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SECTION X.

TO a higher stand-point, though not to a higher development thereof, than the earlier nations, rise the merely transitorily world-historical Persians. The violent dualism of two mutually morally-opposed personal gods, calls also morality to an earnest moral struggle against ante-mundane, god-sprung evil; the moral personality comes much more emphatically into the fore-ground than ever before; the moral task becomes more difficult, but it has the certain promise of ultimate victory over evil, not merely in a yon-side life, but within the scope of history itself. Morality has here, for the first time in heathendom, a positive goal inside of the field of history, namely, the realizing 59of a kingdom of the good upon earth; and the Persians are the sole heathen people who make a definite prophecy the foundation of their religiously-moral striving. Hence the essence of Persian morality consists in a definitely hope-inspired conscious struggle against evil as potent in the world, as well as in, and upon, man himself, and which, both in its guilty origin and in its effects, appears Las a not natural but moral and utterly illegitimate corruption,—in a progressive purification of man from every thing which springs from all-invading and all-infecting evil,—in a word, in struggling against the world of Angramainyus. Man stands forth with his moral will, legitimated and victorious, over against a potently ruling divinity.

The Persians, whose world-historical significancy proper extends from Cyrus to Alexander the Great, have not been able within this short period to develop their religiously-moral consciousness into a scientifically matured form. The chief source for the same—the Avesta—is far inferior in contents and development of thought to the so-rich and deeply-suggestive sacred writings of the Indians; and yet the moral view, as a whole, is a higher one. The real world, in which man has morally to work, is here no longer the immediate divine essence itself, but it has come into existence essentially by a personal, divine act. The spirit, in its personal reality, is no longer a mere momentary phenomenon upon the alone-eternal nature-ground, as in China and India, nor is it fettered and hemmed by nature, as over-potent in this life, as is the case in Egypt; but it is already the higher creative power over nature, although not as yet a perfectly free and omnipotent Creator. Hence the world, in its relation to the moral spirit, is no longer a foreign and heterogeneous element, but as a spirit product, is unhostile and even congenial to the spirit; man begins to feel at home in the world, and hence he places no longer the goal of his moral striving merely in the yon-side, but he conceives it as to-be-attained-to 60within the field of history. This goal of moral effort is, however, not to be reached by a mere simple, natural development of man, but by a constant and earnest struggle against positively extant evil. Evil is no longer, as with the Buddhists and, in part already, with the Brahmins, the substance of the world,—inheres not in the essence of existence as inseparable therefrom, but has in fact become, through the moral fault of the personal spirit,—is a guilty fall from the originally good. This is a thought more strongly approximative of the Christian world-theory than we have as yet met with in our development of the history of the moral consciousness. Wherever evil is regarded as naturally necessary, there the vitality of the morally evil is paralyzed; the Chinese entertain not this view, simply because they conceive of evil in general only very superficially; the Indians conceive of it far more profoundly and earnestly, but they recognize not the moral root of the same; the Persians regard all evil as springing exclusively from personal act. This act, however, is not an historical one, but a pre-historical one; not a human act, but a divine one. The unitary divinity per se, however, cannot do evil, as is attributed to the Indian Brahma, but the good God, Ahura-Mazda, remains free of all evil; it is another no less personal god, that by free self-determination, chose the evil and now thrusts his world into the world of Ahura-Mazda, and is involved in all real evil whose proto-source he is,—namely, Angra-mainyus, that is, “the evilly disposed,” the author of death, of falsehood, of all impurity, and of all hurtful creatures,—the spirit which constantly denies the good.

Although, according to this, man has thrown off the guilt of evil reality from himself upon the world of the gods, still he conceives of his moral nature and life-task, in regard to this evil, more highly than did the earlier nations. Man, as created good by the good god, is placed, with complete personal freedom, in the midst of the moral antagonism of the world, and has now actually to accomplish in his own person the moral task of coming constantly into closer communion with Ahura-Mazda, and to contend against Angra-mainyus and all his works. Morality is a struggle, and rests not upon mere natural feelings and impulses, but upon the distinct consciousness of the holy will of the good god,—upon the Word expressly revealed to men. By this view, morality is made to throw off all 61nature-character, and is placed in the purely spiritual sphere, and at the same time the subjective caprice of the Semitic nations is overcome, and, for the moral, an objective law obtained, a law that is to be received purely spiritually. The revealed holy Word is the mightiest weapon against Angra-mainyus.—This moral struggle is a much more vigorous one than in Egypt, for it is joyously and hopefully conscious of final victory, even within the sphere of history. The Egyptian regards his god—who is at the same time his moral example—as defeated for the present world, and driven to the future world; the Persian feels himself called even here to a courageous co-militancy with Ahura-Mazda, who persistently struggles against evil, and does not succumb to it, not even in the present world. The Persian regards himself as a co-worker with God, and does not mournfully long for the next world; for his moral effort, he has a high object, namely, to combat against a god and the evil creation of that god,—also a high goal, namely, the redemption of a world from evil,—and also a high confidence in victory, for there will ultimately come the Rescuer, Çaoschyanç, that is, the Helper, who will accomplish the victory. It is not by mere chance that the Persians—who usually showed themselves hostile to foreign religions, and especially to all sensuous idolatry—manifested constantly a high regard for the Jews, in whose higher idea of God they met in fact with a somewhat related element.

In correspondence to its religious presupposition, Persian morality bears primarily a negating character, though in a wholly different manner than among the Indians. While the system of the latter is directed against existence, and especially against the personal nature of man, Persian morality on the contrary directs itself, with the most complete consciousness of the validity of the personality, negatingly against every thing which belongs to the world of Angra-mainyus. Self-purification from every thing which stands really, or even merely symbolically, in relation with evil, death, or corruption,—the killing of poisonous and hurtful animals, and the like, are not merely moral requirements, but even acts of worship, and the Avesta gives, on these points, very precise and detailed directions.

But also the positive phase of the moral life is much more highly developed in the moral consciousness of the Persians than in that of the earlier nations. The Persians acquired 62among their contemporaries the reputation of high moral earnestness as in contrast to the luxuriousness of the Semitic nations. They were, in their prime, a very vivacious and vigorously active people; indolence springs of Angra-mainyus; labor, especially agriculture, internal improvements, etc., are required by the good god, and are sacred duties; this is somewhat as it is in Chinese morality, but from a different reason; the Chinese labor for the present, the Persians for the future.—The moral relation to other men is here kindly and noble;. a high esteem for the personality, in every respect, forms the basis of social virtue. Honesty, strict truthfulness, and a high feeling of personal honor, distinguish Persian morality very widely from East-Asiatic. It is a morality of vigor and manliness.

Where evil is no longer regarded as a merely abstract something, as a quality of existence in general, but as a concrete guilt reality, not a mere neutrum, but as borne by personality, there only can the moral struggle against the same be really earnest. The Chinaman labors quietly and busily in mechanical persistence; the Indian patiently endures; the Egyptian mourns, and longs to pass out of this world; the Shemite riots and enjoys; but the Persian battles with a manfully-moral earnestness. The defective phase of his moral consciousness is essentially this, that he throws evil off from himself upon the sphere of the gods,—that he has not recognized the evil of his own heart.

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