In Search of Zarathustra
Across Iran and Central Asia to find the World's First Prophet.
Written by: Paul Kriwaczek
This non-fictional book is a rather interesting attempt in order to delve into ancient history and find out more about Zarathustra. It revolves around the travels of the author throughout Iran and Central Asia in order to find traces of the prophet Zarathustra. It is decently written and provides the reader with a general idea of what Zoroastarianism is today and what it began as. Kriwaczek also attempts to go backwards through time in order to find out who exactly Zarathustra was and how we know what little we do know about him. Another major theme that runs through this book is the focus upon the impact of Zarathustra's teachings upon the development of the Western world.
The author works backwards in time starting off with the author's travels to Iran and the impact of Zarathustra upon modern day Iran and its denial of its rich heritage while at the same time embracing its tradition. He then talks about Abraham Hyacynthe and the translation of the Avesta so that Zarathustra could truly be understood by the intellectuals of the Western world. The piece then moves onto Nietzsche's experience with Zarathustra and his attempt to redefine the teachings of Zarathustra.
There is then a swift jump to medieval France where Kriwazcek discusses the effect of Zarathustra's teachings upon the Cathars. The discussion of Mani and the Religion of Light practiced by the Romans in the form of Manichism follows Nietzsche and illustrates the dissemination of the word of Mani and Zoroastarianism throughout the ancient world, there is also a mention of Mithras and the Mithraic temple found in Londonium and provides evidence that the ideology of Zarathustra did travel as far as the British isles.
The author finally gets down to the nitty gritty of the book when he discusses the ideas of the end of the world which first appeared in the teachings of Zarathustra 1. Cyrus II and his ancestors are mentioned in perhaps the most intriguing part of the book in which the author explains the development of Zoroastarianism in Ancient Persia and their impact upon the beginnings of Judaism. As his coup de grace the author discusses the life of Zarathustra and the ideas which he first brought to the world, and how they changed after his death.
Overall, it's not a bad book for an introduction to Zoroastarianism and the dissemination of religious ideas, but it is rather confusing and has to be read over more than once to be understood completely.
"My Iranian companion didn't smoke and I too had run out of matches, so I shook my head and patted my pockets uselessly. As we stood there foolishly signalling to each other, the elderly Zoroastrian smiled, stepped towards the fire in the iron basket, picked up a twig, ignited it from the sacred flames and held it out to light Muhammad's cigarette."
1. Zarathustra prophesised that good and evil would battle until good would finally prevail and a Saoshyant, a divine leader, would lead good to this long sought after glory and history would come to an end. Neither the original Hebrews of the Torah, Indians, Chinese, Greeks nor the Babylonians had any concept even remotely similar to this idea.