The Birth of Zarathustra

Hear my word, O man, said I‘hua‘Mazda.623 Perceive my utterances in things that have been and that will be. Remember the lapse of time; open your understanding to the substance of the affairs of the ancients.

Do not quibble over names, said I‘hua‘Mazda. Nor over places, nor words. All places are my places; all words, my words; all names, my names. All truth is my speech. All fact is my voice. By my commandments all the nations of the earth shall be made to know me and my works.

The Master of the I‘huans, Samati, High God of heaven, whose home was in Mount Vibhraj, a heaven created in heaven, a thousand miles high.

I‘hua‘Mazda said: How shall they know me, I, Holy Mazda? They are sealed up; their souls blind as death. Behold, the king, high ruler of Oas, king So-qi; valorous with a strong sword. So-qi! So-qi! I call, but he does not hear. I go to the temple; it is closed against God, I‘hua‘Mazda!

Where are the altars of your God? The place of the holy dance. So-qi does not hear. None can hear the Voice of I‘hua‘Mazda. Angels and Gods are rejected with disdain.624

O man, can you measure swords with your Creator? If only you could open the curtains of heaven, and see! What does your little learning amount to? Shall a chick that is not hatched discourse on the philosophy of life?

Behold, O man, I have told you that the natural senses (corporeal senses) cannot understand spiritual things. But I will reach you, you vain city, Oas. You, king So-qi! Your sword shall fall from the hilt; your mandates shall be like a breath blown away.

Hear me, O man, said I‘hua‘Mazda: I opened the door a little, so that you might learn a little about the stars. And now that you are puffed up; vain boaster of your knowledge, you slam the door in the face of your Master!

You had gone in darkness; a driveler625 to familiar spirits; lazy and longing to die. Then I said to you: Behold, it is a good world; go, then, and be wise. Quickly you were changed; bewailing the stupidity of the ancients. How much better are you than them? Because I delivered you from darkness, you kill my prophets.

I‘hua‘Mazda said: I make you free, O man, but you deny my person. When I suffer you to fall in bondage, you cry: O God, my God! When I deliver you into freedom, you go with a sword and spear to lay your fellows in death.

Hear me, O man, in what I have done for you, said I‘hua‘Mazda. Of A‘su I cleft a rib626 and stood it up, saying: Be a man, upright in likeness of your God. And my voice made you––what you are, but were not, proves I am. I said: Save your seed, O man. I‘hins stood aloof from the Asu‘ans, and were holy; but your brother dwelt with A‘su and brought forth to destruction.

Be admonished, said I‘hua‘Mazda. I struck the earth and broke it like an egg is broken; for I would cut loose the bound in heaven. Then all the tribes of men cried out: There is a Mazda! An All Power Unseen!

In those days when an army captured a large city, slaying the people, they carried back the spoil to So-qi, king of Oas, capital of Par‘si‘e, and received rewards according to the amount of plunder. The wars were between the different nations of I‘huans. The sacred people, the I‘hins, had nothing to be plundered; and they were unmolested.

I said: Whoever lays up treasures in this world, shall find no peace! But you have built so great a city, you hope nothing can break it down. Now I will show you, O king: Your city shall prove to be the weakest of cities. I will raise up one man out of the seed of the I‘hins; and Oas, the mighty city, shall fall before his hand.

I‘hua‘Mazda, God of heaven, sent certain loo‘is, highly knowledgeable angels, to look around, and afterward he called them and asked what they saw. They said: Work! Work! I‘hua‘Mazda said: Work it shall be! Go, you holy masters of generations, down to mortals close about the city of Oas. And search out seed of the I‘hin race, and by inspiration lead them to the fairest daughters of I‘hua, in the city of Oas; and they shall be tempted, and soon a quickened fruit shall ripen in the city, sons and daughters. Again go to the I‘hins, and by inspiration bring others and have them tempted by the improved fruit. And yet again repeat this method, and in the sixth generation you shall raise up a son having the gifts of su‘is and sar‘gis, and you shall call him Zarathustra.

The loo‘is, the angels who were guardians over mortals for such purpose, went and accomplished what had been commanded by God. And the child‘s mother‘s name was Too‘che, and the father‘s name Lo‘ab. Too‘che herself was su‘is born, and before she conceived, was obsessed by Sa‘moan, an angel; and during the time of maternity she was not suffered627 to wake from her unconscious trance. And by the loo‘is, her soul was often taken to high heaven (etherea) to see its glories, and then returned to inhabit her own body. Thus, the child was born of All Light, and at that same time the obsession fled, and Too‘che proclaimed within the city that no man was father to the child, but that she conceived from All Light, believing so, because she was unconscious during gestation.

The learned men cast the horoscope, but found nothing in the stars to alarm the kings, found nothing to support the maiden‘s story. The loo‘is went before God, saying: Behold, a child is born, capable of All Light. Then God spoke, saying: I will come; go and lead the way.

When the child was still a nursling, I‘hua‘Mazda spoke through the child, while its own spirit slept. Then again came the learned men, chief of whom was Asha, son of Zista, learned in a thousand stars and all living creatures and in the bones of animals no longer living. So Asha spoke to Too‘che, saying: Can your suckling talk? And God answered him, saying:

Not the child, but I, I‘hua‘Mazda. Do not think, O man, these small lips utter words prompted by this child‘s soul. I come to stop the cruel hand of war; to make man know there is an Unseen Master. Behold, this child has no sex! He is an Yeshuah (Iesu), a passionless birth.

To which Asha said: Can it be this woman has a man hidden under her cloak, and hopes to evade the just punishment of the king! O harlot! You who told a shameful tale of conception without a man! Your lies are now added to others to make good the first. Out of the city, wretch! or you shall be stoned to death, and your child with you!

Too‘che made no answer, except with a flood of tears. Then I‘hua‘Mazda spoke, saying: Hold your hand on these lips; and perceive how I gesticulate628 with these little hands. Yes, take the little form in your own arms.

Then Asha feared, but wanted to hide his fear and so took the child, while I‘hua‘Mazda spoke, saying: O man, if only you could behold the spirit, and would temper your judgment with patience and wisdom!

Asha said: If in truth you are the Mazda of the I‘huan race, why have you come in such questionable weakness? What can a child do? Can you wield a sword with these little hands? I would have hoped to see a God come in stronger shape, and in majesty of a thousand angels, winged, and in flames of fire!

I‘hua‘Mazda said: My wisdom is not man‘s wisdom; my weapons, not arrows and sharp swords. What is great in man‘s judgment is as nothing to me; what is as nothing to man, I will make great, for I shall overturn this mighty city. Because I come in peace and love, the city shall be divided, man against man, and bloody war run riot in this walled kingdom.

Asha said: To what end have you come? For if it is true you are a God born in this questionable shape, you have some greater motive than to overthrow the town. I charge you, then, most precocious youth, tell me what your purpose is, so justice may be done?

I‘hua‘Mazda said: The cities of man are as nothing in my sight; I come to teach man of other worlds, and that the souls of the righteous shall live forever; I come to deliver man from darkness into everlasting light.

Asha said: Your words are wisdom, or else my sudden surprise has affected my judgment. I will go now, so that I may reflect on this wonder. Tomorrow I will come again. Keep this matter private. For if it is known that I, of such high estate, have talked with tolerance regarding spiritual things, I will be doomed to death.

When Asha had gone, I‘hua‘Mazda spoke to Too‘che, the virgin mother, saying: Take your child away and hide yourself, lest the king has you and your child put to death. So Too‘che departed with her child, and hid in another part of the city.

Now Asha went directly to So-qi, the king, and related what had transpired. When he had finished, the king said: According to the histories of the ancients, when a God appeared among mortals, there were signs and miracles. You have told me only words. Go, therefore again to the child and say: The king desires a miracle.

Asha returned the next day, but lo and behold, woman and child were gone, and not one of the neighbors knew where. Asha said: If I go before the king with this story, he will have me slain as an inventor of lies. So he did not return to the king.

But where Too‘che and her child dwelt, there came a maker of songs, by name Choe‘jon, and he spoke to the virgin, saying: Where is the child? She answered: He sleeps in the rack of hay; I will fetch him. So she brought the child from his bed of new hay; and straws stuck to the baby‘s mantle, and these straws had no roots.

I‘hua‘Mazda spoke through the child while its own spirit slept, saying: I came to you, O Choe‘jon; I brought you here, for you shall frame songs about the virgin‘s baby. Choe‘jon was frightened, but nevertheless he said: Can it be true, in this enlightened age! A miracle! Shall I talk to you, O child? Then I‘hua‘Mazda said:

Behold, you do not speak to the child, but to I‘hua‘Mazda. Take these straws to your writing-box and plant them in new earth, and in one day they shall grow and bear ripe wheat. So Choe‘jon departed and planted the straws, and in one day, they grew and bore ripe wheat.

Choe‘jon had previously sung his songs before the king, and so had permission to approach the court; and he went and told the king of the miracle. The king said: The philosopher, Asha, told me about this child, and I sent him for a miracle, but he does not return. Now you have come and said: Behold, a miracle! || What value is a miracle, except to those who witness it? Shall your king accept a thing because of belief? Is not belief the fruit of darkness? Go, therefore, again to the child and bring it before me, so I may see with my own eyes.

Choe‘jon returned to the place, but lo and behold, virgin and child were gone; nor did the neighbors know where. But she was concealed in another part of the city. And now there came before her one Os‘shan, who was weeping because of the apparent death of his son. To him I‘hua‘Mazda spoke, saying: Do not weep, for I have healed your son and also given sight to your daughter.

Os‘shan trembled at such words coming from the lips of a child, and he ran away; and he found his son healed, and his daughter restored to sight. In his joy he returned to the place, but the virgin and child were gone. Os‘shan was hostler629 to the king, and capable of audience, and so he went and told the king of his good fortune.

The king said: Asha, the philosopher, told me a fine story of this child, but when I sent him for information he did not return. Then came Choe‘jon, the maker of songs, telling me what he had witnessed. I sent him to have mother and child brought before me, but he did not return. Now you come with tale of a miracle, like those told in the dark ages. Go, therefore, and search the city over till you find this wonder, and bring him before me.

On the next day another man, the king‘s brother‘s son, came before the king, saying: Today I have seen such a wonder that it would have been marvelous in the days of angels and Gods. Behold, a little child spoke to me such words of philosophy that they made me tremble. And yet, O king, you know I am no coward. My house is hung with a hundred scalps. Yes, and this child already proclaims itself Zarathustra in communion with the God I‘hua‘Mazda! To me it said: Why do you kill the sons and daughters of your God? Do not think that your many scalps are a glory before heaven. Behold, I am stronger with my little finger than So-qi, your king.

So-qi, the king, said: Enough! Unless this mother and child are brought at once before me, so I may see the truth of these wonders, every male child in Oas shall be cast into fire! || The king‘s brother‘s wife had a child, and the son‘s wife had a child, and they foresaw that the decree of the king would affect them dearly; so many went forth searching for Too‘che and Zarathustra.

But the spirit, I‘hua‘Mazda, had previously directed the mother to go beyond the gates, and led her far off into the Forest of Goats, where the tribes of Listians lived by fishing and hunting, and on goats‘ milk. I‘hua‘Mazda talked to the virgin, saying: Twenty years you shall dwell in the forest, fearing nothing, for your God will provide for you. And when your son has grown to be larger and stronger than other men, behold, your God will manifest for the redemption of the races of men who are hunted and slain for the glory of the kings.

So the virgin and her son dwelt in the Forest of Goats until Zarathustra was a large man and grown to maturity, and his stature was equal to three ordinary men; nor could any number of men lay him on his back. But because of his gentleness like a young goat, the tribes of the forest called him the Lamb of God, signifying, strength and goodwill.630

When So-qi, the king, issued the decree to have Zarathustra found and brought before him or else all the male infants of Oas were to be slain, the Lords sent travail on the king‘s wife and on the king‘s daughter, wife of Asha, the philosopher, and the two women gave birth that same day to two sons, a month before their time, but nevertheless to life and strength and beauty. Now, according to the laws of Oas, a king could not rescind or change his own decrees, for he had assumed the position of infallibility, in consequence of which, he had doomed to death kin of his kin, flesh of his flesh.

Accordingly, after search had been made in vain to find Zarathustra, the king repented of his decree, but knew no way to justify a change of commandment. Asha, hearing of this, came out of concealment, saying to himself: Now I will go to the king and hold him to his decree, even demanding that he slay me also. So Asha came before So-qi, and after saluting, said: O king, I have heard of your strait,631 and have come to you so that I may counsel you.

The king was angry, and he said: Asha, my friend, hear your king: You came before me, relating a marvelous story regarding an infant son of the virgin who says she never knew a man. Now, according to the laws of the City of the Sun, any man stating as truth that which he cannot prove, is already adjudged to death. Shall the law be unfulfilled, because, in fact, you are near me in blood?

Asha said: Most assuredly, O king, the laws must be carried out. Are they not the all highest? For it follows that if man is the all highest, then his laws, above all else, must never be set aside. Therefore, you shall have me slain. Do not think I come before you to plead an excuse, in order to save myself; rather let all men perish than allow the king‘s decrees to go amiss.

The king said: You are wise, O Asha. The laws cannot err, for they are the standard by which to judge all else. And he who has risen to be king stands, by nature, the infallible highest of all things. History has proven this. But hear me yet, for you have wisdom from the movements of the sun and moon and stars: The king, being the all highest, how can he be bound? Can he not decree new decrees forever?

Asha said: I will not deceive you, O king! I know you are not arguing for me, but for your own infant son, and for your daughter‘s infant son. Nor have I come before you in prowess632 (to save you from your decrees), although I love life. But here is the dilemma: By changing one law, you admit that all laws made by man may also need changing; which is to say, wisdom is folly.633 How, then, shall the judge try any man by the laws? Is it not setting up error in order to find truth?634

The king said: You reason well. This morning, in my walk in the market gardens, when the soldiers were spreading the scalps of their enemies in the sun to dry, I wondered whether or not, in ages to come, the weaker nations and tribes of men might attempt to justify their right to life. So, if the kings admit to fallibility in their decrees and laws, then no man can foresee the end; for even slaves, servants and women will rise up against the laws, and claim their right to life. How, then, would the earth be large enough for all the people? Yet, for what reason, O Asha, comes this heartache of mine against killing my own son?

Asha said: What are your sympathies, O king? If you were to justify the escape of your child‘s death for sympathy‘s sake, would my wife and my children not justify their sympathy in desiring me to live? No, sympathy is the enemy of law and justice; it is the evil in our natures that cries out for evil. The laws must be maintained; the decrees must be maintained; the king‘s word must be maintained. No man must permit his judgment to go higher than the law, or the decree, or the king.

Asha said: This is the City of the Sun. If this city goes back on its own laws, what will the tributary cities do? Will they not also begin to disrespect the laws, or say: Perhaps the laws are in error? This will result in anarchy. To one purpose only can a great city be maintained. To divide the purposes and judgment of men is to scatter to the four winds the glory of our civil liberty. Was it not disrespect of the laws, combined with superstition, that caused the nations of ancients to perish?

The king said: What shall I do, O Asha? My son has smiled in my face!

Asha said: You shall send me and your son and your daughter‘s son, and all male infants to the slaughter pen, and have us all beheaded and cast into the fire. Otherwise, it will come true what the infant Zarathustra has said: Behold, my hand shall strike the city of Oas, and it shall fall like a heap of straw.

Do not think, O king, I am superstitious and fear such threats; but this I perceive: Permit the laws to be impeached, and every man in Oas will set himself up to interpret the laws to be wrong and himself right. And your officers will rebel against you on all sides, and the glory of your kingdom will perish. ||

After the city had been searched for thirty days, and the virgin and child still not found, the king appointed a day for the slaughter, according to his former decree; and there were ninety thousand male infants adjudged to death, the king‘s son among the rest.

While these matters were maturing, the Lord went to Choe‘jon, and inspired him to make songs about Zarathustra, the infant who was stronger than a king; and also songs about the decree of death to the ninety thousand infant sons of Oas. And the beauty of the songs, together with the nature of these proceedings, caused the songs to be sung in the streets day and night; and the songs, in satire, approved of the horrors, so that even the king could not interdict the singing.

When the day arrived for the slaughter of the male infants, no more than a thousand mothers appeared at the place of execution with their infants, the others having risen in the previous night and departed out of the gates, more than eighty-nine thousand mothers!

When the king went to the place of execution, having set aside the day as a holiday, and finding only a thousand infants present, he inquired the reason, and, having been told, he said: Can it be that mothers love their offspring more than they respect the decrees of the king? Asha was standing near, having stripped himself ready for execution, and he answered the king, saying:

Because they love their offspring, is it not the love of the flesh? And does the law not stand above all flesh? In this matter, then, because they have evaded the law, they have also adjudged themselves to death.

Then came Betraj, the king‘s wife, bringing the infant. Betraj said: Here is your son, O king, ready for the sacrifice. Asha reasons well; there must be an All Highest, which never errs; which is the law of the king. Take your flesh and blood and prove your decrees. What! Why hesitate? If you swerve the tiniest bit, then you shall open the door for all men to find an excuse against the law. Does the sun not blight a harvest when he will? Yes, and strike dead our most beloved? Are you not descended from the Sun Gods? Who will obey the laws if you, yourself, do not?

The king said: Behold, it is yet early morning; let the officers go fetch all who have escaped beyond the walls, and both mothers and children shall be put to death. Till then, let the proceedings be suspended. || Now, a vast multitude had congregated, anxious to witness the slaughter; and when the king suspended matters, there went up cries of disappointment. And many said: When a thing touches the king, he is a coward.

The king departed for his palace, leaving Asha standing stripped for the execution. And the multitude cried out: Asha is more like a king than So-qi. Let us make him king. (As to) King So-qi! We will not have a sheep for a king! || And none could restrain them, or be heard above their noise; and they ran after the king and slew him with stones, and they made Asha King of the Sun. And not one infant was slain according to the decrees.

God said: Do not think, O man, that things happen without a cause, or that all things are left to chance. In my works I plan the way ahead of time, even more carefully than a captain lays siege to a city. Before Zarathustra was born I sent out ashars to choose my personages. Do not think that Asha made his own arguments; but by virtue of the presence of my ashars, whom he did not see, he spoke and behaved in my commandments, all the while not knowing it. And it was the same with the king‘s wife; my angels also inspired her to speak before the king. And those who fled out of the city, were inspired by my hosts of angels.

God said: Yet with the king‘s decree I had no part, for I foresaw he would do this of his own will; and with the multitude in slaying the king I had no part, for I saw they would do this on their own account. Nor would the multitude hear my voice, even though I had spoken to every man‘s soul; for in them tetracts were the ascendant power.

God said: The multitude slew the king because he had gone so far from me he no longer heeded me. And I made Asha king because he came so near me, that my power was with him through my ashars.