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Magi

2) The two primeval Spirits and creation
The story of the two primeval Spirits and the creation of the world is recounted in greatest detail in the first chapter of a ninth century book usually known as the Bundahishn or '(Book of) the primal Creation.' This survives in a longer and a shorter version. The text which we reproduce below follows the shorter version as far as §18 where it stops: from there we follow the longer. It seemed better to confine ourselves in the main to the shorter version because it is straightforward and is the 'orthodox' account. Between §§15 and 16 the longer version, generally known as the Greater Bundahishn, interpolates a long passage which cannot be reconciled either with what goes before or with what follows. The confusion is appalling, and I have therefore refrained from reproducing it here.

An apparent inconsistency appears right at the beginning. If Ahriman is an independent substance and co-eternal with Ohrmazd, it follows that Ohrmazd himself cannot be infinite since he is limited by his rival. This is clearly recognized in §4 where it is said that 'both Spirit in themselves are finite.' Yet in §1 it is stated that 'Ohrmazd and the Space, Religion, and Time of Ohrmazd were and are and evermore shall be.' The contradiction, however, is perhaps only apparent, in that here Ohrmazd is identified only with infinite Time, not with infinite Space. In Time he is infinite, in Space, he is limited. Originally, then, he is eternal but not infinite, -unbounded by time, yet bounded by space which he must share with Ahriman and the Void which lies between the two kingdoms.

Ahriman, however, is bounded by both Space and Time. Specially he is bounded on the upper side by the Void: temporarily 'he was and is, yet will not be.' Hence it was possible for the author of the text we reproduced in chapter I to say that 'Ahriman is not' (§3), for at the end of time he will be destroyed. Ahriman is, then, spatially finite in that his domain extends to an unlimited extent in a downward direction but is bounded on the upper side by the Void; and he is finite also in time since he and his kingdom will in the end be utterly destroyed. Ohrmazd is originally spatially finite, but ultimately infinite both in space and time, for with the destruction of Ahriman Ohrmazd is no longer spatially restricted: 'he knows the norm that exists between the two Spirits until the creation of Ohrmazd shall rule supreme at the Final Body for ever and ever; that is the infinite.'

Thus Zoroastrianism God is originally finite, limited as he is by the opposite principle Ahriman. So he would have remained for all eternity had not Ahriman been what he is, an Aggressor, and an ill-informed aggressor at that. The mere fact that Ahriman attacks makes it possible for God to become infinite, for this enables Ohrmazd to counter-attack in self-defence. It is the unordered attack of Ahriman that evokes the ordered defence of Ohrmazd, and it is the disorder in Ahriman himself that finally brings about his own overthrow. This story of the cosmic struggle results not only in the destruction of Ahriman, but in the perfecting of an imperfect God: the good Spirit who was finite emerges as finite. Ahriman, too, could have been immortal, had he so willed, but being the principle of death he could not will it so. Man, then, in fighting on the side of Ohrmazd, is fighting for his own immortality, his share in the Final Body which is the infinite.

So, in the beginning, the two antagonists are poised for battle, the one 'omniscient and good,' and the other the Aggressor 'whose will is to smite.' Ohrmazd foresees the attack and creates an 'ideal' or spiritual creation 'without thought, withought movement, without touch' with which to defend himself, 'such creation as was needful for his instrument' (§5). One may well ask who or what this 'instrument' is. In fact it appears to be Vay or the Void, for Vay who appears both as a deity and as the Void is elsewhere described as 'the instrument he (Ohrmazd) needed for the deed.' The Void, then, is enlisted by Ohrmazd in advance on his side. Creation and the Void are complementary, and once the battle begins, Vay, the Void, is galvanized into life, it is the force which breaks down opposition, 'for he pursues the enemy from behind that he may smite the Aggressor and protect creation.'

Meanwhile Ahriman is not idle. He has seen the light and would destroy it, so he sets about forging his own weapons in the shape of demons. Ohrmazd offers peace which is summarily rejected. As a compromise, then, the two Spirits agree to do battle for 9,000 years at the end of which, as Ohrmazd knows, Ahriman will be utterly destroyed.

So passed the first three thousand years of the great 'Cosmic Year' which lasts for 12,000 years. The battle proper begins with Ohrmazd chanting the Ahunavar, the key prayer of the Zoroastrians which corresponds, in the importance they attach to it, to our own 'Our Father.' The mere recital of this prayer reveals to Ahriman that all is already over, and that his ultimate annihilation is certain. He swoons and falls back into the Darkness where he lies unconscious for three thousand years.

During Ahriman's indisposition Ohrmazd quietly proceeds to create the two worlds, the world of spirit and the world of matter. The two creations are complementary. On the spiritual side stand Ohrmazd and the six Amahraspands, the Bounteous Immortals, his archangels who are at the same time aspects of himself; on the other side stand Man and the six other material creations which are there to help him. Man himself is Ohrmazd's deputy on earth, for 'of material creatures he took to himself the Original Man.' Each of the six Amahraspands also takes one of the material creations under his special patronage. The names of the Amahraspands are Vohuman (Good Mind), Artvahisht (the Best Righteousness or Truth), Shahrevar (the Choice Kingdom), Spandarmat (Bounteous Right-Mindedness who is in fact identical with the earth), Hurdat (Wholeness or Salvation), and Amurdat (Immortality).

The six material creations are, in the order that they were created, the sky, water, the earth, plants, the Primal Bull, and Gayomart, the Primal Man, -and lastly fire which 'permeated all six elements.' In the third chapter of the Bundahishn each of the Amahraspands adopts one material creation; Ohrmazd adopts Man, Vohuman cattle, Artvahisht fire, Spandarmat the Earth, Hurdat water, and Amurdat plants. Shahrevar one would expect to adopt the sky, the only remaining member of the seven original creations. In fact he adopts metals which in our text are included in the creation of the earth. This discrepancy, however, disappears when he read that the sky is made of 'shining metal that has the substance of steel.' Each material creation, then, stands under a tutelary deity. The two worlds are connected, and in close co-operation they both stand ready to face Ahriman again.

So far, then, there is no real inconsistency in this creation myth which is the orthodox Zoroastrian account. At this point, however, we meet with a distinct anomaly. We have seen that Ahriman was totally immobilized for three thousand years by the chanting of the Ahunavar. Yet in §16 we read: 'While Ahriman lay crushed Ohrmazd created his creation. First he fashioned forth Vohuman by whom movement was given to the creation of Ohrmazd. The Destructive Spirit first created the Lying Word and then Akoman (the Evil Mind).' How could Ahriman do this if he were unconscious?

I have suggested elsewhere that during the first three thousand years of the Cosmic Year of 12,000 years Ahriman may have gained in initial victory, -at least in the unorthodox account of the so-called Zervanites who, as we have seen, differed from the orthodox in that they made Zurvan or Infinite Time the supreme principle and as such father of Ohrmazd and Ahriman. Now the discrepancy in our present passage seems to show that something has been altered in the original myth. Plainly Ahriman could not create the Lying Word, Akoman, the Evil Mind, and the other demons mentioned in §17 if he were totally unconscious as, according to our text, he was. The episode, then, must have been transferred from the first three millennia when Ohrmazd was content to create a wholly spiritual creation 'without thought, without movement, without touch' and thereby, one might have thought, singularly ill-adapted to resist any kind of attack whereas Ahriman fashioned something that seems far more effective,- 'many demons, a creation destructive and meet for battle.' This demonic creation is surely the same as the demonic creation detailed later on. Moreover, the Lying Word is the exact opposite of the Ahunavar, the Word of Truth which Ohrmazd pronounces with such devastating effect.

Since, then, it would be impossible for Ahriman to pronounce the 'Lying Word' or to create his demonic creation while he was unconscious, we must conclude that this fearful falsehood was uttered and this unholy host devised at an earlier stage. But though there is evidence that in heretical Zoroastrianism this lie was as effective against Ohrmazd as the Ahunavar was later to be against Ahriman, given the text as we have it, we can only say that for the orthodox the lie in question must have been Ahriman's foolish boast in §9, 'I shall incline all thy creatures to hatred of thee and love of me.' In orthodox Zoroastrianism, then, Ahriman's first attack is the assault of falsehood, and it fails hopelessly because Ohrmazd knows it to be untrue and is therefore undismayed. He counter-attacks with the Ahunavar, True Speech, and thereby incapacitates Ahriman for a full three thousand years. During this period he fashions forth his own creation with which he will resist all further attacks. Ahriman's second attack will furnish us with the theme for our next chapter. For the present we will leave the Bundahishn to speak for itself.

Bundahishn, chapter I

'(1) Thus is it revealed in the Good Religion. Ohrmazd was on high in omniscience and goodness: for infinite time he was ever in the light. The light is the space and place of Ohrmazd: some call it the Endless Light. Omniscience and goodness are the permanent disposition of Ohrmazd: some call them "Religion." The interpretation of both is the same, namely the permanent disposition of Infinite Time, for Ohrmazd and the Space, Religion, and Time of Ohrmazd were and are and evermore shall be.

(2) Ahriman, slow in knowledge, whose will is to smite, was deep down in the darkness: [he was] and is, yet will not be. The will to smite is his permanent disposition, and darkness is his place: some call it the Endless Darkness.

(3) Between them was the Void: some call it Vay in which the two Spirits mingle.

(4) Concerning the finite and finite: the heights which are called the Endless Light (since they have no end) and the depths which are the Endless Darkness, these are infinite. On the border both are finite since between them is the Void, and there is no contact between the two. Again both Spirits in themselves are finite. Again concerning the omniscience of Ohrmazd -everything that is within the knowledge of Ohrmazd is finite; that is he knows the norm that exists between the two Spirits until the creation of Ohrmazd shall rule supreme at the final Body for ever and ever; that is the infinite. At that time when the Final Body comes to pass, the creation of Ahriman will be destroyed: that again is the finite.

(5) Ohrmazd, in his omniscience, knew that the Destructive Spirit existed, that he would attack and, since his will is envy, would mingle with him; and from beginning to end (he knew) with what and how many instruments he would accomplish his purpose. In ideal form he fashioned forth such creation as was needful for his instrument. For three thousand years creation stayed in this ideal state, for it was without thought, without movement, without touch.

(6) The Destructive Spirit, ever slow to know, was unaware of the existence of Ohrmazd. Then he rose up from the depths and went to the border whence the lights are seen. When he saw the light of Ohrmazd intangible, he rushed forward. Because his will is to smite and his substance is envy, he made haste to destroy it. Seeing valour and supremacy superior to his own, he fled back to the darkness and fashioned many demons, a creation destructive and meet for battle. (7) When Ohrmazd beheld the creation of the Destructive Spirit, it seemed not good to him, -a frightful putrid, bad, and evil creation: and he revered it not. Then the Destructive Spirit beheld the creation of Ohrmazd and it seemed good to him, -a creation most profound, victorious, informed of all: and he revered the creation of Ohrmazd.

(8) Then Ohrmazd, knowing in what manner the end would be, offered peace to the Destructive Spirit, saying, "O Destructive Spirit, bring aid to my creation and give it praise that in reward therefor thou mayst be deathless and unageing, uncorrupting and undecaying. And the reason is this that if thou dost not provoke a battle, then shalt thou not thyself be powerless, and to both of us there shall be benefit abounding." (9) But the Destructive Spirit cried out, "I shall not go forth, nor shall I anymore give aid to thy creation; nor shall I give praise to thy creation nor shall I agree with thee in any good thing: but I shall destroy thee and thy creation for ever and ever; yea, I shall incline all thy creatures to hatred of thee and love of me." And the interpretation thereof is this, that he thought Ohrmazd was helpless against him and that therefore did he offer peace. He accepted not but uttered thereats. (10) And Ohrmazd said, "Thou canst not, O Sestructive Spirit, accomplish all; for thou canst not destroy me, nor canst thou bring it about that my creation should not return to my possession."

(11) Then Ohrmazd, in his omniscience, knew that if he did not fix a time for battle against him, then Ahriman would do unto his creation even as he had threatened; and the struggle and the mixture would be everlasting; and Ahriman could settle in the mixed state of creation and take it to himself.... (12) And Ohrmazd said to the Destructive Spirit, "Fix a time so that by this pact we may extend the battle for nine thousand years." For he knew that by fixing a time in this wise the Destructive Spirit would be made powerless. Then the Destructive Spirit, not seeing the end, agreed to that treaty, just as two men who fight a duel fix a term (saying), "Let us on such a day do battle till night (falls)."

(13) This too did Ohrmazd know in his omniscience, that within these nine thousand years three thousand would pass entirely according to the will of Ohrmazd, three thousand years in mixture would pass according to the will of both Ohrmazd and Ahriman, and that in the last battle the Destructive Spirit would be made powerless and that he himself would save creation from aggression.

(14) Then Ohrmazd chanted the Ahunavar, that is he recited the twenty-one words of the Yatha ahu vairyo: and he showed to the Destructive Spirit his own final victory, the powerlessness of the Destructive Spirit, the destruction of the demons, the resurrection, the Final Body, and the freedom of creation from all aggression for ever and ever. (15) When the Destructive Spirit beheld his own powerlessness and the destruction of the demons, he was laid low, swooned, and fell back into the darkness; even as it is said in the Religion, "When one third thereof is recited, the Destructive Spirit shudders for fear; when two thirds are recited, he falls on his knees; when the prayer is finished, he is powerless." Unable to do harm to the creatures of Ohrmazd, for three thousand years the Destructive Spirit lay crushed.

(16) While Ahriman lay crushed Ohrmazd created his creation. First he fashioned forth Vohuman (the Good Mind) by whom movement was given to the creation of Ohrmazd. The Destructive Spirit first created the Lying Word and then Akoman (the Evil Mind). Of material creatures Ohrmazd first fashioned the sky, and from the goodly movement of material light he fashioned forth Vohuman with whom the Good Religion of the Worshippers of Ohrmazd dwelt; that is to say that Vohuman knew what would befall creation even up to its rehabilitation. Then he fashioned Artvahisht, then Shahrevar, then Spandarmat, the Hurdat, and then Amurdat.

(17) From the material darkness Ahriman fashioned forth Akoman and Indar, then Savul, then Nanghaith, then Tarich and Zerich.

(18) Of the material creation Ohrmazd [fashioned forth] first the sky, second water, third the earth, fourth plants, fifth cattle, and sixth Man.

(19) First he created the sky as a defence. Some call it "the first." Second he created water to smite down the Lie of thirst: third he created the all-solid earth: fourth he created plants to help the useful cattle: fifth cattle to help the Blessed Man: sixth he created the Blessed Man to smite the Destructive Spirit and his demons and to make them powerless. Then he created fire, a flame; and its brilliance derived from the Endless Light, a goodly form even as fire desires. Then he fashioned the wind in the form of a stripling, fifteen years of age, which fosters and keeps the water, the plants, and the cattle, the Blessed Man and all things that are.

(20) Now I shall describe their properties. First he created the sky, bright and manifest, its ends exceeding far apart, in the form of an egg, of shiningmetal that is the substance of steel, male. The top of it reached to the Endless Light; and all creation was created within the sky -like a castle or fortress in which every weapon that is needed for tha battle is stored, or like a house in which all things remain. The vault of the sky's width is equal to its length, its length to its height, and its height to its depth: the proportions are the same and fit exceeding well(?). Like a husbandman the Spirit of the Sky is possessed of thought and speech and deeds, knows, produces much, discerns. (21) And it received durability as a bulwark against the Destructive Spirit that he might not be suffered to return (to whence he came). Like a valiant warrior who dons his armour that fearless he may return from battle, so is the Spirit of the Sky clad in the sky. And to help the sky (Ohrmazd) gave it joy, for he fashioned joy for its sake: for even now in the mixed state creation is in joy.

(22) Second from the substance of the sky he fashioned water, as much as when a man puts his hands on the ground and walks on his hands and feet, and the water rises to his belly and flows to that height. And as helpmates he gave it wind, rain, mist, storm, and snow.

(23) Third from water he created the earth, round, with far flung passage-ways, without hill or dale, its length equal to its breadth, and its breadth to its depth, poised in the middle of the sky: as it is said, "The first third of this earth he fashioned as hard as granite(?); the second third of this earth he fashioned of sandstone(?); the third third of this earth he fashioned as soft as clay." (24) And he created minerals within the earth, and mountains which afterwards sprang forth and grew out of the earth. And to aid the earth he gave it iron, copper, sulphur, and borax, and all the other hard substances of the earth except..(?).., for that is of a different substance. And he made and fashioned the earth like a man when he tightly covers his body on all sides with all manner of raiment. Beneath this earth there is water everywhere.

(25) Fourth he created plants. First they grew in the middle of this earth to the height of a foot, without branches, back, or thorn, moist and sweet: and every manner of plant life was in their seed. And to aid the plants he gave them water and fire; for the stem of every plant has a drop of water at its tip and fire for (the breadth of) four figures before (the tip). By the power of these they grew.

(26) Fifth he fashioned the lone-created Bull in Eranvej in the middle of the earth, on the banks of the river Veh Daite, for that is the middle of the earth. He was white and shining like the Moon and his height was about three cubits. And to aid him he gave him water and plants, for in the mixed state he derives strength and growth from these.

(27) Sixth he fashioned Gayomart (the Blessed Man), shining like the Sun, and his height was about four cubits and his breadth equal to his height, on the banks of the river Daite, for that is the middle of the earth, -Gayomart on the felt side, the Bull on the right side; and their distance one from the other and their distance from the water of the Daite was as much as their height. They had eyes and ears, tongue and distinguishing mark. The distinguishing mark of Gayomart is this, that men have in this wise been born from his seed. (28) And to aid him he gave him sleep, the repose of the Creator; for Ohrmazd fashioned forth sleep in the form of a man, tall and bright, and fifteen years of age. He fashioned Gayomart and the Bull from the earth. And from the light and freshness of the sky he fashioned forth the seed of men and bulls; for these two seeds have their origin in fire, not in water: and he put them in the bodies of Gayomart and the Bull that from them there might be progeny abundant for men and cattle.'

With the completion of his spiritual and material creations Ohrmazd is ready for the coming struggle. At the same time, it appears, the souls or Fravahrs (Fravashis) of all men were created in the unseen world. Only it they would consent to descend to earth to carry on the struggle could Ohrmazd be assured of final victory. So Ohrmazd 'took counsel with the consciousness and Fravahr of men and infused omniscient wisdom into them, saying, "Which seemeth more profitable to you, whether that I should fashion you forth in material from and that you should strive incarnate with the Lie and destroy it, and that we should resurrect you at the end, whole and immortal, and recreate you in material form, and that you should eternally be immortal unageing, and without enemies; or that you should eternally be preserved from the Aggressor?" And the Fravahrs of suffer evil from the Lie and Ahriman in the world, but because at the end (which is the Final Body), they would be resurrected free from the enmity of the Adversary, whole and immortal for ever and ever, they agreed to go into the material world.'

Abstracted from : The Teachings of the Magi, R.C. Zaehner, London, 1956

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