A BRIEF HISTORICAL SURVEY OF THE MONOTHEISTIC CONCEPT IN RELIGIOUS BELIEF AND PRACTICE: DEFINITION OF MONOTHEISM(5)

6. Monotheistic Approach in Persian religion (Zoroastrianism)

In ancient Persian civilization, we see the salient example of ethical monotheism taught by Zoroaster. Against various deities Zoroaster preached that Ahura Mazia was the only God to be worshipped. Emerging from the ancient Indo-Iranian polytheistic religion, Zoroastrianism unified all divine reality in the high god Ahura Mazda. Zarasthushtra (Zoroaster) turned against some of the traditional cultic rituals and proclaimed the overthrow of polytheism. In his teaching Ahura Mazda is the one God who, to implement his will in the world, associates with himself the six Amesha Spentas (‘holy immortals’), spirits or angels that represent moral attitudes and principles. Ahura Mazda, the Wise Lord, is good, just and moral; he creats only good things and gives only blessing to his worshippers.

The one God is sovereign over history, working out the plan he has for the world. Humans are to assist God through upright deeds, and there will be a final judgment in which every soul will be judged to see if it is worthy of entering Paradise. Conflict is accounted for as the hostility of two primordial spirits: Spenta Mainyu, the good spirit and Angra Mainyu (Pahl., Ahriman) the evil spirit. Ahura Mazda apparently fathered these two spirits. The struggle between them has been going on since the beginning of time, when they chose between good and evil. It appears, then, that Ahura Mazda cannot be called omnipotent, for the realm of evil is beyond his control; in that sense it may be said that this is not a complete monotheism. Yet there is no doubt that Zoroastrianism considers the realm of Ahura Mazda to be ultimately victorious. Later Zoroastrianism brought some of the other gods back into the picture again, but in the teaching of Zorathushtra in the Gathas is to be found a unique monotheism with an ethico-dualistic accent.

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