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In Search of Zarathustra: The First Prophet and the Ideas That Changed the World

In Search of Zarathustra: The First Prophet and the Ideas That Changed the World

In Search of Zarathustra: The First Prophet and the Ideas That Changed the World

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Obscured by time, history, and overlays of conflicting religious dogmas lies a religion which few people understand, but which has arguably had a profound affect upon the lives of a large percentage of the people who have lived during the past couple of millennia: Zoroastrianism. Is it possible to cut through all of the interference and learn more?

Summary

Title: In Search of Zarathustra: The First Prophet and the Ideas That Changed the World
Author: Paul Kriwaczek.
Publisher: Knopf.
ISBN: 0375415289

Pro:
•  A great introduction to Zoroastrianism for the average reader
•  Very readable, very engaging, and very informative
•  Is able move past the paucity of information and create a lively intellectual history

Con:
•  May seem to ramble a bit to some readers
•  Does not deal with Zarathustra at length until the end

Description:
•  Exploration of the religious teachings of Zarathustra
•  Discussion of how Zoroastrianism has influenced modern religion and society
•  Shows how many modern ideas stem from the teachings of Zarathustra

 

Book Review

That is the goal which Paul Kriwaczek set for himself when he embarked upon the journey described in his recently published book "In Search of Zarathustra: The First Prophet and the Ideas That Changed the World." For Kriwaczek, it isn't just a question of gaining a better understanding of Zoroastrianism, but also of the various religious faiths which it helped spawn - not least among them Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.

Books such as this, investigating the dogmas and histories of ancient religious faiths, can tend easily towards impenetrable scholarly prose - but not so for Kriwaczek. This book is aimed very much at the average reader and is about much more than simply religious history. Because of the influence which Zarathustra (a.k.a. Zoroaster) has had upon human society, Kriwaczek must also deal with philosophy and modern culture.

As a consequence, he approaches his subject in a sort of reverse order, beginning with modern society and the attraction which Zarathustra has had for so many - but in particular Friedrich Nietzsche, who used Zarathustra as a mouthpiece for one of his most famous philosophical works. From there begins a journey that ranges across Europe and the Middle East; what we get is part philosophical inquiry, part travelogue, and part religious history.

In Search of Zarathustra
In Search of Zarathustra: The First Prophet and the Ideas That Changed the World

Along the way with Paul Kriwaczek we encounter the Cathars of medieval Europe, the Bulgars, Shia Islam, Mithraism, Hellenistic Judaism, Manichaeism, Cyrus the Great, and finally Zarathustra himself (some people might be frustrated, though, that the subject of the book isn't dealt with at length until the very end). What is the uniting factor in these diverse belief systems?

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