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The Place of Zarathushtra among the Prophets[i]


















The place of Zarathushtra among the Prophets of the world is unique.  He was a world teacher and his message has a profound significance for all humanity.  He declares in the Gâthas: “yâ jvańtô vispęńg vâurayâ”, so that, I may ever convert all the living (into the path of faith in God) (Ys.31.3).  Towering above all spiritual leaders of his age, indeed, is the august person of Zarathushtra, the Founder of the Religion of Ancient Iran, which flourished from very early times to the close of the Sassanian period.

Zarathushtra was, moreover, famous in antiquity as the Founder of the Wisdom of the Magi. In ancient classical literature we see him represented as a mystic, a philosopher and an illustrious Master of Wisdom. To some he appears Chaldean, to some Median and Elamite, to others Bactrian.  In the Gâthas, Zarathushtra is seen as a powerful living personality, a Prophet of humanity, a religious and social reformer, imbued with the lofty ideals of his great spiritual mission and striving to inculcate faith in one Supreme Ahurā Mazdā and inspiring humanity to live the good life.

The name Zarathushtra occupies an honored place in the history of human thought.  “He is one, perhaps the most illustrious one, of a band of brilliant and mighty thinkers who have profoundly modified, nay created, the great philosophical movements in the ancient civilizations of the world”. Says L.C. Casartelli.  Zarathushtra received in antiquity such universal recognition and homage, that, not only the Iranians honored him as an illumined World Teacher and a Prophet of Humanity, but also the Greeks, who were their political enemies, paid him reverential tributes.  It is further recorded that many of their celebrated philosophers became students of the spiritual philosophy of Zoroaster and the Magis, his followers.

It must be noted that Zarathushtra was the fore-runner and perhaps the major inspiration of the later remarkable outburst of spiritual, religious and philosophical activities which took place in the sixth and fifth centuries before Christ, in Iran, India, China and Greece. Great teachers like Solon, Thales, Laotze, Pythogoras, Buddha, Mahavira, Confucius, Socrates and Plato all flourished in a span of a hundred and fifty years.  It may be that this great awakening of thought in a galaxy of highly gifted seers and thinkers was independent.  The teachings of Zarathushtra and the culture of ancient Iran have exerted significant influence on world cultures.

[i] This abbreviated paper was posted on vohuman.org on September 20, 2005, courtesy of the editor of USHAO (volume VI, No. 7, September-October 1374 YZ).  The USHAO paper is an excerpt from the author’s lecture ‘The Zarathushtrian Concept of Nature and Constitution of Man’ delivered at the Government Research Fellowship Lecturer of the K.R. Cama Oriental Institute in 1958.