The Teachings of the Magi
5) Man's first parents
We must now leave the rationalist and philosophic climate of Mardan-Farrukh's Shikand Gumani Vazar and his justification of dualism as the only system which adequately accounts for the problem of evil and the creation of the world which must otherwise remain a mystery. In this chapter we must consider what happens to the world after its corruption by the powers of evil. In previous chapters we have had an opportunity of contemplating the two Spirits as they were in the beginning; we have seen how the Evil One initiated hostilities on the intellectual and spiritual plane and how he was hurled back by the utterance of Truth.
W have seen how Ohrmazd profited by his discomfiture and how he created both an ideal and a material creation to be a bulwark against the Aggressor when he returned to the assault; and we have seen how this act of creation was forced on the deity as a measure of self-defence, and how the material creation which is bounded by the sky acts as a snare in which Ahriman kicks and struggles like a trapped beast, for he is 'without knowledge, without method.' Finally we witnessed Ahriman's attack on the material creation, his introduction into a perfect world of death and disease, poison and noxious beasts, lust, anger, envy, concupiscence,
and all their attendant vices, and last of his destruction of Gayomart, the Blessed Man, at the instigation and with the assistance of that strange figure, the Whore, who seems to be nothing other than the Eternal Feminine in its evil aspect.
The passage we have selected as the text for our present chapter forms the beginning part of the fourteenth chapter of the Greater Bundahishn which is entitled 'On the nature of Man.' It is not edifying. The chapter also appears in the shorter or 'Indian' version of the Bundahishn and I have followed the text of the latter in many instances.
Gayomart, as we have seen, is the first father of the human race. He is the First Man in that all human beings proceed from him, but he is himself semi-divine, being the son of Ohrmazd and Spandarmat, the Earth; and in shape he is round and 'shining like the Sun.' He is the First Man in that he is the prototype of man, but he is not the first man in the strict sense of being the first recognizably human being with arms and legs and other distinctively human features. He resembles much more those primitive beings described in Plato's Symposium who were spherical in shape and androgynous in sex. The text we have translated in this
chapter tells us of the first man proper, Mashye (or Mahre) and his sister Mashyane (or Mahrane), how they came into being, what they did, and how they fell from grace.
Thirty years after Ahriman invaded the material cosmos Gayomart died, but in dying, he prophesied, 'Now that the Aggressor has come, men will arise from my seed, and it is best for them to do good works.' God's plan was not to be defeated and 'the Blessed Man' was to live on in the human race; Man, God's masterpiece, was to fight in the front line against the Aggressor held prisoner in the sky.
In our third chapter we saw that there almost certainly existed a myth in which the 'Blessed Man,' Gayomart was, as it were, forced into union with Ahriman's consort, the Primal Whore, who can scarcely be anything but the feminine principle just as Gayomart himself is the male principle. But whereas there is no ambiguity about the male principle, there is considerable ambiguity about the female. Gayomart himself is said to have sprung from Spandarmat, the Earth, and the seed from which he grows was planted by Ohrmazd himself, Spandarmat's own father. Spandarmat is, as daughter and wife of Ohrmazd, 'the Queen of Heaven and Mother of Creation':
she is, basically, Mother Earth. So in the text we are analysing we find that the seed of the dying Gayomart falls into his mother, the Earth, and in due course the first human couple, Mashye and Mashyane, arise from her in the form of a rhubarb plant. The female principle, then, appears both as the terrible 'Whore' who lets loose 'so much affliction on the Blessed Man and the toiling Bull... that they will not be fit to live,' and as the good mother, the gentle Spandarmat whose ver name means 'bounteous harmony or devotion.' The Whore, then, is simply the terrible aspect of the female principle just as the Good Mother, Spandarmat, the Earth,
is its kindly and benefit beneficent aspect. Spandarmat is what Professor C.G. Jung and his school call the Great Mother, the Whore is the 'Terrible Mother.' They are aspects of one and the same principle, the eternal female, just as Ohrmazd and Ahriman are the two aspects of the eternal male, -in Zoroastrianism eternally divided and in no wise to be reconciled. The apparent confusion, then, introduced by the myth of the Whore is simply due to the division of the female principle into an Ohrmazdean and an Ahriman half. Thus it is natural that, beside the myth of Gayomart's union in death with the Earth Goddess, we find traces of an involuntary
union with an impure female fiend which results in his death. She too, presumably, is an aspect of the Earth Goddess, and this goes far to explain how it is possible for Mashye and Mashyane, the children of the 'Blessed Man' and Good Mother Earth, to behave in the reprehensible manner described later on in this chapter.
To resume our story. The two of them grew up from the earth in the form of a single and undifferentiated rhubarb stalk. Later they separated and assumed a fully human form.
The position of Mashye and Mashyane in a world that has now tasted evil is analogous to that of Adam and Eve when they were expelled from the garden. Admittedly by this time the powers of evil have been brought under some sort of control, and Mashye and Mashyane no longer have to stand the full brunt of Ahriman's attack as was the case of the helpless Gayomart. The moment they become self-conscious they are sternly admonished by Ohrmazd to do only what is good and on no account to worship the demons. So, dutifully, they acknowledge Ohrmazd as Creator, but no sooner is temptation put in their way than they proclaim Ahriman creator of water, the
earth, and plants, -beings, significantly enough in view of what has been said, regarded by the Zoroastrians as being of the female sex. For this, according to the standards of orthodoxy, appalling blasphemy 'both were damned; and their souls (shall remain) in Hell till the Final Body.'
Now it is not clear whether Mashye and Mashyane were intended to live on earth
without taking food. According to Zoroastrian orthodoxy this seems unlikely
though it is possible that the more ascetic wing of the Zoroastrian Church
thought otherwise. Be that as it may, they remained for thirty days without
taking nourishment of any kind. Only then did they venture to try a little
goat's milk, but after drinking it they complained that they felt ill. 'This was
their second lie; and the demons obtained strength (thereby)' (§7). Now, in
Zoroastrian parlance 'lying' means sinning, and it is therefore implied that
either the drinking of the milk was sinful or the feeling of nausea that
followed it. Here again there is a certain ambivalence, for the text would
naturally be interpreted by the orthodox as meaning that they were condemned for
their ingratitude, but by the more ascetically minded heterodox as indicating
that they never should have eaten at all, just as in the last days the human
race gives up eating and drinking altogether.
Their next physical action is again capable of two interpretations. They slew an animal (either an ox or a sheep, for the word gospand
is ambiguous in Pahlavi) and roasted it on a fire which they had made 'on a sign
from the spiritual gods.' With the skin of the animal they clothed themselves
and with its hair they made rugs thereby learning the art of weaving; they
further learnt how to make weapons out of iron and how to carve wood work with
them. They were, in fact, becoming rational and civilized human beings, yet once
again are they upraided. 'Through the ingratitude that they had shown the demons
became emboldened' (§11).
What wrong had they done? Plainly the lighting of the fire which they had done at the instigation of the gods cannot have been wrong, nor can the making of clothes from animal hair nor yet the making of implements. In what, then, did their ingratitude consist? Presumably in the slaughter of an innocent beast, in the consumption of its flesh, and in the offering of the sacrificial meat to the fire and to the gods on high. If the gift were acceptable, it would scarcely have been intercepted by a vulture as in fact it was. Similarly the first flesh to be consumed on earth was consumed by a dog, -an indication, perhaps, that God did not mean man to be carnivorous.
We shall be dealing very briefly with the question of animal sacrifice in a later chapter. Suffice it to say here that the practice was vigorously attacked by Zoroaster himself, but it was subsequently admitted in the later Avesta where whole holocausts are mentioned. Throughout the Sassanian period there seems to have been no agreement between the authorities as to whether such sacrifices were admissible or not. Adhurbadh, son of Mahraspand, however, whom the Pahlavi books regard as the great orthodox teacher, bid the faithful 'abstain from the unjust slaughter of oxen and sheep,' but there are many instances of kings and princes offering hecatombs of victims.
What is, however, interesting in this initial sacrifice performed by Mashye is that it corresponds closely to the sacrifice portrayed on the Mithraic monuments. The presence of a bird, -in this case a vulture, on the monuments a raven,- and the dog in both cases is interesting: for in the Mithraic representations it is the dog which laps up the blood of the slaughtered bull, and the bird which stands between Mithra and the Sun, just as in our text the vulture intercepts the portion of the sacrifice destined for the gods and the dog apparently consumes the portion destined for the fire. This, then, would represent an ancient pre-Zoroastrian form of sacrifice
which later became incorporated into Zoroastrianism itself but which later still was again abrogated, being only symbolically offered in bloodless form as it is to this day. In Mithraism, it may be assumed, the sacrifice survived intact. How Mithra-Mithras came to be associated with this sacrifice is here irrelevant.
However we choose to interpret the sacrifice offered by Mashye and Mashyane, the fact remains that the demons were emboldened, and that our first parents attacked each other savagely, disputing, one may assume, over the distribution of their new-found treasures. Yielding to temptation again, they now made an offering of milk to the demons, a gesture which greatly increased the latter's strength.
Thus Mashye and Mashyane proved themselves singularly inept in carrying out their pre-ordained role in Ohrmazd's plan. Unlike Gayomart who was himself sinless, his son and daughter had blasphered against their Creator, and as if that were not enough, had sought to propriate his deadly enemies by offering them sacrifice. So heinous was this sin and so greatly were the demons strengthened by it that they were able to make this stiff-necked couple sexually impotent for fifty years.
We saw in our first chapter what great stress the Zoroastrians laid on the
propagation of the species as a sacred duty. That the first couple should remain
childless for fifty years, then, shows how grievously they had failed in
fulfilling the divine purpose. When finally they produced a pair of twins, they
once again did a monstrous thing. 'So sweet were the children that the mother
devoured the one and the father the other. Then Ohrmazd took away the sweetness
of children from them so that they might rear them and that their children might
The legend of Mashye and Mashyane is told in other sources too, and does not vary much. It is the Zoroastrian version of the Fall. Gayomart is man's prototype and perfect exemplar: he does not fall in any theological sense, he is simply overpowered by overwhelming force and dies. Mashye and Mashyane, on the other hand, fall repeatedly; they blaspheme, they worship the demons, and they devour their own children. Their basic corruption does not seem to be explicable if they are regarded as the children of Gayomart and Spandarmat, the Earth, as the text clearly states. The story is only comprehensible if we regard them as having sprung from Gayomart, the 'Blessed
Man,' on the one hand, and from the 'Whore,' the evil side of the feminine principle, on the other. Only so can their innate perversity be explained.
Their fall shows that human nature is already basically corrupt, and the power of the demons which they did so much to augment can only be curbed by the bringing of the Good Religion by the Prophet, Zoroaster. Thus the Zoroastrianism of Sassanian times regards the history of the material cosmos as a perpetual looking forward to the frashkart or final Rehabilitation at the end of time. The first onslaught is the worst, and the gods themselves have to intervene to retrieve the situation. Mashye and Mashyane then make a lamentable beginning and Ohrmazd has to reduce the natural pleasure they take in their food so monstrously excessive does it prove to be. With
the establishment of the Good Religion with its doctrine of moderation in all things the worst excesses of the demons of concupiscence are held at bay until the time is ripe for all things to be made new and for the final counter-offensive against Ahriman which destroys his power for ever.
- Greater Bundahishn (chapter XIV), Indian Bundahishn (chapter XV)
'(1) (Ohrmazd) says in the Religion, "I created man in ten species. First was he who is bright and white-eyed, even Gayomart. Of the ten species one is Gayomart, and the (other) nine proceeded from him. The tenth is the monkey, the lowest of men." He says (further), "When Gayomart was assailed with sickness, he fell on his left side. From his head came forth, from his blood zinc, from his marrow silver, from his feet iron, from his bones brass, from his fat crystal, from his arms steel, and from his soul (jan) as it departed, gold which even to-day men will only give up with their very life on account of its great value. Because of that portion of death which
entered into the body of Gayomart death will come upon all (living) creatures until the final Rehabilitation."
(2) When Gayomart passed away and let fall his seed, that seed was purified by the light of the Sun: two parts of it were preserved by Neryosang and one part was received by Spandarmat, (the Earth). For forty years it remained in the earth. When the forty years had elapsed, Mashye and Mashyane grew out of the earth in the form of a rhubarb plant: one stalk it had and fifteen sprouts. It was as if their hands were clapped to their ears, and they were joined the one to the other, joined in limb and form, and over the two hovered their khwarr. So closely were they linked together that it was not clear which was the male and which the female. The khwarr which
had been created by Ohrmazd and which accompanied them and is the khwarr (soul and dignity) of mankind, was given to them.
(3) For it is said (in the Religion), "Which did (Ohrmazd) create first, the khwarr or the body?" And Ohrmazd said, "The khwarr was created first and and the body afterwards." (The khwarr) was put in the body of him for whom it was created, for man's function was fashioned (first) and the body was created for the function. The interpretation of this is that the soul (ruvan) was created first, then the body. The soul directs the function within the body.
(4) Then the two of them, (Mashye and Mashyane), developed from plant form into human form, and the khwarr which is their soul entered into them secretly (menokiha). Even to-day do trees grow up in this wise.- trees whose fruit is the ten species of man (sic).
(5) Ohrmazd said to Mashye and Mashyane: "Ye are men, the father (and mother) of the world: do ye your works in accordance with righteous order (datastan) and a perfect mind. Think, speak, and do what is good. Worship not the demons." Thus did the twain first think when each considered the other, "He is a human being." The first deed that they performed was that they moved and blinked their eyes. And the first thing they said was this: "Ohrmazd created water, the earth, plants, cattle, the stars, the Moon and the Sun, and all fertile things" which in the righteous revelation are called root and fruit.
(6) Then the Aggressor assailed their mind and corrupted it; and they cried out: "The Destructive Spirit created water, the earth, plants, and other things." When they pronounced this first lie which ruined them, they spoke in accordance with the will of the demons. This first joy did the Destructive Spirit (steal) from them (and) make his own. For this lie both were damned; and their souls (shall remain) in Hell till the Final Body.
(7) For thirty days they refrained from food and clothed themselves in grass. After thirty days in the wilderness they came upon a white haired goat and they sucked the milk of its udders. And when they had drunk the milk, Mashye said to Mashyane: "I had greater joy when I had not drunk the milk than I have now when I have drunk it: my body is ill." This was their second lie; and the demons obtain strength (thereby).
(8) And the sweet taste of food was taken from them so that only one hundredth part of it remained.
(9) And after thirty more days and nights (had passed) they came upon a head of cattle, orange (in colour), with white jaws, and they slew it; and on a sign from the spiritual gods they built a fire from the wood of the lote and box, for these two trees are the most productive of fire. And they made the fire to blaze with (the breath of) their mouth, and the first fuel they burnt upon it was straw and olive and stems of mastic and branches of the date-palm. And they roast the beast on a spit and left a quantity of meat (equal to) three handfuls in the fire saying: "(This is) the portion of the fire." And they threw another portion towards the sky, saying: "This is the
portion of the gods." And a vulture passed above them and carried it off from them: for (sic) the first flesh (to be consumed) was consumed by the dog.
(10) Next they clothed themselves in garments made of skins. Then they wove a rug in the desert and made woven cloth with which to clothe themselves. And they fixed a stone in the earth and smelted iron and beat out the iron on the stone and a knife of it; and with this they cut wood and made a wooden dish.
(11) Through the ingratitude that they had shown the demons became emboldened. And of their own accord (Mashye and Mashyane) became wickedly jealous of each other, attacked each other, struck and rent each other and ripped out each other's hair.
(12) Then the demons cried out from the darkness (saying): "Ye are men: worship the demons that your envy may subside." And Mashyane arose and milked the milk of a cow and poured it out to the Northern quarter. Through the worship that was thus offered to them the demons waxed mightly.
(13) And (Mashye and Mashyane's) sexual parts became so dried up that for fifty years they had no desire to have intercourse with each other; and had they had intercourse together, no offspring would have been born to them. And at the end of (these) fifty years they began to think of begetting offspring, first Mashye and then Mashyane. Then they consummated their desires, and in the act of fulfilling their desire they though: "During the last fifty years this is the deed we should have done."
(14) After nine months a pair of twins was born to them, a girl and a boy. So sweet were the children that the mother devoured the one and the father the other. Then Ohrmazd took away the sweetness of children from them so that they might rear them and that their children might survive. Seven pairs of twins were born to them, male and female. Each brother took his sister to wife and all six couples stayed with Mashye and Mashyane; and from each was born offspring after fifty years, and in a hundred years they all died.'
Abstracted from : The Teachings of the Magi, R.C. Zaehner, London, 1956
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