Mithraic Societies: From Brotherhood to Religion's Adversary 2014
By Abolala Soudavar

pp. 327-328

XVI.3 - The Median Synthesis

Figs. 353 a, b — Floor mats with different candelabras.
Musée de la Franc-Maçonnerie

Troop cohesion has always preoccupied army commanders, and every general has tried to develop his own recipe to enhance bonding among the soldiery. While the Medes may have initially favored a military upbringing similar to that of the Persians, their conquest of Assyria and subjugation of neighboring countries allowed them to infuse foreign trends into their own practices. Assyrians, for instance, seem to have had troops that entered the battlefield bare-chested, wore short pants, and sported long hair;778 these are traits often encountered in Mithraic societies. Also, if Hittite accoutrements left an imprint on these societies, so could have some of their practices. More importantly, we saw that Elamite fertility rites had a probable impact on Mithraic societies, especially with respect to the omnipresence of snakes and scorpions. But ultimately, the one element that distinguished Mithraic societies from other associations of men was the oath that its members had to take. As Mary Boyce has surmised, Indo-Iranians took an oath over both the fire and the water.779 If Mithra, by his very name, was the Lord of the Covenant, and the guarantor of oath, the participation of his aquatic counterpart, i.e., Apam Napāt, was no less necessary in initiation ceremonies. Water and fire were present in tandem in the mithraeum; the initiations of Masons, for instance, included a candelabrum and a bowl of water (Fig. 353b). If dervishes drank only water for their oath—while the Khorramdiniyyeh drank wine—it was not necessarily to conform to Islamic precepts, since Justin specified that even some of the Mystery initiates used a cup of water in their ceremonies.780 What these various practices indicate is that there were at least two trends: One more subdued and content with water, and the other bent on wine. But as Melikian-Chirvani has demonstrated, wine itself was a substitute for bull's blood, and therefore, there must have been others who indulged in more egregious behaviors.781

  1. Mokhtāriān 2006, 91. The Assyrians themselves seem to have adopted this from Indo-Europeans (idem), perhaps the Hittites, as Figs. 397a, b may suggest.
  2. Boyce 1996, 27-33.
  3. See note 686 supra.
  4. See note 302 supra.

Figs. 397a, b — Hittite relief replica, Altes Museum

pp. 156-157

X.8 - Apam Napāt as the Purveyor of the Aryan Farr

With the demise of the Achaemenids, there was a concerted effort among the Zoroastrian clergy to shift the balance of power from kingship to priesthood. In this context, it was necessary to elevate Zoroaster to the position of god's most powerful creature on earth. Since power derived from farr, the ultimate farri.e., the Aryan farrwas reallocated to him. A new farr was thereafter devised for kings, namely the Kaynid farr.392 It created a highly confusing situation as to: Which source of farr was the most powerful? And whether kings could claim the Aryan farr or not? This confusing situation is nowhere better reflected than in Ardashir's geste, the Kārnāmag of Ardashir Pāpakān. Therein, Ardashir first wishes to receive the khvarrah of Irānshahr (i.e. Aryan farr), but the one he actually gets is qualified as the Kayānid khvarrah (farr), which is subsequently described as the farr that rose from the waters.393 The farr that rises from the water, however, is precisely the Aryan farr that Jamshid had lost and Apam Napt  guarded underwater.

Despite the Zoroastrian priesthood's attempt to empower their prophet with the Aryan farr, popular perception still held that the king who was endowed with the ultimate farr, whether qualified as Aryan or Kayānid. Indeed, as Estakhri remarks, the people of Fars referred to Ardashir's fire tower as both Aryan and Kayānid farr.394 For them, the two were one and the same. But for Ardashir himself, the Aryan farr must have belonged to Zoroaster. Like Shāh Tahmāsb who assumed the leadership of the Safaviyyeh but claimed to follow the shari`at, Ardashir must have donned the mantle of leadership of the Sāsānagān while being reverent toward Zoroastrian precepts. Rather than continuing Darius's motto by which the latter claimed possession of the Aryan farr (Ariya chisa), he devised a new formula that claimed his chihr (as radiance of farr) was given by the gods: ke chihr as yazatān (dārad). For him, the Aryan farr had been allocated to Zoroaster and the most he could wish for was the Kayānian one. His motto was cleverly crafted to avoid running afoul of the Zoroastrian priesthood while projecting power and majesty. He was claiming to have god-given chihr without specifying which farr it really was, and who gave it to him. His son Shāpur I, however, was more assertive about the farr that he received, and the deity who bestowed it on him.

  1. See Soudavar 2012b, 59-60.
  2. Grenet 2003, 66, 77 and 87.
  3. Estakhr 1961,76 ), as corrected and explained in Soudavar 2012b, 59-60.

Early use of the Filioque

It is useful to note that a regional council in Persia in 410 introduced one of the earliest forms of the filioque in the Creed; the council specified that the Spirit proceeds from the Father "and from the Son." Coming from the rich theology of early East Syrian Christianity, this expression in this context is authentically Eastern. Therefore, the filioque cannot be attacked as a solely Western innovation, nor as something created by the Pope.