Intersubjectivity and Multiple Realities in Zarathushtra’s Gathas

Olga Louchakova-Schwartz 1
  • 1 School of Theology, Berkeley, and University of California at Davis,, California, USA

Abstract

The Gathas, a corpus of seventeen poems in Old Avestan composed by the ancient Iranian poet-priest Zarathushtra (Zoroaster) ca. 1200 B.C.E., is the foundation document of Zoroastrian religion. Even though the dualistic axiology of the Gathas has been widely noted, it has proved very difficult to understand the meaning and genre of the corpus or the position of Zarathushtra’s ideas with regard to other religious philosophies. Relying on recent advances in translation and decryptions of Gathic poetry, I shall here develop a philosophical interpretation of the Gathas, including, as shall be discussed here in detail, explication of the revelation he reports in the poem known as Yasna 30. I argue that, similarly to Marx, Henry, and Schutz, Zarathushtra connects social criticism with an original philosophy of (inter)subjectivity and existential reflection, placing his account in the context of a fully developed metaphysics which includes the human-divine sharing of mental properties. I show that in order to accommodate this complicated problematic, Zarathushtra uses the vehicle of multiple realities. Reflecting the spontaneity of life, the dynamics of various ontological modes in the text create a reference to subjectivity. A description of the dream in Yasna 30 is sufficiently within the limits of possibility for a dream experience, and thereby delivers three original phenomenological reductions. The reductions initiate a genetic account of the phenomenalization of invisible impulses which give rise to moral choices, and define the human-divine relationship. The opposing moral choices open into a reverse axiological intentionality in the sphere of intersubjectivity, and are said to plot life for the rightful and lifelessness for the wrongful. It can be concluded that Zarathushtra’s theism and views of the social world are “the first philosophy”, with a unique and original phenomenological ontology of intersubjectivity at its core.

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