Winter Solstice, 2016, New York
Let us all first enjoy a recently composed pictorial poem on LIFE which can be read by clicking here.
As we once again approach the much hyped, hustle and bustle of the holiday season, one cannot help but pause and contemplate the diversity of faiths worldwide, still revered by individuals versus the more exploitative and intrusive politicized religiosities that have, sadly, led to accumulation of power and wealth through subjugating the masses to violence, enslavement, injustice, and greed. In a more civilized and tolerant society, an individual’s “faith” should be safeguarded through embracing cultural diversities and beliefs, and adherence to civil discourse and civil laws. On the other hand, religiosity must remain wide open to scrutiny, critique, and rejection or reform when deemed necessary, as religiosity is not to be misconstrued as divinely sacrosanct, unilaterally descended by an unforeseen supreme almighty and thus absolved from all intelligent probing and discourse. The examination of any ideology, be it capitalism, socialism, communism, fascism, anarchism, nihilism, pacifism, religionism, irreligionism, and even spiritualism is to remain wide open to cross examination, refinement or rejection based on assessing how positively or negatively each impacts society, humanity, and mother nature. In retrospect, can we not fully surmise preventing proactively catastrophes inflicted on humanity by the zealot Crusaders, holocaust criminal perpetrators or the criminal radical ISIS, if we had the opportunity to objectively scrutinize their ideologies before they each erupted?
Engraving of Faravhar, the Zoroastrian symbol in Persepolis, circa 5th century BCE
Iran is an ancient nation on a vast diverse land with an advanced civilization and a culture that has seminally contributed to humanity as a whole since at least pre-Neolithic antiquity. Iran has also played her pivotal role for conceiving, transmitting or propagating faiths across all continents, most of which later led to politicized religiosity by emerging elites., the self-righteous stakeholders acting as a God or shadows to God. Zoroastrianism, the first monotheistic faith which morphed into religiosity anchored on four casts, as preceded only by Persian Mithraism and sols invictus; had been inspired by, or exchanged philosophies with certain Indian and Chinese rituals, the two latter evolved into Hinduism and Buddhism. The Zoroastrian central influence was the intense dualistic mode of conceptualizing the whole of reality into competing spheres of good vs. evil, light vs. darkness, heaven vs. hell in believers’ inner consciousness. The Chinese Ying-Yang of Greek mythological dual gods are subsequently derived from this concept. In fact, there is more than sufficient evidence to trace Zoroastrian doctrine and its edicts and philosophies, to Judaism, Christianity and Islam that followed, especially as these traditions articulated their conceptions of a dualistic universe. Zoroastrianism which for almost a millennium after its inception remained a monastic faith, when adopted as the official state religion by the Sassanid Dynasty in Persia to exploit the masses through heavy taxes levied on the majority serfs as well as the non-Zoroastrians, led to a rapid and easy take over and conversion by Islam in the 7th century. A reform reinterpretation of Zoroastrianism by two movements of Mazdakism and Manicheism, anchored on social justice, came a bit too little and too late. And all these religions, have at more than one time or other inflicted much injustice, suffering, self-righteousness, violence, and catastrophe on the innocent humans all in the name of a certain “perfect” God or Goddess. The practice self-flagellation and self-mutilation and mortal suffering with the promise of entering heaven after death, especially for those inflicted with poverty and injustice, has roots in more than one or two religions. However, the destructive tendencies of dualistic thinking paradigms evolved over time to become more inclusive of diversity as increasingly diverse peoples and traditions interrelated. In fact, one could in theory postulate most principles are in common among all faiths; nonetheless, it is the ever widening (mis-)reinterpretations over time, that when exploited by the few self-righteous and self-serving power hungry culprits with ulterior motives, has led to inevitable catastrophes in every instance.
Hence, Iran must have witnessed its most intense clashes of religiosities, as many were conceived or traversed through there. There are scholars (read Esther’s Children) who surmise the ten missing Jewish tribes simply dissolved into Persia from as far back as three millennia ago when the Jewish Kingdoms were southwesterly neighbors in Ur region to Iranian Ela mites, Medes and later the Achaemenes Empires. This era commenced at a time when even Judaic thoughts were not formally organized into the written Torah that followed later, and so most if not almost all, Iranians do have Mizrahim Jewish gene markers. And the same is also validated for a large number of Iranians with Armenian Christian lineages. Zoroastrian lineage is of course broadly embedded in a few hundred million people from northern India and central Asia to Asia Minor and the Caucuses and Mesopotamian regions. Moving fast forward, with the advent of Arabs, the Moghuls, the Greeks, the East Romans of Byzantium and a few other major invaders, they have collectively enriched the Iranian gene pool! No wonder a person of Iranian/Persian heritage can be (mis-)taken for a dozen or two other distinct ethnicities from across the globe as s/he travels or resides anywhere worldwide. This becomes even more confusing to gullibly ignorant or uneducated observers, when a large number of Iranians, especially abroad speak up to a half dozen languages. The two primary lingua franca for millions of Iranians in diaspora is Persian, and one or two other languages (English, French, German, Italian, Arabic, Turkish, Russian), as they have lived in many places overseers for the past five decades; the Persian psyche worldwide is intricately complex and their way of life is influenced by and transcends all cultures. In a real sense, the Persians have throughout history served as a context that nurtured the interrelationships among religious and philosophical traditions. This may account for the ecumenical catholicity of Iranians, in that they tend to have a spiritual humanistic and universalistic outlook to life. They are not however, alone as the increasing majority of humans on earth tend to lean toward such simple way of life.
Back to religions and the above statistical pictograph, don’t we recognize the inverse relationship between faith and religiosity on the one hand, and the socio-economic affluence and higher education, on the other?! Paradoxically, the vibrant Islamic caliphates that had by and large benefited immensely from the Zoroastrian faith, inspired Persian arts, architecture and culture, literature and life philosophies, governance and citizenry services; they collectively referred to such stellar contributions of the Persians as Arab or Islamic arts, science and technology, a ludicrously absurd nomenclature, indeed. At its zenith Islam covered three continents for almost five hundred years but then went into darkness and inward mysticism which discounted mortal life when the European dark ages was surpassed by the Magna Carta in 1215; the latter was followed by five hundred years of renaissance and protesting (thus protestant) post enlightenment, leading to a secular separation of religion and state.
Estimates are that Iran with the lowest religiosity rate (not necessarily personal inner-faith) in her region, has a much higher number of Jewish prophets and saints (Daniel, Esther, Mordechai, Yaghoub, Yahiya et al) mausoleums and shrines, still revered by all citizens, than Israel does. After the people of Jewry in Israel and scattered worldwide, the 80 million Iranians still name their children with the second highest Jewish names rate. Historical townships named Fariman, Faridan, Natan-(z), Susa/Shoosh, Hemedan etc. have persisted through millennia.
That is why most Iranians are believers and practitioners of the single golden rule of treating others as you would expect to be treated as articulated in a 13th century poem by Sa’adi:
Déjà vu all over again, had the above poem or its essence been closely followed by all in history, we humans did not have to be ashamed of, and/or endure the catastrophes of the crusaders and the holocaust criminal acts and today’s ISIS’ genocide and calamities.
Last and if you did not enjoy it atop herein, then enjoy a recently composed pictorial poem on LIFE by clicking here.
May I also I urge you to click and enjoy each of the following selected links:
- 5,000 years of Iran History in 4 minutes (video)
- Ancient Persia on History Channel (video)
- Islamic Monuments of Iran (video)
- The Saint Stepanos Monastery In The Mountains Of Northwest Iran (photos)
- Shoosh-Susa, the Tomb of the Daniel (video)
- Tombs of Mordechai and Esther in Hamedan, Iran. קבר מרדכי ואסתר (video)
- Yazd's Fire Temple (video)
- Pir-e Sabz / Chak-Chak Zoroastrian Shrine Yazd, Iran (video)
- Baha’I temples of the world (video)
- The Armenian Christian churches of Iran (video)