Sir John Malcom, "History of Persia," says:-
"A Persian author has declared that the religious among the followers of Zoroaster believed that the soul of that holy person was created by God, and hung upon that tree from which all that is celestial has been produced... I have heard the wise and holy Mobud Seeroosh declare that the father of Zoroaster had a cow, which after tasting some withered leaves that fallen from the tree, never ate of any other; these leaves being her sole food, all the milk she produced was from them. The father of Zoroaster (Poorshasp) was entirely supported by this milk; and to it, in consequence, they refer the pregnancy of his mother, whose name was Daghda."
Another account is that the cow ate the soul of Zoroaster as it hung on the tree, and that it passed through her milk to the father of the prophet. The apparent object of this statement is to prove that Zoroaster was born in innocence, and that even vegetable life was destroyed to give him existence.
When, he as born he burst into a loud laugh, like the prince of necromancers, Merlin, and such a light shone from his body as illumined the whole room. Pliny mentions this ancient tradition respecting Zoroaster.
It is said by some that, being a Jew, he was educated in the elements of the true worship among his countrymen in Babylon, and after wards became the attendant upon the prophet Daniel, and received from him initiation into all the mysteries of the Jewish doctrine and practice. He also studied magic under the Chaldean philosophers, who initiated him into their mysteries. This account is from Hyde and Orideaux, but Dr. Oliver expresses much doubt to its probability. Indeed, from the great uncertainty as to date of his appearance among men, some authors placed him as a contemporary with Abraham, and others again made him to appear long after the captivity had ceased. With this uncertainty as to Zoroaster's true date, we must receive all accounts of his marvelous acts, or matters connected with him, many grains, if not ounces, of allowance.
He is after this found at Ecbatana, and making himself appear as a prophet, set about the task of reforming the religion of Persia, which, like all other religions, had become subverted from the original object, and by a series of gradual and imperceptible changes its character had degenerated from the Magian form to the Sabian system.
As a professed Magian, he was soon surrounded by followers of every rank, who joined with him and gave support to all his designs of reformation.
Darius Hystapis accompanied him into Cashmere, to aid in completing his preparatory studies, by instruction from the Brahmins, from whom he had received the rites of initiation. Cashmere has been called the terrestrial paradise and the holy land of superstition. In the Ayeen Akbery forty five places are said to be dedicated to Mahadeo; sixty-four to Vishnu; twenty-two to Durga; and only three to Brahma (Maur. Ind. Ant.).
Before the time of Zoroaster the Persians, like the early Egyptians, worshiped in the open air, long after other nations had constructed temples, as they considered the broad expanse of heaven as the sublime covering of temples devoted to the worship of the Deity. Their places of sacrifice were much like those of the northern nations of Europe , composed of circles of upright stones, rough, and unhewn. They abominated images, and worshiped the Sun and Fire, as representatives of the omnipotent Deity. The Jews were not exempt from the superstitious worship of fire, saying God appeared in the Cherubim, over the gate of Eden, as a flaming sword; and to Abraham as a flame of fire; to Moses as a fire in the bush at Horeb; and to the whole assembly of the people at Sinai, when he descended upon the mountain in fire.
Moses himself told them that their God was a consuming fire, which was reechoed more then once; and thence the Jews were weak enough to worship the material substance, in lieu of the invisible and eternal God. Zoroaster succeeded in persuading them to enclose their sacred fire altars in covered towers; because, being on elevated and exposed hills, the fire was liable to be extinguished by storms. These were circular buildings, covered with domes, having small openings at the top to let out the smoke. God was supposed to reside in the sacred flame, and it was never permitted to be extinguished.
We may here pause in our description of the Persian worship of the flame to recite the following: -
"A Jew entered a Parsee temple and beheld the sacred fire. 'What!' said he to the priest, 'do you worship the fire?' 'Not the fire,' answered the priest, 'it is to us an emblem of the sun and of his genial heat.' 'Do you then worship the sun as your God? 'asked the Jew. 'Know ye not that this luminary also is but a work of the Almighty Creator?' 'We know it,' replied the priest, 'but the uncultivated man requires a sensible sign in order to form a conception of the Most High, and is not the sun, the incomprehensible source of light, an image of the invisible being who blesses and preserves all things? 'Do you people, then, 'rejoined the Israelite, 'distinguish the type from the original? They call the sun their God, and, descending even from this to a baser object, they kneel before an earthly flame! Ye amuse the outward but blind the inward eye; and while ye hold to them the earthly, ye draw from the heavenly light! Thou shall not make unto thyself any image or likeness.' 'How do you designate the Supreme Being?' asked the Parsee. 'We call him Jehovah Adonai; that is, the Lord, who is, who was, and who will be,' answered the Jew. 'Your appellation is grand and sublime,' said the Parsee, 'but it is awful too.' A Christian then drew nigh and said, 'We call him Father!' The Pagan and the Jew looked at each other and said, 'Here is at once an image and a reality; it is a word of the heart.' Therefore they all raised their eyes to Heaven, and said, with reverence and love, 'Our Father,' and they took each other by the hand, and all three called one another 'brother.' "
This is Freemasonry!
We now resume our sketch of the Mysteries.
The building, in which was placed the sacred fire, represented the universe, and the fire which perpetually burned in the center was the symbol of the sun.
Pococke, "Specimen and Historiae Arabicae," informs us that Zoroaster remodeled the Mysteries; and to accomplish this, he retired to a circular cave or grotto in the mountains of Bokhara. This cave he ornamented with a profusion of symbols and astronomical decorations, and dedicated to the Mediator Mithr-As, sometimes denominated the invisible Deity. That the knowledge of astronomy, in that region and early date, was very extensive is well to authors generally. Pliny says that "Belus," who was grandson of Ham, "inventor fuit sideralis scientiae."
That Mithras was considered by the Persians to be the Supreme Deity, we have, "Mithras, the first god among th Persians" - from Hesychius in Greek (according to Cudworth's Intel. Sys.). "They were so deeply impressed," says Plu. Isid. et Osir, "with this amiable characteristic of their god, that they denominated every person who acted as a mediator between contending parties, Mithras."
They say he was born or produced from a rock-hewn cave. A splendid gem of great luster. which represented the sun, was placed in the center of the roof of the cavern; the planets were also placed in order around this gem in settings of gold on a ground of azure. The zodiac was chased in gold, having the constellations of Leo and Taurus, with a sun and moon emerging from their backs, in beaten gold. We are told by Diodorus Siculus that "the tomb of Osymandyas in Egypt was surrounded with a broad circle of beaten gold, three hundred and sixty-five cubits in circumference, which represented he days in the year." (note this, and the "starry decked heaven" of the father, or Noah, riding in safety in the ark; for Noah was the sun, and the bull was the acknowledged symbol of the ark. Hyde (del Rel. vet. Pers.) says that the Mogul emperors use this device on their coins; sometimes Leo is used for the Bull.
Our limits forbid any farther description of this cave or grotto, which had every appliance for the workings necessary for initiation, with the most elaborate machinery imaginable.
To give himself the proper credit with the people, Zoroaster(Ruse of the Stars) professed to have been favored with a celestial vision, taken up into the abode of the Most High, - which was evidently assumed by him in imitation of the interview between Moses and the Almighty in the Mount Sinai, - and permitted to hold converse with the Awful Being face to face, who, he said, was encircled by a bright and perpetual fire; that a system of pure worship had been revealed to him, which was ordered to be communicated only to those who possessed the virtue to resist the allurements of the world, and would devote their lives to the study of philosophy and contemplation of the Deity and his works.
The fame of Zoroaster spread throughout the world. All those who desire to obtain a knowledge of the philosophy taught by him resorted to the Mithratic grotto to be initiated. From the most distant regions came many who wished to learn of Zoroaster. Pythagoras, who traveled into all countries to learn philosophy, is said to have gone to Persia to be initiated into the Mysteries of Mithras.
"To prepare the candidate for initiation, many required, with water, fire, and honey. He passed forty days(life begins at 40) - some say eighty days - of probation, and ended with fifty days' fast. These were all endured in the recesses of a cavern, perpetual silence, secluded from all society, and confined in cold and nakedness, in hunger, and stripes, and with cruel tortures. We my be sure that in some instances these were attended with fatal effects. When one died under these cruel inflictions and rigid penances, his body was thrown into a deeper cavern and he was never more heard of. According to a Christian writer, in the fifth century A.D., 'the Christians of Alexandria, having discovered a cavern that had been consecrated to Mithras, resolved to explore it; when, to their astonishment, the principal thing they found in it was a great quantity of human skulls and other bones of men who had been thus sacrificed.'
'Those who survived these severe tests of endurance became eligible to the highest honors and dignities, and received a degree of veneration equal to that which was paid to the supernal deities. The successful probationer was brought forth into the cavern of initiation, where he entered on the point of a sword presented to his naked left breast, by which he was slightly wounded, and then he was virtually prepared for the approaching ceremony. He was crowned with olive branches. The olive, in the Mysteries, commemorative of the olive branch brought by the dove to Noah, was the propitious omen that the patriarch and family would speedily emerge from the gloom of the ark to the light of day; so to the candidate, that he would be able to exclaim, 'I have escaped from evil; I have found deliverance.' The priests of Mithras, by a like allusion, were called Hierocoraces, or sacred Ravens, and the oracular priestesses of Hammon, Peleiades, or Doves; while, in consequence of the close connection of the dove and olive, a particular species of the olive was called Columbas.
"He was anointed with oil of ban, which is the Balsm of Bezoin, and clothed with enchanted armor by his guide, who represented Simorgh, a monstrous griffin, whose name indicates that it is of the size of thirty birds, and appears to have been a species of eagle, in said to correspond in some respects with the idea of the phoenix. The candidate was introduced into an inner chamber, where was purified with fire and water, and then passed through the SEVEN STAGES of Initiation, which is represented as a high ladder, with seven steps or gates. From the top of this ladder he beheld a deep and dangerous vault, and a single false step might dash him to instant destruction, which was an emblem of those infernal regions through which he was about to pass. As he passed through the gloomy cavern he saw the sacred fire, which at intervals would flash into its recesses and illuminate his path, sometimes from beneath his feet, and again, descending from above upon his head in a broad sheet. Amidst all this, distant yelling of beasts of prey, the roaring of lions, howling of wolves, and barking of dogs, would greet his ears. Then being enveloped in darkness profound, he would not know wither to turn for safety, his attendant would rush him forward, maintaining an unbroken silence, towards the place whence the sounds proceeded, and suddenly a door would be open and he would find himself in this den of wild beasts lighted only by a single lamp. Being exhorted to have courage by his conductor, he would be immediately attacked by the initiated, who, in the forms of the several animals, and amidst great uproars and howlings, would endeavor to overwhelm him with alarm, and he would seldom escape unhurt, however bravely he might defend himself.
"Hurried from this scene into another cell, he was agin shrouded in darkness. Silence profound succeeded, and with cautious step he was conducted onward to encounter other dangers. A rumbling noise is heard in a distant cavern, which became louder as he advanced, when the thunder appeared to rend the solid rocks, and the continued flashes of lightning enabled him to observe the flitting shades of avenging genii, who appeared to threaten with summary destruction those who invaded the privacy of their peculiar abode. These scenes continued until the strength and endurance of the candidate being nearly exhausted, he was conveyed into another apartment, where a great illumination was suddenly introduced, and his strength permitted to recruit, and melodious music soothed his outraged feelings.
"Resting for a time in this apartment, the elements of those secrets were explained, and all of which were more fully developed when his initiation was completed. When sufficiently prepared to proceed, a signal was given by his guide, and three priest immediately appeared; one of them cast a serpent into his bosom, as a symbol of regeneration. A private door being now opened, howlings and lamentations were heard, and he beheld in every revolting form the torments of the damned in Hades. He was then conducted through other dark passages, and after having successfully passed the labyrinth of six spacious vaults, connected with tortuous galleries, each having a narrow portal, and having been triumphantly borne through all these difficulties and dangers by the exercise of fortitude and perseverance, the doors of the Sacellum, or seventh vault, were thrown open, and the darkness changed to light.
"In conformity with these seven subterranean caverns, the Persians held the doctrine of seven classes of demons. First, Ahriman, the chief; second, the spirits who inhabit the most distant regions of the air; third, those who traverse the dense and stormy regions which are nearest the earth, but still at an immeasurable distance; fourth, the malignant and unclean spirits, who hover over the surface of the earth; fifth, the spirits of the 'vasty deep,' which they agitate with storms and tempests; sixth, the subterranean demons who dwell in charnel vaults and caverns, termed Ghouls, who devours the corrupted tenants of the grave, and excite earthquakes and convulsions in the globe; and seventh, the spirits who hold a solid reign of darkness in the center of the earth (vide Maur. Ind. Ant., Vol. IV. p. 642). From this doctrine probably emanated the Mohammedan belief in seven hells, or stages, of punishment, in the infernal regions; and seven heavens, in the highest which the Table of Fate is suspended and guarded from demons, lest they should change or corrupt anything thereon. Its length is so great, as is the space between heaven and earth; its breadth equal to the distance from the east to the west; and it is made of one pearl. The divine pen was created by the finger of God; that is also of pearls, and of such length and breadth that a swift horse could scarcely gallop round it in five hundred years. It is so endowed that self moved, it writes all things, past, present, and to come. Light is its ink; and the language which it uses only the angels can understand."
The seven hells of the Jewish Rabbies were founded on the seven names of hell contained in their Scriptures.
"The progress of the candidate through the seven stages of initiation was in a circle, referring to the course of the planets round the sun; or more probably, the apparent motion of the sun; which is accomplished by a movement from east to west by the south; in which course every candidate in Masonry should be conducted. The candidate was then admitted into the spacious cavern already described, which was the grotto of Elysium, which was brilliantly illuminated and shone with gold and precious stones. Here was seated the Archimagus on the east, on a throne of gold, having a crown decorated with myrtle-boughs and clothed in a tunic of cerulean color, and around him were arranged the Presules and dispensers of the Mysteries. He was received with congratulations, and having vowed to keep secret the rites of Mithras, the sacred WORDS were given to him, of which the ineffable TETRACTYS, or name of God, was the chief."
He was now entitled to investiture and to receive instruction. Amulets and talismans were presented to him, he was taught how to construct them, that he might be exempt from all dangers to his person and his property. Explanations were made to him of every emblem which had been displayed, every incident by which he had been surprised; and all were turned to a moral purpose by means of disquisitions, which tended to inspire him with a strong attachment to the Mysteries and to those from whom he had received them. He learned that the benign influence of the superior light which was imparted by initiation irradiates the mind with rays of the Divinity and inspires it with knowledge which can be given in no other manner. He was taught to adore the consecrated fire, which was the gift of the Deity, as his visible residence. The throne of the Deity was believed to be in the sun, which was the Persian Paradise; but was equally supposed to be in the fire. In the Bhagavad-Gita, Krishna, says, "God is the fire of the altar." He was taught the existence of two independent and equally powerful principles, the one essentially good, the other irreclaimably evil; and this was the cosmogony: Ormisda, the supreme source of light and truth, created the worlds at six different periods. First, he made the heavens; second, the waters; third, the earth; fourth, trees and plants; fifth, animals; sixth, man, or rather a being compounded of a man and a bull.
To counteract the effect of this renunciation of virtue,, another pure being was created, compounded, as before, of a man and a bull, called Taschter, or Mithras, by whose intervention, with the assistance of three associates, a flood of waters was produced to purify the earth, by prodigious showers of rain, each drop as large as the head of an ox, which produced a general lustration. A tempestuous wind, which blew for three days in succession from the same quarter, dried the waters; and when they were completely subsided, a new germ was introduced, from which sprang the present race of mankind.
History of Freemasonry