The Treasure of the Magi: A Study of Modern Zoroastrianism

By James Hope Moulton | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
ZARATHUSHTRA IN THE OUTSIDE WORLD

Such times have not been since the light that led
The holy Elders with the gift of myrrh.

TENNYSON.

IT must be admitted at the outset, lest this chapter should raise expectations not destined to be realized, that its results will be almost entirely negative. We shall mostly be engaged in asking why fragrance was destined to be wasted on desert air. Our previous inquiries have satisfied us that the Avesta is really fragrant--in parts, and that the parts about which we cannot say this are at any rate neutral: the moralist has never occasion to hold his nose as he goes through. Which cannot be said of all 'sacred' literature!

There are two leading reasons why it is not enough to reduce this chapter to 'The Avesta has always been practically unknown in the outside world'. In the first place, scholars of repute--though never scholars whose reputation was made in the field of Avestan learning--have often asserted the contrary. And secondly, the fact that the Avesta has circulated mostly in a desert will prove to be very suggestive in our estimate of the Parsi religion in later days.

Most of the attempts made to trace the influence of the Avesta outside Iran have been in connexion with the history of Judaism. There are some obvious points of contact between the two religions. Take the doctrine of Evil. There is no question that the post-exilic Judaism had a doctrine rather markedly different from the pre-exilic. In the latest books of the Old Testament there emerges a being called 'the Adversary' (Sātān), who ultimately came to occupy a position

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