A Zoroastrian Educational Institute



HomeArticlesAuthorsBook ReviewCommunityLibraryProminentsRegisterStoreArticle SubmissionAbout Us




The Proposal of Zarathushtra:
Beyond Religion and Philosophy

Gathic Illustration


Abreu, Jose Luis

Editorial Support: Annahita Sidhwa  

















The objective of this study is to discuss and determine the most appropriate concept that describes the message of Zarathushtra. This is in accordance to what he intended to teach. In this sense, several terminologies will be analyzed to find out the one that best fits such a definition within the frames of the Gathic teachings. Pre-Gathic and Post-Gathic elements will not be considered in this essay.

The terminologies involved in this discussion are: religion, philosophy, and consciousness.

Philosophy and Zarathushtrianism.
When the following concepts, stated by The Standard Encyclopedic Dictionary are studied:

Ø       Philosophy: Science that deals with the inquiry into the most comprehensive principles of reality in general, or of some sector of it, as human knowledge or human values. The love of wisdom, and the search for it (Greek).

Ø       Philosopher: A student or specialist in philosophy. Lover of wisdom (Greek).

It can be affirmed without the slightest shadow of doubt that besides being a religious person, Zarathushtra was the first historically known philosopher. It can be found in many stanzas of the Gathas songs that Zarathushtra promotes the love for wisdom, which meets the concepts previously depicted.

The name of Zarathushtra's God "Ahura Mazda" is a compound one. Ahura, means Existing or Self-Existing One and Mazda means Wisdom; also known as Lord Wisdom. For Zarathushtra, God is the personification of a Super Intellect or Universal Wisdom.

The Philosophical Attitude.
For Albornoz (1998) this attitude is fundamentally speculative. Speculation, as indicated by its etymology (specus-caverna) means getting from itself. Speculation is a way of intuitive apprehension. The speculative thought starts from experience, but does not remain in it. It transcends, searching for universal relators. The philosophical attitude is characterized by a permanent search for eternal questioning. A questioning where the questions are more essential than the answers. In this regard, Heidegger (1965) said that philosophy is an extraordinary questioning for the extraordinary.

Zarathushtra has shown a philosophical attitude; he was not limited in his questioning. This affirmation is evident in the following stanza:

“I realized You, God Wise, to be progressive when I was encircled by it (enlightenment) through good mind and it asked: "Who are you? To whom do you belong? How would you, in these days of questioning, explain the directives to the living and to yourself?" (Gatha Song 8.7).

In addition in Gatha Song 9 each stanza represents a question.  In the Ushtavaiti Gatha itself, there are 20 stanzas of questioning.  In general, I have counted a total of 69 straight questions in the whole Gathic document.

The knowledge that a philosopher is looking for can be qualified as wider and more profound than the usual. This wish of amplitude and the spirit of depth constitute the best virtue of a philosopher and allow  the submission of everything to a rigorous examination.

For Plato, a philosopher is contemplative “embracing all beings, seeing the eternal, the immutable, its ideas and essences and expresses it in definitions”.  In the case of Zarathushtra, this type of knowledge can be seen in a well known stanza:

“This I ask You, tell me truly, Lord. Who is the foremost creator and parent of righteousness? Who made the sun and the stars in their paths? Who makes the moon wax and wane? I am, Wise One, eager to know all this and more. (Song 9.3)

Zarathushtra obviously presented a philosophical attitude as determined through the analysis of his Gathic writings.

The search for Wisdom and Truth.
One of the main characteristics of a philosopher is the search for truth. Karl Jasper (1958) said that “philosophy is to go in a journey. Its questions are more essential than its answer and every answer becomes a new question. This journey brings the possibility of acquiring happiness and achieving this reality. This is the main concept of philosophy”.  In addition, Rene Descartes affirmed that “philosophy is by definition, the love and procurement of wisdom.

A traditional anecdote written by Diogenes Laercio in “Lives and Opinions of Great Philosophers” says that Pythagoras was the first to mention the word philosophy, calling himself a philosopher in a conversation at Sicion with Leonte, tyrant of Sicionans. It also has been accepted that the first thinker that used this word with significance was Heraclitus, who wrote the following fragment: “It is necessary that the lovers of wisdom (philosophers) are well instructed in many things”.

The time of Pythagoras has been placed in 580-500 BC and Heraclitus in 535-475 BC. Zarathushtra’s search for wisdom began long before these times. In the first stanza we can detect this effort to find wisdom:

“Mazda, Wise God, with a bow and uplifted arms, I pray. First, I ask for support through progressive mentality. Then I pray that I may perform all my actions, based as they are on the wisdom of good mind, precisely according to the laws of righteousness so that I please You and the soul of the Living World” (Song 1.1).

In addition to this stanza there are several other stanzas in the Gathas in which the manifestation of Zarathushtra’s search for wisdom is clear:

When, Wise One, shall those days dawn which will, for the maintenance of the righteous world, motivate the wisdom of the benefactors with advanced teachings. To whom shall this wisdom come with good mind to help? For myself, Lord, I choose Your teachings”. (Song 11.3)

“….To whom shall the wisdom of good mind come?” (Song 13.11)

“Wise One, where are Your devotees who comprehend good mind, and despite retrogression and failure, attend to inherited doctrines with wisdom? I have none besides You. Therefore, protect me and my people through righteousness.” (Song 7.7)

“And may we be among those who make this life fresh! You, lords of wisdom, who bring happiness through righteousness, come, let us be single-minded in the realm of inner intellect.” (Song 3.9)

In the book “The Hymns of Zarathushtra” by Jacques Duchesne-Guillermin (1992), there appears a statement of Mlle Simone Pétrement who says: “I do not know why scholars avoid with a kind of horror representing Zoroaster as a philosopher or having anything, however little, to do with philosophy. Yet if there is an abstract and philosophical thought, it is indeed his. Why should one not recognize it?  Because it is very ancient?  Everything is more ancient than one thinks, even, and especially, philosophy. Before we ask ourselves in what sense (obviously rather a different one from that inherited from the Greek thinkers)  the term philosopher is applicable to Zoroaster.”

Religion and Zarathushtrianism.
Hundreds of different definitions of religion exist, each reflecting either a scholarly or a DOGMATIC bias depending as a last resort on the PRESUPPOSITIONS of the person making the definition. Religion contains intellectual, RITUAL, SOCIAL and ETHICAL elements, bound together by an explicit or implicit BELIEF in the REALITY of an unseen world, whether this belief is expressed in SUPERNATURALISTIC or IDEALISTIC terms. A number of the more common definitions are in a final attachment. However, for our study I will summarize the concepts of religion in the definitions proposed by The American Heritage Dictionary Of The English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000.

These concepts are as follows:

  1. Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe. In includes a personal or institutionalized system grounded in such belief and worship.

  2. The life or condition of a person in a religious order.

  3. A set of beliefs, values, and practices (rituals) based on the teachings of a spiritual leader.

  4. A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion.

In Dr. Ali Jafarey’s translation of the Gathas, the word religion is written in 10 occasions. In his writings, Dr. Jafarey acknowledges that the teachings of Zarathushtra can be called as “The Good Religion”. Following are the stanzas to support the affirmation:

“…we shall convince the barbarians to choose the right [religion].” (Song 1.5)

“…It is the religion of the benefactors by which good deeds lead only through righteousness to happiness….” (Song 7.13)

“This I ask You, tell me truly, Lord. How shall I enliven for myself the religion the Master of Beneficent Sovereignty teaches me? (Song 9.9)

“…religion is the best for the living which promotes the world through righteousness, and polishes words and actions in serenity.”(Song 9.10)

“…How does serenity come to those to whom, Wise One, Your religion is taught?.” (Song 9.11)

“…every person, who has linked his religion with good mind through devotion and invocation, is a noble person of serenity through righteousness.” (Song 14.5)

“… the religion which belongs to a Godlike person. (Song 14.6)

“… the religion which God has granted to the benefactor. (Song 17.2)

It is well known that in general, many religions include in their practices ritualistic aspects. In this regard, Dr. Jafarey explains that “the Gathas do not furnish us with an institutionalized religion, which is subject to fossilization. Fossils have their archeological and ecological values and meanings; fossilized ritual, especially in unintelligible languages, archaic actions, and rigid rules do not have much in them”.

The primal principles of life taught by Zarathushtra do not offer guidelines for rituals or ceremonies. In this respect, Dastur Dr. Maneckjee N. Dhalla said “Ritual is not a religion; but it is a powerful aid to religious life. It feeds the emotional nature of man which plays the most prominent part in religious life. It inspires devotional fervor and purity of thoughts.”

Dr. Jafarey continues saying that “Rituals, in itself, are neither bad nor good. If our rituals are true to the teaching of Zarathushtra, if they are beautiful and inspiring, leading us to a deeper understanding of and commitment to the Good Religion, then they are good. But if they are unintelligible, if they are devoid of meaning, if they do not impart the truths of the religion to the faithful, then they are worse than useless.”

The Gathas do not prescribe rigid rituals, but show us the way to sublime ceremonies in every walk of  life. Ceremonies that are flexible and allow changes to adapt to modern times and cultures.

As we have seen, the Gathic view of Zarathushtrianism offers a unique perspective as a rational religion, which does not forget to praise and  offer devotions to the Lord of Creation.

The Proposal for Zarathushtra.
Zarathushtra, as shown in Dr. Jafarey’s translation of the Gathas, proposed the compound term of Daena Vañuhi for the conceptualization of his teachings.

According to Dr. Jafarey, these concepts can be explained in the following manner:

Daenâ: Derived from di, “to see, conceive, perceive,” is a person’s inner-perception, the conscience. It also stands for one’s chosen religion. Zarathushtra named the religion he founded as Daena Vañuhi, the Good Conscience.

Daenâ Vañuhi: meaning “the Good Conscience” is the name given to the religion Asho Zarathushtra founded. It is the inner-perception of a wise, discerning person which should guide him well on the path of righteousness. And since a true perception must be universal in validity, Daena, particularly in plural, means religion of “Good Conscience”, or simply the “Good Religion”.

It is very important to determine the meaning of Conscience or Consciousness and the meaning of Perception, since these terms seem to offer the key to explain the roots that can lead to a better understanding of the conceptual frame of Zarathushtrianism.

The Dictionary of Philosophy of Mind defines perception as "A means of distinguishing how things are from how a cognizer thinks they are". And the Cambridge Dictionary of American English explains it as "an awareness of things through the physical senses esp. Sight”; and as "a thought, belief, or opinion, often held by many people and based on appearances. Even though he had done nothing illegal, the public's perception was that he had acted dishonestly, and he was forced to resign".

Dr. Sam Kerr (Sydney, Australia) in an excellent essay called “The Philosophical Concept of Consciousness in Zarathushtra’s Teachings” explains that “Consciousness is the capacity to sense existence and value. It is a notion that is recognised with the world around us and in our personal experience. It naturally follows on the appraisal that accompanies the experience of existence. The core sense of being “Conscious,” involves a subjective condition of Access Consciousness, which occurs when we are able to access or  perceive through our senses the world around us in a generalised state of alertness or arousal.  We are, then, able to respond or imagine i.e. when we are not in deep sleep, in coma or under anaesthesia.  Another form, a Phenomenal Consciousness occurs when we are aware that we have a subjective experience or feeling of phenomena, happenings andevents around us. A third sense of (Objective) Consciousness is the awareness of our being in a conscious state”.

Some concepts related to conscience and consciousnesses have been used by several authors. These concepts are State of Mind or State of being. Examples will be brought to our discussion.

Ervad Dr. Jehan Bagli, in his paper titled “On the Fire of Aramaiti”, explained that “It is through Aramaiti that we attain compassionate thinking, words and actions”. And he added: “This is the state of Mind that harmonizes: The Human mentality with the Spenta Mainyu, the Holy Mentality and The Human Will with the will of God”.

Another example we can find in an interesting article written by Dina G. McIntyre, called “Zarathushtra’s Paradise: In this World and the Next”. She said that “Zarathushtra's paradise of the spirit is not a geographic location. In the Gathas heaven is not a physical place to which we go after we die. It is the state of being that occurs when we have achieved completely, God's divine values”.

Consciousness, State of Mind or State of Being present three levels that can be considered: Personal Level, Social Level and Daenic Level.

It is necessary to note that at the three levels we have to take into account the interaction of the Primal Principles of life in the configuration of those levels. Let us remember that the primal principles of life are: Asha: Righteousness; Vohumana: Good Mind; Seraosha: Intuition; Spenta Mainyu: Progressive Mind; Vohu-Khashathra: Ideal Society; Haurvatat: Perfection; and Ameretat: Immortality. All of these principles are inter-related among them and with stages of consciousness, state of mind or state of being.

The Personal Level.  It represents the personal growth in the understanding of the primal principles of life. The perfecting process of the perception in each person until he or she is aligned with the ultimate truth.  It is a form of awareness that develops with the experience of the person in the same measure in which he or she matures by acquiring experience.

The Social Level. This level can be best described by a term used by Zarathushtra known as Vohu-Khshathra or Ideal Society. Many individuals with a sense of mission to create a better society are united at this level in order to achieve higher goals. It is just the result obtained by the addition of the various individual's consciousness. In this case, Vohu-Khshathra in the Gathic view represents the collective human awareness or collective best consciousness of humans.

The Personal and Social Level run in an intimate parallel dimension. The more perfection an individual acquires the more conscious or aware he/she is about his/her role in the making of an ideal society (at the social level).

The Daenic Level. This level may be beyond human understanding sometimes. However, it can be reached by human beings and societies when they complete their perfecting process and learn to be conscious of their role in the universe. It means the full comprehension of the laws of creation. I relate this level to the terms suggested by Zarathushtra as Haurvatat (perfection) and Ameretat (immortality). Once we have learned the principles of life and have perfection at the personal and social level, we can move to the Daenic Level.  I would like to quote Dina G. McIntyre, who said:

“When we have succeeded in perfecting these divine values, in ourselves, and have learned all the lessons life has to offer, we ultimately achieve completeness and immortality. We become one with God.”

For a better understanding in Figure 1 is shown a process of development that initiates at the inner-self of the individual level and when he/she realizes the inter-connections with other more expanded levels of consciousness he/she can achieve the Daenic Level. It is a process of mental and spiritual growth that implies the acknowledgement and respect of Universal Laws (Primal Principles of Life).


Figure 1. The Three Levels of  Consciousness and the Primal Principles of Life

Zarathushtra knew about the existence of the Daenic Level. In several occasions He makes reflections that suggest my affirmation, and here are two: “I ask this: How does a  person, who strives for promoting the power of house, district, or land with righteousness, becomes, Wise Lord, like You, and by what deeds?” (Song 4.16)


“And may that person get much good who teaches us the straight paths of progress. May he, in his physical and mental life, truly attain the existence where God dwells, for, Wise One, he is like You;  sincere, noble, and progressive”. (Song 8.3)



From my reflections performed through the present study, I have concluded that Daenâ Vañuhi is the best concept to explain Zarathushtrianism as a whole. Its components go from the individual to the collective and then reach universal principles. Philosophy and Religion also do a good job to explain Zarathushtrianism with their own perspectives, but they are partial explanations of the whole picture. I would place religion and philosophy as parts of a more profound concept explained by Daenâ Vañuhi. In this sense it is admirable to encounter the clarity of Zarathushtra in his approach to the Gathic message.


It can be said that perception plays an important part in how  people conceive the message contained in the Gathas. Thus, we can talk about a philosophical, religious or daenic perception. However, I believe that the teachings of Zarathushtra have a scope that is beyond the frontiers offered by both religion and philosophy. The Daenic level provides with increasingly expanded perceptions of reality and it is possible for those with an expanded awareness to understand and live realities of the other levels. At the Daenic level perception completely meets Asha (the ultimate truth).

The important thing to acknowledge is that whatever our perception or concept is, we have to respect other people’s views in our personal and social growth, as this is an important practice to reach the Daenic level.


Finally, it is also of importance to know that the levels of consciousness obey to a process of natural or universal evolution (Spenta Mainyu), which is not limited to a community and does not have under any circumstance social or individual preferences. It is a systematic process that touches lives everywhere on this planet. It is life in itself.


A  Compilation of Religion Concepts

BERGER, Peter - "the human enterprise by which a SACRED cosmos is established."

DURKHEIM Emile - "a unified system of BELIEFS and practices relative to SACRED things."

FRAZER, James - "a propitiation or conciliation of powers superior to man which are believed to direct or control the course of NATURE and human life."

HEGEL, George - "the knowledge possessed by the finite mind of its NATURE as ABSOLUTE mind."

JAMES, William - "the BELIEF that there is an unseen order, and that our supreme GOOD lies in harmoniously adjusting ourselves thereto."

KANT, Immanuel - "the recognition of all our duties as divine commands."

MARX, Karl - "the SELF-conscious and SELF-feeling of man who has either not found himself or has already lost himself again... the general theory of the world... its logic in a popular FORM... its moral sanction, its solemn completion, its universal ground for consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human essence..."

SCHLEIERMACHER, Friedrich - "a feeling for the infinite" and "a feeling of ABSOLUTE dependence."

SMART, Ninian - "a set of institutionalized RITUALS with a TRADITION and expressing and/or evoking sacral sentiments directed at a divine or trans-divine focus seen in the context of the human phenomenological environment and at least partially described by MYTHS or by myths and doctrines.

STARK, Rodney - "any socially organized pattern of BELIEFS and practices concerning ultimate meaning that assumes the EXISTENCE of the SUPERNATURAL."

WHITEHEAD, Alfred North - "what the individual does with his own solitariness."

WEBER, Max - "to say what it is, is not possible... the essence of religion is not even our concern, as we make it our task to study the conditions and effects of a particular type of SOCIAL BEHAVIOR."

CAMBRIDGE INTERNATIONAL DICTIONARY OF ENGLISH- The belief in and worship of a god or gods, or any such system of belief and worship

WEBSTER DICTIONARY (from religo, to bind anew; re and ligo, to bind). This word seems originally to have signified an oath or vow to the gods, or the obligation of such an oath or vow, which was held very sacred by the Romans.

1. Religion, in its most comprehensive sense, includes a belief in the being and perfections of God, in the revelation of his will to man, in man's obligation to obey his commands, in a state of reward and punishment, and in man's accountableness to God; and also true godliness or piety of life, with the practice of all moral duties. It therefore comprehends theology, as a system of doctrines or principles, as well as practical piety; for the practice of moral duties without a belief in a divine lawgiver, and without reference to his will or commands, is not religion.

2. Religion, as distinct from theology, is godliness or real piety in practice, consisting in the performance of all known duties to God and our fellow men, in obedience to divine command, or from love to God and his law. James 1.

3. Religion, as distinct from virtue, or morality, consists in the performance of the duties we owe directly to God, from a principle of obedience to his will. Hence we often speak of religion and virtue, as different branches of one system, or the duties of the first and second tables of the law.

Let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion.

4. Any system of faith and worship. In this sense, religion comprehends the belief and worship of pagans and Mohammedans, as well as of Christians; any religion consisting in the belief of a superior power or powers governing the world, and in the worship of such power or powers. Thus we speak of the religion of the Turks, of the Hindus, of the Indians, &c. as well as of the Christian religion. We speak of false religion, as well as of true religion.

5. The rites of religion; in the plural.

Literature Cited.

1. Albornoz, José.  1998. Nociones Elementales de Filosofía. Vadell Hermanos, Editores. Valencia, Venezuela.

2. Bagli, Jehan.  “On the Fire of Aramaiti”. In www.vohuman.org

3. Dhalla, Maneckjee N. 1938. The History of Zarathushtrianism.

4. Dictionaries: http://www.onelook.com/

5. Duchesne-Guillermin, Jacques. 1992. The Hymns of Zarathushtra. Facsimile edition of the work originally by John Murray in 1952. Charles E. Tuttle Company, Inc, of Rutland, Vermont & Tokio, Japan, with editorial offices at 77 Central Street. Boston, Massachusetts 02109.

6. Heidegger, M. 1965. ¿Qué es eso de Filosofía? Edit. Sur. Buenos Aires.

7. Jafarey, Ali. 1989. The Gathas, Our Guide. Published by Ushta. Cypress, California.

8. Jafarey, Ali. 1992. Zarathushtrian Ceremonies. Published by Ushta. Cypress, California.

9. Karl Jasper. 1958. Filosofía. Edit. F.C.E. México.

10. Kerr, Sam. “The Philosophical Concept of Consciousness in Zarathushtra’s Teachings”. In www.vohuman.org

11. McIntyre, Dina G.  “Zarathushtra’s Paradise: In this World and the Next”.            
In www.vohuman.org

12. The Standard Encyclopedic Dictionary. Funk & Wagnalls. A Division of Reader’s
Digest Books, Inc. Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 66-26533