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Lecture 6: The Eschatology of the Avesta

Lecture 6
The Eschatology of the Avesta

General similarities in Eschatological Legends.

I MENTIONED at the end of my last Lecture a number of traditions gathered from different parts of the world, and all having reference to a bridge between earth and heaven. Some of these traditions were purely mythological, and were suggested, as it seemed, by actual phenomena of nature, such as the rainbow and the Milky Way. Others, on the contrary, sprang evidently from a moral conviction that there must be a way by which the human soul could return to God, a conviction which, however abstract in its origin, could not altogether resist being likewise clothed in the end in more or less fanciful and mythological phraseology.

When we have to deal with common traditions found in India, Greece, and Germany, we must generally be satisfied if we can discover their simplest germs, and show how these germs grew and assumed a different colouring on Indian, Greek, or German soil. I explained this to you before in the case of the Greek Charites, the Sanskrit Haritas. Here we find that the words are identically the same, only pronounced differently according to the phonetic peculiarities of the Greek and the Sanskrit languages.

The common germ was found in the bright rays of the sun, conceived as horses in the Veda, as beautiful maidens in Greece. The same applies, as I showed many years ago, to the Greek Daphne. Daphne would in Sanskrit be represented by Dahanâ, and this would mean the burning or the bright one. This root dah has yielded the name for day and dawn in German. In Sanskrit it has been replaced by Ahanâ1. There is in the Veda a clear reference to the Dawn dying whenever the sun tries to approach her, and we have a right therefore to interpret the Greek legend of Daphne, trying to escape from the embraces of Phoebus, as a repetition of the same story, that the Dawn, when she endeavours to fly from the approaches of the sun, either dies or is changed into a laurel tree. This change into a laurel tree, however was possible in a Greek atmosphere only, where daphne had become the name of the laurel tree, which was called daphne because the wood of the laurel tree was easy to kindle and to burn.

The lessons which we have learnt from Comparative Mythology hold good with regard to Comparative Theology also. If we find similar religious or even philosophical ideas or traditions in Greece and in India, we must look upon them simply as the result of the common humanity or the common language of the people, and be satisfied with very general features; but when we proceed to compare the ideas of the ancient Parsis with those of the Vedic poets, we have a right to expect coincidences of a different and a much more tangible nature.

Peculiar relation between the Religions of India and Persia.

The exact historical relation, however, between the most ancient religions of India and Persia is very peculiar, and by no means as yet fully elucidated. It has been so often misconceived and misrepresented that we shall have to examine the facts very carefully in order to gain a clear conception of the real relationship of these two religions. No religion of the ancient world has been so misrepresented as that contained in the Avesta. We shall therefore have to enter into some details, and examine the ipsissima verba of the Avesta. In doing this I am afraid that my lecture to-day on the Avesta and its doctrines touching the immortality of the soul, will not contain much that can be of interest to any but Oriental scholars. But what I have always been most anxious about, is that those who follow these lectures should get an accurate and authentic knowledge of the facts of the ancient religions. Many people are hardly aware how difficult it is to give a really accurate account of any of the ancient Oriental religions. But think how difficult it is to say anything about the real teaching of Christ, without being contradicted by some Doctor of Divinity, whether hailing from Rome or from Edinburgh. And yet the facts lie here within a very narrow compass, very different from the voluminous literature of the religions of the Brahmanist or Buddhists. The language of the New Testament is child's play compared to Vedic Sanskrit or Avestic Zend. If then one sees the wrangling going on in churches and chapels about the right interpretation of some of the simplest passages in the Gospels, it might seem almost hopeless to assert anything positive about the general character of the Vedic or Avestic religions. Yet, strange to say, it has happened that the same persons who seem to imagine that no one but a Doctor of Divinity has any right to interpret the simplest verses of the New Testament, feel no hesitation in writing long essays on Zoroaster, on Buddhism and Mohammedanism, without knowing a word of Zend, Pâli, or Arabic. They not only spread erroneous opinions on the ancient Eastern religions, but they think they can refute them best, after having thus misrepresented them. If the Avestic religion has once been represented as Fire-worship and Dualism, what can be easier than to refute Fire-worship and Dualism? But if we consult the original documents, and if we distinguish, as we do in the case of the New Testament, between what is early and what is late in the sacred canon of the Zoroastrians, we shall see that Zoroaster taught neither fire-worship nor dualism.

Zoroaster teaches neither Fire-worship nor Dualism.

The supreme deity of Zoroaster is Ahuramazda, not Âtar, fire, though Âtar is sometimes called the son of Ahuramazda2. Fire no doubt is a sacred object in all ancient sacrifices, but the fire, as such, is no more worshipped as the supreme God in the Avesta than it is in the Veda.

If we want to understand the true nature of the religion of Zoroaster we must remember, first of all, that the languages in which the Veda and Avesta are composed are more closely related to each other than any other language of the Aryan family. They are in fact dialects, rather than two different languages. We must also remember that the religions of Zoroaster and of the Vedic Rishis share a certain number of their deities in common. It used to be supposed that because deva in the Veda is the name for gods, and in the Avesta the name for evil spirits, therefore the two religions were entirely antagonistic. But that is not the case. The name for gods in the Veda is not only deva, but likewise asura. This name, if derived from asu, breath, meant originally the living, he who lives and moves in the great phenomena of nature, or, as we should say, the living God. Certain Vedic gods, particularly Varuna, are in the Veda also called Asura in the good sense of the word. But very soon the Sanskrit asura took a bad sense, for instance, in the last book of the Rig-veda and in the, Atharva-veda, and particularly in the Brâhmanas. Here we constantly find the Asuras fighting against the Devas. Deva, as you remember, was the common Aryan name for gods, as the bright beings of nature. But while Asura became the name of the highest deity in the Avesta, namely Ahuramazda or Ormazd, deva occurs in the Avesta always in a bad sense, as the name of evil spirits. These Devas (daêvas), the modern Persian dîv, are the originators of all that is bad, of every impurity, of sin and death, and are constantly thinking of causing the destruction of the fields and trees and of the houses of religious men. The spots most liked by them, according to Zoroastrian notions, are those most filled with dirt and filth, and especially cemeteries, which places are therefore object of the greatest abomination to a true Ormazd worshipper3.

It is difficult to account for these facts, but we must always remember that while some of the principal Vedic deities, such as Indra4, for instance, occur in the Avesta as demons, other Devas or divine beings in the Veda have retained their original character in the Avesta, for instance Mithra, the Vedic Mitra, the sun, Airyaman, the Vedic Aryaman, likewise a name of the sun, a deity presiding over marriages. Bhaga, another solar deity in the Veda, occurs in the Avesta as bagha, and has become there a general name for god. This word must be as old as deva, for it occurs in the Slavonic languages as bog, god. It is known also from the name of Behistún, the mountain on which Darius engraved his great inscriptions, in cuneiform letters. The Greeks call it Βαγαστανα, i.e. the place of the gods. Other divine names which the Avesta and the Veda share in common are the Avestic Armaiti, the Vedic Aramati, the earth, Narâsamsa, lit. renowned among men (a name of Agni, Pûshan, and other gods in the Veda), the Avestic Nairyâsanha, a messenger of Ormazd. Lastly, we find that while Indra has become a demon under the name of Andra, one of his best-known Vedic epithets, namely, Vritrahan, slayer of Vritra, occurs in the Avesta as Verethraghna, meaning simply the conqueror, the angel who grants victory. His name becomes in the end Behrâm, and one of the Yashts is addressed to him, the Behrâm Yasht. It has generally been supposed, therefore, that a religious schism took place, and that Zarathushtra seceded from the worshippers of the Vedic Devas. There is some truth in this, but though there was a severance, there always remained a common background for the two religions. Many of the Vedic deities were retained, subject only to the supremacy of Ahuramazda. It is the idea of one supreme God, the Ahuramazda, which forms the characteristic distinction between the Avestic and the Vedic religions. Only Zarathushtra's monotheism does not exclude a belief in a number of deities, so long as they are not conceived as the equals of Ahuramazda. In his moral character Ahuramazda may really be looked upon as a development of the Vedic Varuna, but the moral character of this deity has become far more prominent in the Avesta than in the Veda.

The Avestic religion, as we know it from its own sacred books, is in fact a curious mixture of monotheism, polytheism, and dualism. Ahuramazda is no doubt the supreme God, the creator and ruler of all things, but there are many other divine beings who, though subject to him, are yet considered worthy of receiving adoration and sacrificial worship. Again, Ahuramazda, so far as he represents the good spirit, spenta mainyu, the spirit of light, is constantly opposed by Angra mainyu, best known in our times as Ahriman, the evil spirit, the spirit of darkness. But these two spirits were not originally conceived as two separate beings. In the ancient Gâthas there is no trace as yet of a personal conflict between Ormazd and Ahriman. The enemy against whom Ormazd fights there, is Drukh, the Vedic Druh, ‘the lying spirit.’ Darius also in the cuneiform inscriptions does not yet mention Ahriman as the opponent of Ormazd.

The Problem of the Origin of Evil.

Dr. Haug seems quite right in stating that Zarathushtra, having arrived at the idea of the unity and indivisibility of the Supreme Being, had afterwards to solve the great problem which has engaged the attention of so many wise men of antiquity and even of modern times, namely, how to reconcile the imperfections discernible in the world, the various kinds of evil, wickedness, and baseness, with the goodness and justice of the one God. He solved this question philosophically, by the admission of two primeval causes, which, though different, were united, and produced the world of material things as well as that of the spirit. This doctrine may best be studied in the thirtieth chapter of the Yasna. The one who produced all reality (gaya) and goodness is called there the good mind (vohu manô), the other, through whom the unreality (agyaiti) originated, bears the name of the evil mind (akem manô). All good, and true, and perfect things, which fall under the category of reality, are the productions of the ‘good mind,~ while all that is bad and delusive belongs to the sphere of ‘non-reality,’ and is traced to the evil mind. These are the twa moving causes in the universe, united from the beginning, and therefore called twins (yêmâ, Sk. yamau). They are present everywhere, in Ahuramazda as well as in men. These two primeval principles, if supposed to be united in Ahuramazda himself, are called spenta mainyu, his beneficent spirit, and angra mainyu, his hurtful spirit. That Angra mainyu was not conceived then as a separate being, opposed to Ahuramazda, Dr. Haug has proved from Yasna XIX. 9, where Ahuramazda is mentioning these two spirits as inherent in his own nature, though he distinctly called them the ‘two masters’ (pâyû), and the ‘two creators.’ But while at first these two creative spirits were conceived as only two parts or ingredients of the Divine Being, this doctrine of Zarathushtra's became corrupted in course of time by misunderstandings and false interpretations. Spenta mainyu, the beneficent spirit, was taken as a name of Ahuramazda himself, and the Angra mainyu, by becoming entirely separated from Ahuramazda, was then regarded as the constant adversary of Ahuramazda. This is Dr. Haug's explanation of the Dualism in the later portions of the Avesta, and of the constant conflict between God and the Devil which we see for instance in the first fargard of the Vendîdâd. The origin of good and evil would thus have been transferred unto the Deity itself, though there the possible evil was always overcome by the real good. Zoroaster had evidently perceived that without possible evil there can be no real good, just as without temptation there can be no virtue. The same contest which is supposed to be carried on within the deity, is also carried on by each individual believer. Each believer is exhorted to take part in the fight against the evil spirit, till at last the final victory of good over evil will be secured.

This, of course, is not stated in so many words, but it follows from passages gathered from different parts of the Avesta.

The Angels, originally qualities, of Ormazd.

The same process of changing certain qualities of the Divine Being into separate beings can be clearly watched in the case of the Ameshaspentas. The Ameshaspentas of the Avesta are lit. the immortal benefactors. These were clearly at first mere qualities of the Divine Being, or gifts which Ormazd might grant to his worshippers, but they became afterwards angelic or half-divine beings, such as Vohu manô (Pahman), good mind, Asha vahishta (Ardi bahisht), the best truth, Armaiti (Spendarmad), devotion and piety, Ameretâd (Amardâd), immortality, Haurvatâd (Khordâd), health, Kshathra vairya (Shahrivar), abundance of earthly goods.

As these angels formed in later times the great council of Ormazd, Ahriman also was supposed to be surrounded by a similar council of six. They were Akem manô, the evil spirit, Indra, Saurva, Nâonhaithya, and two personifications of Darkness and Poison. In this way the original Monotheism of the Zoroastrian religion came to be replaced by that Dualism which is wrongly supposed to be the characteristic feature of the ancient Persian religion, and offers many points of similarity with the belief in God and His angels, and in a devil also, as we find it in the later portions of the Old Testament. From thence this belief was transferred to the New Testament, and is still held by many as a Christian dogma. Whether this belief in God and a devil and the angels forming their respective councils was actually borrowed by the Jews from Persia, is still an open question. If any of the Persian names of these angels or devils had been discovered in the Old Testament, the question would at once have been settled; but there is only one really Persian name of one of these evil spirits attached to Ahriman, which actually has found its way into the Old Testament in the apocryphal book of Tobit, iii. 8, namely Asmodeus, which is the Persian Aêshma daeva, the demon of anger and wrath. This name could have been borrowed from a Persian source only, and proves therefore the existence of a real historical intercourse between Jews and Persians at the time when the book of Tobit was written. We look in vain for any other Persian name of a good or an evil spirit in the genuine books of the Old Testament5, tough there is no doubt great similarity between the angels and archangels of the Old Testament and the Ameshaspentas of the Avesta, as has been shown by Dr. Kohut in his very learned essay on this subject.

Of all this, of the original supremacy of Ahuramazda, of the later dualism of Ahuramazda and Angra mainyu, and of the councils of these two hostile powers there is no trace in the Veda. Traces, however, of a hostile feeling against the Asuras in general appear in the change of meaning of that word in some portions of the Rig-veda and the Atharvaveda, and more particularly in the Brâhmanas.

Asuras and Suras.

A new change appears in the later Sanskrit literature. Here the Asuras, instead of fighting with the Devas, are represented as fighting against the Suras; that is to say, by a more mistake the ‘A’ of Asura has been taken as a negative ‘a,’ whereas it is the radical ‘a’ of asu, breath, and a new name has been formed, Sura, which seemed to be connected with svar, the sky, and was used as a name of the gods, opposed to the Asuras, the Non-gods6. This is how mythology is often made. All the fights between the Suras and Asuras, of which we read so much in the Purânas, are really based on a misunderstanding of the old name of the living God, namely Asu-ra, not A-sura.

In whatever way we may try to account for the change of the Vedic Devas, gods, into the Avestic Daêvas, evil spirits, there can be no doubt that we have to deal here with an historical fact. For some reason or other the believers in the true Asuras and in Ahuramazda must have separated at a certain time from the believers in the Vedic Devas. They differed on some points, but they agreed on others. In fact, we possess in the Yasna, in one of the more ancient remnants of Zarathushtra's religion, some verses which can only be taken as an official formula in which his followers abjured their belief in the Devas. There (Yasna XII) we read:

Abjuration of Daêva Worship.

‘I cease to be a Deva (worshipper). I profess to be a Zoroastrian Mazdayaznian (a worshipper of Ahuramazda), an enemy of the Devas, and a devotee of Ahura, a praiser of the immortal benefactors (Ameshaspentas). In sacrificing to the immortal Ameshaspentas I ascribe all good things to Ahuramazda, who is good and has (all that is) good, who is righteous, brilliant, glorious, who is the originator of all the best things, of the spirit of nature (gâush), of righteousness, of the luminaries, and the self-shining brightness which is in the luminaries.

‘I forsake the Devas, the wicked, bad, wrongful originators of mischief, the most baneful, destructive, and basest of beings. I forsake the Devas and those like Devas, the sorcerers and those like sorcerers, and any beings whatever of such kinds. I forsake them with thoughts, words, and deeds, I forsake them hereby publicly, and declare that all lies and falsehood are to be done away with.’

I do not see how after this any one can doubt that the separation of the followers of Zarathushtra, the believers in Ahuramazda, from the worshippers of the Vedic Devas, was a real historical event, though it does by no means follow that their separation was complete, and that the followers of Zoroaster surrendered every belief which they formerly shared in common with the Vedic Rishis.

I think we shall be perfectly right if we treat the Avestic as a secondary stage, as compared with the old Vedic religion, only we must guard against the supposition that the Avesta could not have preserved a number of ideas and religious traditions older even and simpler than what we find in the Veda. The Vedic poets, and more particularly the Vedic philosophers, have certainly advanced much beyond the level that had been reached before they were deserted by the Zoroastrians, but the Zoroastrians may have preserved much that is old and simple, much that dates from a period previous to their separation, much that we look for in vain in the Veda.

Immortality of the soul in the Avesta.

This seems certainly to be the case when we compare the Persian accounts of the immortality of the soul and its migrations after death with those which we examined before in the Upanishads. The idea that knowledge or faith is better than good works, and that a higher immortality awaits the thinker than the doer, an idea so familiar to the authors of the Upanishads, is quite foreign to the Avesta. The Avestic religion is before all things an ethical religion. It is meant to make people good. It holds out rewards for the good, and punishments for the bad in this life and in the life to come. It stands in this respect much more on the old level of the Vedic hymns than on that of the Upanishads. In the hymns, as we saw, the departed was simply told to run on the good path, past the two dogs, the brood of Saramâ, the four-eyed, the grey, and then to go towards the wise Pitris or Fathers who were happily rejoicing with Yama. Or the departed was told to go forth on those ancient roads on which his forefathers had departed, and to meet the two kings delighting in (svadhâ) offerings, Yama and the god Varuna. Nothing is said there of the smoke carrying him to the sky, nor of the sun moving towards the south or the north, or of the departed rising upwards till he reaches the moon or the place of lightning. The goal of the journey of the departed is simply the place where he will meet the Fathers, those who were distinguished for piety and penance, or those who fell in battle, or those who during, life were generous with their wealth.

The Pitris or Fathers as conceived in the Vedic Hymns.

All this is much more human than the account given in the Upanishads. And when we read in the Rig-veda the invocations addressed to the Pitris or the three generations of ancestors, we find there too again a much more childlike conception of their abode than what is given us in the Upanishads. Sometimes the great-grandfathers are supposed to be in heaven, the grandfathers in the sky, and the fathers still somewhere on the earth, but all are invited together to accept the offerings made to them at the Srâaddhas, nay, they are supposed to consume the viands placed before them. Thus we read (Rig-veda X. 15):

1. May the Soma-loving Fathers7, the lowest, the highest, and the middle arise! May the gentle and righteous Fathers who have come to life (again), protect us in these invocations!

2. May this salutation be for the Fathers to-day, for those who have departed before or after; whether they now dwell in the sky above the earth, or among the blessed people!

3. I invited the wise Fathers.… may they come hither quickly, and sitting on the grass readily partake of the poured-out draught!

4. Come hither to us with your help, you Fathers sitting on the grass! We have prepared these libations for you, accept them! Come hither with your most blessed protection, and give us health and wealth without fail!

5. The Soma-loving Fathers have been called hither to their dear viands which are placed on the grass. Let them approach, let them listen, let them bless, let them protect us!

6. Bending your knee and sitting on my right accept all this sacrifice. Do not hurt us, O Fathers, for any wrong that we may have committed against you, men as we are!

7. When you sit down on the lap of the red dawns, grant wealth to the generous mortal! O Fathers, give of your treasure to the sons of this man here, and bestow vigour here on us!

8. May Yama, as a friend with friends, consume the offerings according to his wish, united with those old Soma-loving Fathers of ours, the Vasishthas, who arranged the Soma draught!

9. Come hither, O Agni, with those wise and truthful Fathers who like to sit down near the hearth, who thirsted when yearning for the gods, who knew the sacrifice, and who were strong in praise with their songs!

10. Come, O Agni, with those ancient Fathers who like to sit down near the hearth, who for ever praise the gods, the truthful, who eat and drink our oblations, making company with Indra and the gods!

11. O Fathers, you who have been consumed by Agni, come here, sit down on your seats, you kind guides! Eat of the offerings which we have placed on the turf, and then grant us wealth and strong offspring!

12. O Agni, O Gâtavedas, at our request thou hast carried the offerings, having first rendered them sweet. Thou gavest them to the Fathers, and they fed on their share. Eat also, O god, the proffered oblations!

13. The Fathers who are here, and the Fathers who are not here, those whom we know, and those whom we know not, thou, Gâtavedas, knowest how many they are, accept the well-made sacrifice with the sacrificial portions!

14. To those who, whether burnt by fire or not burnt by fire, rejoice in their share in the midst of heaven, grant thou, O King that their body may take that life which they wish for!

Compared with these hymns, the Upanishads represent a decidedly later development and refinement; they represent, in fact, the more elaborate views of speculative theologians, and no longer the simple imaginings of sorrowing mourners.

If we now turn to examine the ideas which the followers of Zoroaster had formed to themselves about the fates of the soul after death and its approach to God, we shall find that they also represent a much simpler faith, though there are some points on which they are clearly dependent on, or closely allied with the Upanishads, unless we suppose that both the Zoroastrians and the authors of the Upanishads arrived independently at the same ideas.

Fate of the individual Soul at the general resurrection.

We read in the Vendîdâd XIX. 278:

‘Creator of the settlements supplied with creatures, righteous one! What happens when a man shall give up his soul in the world of existence?

‘Then said Ahuramazda: After a man is dead, when his time is over, then the hellish evil-doing Daêvas assail him, and when the third night9 is gone, when the dawn appears and brightens up, and makes Mithra, the god with the beautiful weapons, reach the all-happy mountains and the sun is rising—

‘Then the fiend, named Vîzaresha, carries off in bonds the souls of the wicked Daêva-worshippers who live in sin. The soul enters the way made by time, and open both to the wicked and to the righteous. At the head of the Kinvat bridge made by Mazda, they ask for their spirits and souls the reward for the worldly good which they gave away here below.’

This Kinvat bridge of which I spoke in a former lecture, is known as early as the Gâthas (XLVI. 12), and it is called there the judgment bridge (p. 133)10, also the bridge of earth (p. 183). In one place (p. 173) we read of the bridges, just as in the Upanishads we read of two roads, one leading to the Fathers, the other leading to the gods. There can be little doubt therefore that this bridge of the Avesta has the same origin as the bridge in the Upanishads. We read in the Khând. Up. VIII. 4, 2, that ‘day and night do not pass this bridge, nor old age, death and grief, neither good nor evil deeds; that all evil-doers turn away from it, because the world of Brahman is free from all evil. Therefore he who has crossed that bridge, if blind, ceases to be blind; if wounded, ceases to be wounded; if afflicted, ceases to be afflicted. Therefore when that bridge has been crossed, night becomes day indeed.’ It is true that here this bridge is already taken in a more metaphysical sense and identified with the Âtman, the self; which, from a Vedânta point of view, is called the only true bridge between the self and the Self; still the original conception of a bridge which separates (vidhriti) and at the same time connects this and the other world, which evil-doers fear to cross, and where all that is of evil is left behind, is clearly there. As the commentary explains that this bridge is made of earth, and as in the Avesta also, it is called the bridge of earth, we must take it as having been conceived originally as a bank of earth, a pathway (a pons) across a river (Khând. Up. VIII. 4, 1, note), rather than a suspended bridge over an abyss.

Rewards and Punishments after Death.

I shall now read you another and fuller account of what the Zoroastrians have to say about that bridge, and about the fate of the soul after death, and more particularly about rewards and punishments. This account is taken from the Hâdhokht Nask11:

1. Zarathushtra asked Ahuramazda: ‘O Ahuramazda, most beneficent Spirit, Maker of the material world, thou Holy One!

‘When one of the faithful departs this life, where does his soul abide on that night?’

2. Ahuramazda answered: ‘It takes its seat near the head, singing (the Ustavaiti Gâtha) and proclaiming happiness: “Happy is he, happy the man, whoever he be, to whom Ahuramazda gives the full accomplishment of his wishes!” On that night his soul tastes as much of pleasure as the whole of the living world can taste.’

3. ‘On the second night, where does his soul abide?’

4. Ahuramazda answered: ‘It takes its seat near the head, singing (the Ustavaiti Gâtha) and proclaiming happiness: “Happy is he, happy the man, whoever he be, to whom Ahuramazda gives the full accomplishment of his wishes!” On that night his soul tastes as much of pleasure as the whole of the living world can taste.’

5. ‘On the third night, where does his soul abide?’

6. Ahuramazda answered: ‘It takes its seat near the head, singing (the Ustavaiti Gâtha) and proclaiming happiness: “Happy is he, happy the man, whoever he be, to whom Ahuramazda gives the full accomplishment of his wishes!” On that night his soul tastes as much of pleasure as the whole of the living world can taste.’

7. At the end of the third night, when the dawn appears, it seems to the soul of the faithful one, as if it were brought amidst plants and scents: it seems as if a wind were blowing from the region of the south, from the regions of the south, a sweet-scented wind, sweeter-scented than any other wind in the world.

8. And it seems to the soul of the faithful one as if he were inhaling that wind with the nostrils, and he thinks: ‘Whence does that wind blow, the sweetest-scented wind I ever inhaled with my nostrils?’

9. And it seems to him as if his own conscience were advancing to him in that wind, in the shape of a maiden fair, bright, white-armed, strong, tall-formed, high-standing, full-breasted, beautiful of body, noble, of a glorious seed, of the size of a maid in her fifteenth year, as fair as the fairest thing in the world.

10. And the soul of the faithful one addressed her, asking: ‘What maid art thou, who art the fairest maid I have ever seen?’

11. And she, being his own conscience, answers him: ‘O thou youth of good thoughts, good words, and good deeds, of good religion, I am thy own conscience!

‘Everybody did love thee for that greatness, goodness, fairness, sweet-scentedness, victorious strength, and freedom from sorrow, in which thou dost appear to me;

12. ‘And so thou, O youth of good thoughts, good words, and good deeds, of good religion! didst love me for that greatness, goodness, fairness, sweet-scentedness, victorious strength, and freedom from sorrow, in which I appear to thee.

13. ‘When thou wouldst see a man making derision and deeds of idolatry, or rejecting (the poor) and shutting his door, then thou wouldst sit singing the Gâthas and worshipping the good waters and Âtar, the son of Ahuramazda, and rejoicing the faithful that would come from near or from afar.

14. ‘I was lovely and thou madest me still lovelier; I was fair and thou madest me still fairer; I was desirable and thou madest me still more desirable; I was sitting in a forward place and thou madest me sit in the foremost place, through this good thought, through this good speech, through this good deed of thine; and so henceforth men worship me for having long sacrificed unto and conversed with Ahuramazda.

15. ‘The first step that the soul of the faithful man made, placed him in the Good-Thought Paradise;

‘The second step that the soul of the faithful man made, placed him in the Good-Word Paradise.

‘The third step that the soul of the faithful man made, placed him in the Good-Deed Paradise;

‘The fourth step that the soul of the faithful man made, placed him in the Endless Lights.’

16. Then one of the faithful, who had departed before him, asked him, saying: ‘How didst thou depart this life, thou holy man? How didst thou come, thou holy man! from the abodes full of cattle and full of the wishes and enjoyments of love? From the material world into the world of the spirit? From the decaying world into the undecaying one? How long did thy felicity last?’

17. And Ahuramazda answered: ‘Ask him not what thou askest him, who has just gone the dreary way, full of fear and distress, where the body and the soul part from one another.

18. ‘[Let him eat] of the food brought to him, of the oil of Zaramaya: this is the food for the youth of good thoughts, of good words, of good deeds, of good religion, after he has departed this life; this is the food for the holy woman, rich in good thoughts, good words, and good deeds, well-principled and obedient to her husband, after she has departed this life.’

The fate of the soul of the wicked is throughout the opposite of what happens to the soul of a righteous man. During three nights it sits near the skull and endures as much suffering as the whole of the living world can taste. At the end of the third night, when the dawn appears, it seems as if it were brought amidst snow and stench, and as if a wind were blowing from the North, the foulest-scented of all the winds in the world. The wicked soul has to inhale that wind and then to pass through the Evil-Thought Hell, the Evil-Word Hell, and the Evil-Deed Hell. The fourth step lays the soul in Endless Darkness. Then it has to eat food of poison and poisonous stench, whether it was the soul of a wicked man or of a wicked woman.

You will have perceived how much of real truth there is, hidden beneath all this allegorical language of the Avesta. The language is allegorical, but no one could have used that language who was not convinced of its underlying truth, namely, that the soul of the righteous will be rewarded in the next life by his own good thoughts, his own good words, and his own good deeds. The idea that these good thoughts, words, and deeds meet him in the shape of a beautiful maiden, whom at first he does not know, till she tells him who she is, is peculiar to the Avesta, though some faint indications of it may again be discovered in the Upanishads.

Good Works in the shape of a Beautiful Maiden.

For we read in the Kaushîtaki-Upanishad, I. 3, that when the departed approaches the hall of Brahman he is received by beautiful maidens, called Apsaras. But what we look for in vain in the Upanishads is the ethical character which pervades the whole Avesta. It is good thoughts, words, and deeds that are rewarded in the next world, not knowledge which, as we saw, carried off the highest reward according to the teaching of the Upanishads. The sweet scents also by which the departed is greeted in the next world form a common element shared by the Upanishads and by the Avesta.

Influence on Mohammedanism.

It would be curious to find out whether this allegorical conception of the rewards of men in Paradise may have influenced the mind of Mohammed, when he promised his warriors that they would be received there by beautiful maidens. It would seem a curious misapplication of a noble conception. But it is perfectly true that even in the Avesta the beauty of the young maiden who receives the righteous soul, is painted in what we should call warm and sensuous colours, though there was nothing in her description that would seem objectionable to an Oriental mind. Such changes have happened in the history of other religions also. The most probable historical channel between Mohammed and the Avesta would be the same again as that through which the idea of the bridge Es Sirât reached Mohammed, namely, his Jewish friends, and teachers.

It is true there is no trace of a belief in Houris among the Jews, but Dr. Kohut pointed out many years ago, in the Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenl. Gesellschaft, xxi. p. 566, that the Rabbis believed and taught that when man comes near death, all his acts appear before his soul, and that his good works promise to guide him to the judgment-seat of God. They hold that the souls of the pious are not admitted at once into Paradise, but that they have first to render an account and to suffer punishment for some defects that still cling to them. This lasts for a twelvemonth, when the body is supposed to be entirely decayed, so that the soul may rise freely and remain in heaven. ‘The body,’ says God, ‘is taken from the earth, not from heaven, but thou, O soul, art a citizen of heaven, thou knowest its laws and thou alone shalt render an account.’ This shows no doubt clear traces of Persian influence, but at the same time an independent treatment of Persian ideas, such as we find them first in the Avesta. At all events these Rabbis had advanced far beyond the ideas which are found in the Old Testament as to the fate of the soul after death.

There is another curious passage quoted by Dr. Kohut from the Talmud (Synhedr. 91b, Midrash, Genes. Rabba 169), for which, however, I know no parallel in the Avesta. There we are told that at the time of the resurrection the soul will justify itself and say: ‘The body alone is guilty, he alone has sinned. I had scarcely left it when, pure like a bird, I flew through the air.’ But the body will say: ‘The soul alone was guilty, she has driven me to sin. She had scarcely left me, when I lay on the ground motionless and sinned no more.’ Then God places the soul once more into the body and says: ‘See, how you have sinned, now render an account, both of you.’

Extract from the Minokhired on the Weighing of the Dead.

In the Minokhired we get a still fuller account than in the Avesta of the journey of the soul across the bridge. There we read, II. 100:

‘Thou shouldest not become presumptuous through life, for death cometh upon thee at last, the dog, the bird lacerate the corpse, and the perishable part (sagînako) falls to the ground. During three days and nights the soul sits at the crown of the head of the body. And, the fourth day, in the light of dawn, (with the) co-operation of Srôsh the righteous, Vâi the good, and Vâhrâm the strong, and with the opposition of Astôvîdâd, Vâi the bad, Frazîshtô the demon, and Nizîstô the demon, and the evil-designing Aeshm, the evil-doer, the impetuous assailant, it goes up to the awful Kindvar bridge (here Kinvat has been corrupted into Kindvar), to which every one, righteous and wicked, is coming. And many opponents have watched there, with the desire of evil of Aeshm, the impetuous assailant, and Astôvîdâd, who devours creatures of every kind and knows no satiety, and the mediation of Mitrô and Srôsh and Rashnû, and the weighing of Rashnû, the just, with the balance of spirits which renders no favour on any side, neither for the righteous nor yet the wicked, neither for the lords nor yet the monarchs. As much as a hair's breadth it will not turn and has no partiality and he who is a lord and monarch it considers equally in its decision with him who is the least of mankind. And when a soul of the righteous passes upon the bridge the width of the bridge becomes as it were a league, and the righteous soul passes over with the co-operation of Srôsh the righteous.’ Then follows what we had before, namely, his meeting a maiden who is handsomer and better than any maiden in the world. And the righteous soul speaks thus, ‘Who mayest thou be, that a maiden who is handsomer and better than thou was never seen by me in the worldly existence.’ In reply that maiden says: ‘I am no maiden, but I am thy virtuous deeds, thou youth who art well thinking, well speaking, well doing, and of good religion.’

The only new feature in this account is the weighing of the soul by Rashnû, the righteous. Of this there is no trace in the Upanishads, though we saw that it is alluded to in the Brâhmanas (see p. 167). It is an idea well known in Egypt, but it is impossible to suppose that at that early time there was any communication between Egypt and Persia. It is one of those coincidences which can only be accounted for by our remembering that what was natural in one country may have been natural in another also.

Arrival of the Soul before the throne of Bahman and Ahuramazda.

Let us now follow the fate of the soul, after it has crossed the Kinvat bridge. When the Kinvat bridge has been crossed, the archangel Bahman (Vohu-manô) rises from a golden throne, and exclaims: ‘How hast thou come hither to us, O righteous one! from the perishable life to the imperishable life.’

The souls of the righteous then proceed joyfully to Ahuramazda, to the Ameshaspentas, to the golden throne, to paradise (Garo-nemâna), that is the residence of Ahuramazda, the Ameshaspentas, and of the other righteous ones.

Thus we see that the journey of the soul from this life to a better life ends in the Avesta very much as it ended in the Upanishads. The soul stands before the throne of Ahuramazda in the Avesta as it stands before the throne of Brahman in the Upanishads. Only while the Upanishads say very little about the punishments inflicted on the wicked, the Avesta explains that the unrighteous soul is received with scorn even by the damned, its future fellow-sufferers, and is tormented at the command of Angra mainyu, though himself the spirit of evil, with poison and hideous viands.

Common background of Avesta and Veda.

If we compare the theories on the soul and its fate after death, as we find them in the Upanishads and in the Avesta, we see that a general belief in a soul and its life after death is common to both, and that they likewise agree in believing that the righteous soul is led to the throne of God, whether he is called Brahman or Ahuramazda. But in several respects the account of the soul's journey seems more simple in the Avesta than in the Upanishads. We saw that it agrees more with the notions which we find expressed in the Vedic hymns about the departed, it insists more on the virtuous character of the soul, and distributes rewards and punishments in strict accordance with the good thoughts, words, and deeds of the departed. It says little or nothing about the different stations on the two roads that lead to the Fathers or to the gods, but it is more full in the description of the bridge and the weighing of the soul. The idea that knowledge or faith is better than good thoughts, words, and deeds has not yet dawned on the Persian mind, still less is there a trace of the belief in metempsychosis or the migration of the human soul into the bodies of lower animals.

The common background of the two religions is clear enough, though whether what is peculiar to each is a remnant of an earlier period or the result of later thoughts is more difficult to determine.

Pitaras, the Fathers in the Veda, the Pravashis in the Avesta.

We saw that in the hymns of the Veda the departed were often spoken of as Pitaras, the Fathers, and that after receiving for three generations the srâddha offering of their descendants, they were raised to a rank equal almost to that of the Devas, nay at a later time even superior to them. In the place of these Pitaras we find in the Avesta the Fravashis, or in an earlier form the Fravardîn. This would correspond to a Sanskrit word pravartin, which, however, does not occur in Sanskrit. Pravartin might mean what moves forward or sets in motion, like pravartaka, a promoter, but it is explained in Zend as meaning protector. The Persian name Phraortes is probably a Greek corruption of Pravarti.

It is curious that the name of Pitaras should not occur in the Avesta, nor that of Pravartin in the Veda, though the two were clearly meant at first for exactly the same thing.

Wider meaning of Fravashi.

The Fravashis, however, are not restricted to the departed, though their Fravashis are most frequently invoked. Every being, whether living or dead, has its Fravashi, its unseen agent, which is joined to the body at the time of birth, and leaves it again at the time of death. The Fravashis remind us of the Greek Daimones and the Roman Genii. The Fravashis belong to the spiritual, the body to the material creation. Not only men, but the gods also, Ormazd, the sacred word, the sky, the water, the plants, all have their Fravashis. We may call the Fravashi the genius of anything. Dr. Haug, however, goes further and identifies the Fravashis with the ideas of Plato, which is going too far, for the Fravashis are always self-conscious, if not personal beings. Thus we read in the Fravardin Yasht12:

‘Ahuramazda spake to Spitama Zarathushtra: To thee alone I shall tell the power and strength, glory, usefulness, and happiness of the holy guardian angels, the strong and victorious, O righteous Spitama Zarathushtra! how they come to help me. By means of their splendour and glory I uphold the sky, which is shining so beautifully and which touches and surrounds this earth; it resembles a bird which is ordered, by God to stand still there; it is high as a tree, wide-stretched, iron-bodied, having its own light in the three worlds. Ahuramazda, together with Mithra, Rashnu, and Spenta Armaiti, puts on a garment decked with, stars, and made by God in such a way that nobody can see the ends of its parts. By means of the splendour and glory of the Fravashis, I uphold the high strong Anâhita (the celestial water) with bridges, the salutary, who drives away the demons, who has the true faith and is to be worshipped in the world…

1. ‘If the strong guardian-angels of the righteous should not give me assistance, then cattle and men, the two last of the hundred classes of beings, would no longer exist for me; then would commence the devil's power, the devil's origin, the whole living creation would belong to the devil.

2. ‘By means of their splendour and glory, the ingenuous man Zarathushtra, who spoke such good words, who was the source of wisdom, who was born before Gotama, had such intercourse with God. By means of their splendour and glory, the sun goes on his path; by means of their splendour and glory, the moon goes on her path; by means of their splendour and glory, the stars go on their path.’

Thus we see that, almost everything that Ahuramazda does is done by him with the assistance of, the Fravashis, originally the spirits of the departed, afterwards the spirits of almost everything in nature. But that they were originally, like the Vedic Pitaras, the spirits of the departed, we see from such passages as:

‘I praise, I invoke, and extol the good, strong, beneficent guardian angels of the righteous. We praise those who are in the houses, those who are in the countries, those who are in the Zoroastrian communities, those of the present, those of the past, those of the future, righteous, all those invoked in countries where invocation is practised.

‘Who uphold heaven, who uphold water, who uphold earth, who uphold nature, &c.

‘We worship the good and beneficent guardian angels of the departed, who come to the village in the season called Hamaspathmaêda. Then they roam about there ten nights, wishing to learn what assistance they might obtain, saying, “Who will praise, us? who will worship us? who will adore us? who will pray to us? who will satisfy us with milk and clothes in his hand and with a prayer for righteousness? whom of us will he call here? whose soul is to worship you? To whom of us will he give that offering in order to enjoy imperishable food for ever and ever?”’

Nowhere perhaps can the process by which the spirits of the departed were raised to the rank of gods be perceived more clearly than in the case of the Persian Fravashis, but nowhere again is there stronger evidence for what I hold against Mr. Herbert Spencer, namely that this deification of the departed spirits presupposes a belief in gods to whose rank these spirits could be raised.