Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 45.djvu/103

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RELIGIOUS BELIEF AS A BASIS OF MORALITY.

hundred husbandmen. Indeed, it has been estimated that one acre of arable land will bring forth as much food and consequently sustain as many inhabitants as two thousand acres of hunting ground.

In the fullness of time Yima was succeeded by the man who, like Aaron, could "speak well," and in the first G√Ętha we find an address which Zarathustra delivered to his countrymen congregated around the sacred fire. It begins as follows: "I will now reveal to you who are here assembled the wise words of Mazda, the worship of Ahura, the hymns in praise of the good spirit, the sublime truth, which I see rising out of the sacred flames." He then appeals to them as the "offspring of renowned ancestors" to rouse their minds and give heed to his divine message: "To-day, O men and women, you should choose your creed."

After this brief exordium, he plunges at once into his subject and offers his solution of the old and ever-puzzling problem of good and evil, which he personifies as twin spirits, counter-workers in the creation of the world, each exercising its peculiar activity and contributing its characteristic element, and promoting respectively the happiness and the misery of mankind. It may also be safely asserted that, from a theistic point of view, no more logical and satisfactory solution of the difficulty has ever been presented. He earnestly exhorts his hearers to follow after the good and to eschew the evil. "Choose between these two spirits, for ye can not serve both." "Be pure and not vile." "Let us be such as help the life of the future." "Obey, therefore, the commandments which Mazda has proclaimed and enjoined upon mankind; for they are a snare and perdition to liars, but prosperity to the believer in the truth and the source of all bliss."

The whole aim of this discourse, of which these extracts suffice to indicate the drift, is to persuade his hearers to renounce or to confirm them in their renunciation of the old Aryan polytheism and worship of the devas, as we find it in the Vedas, and to adopt monotheism or the adoration of the one great and good but by no means omnipotent being, Ahuramazda. As a philosophical system, his doctrine was dualistic and recognized the existence of two original and independent principles in the universe; as a cult, it was monotheolatrous and worshiped only one of these powers.

It may be added that long before the close of the Vedic period the Indo-Aryans had also begun to devote themselves to husbandry, although their chief wealth still consisted in herds. The burden of their hymns and prayers to the gods is for much cattle and a large family of vigorous sons. The foes which they now had mostly to contend with were the Dasyus or aborigines of