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I wanted my protagonist to believe in God. I feel that religion is something that is largely neglected in most futuristic cyberpunk stories. Because my protagonist is a believer, he will undergo changes within himself, based on how he was raised compared to the culture shock he experiences when arriving in Triumph City. I don’t want religion to be the most important thing in Sohl’s life, but I do want it to be there, in the background, causing him to behave in certain ways and to see people in idealized forms, because everyone in the arcology endeavored to be better and to do better things, and to provide altruistically for the entire community, unlike the selfishness and manipulation he will have to deal with soon.
What religion should I choose? That’s what I asked myself early on. I was and still am reading Dan Simmon’s Hyperion series, a series of four very long books. In book 1, Hyperion, one of the protagonists is Jewish and wrestles with the idea of a father having to sacrifice his daughter after receiving a vision from what he perceives is God. In book 3, Endymion, a small group of protagonists is chased across the universe by the Catholic empire, where we have the Church battling Artificial Intelligence and Fathers commanding space battleships. Bear in mind that the Hyperion novels are set in the far future, where one would logically assume that today’s Bronze Age deities would have disappeared in favor of newer, digital gods as is seen in ancient history, when an older pantheon is replaced by a younger, more vibrant grouping of gods.
I looked into my previous writing for clues. I have already created a series of books, titled Tales From The Savage Lands, where the ancient Indian/Persian/Roman god Mithras was the primary deity. In this sword and sorcery fantasy series, Mithras was an actual god who fled his world when other, corrupt gods sought to displace and destroy him. I did not want to use Mithras again, but I was looking for something fresh to my knowledge. That’s when I remembered that I had looked into Zoroastrianism some years ago. (Also called Zarathushtrianism. Zoroaster and Zarathushtra are equivalents.) I’d even forgotten that in Persia/Iran, Mithras is the son of the Zoroastrian deity Ahura-Mazda.
Now I had something to work with. Zoroastrianism has its customs and rituals, some of which are radically different from what most people are used to. A dead body, for example, can not be touched and must be dragged into the woods and left there. Whoever touched it has to be purified before joining the clan again. A woman having her menstrual period is also considered to be unclean and is separated from the clan until such time as her period stops. Those ideas can be part of my protagonist’s world, but I don’t want him overwhelmed with customs and rituals. Instead, I want Sohl to focus on the spiritual side of his religion, where he trusts others to do the right thing, and he falters in his goodness when presented with crime, vice and other things he encounters in his new cyberpunk environment.
Following are my initial, condensed notes taken from the holy books of Zoroastrianism, called the Gathas, as interpreted by Dinshaw Irani.
“When I conceived of Thee, O Mazda, as the very First and the Last, as the most Adorable One. as the Father of Good Thought, as the Creator of Truth and Right, as the Lord Judge of our actions in life, then I made a place for Thee in my very eyes”-Yasna, 31-4
“None of you:” says Zarathushtra, “shall find the doctrine and precepts of the wicked; because thereby he will bring grief and death in his house and village, in his land and people! No, grip your sword and cut them down!”-Yasna, 31, 18.
Spenta Mainyu is the Spirit of Good. Angre Mainyu is the Spirit of Evil. Asha is truth or righteousness, Ultimate Truth as seen by Ahura-Mazda.
Vohu-Mana is Good-Mind. Spenta Armaity is Devotion or Piety (religious context), or Benevolence and Right-Mindedness (moral context). Khshathra Vairya refers to a right-minded person being happy / content.
Haurvatat is a perfect psychic and spiritual integrity / state. Upon death, a person living in a state of Haurvatat reaches immortal bliss, or Ameretat. The idea of final judgment occurs when, after death, a person crosses the Bridge of the Separator (Chinvad Peretu). The virtuous cross into the heavenly abode called the Abode of Songs, or Best Consciousness. The wicked fall into the House of Falsehood, or Worst Consciousness, or detachment from truth.
Humans are born into a world of suffering, inequity and imperfection. The goal is to transform these obstacles and, in consonance with truth, reach a state of Khshathra Vairya.
Sraosha – hearing communications from Divinity, implies acceptance / obedience
Kavi – tribal or military chief, prince, ruler
Karpan – a mumble priest, would speak unintelligible words to the laity with the idea they would magically influence in the favor of the rulers
Usig – priest who performed rituals and executed sacrifices
The ideal society would manifest peaceful social existence in which all interests would be harmonized and balanced in a just order.
Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds.
Ahura Mazda means Wise Lord. He is the Creator and Source of Goodness.
The six Amesha Spentas
1. Asha Vahishta – highest or best truth, ideal
2. Vohu-Mana – the Good-Mind, the ability to understand Asha
3. Spenta Armaity – the Holy Attitude, Right-Mindedness piety, benevolence
4. Khshathra Vairya – the Ideal Dominion, or ideal society
5. Haurvatat – state of complete well-being, physical and spiritual integrity
6. Ameretat – state of Immortal Bliss
My intention here is not to introduce, and possibly bog down, the reader with too many of these foreign terms, but to implement the idea or philosophy of them in modern English. Most of us, I think, want to become better versions of ourselves. We want to think better and act better, and to produce better work, and to be seen as good people in the eyes of others. That’s the part of this religion that I want to convey through the eyes of a sixteen year-old young man.
There is more to this religion, such as the idea of the eternal flame that must be kept burning forever, because if it burns out, the god Ahura-Mazda might no longer shine his light of purity to his followers and corruption might creep in during the darkness. I may include other details from Zoroastrianism as my writing project goes on, but for the time being I think I have enough of a grounding that I can introduce parts of it, subtly and not overbearingly, into the story of Sohl.