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Iranian Religions: Zoroastrianism
Philosophical Concept of
Zarathushtra, a visionary giant, must be credited as the father of modern philosophical thought and opinions. Through his poetic hymns he transmits the prophetic notions of his Divine Revelation, leaving behind words of profound psycho-social significance, which have triggered off an endless chain of philosophical discussions on the matters of the mind and human conscious senses over more than three and a half millennia.
The modern meaning of the word “Consciousness” is construed differently in different disciplines. For the philosophical purpose of this paper let us make the meaning simple. The most fundamental aspect of “Consciousness” is the capacity to sense existence and value. It is a notion that is recognised with the world around us and in our personal experience. It, naturally, follows on the appraisal that accompanies the experience of existence. The core sense of being “Conscious” involves a subjective condition of Access Consciousness, which occurs when we are able to access/to perceive through our senses the world around us in a generalised state of alertness or arousal. We are, then, able to respond /to imagine i.e. when we are not in deep sleep, in coma or under anaesthesia. Another form, a Phenomenal Consciousness occurs when we are aware that we have a subjective experience or feeling of phenomena/happenings/events around us. A third sense of (Objective) Consciousness is the awareness of our being in a conscious state.
Zarathushtra’s words impart a clear insight into the reality of being. He preaches that AHURA MAZDA - the COSMIC ever present / ever knowing / ever effective source of the most perfect goodness is the architect of CREATION. The created physical world ‘gaethya’ is comprised of Organic LIFE along with the lifeless inorganic matter. REALITY, to Zarathushtra, is a physical world (‘out there’), which truly exists as our personal presence on earth. It is a clear notion of a lively, pulsatile, thriving entity – our being/our body/our person/our Self (TANU), possessing the most superior (among all other pulsatile and moving creatures) thinking processes. Zarathushtra calls this conscious fullness of our sensual being - Jyati (our first life, which is on Earth/Mortal life - Yasna 32.5 and 46.8). Any other state of non-awareness (like that of a stone), non-event, non-experience, non-involvement, lifelessness, the very antithesis of life which is death, Zarathushtra calls Ajyati, (Yasna 30.4).
His amazing thoughts reveal, too, the existence of an Immaterial Inner Consciousness/the Spiritual Self/ the Soul (URVAN) which is complementary to the Material Physical Self (TANU). He has a firm conviction that the working of this Spirit of Consciousness of the Mental World helps to promote and enrich human existence of the Physical World (in a sense, an awakening to bridge the gap between mind and matter). The two, Tanu and Urvan, together constitute the composite INDIVIDUALITY, the most valuable uniqueness a person can have.
Such is the emotional fervour Zarathushtra goes through, while beseeching Ahura Mazda, that he is willing to give, among other dedications, the most supreme sacrifice of the life of his OWN SELF (TANVAS) - Yasna 33.14
Zarathushtra sees Individuality as the most fundamental aspect of reality. He bases this notion on the premise that Ahura Mazda has created humans capable of perfect goodness by conferring on us, each and every attribute of His perfect goodness with the power of decision making and choice.
Our earthly eventful and dynamic conscious being as a unit of Individuality, abounding in the fullness and the thrills of existence through all our senses, is a human birthright, which is to be enjoyed thoroughly with all our senses as joyous Ushtavants. He is mindful, too, that birthrights need to be experienced in a responsible manner.
Zarathustra, in his dialogue with Ahura Mazda, asks (in metaphoric terms) how best would he be able to EARN THE REWARD of the 10 senses (DASA ASPA) led by the mighty one - the illumined Mind (ARSHNAVAITI USHTREM) - to be able to EARN THE REWARD OF Best Existence - Yasna 44.18.
[Modern science says there are only 5 senses. Our Gathic concept of 10 senses appears more accurate. In addition to the 5 senses of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch there are also other 5 senses: - 1. A 6th sense (when we become suddenly aware of an impending occurrence); 2. A temperature sense (when we experience hot and cold feelings without touching); 3. A time sense (when we are aware of both the duration and the lack of time); 4. A sense of controlled movement (when we experience discomfort, if this is hampered and disease, if it is lost) and finally 5. An intuitive sense (when we experience an unexplained surge to do the right thing without reasoning) through an Inner Voice, which is the sum of Chisti (the Human Spirit) and Daena (the Human Conscience)]
Human Earthly existence experiences its spirit of Consciousness at three fulfilling levels: -
1. Individual /Self-Consciousness, 2. Collective/Communal Consciousness and Universal/Global Consciousness
INDIVIDUAL / SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS:
In Yasna 34.14 Zarathushtra talks of the precious reward of the rational thought (KHRATEUSH) we possess, which will lead us to an Illumined Mind if only we, as earthly mortals, were to follow the inspiration of Ahura Mazda’s divine attribute VOHU MANA.
In order to promote the advancement of intellect the Human Spirit induces a dynamic involvement in life matters through our rational thinking (Khratu), meaningful interaction (Shyaothna) and amicable speech (Hu-vacha). We are thus, consciously, able to fashion our own destiny.
This stands out in Yasna 48.4. “He who is determined to promote his thinking for better and for uplifting thoughts (or even for the worse and whatever is base), O Mazda, will by his own choice and wilful dedication fashion his interactions (SHYAOTHNA) meaningfully and his speech (VACHANGHA) amicably, so as to influence his own Inner Self (DAENAM) and guide him to his own destiny.”
Zarathushtra preaches that we humans, as part of the universe, must realise that our actions (Shyaothna) in real life are meant to be much more than just doing something. Our way of life, which is our relationships with people, with things, with ideas and with our surroundings, he advocates, need to be meaningful/ gainful/tangible experiences, since they are inextricably tied to our acting in harmony with the universe’s fundamental precepts of Asha. Each meaningful experience is a blend of all our senses involving accuracy of judgement, promptness of decision making, sharpness of self-control, agility, endurance and fairness. In other words, persistent involvement in the constant flux of life matters for the better (or even for the worse) is positive. Obviously, out of the chaos something positive is bound to emerge.
In Yasna 44.6 Zarathsuhtra says “Right-mindedness, acquired through meaningful experiences, is bound to advance the qualities of the Highest Order (ASHA), full of promise, too, of strength and of Good Thinking.”
In Yasna 43.2 Zarathushtra says that anyone seeking enlightenment “shall attain it through thy wish and Divine Spirit, O Mazda.”
Through complex interactions (precepts, thoughts and feelings) in our superior human brain a constant striving is set in motion to promote an integration of our Human Spirit, Chisti and our human Rational Intellect, Khratu.
Again, in Yasna 34.14 he further explains the ideal of those who strive to promote the integration of their human Spirit, Chisti with their earthly Rationality, KHRATU - “they best serve humanity”.
According to Zarathushtra there is no place at all for negative thought, inactivity or non-involvement in Human Consciousness. Conscious existence is, therefore, full of active intentions, which we can exert on the Universe, helping to convert the quantum possibility into actuality. His amazing vision offers something better for the future. He will have it no other way, since he sees nothing illusory in life.
In Yasna 28.1 Zarathsuhtra pleads: “Allow me to undergo meaningful interactions (SHYAOTHNA) worthy of the Ashavan that I may cultivate Rational Intellect (KHRATUM) with the Good Mind (Vangheush Manangho).”
Insight of Self-Knowledge:
We had previously noted how the Clear Insight of Self-Knowledge is acquired by the conscious integration of the Intellect (KHRATU) and the Human Spirit of Consciousness (CHISTI). In Yasna 31.16 Zarathushtra goes one step further to inquire how best this Clear Insight (HUDAANUSH) could be used in the daily life of the homestead, village, province and country for the attainment of the HIGHEST TRUTH (‘ASHAVAN’-hood) so as to become one with the Supreme.
To become ‘one with the Infinite’ on earth is to reach an exalted state of Conscious Ecstasy, which only the striving Ashavan, who has attained the highest level of Self-Knowledge, is justifiably entitled to
Yasna 43.8 reflects this sentiment. “Among the righteous I shall maintain the EXALTED STATE (RAFENO) of the ECSTACY of my INNER STRENGTH (AOJONGHVAT). Thus, may I share with you for all time the realisation of thy infinite strength.”
The purpose of this integration is to attain the ultimate state of Self-Knowledge attained by the Illumined Mind, which is a joyous feeling of integrative insight and understanding freedom of thought.
In Yasna 34.12 Zarathushtra implores Ahura Mazda to lead humans to Self-Knowledge (KHVAETUSH) through the rational thinking of Vohu Mano along the path of Asha.
Sharpness of Intellect, if not the quantity, and the inclination to practice it in daily life are also factors in the general make-up of Individuality. Zarathushtra, in his own diocese, ascribes three distinct levels of attainment of Self-Knowledge among his disciples. They are Khvaetu, the achievers of the highest grade, then come the Verezena, his lesser coworkers and finally, the Aryaman, his friends (which include the lowly Shepherds). Yet, he holds the achievers of all three levels in equal high esteem.
Yasna 53.4 points towards the high esteem Zarathushtra holds human intellect and human spirit in, irrespective of the level it is attained in. He declares “he has chosen the Faith of all who are seekers of Asha, from the HIGHEST ATTAINERS of Self-Knowledge (KHVAETAOVE) to the HUMBLE SHEPHERDS (VASTREBYO).”
The state of
In Yasna 31.7 Zarathsuhtra, with hands uplifted, entreats Ahura Mazda, “Who, but thou, through thy holy manthra, thy heavenly light and thy wisdom doth decree the creation of the Eternal Law of the Highest Order (ASHA) to maintain the exalted state of BEST CONSCIOUSNESS.”
COLLECTIVE /COMMUNAL CONSCIOUSNESS:
Vairya). It is itself influenced by other units of Individual Self-Consciousness and by units of Communal Consciousness.
InYasna 43.7 Zarathsuhtra recognises Ahura Mazda as a divine being when he realises that the Creator’s attribute of Vohu Mana has been imparted unto him (and, indeed, unto all humans). “What path doth thou delineate when doubt arises from gain for self (SELF-INTEREST) as opposed to an overall gain to thy (THWAHU) Social Environment (GAETHAHU)?” he asks.
Such Social/Communal Consciousness stems from our acting together in co-operation and synergy over a period of time, resulting in the Evolution of a common structure of society or a common goal. As time passes, a large common field of interest evolves among the individuals in the group.
An altruistic impulse of mutual trust, harmony and general confidence created by this interaction in the minds, literally, emanates and radiates with very strong emotional feelings and effects. During the earliest primitive Indo-Aryan nomadic times such Communal pockets was certainly of mutual benefit to the whole wandering tribe for the very survival. Before the primitive humans learnt to create fire by friction it was, naturally, an obligation to protect the embers of fire for the general benefit of the group. The presence of Fire gave comfort, heat, light and help in cooking. Thus, those who possessed the ability to create and maintain fire, as it were, acquired power.
Self-Consciousness of individuals and Communal Consciousness of groups, through generations of interaction, will continue to contribute to the build-up of a reservoir of Universal Consciousness. Such thinking, through evolutionary (not revolutionary or imposed) activities and experiences, is able to guide humans (individually and collectively) into a worthwhile and dynamic existence. If we observe closely, it is really the outward manifestation of the total spirit of all humanity - Universal Consciousness, the World Spirit that touches us.
UNIVERSAL / GLOBAL CONSCIOUSNESS:
This notion clearly bears out in Yasna 53.3 “…..and therefore listen to your own Rational Thoughts (KHRATHWA) and reflect through your own Right-minded feelings (ARMAITI) to be able to gain the most CLEAR INSIGHT (HUDAANU).
Since Consciousness is a property of the Cosmos (the Universe) it penetrates everything. Each living entity is able to draw from the reservoir of Universal Consciousness for its own welfare and, subconsciously, itself leaves a contribution for the general build up and progressive growth of the silent reservoir. The recipient (an individual or a group) of such feelings of the aura of Universal Consciousness becomes aware of its own existence and of the existences around it. The recipient then, leaves behind results (traces of human gratefulness) for mutual benefit to all in society. There is here also the conviction of a purposeful Evolution that will cause a cumulative growth towards a better world, the beneficiaries being the future generations of humanity.
It augurs well for the future of humanity and the preservation of human consciousness on the good earth (a sort of survival of the species). There is, here, a clear pointer towards the Spirit of all Humankind, which will continue after material/physical life ceases to exist - a strong basis of the acceptance that after death an Immaterial Self (Urvan) can, in a manner of speaking, outlive the Physical Self (Tanu).
purpose of Evolution:
What happens to the individual moral side by which we guard our identities? According to Zarathushtra there are two moral imperatives, one a pre-supposition of the other; first - an openness to change and the second - the promotion of Asha, the Ideal State of harmonious existence. As we have seen before in Yasna 48.4, Zarathushtra considers even “a change for the worse” far better than no change at all. Absence of change would only bring about stagnation. That alone brings us into harmony with the essential nature of the Universe and ourselves. Mary Boyce puts it vividly, “Zarathushtra was the first to conceive of such a thing….. the ‘end of time’….and, with it an end of birth and death, destruction and renewal - a cessation of all change”.
It is quite obvious that, little by little in an agonisingly slow pace, progressive adjustment does occur, in the face of blatant opposition, through modifications in thinking. Ahura Mazda’s grand project of Evolution entails the inconceivable passing of eons and eons of time - a time span longer than we, as mere mortals with only a minute lifespan, can ever imagine. We are, therefore, not able to reach the end-point of Perfection on Earth during our proverbial average lifespan. Some humans, even begin to lose the clarity of memory and intellect in the late phase. Still, the slow earthly process of acquiring intellect and the practice of goodness must continue throughout our life as if it were to reach perfection before death. But, alas, this does not occur. The somewhat lesser state of near perfection is worth striving for. Why? – because as each generation looks at the advances gained through the previous generations they realise the impact of the grounds gained by the triumph of goodness over all evil obstacles in conscience, knowledge, comfort and spirit.
In Yasna 45.2 Zarathushtra makes a firm statement about the attitude exhibited, right from the beginning, Spenishta Mainyu towards Anghrem - “there will be no compromise, no yielding to evil in thinking, teaching, will, belief, speaking, experiencing, nor in the matter of the Inner Self or of the Inner Consciousness.”
We, humans, pride ourselves as being the only species of the animal kingdom, capable of assessing rationally, to weed out the good from the bad sides through the non-material portion of our psyche and being. Yet Consciousness, per se, does not ever provide us, mere mortals, with detailed knowledge about matters not known before or of events to come. That is the sole domain of Ahura Mazda. Rather, it clarifies a different choice and advises for or against possible solutions, the source of advice being the reservoir of some Collective Consciousness and Universal Consciousness. It is quite obvious the mind of the possessors and practitioners of Evil Consciousness wants to shy away, intentionally, from Self-Appraisals while inculcating an aura of Evil Consciousness in a blind promotion of Self-Interest. This unthinking promotion of Self-Interest, a blind manifestation of our primitive animal drive of Self-preservation, is, by being non-social, the very antithesis of genuine Self-Knowledge.
This is, really, an intrinsic obligatory response functioning as recompense (morally and ethically) practised through the workings of Khratu and Chisti. The underlying purpose of the Self-Appraisal through right-mindedness (a human realization of Ahura Mazda’s Cosmic Spirit of Right-mindedness- Spenta Armaiti) is to thwart, repeatedly, the influence of the impulses through the power of Self-control and Self-monitoring Will with the assistance of:
Individual units of Self-Consciousness of other humans
In Yasna 31.22 Zarathushtra indicates (in metaphors) the eager intentions of persons loyal to the ever-present source (HUDAA) of UNIVERSAL CONSCIOUSNESS to be influenced by it, while searching within their minds, as it were, reaching out for the AURA of GOOD INFLUENCE (VAEDEMNAI MANANGHA) and for the COMMUNAL CONSCIOUSNESS of Society (VOHU hvo KHSHTHRA) in undergoing SELF APPRAISAL voluntarily.
We have noted before that the mind of persons manifesting Evil Consciousness wants to shy away, intentionally, from Self-Appraisals. Zarathushtra’s emphasis is on the power of the Self-Control / Self-Appraisal / Self-Monitoring Will - ISHTOISH through the rational thinking of the Good Mind. It is the unrelenting will of the Khratu‘vant’ and the Chisti‘vant’ that will help to overrun the imperfections of life through a constant, ongoing process of creative Evolution.
In Yasna 51.2 Zarathushtra, as a faithful worshipper, dedicates his deeds to Ahura Mazda and Asha and asks a boon of Spenta Armaiti. “Thou, O Spirit of Right-mindedness (ARMAITI), grant me the power of the WILL (ISHTOISH).”
Ahura Mazda’s gift to humans of the ability to undergo Self-Appraisal by discriminating against the bad without compromise, also, clarifies doubts about the presence of Morals and Ethics. Appraisals are necessary to maintain the Aura of Good Influence (Vaedemno) for the improvement in the levels of Self-Consciousness and Communal Consciousness and build up the reservoir of Universal Consciousness.
Still, setbacks do continue to occur needing repeated obligatory Re-appraisals, which lead to a CREATIVE EVOLUTION, an improvement in the levels of Self-Consciousness, Collective Consciousness and the reservoir of Universal Consciousness.
vagaries of Moral failure:
In Yasna 43.7 we noted how Zarathushtra’s heart becomes overwhelmed by his love for Ahura Mazda, when the divinity of Vohu Mana asks him which path he would choose when there was doubt in the daily acquisition of gain between others in his settlement and his own Self-interest. His answer lies in the next verse, Yasna 43.8 - “I, Zarathushtra, am the dedicated adversary when I am among the followers of Untruth. But, when I am among the Righteous I shall continue to maintain the ECSTACY of my Inner Strength. Thus may I share with you for all time the realisation of thy infinite strength.”
We must here look into Zarathushtra’s notion of the possessors of a spiritual void in Yasna 49.11. He talks of those who possess a FALSIFIED CONSCIENCE (DUZ DAENENG) and who manage to cultivate an EVIL INSIGHT (AKAISH KHWARETHAISH). These intermediaries have been really living in their own self-induced hell on earth and they will, no doubt, go back to their familiar abode in the After Life. “the possessors of EVIL INSIGHT, be they among rulers, workers, speakers, thinkers and those who follow untruth by FALSIFYING their CONSCIENCES, are truly the real dwellers of the Abode of Untruth. It is, ultimately, in the Abode of Untruth that their soles will be relegated to.”
The volatility of the strong feeling of Communal Consciousness, sometimes, becomes so intense that the common bond leads to a false personal craving for Group gratification, mainly arising from (the evil intent of) Self-gratification and a wild sense of superiority. The volatile groups Zarathushtra has to contend with are the daeva-yasnic Karapans, Kavis, Usigs, even some priests, who have incorporated the exhilarating Haoma ritual in the Yasna ceremony and the incorrigible group of cattle rustling thieves – all with their Collective Consciousness, obviously, misplaced. Their Consciousness has not become integrated into the Universal Consciousness since their mutual co-operation and some positive appraisal is only sporadic and temporary. Their present day equivalent would be the socially deviant groups of political radicals and religious extremists, who are prepared to incite antiracial and ethnic sentiments and others, who misuse alcohol and drugs for self-gratification.
Zarathushtra is strictly against the imposition of such mind-bending practices (evil intent) and the use of the pounded Haoma drink, since it leads to exhilarating unrealities in rationally thinking minds and creates disturbances in the clarity of thought.
Although the evil drink of the pounded Hoama is not mentioned, there is an indirect reference to it in Yasna 48.10. “When, O Mazda, when will my co-workers smite this FILTHY INDULGENCE (Muthrem) and the evil intent, by which the priests and also the wicked rulers falsely entice others.”
Each advancement adds to and refines the reservoir of Universal Consciousness to build up a total GLOBAL SPIRIT OF CONSCIOUSNESS (a human realisation of Ahura Mazda’s Cosmic Completeness of Integrity – Haurvatat)
The final State of COSMIC CONSCIOUSNESS (the aura of influence which permeates the entire universe) is reached in harmony with the Infinite (in a sense also) assuring the preservation of life on earth as an AFTER LIFE – a divine State of Ameretat (concept of the TIMELESS MIND). It is directly connected to a purpose, which is the advance to a judgmental reward “a glorious and eternal existence in the Abode of Truth” (Garo-Demana), a second essentially static life of the highest spiritual Consciousness.
In Yasnas 45.8 and 51.15 Zarathushtra talks of the blessed reward of a life in the “Abode of the Highest Existence (in harmony) with Ahura Mazda, who is Lord Supreme.”
The other alternative is a relegation to the “Abode of Untruth” (Drujo-Demana).
In Yasna 46.11 Zarathushtra warns of the earthly wickedness of the Karapans and the Kavis, whose Spiritual Self will remember their evil actions, before they are judged to be relegated to remain in DRUJO-DEMANA (the Abode of Untruth).”
Also, smooth transitions towards the goal of Perfection do not occur in the Reality of our imperfect LIFE on earth. Frustration, stagnation, regression and suffering due to the persistent influence of an EVIL CONSCIOUSNESS continue to cause Aberrations of Consciousness. The end point of complete perfection, alas, is therefore not reached in our mortal lifespan on earth. Still, the grounds gained by the triumph of goodness over evil are obvious, as viewed over aeons of time in the grand scheme of Evolution.
The well-meaning appraisal of Universal Consciousness can be thwarted, too, by Evil Consciousness through mis-representations and provision of acceptable terms to criminal actions. Even among his three grades of achievers of Self-Knowledge Zarathushtra points out the environmental deficiencies likely to cause a negative influence and thus, adversely, alter their mind.
In Yasna 33.4 Zarathushtra reassures Ahura Mazda that he will, “by devotion and prayer, keep afar: (1) EVIL CONSCIOUSNESS and any doubt in the faith from his worshippers; (2) all perverse thought from his disciples who have achieved the highest level of Self-Knowledge (Khvaetu); (3) any likely intimidation by the next of kin from his co-workers (Verezana); (4) the distrust promoted by slanderers from his friends (Aryaman) and (5) the cattle rustling indulged in by the wicked herdsmen in the pasture fields.”
Besides its subtle controlling action, the ever-present influence of Communal Consciousness and of Universal Consciousness has, in modern times, been accepted as a valuable addition better suited to the understanding of morals and ethics. Zarathushtra promulgates this concept of moral and ethical conduct at an early date of the history of evolutionary thought, whereas scientists have long insisted Morals and Ethics are irrelevant to the proper understanding of the three forms of Consciousness.
Zarathushtra, in recognising the power of Evolution and the purpose of an Ethical controlling principle, clarifies to us its noticeable positive influence. An Evolution explained only by the influence of Ego i. e. the promotion of Self-Interests, would not fit in with his teachings. In explaining the aura of influence (vaedemno) of Universal Consciousness, he provides for us the positive impetus via its subtle and ever present (Gathic: Hudaa /Pahlavi: Harvespa Khudaa) appraisal - a notion of Universal Consciousness.
The principle of Evil Consciousness has for long remained alien to western tradition, which makes it difficult for western thought to explain why some actions were considered as being bad. Yasna 31.22 sums up the Gathic explanation effectively. It has been obvious that, in modern society, the synergistic energies of the materialism of science and the idealism of spiritual tradition have remained insufficient in quenching the insatiable human search for meaning. Zarathushtra, as we have seen, does provide the answers. His ancient concept of a slow but progressive evolution, through the interaction of Self-Consciousness and of Communal Consciousness under the supervisory influence of a reservoir of Universal Consciousness has, in modern times, been accepted by humanists as a new way of thinking emerging. Societies, that fail to take advantage of this concept of Globalisation and Universality as a new paradigm, are likely to spend their ‘Jyati’ in a state of moral, ethical and intellectual inadequacy.
It is well to remember what Zarathushtra in Yasna 46.5 has to say about the merit of one who strives to attain the highest level of Self-Knowledge – “to save himself, O Mazda Ahura, from destruction.”
Aicken, Henry D:
The Age Of Ideology - The 19th Century Philosophers, New York,
Mentor Books, 1963.
Sam Kerr was born in Bombay, India in the third decade of the 20th Century. Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine (London) and of several Colleges of Surgery, Sam was Surgeon/Lecturer, the University of NSW and its College Hospitals, Sydney, Australia from 1968 to 2003. He is now Emeritus Surgeon at the University and Hospitals.
He initiated the Australian Zoroastrian Association of NSW, Sydney in 1969 and became its founding member. In addition to his professional writings he has published and lectured on the social, cultural, historical and scriptural aspects of the religion of Zarathushtra.
Source/Extracted From: Vohuman.org
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