ZOROASTER, THE SON OF OROMASIUS,
FIRST INSTITUTOR OF PHILOSOPHY BY FIRE, AND MAGIC.
ZOROASTER, the son of Oromasius, flourished in the reign of Darius, the successor of Cambyses. 1 All authors are full of variations in their accounts of this famous person, some making him of a much later date than others; however, we shall give what we have collected from those who appear most authentic, not omitting the traditional history extant amongst the Magi, with which our readers may compare the several stories of biographers, and accept that account which shall seem to them the most rational. Zoroaster, king of the Bactrians, was vanquished by Ninus, and passed for the inventor of magic 2. Eusebius places this victory of Ninus in the seventh year of Abraham:
Abraham; now several authors make Zoroaster appear much earlier. It has been reported that Zoroaster laughed on the same day he was born, and that
he was the only one to whom this happened, and that the palpitation of his brain was so strong as to repulse the hand, it being laid to his head, which they say was a presage of his future knowledge and wisdom. It is added, that he passed twenty years in the deserts, and there eat nothing but a sort of cheese which was never the worse for age; that the love of wisdom and justice obliged him to retire from the world to a mountain, where he lived in solitude; but when he come down from thence there fell a celestial fire upon it, which perpetually burned; that the king of Persia, accompanied with the greatest lords of his court, approached it for the purpose of putting up prayers to God; that Zoroaster came out from these flames unhurt; that he comforted and encouraged the Persians, and offered sacrifices for them to God; that, afterwards, he did not live indifferently with all sorts of men, but only those who were born for truth, and who were capable of the true knowledge of God, which kind of people are called among the Persians, Magi; that he desired his end might be this, viz. to be struck with thunder, and consumed by celestial fire; and that he requested the Persians to collect his ashes, after he was consumed in this manner, and to preserve and venerate them as a pledge of the preservation of their monarchy; that they for a length of time paid great veneration to the relics of Zoroaster, but at length, neglecting them, their monarchy fell to ruin and decay 1. The Chronicle of Alexandria adds, that having held this discourse
discourse with them he invoked Orion, and was consumed by celestial fire. Many will have it that Ham was the Zoroaster of the eastern nations, and the inventor of magic. Mr. Bochart refutes this falsity. Cedrenus observes that Zoroaster, who became so famous for wisdom among the Persians, was descended from Belus: this imports that he was descended from Nimrod. Some authors have taken him for Nimrod; others for Assur or Japhet. The ancient Persians believe that Zoroaster was before Moses 1. Some maintain he was the prophet Ezekiel, and it cannot be denied that they ground their opinions on the agreement of numerous particulars which belong to the one, and are related of the other. George Hornius foolishly imagines that he was the false prophet Balaam. Huetius shews that he was the Moses of the Jews, and mentions an infinite number of particulars in which the accounts we have of Moses agree with the stories related of Zoroaster.--How near all or any of these come to the probability of truth will appear in the sequel, where we have given the most probable and rational account of him, as far as we have been able to trace, from the tradition of the Magi, which we prefer before the confused and partial accounts vulgarly extant. They who believe that Zoroaster professed
and taught a diabolical magic 1 are certainly in the wrong; the magic he taught (of which we shall speak more anon) was only the study of the divine nature, and of religious worship. Some have presumed that Zoroaster was the promulgator of a doctrine of two principles 2, or two co-eternal causes, one of good
good, the other of evil things. of this doctrine Plutarch takes notice: he says, "that Zoroaster the magician, who is said to have lived five thousand years" before the Trojan war, called the good God, Oromazes, and the evil, Arimanius, &c. &c." See Plut. de Iside & Osiride, page 369.
Dr. Hyde, in his excellent treatise on the religion of the ancient Persians, cites some authors who clear him on this head. We shall examine whether they deserve credit. It is affirmed that he was no idolater, either with respect to the worship of fire, or that of Mithra 1. What appears least uncertain,
amongst so many things that are related of him is, that he was the introducer of a new religion into Persia, and that he did it about the reign of Darius the successor of Cambyses: he is still in great veneration among those Persians who are not of the Mahometan religion, but still retain the ancient worship of their country. They call him Zardhust, and several believe that he came from China, and relate many miraculous things on that head. Several authors affirm, that all the books published hitherto under Zoroaster's name, some of which are yet extant, are supposititious. Dr. Hyde dissents from this opinion. Suidas affirms, that there were extant four books of Zoroaster: the first, "Of Nature," a book of the Virtues of precious Stones, called de Gemmis; and five books of Astrology and Astronomy, "Prædictiones ex. Inspectione Stellarum." It is very likely that what Pliny relates, as quoted from Zoroaster, was taken from those books, Plin. lib. xviii, cap. 24. Eusebius recites a passage which contains a magnificent description of God, and gives it as the very words of Zoroaster in his sacred commentary on the Persian rites. Clemens Alexandrinus says, that the followers of Prodicus boasted of having the secrets or secret books of Zoroaster. But most likely he meant that they boasted of having the secret books of Pythagoras. They were printed, together with the verses of the Sybils at Amsterdam, in the year 1689, according to Opsopæus's edition, Oracula Magica Zoroastris, cum Scholiis Plethonis & Pselli.
143:1 The Author regrets, that, notwithstanding his laborious researches to obtain an authentic and satisfactory account of Zoroaster to present to his readers that a few generals, and not particulars, can only be given: indeed, the most serious and respectable historians differ so widely in their accounts of him that nothing certain can from thence be deduced however, we have above recited several authorities to which we have annexed various notes and commentations.
143:2 Passed for the inventor of magic. It is to be noted that he was the inventor of it, and the first of the magi. Justin informs us that this victory was the last of Ninus; that Zoroaster philosophized most judiciously upon the nature and influences of the stars, and on the principles of the universe. Thomas Stanleius, Hist. of Philos. Orientalis, lib. I. cap. iii. informs us that Zoroaster, according to Eusebius, was cotemporary with Semiramis; but it is certain, according to Eusebius, that he was vanquished by king Ninus. Arnobius, lib. I. pa. m. 5. says, "Anciently the Assyrians and Bactrians, the former under the conduct of Ninus, and the latter under Zoroaster, fought against each other, not only with men and weapons, but also by the help of magic, and the secret discipline of the Chaldeans." Hermippus, who has wrote cautiously on every thing relative to magic, and explained twenty thousand verses composed by Zoroaster, relates, that one Azonaces initiated p. 144 him into this art, and that he lived 5,000 years before the Trojan war. St. Augustin and Orosius have followed the tradition mentioned by Justin. Apuleius, in his Catalogue of all the most famous Magicians of Antiquity, with great justice places Zoroaster in the first rank, and proves him the most ancient of all: "Magicarum artium fuisse perhibeter inventor Zoroastres." Augustin. de Civitat. Dei, lib. 21. cap. xiv. Eudoxus, who esteemed the art of magic to be accounted the noblest and most useful of all worldly knowledge, relates that Zoroaster lived six thousand years before the death of Plato. Note, that the same thing is affirmed by Aristotle. Agathias, who lived in the reign of Justinian, informs us, that, according to the Persians of that time, Zoroaster and Hystaspes were cotemporary; but they do not say whether this Hystaspes was father to Darius or any other. Sir John Marsham positively decides that he was the father of Darius; and grounds his opinion on this, that one of the elogies engraven on the tomb makes him the instructor of the Magi; and that the same historian who makes Hystaspes excel in magic, calls him the father of Darius. Ammianus Marcellinus, lib. 23, pag. m. 324. says, "After the time of Zoroaster, reigned Hystaspes, a very prudent king, and the father of Darius. This prince, having boldly penetrated into the remotest parts of the Upper India, came at length to a solitary forest, where there dwelt, in awful and silent tranquility, the Brachmans. In this peaceful solitude they instructed him in the knowledge of the earth's motion, likewise of the stars; and from them he learned the pure and sacred rites of religion. Part of this knowledge he communicated to the Magi, which, together with the art of predicting future events, they delivered down to posterity, each in his own family. The great number of men who have descended from these families, ever since that age down to the present, have all been set apart for cultivating the knowledge of the Gods." But Ammianus Mercellinus was wrong in saying, that this father of Darius was a king; and no doubt he committed this blunder by having read in general that one king Hystaspes was a great magician, and thought there was no other Hystaspes than the father of Darius. But it is beyond dispute, that one Hystaspes, older than the foundation of Rome, and a great prophet, is mentioned by authors. "Hystaspes also, the most ancient king of the Medes, and from whom the river Hystaspes derives its name, is the most admirable of them all; for under the interpretation of the prophecy of a boy, he informed posterity that the Roman empire, nay, even the Roman name, should be utterly destroyed; and this he predicted a long time before the establishment of that colony of Trojans," Lactant. lib. VII. cap. xv. pag. in. 492. Justin Martyr informs us, that he predicted the general conflagration of all perishable things, Justin Apolog. ii. pag. 66. It is affirmed that Pythagoras was Zoroaster's disciple, under the reign of Cambyses, the son of Cyrus: the words of Apuleius inform us of the fact. Some say that Pythagoras having been made a slave in Egypt, was transported into Persia; others will have transported him into Babylon, and there instructed by Zoroaster the Babylonian, whom they distinguish from the Persian. We find no less than five Zoroasters mentioned in history: to these five may be added a sixth, mentioned by Apuleius. This Zoroaster lived in Babylon at the time Pythagoras was brought thither by Cambyses. The same writer calls him "the chief interpreter of all divine mysteries," and says that Pythagoras was chiefly instructed by him. He appears to be the same p. 145 with Zabratus, by whom Diogenes affirms Pythagoras was purged from all his former filth, and instructed in what is essentially necessary for good men to know, viz. God, nature, and philosophy: he is also the same with Nazaratus, the Assyrian, whom Alexander, in his book of the Pythagorical symbols, affirms to have taught Pythagoras. The same person Suidas calls Zares, Cyrillus, Zaranes, and Plutarch, Zarates.
145:1 According to the tradition of the Magi, we shall explain this fabulous and figurative description of Zoroaster's end. The truth is, he enjoined the Persians rigidly to persevere in the laws he had framed, and the doctrine he had been at the labour to establish, which was, to live in the practice of moral virtue, to avoid all species of luxury, to promote the liberal sciences, to govern all their actions with prudence and integrity, and to meet misfortune with resolution, and to encounter it with philosophy, and to endure the unavoidable calamities of life with fortitude: these, his disciplines, he left as a precious relic among them; which while they strictly adhered to, they need be under no apprehension of tyranny and p. 146 oppression:--these they collected, and for some space of time religiously followed the precepts of this great philosopher: at length, human frailty and vice, corrupting their manners, caused them to relax from their duties, upon which their empire fell into ruin and decay. The idolatry falsely imputed to this wise man, viz. his instituting the worshipping of fire, is thus to be interpreted.--Under the celestial symbol of fire was meant truth:--truth he ascribed purely as the great and wonderful attribute of the Godhead, which he acknowledged and worshipped, to wit, one only God, the eternal fire of wisdom and everlasting truth, justice, and mercy!--His magic was the study of the religious worship of that Eternal Being. After Zoroaster, there were four persons chosen to educate the successor of the king of Persia. They chose the wisest, the most just, the most temperate, and the bravest man that could be found. The wisest man (viz. one of the Magi), instructed him in Zoroaster's magic, the just in government, the brave in war, and the temperate in social virtue and temperance. Now observe, that Zoroaster is called the son of Oromasius, and that Oromasius is the name given by Zoroaster and his disciples to the good God, and this title was really bestowed upon him by the Persians; therefore, according to Plato, this Persian Magus, on account of his uncommon learning, religion, and wisdom, was, in an allegorical or figurative manner, called the son of God, or the son of wisdom, truth, &.c.
146:1 Some Magi affirm that he is the same with Abraham, and frequently call him Ibrahim Zerdascht, which is Abraham the friend of fire.
147:1 The preceding note fully explains those erroneous relations of the wisdom of the Magi. Those who desire to see a great many passages which testify that the magic of the Persians, instituted by Zoroaster, was the study of religion, virtue, and wisdom, let them refer to Brissonius de Regno Persarum, lib. ii. p. 178, &. seq. edit. Commel. 1595; likewise Jul. Cæsar, Bullengerus Eclog. ad Arnobium, p. 346, &. seq. Nor are we ignorant that Gabriel Naude hath most learnedly and solidly justified our Zoroaster against the ignorant imputations of necromancy, black art, &c.
147:2 It has been much contended by philosophers whether Zoroaster was the first suggester of this doctrine of the two principles: the one called by the Magi, Oromases the good, and Arimanius the evil principle. It is certain Zoroaster asserted the one, viz. that of the good, or an essential uncreated self-existent principle, the cause of all good, called by him Oromasus, meaning a good God, &c. In respect of the other principle, Arimanius, we must, before we decide either for or against Zoroaster, consider the nature of the thing in its most impartial sense.
Those who ever read Mr. Bernard's journal (Nouvelles de la Republique des Lettres, Feb. 1701, and March 1701, Art. iii. l. i.) needs not be informed that the Historia Religionis veterum Persarum, published by Dr. Hyde (professor of the oriental languages in the university of Oxford) at Oxford, in the year 1700, 4to, is one of the most excellent pieces that could possibly be written on such a subject. The idea which the learned journalist hath given of this performance is sufficient to convince us that it contains a very curious erudition, and profound discussions, which discover many rare and uncommon particulars of a country which we scarce knew any thing of before. But to come to the point: Dr. Hyde affirms, that the ancient Persians acknowledge no more than one uncreated principle, which was the good principle, or, in one word, God: and that they looked upon the evil principle as a created being. One of the names, or attributes, which they gave to God, was Hormizda; and they called the evil principle, Ahariman; and this is the original of the two Greek words, Ώρομάσδες and Απειμανιος one of which was the name of the good, and the other of the evil, principle, as we have seen above, in a passage of Plutarch. The Persians affirmed that Abraham was the first founder of their religion. Zoroaster afterwards made some alterations in it; but it is said he made no manner of change with relation to the doctrine of one sole uncreated principle, but that the only innovation in this particular was the giving the name of Light to the good principle, and that of Darkness to the evil one.
From a misconstruction put upon the doctrine of the Magi, some considerable misreports of their tenets have been propagated: I think none more curious than the following--"That a war arose betwixt the army of light and that of darkness, which at last ended in an accommodation, of which the angels were mediators, and the conditions were that the inferior world should be wholly left to the government of Arimanius for the space of 7000 years, after which it should be restored to light. Before the peace, Arimanius had exterminated all the inhabitants of the world. Light had called men to its assistance while p. 148 they were yet but spirits; which it did, either to draw them out of Arimanius' territories, or in order to give them bodies to engage against this enemy. They accepted the bodies and the fight, on condition they should be assisted by the light, and should at last overcome Arimanius. The resurrection shall come when he shall be vanquished. This they conclude was the cause of the mixture, and shall be the cause of the deliverance. The Greeks were not ignorant that Zoroaster taught a future resurrection.
148:1 The ancient Persian Magi never did divine honours to the sun or any of the stars. They maintain they do not adore the sun, but direct themselves towards it when they pray to God. It has been found amongst Zoroaster's secret precepts, that we ought to salute the sun, but not that we should adore him with religious worship. He proves that their ceremonies might very justly pass for civil honours, and to this purpose he makes some exceeding curious observations. He applies to the fire what he says of the sun. The bowings and prostrations of the Persians before the holy fire were not a religious observation, but only a civil one. The same thing must be attributed to their reported worship of fire, which, as I have said above, they kept in their Pyrea in imitation of the Jews. For though they paid a certain reverence to the fire, and that by prostration, yet this was not a religious, only a civil, worship; as it is from the force of custom that the eastern people prostrate themselves before any great man; (so they might with as much propriety be said to adore or worship him.) Believe me we ought to be the last to censure the eastern people with such gross idolatry as has been represented. The Persians, who have always been devoted to the highest study of wisdom, performed their duties in life for the honour of their God; and, although unenlightened and Barbarians, lived as men, and not as irrational creatures: whereas we, who know our duty so well, yet practise it so ill: for I may truly say, that notwithstanding. the great benefits we derive from the divine precepts of Christianity, yet I believe it will be found an incontrovertible fact that man to man is a serpent, a few individuals excepted. But to return to our subject: It was the ancient custom to fall prostrate to angels, as being the messengers and representatives of God. Besides, there are many examples of this kind of worship, not only in the Old, but New Testament, where the women who had been converted to the true faith, upon seeing the angels at the sepulchre of Christ, fell with their faces to the ground and worshipped. Yet they well knew that it was not God they saw, but his angels, as appears from their own confession--"we have seen a vision of angels." Therefore they are wrongfully called Idolaters and worshippers of fire, for Zoroaster was the instrument of their continuation in the true faith. He was a man who had the knowledge of the true God, whom he p. 149 peculiarly worshipped in a natural cave, in which he placed several symbols representing the world; Mithra, representing the sun, filled the master's place. But it was not Mithra, but the true God, that he adored: and, lastly, as he was a true philosopher, a profound alchemist, greatly informed in all the arts of the mathematics, strict and austere in his religion, he struck the Persians with an admiration of him, and by these means made them attentive to his doctrine. The sum of all is, that he lived in a cave, dedicated to the service of God, and the study of all natural and supernatural knowledge; that he was divinely illuminated, knew the courses of the stars, and the occult and common properties of all compounded and earthly things; that by fire and Geometry (i. e. by Chemistry and the Mathematics) he investigated, proved, and demonstrated, the truth and purity, or else the fugacity and vileness, of all things knowable in this mortal state of humanity. So that the fame, sagacity, wisdom, and virtue of Zoroaster induced some certain men wickedly and fraudulently to impose upon the unwary some false magical oracles, and diabolical inventions, written in Greek and Latin, &c. as the genuine works of the divine and illustrious Zoroaster.