Long before the first Hebrew temple, before the birth of Christ or the mission of Muhammad, there lived in Persia a prophet to whom we owe the ideas of a single god, the cosmic struggle between good and evil, and the Apocalypse. His name was Zarathustra, and his teachings eventually held sway from the Indus to the Nile and spread as far as Britain.
Following Zarathustra’s elusive trail back through time and across the Islamic, Christian, and Jewish worlds, Paul Kriwaczek uncovers his legacy at a wedding ceremony in present-day Central Asia, in the Cathar heresy of medieval France, and among the mystery cults of the Roman empire. He explores pre-Muslim Iran and Central Asia, ultimately bringing us face to face with the prophet himself, a teacher whose radical humility shocked and challenged his age, and whose teachings have had an enduring effect on Western thought. The result is a tour de force of travel and historical inquiry by an adventurer in the classic tradition.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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|Title of eBook: In Search of Zarathustra|
|Release Date: 12-18-2007|
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|Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group|
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In Search of Zarathustra
Chapter OneAn Idea for Now
THE ROAD TO SAMARKAND
We bowled along the road into Uzbekistan from neighbouring Tajikistan, up and over a pass through the snowy Pamir mountains, with me intoning selected verses from Flecker's "The Golden Journey to Samarkand":
Away, for we are ready to a man! Our camels sniff the evening and are glad. Lead on, O Master of the Caravan: Lead on the Merchant-Princes of Bagdad.
Have we not Indian carpets dark as wine, Turbans and sashes, gowns and bows and veils, And broideries of intricate design, And printed hangings in enormous bales?
And we have manuscripts in peacock styles By Ali of Damascus; we have swords Engraved with storks and apes and crocodiles, And heavy beaten necklaces, for Lords.
Sweet to ride forth at evening from the wells When shadows pass gigantic on the sand, And softly through the silence beat the bells Along the Golden Road to Samarkand ...
... and then we would suddenly hit a pothole with a crash. For the road was long and, in reality, far from golden-two hundred miles or so of cracked grey concrete slabs, each junction making our vehicle lurch violently enough to lift our stomachs into our mouths, the shoulder occasionally adorned with the burnt-out wreck of a truck lying on its side or even upside down. But arriving in Samarkand made the effort worth while. Here we were in one of the world's dream cities. Dusty, hot and tired, we stood in the central square and marvelled. It is said of the Taj Mahal that, however familiar the photograph, the reality is more breathtaking than one can possibly expect. So it is with Samarkand.
The Registan, the "place of sand," is one of the arch...