Ancient Persian culture

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Rudolf Steiner: The Persian Man, pastel 1914

The Urpersian culture or ancient Persian culture (5067 - 2907 BC) was the second post-Atlantean cultural epoch. Since the vernal equinox was then in the constellation of Gemini it is also called the Age of Gemini. In it, under the guidance of the great initiate Zarathustra, the astral body was further trained.

In the Apocalypse of St. John, in the epistle to the community of Smyrna (present-day Izmir), reference is made to the ancien Persian period.

In the Urpersian culture, a memory of the hyperborean time shone forth, in which the Sun separated from Earth, but which at that time still had the Moon within it. This is also where the descriptions of the biblical creation story begin. From now on, the light world of the sun stood opposite the dark world of the earth. While the Cattle still lived in unity, the principle of duality, of polarity, now emerged, which was expressed through the opposition of the light god Ahura Mazda (Ormuzd) and his dark adversary Ahriman.

„Now let us consider the second cultural period. In the principle of light and darkness we have the religious consciousness of the primeval Persian cultural period. There the great initiates placed two beings, one personified in the Sun and the other in the Moon, opposite each other. Ahura Mazda, the aura of light, Ormuzd, is the being whom the Persians worshipped as the supreme god; Ahriman is the evil spirit, the representative of all the beings who possessed the Earth plus the Moon. A reminder of the second earth epoch is the religion of the Persians.“ (Lit.:GA 106, p. 35)

The primeval Persian cultural epoch is distinguished from the primeval Indian culture by the fact that here man begins to direct his attention to the gradual conquest of the physical plan (culturally here primarily as agriculture and animal husbandry). To the representative of the primeval Indian culture, the outer material world was Maya - and it was not considered worthwhile to penetrate it further.

„The mission of the post-Atlantean culture, however, consists in man making the world in which he is placed more and more his own, conquering it more and more. Thus we see that in the Persian, in the pre-Zarathustrian culture, the first phase of this conquest of the outer physical world takes place. The ancient Persians - and here we are referring to the prehistoric Persians, who are based on a colony of the last Atlantians who had migrated over there - already had a different consciousness; they already felt the physical plan as something real. The physical plan no longer appeared to the ancient Persian as something strange; he said to himself: In this physical plan there are also possibilities for planting and nurturing the spirit. - He already paid attention to the physical world; he did not yet study it, but he paid attention to it. The old Persian still feels an enemy in it, but in such a way that he can overcome the enemy. He makes himself a friend, a comrade of the god Ormuzd, in order to redeem matter. He works into the physical; little by little he begins to suspect something of the fact that this world is not merely Maja, not merely insubstantial appearance, but a reality to be noticed.“ (Lit.:GA 105, p. 154f)

The approach of humanity to the physical-sensuous world-appearances at the Urpersian time also brought the efficacy of Ahriman, which since the Atlantean epoch has been inseparably linked with the human structure of being, more strongly to the fore. This finds its spiritual expression in the teaching of Zarathustra as an antagonism between the Ahrimanic powers of darkness on the one hand and the divine powers of the sun, designated as Ahura Mazda, on the other.

While in the Atlantean epoch the physical body was permeated with the forces of the I, and this was the case for the etheric body during the Urindian cultur of the post-Atlantean epoch, the forces of the I penetrated the soul or astral body during the Urpersian period. This subconscious penetration of the astral body with the forces of the I is not to be confused with the fully conscious reworking of the astral body into the spirit self.

The opposition of Iran and Turan

The Urpersian period was marked by the opposition of the peoples of Iran and Turan.

„In this period, which is now important for us to consider, all these peoples, who were gifted with a clairvoyance that was in the process of decadence, were nomadic peoples who, without being sedentary, without establishing permanent homes, roamed about as shepherds, had no particular love for any spot, did not particularly care for what the earth offered them, and were also willing to destroy what was around them if they needed something for their livelihood. But these peoples were not in the mood to do something to raise the level of culture, to transform the Earth.

Thus arose the great, the important contrast, which is perhaps one of the most important in post-Atlantean development: the contrast between these more northern peoples and the Iranian peoples. The Iranians developed a longing to intervene in what was happening around them, to settle down, to gain what they had as human beings and as humanity through work, that is, to really transform nature through human spiritual powers. That was the greatest urge of the people in this very corner. And directly adjacent to this, to the north, came that people who looked into the spiritual world, who were, so to speak, on a first-name basis with the spiritual beings, but who did not like to work, who were not settled and had no interest at all in advancing the cultural work in the physical world.

This is perhaps the greatest contrast that has formed externally in the history of post-Atlantean times, and which is purely a consequence of the different ways in which the soul has developed. It is the contrast that is also known in external history: the great contrast between Iran and Turan. But we do not know the causes. Here we now have the causes.

In the north, towards Siberia: Turan, that group of peoples which was gifted to a high degree with the hereditary traits of a lower astral clairvoyance, which, as a result of this life in the spiritual world, had no inclination and no sense to found an outer culture, but - because these people were more passive in nature and even had lower magicians and sorcerers among their priests in many cases - occupied themselves with lower sorcery, and even in part with black magic, especially where spiritual matters were concerned. In the south of it: Iran, those regions in which the urge arose early on to transform by human spiritual power, with the most primitive means, that which is given to us in the senses, so that in this way external cultures can come into being.

This is the great contrast between Iran and Turan. In a beautiful way, mythically, legendarily, it is indicated how the most advanced part of the people, according to this side of culture, moved down from the north to the region which we have addressed as the Iranian region. And when we are told in the legend of Dschemshid, the king who led his people down from the north to Iran: he was given a golden dagger by that God who will gradually be recognised, whom he called Ahura Mazda, with which he was to fulfil his mission on earth - then we must be clear that with the golden dagger of King Jemshid, who developed his peoples out of the inert mass of the Turanians, was given that which is the striving for wisdom bound to the outer powers of man, that striving for wisdom which again develops the powers that had previously fallen into decadence and penetrates and weaves through them that which man can attain in spiritual power on the physical plane. This golden dagger has dug up the earth as a plough, has made arable land out of the earth, has brought the first most primitive inventions to humanity. It has had an effect and continues to have an effect today in everything that people are proud of as their cultural achievements. It is a significant fact that King Jemshid, who came down from Turan to the Iranian regions, received from Ahura Mazda this golden dagger which gives men the power to acquire the outer sensual world. The same entity from whom this golden dagger came is also the great inspirer of that leader of the Iranian people whom we know as Zarathustra or Zoroaster, Zerdutsch. And it was Zarathustra who, in ancient times - soon after the Atlantean catastrophe - imbued with the goods he could carry out of the sacred mysteries that people who had the urge to weave the outer culture with human spiritual power. For this purpose, Zarathustra was to give these peoples, who no longer had the old Atlantean ability to see into the spiritual world, new prospects and new hopes for the spiritual world. Thus Zarathustra opened that path, which we have often discussed, on which the peoples were to realise that in the outer body of sunlight there is only the outer body of a high spiritual being, which, in contrast to the small human aura, he called the "Great Aura", Ahura Mazda. With this he wanted to indicate that this being, although now still far away, would one day descend to earth in order to unite substantially with the earth within the history of humanity and to continue to work in the becoming of humanity. Thus, for these human beings, Zarathustra pointed to the same entity that later lived in history as the Christ.“ (Lit.:GA 123, p. 25ff)


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