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Zoroastrianism

10) The End

Zoroastrianism, like Christianity, lays great stress on individual salvation; yet the fate of the individual is ultimately seen in the context of the whole of the human race, and in Ohrmazd's plan the defeat of Ahriman also means the final release of all the souls of the damned from hell. In Sassanian Zoroastrianism there is no eternal damnation; no soul is eternally punished for the sins it has committed in time. The Frashkart or final Rehabilitation of all existence means literally the 'making excellent', and this means that evil in all its forms is finally destroyed. So not only are Ahriman and the demons who originate evil destroyed, but also effects of evil, that is to say, the sufferings endured by the damned in hell. Before that joyful consummation comes to pass, however, each individual soul has to answer for itself and has to undergo an individual judgement after death. In this respect the Zoroastrianism of the Sassanian reform is true to the Prophet's message: each man much choose between good and evil and must bear the consequences of his choice. The judgement of the soul at death is still preserved in a fragment of the Avesta and frequently appears in the Pahlavi books. No book on Zoroastrianism would be complete without it, and we must, therefore, quote it in full.

The Soul's Fate at Death

'For three days and nights the soul sits beside the head-stone [of the slab on which] the body [is laid]. On the fourth day at dawn, accompanied by Sraosha, the blessed, the good Vay, mighty Vahram (Verethraghna), and opposed by the Loosener of Bones, the evil Vay, and the demons Frehzisht and Vazisht, and pursued by the malevolence of the evil-doer Wrath who bears a bloody spear, [the soul] will come to the Bridge of the Requiter, lofty and dreadful, for thither must saved and damned alike proceed. There does many an enemy lie in wait. [There will it have to face] the malevolence of Wrath who wields a bloody spear and the Loosener of Bones who swallows up all creatures and knows no sating, but Mithra, Sraosha, and Rashnu will mediate [on its behalf]; and just Rashnu will weigh [its deeds]. He lets his spiritual scales incline to neither side, neither for the saved nor yet for the damned, nor yet for kings and princes. Not for a hair's breath will he diverge, for he is no respecter [of persons]. He deals out impartial justice both to kings and princes and to the meanest of men.

'And when the soul of the saved passes over that bridge, the bridge appears to it to be one parasang broad; and the soul of the saved passes on accompanied by the blessed Sraosha. And his own good deeds come to meet him in the form of a maiden more beautiful and fair than any girl on earth. And the soul of the saved says: "Who art thou? for never did I see on earth a maiden more beautiful and fair than thee." Then will that form of a maiden make answer and say: "I am no maiden, but thine own good deeds, young sir, whose thoughts, words, deeds, and religion are all good. For when on earth thou didst see one who offered sacrifice to the demons, then didst thou sit [apart] and offer sacrifice to the gods. And when thou didst see a man commit violence and rapine, afflict good men and treat them with contumely, or hoard up goods wrongfully obtained, then didst thou refrain from visiting creatures with violence and rapine of thine own; [rather] wast thou considerate to good men; thou didst welcome them and offer them hospitality and give them alms, both to him who came from near and to him who came from afar. They wealth too didst thou store up in accordance with righteousness. And when thou didst see one who passed false judgement, taking bribes and bearing false witness, then didst thou sit thee down and speak witness right and true. I am thy good thoughts, good words, and good deeds which thou didst think and speak and do. For though I was venerable [from the first], thou hast made me yet more venerable; and though I was honourable [from the first], thou hast made me yet more honourable; and though I was endowed with dignity (khwarr), thou hast conferred on me yet greater dignity."

'And when [the soul] departs from thence, then is a fragrant breeze wafted towards it, more fragrant than any parfume. Then does the soul of the saved ask Sraosha: "When breeze is this the like of which in fragrance I never smelt on earth?" Then does the blessed Sraosha make answer to the soul of the saved [and say]: "This is a breeze from heaven; hence is it so fragrant."

'Then with its first step it treads [the heaven of] good thoughts, with its second [the heaven of] good words, with its third [the heaven of] good deeds; and with its fourth step it attains to the Endless Light where all is bliss. And all the gods and the Bounteous Immortals come to greet him and ask him how he has fared, [saying]: "How was thy passage from those transient, fearful worlds replete with evil to these worlds which do not pass away and in which there is no adversary, young sir, whose thoughts, words, deeds, and religion are good?"

'Then Ohrmazd the Lord says: "Ask him not how he has fared; for he has been separated from his beloved body and travelled on the fearful road." Then do they serve him with the sweetest of foods, even the butter of early spring, so that the soul may take its ease after the three nights terror at the Bridge which the Loosener of Bones and the other demons brought upon him; and he is sat upon a throne everywhere adorned.

'For it is revealed that the sweetest of foods offered by the spiritual gods to a man or a woman after the parting of consciousness and body is the butter of early spring, and that they seat him on a throne everywhere adorned. And for ever and ever will he dwell in a plenitude of bliss together with the spiritual gods.

'But when the man who is damned dies, then for three days and nights does his soul hover near his head, weeping, [and saying]: "Whither shall I go? and in whom shall I now take refuge?" And during those three days and nights he sees with his eyes all the sins and wickedness that he committed on earth. On the fourth day the demon Vizarsh comes and binds the soul of the damned in most shameful wise, and, despite the opposition of the blessed Sraosha, drags it off to the Bridge of the Requitter. Then Rashnu, the Just, will unmask the soul of the damned as damned indeed.

'Then does the demon Vizarsh, eager in his wrath, seize upon the soul of the damned, smite it and despite it without pity. And the soul of the damned cries out with a loud voice, groans, and in supplication makes many a piteous plea; and desperate will be his struggle. When all his struggling and his lamentations have proved of no avail, no help is proffered him by any of the gods nor yet by any of the demons, but the demon Vizarsh drags him off against his will to nethermost hell.

'Then a maiden who yet has no resemblance to a maiden comes to meet him. And the soul of the damned says to that ill-favoured wench: "Who art thou? for never have I seen an ill-favoured wench on earth more ill-favoured and hideous than thee." And in answer that ill-favoured wench says to him: "I am no girl, but I am thy deeds -hideous deeds- thy evil thoughts, evil words, evil deeds, and evil religion. For when on earth thou didst see one who offered sacrifice to the gods, then didst thou sit [apart] and offer sacrifice to the demons: demons and lies didst thou worship. And when thou didst see one who welcomed good men and offered them hospitality, and gave alms both to those who came from near and to those who came from far, then didst thou treat good men with contumely and show them dishonour; nor didst thou give them alms, but shuttest thy door [upon them]. And when thou didst see one who passed just judgement, or took no bribes, or bore true witness, or spoke up in righteousness, then didst thou sit down and pass false judgement, bear false witness, and speak unrighteously. I am thy evil thoughts, evil words, and evil deeds which thou didst think and speak and do. For though I was disreputable [at first], thou hast made me yet more disreputable; and though I was dishonourable [at first], thou hast made me yet more dishonourable; and though I sat [at first] among the unaware, thou hast made me yet more unaware."

'Then with the first step he goes to [the hell of] evil thoughts, with his second to [the hell of] evil words, and with his third to [the hell of] evil deeds. And with his fourth step he lurches into the presence of the Destructive Spirit and the other demons. And the demons mock at him and hold him up to scorn [saying]: "What grieved thee in Ohrmazd the Lord, and the Bounteous Immortals, and in fragrant and delightful heaven, and what complaint hadst thou of them that thou shouldst come to see Ahriman, the demons, and murky hell? For we shall torment thee, nor shall we have any mercy on thee, and for a long time shalt thou suffer torment."

'Then will the Destructive Spirit cry out to the demons [saying]: "Ask not concerning him; for he has been separated from his beloved body and has come through that most evil passage-way. Serve him [rather] with the filthiest and most vile of foods, food produced in hell."

'Then they will bring him poison and venom, snakes and scorpions and other noxious reptiles [which thrive] in hell and give him thereof to eat. And until the Resurrection and the Final Body he must remain in hell suffering much torment and all manner of chastisement. And the food that for the most part he must eat there is rotten, as it were, and like unto blood.'

The Nature of the Discarnate Soul

From this description of the soul's fate at death it can be seen that the Zoroastrian conception of the nature of the soul is rather materialistic; it has senses with which it sees, hears, touches, smells, and tastes, and it has the equivalent of physical organs, for it eats. Manushchihr even goes so far as to describe the soul as the menok i tan, the 'unseen genius of the body'; it has the same senses as the body through which it can enjoy the pleasures of paradise and suffer the torments of hell. In the three nights during which the soul awaits judgement, the soul of the virtuous man suffers punishment for the few sins it has committed and then passes on to paradise, while the soul of the wicked man who, nevertheless, has some virtuous deeds on his creadit side, is visited by the spirit of good thoughts on the first night, by the spirit of good words on the second, and by the spirit of good deeds on the third: these bring him some comfort and seek to console him, but he has to go down to hell nonetheless.

Heaven and hell, however, are not the same for all: their joys and pains are strictly commensurate to the amount of virtue or sin a man has ammassed during his earthly life. In addition to heaven and hell there is another place to which the soul of the dead may go; this is called Hamestagan, the 'place of the mixed', destined for those whose balance of virtue and sin is exactly equal. This is situated between earth and the 'station of the stars', and the only pain the soul suffers there is from heat and cold.

Heaven

Both heaven and hell are thought of in material terms and the pure contemplation of God is rarely mentioned. Manushchihr almost goes out of his way to emphasize that the joys of heaven are exactly like the joys of earth except that there can be no real comparison between an infinite and a finite form of existence. The descriptions of heaven found in the Avesta must be considered simply as similitudes 'to give some idea of them to men still on earth'; for:
'the finite cannot be compared to the infinite, nor the transient to what is not transient, nor what is subject to diminution to what is not. This world is finite, transient, and subject to diminution, whereas the Endless Light is neither transient nor subject to diminution, and that Treasury of eternal Benefit is indestructible, and the bright House of Song is all joy with no admixture of pain.'

Yet in his descriptions of heaven as it exists before the final Rehabilitation, Manushchihr (and the other Pahlavi texts as well) seems to regard it as little more than a replica of this world from which all sin and all pain have been expelled. Moreover, it is very definitely a place, not a state. It is 'above' (and he uses no less than three words of identical meaning to emphasize this point), 'most brilliant, fragrant, pure and beautiful, most desirable and good, the place and abode of the gods. In it is all ease and pleasure, joy and bliss, a state of welfare greater and better than the greatest and highest welfare and pleasure on earth. In it there is neither need nor pain, nor misery, nor discomfort.' The denizens of heaven are free from the fear of ever being hurt again.

In addition to this the soul is said actually to see God. Ohrmazd gives him spiritual senses and he rejoices at what he sees. Ohrmazd, however, is never thought of as having a human form, as the God of the Old Testament and the Allah of the Koran so frequently are; rather he is a pure light. Thus in the Book of Artay Viraf, which describes the journeyings of that holy man throughout the different hells and his final emergence into the presence of the All Highest, we read that though Ohrmazd spake to him and though he heard his voice, he saw no physical form: "When Ohrmazd spake in this manner, I was astonished; for I saw a light, but no body did I see. A voice I heard, and I knew that this was Ohrmazd.'

The vision of God, however, is only one of the joys of heaven, though no doubt the greatest. After being introduced into the divine presence by the Good Mind the newly-arrived soul is greeted by his friends, made welcome, and told of all the joys that await him. Heavenly food, too, differs from our food on earth; for, on earth, we either eat because we are hungry and have to, or we eat for the pure pleasure of it: in heaven the pleasure motive is alone present.

The soul will also enjoy the company of learned and pious friends and of wives who are fair and modest, devoted to their husbands and thrifty. There, too, will all the animal kingdom be -flocks and herds, wild animals, birds, and fish -fires and winds, shining metals, and water in rivers, springs, and wells. Trees, too, will there be, and luscious fruits, corn, and all manner of plants and flowers. Yet this is only a similitude made to suit the finite mind, for the reality surpasses the description as much as the infinite surpasses the finite. Despite this qualification, however, it is clear that the Zoroastrians regarded heaven as being a perfect exemplar of this world in which personal relationships would subsist and sensuous pleasures would be enjoyed.

Hell

So, too, with hell. It lies deep down beneath the earth, 'is most dark and stinking, most fearful and thankless, most evil -the place and lair of the demons and lies'. In it there is neither pleasure nor joy; all is stench and pollution, pain and punishment, affliction, suffering, misery, and discomfort -all this, too, to an infinite degree so that there can be no comparison with earthly pain; and whereas, on earth, the fear of some future evil is usually worse than the evil itself, in hell the reality far exceeds the dread.

The most graphic description of hell is that given by Artay Viraf who experienced it at first hand in a vision induced by hashish.
'And so I experienced cold and an icy wind, dryness and stench such as I had never experienced on earth nor yet heard of. And as I went on further I saw the ghastly deeps of hell; like a most fearful put it led down to an even narrower and more terrifying place. Its darkness was so thick that it could be grasped with the hand. Its stench was such that whoever breathed it in must needs stagger(?), tremble, and fall. So narrow was it that none could stand up there. And all [who were there] thought, "I am alone"; and when only three days and nights have passed, they say: "Surely nine thousand years have passed by, yet they do not let me go." Even in the places where there are least noxious beasts, they are [piled up] as high as mountain, and they tear, rend, and worry the souls of the damned in a way that would be unworthy of a dog.'

Hell, then, is solitary confinement in a freezing and stinking darkness. It is laid out in three layers of descending gloom, situated in the north, between the underside of the earth and that part of the sky which is below the earth. The sole companions of the damned are the demons that their own evil actions have ehgendered on earth, and these perpetually torment them. Despite the fact that these dead souls are fed on the most nauseating substances, they are never satisfied and always crave for more. Hell, however, is not a permanent state, nor is it considered possible that a man could be so wicked as to be incapable of repentance and of yearning for a virtuous state. In hell the soul at last understands reality as it is, it understands the heartless wickedness of Ahriman who gloatingly mocks at his sufferings, and the total goodness of Ohrmazd whom he has betrayed. Hell, then, corresponds not so much to the Christian hell as to Purgatory. True, the sufferings of hell are not yet cathartic, but they are sufficient to awaken repentance, and this is enough to enable the soul to shake off its shackles when God's day of reckoning with the powers of evil comes; then the souls of the damned, the prisoners, will be strong enough to overcome their gaolers, the demons. And then, at long as, when the final Rehabilitation comes to pass and the Lie is conquered, the souls of the damned will be made to pass through a river of molten metal, and this will purify them of all remaining taint of sin. Sanctified they will join the souls of the saved and all will live in perfect harmony for evermore.

So much for the fate of the individual soul. Now it is time to consider the fate of humanity as a whole.

The Frashkart or Final Rehabilitation

The cosmic drama is seen as taking place in three stages -creation, the 'progress of religion', and the final Rehabilitation. The last -the Frashkart or 'Making Excellent' -is the end to which the whole of creation looks forward; it is regarded as being the inevitable consummation of a rational process initiated by God, and it is never supposed for one moment that there is any doubt that it will come to pass. The phrase used for this process is patvandishn i o Frashkart, which can be translated as the 'continuous evolution towards the Rehabilitation'. Zoroastrianism differs from most other religions in that it sees reality as a spiritual disharmony: good and evil stand over against each other, irreconcilably opposed in a timeless eternity. Ohrmazd forces the issue by limiting Time and drawing Ahriman into battle, and his object is by these means to destroy the power of evil for ever. He knows that Ahriman cannot possibly win, for he represents only naked force; he is incapable of planning anything in advance and even of looking after his own interests. His attendant demons, moreover, are incapable of concerted action, since, of their nature, they are compounded of disorder, except only to combine in unnatural alliance against their arch-enemy, man. Ultimately he relies more on Ahriman's stupidity than upon his own strength to gain the final victory.

Ohrmazd's Master-plan for the Overthrow of Evil

Ohrmazd's plan, as we have seen, was to trap Ahriman within the cosmos and to allow him there to worry himself to pieces in his chaotic malevolence. The spiritual world of light and goodness is thus already sealed off from the powers of darkness, protected by the double rampart of the sky and the collective consciousness of all mankind, sometimes identified with the khwarr of the Good Religion. Man, meanwhile, has agreed to fight out the food fight in the material world, and it is man who is thus the main agent in the defeat of the Evil One and his hateful minions. Man, however, was dealt two mortal blows when Ahriman slew his ancestor, Gayomart: he was oppressed with the certainty of physical death, and, by being infected by the demonic bacteria that assailed him -concupiscence, anger, envy, vengefulness, and the rest -he became liable to sin and, through sin, to damnation. The elimination of evil, then, entails the elimination of the consequences of evil, physical death and moral wickedness. And so the Frashkart involves the total destruction of Ahriman and his creation, the raising of the dead, the purification of the souls that had been damned in hell, and the establishment of the kingdom of perfect harmony which will be brought about by the adherence of the whole human race to the Good Religion.

The Frashkart, however, was implicit in creation from the beginning, for it will be remembered that the physical death of Gayomart made it possible for the human race to increase and multiply. From his seed the first human couple was born, and from then mankind began to multiply in ever-increasing profusion. Man lost his immortality as an individual, but he won a new immortality in the perdurance and continuous expansion of the race. So too with the soul: Ahriman's greatest triumph had been to deceive the soul and thereby bring about its damnation in hell; yet even this could only be a short-lived triumph, for not only did death put an end to the evil deeds of the evil-doer, it opened his eyes in hell to the ugly fact that he had allowed himself to be made a fool of, and this in turn paved the way to his repentance. Nothing Ahriman does can prove to his own advantage in the long run; for he is worse than a knave, he is a fool.

Ahriman had sought to destroy Ohrmazd in five ways. First, his nature being cold and dry, he attempted to annihilate the hot and moist which together constitute the physical essence of Ohrmazd; at the same time and by the same means he had hoped to destroy all living things. Ohrmazd, however, countered this by uniting hot with dry and moist with cold, thereby forming the four elements from which he was to construct the whole material universe. Similarly, the creation of the demons and their onslaught on mankind served only to teach men to help each other and spurred them on to find ways and means of defeating their common enemy. Again, Ahriman hoped to defeat Ohrmazd's creation by one single concerted attack, but, failing to do so, he dissipated his forces, or rather was forced to do so because the chief and captain of all the demonic host, Az-concupiscence, rebelled against this unitary plan so contrary to her nature, and reintroduced that 'disorderly motion', which is her very essence, into the Devil's camp. This disorder, again, which was intended to throw Ohrmazd's armies into disarray, inevitably turned on Ahriman's creation itself and devoured it; and Ahriman, now abandoned and alone, is only saved from this final degradation of being devoured by what he had created by the intervention of his eternal enemy, Ohrmazd.

The Three Phases of Ohrmazd's Plan

Zatsparam, as we have seen, divides the history of the cosmos into three stages-creation, the progress of religion, and the final Rehabilitation. The whole process he compares to the building of a house, and the whole history of the cosmos can thus be regarded as a gradual unfolding of the Rehabilitation. Ahriman's attack itself is in its way a felix culpa, for only by bringing death into the world does he make it not only possible but necessary for the human race to increase and multiply-only so can God's house be built by man. For:
'The creating of creation, the progress of Religion, and the final Rehabilitation are like unto the building of a house. For a house can only be completed by means of three things, that is, the foundation, the walls, and the roof.... As when a man desires to build a house, he chooses three men of whom one is most skilled in laying the foundation, one in raising the walls, and one in making the roof; and each is assigned to his proper task. Till the foundation was laid and the walls raised, it was not possible [to make the roof]. He who bade the house [be built] knows clearly how many things are needed to complete it, and because he has no doubt concerning the skill of the maker of the roof, long does he confidently wait. When the walls are completed, it is as easy for him whose business is the roof, to roof [the house] in as [it is] for the other two in the work that is assigned them.
'And again the Rehabilitation is like unto a dark night: when the night draws to its close, the sun rites over the three corners of the earth, returns to its proper place, completes its cycle, comes to shine anew, and smites the darkness and gloom.
'It is like unto the moon which waxes for fifteen [nights] and for fifteen wanes. When it has completely disappeared, it is born anew and is manifest in the sheen [it has] from the sun, the lord of nights: the restoration of the world of the Resurrection is figured forth thereby.
'It is like unto the year in which, in spring, the trees blossom, in summer they bear fruit, in autumn they bear the last fruits, and in winter they become dry and as if dead. When the order of the years is fulfilled, the sun returns to its first place, day and night are equal in measure, and the atmosphere [returns to] its original(?) equilibrium.
'And the Resurrection of the dead is like unto dry trees and shrubs that put forth new foliage and shoot forth tender saplings. Since stability must be restored, the end of all natural things is in the same manner as their beginning, even as man, whose coming to be springs from the semen, or as the plants whose becoming is from seed; their perfection and end are in the selfsame seed'.

Zatsparam's similes have a certain truth, for the evolutionary progress towards the final Rehabilitation, the building of the house of God, is a slow business and seems to meet with violent reversals. These reversals, however, always result in a further forward thrust towards the final goal which is the destruction of the Lie, because each time the Lie further weakens itself and makes its own demise the more inevitable. The similes of the sun, the moon, and the year are all in accord with the Zoroastrian idea of finite Time as Ashoqar, Zaroqar, and Frashokar, 'he who plants the seed, he who brings old age, and he who makes excellent.' According to this scheme of things, no doubt Zurvanite in inspiration, the world, so far from being impelled on by an inner evolutionary drive, rather seems to run out and die just at the moment when it is about to be again restored in a new life, a new glory, and a new luxuriance.

We have detailed accounts of the Rehabilitation in the Bundahishn, in Manushchihr's Datastan i Denik, in Zatsparam, and in one of the Pahlavi Rivayats ('traditions'). They do not agree in all respects, and we shall have to draw on them all. Zatsparam's version, as we would expect, shows Zurvanite tendencies. In this account it is Zurvan himself who arms Ahriman with the weapon of Az, concupiscence and greed, who is ultimately to destroy his whole creation, and it is Az, rather than Ahriman, who dominates the whole apocalyptic scene. In Manushchihr's account, on the other hand, no single demon is granted especial pride of place; rather the whole Satanic host breaks asunder, reft by its own inner contradictions, and the demons fall upon each other to their mutual ruin.

The Beginning of the End

The three last millennia of the cosmic year are presided over by the three posthumous sons of Zoroaster: Oshetar, Oshetarmah, and Saoshyans, all of whom have been born from his seed, miraculously preserved in a lake. Each has his part to play in the eschatological drama, but it is in the era of Saoshyans that Ahriman is finally destroyed, that the dead rise again, and that all creation is renewed and made immortal.

The millennia of Oshetar and Oshetarmah are the prelude to the Rehabilitation, and at the beginning of each of them the Religion of Zoroaster is once again renewed. In these two millennia the noxious beasts created by Ahriman, that is, the wolf and cat tribes on the one hand, and reptiles and poisonous insects on the other, are destroyed.

In the millennium of Saoshyans the living win through to immortality and the bodies of the dead are raised. Man, as originally constituted, was autarchic: he had no nead to eat. Thus when man's first parents, Mashye and Mashyane, first drank goat's milk, thereby breaking their fast, they felt obscurely that they had done wrong. 'After thirty days in the wilderness,' we read, '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 sick."'

The reason that they felt ill at ease was that by eating and drinking they laid themselves open to Az-concupiscence: their bodies were no longer self-sufficient but depended on nourishment from outside, and this in turn ultimately led to their own wastage and death when they themselves are devoured by Az, for Az is not only the demon of gluttony and lust, she is also the demon of death who is never sated; she is the demon 'who swallows all things. When, through want, nothing comes her way, she pines away. She is that Lie who, though all the goods of this world were given to her, would be neither sated nor satisfied.' According to Zatsparam she divided her powers into three, 'that pertaining to the natural functions', 'that pertaining to the natural functions directed outward', and 'that outside the natural functions'. 'That pertaining to the natural functions consists in eating on which life depends: that pertaining to the natural functions directed outward is the desire to copulate, which is called lust (varan), and through which, by a glance outward, the inwards are excited and the natural functions of the body thrown into a turmoil; that outside the natural functions is the craving for whatever good thing one sees or hears.'

Zatsparam's conception of Az would appear to be much influenced by Manichaeanism, for Az is for him not so much the abuse of legitimate physical functions, that is, eating and drinking and sexual intercourse, as those functions themselves. That man's dependence on food in some way makes him a slave to Az, however, seems also to be the view of the Bundahishn, and his progressive abandonment of all food and drink is in both books an essential preliminary to bodily immortality. Manushchihr and the Frashkart Rivayat make no mention of this 'spiritualization' of man's body which, in any case, seems to be at variance with the well attested belief that the soul eats 'spiritual' food in heaven. The contradition, however, may be no more than apparent, for the whole point of the Rehabilitation is that matter and spirit are finally made one: 'nature will be clad in spirit,' as Zatsparam puts it, and, as his brother, Manushchihr, also makes abundantly clear, the traditional descriptions of heaven and the renewed existence of the Rehabilitation in which food and sexual intercourse figure prominently, are not to be taken literally and can only be regarded as a feeble attempt to express infinite realities in finite terms; we just do not know what the Resurrection life and the 'spiritual' body that enjoys it are really like. The conquest of Az, however, is and must be the decisive step in the defeat of evil in general, for only by depriving her of her normal diet of dead men will she be forced to find an alternative diet -live demons. So we read that:
'Just as Mashye and Mashyane, after they had grown out of the earth, consumed water first, then plants, then milk, and then meat, so do men when they [are about to] die, abstain first from the eating of meat and milk and then from bread; but right up to the moment of death they drink water. So too in the millennium of Oshetarmah the power of Az will be so diminished that men will be satisfied by eating one meal every three days and nights. After that they will abstain from eating meat, and eat [only] plants and the milk of domestic animals. After that they will abstain from the drinking of milk also; then they will abstain from the eating of plants too and will drink only water. Ten years before the coming of Saoshyans they will reach a stage in which they eat nothing, yet will not die.'

Zatsparam enters into greater detail concerning the spiritualization of the body that the gradual abandonment of food and drink entails. With the abandonment of flesh-meat one-quarter of the power of Az is destroyed, and 'nature will be clad in spirit and intelligences will be more clearly grasped'. Further, 'in the bodies of the children that are born to them Az will be less strong and their bodies will smell less foul, and their nature will be more closely bound to the gods. Instructed by the gods, they will turn away from the drinking of milk; half the power of Az will dwindle. And those who are born to them will be sweet-smelling, having little darkness in them, spiritual in nature, without offspring, for they will not eat.'

The Destruction of Az and Ahriman (Zurvanite Version)

Az, now terribly enfeebled, deriving no power from the creatures of Ohrmazd, turns upon Ahriman, who had made her captain of his commanders, saying: 'Satisfy me, satiate me, for I derive nor food nor strength from the creatures of Ohrmazd.' Then, with Ahriman's unwilling consent, Az, insatiate to the last:
'swallows up Wrath (eshm, the Aeshma of the Gathas) of the bloody spear, and second Winter, created by the demons, third Bane that moves in secret, and fourth the swallows Old Age whose breath is foul, so that none remain [save only] the Destructive Spirit and Az, the demon-created. And Az, the demon-created, [says] to the Destructive Spirit: "I will swallow thee, thou warped in mind, for the gods have taken away [all] creation save thee."'

The wheel has now turned full circle. Ahriman, who had led a united host of demons against Ohrmazd's creation and against its captain, man, Ahriman who had once befouled the whole earth and brought death to all living things except only man, Ahriman, who had boasted: 'Perfect is my victory....I have seized the kingdom, and on the side of Ohrmazd none remains to do battle except only man; and man, isolated and alone, what ca he do?'- this same Ahriman now finds himself isolated and alone; and not only isolated, but hemmed in between the embattled hosts of Ohrmazd on the one side, strong in their new-won immortality, and, on the other, Az, the obscene monster he had himself called into existence, strong once again with the strength of the whole demonic host she has devoured, avid now for a royal banquet at which the King of Darkness will himself be her last delicious fare. Rather than submit to this ultimate indignity, the Evil One turns in hopeless appeal to his ancient enemy, relying on his mercy. 'I created this creation,' he fatuously boasts, 'and Az, the demon-created, who has swallowed up my creation, now craves to swallow me. I make thee Judge between us.'

This is the end. Evil, which had co-existed with Good for all eternity, and which the Good God had finally brought out into the open, now stands at bay, defeated by its own incoherence, discord, envy, and greed, forced to appeal to God to save it from death at the hands of its own most powerful ally; but Ohrmazd, the Good God, whose nature is always to show mercy, knows that here there can be no mercy, for his enemy is utterly and irretrievably depraved, evil in essence and beyond all redemption; therefore he must be once and for all destroyed. So:
'Ohrmazd arises with Sraosha the Blessed, and Sraosha the Blessed smites Az, and Ohrmazd the Destructive Spirit. With all the foul darkness and misery he had brought into [the world] when he first rushed in, he is thrown out of the sky by the same hole throught which he had [first] rushed in; and at the hole is he laid low and made unconscious so that [never] again will he arise from that stupor. There have been some who have said that he will be foreover powerless and, as it were, slain, and that henceforth neither the Destructive Spirit nor his creation will exist.'

The Meaning of Ahriman's Destruction

It is a Zoroastrian dogma that in the end Ahriman and his entire creation will be made powerless for all eternity, but, as can be seen from the passage just quoted, there was uncertainty as to whether this powerlessness meant his annihilation or not. Two views are alternatively expressed, first that he is expelled from the universe of light and reduced to a never ending unconsciousness, and secondly that he is 'as it were' slain, and that neither he nor his creation will ever exist again. The more philosophical texts, however, assure us that Ohrmazd and Ahriman are substances, and it is of the nature of substance that it cannot change. What, then, is meant by the 'annihilation' of Ahriman? Manushchihr compares it to the physical death of material creatures, which is the dissolution of the elements that had gone to make up the living organism. Ahriman is, of course, not a material being: he is a spirit, but apparently a composite spirit. His destruction, then, means that his faculties are dissipated 'just as with mortal men on earth when the vital spirit is separated from the body, there is dispersion: the [various] organs are separated and the faculties destroyed so that a [total] stupor ensues, all activity is stopped, and all movement comes to an end'. In more homely language, Ahriman 'is dragged outside the sky and his head is cut off'. What is, of course, universally conceded is that Ahriman as an active force utterly ceases to be; the principle of death itself is slain and dies.

The Disintegration of Evil (Orthodox Version)

Whether or not Ahriman's final humiliation at the hands of Az, which figures not only in Zatsparam but also in the Bundahishn and the Frashkart Rivayat, is specifically Zurvanite, Manushchihr prefers to ignore it and attributes the collapse of the forces of evil to the total disintegration of the temporary alliance they had been able to form when there was still hope of destroying man. With man at last withdrawn from their grasp they have no choice but to fall upon each other.

'The demons of calumny whose nature is to incite creatures against each other by falsehood and lies, since they no longer succeed in inciting the saved against each other, incite the damned against the damned, and when they can no longer incite the damned against each other, they incite demon against demon. And Wrath of the bloody spear, no longer able to stir up strife among the saved, stirs up strife and warefare among the damned; and when it can no longer stir up strife among the damned, it stirs up strife among the demons and lies and makes them fall on one another. So too the demon Az, no longer able to swallow the good, is impelled by her own nature to go and swallow up the demons. And so too the Loosener of Bones who deals out death by causing separation, seeing that the saved no longer die and that even the damned among God's creation are no longer subject to death, falls upon the lies and brings them death, which is no more than the separation of their organs and faculties [which can only survive in union].'

Thus the very nature of the demons, which is to commit aggression, to torment, to stir up strife, and to destroy, turns in upon itself; they 'fight against themselves, strike, rend, tear, and disrupt themselves', until not a particle or a particle of a particle of them remains within the kingdom of the light. So, for Manushchihr, 'the Lies are vanquished by their own weapons, their own impulse, their own striving, as well as by the glory (khwarr) of the Creator and the gods.' 'A house that is divided against itself cannot stand,' and the House of the Lie is no exception to the rule. The inner contradictions which only a common fight against a hated enemy could temporarily dissemble, reveal themselves in all their crudity once the enemy is beyond the Lie's reach. Then the demons turn the one upon the other and rend each other to pieces.

Ahriman, the principle of death, is now himself dead; and it only remains for Ohrmazd to raise the bodies of the dead, to reunite them with their souls, and to inaugurate his kingdom of unending joy.

The Resurrection of the Body

Of all the doctrines of Christianity that the modern scientific mind finds hard to swallow, the resurrection of the body is the hardest. This dogma, which Christianity inherited from Zoroastrianism, the Zoroastrians themselves found hard. The Prophet himself is represented as questioning his God concerning this doctrine which seems to fly in the face of reason.

'Zoroaster asked Ohrmazd: "Shall bodily creatures that have passed away on earth their bodies back at the final Rehabilitation, or will they be like unto shades?"
'Ohrmazd [said]: "They will receive their bodies back and will rise again."
'And Zoroaster asked: "He who has passed away is torn apart by dog and bird and carried off by wolf and vulture: how will [their parts] come together again?"
'Ohrmazd said: "If thou who art Zoroaster hadst to make a wooden casket, would it be easier to make it if thou hadst no wood and yet hadst to cut and fit it, or if thou hadst a casket and its parts were sundered one from the other and thou hadst to fit it together again?"
'Zoroaster said: "If I had a branch of wood, it would be easier than if I had no wood; and if I had a casket [and its parts were sundered the one from the other,] it would be easier [to fit it together again than if I had no wood and yet had to fashion and fit it]."
'Ohrmazd said: "When those creations were not, I had power to fashion them; and now that they have been and are scattered abroad, it is easier to fit them together again. For I have five storekeepers who receive the bodily substance of those who have passed away. One is the earth which keeps the flesh and bone and sinews of men: one is the water which keeps the blood: one is the plants which preserve the hair of the head and the hair of the body: one is the light of the heavenly sphere which receives the fire: and yet another is the wind which [gives back] the spirit of my own creatures at the time of the Rehabilitation."'

The Role of Saoshyans and the Final Bull-Sacrifice

Ohrmazd, however, does not himself inaugurate the Resurrection of the body, but, with characteristic courtesy, entrusts it to Saoshyans, the last of Zoroaster's posthumous sons, who represents the human race redeemed; and he will first raise the bones of Gayomart, the first ancestor of the human race, who first fell, though sinless, a victim to the malice of the Aggressor, then the bones of Mashye and Mashyane, man's first parents who first learnt to sin. Then 'for fifty-seven years will Saoshyans raise the dead, and all men will be resurrected, both those who were saved and those who were damned. And each man will arise in the place where his vital spirit left him or where first he fell to the ground.'

Saoshyans, it appears, has only the power to raise the scattered elements, not the power to reconstitute them as individual men; this Ohrmazd himself must do, restoring to each his individual 'form' (adhvenak) and character. Body is thus once again joined to soul, but the reconstituted human being has yet to receive the seal of immortality. This is conferred on him by a solemn repetition of the Haoma sacrifice which he received the earnest of immortality, though not its substance, on earth. This is the 'sacrifice of the raising of the dead...and in that sacrifice the bull Hadhayans will be slain, and from the fat of the bull the white Haoma will be prepared, [the drink of] immortality, and it will be distributed to all men'. 'Life will be given back to their bodies and they will possess an immortal soul,' freed from evil and transience, 'foreover living, foreover increasing (hame-sut).'

Purgation by Molten Metal

But before the final sacrifice can take place, all sin must once and for all be purged away from the human soul. For three days the saved are returned to paradise and the damned to hell in preparation for the final ordeal.
'Then will the Fire-god and the god Airyaman melt the metals that are in the mountains and hills, and they will flow over the earth like rivers. And all men will be made to pass through the molten metal to be purged thereby. And it will seem to him who was saved as if he were walking through warm milk, but to the man who was damned it will seem that he is walking through molten metal in very deed.'

After this final purgation in which all stain of sin has been forever wiped out, both those who had been in heaven and those who had been in hell 'become of one voice and are loud in their praise of Ohrmazd and the Bounteous Immortals', for they too are immortal and about to enter into a state of never ending joy.

The 'Final Body' and Renewal of All Things

The Frashkart, the 'Making Excellent', or final Rehabilitation is also the Tan i pasen, the Final Body. This phrase needs elucidation. It can scarcely mean anything but the final and perfect form that the 'first body', the total cosmos or macrocosm, the 'body of Zurvan or finite time', takes on at the end of time when time itself merges into the Infinite. The 'evolutionary progress' of the material world which culminates in the Rehabilitation, is then seen in its first stage as a progressive differentiation from unitary matter through the four natural properties and the four elements to the appearance of individuated organic life and the emergence of a rational being, man. The second stage is the multiplication of individual men and of organic life in general, and the third is the unification of mankind in total concord and in adoring acceptance of the will of God. The 'first body' was one in the sense that it was totally undifferentiated and unconscious, but the 'Final Body' is one in the sense that it is a totally integrated complex of individual rational unities in which each element, by fulfilling itself, also plays its part in fulfilling the whole. This is the khwarr fulfilled, each man, each group, each nation, and finally all the human race have become what in God's plan they always were, their own perfection and final cause. This interpretation of the meaning of the Rehabilitation is stressed in the Denkart, and this book alone among the Pahlavi books sees this achieved solidarity and reconstituted harmony of the whole human race under God, this perfect unity in perfected diversity, as the essence of the resurrection life. The Bundahishn has nothing worthwhile to say on the subject. Zatsparam, however, does stress that the essence of the resurrection life is harmony and concord; for Ohrmazd and the Bounteous Immortals are represented as saying:
'We are seven, but one in thought, word, and deed; and because we are in thought, word, and deed, we are unageing and deathless, knowing neither corruption nor decay; and when you who are men become one in thought, word, and deed, then will you become unageing, free from sickness, knowing neither corruption nor decay, even as we, the Bounteous Immortals are.'

The Marriage of Matter and Spirit

In the main, however, the descriptions of the resurrection life are disappointing, and, despite the repeated warnings that the joys of immortal existence infinitely transcend the joys of this life, we cannot help feeling that those late Zoroastrian apocalypses had no real feeling for a life of spirit which would transcend sense. True, the earth is lifted up to the station of the stars, and paradise, the House of Song, descends from on high to meet it there; and the gulf between spirit and matter, narrow though it had always been, is now filled in. Matter is 'clad in spirit' and spirit in matter; God indwells man and the other Bounteous Immortals indwell the animals, fires, metals, earth, water, and plants, over which they respectively preside: the whole material creation is suffused and illuminated by spirit.

Or again, Ohrmazd, the Bounteous Immortals, and all the gods assemble in one place together with resurrected humanity; sun, moon, and stars take on human from and walk with men, and Ohrmazd will have consummated the work of creation. Ohrmazd's work is finished and he can now rest in peace for ever, and man's sole work will be 'to gaze upon Ohrmazd and offer him prayer as Lord and to do whatever else should seem to him most pleasurable. Each man will love his fellow even as himself'. The words, however, are once again inadequate to the reality, for 'the joys of the Final Body, apart from what has been described above, are such as cannot be known by the finite intellect and reason of man, nor can they be spoken of'.

The sources, however, agree that to each man will be restored his wife or wives and that he will have his pleasure of them though no children will be born to them. Yet how can the intercourse between man and woman be compared to what takes place in the resurrection life? for it is clear that the resurrection body is totally different from this earthly body, weighed down as it is by darkness. For 'their bones will shine like crystal among gems; the flesh on their bones will be like the bark(?) on trees; the tendons on their bones will be like golden chains on carved crystal. The blood will course in their veins like perfumed wine in a golden chalice, and the humours in their bodies will be more fragrant than musk and ambergris and camphor'.

Manushchihr eschews the rather crude materialism of tradition and emphasizes only that the restored creation will be not only perfectly at peace, but also suffused with light and a mutual love centred in God.
'After the Rehabilitation there will be no demons because there will be no deceit, no Lies because no lying, no Ahriman because no aggressiveness, no hell because no state of damnation, no strife because no wrath, no vengefulness because no hurt, no pain because no sickness, no lamentation because no fear, no need because no craving (az), no shame because no ugliness, no deceit because no desire to deceive, no irreligion because no false doctrine, no evil because its source will have been destroyed in accordance with the tradition that the source of all evil thoughts, words, and deeds, and all evil states, stems from the Destructive Spirit. Once he is destroyed, all evil will be destroyed; and with the destruction of evil all good things are brought to their fulfilment; and at a time when good has reached its plenitude, there can be no possibility of devising pain and misery by any means whatever against any creature.'

Good is symbolized by light, evil by darkness: so the destruction of evil and the sole sovereignty of the good can only mean that the material world is transformed into pure light.
'The sun, moon, and stars will [indeed] exist, but there will be no need for daylight or a succession of glimmering dawns, for the whole world will be light and devoid of any darkness, and each [individual] creature will be light. Being light, they will be full of joy. And all creatures will have but one will and one desire. Individual men will feel no envy at the joy of the totality of created things (vispan daman), but will rejoice together with it. The goodness and joy allotted to each will wax and grow in the glory of the omnipotence of Him who is all-good, [all]-aware, all in all through his overflowing bounty and perfect skill in means.'

Of all the accounts of the resurrection life, Manushchihr's is the most essentially Zoroastrian. The conquest of evil means the conquest of death, and death is diminuation and separation. The elimination of evil and the sole sovereignty of good means life and ever more life, increase, harmony, and the union of all separate wills with the will of God, each person remaining himself, each soul glad in the glory that is peculiarly his and making his own individual contribution to the perfect whole -a contribution that none but he can make and without which the whole would be less than perfect. Spirit and matter are indeed fused, but the fusion implies no confusion of identity.
'Spirit is one thing and matter another: matter is one thing and spirit another; but thanks to God's omnipotence all souls and external souls desire and choose the Creature's glory (khwarr) and his command; [and this they do] effortlessly and full of joy. As the seas and rivers, and other waters, mountains, and plants, which differ in form and shape disport themselves in an effulgence [of their own], so do the souls and external souls, though created spirits, take their pleasure and delight in union with [their bodies] which experience through sense; engaged in worship for ever and ever they abide in a plenitude of bliss.'

This is infinite existence in which finite time merges into Infinite Time, and God himself at last becomes 'all in all'. Limited from the beginning by a principle of darkness which carried within it the seed of death, God now enters into his own plenitude and his own infinity; and his creation, freed from evil and death and united with his will, comes to participate in his own absolute goodness and absolute bliss, each man partaking of it according to his capacity -and because God's nature is superabundant bounty, the resurrection must be seen as an ever-expanding joy to which there can be no end. In fulfilling his own nature, God bestows on his whole creation a richness of life and joy, both spiritual and material, that must go on increasing ever more though time has long since stopped.

Abstracted from : The Dawn and Twilight of Zoroastrianism, R.C. Zaehner, New York, 1961

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