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Alternative Culture Articles

October 22, 2000

The Fire Temple
By Royce Carlson

Fire is the symbol of Ahura Mazda, the one supreme, all-knowing god of Zoroastrianism. Zarathushtra, known to the Greeks as Zoroaster, was a prophet born in Persia at least around 600 BC and possibly as early as 1500 BC making Zoroastrianism one of the oldest monotheistic world religions. Their sacred text is the Zendavesta, composed by Zarathushtra as a series of five song-poems. This religion was the predominant religion of Persia for over a thousand years until about 600 AD when Arab conquerors invaded. The Zoroastrians then fled Persia to India. The religion still exists today.

There is evidence of Zoroastrian influence on Christianity and in the Germanic religions. Zoroastrians had the concept of heaven and hell, the predicted coming of a savior born of a virgin, the end-time purge of the world with fire followed by the resurrection of the dead, and a final battle between good and evil with good winning.

The evil principle is called Ahriman. Legend has it that, when Ahura Mazda created light, Ahriman became jealous. Because of that, whenever Ahura Mazda created something, Ahriman put a little bit of evil into it. The two forces are sometimes represented as serpents. Ahura Mazda is a white snake and Ahriman a black one. Between them is the world, over which they battle for control. The prophecies state that that eventually Ahriman will be destroyed.

The game of chess is based on the fight between Ahura Mazda and Ahriman. Ahura Mazda is the white king and Ahriman is the black king. The chessmen represent the elements of life. The sixty-four alternating black and white squares represent the floor of the House of the Mysteries. The correspondences between the chessmen and the elements of life are as follows:

Kings the immortal soul
Queens the mind
Bishops the emotions
Knights vitality
Castles the physical body
Pawns the sensory impulses

The pieces on the king’s side are positively polarized and the queen’s side is negatively polarized. The nature of the chessmen is revealed by the way they can move. For example, the king cannot be captured but loses the battle when so surrounded it cannot escape.

Ahura Mazda is a good god. He is a friend to all and is not to be feared. Evil is the result of Ahriman, which is the evil element within us. By maintaining good thoughts and good deeds, one helps fight evil. Traditional Zoroastrians are adamant about not inter-marrying outside their religion. There is some conflict between groups on this and other issues. Since there are no defined denominations of Zoroastrians, the conflicts are difficult to describe. There are over 100,000 practicing Zoroastrians and they are mostly in India. There are some groups in the West also. Their temples are called Fire Temples.

Fire is very important. For most it is a symbol of Ahura Mazda but some Zoroastrians actually worship fire itself. The universe was created by fire, is maintained by fire, and will be consumed by fire. The Earth was born out of cosmic fire and at the end will be consumed by cosmic fire. Fire purifies everything. Thus spake Zarathushtra.


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Royce Carlson