The Teachings of the Magi
3) The Devil's onslaught
Ahriman's attack on the world of Spirit has failed, and he has been thrown back into the darkness by the recitation of the sacred formula. For three thousand years he lies in a stupor, unable to move. The demons vainly seek to revive him, 'but the accursed Destructive Spirit was not comforted... for fear of the Blessed Man.' It is, then, not only the magic power of the sacred formula that keeps Ahriman at bay, but the First Man whom he dare not attack, so holy is he. There now follows a very strange episode which begins the text we reproduce in this chapter and which is form the fourth chapter of the Bundahishn.
Nothing the demons say or do can revive their stricken captain until a character described as 'the Whore' makes her appearance on the scene and boasts that she will 'take away the dignity of the Blessed Man.' At this Ahriman instantly revives, and the attack on the material world begins. This, surprisingly enough, is the last we hear of the 'demon Whore' whose intervention seems to have been so very decisive. Another text, however, tells us how she succeeded in corrupting the unfortunate Gayomart, the 'Blessed Man.' This text, from the Selections of Zatsparam, tells us this:-
'When Ahriman rushed into creation, he had the brood of the demon Whore of evil religion as his companion even as a man has a whore woman as his bedfellow; for verily the whore is a demon: and he appointed the demon Whore queen of her brood, that is the chief of all the whore demons, the most grievous adversary of the Blessed Man. And [the demon Whore] of evil religion joined herself to [the Blessed Man]; for the defilement of females she joined herself to him, that she might defile females; and the females, because they were defiled, might defile the males, and (the males) would turn aside from their proper work.'
All this seems very un-Zoroastrian, for as we have seen in chapter I, the reproduction of the species is one of the first duties of man. It is clear, however, from this and other passages that woman was held in slight esteem by the Zoroastrian, or at least by a sect of them, -for there are passages which exalt the virtues of the housewife, -and that the reproduction of males, not of females, was the essential element in the defeat of the Evil One. Ohrmazd himself makes this quite clear in that he says:-
'I created thee whose adversary is the whore species, and thou wast created with a mouth close to thy buttocks, and coition seems to thee even as the state of the sweetest food to the mouth; for thou art a helper to me, for from thee is man born, but thou dost grieve me who am Ohrmazd. But had I found another vessel from which to make man, never would I have created thee, whose adversary is the whore species. But I sought in the waters and in the earth, in plants and cattle, in the highest mountains and deep valleys, but I did not find a vessel from which blessed man might proceed except woman whose adversary is the whore.'
It would seem clear, then, that the 'Whore' is the First Woman just as Gayomart is the First Man. It seems that she was created by Ohrmazd and fled to Ahriman whose consort she then became. The Devil's kiss causes menstruation, a condition abhorred by the Zoroastrians as being in the highest possible degree impure. Thus Man is defiled by Woman and ever will be so till the final Resurrection when both sexes are called to share in the universal bliss. Through Woman who, though created by Ohrmazd, chose to play the harlot with Ahriman, Man and all his descendants are defiled. But Ahriman's victory in this respect is only partial,
for not only does the union of man and woman make the reproduction of the race of men possible, but woman remains forever subject to man. As always the stratagems of Ahriman ultimately turn to his own undoing.
Ahriman, then, revived by the demon Whore's promise to destroy the dignity of
the Blessed Man, delivers his attack on the material creation of Ohrmazd. He
burst through the periphery of the sky and rends it, he defiles the waters and
makes them brackish, he attacks the earth by letting loose upon it all manner of
filthy and creeping things, he poisons the plants and brings disease upon the
'lone-created Bull' so that he sickens and dies. Next he attacks Gayomart, the
Blessed Man himself, with the Demon of Death and 'a thousand death-dealing
demons' (§11), with 'concupiscence and want, with bane and pain, with disease
and lust and sloth.' Yet Gayomart is suffered by a decree of Time to live for
thirty years after the attack was launched. During these thirty years, it must
be assumed, his unholy union with the 'demon Whore' was consummated.
Lastly Ahriman attacks the holy fire and befouls it with smoke. At this point Ahriman achieves his highest power. One thing, however, he had forgotten. Though he had rent the sky and come upon the earth from its lower side, the sky was able to close up the fissure and Ahriman found himself entrapped in the material universe till the end of time. 'And the Spirit of the Sky said to the Destructive Spirit, "[Till] the end of Time must I watch (over thee) so as not to suffer thee to escape"' (5). Trapped then as he is in the snare of the sky, he is set upon by the powers of light until he and his demon host 'were routed and hurled into
Hell' which is in the middle of the earth. Creation, however, has been definitively corrupted, and Ahriman remains within it to continue his abominable works until the Resurrection and the Final Body when all is made good 'and neither the Destructive Spirit nor his creation will exist.'
- Bundahishn, chapter IV
'(1) It is said in the Religion that when the Destructive Spirit saw that he himself and the demons were powerless on account of the Blessed Man, he was thrown into a stupor. For three thousand years he lay in a stupor. And when he was thus languishing, the demons with monstrous heads cried out one by one (saying), "Arise, O our father, for we would join battle in the material world that Ohrmazd and the Amahraspands may suffer straitness and misery thereby." One by one they minutely related their own evil deeds. But the accursed Destructive Spirit was not comforted, nor did he rise out of his stupor for fear of the Blessed Man, till
the accursed Whore came after three thousand years had run their course, and she cried out (saying), "Arise, O our father, for in that battle I shall let loose so much affliction on the Blessed Man and the toiling Bull that, because of my deeds, they will not be fit to live. I shall take away their dignity (khwarr); I shall afflict the water, I shall afflict the earth, I shall afflict the fire, I shall afflict the plants, I shall afflict all the creation which Ohrmazd has created." And she related her wvil deeds so minutely that the destructive Spirit was comforted and, throwing aside his stupor, leapt forth and kissed the head
of the Whore; and the pollution which is called menstruation appeared on the Whore. And the Destructive Spirit cried out to the demon Whore, "Whatsoever is thy desire, do thou ask, that I may give it thee."
(2) Then Ohrmazd in his omniscient wisdom knew that at that time the Destructive Spirit could give whatever the demon Whore asked and that there would be great profit to him thereby. The appearance of the body of the Destructive Spirit was in the form of a frog. And (Ohrmazd) showed one like unto a young man of fifteen years of age to the demon Whore; and the demon Whore fastened her thoughts on him. And the demon Whore cried out to the Destructive Spirit (saying), "Give me desire for man that I may seat him in the house as my lord." And the Destructive Spirit cried out unto her (saying), "I do not bid thee ask anything, for thou knowest
(only) to ask for what is profitless and bad." But the time had passed when he was in a position not to give what she asked.
(3) Then the Destructive Spirit rose up together with his demons and his weapons to attack the lights. For he had seen the sky when it appeared to him in its ideal form before it was created in corporeal shape. I envious desire he rushed upon it, -and the sky was in the station of the stars, -and he dragged it down into the Void as I have (already) written above, for (the Void) lay between the first principles of Light and Darkness. One third of the sky was above the station of the stars on the inner side.
(4) (And Ahriman) leapt forth in the form of a serpent and trampled on as much of the sky as was beneath the earth and rended it. In the month of Fravartin on the day of Ohrmazd at midday he made his attack. And the sky shrank from him in terror even as a ewe shrinks from a wolf.
(5) Then he came upon the waters which, as I have said, are established beneath the earth; and he bored a hole in the middle of the earth and entered in thereby. And he came upon the plants, and then upon the Bull and Gayomart, and lastly he came upon the fire in the form of a fly. All creation did he assail. At midday he trampled upon all the world and make it as dark as the darkest night. He darkened the sky which is above and which is beneath the earth; and the Spirit of the Sky said to the Destructive Spirit, "[Till] the end of time must I mount guard (over thee) so as not to suffer thee to escape."
(6) And upon the waters he brought brackishness (lit. "different taste"). And the Spirit of the Waters said "...(corrupt)..."
(7) And upon the earth he let loose reptiles in corporeal form, -and they mingled with each other,- reptiles, biting and poisonous, -the serpent-dragon, scorpion, venomous lizard, tortoise, and frog, so that not so much as a needle's point on (the whole) earth remained free from reptiles. And the Earth said, "May an avenger come upon these vengeful beings (in return) for this creation which they have created."
(8) And upon the plants he brought so much poison that in a moment they dried up. And the Spirit of the Plants said, "By the moisture (that is his) Ohrmazd will cause the plants to grow."
(9) And upon the Bull and Gayomart he brought concupiscence and want, bane and pain, disease and lust (varan) and sloth. Before he assailed the Bull Ohrmazd gave him healing mang (Indian hemp) which some call bang to eat and rubbed it on his eyes, so that he might suffer less from the smiting and the wickedness and the tortue. In a moment he weakened and sickened, but his pain was short-lived, for straightway he died. And the Bull said, "Let the actions and deeds (of men) consist in a perfect rulership over the animal creation."
(10) Before (Ahriman) came upon Gayomart, Ohrmazd brought sleep upon him (lasting) as long as it takes to say a short prayer; for Ohrmazd created sleep in the form of a stripling of fifteen years of age, bright and tall. When Gayomart awoke from that sleep, he saw the world was dark as night, and that on (the whole) earth there was not so much as a needle's point that remained free from the crawling of reptiles. The heavenly sphere began to revolve and the Sun and Moon to move, and the earth was all amazed(?) at the thundering of gigantic demons and their battle with the stars.
(11) Then the Destructive Spirit thought, "All the creatures of Ohrmazd have I made of no effect save (only) Gayomart." And he let loose upon Gayomart Astvihat, (the Demon of Death,) and a thousand death-dealing demons, yet because of the decree of Time they found no means of slaying him; for it is said that at the beginning of creation when Ahriman started to attack, Time extended Gayomart's life and kingdom for thirty years, [he said] so that Gayomart lived for thirty years after the assault was delivered. And Gayomart said, "Now that the Aggressor has come, men will arise from my seed, and it is best for them to do good works."
(12) Then (Ahriman) came upon the fire and he mingled it with darkness and smoke; and the Seven Planets together with many demons and henchmen mingled with the heavenly sphere to do battle with the constellations. All creation did he befoul even as if smoke were to rise from fire (burning) everywhere. And ( these demons) corrupted the place of (the gods) on high and strove with them.
(13) For ninety days and nights did the spiritual gods do battle in the material world with the Destructive Spirit and the demons until they were routed and hurled into Hell. And the sky was made a fortress so that they could not mingle with it. Hell is in the middle of the earth at the point where the Destructive Spirit bored a hole in it and rushed in. So it is that in all the things of this world a dual operation can be seen, antagonism and strife, rising and sinking, and mixture everywhere.'
Ahriman has now succeeded in contaminating and defiling the whole of Ohrmazd's material creation. Though he himself has been cast into Hell, this is the hour of his greatest triumph. He is, however, reckoning without Ohrmazd's master-plan; for Ahriman, by breaking into the sky, has allowed himself to be caught in a trap from which he cannot escape; and the more he struggles, the more hopelessly enmeshed does he become. His predicament is described in the Shikand Gumani Vazar, another of our Middle Persian books, where we find the Evil One compared to a noxious beast who unwittingly falls into a trap set for him by the wise gardener who is Ohrmazd.
- Shikand Gumani Vazar, chapter IV,§§63-80
(63) (Ohrmazd) is like the owner of a garden or a wise gardener whose garden noxious and destructive beasts and the birds are intent on spoiling by doing harm to its fruits and trees. (64) And the wise gardener, to save himself trouble and to keep those noxious beasts out of his garden, devises means whereby to capture them, (65) like gins and snares and bird-traps, (66) so that when the beast sees the trap and strives to escape from it, it is ensnared inside it, not knowing (the nature of) the gin or snare. (67-8) It is obvious that when the beast falls into the snare, it is caught in it not because of the superiority of the snare (itself) but because of
(the superiority of) the maker of the snare. (69) The man who is the owner of the garden and maker of the snare knows in his wisdom just how great the beast's strength is and for how long (it can hold out). (70) The strength and power which the beast has within its body is neutralized by its own struggles and is expended in the proportion that it has enough power to trample on the snare and to rend the gin and to strive to destroy it. (71) Since its strength is insufficient, its power to resist diminishes and it is put out of action. Then the wise gardener, putting his plan into effect and knowing (the needs of) his own produce, drives the beast out of the snare;
and the beast's substance remains but its faculties are put out of action. (72) And the gardener returns his snare and gin undamaged to his store-house where he will refit it.
(73) So the Creator Ohrmazd, the Saviour of his creatures and Ordainer of creation, the (God) who puts the Principle of Evil out of action is like [a gardener] who protects his garden from what is harmful to it. (74) And that noxious beast which ruins the garden is the accursed Ahriman who disrupts and assails creation. (75) The goodly snare is the sky in which the good creations are (like) guests, (76) and in which the Destructive Spirit and his abortions are entrapped. (77) And the gin and trap which prevents the noxious beast from achieving its desire (78) is the time set for the battle with Ahriman and his powers and weapons (known as) Time of the long
Dominion, (79) which, by struggling with the beast in the gin and snare, destroys its power. (80) Only the Creator of creation (himself) can bring about again the salvation of his [creatures] from eternal adversity and can reconstitute its goodly progress, just as the wise owner of the garden (reconstitutes) his gin and snare.'
Abstracted from : The Teachings of the Magi, R.C. Zaehner, London, 1956
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