A Dictionary of All Religions and Religious Denominations/Gaurs
GAURS, or GUEBRES, a sect in Persia, who pretended to be the successors of the ancient magi, the followers of Zoroaster. Though said to be numerous, they are tolerated in but few places. A combustible ground, about ten miles distant from Baku, a city in the north of Persia, is the scene of their devotions, where are several small temples: in one of which the Guebres pretend to preserve the sacred flame of the universal fire, which rises from the end of a large hollow cane, stuck into the ground, resembling a lamp burning with pure spirits; or rather similar to the gas lights now exhibited in many parts of our country.
This religion was founded by Zoroaster, who lived about the year of the world 2860, and taught his followers to worship God only under the form of fire; considering the brightness, purity, and incorruptibility of that element, as bearing the most perfect resemblance to the nature of the good Deity; while he considered darkness to be emblematic of the evil principle.
Zoroaster compiled a book for the use of the priests, who were to explain it to the public at large. This book was called the zend ; i. e. a kindler of fire, because it was for the use of those who worshipped the fire; but the allegorical meaning was to kindle the fire of religion in their hearts. In this book there are so many passages taken out of the old testament, that some learned men have supposed the author was a Jew. He gives almost the same account of the creation of the world, and of the ancient patriarchs, as we find recorded in scripture. He enjoins, relating to clean and unclean beasts, the same as was done by Moses, and in the same manner orders the people to pay tithes to the priests. The rest of the book contains the life of the author, his pretended visions, the methods he used in order to establish his religion, and concludes with exhortations to obedience. Yet, notwithstanding the striking similarities between the zend and the laws of Moses, it will not follow from hence that Zoroaster was a Jew. The Chaldeans and Persians were inquisitive people; they even sent students to India and Egypt; and, when the Jews were in a state of captivity among them, they would naturally inquire into the mysteries of their religion.
- Of the two opposing principles, the good one was called Orosmasdes, and the evil, Ahriman. Some have asserted, that the ancient Persians held a co-eternity of these two principles. Other writers say, that the evil principle was created out of darkness, and that Oromasdes first subsisted alone; that by him the light and darkness were created; and that in the composition of this world good and evil are mixed together, and so shall continue till the end of all things, when each shall be separated and reduced to its own sphere. Others have endeavoured to account for the origin of the prince of darkness thus: " Oromasdes," say they, "said once within his mind,'How shall my power appear, if there be nothing to oppose me?' This reflection called Ahriman into being, who thenceforward opposed all the designs of God; and thereby, in spite of himself, contributes to his glory." See Heckford on Religions, p. 109.