IRAN: Zoroaster

The US infuriates many countries because it criticizes and even attacks them without making any attempt to understand them.  Iran is a case in point. Americans know it is part of the axis of evil, which is a purely negative view, but they have no idea that Iran/Persia has a great tradition.  Nushin Namazi complains that no attention is paid to Zoroaster, to whom Judaism and Christianity owe much, and indeed the Religious Studies Department at Stanford makes no printed reference to him. However, the Christmas story of the Three Wise Men  is calling attention to the Zoroastrian roots of Judaism and Christianity. A national convention of followers of Zoroaster will be held this week in San Jose, California. An article on the faith (San Francisco Chronicle, 12/25/04) is titled  "Followers of Zoroaster share faith of 3 wise men".  The monotheistic theology of Zoroaster became the state religion of the Persian Empire in the seventh century BC. Cyrus the Great released the Jews from captivity in Babylon, and they took back to Judea many of the ideas of Zoroaster which they incorporated into the Jewish faith.  The role of Zoroastrianism in the story of the Three Wise Men is discussed by Joseph Kelly, chairman of the Department of Religious Studies at John Carroll University, in  The Origins of Christmas.

Alexander "the Great" is known to Zoroastrians as Alexander the Accursed because, when he conquered Oersia in the fourth century BC he burned the capital city Persopolis and its library full of Zoroastrian manuscripts. This destructive work was completed when the Arabs overran Persia and imposed Islam.  Many Iranians have neither forgotten nor forgiven. Zoroastrianism may make a comeback thanks to Jamshid Varza, a Palo Alto software developer, who will be a speaker in a panel on "Zoroastrianism in the Internet Age" at the San Jose convention. For more information, go to >>.
We have discussed Friedrich Nietzsche at length, but no one has explained how he became interested in Zoroaster.  My impression is that there was a surge of interest in Zoroastrianism in his time, and that somehow it fitted in with the ideologies prevalent then. In fact, Nietzsche subverted Zoroaster's  basis teaching.

He used Zoroaster (under the name Zarathustra) in his classic Also sprach Zarathustra. Nietzsche invoked Zoroaster as a returning visionary: Zoroaster was the first to separate good from evil, and in Nietzsche's book he returns to be the first to repudiate that separation, as well as to declare the death of God.  Since I view life as essentially a struggle between good and evil and despise facile atheism, I have one more reason to rejoice that Nietzsche has been thrown into the dustbin of history. or. in Americanese, the garbage can of history. Zoroastrianism must be restored to its rightful place as one of the foundation stones of Judaism and Christianity, indeed also of Islam.  Nietzsche is dead; Zoroaster lives.


Ronald Hilton 2004


last updated: January 17, 2005