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3.2.5 Persian Mysteries

Zoroastrianism was the most important Persian Mystery cult; its origins are uncertain and the most ancient document dealing with this cult, the Gathas, does not help much. Zoroaster claimed that the doctrine was revealed to him by the Supreme Deity that he names Ahura Mazda but it is not clear who Ahura Mazda was. Zoroaster, himself, said that it was not Mithra, and some scholars identify him with Varuna the Vedic God of the heavens, but this is far from certain. Zoroaster’s doctrine is dualistic, based on the permanent conflict between the principles of Good and Evil, Ahura Mazda being responsible for creating both principles. He was against killing oxen and eating their flesh. Zoroaster was a Magus, a sect following the teaching of Ahura Mazda; this could explain why his creed was close to the Magi’s who worshipped fire and, at least in its last phase, was also close to Mithraism. In this late phase the dualism became stronger and Ahura Mazda described now as Ohrmazd was, as a result, identified with “Spenta Mainyu” the good principle, while the evil principle was identified with “Ahriman”. These two divinities were thought to have existed from the beginning at the same level; it was not certain anymore that Good would prevail over Evil. Zoroaster preached in Iran and, through the Magi, he influenced the Jews and the Greco-Roman world. It is possible that the Hellenised Magi were at the base of Mithra’ cult. Zoroastrianism declined in Persia in the 7th century AD; it survives today only among the Parsees of India.

The initiates in the Inner Pagan Mysteries discovered that what they saw at first as their individual Daemon was in fact the Universal Daemon of which all conscious being have a piece, a piece of God, in fact. In the same way, the Christian godman Jesus symbolically represents the Universal Daemon or Logos that has been cut to pieces of which all of us have a part. As a result a true Gnostic is no longer a Christian, but a Christ. Both Pagan and Gnostic philosophy described four level of human state:
–    Physical, describes the people who identify themselves with their body and are known as “Hylics (they are spiritually dead, they are only like matter).
–    Psychological, people who identify themselves with their personality or psyche. They are known as “Psychics”.
–    Spiritual, people who identify themselves with their spirit. They are known as “Pneumatics”.
–    Mystical, describes people who stop identifying themselves with any level of their separate identity and have realised their true identity as the Christ or the Universal Daemon by Gnosis. They are known as “Gnostics” or “Knowers”.

In both the Pagan and Gnostic Christianity these levels of awareness were linked to the four elements: earth, water, air and fire. The passage from one state to the next one were symbolised by baptismal ceremonies. Baptism by water symbolises the transformation of a Hylic person into a Psychic one; by air, for the transformation of as Psychic into a Pneumatic; by fire, for the final transformation of a Pneumatic into a Gnostic.

A pagan initiate of the Outer Mysteries saw the myth of Osiris-Dionysus as the script of a nice spectacle. An initiate of the Inner Mysteries was told of the allegorical meaning encoded in the myth and a Master of the Mysteries related these teachings to his own being. In the same way, a Gnostic initiate saw Jesus’ story in a different way as he progresses along the path to Gnosis. Three levels are generally mentioned:
–    Literal: Psychic Christians had been baptised by water. They were initiated in the Outer Mysteries of Christianity that describes Jesus’ story as an historical event of a man who came back from the dead.
–    Mythical: Pneumatic Christians have also be baptised by air (holy breath or holy spirit) and initiated into the secret Inner Mysteries of Christianity. For them, Jesus’ story is an allegorical myth about the spiritual path travelled by every initiate.
–    Mystical: These Gnostics have received the final baptism by fire and have identified themselves with Christ (the logos or universal Daemon).

The Outer Mysteries are necessary to attract would-be initiates. For this reason, the Gnostics did not deny the historical version of Jesus’ life as a first step for the spiritual beginners. However the true Gnostic doctrine is to be found and revealed to the initiates in the secret Inner Mysteries.

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