History as Past Ethics: An Introduction to the History of Morals

By Philip Van Ness Myers | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII
THE ETHICS OF ZOROASTRIANISM: AN IDEAL OF COMBAT

I. PHILOSOPHICAL AND RELIGIOUS IDEAS WHICH CREATED THE ETHICAL TYPE

In view of the mixed good and evil in the world, thinkers of antiquity, outside of Israel and before the rise of the Stoic philosophy in Greece, could not conceive the universe as being set in motion and directed by one God infinite at once in power and goodness. Even the most penetrating intellect of Greece faltered in his search for unity: "We cannot suppose," says Plato, "that the universe is ordered by one soul; there must be more than one, probably not less than two-- one the author of good, and the other of evil."1 The seers of Israel alone reached with perfect conviction the height of the great argument, and announced confidently that He who is the author of the good in the world is the author likewise of the evil: "I form the light and create the darkness; I make peace and create evil," are the words which the prophet Isaiah puts in the mouth of Yahweh.2

Religious dualism

The religious thinkers of Persia never reached this lofty viewpoint. It seemed to them, as it seemed to the Greek philosopher, that at least two deities must have been concerned in the creation and ordering of the universe. They believed in the existence of two great powers: a good being,

____________________
1
Laws, tr. Jowett, x. 896. And the thought is near even in the latest philosophy: "But it feels like a real fight," says Professor William James, "as if there were something really wild in the universe which we, with all our idealities and faithfulness, are needed to reform."
2
Is. xlv. 7.

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