Our Daily Bread: Quid Pro Quo

Hey, a little quid pro quo never hurt nobody. You scratch my back—I’ll scratch yours!

One of the most reliable ways for a Bahá’í to “grow spiritually” is by proselytizing. Bahá’ís call it “teaching.” I remember wondering as a child: what will Bahá’ís do when everyone is a Bahá’í, and there’s nobody left to teach?

O SON OF MAN! Magnify My cause that I may reveal unto thee the mysteries of My greatness and shine upon thee with the light of eternity.

—Bahá’u’lláh, The Arabic Hidden Words

O SON OF BEING! Make mention of Me on My earth, that in My heaven I may remember thee, thus shall Mine eyes and thine be solaced.

—Bahá’u’lláh, The Arabic Hidden Words

Our Daily Bread: Blind thine eyes

Today’s sweet slice of salvation directs us to block all sensory input, wash our brains, empty our wallets, and close our minds so that we may fully and properly adore Bahá’u’lláh, the Promised Idol of All Ages:

Blind thine eyes, that thou mayest behold My beauty; stop thine ears, that thou mayest hearken unto the sweet melody of My voice; empty thyself of all learning, that thou mayest partake of My knowledge; and sanctify thyself from riches, that thou mayest obtain a lasting share from the ocean of My eternal wealth. Blind thine eyes, that is, to all save My beauty; stop thine ears to all save My word; empty thyself of all learning save the knowledge of Me; that with a clear vision, a pure heart and an attentive ear thou mayest enter the court of My holiness.

—Bahá’u’lláh, The Persian Hidden Words

Our Daily Bread: Ultimate Idols

Today’s slice of divine guidance begins with the obvious: we humans can never have universal, divine knowledge. This is not a problem for those of us who have come to terms with the fact that we cannot know everything.

O Salmán! The door of the knowledge of the Ancient Being hath ever been, and will continue for ever to be, closed in the face of men. No man’s understanding shall ever gain access unto His holy court. …

There are those among us, however, who continue to harbor ambitions for the unattainable. For them, we have religion:

As a token of His mercy, however, and as a proof of His loving-kindness, He hath manifested unto men the Day Stars of His divine guidance, the Symbols of His divine unity, and hath ordained the knowledge of these sanctified Beings to be identical with the knowledge of His own Self. …

There you have it: the solution. God can be known by knowing these special messengers the Baha’i Faith calls “Manifestations of God.” These Manifestations are specially created by God to be the perfect images of God, tuned with precision to the capacities of our minds at any given time. For instance: Jesus was perfect for the Roman era, and Muhammad was perfect for the MIddle Ages. These images of God are so perfect that as humans, the only appropriate response is for us to regard them as God himself:

Whoso recognizeth them hath recognized God. Whoso hearkeneth to their call, hath hearkened to the Voice of God, and whoso testifieth to the truth of their Revelation, hath testified to the truth of God Himself. Whoso turneth away from them, hath turned away from God, and whoso disbelieveth in them, hath disbelieved in God.

—Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh

That’s the ultimate in idolatry, right there. Feast your eyes.

Our Daily Bread: No more questions, thank you!

Happy New Year, everyone!

Today’s slice of sustenance is a reminder of the mind-numbing principle under which I was raised. I remember learning just how much of a problem this would become for me around New Year’s Day, 1988, when my parents stunned me by reacting quite desperately and angrily to my doubts as a young Bahá’í.

Bahá’ís talk a lot about their principle of “independent investigation of truth,” but this only applies to those who haven’t yet found the truth—the Bahá’í Faith. Since I was born a Bahá’í, there was nothing for me to investigate:

what would it profit any man to strive after learning when he hath already found and recognized Him Who is the Object of all knowledge?

—Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh

But that’s not all. It’s not enough to cease looking for truth; it’s equally important to abstain entirely from questioning Bahá’u’lláh:

Blessed is the man that hath acknowledged his belief in God and in His signs, and recognized that “He shall not be asked of His doings”. Such a recognition hath been made by God the ornament of every belief and its very foundation. Upon it must depend the acceptance of every goodly deed. Fasten your eyes upon it, that haply the whisperings of the rebellious may not cause you to slip.

—Bahá’u’lláh, Kitáb-i-Aqdas

The question and answer period has ended.

This insight—this epiphany—gave special meaning to “New Year” for me at the outset of 1988. Within six months, pending long days and nights of reconsideration and reflection, I would completely detach myself from any belief in my religion of birth.

Our Daily Bread: The Twin Duties

Any given religion can mean a variety of things to its adherents. The religion I was raised in, the Bahá’í Faith, is no exception to that rule of thumb, though that changed substantially with the long-overdue publication of Bahá’u’lláh’s “Most Holy Book” in 1993, five years after I had left the Bahá’í Faith. The book provides a definitive, unambiguous “mission statement” for the Bahá’í religion that runs counter to the pluralistic vision that some Bahá’ís had embraced previously.

The statement begins by declaring that the author is the sole representative of God in the universe and that men are duty-bound to recognize him as such:

The first duty prescribed by God for His servants is the recognition of Him Who is the Dayspring of His Revelation and the Fountain of His laws, Who representeth the Godhead in both the Kingdom of His Cause and the world of creation.

Bahá’u’lláh then goes on to state that those who recognize his exclusive divine authority are the good guys, and everyone else, however virtuous, is lost. Authority trumps morality.

Whoso achieveth this duty hath attained unto all good; and whoso is deprived thereof hath gone astray, though he be the author of every righteous deed.

However, he adds this critical afterthought: believers, though they have “attained unto all good,” must also be absolutely obedient.

It behoveth every one who reacheth this most sublime station, this summit of transcendent glory, to observe every ordinance of Him Who is the Desire of the world. These twin duties are inseparable. Neither is acceptable without the other.

Note that there are no concessions made to virtue per se. The only virtues recognized by Bahá’u’lláh are recognition of him and obedience to him.

Interview with the Prophet (Part 2)

Continued. When we left off, Zarathushtra was explaining his reasoning for enforcing morality with Heaven and Hell.

Idol Chatter: Even if the punishment fits the crime and Hell has an end, don’t you think this kind of compensation for good behavior undermines our esteem of virtue itself?

Zarathushtra: There is certainly that danger, but at least virtue has entered the conversation. The hope is that once men believe that they have the ability to choose the Good, then they are on the road to the realization that the Good lies within them.

IC: Fair enough; but still, shouldn’t virtue be considered its own reward?

Z: Ultimately, the word “reward” ought to be dropped. Virtue needs no reward.

IC: Great, but what do you have to offer the person who already recognizes this, who is not motivated by greed?

Z: Nothing! They have no need for my preaching!

IC: But why not try to instill natural good will in people?

Z: Why instill what is natural? My task is only to lead the horse to water. The horse will enjoy the water enough without my goading. To speak of individual virtue at all is to miss the point. Ultimately, virtue is not an individual trait; it is a shared experience.

IC: It is said that you rejected the capricious gods of the Indo-Aryan pantheon and replaced them with a moral God, or was it a moral pantheon?

Z: One god; two gods; three gods; one god with three personas: what’s the difference? So long as the gods serve the Good, it is good religion. Most of the old gods were gods of might, and worship of might, whether of one almighty God or of a pantheon of celestial powers is worship that is misdirected.

IC: How so?

Z: Might is essentially amoral. To whatever extent divine might is revered, divinity becomes that much more a tyranny. God must be a servant to the Good.

IC: And what is “the Good?” Who is to say?

Z: I see the Good as Plato did; the ultimate universal. I see Good as the unification of ethics and metaphysics, the two branches of philosophy. Wisdom—sophia—is intimately tied to the Good.

IC: Lord Wisdom: Ahura Mazda.

Z: Precisely. It is as the poet said: “truth is beauty and beauty is truth,” only I think the poet did not understand that aesthetics is a subspecies of ethics. You and I both know the Good, but we have no blueprint for it. There are no names for it. We only know that it is good. We may often mistake it for evil, but it cannot be anything but good.

IC: It has long been reported, since Plutarch, Herodotus, and perhaps farther back, that the distinctive doctrine of your religion is cosmic dualism, the idea that the world is a battlefield between the forces of Good and Evil, but some modern reformers contest this.

Z: Yes. Some modern Zoroastrians are ashamed of the idea, but I suspect that is because they, like many of their forebears, read the idea too literally.

IC: Let’s look at the idea more closely, then. Would you contend that nothing in existence is morally indifferent?

Z: That is one way to put it, yes.

IC: But surely you would not attribute evil intent to, say, a landslide.

Z: I don’t see it as a matter of intention. The morality of a landslide is not intrinsic; it is a matter of the suffering, or even aesthetic joy, that it brings about. If there were no joy or suffering, there would be no good or evil; and the converse applies as well.

IC: Would you say that good and evil are subjective?

Z: Not strictly. Much of good and evil is a common experience, though we experience joy and suffering as individuals. We have no reason to believe that joy and suffering are not in part objective, or even fundamentally so.

IC: But do you think that existence is fundamentally moral?

Z: I suppose my best answer for that is that all our perceptions are fundamentally moral, and all that we perceive is all that matters. A more contemporary, existentialist way to say this is that all phenomena are value-laden.

IC: I’ve long wondered: is it true that you were killed in a siege of Bactra?

Z: That’s my story, and I’m sticking with it!

IC: If that is the case, how can I be talking to you here and now?

Z: Well I was reborn, of course.

IC: You don’t mean that your soul was reincarnated.

Z: Of course not. Just another avatar, nothing more.

IC: Of course. Say, could you do me one final favor?

Z: I don’t see why not.

IC: Could you sing the opening verse of Fat Bottomed Girls? You know: “I was just a skinny lad …”

Z: Hah! If I could sing, do you think I’d have time for you? [winks]

Interview with the Prophet (Part 1)

I recently crossed paths with the legendary prophet Zarathushtra while hiking in the mountains behind my house, the Diablo Range. He and I swapped cell numbers, and he graciously consented to scheduling an interview.

Idol Chatter: I’d like to begin by saying what a great honor it is to be granted an interview with the prophet of good and evil.

Zoroaster: The honor is all mine! And thanks for the latte by the way.

IC: So tell me: what have you been up to for the last three thousand years?

Z: Seeing the world. Seeing all its beauty. Chatting with people. Gardening. I like to garden.

IC: Yes, you’ve got quite a reputation as a tree planter and a sustainability advocate. But now you’re a traveler too.

Z: Yes. Making the most of my golden years, you see.

IC: I suppose you’ve seen about everything by now.

Z: No, you’d be surprised how much there is to see.

IC: Forgive my impertinence, but aren’t you just the spittin’ image of Freddie Mercury?

Z: Ah yes, well of course we are both Iranians.

IC: He was a Parsi, right?

Z: Yes, though the so-called Parsis, as Khorasanis, are more Parthi than Parsi.

IC: Does it sadden you that so few of your faith remain, and that so few of those who remain reside in the homelands of their faith?

Z: It does, sometimes, but the spirit of a universal idea is no mere matter of cultural heritage. It persists and is reborn like the spirit of a man.

IC: How so?

Z: The soul of a man, that is, his individuality, only lives in the world for a short while, but the spirit of a man will continue to be embodied over and over again as his thoughts are recovered. A religion is like a man in this regard.

IC: So you believe in a metaphorical kind of reincarnation, but not in the immortality of the soul itself?

Z: Just think of it this way: we are reborn when another soul relives our ideas and passions, but they don’t get access to our memories.

IC: But you taught immortality of the soul, right?

Z: I didn’t invent the idea of personal immortality. What I did was propose a change in the goods which men barter with the gods for divine favor. I summoned men to offer sacrifice to the God of Wisdom, who asks only for the sacrifice of good thoughts, words, and actions.

IC: This seems somewhat calculating. You call it a barter. I’m sure you’re familiar with the charge that this is mere “marketplace morality.”

Z: Ah, that devil Nietzsche. He knew me well, but as I said, I did not found the marketplace. Do me a favor and look around: do you see justice in the world?

IC: Not generally.

Z: Neither did I, and I could see that I was not alone.

IC: So you conceived a world of justice, of karma?

Z: Yes: a world of justice, and eventual redemption of this world. I could see this was what men needed.

IC: To make them behave?

Z: Not exactly. Men generally want to live a good life, and to have a good self-image is central to a good life, but to ask most men to live a good life in an unjust world is asking too much.

IC: So again, your objective was to motivate the people.

Z: That was a strategic necessity, a prerequisite, and a selling point when seeking the patronage of the king; but my primary objective was to give men hope so that they may live good lives. Of course this would be quite difficult in a world of anarchy.

IC: Your opinion of this world seems rather dim, yet you have the reputation of a “life-affirming” prophet.

Z: No, I see abundant good in the world, but there is too much bad in the world for men to be left to battle it alone. I taught men to make a single leap of faith: to have faith in the eventual ascendancy of Good.

IC: But you did preach divine punishment.

Z: I promised justice; not vengeance. I preached that all actions have personal consequences, but I also preached that the penalty would fit the crime, and that all suffering would end. The ultimate salvation would be shared: the restoration of the good creation.

To be continued …

Zarathustra the Yes Man.

There is perhaps no message more essential to Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra than the whole-hearted affirmation of life as an individual experience.

I am a blesser and a Yea-sayer, … into all abysses I carry my blessing Yea-saying.

—Thus Spoke Zarathustra 3.4, Before Sunrise

This affirmation of life as a whole appears to be the end to which Nietzsche employs the Stoic notion of eternal recurrence, but his affirmation of everything owes much to Heraclitus (who may have inspired the Stoics to think of eternal recurrence in the first place). Fundamentally, it is the Heraclitean vision of the impermanence and intertangledness of everything that causes Nietzsche to take valuation of life “beyond good and evil”. But that is another discussion.

What I wish to point out here is that Nietzsche’s Zarathustra is a prophet of affirmation, and an iconoclast to the idols of rejection.

To Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, the enemy is the teacher of rejection, the “preacher of death”:

There are preachers of death: and the earth is full of those to whom rejection of life must be preached.

—Thus Spoke Zarathustra 1.9, On the Preachers of Death

Nietzsche’s Zarathustra has also been called a prophet of “dionysian pantheism” and “amor fati”. This is not exactly the image that most Zoroastrians have of their prophet, but the two Zarathustras are not as dissimilar as one might presume, for Zoroastrianism is notable as a religion that values “this life” most of all, and considers this “physical” or “getig” world to be the full realization and highest state of existence.

The getig existence is better than the previous menog one, for in it Ahura Mazda’s perfect creation received the added good of solid and sentient form.

—Mary Boyce, “Zoroastrians”, page 25

The Avestan origin of the word “getig”, Gaethya, derives from a root gay-, jay-, meaning ‘to live’. The opposite of getig is “menog”, which derives from the root “to think”. Though the mental world is considered the primal world, it is the living world that is the ultimate fulfillment of existence. Zoroastrianism does not look to any world but the present “living” world for its ultimate fulfillment, and in seeking that fulfillment, it endeavors to defend a twofold principle of virtue that is at once Truth and Life against the opposite principle of Lie and Death.

Though Nietzsche may indeed have thought that his Zarathustra was the true prophet of life-affirmation, I sometimes pause to wonder whether the fatalistic sense of his doctrine of eternal recurrence is, as Heidegger thought, actually a rejection of the transient character of life. It may be that the Zoroastrian idea of engagement in a cosmic battle or ethical striving is a better model for a truly life-affirming worldview, even though it does not depict every aspect of existence as equally blessed.

No other religion expresses as clearly as Zoroastrianism the affirmation of life, …

—S.A. Nigosian, The Zoroastrian Faith, pg. 118

The earthy, irreverent, self-parodying joviality that distinguishes a part of the Parsi character was born of a mixture of influences that included the Zoroastrian life-affirming outlook, …

—Jesse S. Palsetia, The Parsis of India, pg. 186

The Zoroastrian conception of human existence is essentially a joyful and life-affirming one…

—Diané Collinson and Robert Wilkinson, Thirty-Five Oriental Philosophers, page 4

Killing your Buddhas

Continuing our discussion of the correspondences between Heraclitus and the Zarathustras, we have the directive that each one find truth for oneself; that one must never follow. As the old Buddhist epigram goes, “if you meet the Buddha on the road, Kill him.” Heraclitus, likewise, bids his readers not to listen to him, but rather to the Logos. Heraclitus also says “eyes are better witnesses than ears.”

Peters Denial of Jesus

Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, likewise, is intent upon shaking off his disciples, for their own good:

Verily, I counsel you: go away from me and guard yourselves against Zarathustra! And better still: be ashamed of him! Perhaps he has deceived you. … One repays a teacher poorly if one always remains only a student.

— Thus Spoke Zarathustra 1.22.3: On Bestowing Virtue

Zarathustra continues, cautioning his disciples against idolizing him:

You revere me; but what if your reverence should someday collapse? Be careful lest a statue fall and kill you!

— Thus Spoke Zarathustra 1.22.3: On Bestowing Virtue

As Heraclitus says, “I went in search of myself”, so Zarathustra instructs his disciples to do the same:

Now I bid you lose me and find yourselves; and only when you have all denied me will I return to you.

— Thus Spoke Zarathustra 1.22.3: On Bestowing Virtue

This sounds curiously similar to the story of Peter’s denial of Jesus:

Peter said unto him, Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake. Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice.

— John 13:37–38

In a sense, I can personally claim to have been similarly instructed by the Idol of my youth, Bahá’u’lláh, who chased me off with his manifold contradictions while he subtly—perhaps unintentionally—instructed me in the ways of divine Godlessness.

Unfortunately, I know of no doctrine of virtuous denial in Bahá’u’lláh’s writings.

Also Sprach Herakleitos

Nietzsche’s choice of the Iranian (not necessarily Persian) prophet Zarathustra was far from arbitrary, and Nietzsche wanted us to know this.

“I have not been asked, as I should have been asked, what the name of Zarathustra means in precisely my mouth, …” — Ecce Homo

Though taking the title “the first immoralist,” Nietzsche did not suggest that his Zarathustra is the anti-Zarathustra, as one might superficially presume. Nietzsche, rather, believed that the great dualist of old would be the first man to discover “the death of God,” as it were, because of the nature of the Zarathustrian worldview.

“Zarathustra was the first to see in the struggle between good and evil the actual wheel in the working of things: the translation of morality into the realm of metaphysics, as force, cause, and end-in-itself, in his work.” — Ecce Homo

It was the cosmic dualism of Zarathustra, as Nietzsche knew the prophet, that led Nietzsche to make such use of him. To Nietzsche, as to many others, Zarathustra is the prophet that brought morality and metaphysics together, seeing good and evil as the very metaphysical fabric of reality. This was the first essential aspect of Zarathustra. The second essential aspect is the fundamental distinction between Zarathustra’s good and evil: Truth (Asha) and the Lie (Druj). To Nietzsche, Zarathustra was the most honest prophet, so Nietzsche thought that the honesty of Zarathustra would ultimately prevail over his moralism, taking him “beyond good and evil.”

“Not only has he had longer and greater experience here than any other thinker … what is more truthful than any other thinker. His teaching, and his alone, upholds truthfulness as the supremem virtue. … To tell the truth and to shoot well with arrows: that is Persian virtue. — Have I been understood?” — Ecce Homo

That triumph of honesty over the idols of moralism is a central theme of Thus Spoke Zarathustra.

“I count nothing more valuable and rare today than honesty.” — TSZ, Of the Higher Man (4.13.8)

Nietzsche plays with other Zoroastrian themes throughout the book:

  • Mountains: Zarathustra was as much a mountain prophet as any, and Nietzsche loved mountains.
  • He returns repeatedly to purity, even speaking of the need for cleansing after childbirth.
  • He honors cattle, and the ox, more than once.
  • He likens Zarathustra to a rooster, a bird that is treated with reverence by Zoroastrians because of its role as a harbinger of the dawn (3.13.1).
  • Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, like the Zarathustra of tradition, experiences an enlightened moment wherein he doesn’t cast a shadow.

Beyond Good & Evil

Nietzsche’s Zarathustra is no nihilist, but rather quite the opposite. The lesson is not that good and evil are irrelevant; they are crucial:

“No greater power has Zarathustra found on earth than good and evil. … without evaluation the nut of existence would be hollow.” — TSZ 1.15: Of the Thousand and One Goals

This is not the only passage where Zarathustra associates good and evil with power.

What Nietzsche’s Zarathustra discovers is that they are not static:

“Allegories are all names of good and evil: they do not express, they merely hint. A fool is he who wants knowledge of them!” — TSZ 1.22.1

“May your virtue be too lofty for the familiarity of names: and if you must talk about her, be not ashamed to stammer about her. So speak and stammer: … I do not will it as the law of a God, …” — TSZ 1.5: On Enjoying and Suffering the Passions


Heraclitus of Ephesus, a Greek subject of the Persian Empire who lived circa 500 B.C.E., said something quite similar about the allegorical nature of truth:

The lord whose oracle is at Delphi neither reveals nor conceals, but gives a sign.

What Zarathustra sees in good and evil is what Heraclitus sees in his Logos: a harmonious war of loving antagonists.

“… the secret of all life! That there is battle and inequality and war for power and predominance even in beauty … How divinely vault and arch here oppose one another in the struggle: how they strive against one another with light and shadow, these divinely-striving things.” — TSZ 2.7: Of The Tarantulas

How closely this observation resembles what Heraclitus sees in the bow and the lyre:

“People do not understand how that which is at variance with itself agrees with itself. There is a harmony in the bending back, as in the cases of the bow and the lyre.”

For Heraclitus, the world is not merely flux, but more: the world is a war of opposites, but it is also a symphony.

We must recognize that war is common and strife is justice, and all things happen according to strife and necessity. (DK22B80)

War is the father of all and king of all, who manifested some as gods and some as men, who made some slaves and some freemen. (DK22B53)

Heraclitus criticizes the poet who said, ‘would that strife might perish from among gods and men’ [Homer Iliad 18.107]’ for there would not be harmony without high and low notes, nor living things without female and male, which are opposites. —Aristotle

Another angle of this unity of opposites is the unity of ascent and descent. Both Heraclitus and Zarathustra have something to say on this particular theme:

“The way up and the way down are one and the same.” — Heraclitus

“Summit and abyss—they are now united in one!” — TSZ 3.1: The Wanderer

This symphony of opposition is the key idea that Zarathustra and Heraclitus have in common. Near the end of the final part of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, the prophet sings:

“All things are chained and entwined together, all things are in love; …” — TSZ 4.19.10: The Drunken Song

Likewise, Heraclitus says:

“Listening not to me but to the Logos, it is wise to acknowledge that all things are one.”

Heraclitus & Zoroaster

This commonality between Nietzsche’s Zarathustra and Heraclitus is startling, but what is also startling is that Heraclitus may have also recognized the common ground between his own thought and the Zarathustra of antiquity, for there are some striking similarities between the two:

  • To Heraclitus, the world is a war of opposites; to traditional Zoroastrianism, the world is a war between two opposing forces (Good and Evil).
  • Heraclitus drew a parallel between his Logos and fire, just as the Zoroastrians’ universal principle of Asha is associated with fire. Heraclitus is thought by many to have taught that the world is made of fire, whereas Zoroastrians are thought to worship fire.
  • Heraclitus draws an identity between “the wise” and divinity; the God of Zoroastrianism is named “Lord Wisdom”.
  • Heraclitus lived in the Persian Empire, perhaps 1-7 centuries after Zarathustra.

Seeing all this commonality, it is not hard to see a triad formed by Heraclitus and the two Zarathustras. One might venture to assert that both Heraclitus and Nietzsche strove to take the theme of Zarathustra beyond the dogmatism of Zoroastrianism, though, whereas Nietzsche made a point of making references to Zarathustra, Heraclitus appears to have taken the opposite course, perhaps in an effort to avoid being associated with the Persians among his fellow Greeks, or possibly to discourage any suggestion that his “Logos” is in any way a derivative of any doctrine.

Nietzsche could even be seen to have taken that departure into the poetic, musical style of Thus Spoke Zarathustra specifically to serve the theme. In doing so, Nietzsche conceived of a protagonist that is not unlike our image of Heraclitus: something of a hybrid between poet and philosopher; a cryptic, contrary riddler and hermit; an elitest and yet a prophet for universal affirmation. Even Nietzsche’s notion of eternal recurrence, similar to a Stoic doctrine that was likely inspired by Heraclitus’ notion of a cyclic return of things to fire, teaches a somewhat Heraclitean lesson of world-affirmation. There is much in common between Nietzsche and Heraclitus, and much of what they share can be attributed to the legacy of Zoroastrianism, itself a religion of world-affirmation.