Wednesday, December 30, 2009

God, Time & Creation in Zoroastrianism According to the Dinkard

The Middle Persian Zoroastrian texts referred to below: the Greater Bundahishn and Dinkard (also spelt Denkart) were written in the Pahlavi script between the 6th and 9th centuries CE. While the Bundahishn gives us a mythical account of creation, parts of the Dinkard seek to convey a more philosophical approach to understanding creation.

R. C. Zaehner in his book Zurvan: A Zoroastrian Dilemma states that there is a remarkable statement in section 18 of the Greater Bundahishn.

Khoda: Lord (of Creation)
The section states that before the act of creation, Ohrmazd (as God was called in Medieval Middle Persian texts - derived from the original term Ahura Mazda) was not Khvatay (meaning, according to Zaehner, 'Lord', or more literally 'having power of one's own'. Lord, or for that matter being sovereign, are inadequate human terms that seek to bring understanding to the incomprehensible. We should not equate Ohrmazd as something akin to a human lord).

Perhaps, we can derive from this, that existence needed to exist to enable cosmic laws (asha), that bring order to existence, to be relevant. In more prosaic terms, without existence there was nothing on which to apply the laws, i.e. nothing to be 'lord' over.

[Note: Khuda (or Khoda) is the New Persian form of Khvatay, the ordinary word for God. Our note: Khvatay may be connected to Khshathra - the quality of being sovereign and having dominion].

It was only after Ohrmazd's act of creation that Ohrmazd, God, became Khvatay - Lord Sovereign / self-governed.

Time: Finite & Infinite
Continuing his examination of the Bundahishn, Zaehner notes that Ohrmazd's act of creation of the material existence started with the fashioning of zaman i derang-Khvatay, time-period of the long dominion, which the Bundahishn notes is also called by some as finite time (zaman i kanarakomand or zaman i brin) from infinite time (zaman i akanarak).

[Note: zaman i derang-Khvatay (Mid. Pers.) = zravanahe daregho khvadhatahe or khadhatahe / hvadhatahe (Avestan). zaman i akanarak (Mid. Pers.) = zravanahe akarnahe (Avestan)]

Zaehner goes on to note that at the end of the cosmic period (at the end of finite time), finite time will reintegrate with infinite time from which it had originated. Middle Persian philosopher / theologian Mardan-Farrukh took strong exception to the idea that the infinite can under any circumstances become finite, or that infinite time was created, and stated that this interpretation of the Avesta was a perversion. Rather, as an integral aspect of God, infinite time is uncreated. Further, God, Ohrmazd, in the act of creation, fashioned time of long dominion (finite time) out of the Creator's own infiniteness.

The creation of finite time was necessary in order for existence to exist and eventually to set the material creation in motion.

Evtak Menog: Undifferentiated Spiritual Existence
The primal existence is undifferentiated menog (mainyu) spiritual existence - described in the Dinkard (Dinkard Madon or DkM p. 98-100) as being single (evtak), uncompounded (a-hambut DkM 398.20) , devoid of parts (a-bahr DkM 399.4) invisible and intangible. In that existence, the spiritual light is one that casts no shadow.

Creation: Differentiated Existence
As a prelude to the creation of the material existence, the spiritual existence was differentiated as a pair (Gatha 30.2) that were 'twin, well-working'. The closest we can come to understanding the nature of the differentiated spirituality is a spiritual light and darkness. The resulting duality would henceforth be fundamental to the nature of existence.

Ras: Wheel of Existence
The instrument of creation is the ras, the wheel, the end-form of the endless-form, the space-time or vay(u)-zurvan / void-time continuum and primal element which enabled the physical existence, getig (gaetha) to be manifest. We are now provided with the concept of the wheel of existence, perhaps also implying metaphorically, the setting of existence in motion.

The void of space allows the material creation to have shape. In the cosmos, the ras is manifest as a sphere [the Greater Bundahishn also uses the metaphor that the cosmos, 'its ends exceedingly far apart (i.e. beyond our concept of enormity), in the shape of an egg.' It is also daregho khvadhatahe - immense and self-governing, but nevertheless limited (Greater Bundahishn 18.3-9)].

With the limitation of time, being / existence (hastih) becomes manifest (paytak) (Middle Persian Dinkard: Madan p. 131.21 - 133.9; Sanjana iii p. 152; Zaehner Z 15 p. 383).

Through time, matter has the potential of being actualized (Dinkard: Madan p. 207.1 - 7; Sanjana v p. 232; Zaehner Z 16 p. 384).

The Process of Becoming
Under the aegis of the fravashi (which carries the universal cosmic laws of asha) imbedded in every facet of the material creation, the formless time-space continuum started the self-regulated eon-long (daregho khvadhatahe) process of becoming (bavishn). The two passages in the Dinkard (Madon p. 133.2-6) that describe the process of becoming following the initial act of creation, make no mention of any continuing direct divine control or manipulation as creation evolved. In other words, after the initial act of creation, the balance of the process is self-governed (khadhata) and self-advancing.

According to Zaehner's reading of the Dinkard in his book The Dawn and Twilight of Zoroastrianism, the process of evolution after the initial act of creation proceeded in four steps:
  1. The start of becoming was accompanied by the formation of primal element, ras, the embodiment of space-time, unformed and the origin of all material forms.
  2. The process of becoming accompanied by the formation of mediary matter or 'potential form',
  3. The stabilization of becoming, and
  4. The realization of becoming accompanied by the formation of the material universe, getig, and emergence.
Zaehner informs us that these four steps are repeated several times in the Dinkard (Madon p. 202-3, 207-8) citing the authority 'as is said in the Religion,' and that the steps are also found in the Maitri Upanishad.

Manifestation of Duality
Upon the realization of becoming, the inherent duality of existence is manifest in ras, the wheel of existence, as pairs of being and not-being such as light and darkness (no-light), heat and cold (no-heat). In life, the duality is manifest as living life (gaem) and not-living (ajyaitim) cf. Gatha 30.4. Eventually in humans, this inherent duality of existence will manifest as right and wrong (not-right), good and evil (not-good) and then tangibly as asha and druj (Madon p. 208.21-2), good and evil, in human thoughts, words and deeds. (Compare: the yin-yang circle / wheel symbol.)

Ultimate Unity - the Impermanence of Spiritual and Temporal Existential Duality
Zoroastrianism does not see existential duality continuing without end. It sees the goal of existence as rising to a state of holistic perfection exemplified by the destruction of evil. Such a condition leads to a scenario where there is no ageing, no death, no fear and no violence. All forms of existential duality including light and darkness would cease to exist.

The absence of ageing could be said to assume that time itself will stand still bring to an end the regime of zravanahe daregho khvadhatahe - time of long dominion, time that can be measured. Perhaps, what will remain is zravanahe akarnahe - time infinite, unbounded and immeasurable - the form of time that existed before the institution of zravanahe daregho khvadhatahe. The existential space-time continuum of vayu-zravanahe will cease to exist.

One could therefore postulate that in one interpretation of Zoroastrian philosophy, existence rose from a unity and will end in a unity - duality having been the interim means for creation to have manifested itself and for humanity to progress from a state of imperfection to perfection.

In another interpretation, all souls will be cleansed and will return to God. In such an event, the spiritual and ethical duality of good and evil will cease not just in the temporal existence, but in the spiritual existence as well. All souls came from God and all souls will return to God. This is another way of saying that all existence rose from a unity and will return to a unity.

Duality & Dualism pages of this blog:
» Dual, Duality & Dualism. Definitions
» The Two - Ta Mainyu
» Yin-Yang Dualism. Development of the Concept
» Yin-Yang in Daoism / Taoism. The Daodejing by Laozi. Zhuangzi
» Plutarch. His Work, Duality and the Soul

Also see:
» The Difference between Ahura (Khoda), Mazda & Yazata (Yazdan) - Lord, God & Divine.

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