The earliest Zoroastrian documents are the Gathas, written in the Gathic dialect. They represent the earliest phase of the religion of Zoroaster. But ancient Iran had a religion which preceded Zoroastrianism in point of time. I have labelled this period pre-Gathic; for its beginning is lost in remote antiquity, and the advent of Zoroaster brings its end. The time when Zoroaster flourished is a moot question. The approximate date at which he lived is 1000 B.C. Zoroaster revolutionizes the religious life of the Iranians, which hitherto represented the evolutionary phase of religion. It was the movement in which we find the religious thought creeping for ages to rise from the lower to the higher level. To put this in another way, the pre-Gathic religion of Iran is the evolution of the religious thought of many men and many ages; Zoroaster's is the creation of one man and one age. The prophet of Iran establishes a new religion. In the pre-Gathic religion the trend of religious thought struggles from the complex to the simple, from concrete to abstract, and is yet the farthest removed from the ideal stage. Zoroastrianism, on the other hand, as preached in the Gathas is the very embodiment of the simple and the abstract. It is the realization [xxxii] of the ideal. It is the form to which the coming generations have to conform. Deviation from it means a fall, a degeneration of the religous life.

 

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History of Zoroastrianism - M N Dhalla 1938

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