The Writings of Revilo P Oliver 1908-1994

The Origins of Christianity

by Revilo P. Oliver

Professor of the Classics, Retired; University of Illinois, Urbana



WHEN WE CONSIDER Zoroaster with historical objectivity, we are awed by the enormity of his religious revolution.

He invented a perfectly good god, Ahura Mazda, whom he identified as the Creator and unique source of all moral probity; and since it is hard to imagine a hermit god, he had his god create for himself a court of divine satraps, so to speak, the six Amesa Spentas, who are simply personified abstractions. They are Volu Manah ("Good Will"), Asa Vahista ("Truth" = What is Right, both physically and morally), Xsathra Vairya ("Righteous Goverment"), Spenta Armaiti ("Piety"), Haurvatat ("Perfection" = Health of all parts), and Ameretat ("Immortality"). These celestial noblemen naturally have their retinues of angelic servants and warriors, but obviously our devotion must be to the one good god. To be saved, we must enlist in his army.

As the antithesis of his good god, Zoroaster invented a god of pure evil, Angra Mainyu, the unique author of all sin and wickedness and of all the suffering of all human beings. This implacable enemy of the good god created his legions of devils to seduce and afflict mankind, and these malignant spirits are simply all the gods of all the peoples on earth who haven’t been taught to worship Ahura Mazda. And the votaries of those gods are therefore the mortal soldiers of the immortal enemy of Righteousness.

It follows, therefore, that it is the duty of all who have been Saved by Zoroaster’s Revelation to "convert" or annihilate all the peoples of the earth who worship other gods and thus serve Angra Mainyu in his Cosmic War against the Good.

Zoroaster would doubtless have been distressed had he been able to foresee that no lieutenant of Angra Mainyu could have done a better job than he, for his Revelation brought upon mankind the calamitous epidemic of religious mania that characterizes all "revealed" religions, the anaeretic fanaticism that dares confidently to say "Gott mit uns!" The more rational polytheism of the Aryans and of other races prevented men from taking leave of their senses in that way. You could never be sure of the favor of any god or of the limits of his power. The Athenians honored Poseidon, but that did not avert the squall that spoiled their naval victory at Arginusae. Athena was doubtless pleased by her temple on the Acropolis, but she was not able to save the city that had taken her as patroness, or even her own temple, from Xerxes. And if some gods favored you, you could be sure that the enemy also had gods on his side. In the Trojan war, some of the Olympian gods favored the Greeks and some favored the Trojans, but the most that a god could do was give a little help to his favorites in a struggle that was decided by human courage and strategy and by the impersonal power of the Destiny that is greater than the gods. A polytheist might venerate his chosen gods, but he knew that he would nevertheless have to reckon with reality. But a man who has been Saved by a glorious Revelation, achieving solidarity with an omnipotent (well, almost omnipotent god), can run berserk with Righteousness.

By inverting the Aryan religion and turning its gods into demons, Zoroaster invented the arrogant zealotry that reappeared so often and so terribly in all of subsequent history. Thence came, for example, the poisonous fanaticism of the Christians, who never doubted the existence or even the power of Jupiter, Mars, Venus, Apollo, and the other gods of the Classical world, but regarded those august, handsome, and often gracious beings as foul fiends,1 who could not be slaughtered themselves, but whose beautiful temples could be defiled and destroyed, whose votaries could be terrorized or butchered while their elegant homes were profitably looted, and whose supposed patronage of the arts and sciences gave a welcome pretext for sanctifying ignorance, boorishness, and misology. And when the Christians began at last to doubt the existence of the "pagan" gods, we see an ominous fissure in the wall of their Faith.2

Zoroaster and his spiritual descendants, Jesus, Mahomet, and many less successful Saviours, made of the world a vast battleground on which Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu (under these or other names) are waging a perpetual war for dominion, over the whole world, and since the two almost omnipotent deities somehow need men to fight for them, every human being must necessarily take part in the desperate war for the world, and if he does not fight for the good god, he is serving the evil one.

It becomes the duty of every "righteous" man to preach the new gospel to all the world, as was done by Zoroaster and his disciples, but when the evil god’s troops are so perversely obdurate to rhetoric that they will not desert their commander, they must be destroyed. Zoroaster, in other words, invented the jihad, the Holy War, and his invention must be regarded as one of the greatest calamities that had fallen upon our race and even upon mankind. When the Zoroastrian cult is described by scholars who have retained the lees of Christianity in their minds, they expatiate unctuously about "spiritual values" and "lofty morality," but they never think of counting the corpses.

According to the Zoroastrian tradition – and it does not really matter whether that tradition records actual events or holds up an ideal for True Believers – when Zoroaster succeeded at last in bringing the Gospel and Salvation to a king, Vistaspa, that monarch naturally wanted to save the souls of his subjects and he piously gave them the option of being Saved or having their throats cut. Having thus consolidated the Church Militant (with the aid of his courtiers and officers, who, of course, had immediately perceived the Truth of the new religion on the "conversion" of the king, who was the fount from whom all revenues flowed), he was ready to turn his pious thoughts to the neighboring nations, and we are treated to a long chronicle of extremely sanguinary conquests, which are actually called the "Wars of Religion" in the Pahlavi annals. The wars and battles are described in considerable detail. In the first great battle, for example, Vistaspa lost 38 of his sons, 1163 noblemen, and 30,000 common soldiers, but the wicked "pagans" lost more than 100,000 men. The result is an armistice, but the war is renewed and, after many peripeties and vicissitudes, the True Faith triumphs and the righteous have learned to grant no quarter and to spare the lives of no "infidels." Glorious are the heroes who are the Sword of God and do what they can to expunge sin with blood!3

When we turn from legend to history, the monarchs of the Persian Empire were, as we have seen, pious Zoroastrians and attributed their power to the supposed benefactions of Ahura Mazda, but such religious zeal as they may have felt was more or less moderated by political prudence until we come to Xerxes. He has left us proof of his fanaticism in the inscription in which he proudly records his devastation of the Athenian Acropolis: "there was a place in which devils (daiva) were formerly worshipped. There, by the help of Ahura Mazda, I demolished that lair of the devils and I issued an edict, ‘You shall not worship devils.’ And in the very place in which devils had once been worshipped, I piously and with Righteousness worshipped Ahura Mazda."

At Salamis and Plataea the Greeks saved Europe (for a few centuries) from a spiritual pestilence.

1.Orthodox Christian doctrine is stated concisely by Augustine, De civitate Dei, IV.I: "The false gods, whom they (the ‘pagans’) once worshipped openly and even now worship secretly, are the most filthy spirits and devils, so extremely malignant and deceitful that they rejoice in whatever crimes are, whether truly or falsely, imputed to them ... so that human weakness ... may not be restrained from the perpetration of damnable deeds."

2. Few have perpended the profound significance of the revival of Classical mythology in the Renaissqnce. The Humanists, who responded to the true beauty of the ancient myths and the noble literature that enshrined them, were able to claim that those gods were only lovely fictions and did not, in fact, exist. That was a drastic weakening of Christian orthodoxy, as was justly perceived by some contemporary Christian misologists, e.g., Giovanni da Sanminiato, whose uncouth Lucula noctis was first edited and published by Edmund Hunt (University of Notre Dame, 1950). Coluccio Salutati ridiculed his Latinity, which, while not so painfully barbarous as much Mediaeval stuff, was syntactically and lexically defective. In an age of reviving learning, that was enough to shut up the holy man.

3. For an attempt to extract some history from the tales, see Professor A. V. William Jackson’s Zoroaster (New York, 1901). There have been later speculations, of course, but when we go beyond the probability that there was a king of Bactria who believed Zoroaster we are lost in a fog, without a single item of historical evidence to guide us.


THE GODLY TRIBE of Ahura Mazda’s clever priests gave us the word ’Magic,’ but none of their feats of prestidigitation was half so marvelous as the magic Zoroaster says he performed and at the very beginning of his ministry. In one of his gathas, he lavishly praises a Turanian named Fryana, and according to the uniform tradition, this man and his family were among the very first converts to Zoroaster’s religion.1 They were among the first Apostles and they and their descendants were revered as such. In other words, Turko-Mongolians were transformed into Aryans (or the equivalent) by believing, or saying they believed, Zoroaster’s tall tales about his newly created god. Zoroaster seems to have been the inventor of the notion of a "spiritual transformation" effected by a religious "conversion," which is, of course, much more marvelous than the conversion of a princess into a white cat or a frog, of which we are so often told in fairy tales. The tales suppose that the princess remains herself, with her mind and character unchanged by confinement to a feline or batrachian body, whereas the miracle of a religious "conversion" is said to change character and thus transform the individual into a different person.2

The Turanians were transmuted into more than Aryans. By believing Zoroaster, they enlisted in the army of the good God, and they thus became vastly superior to all the Aryans who refused Salvation at the hands of God’s salesman. They acquired a right, nay, a duty to help smite all those Aryans, whom they must regard as agents of the evil god and therefore their deadly enemies. And the Aryans who took to the new religion must accept the equally sanctified aliens as their brothers-in-arms, while the other Aryans, including perhaps those who were a man’s nearest and dearest, have become their enemies, evil beings who, if they do not yield to exhortation and harassment, must be destroyed to help make a Better World. Zoroaster could have exulted, as did Jesus much later, that he had "come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and ... a man’s foes shall be they of his own household." Religion has become a corrosive acid that dissolves all the natural bonds of society, kinship, family, social status, race, and even government, and replaces them with the factitious and unnatural bond of unanimity in superstition.

A recent writer does not greatly exaggerate when, thinking to praise Zoroastrianism, he describes it as "a universalist religion, advocating spiritual equality between all races, nations, and classes, even between man and woman ... The state was not considered to be the supreme reality... It was to constitute an atmosphere [!] wherein all individuals, irrespective of their sex, or class, or race could achieve perfection [!]."3

The Zoroastrian cult and all the cults derived from it can be summarized in one sentence. They replace race with a church. They are a deadly racial poison. They are a bubonic plague of the mind and spirit, which has sapped the vitality of our race for centuries and has now brought it to the point of death.

It is true that we have little information about the racial application of the religion in its early stages. Zoroaster tells us that he hated everyone who did not accept his "revelation," and a probably authentic tradition adds that Ahura Mazda commanded him to curse all who did not embrace the Gospel and that Zoroaster commanded that in every land persons who reject Salvation must be slain at once. Obviously, there was no thought of sparing Aryans. And on the other hand, Zoroaster rejoices over Turko-Mongolian converts and sends his missionaries into "far lands," presumably regardless of the race inhabiting them. The sense of racial integrity was not quickly destroyed, however, for when Darius boasts that he is "an Aryan of the Aryans," he is obviously speaking of race, and, no doubt, he understood in the same way the Zoroastrian dogma, which probably dates from his time, that only Aryans should rule. What is odd, however is that the only early term for the adherents of the new religion seems to have been Airyavo danghavo, which identifies them as the "Aryan people," but must include converts of other races to the "universal" religion. And there are instances in which the meaning of the noun is ambiguous before we come to the late writings in Pahlavi in which ‘Aryan’ (Eran) and ‘non-Aryan’ (Aneran) simply mean ‘Zoroastrian’ and ‘infidel.’ As I indicated in an early section of this booklet, I suspect, but cannot prove, that the Magi resorted to a verbal trick, more theologorum. The word arya means ‘noble, honorable,’ and since the people of the good god must be excellent people and superior to the wicked, they could be described as aryas, ‘respectable persons, the better folk’, even if they were not Aryan by race. The studied ambiguity would then be comparable to the verbal tricks employed by the early Christian Fathers.

Unfortunately, we do not know just how the replacement of race by church was treated theologically, or even politically, in the Persian Empire, and we must, as always, lament the destruction of virtually all of the copious writings of the Magi when Persia was conquered by the Moslems in the Seventh Century, and, of course, the earlier loss of the extensive translations of the principal Zoroastrian Scriptures and theological works into Greek, which had been made to satisfy the enlightened curiosity of Alexandrian scholars in the time of the Ptolemies and certainly did not survive the final destruction of the great library at Alexandria by mobs of ignorant and viciously misologic Christians in 389.5 We are thus reduced to surmises, but we may at least legitimately infer that the "Aryan" religion exerted a great attraction on the other races in the vast and multi-racial Persian Empire, and that the more intelligent and ambitious members of those races adopted the official religion as a means of identifying themselves with the dominant culture, much as in recent times Chinese, Hindu, and other Orientals adopted Christianity to facilitate their relations with us. On the other hand, we can assume that the Persians, who formed the ruling aristocracy and enjoyed certain privileges (e.g., exemption from most taxation) that were not extended to other Aryans, wisely favored politically a religion that provided some bond of unity between the widely different peoples under their rule and encouraged loyalty to their empire. The Persians, like the British in India, admitted natives to fairly high administrative offices in the various provinces; it would have been only reasonable for them to favor, perhaps exclusively, natives who had adopted the religion of their conquerors and thus shown a possibly sincere desire to be assimilated into their culture.

We must also take into account the moral appeal of Zoroaster’s religious confection. He had made Ahura Mazda command conduct that was of the highest social utility, and, especially in its emphasis on manly courage and speaking the truth, corresponded to the code of honor for which the Persian aristocracy was famous.6 And prudent governors, whatever their personal opinions, would naturally encourage the practice of a system of psychic magic by which the lower races could be converted to a spontaneous obedience to the laws that sustain the order and domestic peace of a civilized society. There is an obvious analogy to the belief, long cherished in the modern world, that Christianity could abate and control the racial proclivities of negroes and other savages.

The creation of equality among human beings by religious magic has another aspect, social rather than specifically racial. It obviously carries with it an implication of the "classless society" that so fascinates the votaries of the atheistic derivatives of Christianity today, exciting their Schadenfreude, which they call "social justice." This aspect of the religion must have appealed strongly to the "weak and downtrodden,"7 the proletariat, the very dregs of every society. Although, as we all know, the complexity of human genetics and the vicissitudes of human fortune not infrequently produce men of talent and merit from among the poor (and likewise produce biped pests from among the wealthy), it is a simple and obvious fact that the dregs of a population naturally sink to the bottom in every orderly society, and that disaster can be the only result of the modern mania for perpetually stirring up an "open society" so that the dregs on the bottom will become the scum on the top.

It is particularly regrettable that we have no means of knowing when the egalitarian fallacy, which is certainly present in Zoroaster’s own gathas, was first logically extended to a practical application to social organization, but we may be sure, I think, that the revolutionary potential of the superstition was perceived long before our earliest record of it. Under the early Sassanids, the Mazdakites, a numerous and popular sect, preached the "social gospel," reasoning, like many Christian sects and their ostensibly secular derivatives (e.g., Marxists), that since all men have been created equal, they must be made equal in income, social status, and perquisites (e.g., access to the more desirable females). They anticipated modern "Liberals" and other communists by specifically advocating taxation as the means of making every one equal. This pious idea appealed strongly to Kavades, who found his treasury almost empty and, like modern governments, found the "underprivileged" an admirable excuse for robbing his subjects. His successor, the great Chosroës, finding himself well-established in power with a loyal army, decided that the Mazdakites were not orthodox Zoroastrians, and proved his point by having all of them hanged (he was averse from shedding blood unnecessarily), unless other methods of practical theology were more convenient. Mazdakites who escaped the extermination in 529,doubtless became discreet, for we hear no more of them, but communism was as inherent in Zoroastrianism as it is in Christianity and it reappears in the Ninth Century in the sect ("brotherhood") of the Khorrami, who flourished in old Atropatene and Media, the regions wherein Zoroastrianism was always strongest, and who represented the last stand of their religion against the Moslems, who finally suppressed them.

Like all "revealed" religions, Zoroaster’s invention blighted the minds of all who succumbed to its meretricious and vulgar attraction. It substituted faith, an emotional and irrational conviction, for intelligent observation and reason. It was a baneful deterioration from the relatively reasonable polytheisms it replaced, which did not really fetter and paralyse the brain. In the Graco-Roman world, for example, the Aryan mind perceived that the human species had to be the product of some kind of evolution. As every reader of Lucretius’s magnificent poem well knows, the basic principle that determines the survival or extinction of animal species was well known, and the evolution of civilized man from lower, less human stock was recognized, as was the determining factor, the ability and will to civilize themselves. With just a little imagination and journalistic exaggeration, one could see in a passage from a play by Moschion (probably fourth century B.C.) an adumbration of the evolution of our species from the anthropophagous Australopitheci to Greek civilization.8 Even before Democritus, intelligent men saw that the notion of a special creation of human beings by some clumsy god was nonsense, and thinking men tried to account for the existence of our peculiar form of animal life by reasoning logically from such data as were available to them, reaching, in the fifth century B.C., hypotheses more rational than anything known in Christianized Europe before the Nineteenth Century.

For the exercise of intelligence, Zoroaster’s "spiritual" confection and all the "revelations" that have been modelled on it substitute an inherently preposterous story on the supposed authority of a Big Daddy who knows everything, since he created it, and tells us, so that the poor in spirit will never have to distress themselves by trying to stimulate as much of a cerebral neo-cortex as they may have in their skulls. So we have the silly story about the twins, Masi and Masani, which is, however, more plausible than the idiotic Jewish story about Adam and his spare rib, which, incredible as it seems a priori, the Christians tried to make themselves believe and seem for centuries to have succeeded in attaining the necessary degree of imbecility. And even today we are afflicted with the chatter of pip-squeaks who, having received some technical training in colleges, have the effrontery to call themselves "scientists" and demand to peddle the mouldy old hokum in the schools as "creationism," an antidote to reason. And I sadly observe in passing that they do not have even the good taste to pick out the most reasonable creation myth of which I know: the first human beings were fashioned from clay by the divine sculptor, Prometheus, who, however, did much of his work by night, after he returned from a drinking party with the other gods on Olympus, with the result that his bleary mind and unsteady hand produced the woefully botched work that we are.9 From the activity of these nuisances one can estimate the devastating effect of Zoroaster’s hallucinations or cunning on our race; "the curse remains" and "deep is its desolation."

In the sixth century B.C., Xenophanes of Colophon, whom we mentioned early in this booklet, fully understood that if men wish to improve their lot in life, they can depend only on themselves, not on supernatural beings they imagine in moments of idle fancy. And that realistic understanding of our position in the world was held by good minds so long as the Graeco-Roman world remained Aryan, disappearing only when the Roman Empire had been so polluted by the influx of Orientals and the degrading myths dear to their irrational mentalities that the great edifice of civilization inevitably crumbled down into the barbarism of the Dark Ages. The debasing and emasculating superstition concocted by Zoroaster made men dependent on remote gods or the angels and devils that were perpetually swarming about them, and such vestiges of intelligence as men retained had to be devoted to manoeuvring among the invisible and impalpable spooks or to theological logomachies about figments of the imagination.

The whole world went mad, and men wasted and ruined their lives and the lives of innumerable contemporaries in a phrenetic attempt to reserve for their suppositious ghosts a suitable abode in a dream-world, "out of space and out of time."

Civilization is more of hope and striving than of attainment, and the best that we can achieve is fragile and at the mercy of unforeseen catastrophies and, no doubt, the deplorable vagaries of our own species; it is, at best, a small clearing in an encompassing and constantly encroaching jungle; it may be that it could not long endure under any circumstances, but one thing is quite certain: it is incompatible with "revealed" religions and their howling dervishes.

1. There is an even stranger tradition (not supported by the gathas) that the very first person whom Zoroaster tried to "convert" after his conference with Ahura Mazda was not an Aryan! He was a Turanian named Urvaitadeng, a just and honorable man, who would have accepted the Gospel, had he not drawn the line at the theological doctrine of xvaetvadatha, which recommends as especially pious and meritorious sexual unions between mother and son and between brother and sister (see note 11, p. 84 supra). That idea shocked the Turko-Mongolian, so he rejected Salvation and he and his progeny were damned forever and forever. Let that be a lesson to all doubters, who let their own feeble minds interfere with obedience to the Will of God, which is a mystery beyond all human understanding!

2. Miss Boyce believes that in the time of Zoroaster the Turanians (Tuirya) were one of five related tribes of the same race; that when they are described as the foes of the Aryans (Airya), the reference is not to the race but to one of the five tribes; and that the name ‘Turanian’ was transferred to the Turko-Mongolians when they displaced the Aryan tribe and occupied the territory we know they held in the time of the Persian Empire. This, which seems unlikely in itself, depends on the very early date she assigns to Zoroaster and on her claim that he had no association at all with Medes, Persians, and Magi, so that the traditions about his parentage, travels, ministry, and enlistment of the Magi are all late and baseless inventions. If that is true, we must resign ourselves to knowing nothing about Zoroaster, and it becomes likely that the gathas, which purport to record his pronouncements, are only very clever forgeries, and that the religion was concocted ab ovo by the Magi. This seems to me extremely improbable in the light of what we know about the genesis of "revealed" religions and the tenor of the gathas (cf. supra, p. 71).

3. Ruhi Afnan, op. cit., p. 30.

4. We must not exaggerate. Miscegenation long antedates Zoroaster, and the religions merely sanctified an inveterate vice and eroded an already feeble racial consciousness. Wherever our race has established itself, our men have been unable to keep their hands off the women of other races. Viking expeditions were necessarily small bands of warriors, and when they occupied territory far from home, as in the Western Hemisphere, miscegenation was inevitable, though deplorable, especially in its effect on the resulting mongrels. (Cf. supra, p. 46.) In tribal migrations, such as that of the Aryans into India, there was no valid reason for such feckless indulgence in lust, which can be excused only by their ignorance of genetics. The crucial importance of racial heredity, indeed, is a recent discovery, abhorred, of course, by our enemies and by all of our people who profit from ignorance and superstition. It is true that until our race finally succumbed to the "one world" poisons and became crazed with a suicidal mania, we did try to keep our women uncontaminated and there were, from time to time, in various societies some efforts to restrict legal marriages to women of our race, leaving the males free to engender mongrel bastards who could not inherit property or citizenship. Such prudent regulations, however, were not long maintained in practice, even when they were not destroyed by the egalitarian religions, which nevertheless must be recognized as the strongest of all dysgenic forces.

5. The Christian rabble, led by an especially disgusting theologian, Theophilus, Patriarch of Alexandria, destroyed the Serapeum, in which the central part of the great Library had always been located, and which appears to have escaped serious damage in the earlier riots and insurrections that so frequently occurred in the city, most commonly incited by the huge colony of Jews. The date for the act of atrocious vandalism is also given as 391 in some sources. After the Christians, there was probably nothing left for the Moslems to destroy when Amr took the city in 640; the famous and oft-repeated story of the Arab commander’s destruction of the Library seems to have been invented by Bar-Hebraeus, a Jew and Christian bishop, around 1270. We may especially regret the loss of the writings, whether genuine or spurious, that were probably attributed to Saena, a successor of Zoroaster who is mentioned in the Avesta and is said to have trained a hundred disciples, and of the works of the evidently eminent theologian Ostanes, who is said to have been a favorite of Xerxes and is credited with a work entitled Oktateuchos in its Greek translation. Ostanes, by the way, is cited with approbation by one of the earliest Christian writers, Minucius Felix (26.11). Next to Zoroaster, he was the most celebrated Zoroastrian sage, and the numerous references to him in the Greek and Latin writers are collected by Bidez and Cumont in Les Mages hellénisés.

6. The ethics of the old Persian nobility, and particularly their insistence on always speaking the truth, greatly impressed the Greeks – so much so that Xenophon made Cyrus the hero of his didactic novel, although he himself had narrowly escaped death at the hand of Tissaphernes, a Persian of noble ancestry and a model of treachery and perfidy. To be sure, Xenophon concludes the Cyropaedia with a chapter on the corruption and degeneracy of the Persian aristocracy in his time, when, he says, no one would trust them. Religion, as usual, seems to have done little good to their morals.

7. The phrase is taken from the modern Parsee whom I cited above, p. 77, who notes that Zoroastrianism had the same appeal as the later Christianity. He, however, confuses two quite different things, the religion’s appeal to social dregs (such as the Jewish rabble who supply the apostles, etc., in the "New Testament") and its appeal to women, who are not necessarily weak or of low social strata. He could have drawn a contrast between Zoroaster’s religion, which did give females equality (in theory, at least) and Christianity, which, in the cult that finally attained power, regarded them as inferior and potentially dangerous creatures, and some of the Fathers speak of the "imperfect animal" in terms that suggest a wish to anticipate the Moslem doctrine that women, being without souls, would not survive to plague men in Heaven (where Allah would provide much superior replacements, the houris, a happy idea that did not occur to the Fathers, who saw no use for females outside Hell). But perhaps Anatole France was right when he remarked that women were properly grateful to Christianity: it made them a sin.

8. The text may be found in Snell’s Tragicorum Graecorum fragmenta and in the Oxford Book of Greek Verse; there is an English translation in Volume III of W. C. G. Guthrie’s History of Greek Philosophy (Cambridge University, 1969).

9. This creation myth is in Phaedrus (IV.15 & 16); it could be original with him. Another explanation of one of Prometheus’s blunders is in a well-known Aesopic fable, No. 240 in B. E. Perry’s Aesopica (University of Illinois, 1952). Our polytheistic religions had many creation myths, of course, but everyone was sensible enough to know that they were only myths, and anyone was free to invent a new one. Incidentally, the yarn about Eve and the loquacious snake may well have been suggested by a common motif in ancient genre-sculpture: a girl looks longingly at a delicious apple hanging on the bough of a tree about which a snake is coiled. The point of the charming composition is obvious, but a Jew would not have understood it. For one such work of sculpture, dating from the third century B.C., see the American Journal of Archaeology, XLIX (1945), pp. 430 ff.


WHEN A RESIDENCE is sold these days, the new owner almost always makes changes: he has it painted another color, he has the interior redecorated and installs new furniture, he may remove a partition between small rooms or divide a very large room, he may have the kitchen remodelled, and he may make other alterations to suit his taste or convenience; but the fabric of the house, its foundations, its beams, and its walls, remain unchanged.

The foregoing description, condensed and summary as it was, will have sufficed to show that the Christians today are living in Zoroaster’s old house. It has been remodelled here and there, but the fabric remains as it was built, twenty-six centuries ago.

The essentials of the newer cult are all in Zoroaster’s invention: the Good God and the Bad God; their armies of angels and devils; the contested partition of the universe between Good and Evil; the Holy War for One World of Righteousness; Heaven and Hell and even Purgatory (Misvan Gatu); and the apocalyptic vision of cosmic strife that will end only in a decisive last battle between the hosts of the Lord and the hosts of Satan, which will be followed by the Last Judgement and the end of Time, after which nothing can ever change again. All human beings sprang from a divinely-created original pair, whose descendants, equal in ancestry are made equal by Faith in the Good God, who fathered and sent into the world a Virgin-born Saviour to reveal his will to mortals, whose sins and merits are accurately recorded by the celestial bookkeeping system in preparation for the Last Judgement, when, incredible as it seems, they will be resurrected, so that, so to speak, they can enjoy the life everlasting in their own persons. The Zoroastrians, by the way, explain that when the time comes, Ahura Mazda’s zealous agents will find and reassemble every particle of the man’s flesh, which was eaten and digested by birds of prey centuries or millennia before; Christians attempt no explanation, but in most churches they still recite the Apostles’ Creed (forged at the end of the Fourth Century and subsequently revised), affirming that they believe in "the Resurrection of the Flesh," but they probably never think of what they are saying.

We could add numerous details of Christian doctrine that were devised by the Magi in the various Zoroastrian sects: confession of sins (paitita), penance and absolution (barasnom), ceremonial Last Suppers of bread and wine, observance of the twenty-fifth of December as a divine birthday, and many others, including even terminology, such as use of the title ‘Father’ to designate a priest.1

Zoroastrianism and Christianity, however, are not identical, with only a change of names and a few minor details. The remodelling has introduced two really striking differences. When Zoroaster emerged from the Virgin’s womb, he laughed to signify that life is good and should be enjoyed, and although the Magi, with the normal concern of holy men for their professional emoluments, devised all sorts of sacraments, rites, ceremonies, and religious obligations to keep their customers at work for them, the religion never lost a decent respect for human nature. The first woman had been the twin sister of the first man, and no Zoroastrian ever thought of a woman as an "imperfect animal" with an insatiable lust for sexual intercourse, "an inescapable punishment, a necessary evil, a natural temptation, a desirable calamity, a domestic danger, a delectable detriment, an evil of nature, painted with fair colors.’2 No Zoroastrian ever had the Christians’ morbid obsession with sex or thought he or she would conciliate a ferocious god by thwarting and perverting their own nature and natural instincts or, for that matter, by inflicting discomfort and pain on themselves in an orgy of masochism. No Zoroastrian ever thought that it would be holy to stop the reproduction of our species and leave the world uninhabited. No Zoroastrian was ever infected with the insanity that, for example, made Jerome run out into a desert so that he wouldn’t see any of the "evils of nature," and made Origen castrate himself to appease a god’s hatred of mankind. No Zoroastrian’s mind was ever haunted and distracted by an incubus of imaginary guilt, an Original Sin inherited from a man and woman who had discovered that their creator had equipped them with sexual organs he forbade them to use.3 No Zoroastrian intelligence was ever so perverted that he felt guilty for living, maddened by morbid obsessions that are sexual in origin, but, by an even fouler perversion, may be diverted into a maudlin guilt because he does not share the squalor of the lowest strata of society or does not sufficiently degrade himself to satisfy the enemies of his race and of his own progeny.

Equally startling is the Christian remodelling of the Good God. Ahura Mazda is a strictly just, honest, and impartial deity: he has ordained certain rules of righteousness for all mankind, and his servants keep a strict account of each individuals obedience or disobedience. Yahweh, on the other hand, is a god who early conceived an inexplicable partiality for a miserable tribe of swindlers and robbers, who pleased him by observing strange taboos, sexually mutilating their male children, and defecating and urinating in the ways he likes to watch. Having created the world, he spent the greater part of its existence in abetting his barbarous pets as they preyed on more civilized people, and he was their confederate as they swindled and robbed their victims or stole a country they wanted by massacring all the men, women, and children, and even their domestic animals. He even tampered with the minds of kings so that he would have an excuse for inflicting on their subjects every sadistic torture he could devise for the delectation of his favorites. And having been the accomplice of the world’s parasites for centuries, he unaccountably changed his mind and sent them his only begotten son so that they would kill him and thus give him an excuse for breaking his bargain with them. It is no wonder that Christians so constantly talk of their "fear of God" who wouldn’t fear a deity so capricious, ruthless, and unscrupulous?

No unprejudiced observer could fail to conclude that Zoroastrianism was not changed for the better when it was remodelled by its new owners.

It remains for us to account for the spiritual deterioration in the subsequent chapters of this booklet.

A judicious reader may inquire why the Zoroastrian religion, if so markedly superior to its successor, so declined that it now engages the faith of only a small colony of about 120,000 Parsees whose ancestors found in India a refuge from Islam. That is one of the historical questions that can be answered without qualification or uncertainty. The primary cause is obvious: in heaven, as on earth, nothing succeeds like success, and failure is the cause of failure.

Although Zoroaster’s invention was a "universal" religion and sent out missionaries to preach its gospel to all the world, it became the official religion of the vast and mighty Persian Empire and Ahura Mazda’s fate became inextricably entwined with the fate of the Persian King of Kings. Had Xerxes’ huge navy and army been victorious at Salamis and Plataea, the True Faith would have followed the Persian warriors over Europe, much as Christianity later followed the British regiments throughout the world. It is even possible, I suppose, that we should be Zoroastrians today, worshipping a god represented by an eternal flame on the altar of each community, and pestered by "creation scientists," who would try to prove to us that Darwin was wicked to doubt that Ahura Mazda created Gayamart so that he could engender Masi and Masanl, the ancestors of all mankind. But I doubt it: gods, like men, become senescent, and even if they are immortal, if they are too busy or slothful to answer their votaries’ prayers and supplications for a few centuries, they have only themselves to blame when they are supplanted by younger and yet untried immortals.

The spectacular defeat of Xerxes must have shocked the True Believers: Ahura Mazda had failed to keep a promise made through his consecrated Magi, so there were only the painful alternatives: either holy men can be mistaken, or Angra Mainyu was more powerful than his great and good adversary had anticipated. The crisis did not come, however, until 334-330, when Alexander the Great, who worshipped the foul fiends, overran the whole Persian Empire, the Holy Land that was dedicated to the service of Ahura Mazda, who had been either unwilling or unable to defend his own righteous nation. Zoroastrianism became the religion of peasants, barbarians beyond the borders, and old fogies, who clung to the discredited god and traditions that had suddenly become obsolete.4

If Alexander had lived to turn his attention and his Macedonian phalanges to Europe, or if the Greeks,who built their cities throughout the former Persian Empire and overawed their new subjects as much by their incontestable cultural superiority as by their invincible arms, had not had our race’s fatal lack of racial consciousness and had not steadily weakened themselves by miscegenation, excessive tolerance, and interminable civil wars, it is possible, I suppose, that the irrational faith and fanaticism of a "revealed" religion would have been permanently discredited – but I doubt it. As it was, the Greek nations of Asia so declined that they, one by one, fell under the rule of virile barbarians from Scythia, the Parthians, and Ahura Mazda had another chance. Since the Romans, also afflicted with the Aryans’ folly, preferred to fight each other rather than extend their empire far into Asia, Zoroastrianism, in various more or less diluted forms, recovered its prestige, and under the Sassanids, the great Chosroës, whose theology was guaranteed by his loyal army, restored the Zoroastrian orthodoxy by forcing the Magi to codify their Scriptures and creed, while his hangmen convinced heretics of their doctrinal errors. But alas, when the hordes of Islam, virile Arabs exalted by faith in their new deity and by the rich plunder he bestowed on them, attacked Persia, Ahura Mazda remained idle and once again proved himself an empyreal roi fainéant. He had muffed his last chance to be a great god, and he had to be content thereafter with the impoverished veneration of a few incorrigibly obstinate votaries.

1. Many of these details Christianity took from the Mithraic cult, of which I give a brief account in Appendix II.

2. The quotation is taken from Reverend Mr. Montague Summers’ translation of the famous Malleus maleficarum (London, 1928; Dover reprint, 1971), one of the most impressive monuments of Christian theology. There were many editions of the original in the Fifteenth, Sixteenth, and Seventeenth Centuries and a copy of one or another is likely to be found in any good library, but the Latin is even more painful than the English version.

3. The Semites’ disgusting and obsessive hatred of sex is so repugnant to healthy Aryans that even fear of the terrible god could drive them only to a grudging attempt to obey him, and many must have privately thought what the author of Aucassin et Nicolette dared say: that he would rather go to Hell with fair ladies and cultivated men than to a Heaven infested with fat monks and uncouth saints. An occasional gleam of humanity appears even in the most orthodox Scholastics. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa theologiae went so far as to decide sexual intercourse must have been exquisitely delightful for Adam and Eve in Eden, where she was yet uncursed with menstruation and the threat of pregnancy, and I should not be surprised if the "Angelic Doctor," who presumably looked forward bliss after his Resurrection, had not in his own mind held the heretical hope that True Believers, having been definitively Saved, could brighten up eternity by enjoying the delights of a new Eden.

4. See Appendix II below.


GAUTAMA, who was later called the Buddha ("enlightener"), is said to have been an Aryan princeling in the part of India that lies at the foot of the Himalaya and is now called Nepal. He is reported to have had the distinctive mental trait that makes us distressed by the sight of suffering and sorrow – a racial characteristic that may become a morbid sentimentality in persons who do not charge their reason with strict surveillance of their emotions. In the late sixth century B.C., he elaborated a profoundly pessimistic and atheist philosophy that was, in many ways, strikingly similar to the modern systems of Schopenhauer and Hartmann.1 It was essentially a repudiation of religion, denying the supposed dichotomy between matter and spirit on which is based belief in the efficacy of worship, prayers, sacrifices, and austerities. He thus negated the claims of the professional holy men, the Brahmins, to power and superiority, thus in effect abolishing the social structure of four primary castes, in which the fakirs had placed themselves at the top.2 Gautama also denied the traditional values of Aryan warriors and the ruling class to which he belonged; he saw them as vain and futile in the light of the terrible truth that what is best for man is never to have been born.

In an age of lost illusions, when the old beliefs of Aryan man were crumbling under the impact of more exact knowledge and rational criticism, and in an age of political frustration, when many Aryans must have felt themselves mired in the ordure of a multi-racial society, Gautama’s counsel of despair must have appealed to many thoughtful men, but it could never have charmed the masses. It had a social value that must have been recognized by many rulers and administrators, who must have been pleased to see thus checked the impudent pretenses and parasitism of the holy men, and who must have welcomed an ethical system which, by deprecating all human desires and ambitions, cancelled the motives of every form of violence and crime.

Gautama’s philosophy, perhaps inevitably, fell into the hands of votaries, whose minds were more emotional than logical; of professors, who began to quibble about details and argue about definitions and interpretations, making what had been logically simple and lucid obscure and complex; of popularizers, who in turn began to simplify and distort to gain the assent of the commonalty; and of social reformers, who recognized an avenue to influence and emoluments. Buddhism was finally ruined by its success. The great Emperor Asoka, after brilliant conquests, became a pacifist and a Buddhist around 260 B.C., and although he regarded the philosophy as an ethical doctrine, he made it the official religion, using the resources of his vast empire for works of charity, endowing schools, hospitals, monasteries, and hospices for the convenience of travellers, and erecting stupas to mark the sites made holy by some legendary association with Gautama or his early disciples. He sent out missionaries to preach the new Salvation to all the world, including, according to his inscriptions, the lands around the eastern Mediterranean, which were all ruled by Greek dynasties.

The atheistic philosophy was converted into a religion, and it is a nice irony that Asoka, before his death, had to convene a Council of Buddhist luminaries in the vain hope of reconciling doctrinal differences. Gautama was converted into a Saviour, complete, of course, with an immaculate conception and virgin birth,3 and tales of how he had resisted the temptations of an evil god, who had vainly tried to avert the salvation of mankind. What had been a philosophical principle that we must divest ourselves of all property to free ourselves from the illusion that life is worthwhile became a doctrine of salubrious poverty that spawned hordes of monks, assembled in huge monasteries, and of itinerant mendicants whom we may call friars by a valid analogy. What had been an attempt to establish truths by logic became a system of unreasoning Faith (bhakti) and the spring of orgiastic emotions. The religion was equipped with all the grotesque paraphernalia of superstition, including immortal souls, gods, devils, heavens, hells, miracles, prayers and other magic spells, relics, and hierarchies of priests absorbed in the business of vending holiness to suckers who craved absolution from the sins they confessed – which were many, since some professionals had classified sins under 250 rubrics! And, naturally, the religion became a chaos of competing sects, each vending the only True Gospel, and collectively providing a spectrum of human folly, a wilderness in which one may find almost any variety of bizarre, belief.4 For example, although Buddhism in general admits women and has nuns as well as monks, and some of the sects even recognize a number of female Saviours, the religion, like Christianity, regards women with suspicion as potential dangers. That, however, is not true of the Tantric sects, in which some of our addle-pated contemporaries want to see "the highest expressions of Indian mysticism." These sects hold that males and females are equal, except that women are more equal than men, who must seek sanctity in gynaeolatry carried to what some may think extreme lengths. One of their gospels, the Candamaharosana, for example, informs us that "Buddhahood resides in vulva."

We may be certain that if poor Gautama had indeed had powers of prophetic foresight, he would have sworn himself to perpetual silence and kept secret the conclusions to which he had come. He cannot be blamed for the religion that was perpetrated in his name5 – much less for its pervasive influence on others.

There was a certain Aryan strength in Gautama’s cosmic negation.6 It requires fortitude to reject life and to believe that all the things that we instinctively prize and desire, such as health, bodily vigor, sexual love, beauty, culture, wealth, learning, intelligence, and even our own individuality are all empty illusions, and that the greatest good is annihilation. It requires even greater fortitude to accept that belief together with its obscure and dubious corollary, which denies us the immediate release of suicide and imposes on us the painful necessity of dragging out an existence in which we reject everything that healthy men desire and for which they live. That is to endure a death in life. Whether there is truth in that cosmic negation is a problem that each man must solve by his own powers of reason, and a problem that only men of great courage will consider at all.

The rejection of life, however, becomes a cowardly evasion when a perverse superstition enjoins it as a means of appeasing or pleasing a god whom we must believe, by an act of faith, to have promised that if we frustrate every instinct of healthy men and women, he will reward us after death with a blissful life of eternal idleness, which, by an even greater miracle, he will somehow prevent from becoming an infinity of boredom. If we abstain from sexual intercourse to avoid inflicting on others the curse of life and all its miseries, we are behaving rationally and even nobly, if the premise is correct; but if we frustrate our normal desires to please the caprice of a god who presumably endowed us with our instincts to inflict on us the pain of frustrating them to avoid being tortured by him eternally – a god, moreover, who is not even generous enough to help mankind to a speedy extinction, but wants it to reproduce itself and to preserve even its tares and monsters to provide his consecrated dervishes with plenty of business – we have become the cringing slaves of a mad master. If we declare that the manifest differences between races and between the individuals of every race become, for all practical purposes, infinitesimal in comparison with the vast futility of all human life, we are affirming a hope for the annihilation of all species of anthropoids capable of suffering or even of all species of animals that have sentient life; but if we believe that equality is enjoined by a god who so desires a mindless faith that he cherishes idiots and wants us to destroy every form of superiority except clerical wiles, we are simply contriving suicide for our race and a living hell for our descendants.

The Buddhist religion consummated the ruin of India by abrogating the caste system so long as it was dominant, but we are here concerned only with the aspects of the superstition that were contributed to Christianity.

Gautama’s philosophical argument for not reproducing our species was debased into a notion that complete celibacy and total abstention from sexual intercourse was in itself righteous and meritorious, generating the "spiritual values" that are part of all holy men’s stock in trade. His depreciation of all forms of property as representing and stimulating the will to live that must be stifled before it creates more misery was parodied in a notion that poverty was in itself a proof of spiritual superiority. The union of the two notions naturally spawned a horde of religious mendicants, whose supposed sanctity entitled them to live at the expense of their spiritual inferiors, who were so gross that they earned their own living and engendered children to support the next generation of pious beggars.

Originally, the Buddhist bhiksu was a man who, having "slain the five senses" and destroyed in himself "the illusion of individuality," divested himself of all property except a distinctive mantle of coarse cloth dyed to a dark Turkey red (kasaya, later changed to show sectarian differences), a bowl in which to collect the food he begged, and a staff, and then, having shaved all hair from his body, he began a perpetually itinerant life (pravrajya). The mendicant friars found or were given for shelter at night in huts (viharas), which, however, eventually became monasteries endowed by the pious, elaborate and wealthy establishments that provided such ease and comfort that their bhiksus forgot to continue their peregrinations and can more properly be described as monks, although Buddhism did not make the Christians’ sharp distinction between mendicant friars and cloistered monks.

Buddhism was already waning in India when Hsüan Tsang made his pilgrimage to the land in which his religion had been born, but he found 10,000 viharas in Bengal alone; some of these were, no doubt, fairly small and simple buildings, but some were huge edifices that each accommodated more than a thousand ascetics.

The Buddhist ascetic, having "slain his five senses" had to keep them dead, and for that reason he was forbidden to touch a human being, least of all a woman. In one of the finest of the Sanskrit dramas, a Buddhist friar comes upon a woman who has been strangled and left for dead. He can, of course, pour water on her and fan her to revive her, but when he assists her to arise, she must grasp a vine that he holds out to her.

While it flourished in India, Buddhism was not fanatical, and its monasticism was therefore more humane (and perhaps less corrupt) than the Christian version, for the bhiksu was never bound by irrevocable vows. I cannot forbear to mention Bhartrihari, one of the most charming (and least translatable) of the lyric poets in Sanskrit. As his verses show, he was an elegant and polished gentleman who indulged with refinement in all sensual pleasures until satiety brought a craving for tranquillity and leisure for meditation. He is said to have oscillated between the royal court and a Buddhist monastery, and finally to have become so aware of his own fickleness that when he renounced the world once more and entered a monastery, he ordered his coachman to wait outside. His conduct was doubtless thought bizarre, but it illustrates the humanity that Buddhism never lost in India. There could have been there no parallel to the tragedy of Martha Dickinson’s "Father Amatus, cloistered young." As the Buddhist institution was carried westward and imitated by Semites, it naturally acquired a savage fanaticism that was transmitted to Christianity.


BEFORE LEAVING INDIA, we should perhaps mention another element that is sometimes thought to have had an influence on Christianity.

Ayrans (and some other races, notably the American Indians) instinctively admired the spiritual strength and fortitude of men wh can bear intense physical pain without flinching and without yielding to the normal physical reactions. The ability stoically to endure pain always arouses admiration, but it can usually be exhibited only in some worthwhile undertaking, such as war or comparable situations, as, for example, by the justly famous and honored C. Mucius Scaevola. In post-Vedic India, however, admiration for such fortitude was distorted into the doctrine of tapas, the belief that by simply enduring pain inflicted upon himself a man automatically acquired a spiritual (i.e., supernatural) power. We should particularly note that tapas produces such power by a kind of natural law, which operates independently of the wishes of the gods and is not in any way affected by the motives of the man who practices the austerities.

The power of tapas is illustrated by the story that is exquisitely retold by Lafcadio Hearn in his Stray Leaves: Two evil princes, determined to obtain ascendancy over even the Thirty-three Gods, practice austerities on a mountain top, remaining absolutely motionless, standing on their great toes only, and keeping their eyes fixed upon the sun. After many years their self-mortification gave them such divine power that the weight of their thoughts shook the lands, as by an earthquake, and the mountain smoked with their holiness. They were thus able to destroy cities and make deserts of populous lands. (The world and the gods were saved only by the creation of Tilottama, the most beautiful of all women.)

1. If we assume that Gautama formulated a logically coherent philosophy, such as the Aryan mentality demands, his doctrine may be reconstructed with some confidence from the Milinda-panha (which purports to be a dialogue between a Buddhist sage and Menander, the Greek King of Bactria and the Punjab, c. 140 B.C.; translated by Rhys Davids in Volumes; XXXV and XXXVI of the well-known series, "Sacred Books of the East," Oxford,1890-94) and the canonical sutras (pronouncements attributed to Gautama) that do not contradict one another. I shall try to state it as concisely as possible.

The phenomenal world is a succession of empty phantasmagoria, for nothing in the universe is permanent. P¡nta ¸ei – the world is change, and the discreteness of things and events is an illusory appearance produced in the mind of the spectator. Thus causality is a fiction, for cause and effect are inseparable parts of a continuous mutation. And man himself, for all his vain pride in his own personality, is likewise a mental fiction, for he too is an unremitting mutation: omnia mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis. All life, consciousness, experience is pain; this world of ceaselessly changing phenomena is a gloomy labyrinth in whose blind mazes a trapped humanity wanders, to be devoured endlessly, again and again, by the Minotaur of suffering and death. The clue to this labyrinth is knowledge, for humanity, blinded by the evanescent and insubstantial phantasms of pleasure and hope, is the victim, not of circumstances or destiny, but of its own will-to-live, its ignorant desire for life. Since the soul is merely awareness of a flux of phenomena at a given instant, there obviously can be no reincarnation of an individual, but Buddhism assumes, although it nowhere clearly explains, that the will-to-live is an unconscious force which, as in Schopenhauer’s philosophy, may undergo a certain palingenesis and thus engender new being. Suicide, therefore, would be self-defeating, since a desire for death is simply an inversion of a desire for life, and that desire will, paradoxically, by palingenesis give rise to another flux of sensations. It follows that the highest wisdom is to destroy in mankind this dread force, the primordially blind and baleful will that produces life and all its manifold misery. And when the last member of our wretched species dies, then shall mankind cease from troubling; then shall the earth be at peace at last.

Gautama’s psychology and epistemology are certain. There is nothing in the documents that corresponds to my last sentence, which will have reminded the reader of Flammarion’s manly acceptance of an inevitable future in which a frozen and lifeless earth will still circle sluggishly in the gloaming around a dying sun. But that last sentence is surely implied by (a) Gautama’s belief that his doctrine is for all mankind and (b) his insistence on the avoidance of all sexual relations and hence, of course, of reproduction.

What Gautama meant by nirvana has been endlessly debated in India and in our time. The word obviously means what happens to the flame when a lamp is blown out. I think it simply means ‘annihilation,’ as Western scholars once agreed in taking it to mean. The religious sects claimed that it meant only the extinction of desire in our minds, and since the horrendous mass of religious texts in Pali and Sanskrit was, in large part, edited and published, many scholars – doubtless the majority – came to agree with them.

2. We do not know how fully the caste system was developed in Gautama’s time nor can we estimate how strictly it was enforced in the numerous states of India, which doubtless differed greatly among themselves, but it is certain that the Brahmins everywhere asserted their monopoly of religious rites and hence their right to live at the expense of others, as holy men always do, We should not underestimate this aspect of early Buddhism: the doctrine that all human beings were equal in the universal wretchedness of mankind had the deplorable effect of destroying such sense of racial cohesion as the Aryans had left, but that was, so to speak, the price paid for breaking the clergy’s strangle-hold on society.

3. There are a few slight variations in the standard story about virgin births. The Buddha’s mother, Maha Maya ("The Great Illusion"!), a wife who had remained a virgin until she was forty-five, was impregnated by a "reflection" cast on earth by his celestial father, and she bore the divine child by a kind of miraculous Caesarian section, for he burst through the side of her abdomen, which was then instantly healed. The precocious infant at once announced that he had come so save the world from the devils, and he took seven long steps towards each of the four cardinal points to show that he was going to save all mankind. He was an old hand at the salvation-business, for that was his five-hundredth incarnation on earth, and the Buddhists soon started scribbling jatakas as facilely as the Christians later composed tales by martyrs and other wonderments. The jatakas were the true histories of the earlier incarnations of Gautama or other Buddhas. Buddhists, however, as befits Orientals, are more patient than Christians: the final salvation of mankind will be accomplished by a Buddha who will appear, in terms of our calendar, in 5,655,524 A.D.

4. What happened, of course, was that all the superstitions spawned in a multi-racial society were imported into the new religion, with a few clever theological twists and adaptations and some additions. It would be otiose to go into the complex details. One thing is certain, that holy men believe that unemployment in their business would be very bad for society, and they always find means of averting it.

5. I cannot call to mind a volume that covers all the varieties of Buddhism and its very numerous sects, past and present, but an adequate outline of the principal tendencies in the religion may be found concisely in the English version of Maurice Percheron’s Buddha and Buddhism (London, Longmans, Greem, 1957). I have noted that his sympathy with the religion did not prevent him from admitting at one point (p.40) that Gautama’s doctrine was quite different, briar that did not bear the fragrant roses of "spiritual" superstitions.

6. It is true that the distinctively Aryan spirit is a strong affirmation of life, a determination to live to the utmost, "to live, though in pain," and to be undaunted by suffering and sorrow – to confront tragedy unafraid. It is the high code of aristocratic honor that makes Achilles choose valiant deeds and an early death, that makes the Viking hero go to his doom in this world as unflinchingly as his gods will fight their last battle in the foreordained Götterdammerung. "The honorable end is the one thing that can not be taken from a man," said Spengler. And Nietzsche summarized the Aryan code in one sentence: "To die proudly when it is no longer possible to live proudly." For the essence of this code, so much hated by Christians, is the aristocrat’s pride in his own self-mastery and indomitable will: it makes Gunnar defiant to the end, even in the snake-pit, and appears in Byron’s Manfred: "He mastereth himself, and makes / His torture tributary to his will." Note, however, that the aristocrat’s pride is in the integrity of his own personality. If he were convinced by Gautama’s psychology, which so markedly resembles modern theories of a "labile psyche," he would refuse to be only a flux of sensations, and would be numbered among those of whom Glanvill said, "Certainly, could they have been put to their choice whether they would have come into being upon such terms, they would rather have been nothing forever." And, by the way, the state of being nothing, of being like the light of an extinguished lamp, is precisely what Gautama meant by nirvana.

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Copyright ©1999 Kevin Alfred Strom. Back to Revilo P. Oliver Index