Thursday, 25 July 2013

'Anat's Ecstasy' by Jacob Rabinowitz

by Jacob Rabinowitz

Anat sings out
       the will of Yahweh,
a goddess and a prophet
       of God to the gods,
stamping out dances
       on Zion's brink
       the language of trees,
what pebbles remember,
       what rocks recall,
the windy whisper
       of sky to earth,
how ocean feels
       when she mirrors back stars,
able to read
       what lightning writes,
what thunder mutters,
       what no man knows.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Views of Jesus

"The gods have proclaimed Christ to have been most pious, but the Christians are a confused and vicious sect."-- Melek of Tyre

Who was Jesus?  Christians believe him to be the living incarnate Logos of God the Father, and the Son of God, the Messiah, who came to save the whole world from original sin brought about by the disobedience of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

For us Canaanite polytheists, this is not our understanding.  For us, there is no concept of original sin.  The first of men, being Adam, did not sin by gaining knowledge from the tree.  In fact, such a deed, given its connection to the Tree of Knowledge, the Serpent, and Eve, is associated with Asherah and with the gaining of heavenly knowledge.  Being denied access to the Tree of Life, for me at least, is merely the illusion of separation from the gods due to our own nature as mortals.  Because of this, we perceive ourselves to be wholly separate from the gods.  But, as the poets say of Asherah: "She is a Tree of Life to them that lay hold on her: and he that shall retain her is blessed."  We are not born curse, there is no original sin for us, and therefore we need nobody to 'save' us from it.  Likewise, we don't need to accept a spiritual Messiah or else risk suffering in Hell for all eternity.  And is Jesus the Son of God?  Let us explore and examine the words of the sages and our own views.

Jesus and Mary

Melek of Tyre, the philosopher who is quoted above, had some interesting things to say about Jesus in two of his works: 'Philosophy from Oracles', and 'Against the Christians'.  In his first work, he cites an interesting oracle from the goddess Hekate about Jesus (Hekate being a Greek goddess, originally taken from the Karuwans of Anatolia, who call her Hekat, and she is found in both religions).  Hekate was asked about Jesus and who he was, to which she replied: "You know the condition of the disembodied immortal soul, and that if  it has been severed from wisdom it always errs. The soul you refer to is that of a man foremost in piety: they (Christians) worship it because they mistake the truth."

In this we see a quote from Hekate's oracle, stating that Jesus, for being a pious teacher, gained immortality after death and ascended into heaven.  However, Christians are confused and mistaken to worship this immortal soul as God.

Then he goes on to say: "Of this very pious man, then, Hekate said that the soul, like the souls of other good men, was after death dowered with immortality, and that the Christians through ignorance
worship it. And to those who ask why he was condemned to die, the oracle of the goddess replied: 'The body, indeed, is always exposed to torments, but the souls of the pious abide in heaven. And the soul you inquire about has been the fatal cause of error to other souls which were not fated to receive the gifts of the gods, and to have the knowledge of immortal Zeus. Such souls are therefore hated by the gods; for they who were fated not to receive the gifts of the gods, and not to know God, were fated to be involved in error by means of him you speak of. He himself, however, was good, and heaven has been opened to him as to other good men. You are not, then, to speak evil of him, but to pity the folly of men: and through him men's danger is imminent."

He also adds a quote from an oracle of the god Apollon, saying: "In God, the begetter and the king before all things, at whom heaven trembles, and earth and sea and the hidden depths of the underworld and the very divinities shudder in dread; their law is the Father whom the holy Hebrews greatly honour."

These quotes were also repeated by the Christian theologian Augustine of Ippone, who quotes Melek in his own works.

It is in 'Against the Christians' that Melek attacks the concepts of Christianity, and goes to criticize the concept of Jesus' divinity.  If Jesus is truly God, he asks, then why did he give predictions which were wrong?  He also said that Christians have the ability to handle venomous serpents and drink poison without suffering harm.  So why can't they?  Either there are no 'true' Christians, or Jesus spoke wrongly.  This would show that he was not born divine, nor was he El incarnate.  Likewise, Melek looks at Jesus' actions in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Jesus had just told his disciples to sell their cloaks to buy swords and defend themselves, and had previously to this showed defiance to the authorities.  But in the garden, he appeared to have a change of heart and condemned Peter for cutting off the ear of Melek, the high priest's servant.  At his trial, he did not testify to his own innocence, and was condemned to death as a criminal.  Melek asks why Christians worship a Messiah who they believe was condemned to execution for being a criminal.  Despite all of this, however, Melek was not opposed to Jesus himself.  He made mistakes, which show him to be mortal, but then again, so do all mortals err.  Jesus himself in certain Gospels never even claimed divinity, but claimed merely to be a teacher who had come to lead the Jews (and the Jews alone) back to their god Yahweh, when they had fallen away from him.  Also, he told his followers to give to Caesar what is Caesar's.  This shows that he was perhaps not even opposed to the idea of a cult of deified Roman emperors, which had began with Julius Caesar imitating the concepts of kingship that he found in Egypt.  He also never told his followers to attack the worshipers of other gods, or to condemn them.  In fact, he tried to avoid even proselytizing to them.  When he went down to the pool of Bethesda to perform healing, he went to a healing pool associated with the god Eshmun.  Therefore, he was performing miracles at a site associated with divinity in some way.  Indeed, it was Paul who introduced the idea of Christianity as a religion wholly separate from Judaism, as a world religion, as a proselytizing religion, and a one which worshiped Jesus as God.

From all of this, we can gather that Jesus was born as a mortal, but attained immortality after death due to his moral and ethical teachings as well as his teachings on divinity, and so was blessed by the gods.  He was also perhaps sent by El and the gods into the world to offer his teachings, though he wasn't necessarily born as a god himself.

Jesus enthroned, with angels blowing trumpets, the sun and moon

Jesus himself grew up as a Jew in the Kingdom of Judah as it was under the Roman Empire.  He lived in the land of Canaan, and had Canaanite ancestors.  Though he did not know it (Canaanites were considered foreign by Jews by his day), he himself was one of them in blood and had much in common with them culturally.  He grew up in a Jewish family which worshiped El Elyon, and he and his mother Mary and father Joseph knew of the gods Milcom, Chemosh, Dagon, Baal, Eshmun, Resheph, Shapash, Yarikh, and all the rest.  These gods were worshiped in Bethlehem and Nazareth and the outlying villages.  In Canaanite religion, after death a person becomes a shade, or rapiu.  Some, especially those of kings and heroes- like Ditanu in Ugarit- become deified.  Jesus' rapiu can be considered a deified rapiu.  And it was and is worshiped by some.  I have worshiped Jesus and Mary, and even in ancient Arabia, in the city of Makkah, statues of Jesus and Mary stood alongside those of the other gods outside of the Ka'aba temple. 

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Caves and the Image of the Universe

Caves are associated with the gods and the way that souls of mortals originate in each generation.  Here are excerpts from Melek's book 'On the Cave of the Nymphs', which is talking about a scene from Homer's Odyssey, from Book 13, describing the cave of the Naiads or water-nymphs in their cave on the island of Ithaka in Greece.  I have added some of my own commentary.

"Caves, therefore, in the most remote periods of antiquity were consecrated to the gods, before temples were erected to them. Hence, the Kouretes in Crete dedicated a cavern to Zeus; in Arcadia, a cave was sacred to the Moon, and to Lykean Pan; and in Naxus, to Dionysos. But wherever Mithra was known, they propitiated the god in a cavern. With respect, however, to the Ithakan cave, Homer was not satisfied with saying that it had two gates, but adds that one of the gates was turned towards the north, but the other which was more divine, to the south. He also says that the northern gate was pervious to descent, but does not indicate whether this was also the case with the southern gate. For of this, he only says, 'It is inaccessible to men, but it is the path of the immortals.'"

Here, he describes some caves which are associated with the divine, and goes on to say that these existed in ancient times before people learned how to build temples for the gods.  There are a few examples on Kaphtor and in Greece itself, as well as Mithra in Persia.  The northern gate of Homer's Ithakan cave is allowing for mortals to pass through, but the southern gate is divine and inaccessible to mortals.

"It remains, therefore, to investigate what is indicated by this narration; whether the poet describes a cavern which was in reality consecrated by others, or whether it is an enigma of his own invention. Since, however, a cavern is an image and symbol of the world, as Numenius (a Greek philosopher who spent a lot of time in Apamea in Syria, who was a Neopythagorean and forerunner of the Neoplatonists, interested in the doctrines of Platon and Pythagoras, along with the mysteries of the Brahmins, Magi, Jews, Chaldeans, and Egyptians) and his familiar Kronios assert, there are two extremities in the heavens, the winter tropic, than which nothing is more southern, and the summer tropic, than which nothing is more northern. But the summer tropic is in Sartan (Cancer), and the winter tropic in Gadjo (Capricorn). And since Sartan is nearest to us, it is very properly attributed to Yarikh (the Moon), which is the nearest of all the heavenly bodies to the earth. But as the southern pole by its great distance is invisible to us, hence Gadjo is attributed to Kewan (Saturn), the highest and most remote of all the planets. Again, the signs from Sartan to Gadjo are situated in the following order: and the first of these is Aryeh (Leo), which is the house of Shapash (the Sun); afterwards Bethulah (Virgo), which is the house of Kothar (Mercury); Moznayim (Libra), the house of Ashtart (Venus); Akrab (Scorpio), of Resheph (Mars); Kesheth (Sagittarius), of Hadad (Jupiter); and Gadjo (Capricorn), of Kewan (Saturn). But from Gadjo in an inverse order Deli (Aquarius) is attributed to Kewan; Dagim (Pisces) to Hadad; Taleh (Aries) to Resheph; Shur (Taurus) to Ashtart; Thaumim (Gemini) to Kothar; and in the last place Sartan (Cancer) to Yarikh."

Here, he lists some astronomical information, including the planets and their houses, and which constellations fall into those houses.  There are also two tropics, a summer tropic in the north and the winter tropic in the south.  These are evidently connected to the northern and southern entrances to the divine cave, which is in the image of the universe.  The cosmos itself is in the image of a cave, or a cave is in the image of the cosmos.  That is what those gates represent, or are connected to.

"Theologists therefore assert, that these two gates are Sartan and Gadjo; but Platon calls them entrances. And of these, theologists say, that Sartan is the gate through which souls descend; but Gadjo that through which they ascend. Sartan is indeed northern, and adapted to descent; but Gadjo is southern, and adapted to ascent. The northern parts, likewise, pertain to souls descending into generation. And the gates of the cavern which are turned to the north are rightly said to be pervious to the descent of men; but the southern gates are not the avenues of the gods, but of souls ascending to the gods. On this account, the poet does not say that they are the avenues of the gods, but of immortals; this appellation being also common to our souls, which are per se, or essentially, immortal."

Now again we hear of the cave's gates being connected to the northern and southern tropics and their ruling constellation, Sartan and Gadjo, respectively.  The northern entrance is now connected to human souls descending into the universe, into physical birth and into the world, just as humans could descend into Homer's cave through the northern entrance.  The southern gate, though, is not the gate through which the gods go.  Instead, it is the gate through which human souls go, once they have (within the cave of the universe) become liberated from the realm of the senses, matter, and earthly becoming.  These souls then are renewed and ascend to the gods, to divine ecstasy and liberation from the matter.  But did not Homer say that the gods go through this way?  No.  He said 'immortals'.  In this he was referring to the immortality of the human soul, and not to the gods.

"It is said that Parmenides (a Greek philosopher born in the Greek city-state of Elea in Italy, and founder of the Eleatic school of thought) mentions these two gates in his treatise 'On the Nature of Things', as likewise that they are not unknown to the Romans and Egyptians. For the Romans celebrate their Saturnalia when the Sun is in Capricorn, and during this festivity, slaves wear the shoes of those that are free, and all things are distributed among them in common; the legislator obscurely signifying by this ceremony that through this gate of the heavens, those who are now born slaves will be liberated through the Saturnian festival, and the house attributed to Saturn, i.e., Capricorn, when they live again and return to the fountain of life. Since, however, the path from Capricorn is adapted to ascent, hence the Romans denominate that month in which the Sun, turning from Capricorn to the east, directs his course to the north, Januanus, or January, from janua, a gate."

Here he talks about how the Romans have a festival called the Saturnalia, when slaves and masters switch roles in memory of the golden age of Saturn.  This is around the time of the winter solstice, when the Sun is in the constellation of Gadjo, or Capricorn, in the winter tropic of the south.  This is here connected by Melek (and through Parmenides) with the southern gate (as the Sun is in the southern/winter tropic at the time of the festival), and it is through this gate that the liberated souls pass after becoming free from physical senses and matter (in Melek's Neoplatonism, this is accomplished through study and learning, and living a near-ascetic lifestyle).  Therefore, Saturnalia is a festival of liberation.  Capricorn is also the house assigned to the planet Saturn, associated with the Roman god Saturn.  The month following the period in which the Saturnalia takes places is called January in the Roman calendar, because it is associated with gateways through the Roman god Janus (who is associated with gateways and doorways, as well as new beginnings).  This is another connection to the gates of the cave, ascent and descent, renewal and rebirth.  It can be found in many different forms throughout many different cultures, showing its true divine origin.

"But with the Egyptians, the beginning of the year is not Aquarius, as with the Romans, but Cancer. For the star Sopdet, which the Greeks call the Dog (Sirius), is near to Cancer. And the rising of Sopdet is the new moon with them, this being the principle of generation to the world. On this account, the gates of the Homeric cavern are not dedicated to the east and west, nor to the equinoctial signs, Aries and Libra, but to the north and south, and to those celestial signs which towards the south are most southerly, and, towards the north are most northerly; because this cave was sacred to souis and aquatic nymphs. But these places are adapted to souls descending into generation, and afterwards separating themselves from it. Hence, a place near to the equinoctial circle was assigned to Mithra as an appropriate seat. And on this account he bears the sword of Aries, which is a martial sign. He is likewise carried in the Bull, which is the sign of Venus. For Mithra as well as the Bull, is the Demiurgus and lord of generation. But he is placed near the equinoctial circle, having the northern parts on his right hand, and the southern on his left. They likewise arranged towards the south the southern hemisphere because it is hot; but the northern hemisphere towards the north, through the coldness of the north wind."

Now we move onto the Egyptians, whose New Year, Wep Ronpet, is celebrated with the arising of the Dog-Star Sopdet, to signify the coming Nile floods.  This is a different New Year to the Roman one.  This is in summer.  So it is associated with the northern gate.  Therefore, the gates can be associated primarily with summer and winter, as opposed to autumn and spring, the seasons of the equinoxes, or mid-points between summer and winter.  Most sacred caves are aligned to east-west, but the Homeric cave is different.  However, the Persian god Mithra is associated with the equinoxes, carrying the sword of Aries (the spring season, and a martial symbol) and slaying the Bull (Taurus).  This is because he in Persian religion is the Demiurge, or the physical creator of the matter.  He also introduces the idea of the northern and southern hemispheres, and the northern and southern winds.

"The ancients, likewise, very reasonably connected winds with souls proceeding into generation, and again separating themselves from it, because, as some think, souls attract a spirit, and have a pneumatic essence. But the north wind is adapted to souls falling into generation; and, on this account, the northern blasts refresh those who are dying, and when they can scarcely draw their breath. On the contrary the southern gales dissolve life. For the north wind, indeed, from its superior coldness, congeals (as it were the animal life), and retains it in the frigidity of terrene generation. But the south wind, being hot, dissolves this life, and sends it upward to the heat of a divine nature. Since, however, our terrene habitation is more northern, it is proper that souls which are born in it should be familiar with the north wind; but those that exchange this life for a better, with the south wind. This also is the cause why the north wind is, at its commencement, great; but the south wind, at its termination. For the former is situated directly over the inhabitants of the northern part of the globe, but the latter is at a great distance from them; and the blast from places very remote, is more tardy than from such as are near. But when it is coacervated, then it blows abundantly and with vigour. Since, however, souls proceed into generation through the northern gate, hence this wind is said to be amatory. For, as the poet says,
'Boreas, enamour'd of the sprightly train,
Conceal'd his godhead in a flowing mane.
With voice dissembled to his loves he neighed,
And coursed the dappled beauties o'er the mead;
Hence sprung twelve others of unrivalled kind,
Swift as their mother mares, and father wind'.
It is also said, that Boreas ravished Orithya, from whom he begot Zetis and Kalais. But as the south is attributed to the gods, hence, when the Sun is at its meridian, the curtains in temples are drawn before the statues of the gods; in consequence of observing the Homeric precept: 'That it is not lawful for men to enter temples when the Sun is inclined to the south, for this is the path of the immortals'. Hence, when the god is at his meridian altitude, the ancients placed a symbol of midday and of the south in the gates of the temples, and on this account, in other gates also, it was not lawful to speak at all times, because gates were considered as sacred. Hence, too, the Pythagoreans, and the wise men among the Egyptians, forbade speaking while passing through doors or gates; for then they venerated in silence that god who is the principle of wholes (and, therefore, of all things)."

The cold north wind and the hot south wind are associated with the different seasons and hemispheres.  Melek lived in Tyre, which is the northern temperate zone as it was known to geography of the time.  Everywhere, from Britannia and Gaul to India and China, was located within this northern temperate zone.  That means that it is possible for life to flourish there, because it is neither too hot nor too cold, but temperate.  There is a warm half-year (summer) and a cold half-year (winter).  But go far to the north, beyond the realm of the northern temperate zone, and you end up in an eternal winter, and will freeze to death.  Likewise, go far south and into the equatorial zone, and you will boil to death in the eternal summer.  There is a southern temperate zone below that, and then another cold zone at the bottom of the earth (by this time, the earth was known to be spherical, and not flat).  Life is possible in the southern temperate zone, but nobody in the northern temperate zone can go there, because they will have to cross through the equator and will boil to death.  This is how geography was known in late antiquity.  Melek here says that the cold and harsh north wind is associated with life, and the descent of the soul into the physical through the northern gate.  This is because it ravages and you can feel its physical effects on your body.  It is animalistic and primal, and so very much associated with the physical and with the northern gate.  The warm and gentle south wind is associated with the south gate and with the spiritual, because it is through its gentleness and heat that souls are dissolved of the physical and ascend towards the gods.  This is why the south is associated with the gods, and why the Pythagoreans and the Egyptians forbid speaking while passing through doors or gates, because these gates are associated with the gates of the divine cave and with the gods (particularly in the south).

"Homer, likewise, knew that gates are sacred, as is evident from his representing Oeneus, when supplicating, shaking the gate:
'The gates he shakes, and supplicates the son'.
He also knew the gates of the heavens which are committed to the guardianship of the hours; which gates originate in cloudy places, and are opened and shut by the clouds. For he says:
'Whether dense clouds they close, or wide unfold'.
And on this account these gates omit a bellowing sound, because thunders roar through the clouds:
'Heaven's gates spontaneous open to the powers;
Heaven's bellowing portals, guarded by the Hours'.
He likewise elsewhere speaks of the gates of Shapash, signifying by these Sartan and Gadjo, for Shapash proceeds as far as to these signs, when she descends from the north to the south, and from thence ascends again to the northern parts. But Gadjo and Sartan are situated about the galaxy, being allotted the extremities of this circle; Sartan indeed the northern, but Gadjo the southern extremity of it. According to Pythagoras, also, the people of dreams are the souls which are said to be collected in the galaxy, this circle being so called from the milk with which souls are nourished when they fall into generation. Hence, those who evocate departed souls, sacrifice to them by a libation of milk mingled with honey; because, through the allurements of sweetness they will proceed into generation: with the birth of man, milk being naturally produced. Farther still, the southern regions produce small bodies; for it is usual with heat to attenuate them in the greatest degree. But all bodies generated in the north are large, as is evident in the Celts, the Thracians and the Scythians; and these regions are humid, and abound with pastures. For the word Boreas is derived from Βορα, which signifies nutriment. Hence, also, the wind which blows from a land abounding in nutriment, is called Βορρας, as being of a nutritive nature. From these causes, therefore, the northern parts are adapted to the mortal tribe, and to souls that fail into the realms of generation. But the southern parts are adapted to that which is immortal, just as the eastern parts of the world are attributed to the gods, but the western to demons. For, in consequence of nature originating from diversity, the ancients everywhere made that which has a twofold entrance to be a symbol of the nature of things. For the progression is either through that which is intelligible or through that which is sensible. And if through that which is sensible, it is either through the sphere of the fixed stars, or through the sphere of the planets. And again, it is either through an immortal, or through a mortal progression. One centre likewise is above, but the other beneath the earth; and the one is eastern, but the other western. Thus, too, some parts of the world are situated on the left, but others on the right hand; and night is opposed to day. On this account, also, harmony consists of and proceeds through contraries. Platon also says that there are two openings one of which affords a passage to souls ascending to the heavens, but the other to souls descending to the earth. And according to theologists, Shapash and Yarikh are the gates of souls, which ascend through Shapash, and descend through Yarikh. With Homer likewise, there are two tubs,
'From which the lot of every one he fills
Blessings to these, to those distributes ills'.
But Platon in the Gorgias by tubs intends to signify souls, some of which are malefic, but others beneficent; and some which are rational, but others irrational. Souls, however, are (analogous to) tubs, because they contain in themselves energies and habits, as in a vessel. In Hesiod, too, we find one tub closed, but the other opened by Pleasure, who scatters its contents everywhere, Hope alone remaining behind. For in those things in which a depraved soul, being dispersed about matter, deserts the proper order of its essence, in all these it is accustomed to feed itself with (the pleasing prospects of) auspicious hope."

The northern people of the world are adapted to the physical descent, while the southerners are adapted to the spiritual ascent, just as the eastern parts of the world are attributed to the gods, while the west is attributed to demons.  The Sun is the gate through which the souls ascend to the spiritual, and the Moon is the gate through which they descend into the physical.

Now that we have examined the cave of the cosmos and the two gates of the souls, we can move on to look at the rest of this work next time.

Friday, 19 July 2013

My experiences and interactions with Spenta Mainyu

Canaanite religion allows for worship of foreign gods.  These gods are sometimes identified with Canaanite ones, and are sometimes only associated with them on one level, and are sometimes treated differently.  But in any case, they are worshiped in the Canaanite manner (often outside of a formal, state, temple context).  For example, I might make offerings to 'Kassite Yarikh' (the god the Kassites call Shipak), 'Elamite El' (the god the Elamites call Khumban), 'Arabian Shapash' (the goddess the Arabs call Shams), 'Egyptian Ashtart' (the goddess known by the Egyptians as Aset), or 'Babylonian Yarikh' (the god called Sin by the Babylonians).  And other times I might worship them as part of a formal religion, in temple or public ritual context.  Bes from Egypt, Demeter and Kore from Greece, Dionysos and his companions from Greece, and others are well-known deities who originally started off in 'foreign' religions or cultures.  Ugaritic tablets contain countless deity correspondences lists with the Canaanite and Sumerian gods.  Indeed, the two famous Neoplatonist philosophers, Melek and Ya-milku, were personal devotees of Mithra and Osir-Api, respectively. 

All of this is relevant to an experience I have been having very recently.  In an informal and non-state religion context, I have developed a relationship with Spenta Mainyu.  Who is Spenta Mainyu?  Spenta Mainyu is an Amesha Spenta, in other words, one of six great Persian divinities.  These are considered to be part of Zoroastrianism, and are the highest class of yazatas, or divinities, and are part of Ahura Mazda's good creation (and are in fact, inseparable from it).  The empire of the Medes and Persians did conquer Canaan once, in ancient times, and so certain Persian influences over the religion begin to appear, but this is the first time I have ever addressed prayers to a divinity from the culture and religion of the Medes and Persians.

Now obviously, my worship of Spenta Mainyu is not a part of official state religion, but as an informal household practice, it works very well.  It is also because of a sense of inner devotion to such a holy being as Spenta Mainyu.  How did this devotion come about?  To explain it will not be easy, but I will try.  First, let us take a look at Spenta Mainyu's role in Zoroastrianism and Persian mythology.  He is the Good Spirit.  His actual name means something like: Good Spirit, Good Mentality, Creative Spirit, Progressive Spirit, Bountiful Spirit, Progressive Mentality etc.  A spirit in Persian religion can be termed a kind of consciousness or mentality that can be found anywhere in Ahura Mazda's creation.  There are spirits who control the nature around us, and there are spirits who are found within us, human beings.  We have mentalities within our head- both good and evil.  We have thought processes and ideas.  These conscious and free thoughts are called 'spirit' or are under the domain of 'spirit'.  Spenta Mainyu is what Ahura Mazda creates the world by, and continues to change it for the better.  But there is a catch.  Spenta Mainyu is in a struggle with his dark 'shadow' opposite, emerging from druj (the force of evil in the cosmos, opposed to asha, or goodness).  This is Angra Mainyu.  His name means something like: Evil Spirit, Evil Mentality, Destructive Spirit, Destructive Mentality etc.  This is all negative and toxic thoughts which poison the mind with bad ideas.  Spenta Mainyu creates, while Angra Mainyu destroys.  You have a choice over which spirit your prayers and sacrifices go to: whichever one you *choose* to 'feed' with your offerings and deeds.

There is a Hell, called Duzanghush, which means something like a 'diseased existence'.  It is a state of being and a state of mind, both in this life and after death.  You choose, through your own free will, to remain trapped in Hell until you decide to free yourself.  It's a type of bad consciousness, and you remain there through your own thoughts, words, and deeds.  That is until the Frashegird (enlightenment, when all evil melts away).  This is a concept of 'enlightenment', when the soul becomes free of evils, begins to see and self-evaluate itself, and can then leave a hellish state of being and mind, and can cross the Chinvat Bridge (the bridge of consciousness), guided by the yazata Sraosha (guardian of the dead, and a force of inner devotion and prayer to God) until it reaches a blissful state of being, or Paradise, called Vahishtem Manoo.  This is all cyclical, and will happen to everyone eventually.  But they will only realize it or reach it at different rates and so will arrive there at different times.  But those who seek enlightenment and wisdom will find it in this life.

Now I'm going to tell you about something which is completely different, but still ties into the same idea.  I am not a Persian, not a Mede, and not a Zoroastrian.  However, I am a student of the ancient philosophers (and some modern ones as well), and I regard true knowledge as not being bound by caste, creed, or culture.  Socrates, Platon, Aristotles, Ptahhotep, Plotinus, Melek, Ya-milku, Julian the Chaldean, Buddha, Charvaka, and Zarathushtra all have something wise and important to say, regardless of whether your accept it all or not (and I certainly don't accept everything written by all of these philosophers, but there are times when I can look at their arguments- even if I disagree with them- and still see something wise or rational in them). 

There are times when I can become angry.  I can say things that I regret saying, and wish that I never said them.  But I cannot undo the mistakes of the past.  Instead, I have to learn from them.  But I keep falling back into this sudden and irrational display of passion, perhaps due to an overbalance of yellow bile and the choleric temperament within my physical body.  In many regards, I can identify with the legendary hero Samson of the tribe of Dan, who was gifted in fury- but his gift was also his curse.  I keep falling into a very irrational, angry, and evil mind when provoked by others.  And at a point recently, I came to the realization that I've had enough of it all.  I needed guidance- spiritual guidance or divine guidance.  That was when I felt him.  A creative and joyous presence.  A one of wisdom, teaching me to follow the right path and learn to meditate to overcome my feelings.  A one which taught me to just relax sometimes, and think of the simpler pleasures in life, and how even small and beautiful things can make me calm and able to avoid anger.  It also taught me not to be so cynical all of the time, but to take joy and peace at even the smallest things.  This is the side to me that I want to see all of the time.  It was more than just an emotional response which comes and goes when needed.  This is a real spiritual experience.  This was good spirit in contrast to evil spirit, creative spirit in contrast to destructive spirit.  As a mere mortal, I am incapable of doing everything alone, and I recognize this.  So I began by saying a prayer to Spenta Mainyu, and reading part of a Gathic hymn to him.  And this is my story on how a divinity from another tradition can become a part of my informal and household private devotion.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Evolution of sacred art

I was reading an article recently regarding Hinduism and other traditional ethnic religions, and I found this part especially interesting:

"Neo pagans (polytheists) often use images of gods and goddesses as they were depicted during pre-Christian era. Similarly Hindus had images of Hindu gods and goddesses that belonged to ancient periods. But unlike images of gods and goddesses of the pagans, Hindu imagery of gods and goddesses has undergone great transformation, starting with the emergence of printing press in 19th century. The images were enhanced to appear super realistic, well ornamented and clothed, with an aura surrounding their head. These images of Krishna, Durga and Shiva invoke great appeal and arose the feeling of devotion and great admiration... the feeling of devotion becomes predominant which help one to focus and unite with the universal consciousness without being perturbed by other feelings."

This got me thinking about evolution of art in Canaanite religion.  Now, obviously, the evolution of culture in Canaan (including art) is somewhat different to the Greek (which includes Pre-Archaic, Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine periods, as well as Modern images) or the Indian (which includes Ancient, Medieval, and Modern).  Though with Canaan, art could be influenced by surrounding cultures.  I've divided them into different eras: Early, Ancient, Classical, Late Antiquity/Byzantine/Medieval, and Modern.  Hopefully you will enjoy this sacred journey through our sacred art:

Early Period:

The earliest era of art showed figures.  They were often lacking in major details, but still very interesting and beautiful to look at.   

A woman with an exaggerated vulva, carrying a pot

They showed figures, sometimes warrior gods and protective gods, other times female figures associated with fertility, and other times animals (animals are often sacred to the gods in Canaanite religion). 

A ram
This early form of art shows some symbolism which will become more apparent later.  The art style present in the early period was very common at the time.  Many ancient households possessed some of these figures, while others (especially those of gods) were in the temples.

A tall warrior god, made of bronze, in a smiting pose.  He wears a crown similar to the crown of the Egyptian god Amun.  This early era of Canaanite art seems to have an influence on very early pre-archaic Greek art as well.  Figures similar to this show up in Thessaly to represent Achilles, one thousand years later

Ancient Period:

At some time during the middle Bronze Age, Canaanite civilization began to flourish like it had never seen before.  The many city-states grew prosperous, and the art does seem to get slightly more complex as well.  Images of gods, animals, warriors, and kings show up with their own iconography.  The winged solar disc, coming as an art motif from the Hittites, begins to show up a lot.

A lion scarab

Statue of El

Attention to detail begins to become more apparent, as does the design on the robes and crowns of the kings and gods.  Iconography such as the horns on a god's crown show how powerful he is.

A prince from Ugarit

Ivories from Megiddo show remarkable detail present, sometimes incorporating foreign motifs from Egypt, and even foreign gods like Bes.

A sphinx ivory

These images are again used in temples and homes, and sometimes even to decorate furniture and buildings, including the royal palace of the king.

A statue of Resheph

A statue of Baal, again in the 'smiting' pose

Also common at this time is the image of the mortal king coming into the presence of one of the gods, usually El, as can be seen in the story of King Keret.  It also has similarities from in Mesopotamia.  Images of the king also show him on his throne greeted by his attendants and royal court, and his servants.

A king on his throne with his attendants and palace staff

Classical Period:

With the climax of the Bronze Age, the Iron Age began slow but eventually brought a new age of prosperity.  The images begin to become more 'lifelike' and three dimensional, showing even more attention to detail.

A youth praying

A lion attacking a youth, possibly a Cushite

Scarabs also pay more attention to space, dimensions, clothing, and detail.  They also give a more three dimensional portrayal of the human figure.

Scarab showing the head of a soldier, with his helmet resting atop his head

A warrior on horseback greets another soldier with a dog, on this scarab.  The art is more three dimensional than earlier art, and it pays more attention to clothing
Statues of Melqart, showing more attention to his body and the naked human physique

A winged horse, on a coin, showing a lot of detail, and suggesting flight and movement
A votive statue of a child, three dimensional and showing much detail on the human figure
A youth praying, wearing his kappu amulet.  He has jewelry, including an earring.  Oddly, he is naked, which is odd for praying
Melqart, again showing detail to the human physique
Abd-Melqart Baraq, famous general and father of the famous Hannobaal
The goddess Tanit playing a musical instrument.  The attention to detail is striking
A stele showing a priest and a winged sun disc above, symbolizing the omnipresence of divinity.  The figures become more 'lifelike' than they were in earlier times
The twin gods, Kastor and Polydeukes
A fearsome grotesque demon, used on temples to scare away evil spirits.  A lot of attention is paid to the facial expressions

Art on sarcophagus becomes popular, including scenes of banqueting, and scenes from the life of Alexander the Great are common themes.                       
A sarcophagus for a governor, showing him reclining and banqueting.  The design includes a palm tree motif
From a Roman arch, built for the emperor, showing the city's protective gods (Melqart and Shadrapa) in a chariot along with the city's Gad (Fortune)

Late Antiquity/Byzantine/Medieval Era:

Nearing late antiquity, the influence of Christian and Jewish art (itself influenced by art of the polytheists, and used to decorate churches and synagogues in the same way as temples were decorated) becomes more apparent.  Colossal statues of gods begin to fill the temples (they were very small before that).  The art becomes so extravagant and devotional.  The gods are shown with haloes, representing their divinity.  Frescoes and mosaics, decorating walls and floors, become very common.  Anachronisms also abound: early Philistine soldiers are shown dressed as Romans from contemporary times, and figures from the Bronze Age are shown in Byzantine/Early Medieval dress.  Symbolism becomes highly important.  Scenes from dramas and plays (which re-enacted myths) are also used as a basis for the art showing the stories from the myths themselves.  Scenes from the creation up until the present day were shown.

The Roman goddess Diana with a deer, on a mosaic

Temple roof decoration, showing an angel with vines, representing fertility triumphing over sterility

A temple roof carving showing Queen Cleopatra of Egypt with an asp

A mosaic showing the abduction of Europa.  This scene and myth, because it deals with the city of Tyre, became popular

A colossal statue of Marna

A mosaic showing scenes of vines and ecstatic joy
Scenes showing soldiers offering sacrifices to gods, the goddess Atar'atah (with a halo), and various Gads (Fortunes)

Fresco scene from an ancient battle between Israel and the Philistines.  The Philistines are shown wearing early Medieval dress and they have captured the Ark of the Covenant, associated with the god Yahweh, from the Israelites

These images tend to emphasize life over death, a central theme of Canaanite religion.

Modern Era:

Finally, the modern era has seen many beautiful works of art, many of these being devotional pieces.  They are useful in devotion to the deities and help focus on their adorable forms.




Thursday, 11 July 2013

Jealousy and divinity

Is jealousy a quality which can be attributed to a god?  Absolutely.  But not to the extent that it may often be made out to be.

There is some debate in the Canaanite community as to Yahweh's place in the religion.  To some prophets of ancient Israel, he was in the temple of Samaria with Asherah; to others, he was the one and only god.  Which prophets do we believe?  Obviously, they can't both be right.  This debate raged right through the monotheistic reforms of Hezekiah and Josiah, right up until the Babylonian captivity.  And if an ancient Judahite slave in Babylon, set free by the Persians to return home, thought that the debate would end after the Babylonian Exile was over, he was sorely mistaken.  Persian-era Judah saw some prophets like Ezra and others, who returned from Persia with the intention of instructing the people in the decrees of the Persian king, but who were also responsible for the adoption of a kind of universal monotheism among the Jews.  But the debate raged on, mostly in Jerusalem rather than elsewhere, and at some points in the Hellenistic period each new high priest could be either a polytheist or a monotheist.  It wasn't always a friendly argument either, as fierce competition between the high priests Honiyyo and Honiyyo 'Menelaus' show.  And likewise with Joshua, who attempted to take the priesthood for himself twice, and ended up fleeing from Judah to Ammon, then to Egypt, and finally to Sparta (home of Lycurgus, famed among the Jews as the 'Greek Moses'). 

The Jerusalem temple, where Yahweh sat with Asherah
The main argument against worship of Yahweh among other gods is the monotheistic prophets' insistence that he is 'a jealous god' who is jealous that other beings may be given the title of 'god' alongside him.  Worship of other gods alongside such a god is not possible.

Yahweh enthroned
The trouble with the argument that other gods cannot be worshiped alongside a 'jealous god' like Yahweh is that it can be refuted.  In fact, it was refuted many years ago.  Here is Melek of Tyre when he talks about this very issue.  Here he clearly refutes the idea that gods can be so jealous as to not tolerate worship of other gods alongside them:

"I could also give proof to you of that insidious name of 'gods' from the law, when it cries out and admonishes the hearer with much reverence, 'Thou shalt not revile the gods, and thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people.' For it does not speak to us of other gods than those already within our reckoning, from what we know in the words, 'Thou shalt not go after gods'; and again, 'If ye go and worship other gods'. It is not men, but the gods who are held in honour by us, that are meant, not only by Moses, but by his successor Joshua. For he says to the people, 'And now fear him and serve him alone, and put away the gods whom your fathers served'. And it is not concerning men, but incorporeal beings that Paul says, 'For though there be that are called gods, whether on earth or in heaven, yet to us there is but one God and Father, of whom are all things'. Therefore you make a great mistake in thinking that God is angry if any other is called a god, and obtains the same title as himself. For even rulers do not object to the title from their subjects, nor masters from slaves. And it is not right to think that God is more petty-minded than men. Enough then about the fact that gods exist, and ought to receive honour."

What this shows is that a god cannot be angry if others are worshiped and regarded as gods alongside himself.  The reason is that even a human king will not object if there are others who are ruling as kings alongside him, but over different kingdoms.  If a king was so jealous that he sent his subjects and messengers to use any means possible to eliminate any other kings in all the four corners of the earth, and that they were bound by law to do this or else their disobedient subjects would face punishment; what then would you think of him?  You would think, quite rightly, that he was simply insane.  What kind of a moon-struck lunatic would do this?  If you would think this lowly of a human ruler, what of a divine ruler?  Do you think that if it simply ridiculous for a human king to do this, it is fair to say that for a god it is impossible?  Especially if we are to believe that this same god was given domain over Israel by El himself, an idea going right back to the origins of the Kingdom of Israel itself, and which supposedly happened after the great flood:

"Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask your father, and he will show you; your elders, and they will tell you. When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of God (the gods themselves). For Yahweh's portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance."

Since Yahweh is certainly a god, and therefore among the 70 children of El, it is logical that he was given one of the 70 nations which existed on the earth after the flood.  And his connection with Israelites is well-known.  Are we to believe then, that El would be so foolish as to give a god so deranged and irrational a large nation of his own to govern?  Is this a logical conclusion?   As we can see, it's possible for a god to have a jealous character, but not to be so jealous as to exclude the worship of other gods or to demand exclusive worship aside from very exceptional circumstances (and even then, only to individuals, such as certain individuals in Egypt) and never out of jealousy or a burst of passion, but instead for a higher spiritual purpose. 

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Refuting the argument that the Persians were any different

Seal from Mesopotamia, showing the Persian King Darayaush I hunting a lion in his chariot, with his fravashi (guardian angel) in the sky above

I was recently attacked by a Zoroastrian (it turned into a vicious debate, and I admit I lost my self-control in anger- something which I now regret, as it was somewhat childish) who among other things, mocked and ridiculed our gods and traditions.  In his eyes, the 'Semitic' people of the Near East (including the Canaanites, Babylonians, Arabs, Akkadians, Assyrians, and Aramaeans) were savages.  This, according to him, began with the Natufians in the Neolithic times.  Their 'savage and tribal' practices, to him, are carried out into the present day in the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic religions, and the many conflicts or violence they may engage him.  To him, there were two ancient worldviews, in drastic contrast: that of the Semites, and that of the Indo-European Aryans.  He claimed that the Semites were barbaric and superstitious, taking up magic rites, and believing that their wars were divinely sanctioned by the gods.  They were savage and cruel, taking many slaves, mistreating women, and sacrificing children and animals.  He said that the solution to war and conflict is that all Semitic ideologies should be abandoned, and people should convert to an Indo-Aryan religion, like Zoroastrianism, or possibly Buddhism or another similar religion.  An Islamic terrorist embarking on a jihad against 'foreign' imperialists is simply a religious war, a calling by a bloodthirsty deity named Allah; and is no different from an Assyrian king claiming that Ashur blessed his nation and instructed them to smite the barbaric Elamites.  This is the nature of Semitic religions: they are cruel and intolerant.  This is not the first time I have heard these views, and not just from Zoroastrians.  Some of those found further west of the Near East can also take the blame.  Certain Greek and Roman polytheists have called my gods and traditions barbaric and cruel, and called for a rejection of everything 'Semitic' in order to make our world a better place.  We will then embrace philosophy, reason, humanism, logic, intellect, physical athleticism, and freedom; and leave behind cruelty, superstitions, barbarism, despotism, tyranny, human sacrifice, witchcraft, religious conflict, and other activities stemming from the 'Semitic' religion.

According to the same person I had discussed with (and some of his companions, fellow Zoroastrians) this all changed with the coming of the empires of the Medes and Persians.  It is said that the prophet Zarathushtra, in his condemnation of the daeva-worshiping priests, the karapans, the usij, and others, was in fact condemning the religion of the Semites.  The karapans and usij of the Indo-Aryan society were also claiming divine inspiration behind wars, they too sacrificed humans to appease their vengeful and bloodthirsty gods, and practiced sorcery and superstition.  It is said that when King Kurush I, of the Medes and Persians, entered Babylon, he found it an inhuman society devoted to Angra Mainyu (evil spirit), and slave-based and immoral.  He was only pretending to show devotion toward Marduk, the god of the Babylonians, and Yahweh, the god of the enslaved Jews.  In truth, he and his successors were intending to slowly but surely convert the barbaric Semites to the pureness of Zoroastrianism.  Certainly, then, Kurush was a true disciple of Zarathushtra!  The Persian Empire was run on fairness and equality, and was only eventually destroyed by the backward Semitic Arabs.

I tried to defend my gods, my ancestral traditions, from such slander.  But he would have none of it.  The Assyrians were cruel warmongers and criminals, the Babylonians were slave-takers who behaved very cruelly towards the Medes, the Canaanites were bloodthirsty child-killers, the Arabs lacked a civilization.  He asked me how it was that the major Indo-Aryan religions (Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism) could peacefully co-exist in India, and how devotees of all of those religions could be found participating in festivals along the River Ganga to the water-goddess in harmony together; while Assyrians were marching to war against the Canaanites in the name of Ashur, Islamic militants were sending suicide bombers into synagogues in order to appease the bloodlust of Allah, and Yahweh was busy telling the Jews to massacre the whole of the Amalekites and leave none of them alive.  I should also stop trying to defend 'a bloodthirsty ideology'.  I tried explaining that you shouldn't take myths literally, and that our myths are similar to Persian or Hindu- or for that matter, Greek- ones (which also describe things that, if interpreted literally, could be seen as violent or immoral) and that we should look for a higher spiritual meaning behind it all.  But I was told that this was me being 'irrational', and that I was just trying to justify a violent ideology.

The purpose of this blog post, I must clarify, is *not* to insult any tradition, religion, or culture.  Nor am I intending to show 'Semitic' religions as superior, and insult 'Indo-Aryan' traditions as being backward or barbaric.  I merely want to show, now that I am calm and rational, that ancient Near Eastern societies were not drastically different, and nor are modern Near Eastern cultures, regardless of whether they happen to speak a 'Semitic' or 'Indo-Aryan' language- or whether they follow a religious tradition associated with either of those language families.  This is solely to help clarify, as well as a defense of some things near to my heart.

Inscriptions about war and conflict in the ancient Near East

I want to start with the Mesha Stele.  This is a stele, originally set up by King Mesha, the Moabite.  In it, he recounts a war with the Israelites.  The Israelites were led by prophets of Yahweh, who promised them victory over Chemosh in battle.  If Yahweh was the stronger god, then Israel would prevail.  If Chemosh was the stronger god, then Moab would prevail.  The stele records that Mesha believed that he was chosen by his god Chemosh, to make war upon the Israelites and to destroy them in battle:

"Chemosh spoke to me: Go, take Nebo from Israel! Then I went by night and fought against Nebo from daybreak to noon. And I took it and totally destroyed 7,000 citizens and foreigners, male and female together with female slaves; for I had consecrated it to Ashtar-Chemosh for destruction. Then I took thence the vessels of Yahweh and brought them before Chemosh."

What was this, then?  A holy war?  Most likely not, as the war between Israel and Moab was not caused by religious reasons or with religious motives.  Rather, it was triggered by the Israelites oppressing the Moabites.  Rather, it is just that aspects of 'secular' life in Canaanite religion can take on a 'religious' dimension.  Even today, soldiers still pray to Anat before going into battle.

Now let's look at an inscription by King Zakir of Hama and Laash, where he believes that Baal Shamem has called upon him through oracles and words of prophets to go to war against foreign king who oppress his kingdom:

"Thereupon I raised my hands toward Baal Shamem and Baal Shamem heard me, telling me, by means of oracles: 'Have no fear! For I have caused you to rule. I will be with you and will free you from all these kings who have laid siege against you'."

Again though, it's simply an invocation of the gods before a king goes into battle.  The cause behind the conflict cannot be attributed primarily to religion, nor to anything unique to 'Semitic' religions.

A similar occurrence also happened among the Arabs, where Prince Al-Harit ibn Amr of the Ghassanids burned his enemies alive while invoking the blessings of the gods.

 Lastly, I want to go to the Assyrians and the Babylonians of Mesopotamia.  These are important, because these are the empires that were ruling the Near East just before the Persian conquest.

From Ashurbanipal, King of Assyria's, description of the destruction of Shushan in the conquest of Elam (interestingly, it's also when the Persians show up for the first time to defend their Elamite allies):

"I destroyed the ziggurat of Shushan. I smashed its shining copper horns. I reduced the temples of Elam to naught; their gods and goddesses I scattered to the winds. The tombs of their ancient and recent kings I devastated, I exposed to the sun, and I carried away their bones toward the land of Ashur. I devastated the provinces of Elam and on their lands I sowed salt."

It is very clear that he marched from 'the land of Ashur' (Assyria) and marched under the banner of the war god Ashur.  He then inflicted a horrific destruction upon the Elamites, in revenge for the Elamites' past deeds against his own people, the Assyrians.

Assyrians counting heads of those slain in conquest
 With the Babylonians, the conquests of King Nebukadrezzar II are well-known.  He went up against Egypt, and fought in the Hatti-land.  He also went against Ashkelon, and against Jerusalem, inflicting savage acts of destruction upon them.  Much of their population was taken into slavery.  This was the same king who clasped the hand of Marduk's idol atop his ziggurat every year in the Akitu festival, and claimed support of the god in his military campaigns.  This was the same god who created mankind to be his slaves, and since he was patron god of Babylon, he would be on their side if they went against, say, Ur (which was under Sin's protection).  

The Ishtar Gate, in the city of Babylon
 Admittedly, this does look rather violent to a modern day person.  And I'll admit, that it is.  But we also have to remember that those people lived in a far more barbaric time than we do today.  It's also important to remember that the destruction of foreign cities, and the enslavement or massacre of their populations is not religiously-motivated.  Rather, what motivated them was imperial greed.  The desire for conquest, through which all empires are born.  There are also examples from Egyptian, Sumerian, and Hittite sources, but as they aren't 'Semitic', I'll leave them out.  Now comes the question, was the Persian Empire any different?  Was it not based on conquest?

Since we don't have a lot from either Kurush II (who conquered Babylon, Lud, Media, the Hatti-land, Syria, and Canaan) or Kambujiya II (who conquered Egypt, and much of Nubia), I'll go straight onto Darayaush I (most famous perhaps for his conquests of India and Scythia).  Here, we have his Behistun inscription, where he describes his campaigns against rebels within his empire.  He does so at the command and with the divine right of Ahura Mazda, his god, and the same god who created heaven and earth.

"King Darayaush says: The following is what I did in the second and third year of my rule. The province called Elam revolted from me. An Elamite named Atamaita they made their leader. Then I sent an army unto Elam. A Persian named Gaubaruva, my servant, I made their leader. Then Gaubaruva set forth with the army; he delivered battle against the Elamites. Then Gaubaruva destroyed many of the host and that Atamaita, their leader, he captured, and he brought him unto me, and I killed him. Then the province became mine.
 King Darayaush says: Those Elamites were faithless and Ahura Mazda was not worshiped by them. I worshiped Ahura Mazda; by the grace of Ahura Mazda I did unto them according to my will.
 King Darayaush says: Whoso shall worship Ahura Mazda, divine blessing will be upon him, both while living and when dead."

Is it really all that different from those of the Assyrian or Babylonian conquerors before him?  In fact, substitute Ahura Mazda for Marduk or Ashur, and it doesn't seem to change much either:

"King Nebukadrezzar says: Those Elamites were faithless and Marduk was not worshiped by them. I worshiped Marduk; by the grace of Marduk I did unto them according to my will."

Of course, it isn't what the inscription really reads, but it does show the Persians' reliance on a model of kingship very similar to that of the Assyrians and Babylonians.  In all three cases, this model of kingship is very much influenced by their religion and the personal god worshiped by the king- however, in all three cases, the cause of the conflict isn't primarily due to religion.  Nor, in any case, does the victorious king attempt to impose his religion on the conquered people at the point of the sword.  Such a thing, as can be clearly seen, was alien to the spirit of the times: whether it was followers of 'Semitic' or 'Indo-Aryan' religions who were responsible.

Behistun, the mountain where King Darayaush I left his royal inscription and carving to celebrate his victory

Now let us turn our attention to the royal inscription of Darayaush's son, Xshayarsha I (best known for his invasion of Greece, and for his marriage to Queen Esther).  In this inscription, he states that as king, he will do his royal duty to Ahura Mazda and put down any revolts in his empire.  He will also destroy 'demons' who oppose him or who he is opposed to (the text is largely non-specific and 'timeless' like so many other Mesopotamian and Persian kingship inscriptions):

"King Xshayarsha says: when I became king, if there is among these countries one that is in rebellion, Ahura Mazda will bear me aid. By the grace of Ahura Mazda I will smite that country and put it down in its place.
And among these countries if there is a place where previously demons (daevas) are worshiped, afterwards, by the grace of Ahura Mazda I will destroy that sanctuary of daevas, and I will proclaim: 'The demons shall not be worshiped!' Where previously the demons were worshiped, there I will worship Ahura Mazda at the proper time and in the proper manner. And if there is other business that had been done ill, that I will make good. That which I do, all I do by the grace of Ahura Mazda. Ahura Mazda bear me aid until I complete the work."

King Xshayarsha I and his servants

 Now imagine if we substituted some of the names again, we would end up with something like this:

"King Nebukadzrezzar says: when I became king, if there is among these countries one that is in rebellion, Marduk will bear me aid. By the grace of Marduk I will smite that country and put it down in its place. And among these countries if there is a place where previously demons (edimmu) are worshiped, afterwards, by the grace of Marduk I will destroy that sanctuary of edimmu, and I will proclaim: 'The demons shall not be worshiped!' Where previously the demons were worshiped, there I will worship Marduk at the proper time and in the proper manner. And if there is other business that had been done ill, that I will make good. That which I do, all I do by the grace of Marduk. Marduk bear me aid until I complete the work."

Again, is it really so different?

Far from primitive and barbaric cultures, the (polytheistic) cultures of the Near East which can be called 'Semitic' are very sophisticated and noble traditions, no less noble or venerable than those of Persia, India, or Scythia.  To this, I will end by saying that in a very Zoroastrian way, I am fighting against the forces of druj by helping to rid the world of lies, and in doing so oppose the Lie and help act in accordance with the divine law of asha, or truth, mandated by Ahura Mazda.

Blessings everyone,