Zarathustra, a legendary Persian prophet, was an early believer of monotheism – and many of his teachings have striking resemblances to modern Christian beliefs. Hardly anything is known about his life, especially when he lived. Ancient Greeks thought he lived 6000 years before Plato. Modern scholars think he lived in the fourteenth century BCE.
In a vision, Zarathustra was ordered by a spirit named Good Thought to preach against the bloody sacrifices of his people, and to give aid to the poor. Gradually he came to believe that Good Thought had been sent by the supreme god Ahuramazda, which can be translated as ‘Wise Lord’. Zarathustra preached that the Wise Lord had created ‘the world, mankind and all good things in it’ through his holy spirit, Spenta Mainyu.
The rest of the universe was created by six other spirits, the Amesha Spentas – or Holy Immortals. The order of this sevenfold creation, however, was threatened by The Lie. Good and evil spirits were fighting and mankind had to support the good spirits by avoiding lies, supporting the poor, and following other cult practices in order to speed up the inevitable victory of the good.
Zarathustra also warned of a Last Judgment. At the end of times, angels would lead all men and women across a narrow bridge, where they would be judged by Spenta Manyu ( a spirit described as a beautiful maiden). The friends of The Lie would fall into a large chasm of fire called Worst Existence. The followers of Zarathustra were to reach paradise, a place called House of Best Purpose.
The Avesta is the holy book of followers of Zarathustra, and the oldest material in it is called the Gatha’s. These hymns are believed to have been written by Zarathustra himself. Here is a sample:
Thee I conceived as holy, O Ahuramazda, when thy Good Thought appeared to me and asked me: 'Who art thou? And whose is thine allegiance?' [...] Then I answered: 'Zarathustra am I; to the false believers a forthright enemy, but to the righteous a mighty help and joy. [...] Thee I conceived as holy, O Ahuramazda, when thy Good Thought appeared to me. [...] A difficult thing it seemed to me, to spread thy faith among men, to do that which Thou didst say was best.