John Palmer: Zoroaster – Forgotten Prophet of the one God

The article below by John Palmer “Zoroaster – forgotten prophet of the one God” first appeared in The Guardian on July 13, 2010.

John-PalmerJohn Palmer is a former European editor of the Guardian and former political director of the European Policy Centre. He is visiting practitioner fellow at Sussex University’s European Institute and a member of the governing council of the Federal Trust (Photo Source: The Guardian).

Kindly note that the embedded photographs and captions below do not appear in the original article in the Guardian; these have been cited in Kaveh Farrokh’s lectures at the University of British Columbia’s Continuing Studies Division, Stanford University’s WAIS 2006 Critical World Problems Conference Presentations on July 30-31, 2006, University of Southern California and the University of Yerevan (Iranian Studies Department).

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The tiny world wide communities of Zoroastrians are no doubt pleased to get any mention in Cif belief – even if it is only to provide alphabetical balance to a list starting with the Bahá’ís. Even those who take a close interest in the more exotic or esoteric of religions tend to have a vague grasp on what the followers of the ancient Persian (or maybe Bactrian) prophet, Zarathustra (Zoroaster in Greek) – born around 800 BC – actually believed. This is a great pity since even a non-believer must be impressed with the evidence of how the religious ideas first expressed by Zoroaster were fundamental in shaping what emerged as Judaism after the 5th century BC and thus deeply influenced the other Abrahamic religions – Christianity and Islam.

Zarathustra-Tomb-China-2Archaeologists in Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region have discovered major Zoroastrian tombs, dated to over 2,500 years ago. (Caption and Photo Source: Chinanews.com). As noted in the China News report: “This is a typical wooden brazier found in the tombs. Zoroastrians would bury a burning brazier with the dead to show their worship of fire. The culture is unique to Zoroastrianism…This polished stoneware found in the tombs is an eyebrow pencil used by ordinary ladies. It does not just show the sophistication of craftsmanship here over 2,500 years ago, but also demonstrates the ancestors’ pursuit of beauty, creativity and better life, not just survival. It shows this place used to be highly civilized”. For more on this topic see: Archaeologists uncover Zoroastrian Links in Northwest China 

Born at a time when the peoples of the Iranian plateau were evolving a settled agriculture, Zoroaster broke with the traditional Aryan religions of the region which closely mirrored those of India, and espoused the idea of a one good God – Ahura Mazda. What became known eventually in the west as Zoroastrianism was also the first to link religious belief with profound attachment to personal morality. In Zoroastrian eschatology there is much which has become familiar from reading the Jewish and Christian testaments: heaven, hell, redemption, the promise of a Sashoyant (Messiah), the existence of an evil spirit Ahriman and – most striking of all – the prospect of a final battle for the salvation of man at “the end of time” between Ahura Mazda and Ahriman leading to the latter’s final defeat.

Baku Fire Temple-UNESCO[Click to Enlarge] The main fire altar at the Atash-kade (Zoroastrian Fire-Temple) of Baku in the Republic of Azerbaijan (known as Arran and the Khanates until 1918) (Picture Source: Panoramio). This site is now registered with UNESCO as a world heritage site. For more on these sites see: Zoroastrian and Mithraic sites in the Caucasus

The main contact between westerners and Zoroastrians came in India where they were known as Parsees (Persians), descendants of those who took part in a large scale migration from Persia after the Muslim conquest of that country. Zoroastrians were held (quite wrongly) to worship fire because they kept a permanent flame in their temples. Some even questioned whether they were monotheists at all because Ahriman was referred to as an evil “god”. But all the Abrahamic religions have also struggled to explain “evil” in the world which is why they gave Satan an important role.

The School of Athens by Raphael 1509- Zoroaster left, with star-studded globeA detail of the painting “School of Athens” by Raphael 1509 CE (Source: Zoroastrian Astrology Blogspot). Raphael has provided his artistic impression of Zoroaster (with beard-holding a celestial sphere) conversing with Ptolemy (c. 90-168 CE) (with his back to viewer) and holding a sphere of the earth. Note that contrary to Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” paradigm, the “East” represented by Zoroaster, is in dialogue with the “West”, represented by Ptolemy. Prior to the rise of Eurocentricism in the 19th century (especially after the 1850s), ancient Persia was viewed positively by the Europeans. For more information see: Dr. Ken R. Vincent: Zoroaster – The First Universalist

The first encounter between the ancient peoples who developed historical Judaism and the Persian religious ideas of Zoroastrianism seems to have come either during or shortly after the captivity in Babylon. It was the Persian king of kings, Cyrus, who liberated the Hebrews from Babylon and one of his successors, Darius, who organised and funded the return of some of the captives (probably along with many Persians) to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. Nehemiah and Ezra also reorganised the traditional religion of the Judaeans and Israelites. What emerged was a stricter monotheistic version which was consistent with basic beliefs of the Persian imperial religion – Zoroastrianism.

Saint_Augustine_Portrait“St. Augustine of Hippo in his Study” as portrayed in 1480 by Sandro Botticelli (Source: Public Domain). Interestingly, St. Augustine had been a Manichean for 9 years until his conversion to Christianity in the aftermath of Emperor Diolectian’s edict (284-305 CE) condemning the Manicheans. Despite his conversion, it is believed that St. Augustine’s Manichean past influenced his later Christian writings. For more information on Manichean beliefs, see: Mani: Forgotten Prophet of Ancient Persia

Those who might doubt how Persian imperial policy so decisively shaped what we know as Judaism should reflect on the remarkable and first ever declaration of belief in one, universal God by the biblical writer known as “Second Isaiah” during this period. Indeed Isaiah describes King Cyrus as a “Messiah” and the chosen instrument of Yahweh. Interestingly there is evidence that the Persian imperial policy towards the religion of their subject peoples – to allow the traditional name of their gods to be retained but to revise the religions themselves in the image of Zoroastrianism – was also applied in Babylon and Egypt as well as Palestine.

Wailing Wall-JerusalemThe West Wall in Jerusalem. After his conquest of Babylon, Cyrus allowed the Jewish captives to return to Israel and rebuild the Hebrew temple. It is believed that approximately 40,000 did permanently return to Israel. For more discussion on this topic see: Retort to Daily Telegraph article against Cyrus the Great

Some claim that a belief in monotheism in Judea developed a little before the Babylonian conquest and exile. But although there is evidence for a centralisation of the different Canaanite-style cults into the worship of Yahweh in the capital – Jerusalem – over this period the most which can be said was that a form of monolatry, a belief in one God for a particular people had emerged.

5-Tomb of EstherThe tomb of Esther and Mordechai in Hamedan, northwest Iran. External view (left) and the interior of the tomb (right). For more see: Response to Spiegel Magazine’s attack on the Legacy of Cyrus the Great

The Persian influence on Judaism was powerful and long lasting. Certainly the profound belief in the end of days exhibited by the Dead Sea Scroll communities in the immediately pre-Christian era and indeed the images employed by the Christian evangelist, John, in his Apocalypse, display a clear continuity of influence.

Iranian Jews 2011Iranian Jews praying during Hanukkah celebrations on Tuesday, December 27, 2011 at the Yousefabad Synagogue, in Tehran, Iran (Source: Wodu). For more on this topic see: Professor Jacob Neusner: Persian Elements in Talmud

What – at the very least – were the deep affinities between Zoroastrianism and Judaism goes a long way to explain what over the centuries were the close and friendly relations between Persians and Jews. The influence of 20th century religious-political ideologies have poisoned that relationship. Perhaps a greater acknowledgement by Jews, Christians and Muslims of their Persian Zoroastrian inheritance would be a step to improving those relationships.

 

Arab Documents testifying to Iranian Ownership of 3 Persian Gulf Islands

شهادت نامه های شیوخ عرب بر حقانیت ایران بر جزایر اربعه خلیج فارس- از۱۲۶۶ شمسی

Below are documents posted by the محکستان– [Mahakestan] website providing documentation of Arab leaders acknowledging Iran’s historical claims to the three Islands of the Persian Gulf (dated to 1850). These documents/pages are posted below (click on each to Enlarge):

1-PG-Islands-1850

2-PG-Islands-1850 3-PG-Islands-1850

[Click on each Page above to Enlarge] Statements made by Arabian Sheikhs of the Persian Gulf attesting to Iran’s historical claims to the three Persian Gulf Islands (Source:  محکستان– [Mahakestan]).

map-of-persian-gulf-published-by-saudi-arabia-19523

Saudi Arabian Map of 1952 displaying the correct name for the Persian Gulf.

For readers interested in the legacy of Iran in the Persian Gulf, kindly consult: Iran and the Persian Gulf

Arab Map of 1935[Click to Enlarge] “Bahr-e Faris” (Persian Gulf) as depicted on the above map titled “Persian Government and Arab Conquests” in the Arabian textbook of 1935, “Political History of Islam” by Dr. H. Ibrahim Hasan, Cairo, Egypt, Published by Hejazi Printing House (Picture Source: Dr. David N. Rahni, “Hot Water”, December 10, 2004, Iranian.com).

 

 

Marmon-Herrington Trucks of the Iranian Army Before World War Two

As part of its modernization drive from the mid-1920s to the early 1940s, the Iranian army focused on procuring modern artillery and armored vehicles for its forces. Mechanized transport became a high priority, with purchases made from various overseas suppliers. Of note was the purchase of heavy trucks from the Indianapolis-based Marmon-Herrington Company.

persianmhheavytrucksA total of 24 Marmon-Herrington trucks delivered to Iran in 1935 (Source: Overvalwagen). These also towed artillery pieces (what type remains unknown). It is not known how many more of these vehicles were delivered before the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran on August 25, 1941.

Marmon-Herrington was a world class heavy vehicle producer (armored vehicles and trucks). Marmon-Herrington trucks were to serve in several climactic conditions in many regions of the globe. This robust and reliable vehicle made a highly favorable impression on the Iranian army.

Marmon-Harrington Truck-Iranian Army-3Iranian Army Marmon-Herrington 6×6 ammunition truck (TH 310 Series?) of the Iranian Army sometime in 1940-1941 (Source: Overvalwagen).

There were other Marmon-Herrington (6×6) vehicles that were delivered to the Iranian army by 1940. These included the (heavy) DSD400-6 truck and the DSD800-6 artillery tractors, plus other possible (and unspecified as of yet) truck types. The artillery tractors were deployed for the transport of infantry and the towing of artillery pieces (currently unclear as to what type, size, etc.) for mechanized units.

Marmon-Harrington Truck-Iranian Army-4An antique Iranian army Marmon-Herrington Truck in the Tehran Museum (Source: Overvalwagen). Sadly, the vehicle is in a state of neglect and deteriorating in its battle against the elements.

Skull Operations by the Ancients

The report below was made by Dr. Maziar Ashrafian Bonab and posted in the CAIS website in London hosted by Shapour Suren-Pahlav.

Kindly note the excepting one photo, all other pictures are Kaveh Farrokh’s lectures at the University of British Columbia, notably lectures delivered in 2014.

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In 2000, a rather full skull with forehead and parietal bones was found during the archeological excavations in the historical cemetery of Chal-e Shahin in Kohgilooye and Boyer Ahmad Province.

Dr_Maziar_Ashrafian_Bonab_Shahr-e_SukhtehExamination of a skeleton in one of the excavations in Shahr-e Sookhteh (lit. Burnt City) (Source: CAIS).

In a primary probe of the finding, two discoid holes with some 0.7cm diameter, on parietal bones were found on the margins of which no trace or recovered bony tissues could be seen. Such sings are usually created shortly before death showing a kind of operation on the skull, which is called trepanation. This sort of operation used to be carried out in the ancient times in order to save the patients from physical and mental disorders.

In many primitive societies, magicians did take such a measure to let the poisonous vapor as well as satanic souls, known as the cause of illness, out the head of the patients with nervous and mental disorders or paranoia. They took a part of skull out or made a hole in it. Reports show that trepanation had been performed in different parts of the world especially in Central and Latin America.

burnt-city-eyeball1Skeleton of a young woman from Shahr-e Sookhteh (lit. Burnt City) From University of British Columbia Course-Summer 2014: “Ancient Inventions that Changed the World“). Note artificial eye in the eye socket of the skull; for more, see here…

Some unique samples of such skulls are now being kept at a number of museums and centers such as London University Archeological Institute and Medical Center of Kansas University.

In addition, some instances have been reported from other parts of the world including Europe, but rare in Asia and Middle East. However, the 4850- year-old trepanation sample discovered in Shahr-e Sukhteh (burnt city), Sistan va Baloochestan Province is one of the very ancient trepanation in the world and the second one in Iran belonging to a 13-year-old girl with chronic hydrocephalus.

 Trephination

Trepanation in Ancient Britain: The Critchel Down skull bearing evidence of surgery (From University of British Columbia Course-Summer 2014: “Ancient Inventions that Changed the World“). The circle of bone had been removed with sharp stone tools. The patient survived; when he died in old age, he was buried with the circle of bone that had been removed…perhaps he had kept this for religious or “Good Luck” reasons.

In anthropometric and pathology examinations, it was found out that this sample dates back to the first millennium BCE. This finding will be presented at the National Museum of Medical Sciences History.