Behramshah Shroff, who founded the Ilm-e-Kshnoom (science of ecstasy or bliss) movement is said to have received instruction on the mystical aspects of Zoroastrianism from 72 Magav (Magi) priests called Abed Saheb-e-Dilan who lead a group of approximately 2000 individuals, the Saheb-e-Dilan, and presumably reside around Mount Damavand in the Caucasus Mountains. The Ilm-e-Kshnoom philosophy is based on mystic and esoteric interpretation of the Zoroastrian scriptures.
Silloo Mehta’s recent book “Thus Spake the Magavs” (116 pgs. published by the Mazdayasnie Connection) provides a rudimentary study of Zoroastrianism as seen through the lens of the Ilm-e-Kshnoom movement. With lucid illustrations Mrs. Mehta depicts Zoroastrian cosmology and the birth and death of Zarathustra; she provides a very enlightening section on the symbolism of the sudreh and kusti and the meaning behind the design of the religious tunic and girdle. The significance behind the basic prayers and some rituals are also briefly, but clearly explained. A concise summary of the different Persian dynasties offers a nice historical perspective of the post-Zarathustra period.
Mrs. Mehta makes a concerted effort to back up with science the verisimilitudes typically associated with the Zoroastrian faith. Without a doubt, Zarathustra’s teachings are well grounded in the laws of nature (science.) Science and religion must co-exist if either discipline is to have any veracity. In the words of Albert Einstein: Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.
Where the book falls short is the absence of any credible scientific, archaeological or scriptural references in support of the dogmatic assertions. Where Mrs. Mehta offers scientific explanations, the science is flawed and defies the fundamentals of the physical sciences. A case in point: she defines an atom as being made up of fire, air, water and earth (1). If this definition is allegorical, then the allegory is incomprehensible and an explanation to that effect would help.
Her claim that Zarathustra lived 9,500 years ago calculated on some dubious scientific method of “Shumar-I-Falk” is highly questionable when scholars have wrestled for centuries to establish the era of Zarathustra’s life. In another instance, expounding on the importance of consigning a dead body to a dokhma, Mrs. Mehta boldly declares that “it is an inexpiable sin to consign a dead body to the fire or to immerse it into water or bury it under the earth.” Undeniably, the dokhma is a very scientific (ecologically sound) method for disposal of the dead, but it is hard to conceive of a God who would mete reward or punishment on a soul contingent on how the body was disposed and neglect to take into account one’s life’s works.
Silloo Mehta states that the Zoroastrian view of time is cyclic and not linear. The concept of cyclic time comes from Zurvanism, a Zoroastrian heretical movement introduced in the second half of the Achaeminid era that gained prominence during the Sassanid dynasty (2). The Zoroastrian concept of time is linear and not cyclical as evinced by innumerable students of Zoroastrianism (3, 4, and 5). Another anomaly is the issue of resurrection vs. reincarnation. Under the section discussing resurrection—crossing the Chinvat Bridge—there is mention of reincarnation should the soul so deserve it. Zoroastrian scriptures do not allude to reincarnation. Zoroastrian scholars have averred that reincarnation is not a Zoroastrian concept. There is ample evidence that Zoroastrian eschatology has influenced Judaism and Christianity and the absence of belief in reincarnation in these faiths lends credence to the notion that reincarnation is, in fact, un-Zoroastrian.Reincarnation is diametrically opposite to resurrection. What are we to believe in?
“Thus Spake the Magavs” gives an impression that the Zoroastrian religion is a mish-mash of the occult, divine legerdemain and fantasy.
While all religious beliefs are matters of faith, faith must be backed by reason; blind faith leads nowhere and soon dies. Sound reasoning invariably leads to the truth. There is nothing esoteric, mystical or cryptic about Zoroastrianism. God has revealed to us all His doctrines. It is for us to understand His plan and act accordingly. If He has concealed His principles, He cannot expect mankind to do His bidding. The beauty and greatness of the Zoroastrian faith lies in its simplicity: Good thoughts, good words and good deeds.
Zoroastrians are not troglodytes and it behooves Zarathustra’s followers to expunge the myths, folklore and magical attributes that people have ascribed to the prophet and the religion he founded.
Reviewed by Meheryar N. Rivetna
Any standard physics or chemistry textbook will provide a simple explanation of the atom as being composed of protons, neutrons and electrons.
- Zaehner, R.C., The Dawn and Twilight of Zoroastrianism, Phoenix Press (USA), 1961
- Clark, Peter, Zoroastrianism: An Introduction To an Ancient Faith, Sussex Academic Press (U.K.) 1998
- Boyce, Mary, Zoroastrians: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices, Routledge & Keegan Paul Ltd. (U.K.) 1979
- Mistree, Khojeste P., Zoroastrianism: An Ethnic Perspective, 1982