Zoroastrian Dualism: Good vs. Evil

  August 31, 2021   Read time 1 min
Zoroastrian Dualism: Good vs. Evil
Cosmological dualism is as ancient as human history itself. Many intellectual and religious outlooks approach the world through the prism of dualism. Two key powers ruling the world and a great conflict and battle between these two great powers.

Zoroastrianism is sometimes described as being based on dualism. This is the belief that good and evil are two equal and opposing forces that balance the universe. Zarathustra himself introduced the notion of opposing forces, Truth and the Lie, in the Gathas. In referring to these forces, he used the word mainyu, which can mean both “spirit” and “mentality.” He called them “twins” (Ys. 30) and said that they “never agree.”

Zoroastrians have often debated just what Zarathustra meant when he described these forces. Were they both the creations of Ahura Mazda? Did they already exist in the universe before creation? Or do they exist only within the human heart and mind? The Gathas do not really say. Did Zarathustra mean spirits of the sort to which the human mind can give shape and character? Or was he creating a metaphor about human mentalities, the spirit within? Zoroastrians and historians cannot agree on the interpretation.

The idea of dualism is the way Zarathustra answered the question that has plagued believers of many religions throughout history. How can the existence of evil in the world be explained? Why doesn’t a good and all-powerful God simply do away with evil, ignorance, and injustice?

Zarathustra gave humanity the dual principles of Truth and the Lie—Spenta Mainyu and Angra Mainyu, or Ahriman. He set up the battle between good and evil, but he did not see them as equal. Ahriman is powerful, but in the end Ahura Mazda will prevail. Eventually people will give their lives to following his path, the path of Asha.