Open main menu

Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 2.djvu/194

This page needs to be proofread.




poor. Heresy, untruthfulness, perjury, sexual sins, violence, tyranny are specially reprobated. Zo- roaster's reform being social as well as religious, agriculture and farming are raised to the rank of religious duties and regarded as spiritually meri- torious. The same will aceoiuit for the exaggerated importance, almost sanctity, attached to the dog. On the other hand, the one repulsive feature of Avestic morality is the glorification, as a religious meritorioas act, of the Khvaitva-datha, which is nothing else than intermarriage between the nearest of kin, even brothers and sisters. In later times this practice was tempered down to marriage between cousins, and now is entirely repudiated by the modern Parsees.

V. EscH.^^TOLOGY. — After death the disembodied soul hovers around the corpse for three days. Then it sets off across the Cinvat bridge to meet its judg- ment and final doom in the world beyond the grave. TIk' three judges of .sovils are Mithra, Sraosha, and

, Bo.MBA

Rashnu. The soul of the just passes safely over the bridge into a happy eternity, into heaven (Auhu vahishta, Garo nmona), the abode of Ahura and His blessed angels. The wicked soul falls from the fata! bridge and is precipitated into hell {Duzh auhu). Of this abode of miserj' a hvely description occurs in the later Pahlavi " Vision of .\rda Viraf ", whose \isit to the Inferno, ■n-ith the realistic description of its torments, vividly recalls that of Dante. The state called Hamistakan, or Middle State, does not appear in the Avesta itself, but is a development of the later patristic theologj'. It is not, however, conceived exactly as our Purgatory, but rather as an indifferent state for those whose good and e\-\l deeds are found at death to be in perfect equihbrium. They are therefore neither in suffering nor in happiness. At the end of time, the approach of which is described in the Pahlav-i literature in terms strikingly like tliose of our Apocah'pse, will come the last great Prophet, Saoshyant (Saviour) under whom will occur the Resurrection of the Dead (Frashokereti), the General Judgment, the dTroKaTdo-Tocris or renewal of the whole world by the great conflagration of the earth and consequent flood of burning matter. According to the Pahla\-i sources, this terrible flood ■will purify all creatures; even the wicked will be purified from all stains, and even hell will be cleansed and added to the "new heavens and new earth". Meanwhile a mighty combat takes place between Saoshyant and his followers and the demon hosts of the Evil Spirit, who are utterly routed and destroyed forever. (See Yasht, xix and xiii.)

VI. Mazdeism .\xd The Persian Kings. — It is frequently asserted or assumed that the Avesta religion as above sketched was the religion of Cyrus

and Darius and the other Achaemenid Kings c Persia (549-336 B. c). From the cuneiform in scriptions of these sovereigns (in the Old Persia: language, a sister dialect of the Avestic Zend) w know pretty well what their reUgion was. The; proclaim themselves Mazdeans (Auramazdiya, Darius Behistun Colunm, IV, 56); their Supreme God i Auramazda, greatest of gods (Mathishta baganatn. He is Creator of all things — heaven, earth, and man — all things happen by His will {vashna); He sees am knows all things, man must obey His precept (Jramand), and follow the "good way" (pathh, rastam); man must invoke and praise Him; He hate sin, especially falsehood, which is denounced as th chief of sins, also insubordination and despotism Inferior spirits are associated with Him, "clan gods' and particularly Mithra and Anahita. Yet, with al these close similarities, we must hesitate to conside the two religious systems as identical. For in th Achsemenid inscriptions there is absolutely no trac of the duahsm which is the characteristic and all prevailing feature of the Avesta, and no allusioi whatever to the great prophet Zoroaster, or to tl revelation of which he was the mouthpiece. Tin exact relation between the two systems remain enigmatical.

Summary. — "The highest religious result to whicl human reason unaided by revelation, can attain is the deliberate verdict of a learned Jesuit theologiai (Father Ernest Hull. S.J.. in "Bombay Examiner" 28 March, 1903). This estimate does not appea exaggerated. The Avesta system may be best de finei-1 as monotheism modified by a physical am moral dualism, with an ethical system based on Di\-inely revealed moral code and human free wiT As it is now followed by the living descendants of it. first votaries, the Parsees of India, it is virtually thi same as it appears in the Avesta itself, except tha its monotheism is more rigid and determined, am that it has shed such objectionable practices as tin Khi'ctiik-das {Khvaltva-datha) and seeks to explaii them away. A great revival in the knowledge of th( old sacred languages (Zend and Pahlavi), which hai become almost forgotten, has taken place during thi past half-century under the stimulus of Europeai scholarship, whose results have been v^-idely adoptet and assimilated. The religious cult is scrupuloush maintained as of old. The ancient traditional ant characteristically national virtues of truth and open- hainled generosity flourish exceedingly in the small but highly intelhgent, community.

Williams Jackson, Die irani^che Religion in Grundriit der ir. Philotogie (Strasburg. 1896-1904), II; de Harlez Introduction a IHude de I'Avesta (Paris, 1881); Casartelli Philosophie religieuse du MazdHfme sous les Sasaanides (Lou- vain. 1SS4); Idem, ThePhilosophy of the Mazdayamian Religion, a tr. of the same work by FiRoz Jamaspji (Bombay, 1889), with notes which sometimes controvert from the Parsee side the author's views; Hovelacqce, L'Avfeta, Zoroastre el le Maz- deisme (Paris. 1880); Rastamji Edvlji, Zaralhushtra and Zarathushtrianism in the Avetta (Leipzig, 1906) giving the modern Parsee view.

L. C. Casartelli. Avicebron, S.vlomo ben jEHttD.i ben Gebirol (or Gabirol), whom the Scholastics, taking him for an Arabian, called Avicebrol (this form occurs in the oldest MSS.; the later MSS. have Avencebron, Avi- cembron, Avicebron, etc.); a Jewish rehgious poet, morahst, and pliilosophcr, b. at Malaga in 1020 or 1021; d. at Saragossa. 1070. He was educated at Saragossa, where he spent the remainder of his life, devoting himself to moral and intellectual philosophy, and writing religious poetrj'. His principal philo- sophical work, written in Arabic, was translated into Hebrew in the thirteenth century by Falaquera, and entitled "Mekor Chajim" [this was discovered and edited with French translation by Munk. "Melan- ges" etc.. (Paris, 1857)]. and mto Latin in the twelfth century by Joharmes Hispanus and Dominicus Gun-