The Treasure of the Magi: A Study of Modern Zoroastrianism

By James Hope Moulton | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
THE RELIGION OF THE LATER AVESTA

The Persians adopt foreign customs most readily of all men.-- HERODOTUS.

WE have tried to set forth, at length proportionate to its religious worth, the spiritual system of one of the greatest of prophets; and we have followed it with a tentative account of the mixed system which professed to continue it. After turning aside to ask how much the world in later days knew of the thoughts of this ancient pioneer, we come to delineate the religion of the Avesta as it stands. For this is theoretically the religion of the Parsis to-day, with which in this book we are primarily concerned.

We have called it the religion of the Later Avesta. Most Parsis would strongly object to the limitation. They maintain that the Gathas are central with them, and that the Later Avesta is understood by the principles derived from those earliest scriptures. But no impartial outsider can help seeing that it is impossible to correlate the early and the later, giving equal weight to both. The worshipper must choose between two ideals. And, as we shall soon have occasion to note, the modern orthodox Parsi may render lip-service to the Gathas: the very fact that he does not understand them makes it easier for him to use them as spells. But the whole of his outward religious life comes out of the Later Avesta. A Parsi who modelled his religion on the Gathas, and rejected everything that could not be at least inferentially justified from them, would be unrecognizable as a Parsi.

Let us attempt then to expound the theology of the Later Avesta, making no attempt to emphasize its differences from

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