No more philosophically profound, no grander or more graphic and suggestive type exists among the allegories of the world-religions than that of the two Brother-Powers of the Mazdean religion, called Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu, better known in their modernized form of Ormuzd and Ahriman. Of these two emanations, "Sons of Boundless Time" — Zeruana Akarana, itself issued from the Supreme and Unknowable Principle — the one is the embodiment of "Good Thought" (Vohu Mano), the other of "Evil Thought" (Ako Mano). The "King of Light" or Ahura Mazda emanates from Primordial Light and forms or creates by means of the "Word," Honover (Ahuna Vairya), a pure and holy world. But Angra Mainyu, though born as pure as his elder brother, becomes jealous of him, and mars everything in the universe, as on the earth, creating sin and evil wherever he goes.
The two powers are inseparable on our present plane and at this stage of evolution, and would be meaningless, one without the other. They are, therefore, the two opposite poles of the one manifested creative Power, whether the latter is viewed as a universal cosmic Force which builds worlds, or under its anthropomorphic aspect when its vehicle is thinking man. For Ormuzd and Ahriman are the respective representatives of good and evil, of light and darkness, of the spiritual and the material elements in man, and also in the universe and everything contained in it. Hence the world and man are called the Macrocosm and the Microcosm, the great and the small universe, the latter being the reflection of the former. Even exoterically, the God of Light and the God of Darkness are, both spiritually and physically, the two ever-contending forces, whether in heaven or on earth. The Parsis may have lost most of the keys that unlock the true interpretations of their sacred and poetical allegories, but the symbolism of Ormuzd and Ahriman is so self-evident, that even the Orientalists have ended by interpreting it, in its broad features, almost correctly.
As J. Darmesteter, the translator of the Vendidad, writes: "Long before the Parsis had heard of Europe and Christianity, commentators, explaining the myth of Tahmurath, who rode for thirty years on Ahriman as a horse, interpreted the feat of the old legendary king as the curbing of evil passions and restraining Ahriman in the heart of man." The same writer broadly sums up Magism in this wise:
The world, such as it is now, is twofold, being the work of two hostile beings, Ahura Mazda, the good principle, and Angra Mainyu, the evil principle; all that is good in the world comes from the former, all that is bad in it comes from the latter. The history of the world is the history of their conflict, how Angra Mainyu invaded the world of Ahura Mazda and marred it, and how he shall be expelled from it at last. Man is active in the conflict, his duty in it being laid before him in the law revealed by Ahura Mazda to Zarathustra. When the appointed time is come a son of the lawgiver, still unborn, named Saoshyant (Sosiosh) will appear, Angra Mainyu and hell will be destroyed, men will rise from the dead, and everlasting happiness will reign over all the world. — Introduction, p. Ivi
Attention is drawn to the sentences italicized by the writer, as they are esoteric. For the Sacred Books of the Mazdeans, as all the other sacred Scriptures of the East (the Bible included), have to be read esoterically. The Mazdeans had practically two religions, as almost all the other ancient nations — one for the people and the other for the initiated priests. Thus, Angra Mainyu being confessedly, in one of its aspects, the embodiment of man's lowest nature, with its fierce passions and unholy desires, "his hell" must be sought for and located on earth. In occult philosophy there is no other hell — nor can any state be comparable to that of a specially unhappy human wretch. Ahura Mazda alone, (Ahura Mazda stands here no longer as the supreme One God of eternal Good and Light, but as its own Ray, the divine Ego which informs man — under whatever name.) being the divine, and therefore the immortal and eternal symbol of "Boundless Time," is the secure refuge, the spiritual haven of man. And as Time is twofold, there being a measured and finite time within the Boundless, Angra Mainyu is only a periodical and temporary evil. He is heterogeneity as developed from homogeneity. Descending along the scale of differentiating nature on the cosmic planes, both Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu. become, at the appointed time, the representatives and the dual type of man, the inner or divine Individuality, and the outer personality, a compound of visible and invisible elements and principles. As in heaven, so on earth; as above, so below. If the divine light in man, the higher spirit-soul, forms, including itself, the seven Ameshaspends (of which Ormuzd is the seventh, or the synthesis), Ahriman, the thinking personality, the animal soul, has in its turn its seven Archidevs opposed to the seven Ameshaspends.
In verse 16th of Yast XIX we read:
I invoke the glory of the Ameshaspends, who all seven, have one and the same thinking, one and the same speaking, one and the same doing, one and the same lord, Ahura Mazda.
During our life cycle, the good Yazatas, the 99,999 Fravashi (or Ferouers) and even the "Holy Seven," the Arneshaspends themselves, are almost powerless against the host of wicked Devs — the symbols of cosmic opposing powers and of human passions and sins. Fiends of evil, their presence radiates and fills the world with moral and physical ills: with disease, poverty, envy and pride, with despair, drunkenness, treachery, injustice, and cruelty, with anger and bloody-handed murder. Under the advice of Ahriman, man from the first made his fellowman to weep and suffer. This state of things will cease only on the day when Ahura Mazda, the sevenfold deity, assumes his seventh name or aspect. Then will he send his "Holy Word" Mathra Spenta (or the "Soul of Ahura") to incarnate in Saoshyant (Sosiosh), and the latter will conquer Angra Mainyu. Sosiosh is the prototype of "the faithful and the true" of the Revelation, and the same as Vishnu in the Kalki-avatar. Both are expected to appear as the Saviour of the World, seated on a white horse and followed by a host of spirits or genii, mounted likewise on milk-white steeds.
And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him . . . and the armies followed him upon white horses. -- Revelation xix, 11-14
And then, men will arise from the dead and immortality come.
Now the latter is of course purely allegorical. . . . Materialism and sin being called death, the materialist, or the unbeliever, is "a dead man" — spiritually. Occultism has never regarded the physical personality as the man; nor has Paul, if his Epistle to the Romans (vi-vii), is correctly understood. Thus mankind, arrived "at the appointed time," at the end of the cycle of gross material flesh, will, with certain bodily changes, have come to a clearer spiritual perception of the truth.
The deadly strife between spirit and matter, between light and goodness and darkness and evil, began on our globe with the first appearance of contrasts and opposites in vegetable and animal nature, and continued more fiercely than ever after man had become the selfish and personal being he now is. Nor is there any chance of its coming to an end before falsehood is replaced by truth, selfishness by altruism, and supreme justice reigns in the heart of man. Till then, the noisy battle will rage unabated. Man, following the Delphic injunction, has to become acquainted with, and gain the mastery over, every nook and corner of his heterogeneous nature, before he can learn to discriminate between HIMSELF and his personality. To accomplish this difficult task, two conditions are absolutely requisite: one must have thoroughly realized in practice the noble Zoroastrian precept: "Good thought, good words, good deeds," and must have impressed them indelibly on his soul and heart, not merely as a lip utterance and form observance. Above all, one has to crush personal vanity beyond resurrection.
Here is a suggestive fable and a charming allegory from the old Zoroastrian works. From the first incipient stage of Angra Mainyu's power, he and his wicked army of fiends opposed the army of Light in everything it did. The demons of lust and pride, of corruption and impiety, systematically destroyed the work of the Holy Ones. It is they who made beautiful blossoms poisonous; graceful snakes, deadly; bright fires, the symbol of deity, full of stench and smoke; and who introduced death into the world. To light, purity, truth, goodness and knowledge, they opposed darkness, filth, falsehood, cruelty and ignorance. As a contrast to the useful and clean animals created by Ahura Mazda, Angra Mainyu created wild beasts and bloodthirsty fowls of the air. He also added insult to injury and deprecated and laughed at the peaceful and inoffensive creations of his elder brother. "It is thine envy," said the holy Yazatas one day to the unholy fiend, the evil-hearted. "Thou art incapable of producing a beautiful and harmless being, O cruel Angra Mainyu". . .
The archfiend laughed and said that he could. Forthwith he created the loveliest bird the world had ever seen. It was a majestic peacock, the emblem of vanity and selfishness, which is self-adulation in deeds.
"Let it be the King of Birds," quoth the Dark One, and let man worship him and act after his fashion."
From that day "Melek Taus" (the Angel Peacock) became the special creation of Angra Mainyu, and the messenger through which the archfiend is invoked by some and propitiated by all men. The Yezidis, or "Devil Worshipers," some of whom inhabit the plains of ancient Babylonia, to this day worship Melek Taus, the peacock, as the messenger of Satan and the mediator between the Archfiend and men.
How often does one see strong-hearted men and determined women moved by a strong aspiration towards an ideal they know to be the true one, battling successfully, to all appearance, with Ahriman and conquering him. Their external selves have been the battleground of a most terrible, deadly strife between the two opposing principles; but they have stood firmly — and won. . . . Every lower instinct, melting like soiled icicles under the beneficent ray of Ahura Mazda, the radiant Ego-Sun, has disappeared, making room for better and holier aspirations. Yet, there lurks in them their old and but partially destroyed vanity, that spark of personal pride which is the last to die in man. Dormant it is, latent and invisible to all, including their own consciousness; but there it is still. Let it awake but for an instant, and the seemingly crushed-out personality comes back to life at the sound of its voice, arising from its grave like an unclean ghoul at the command of the midnight incantator. Five hours — nay, five minutes even — of life under its fatal sway, may destroy the work of years of self-control and training, and of laborious work in the service of Ahura Mazda. . . .
Great is the power of Ahriman! Time rolls on, leaving with every day the ages of ignorance and superstition further behind, but bringing us in their stead only centuries of ever-increasing selfishness and pride. Mankind grows and multiplies, waxes in strength and (book-)wisdom; it claims to have penetrated into the deepest mysteries of physical nature; it builds railroads and honeycombs the globe with tunnels; it erects gigantic towers and bridges, minimizes distances, unites the oceans and divides whole continents. Cables and telephones, canals and railways more and more with every hour unite mankind into one "happy" family, but only to furnish the selfish and wily with every means of stealing a better march on the less selfish and improvident.
Few are those who would confess or even deign to see, that beneath the brilliant surface of our civilization and culture lurks, refusing to be dislodged, all the inner filth of the evils created by Ahriman; and indeed, the truest symbol, the very picture of that civilization is the last creation of the Archfiend — the beautiful Peacock. — Compiled from the editorial in Lucifer, March 1891.
(From Sunrise magazine, May 1971; copyright © 1971 Theosophical University Press)