally will live without even water. They will assist also the evil ones who, then, purified from their hells of molten metal, will arise redeemed and attain the glory they had desired to possess in the beginning of Time. Then all motion will cease and all activity. Infinite Time and Space will stretch out once more as an iceless, shapeless plane with even Mount Hara leveled and gone. (Zand-akasih, pp. 285, 293; Sacred Books of the East, vol. V, Pahlavi Texts, pp. 126-30.) Ahura Mazda himself, his creations and shadow, will vanish away, and there will be nothing but a boundless Void, and "All-made-perfect-in-Light."

(From Sunrise magazine, January 1977. Copyright © 1977 by Theosophical University Press)

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