F603 Summer 2018 Zoroastrianism: From Ancient Faith to Modern Traditions
Wednesdays, 9:40–11:05, June 20–June 27,
July 11–July 18
Instructor: Johnnie Hicks
Class limit: 85
Zarathushtra (Greek: Zoroaster) was a Persian prophet credited with having revealed the world’s first creedal monotheistic religion. Zoroastrianism flourished from the 6th century BCE to the 7th century CE, greatly influencing mankind across vast stretches of Central Asia and the Middle East. While a few scattered communities of Zoroastrians still exist, its noteworthiness lies in the impact of its history and teachings in shaping today’s major Western religions as well as a host of other gnostic faiths and traditions. Zoroastrianism is best represented by its simple mantra: “Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds.” This model of ethical teachings is credited for guiding Kings Cyrus, Darius, Xerxes, and others during the Great Persian Empire and establishing a system for political and social justice widely recognized in today’s democratic governments. This course will focus primarily on the impact of Zoroastrianism on Judaism and, by nature, the evolution of later Judeo-Christian-Islamic traditions. We will look at Jewish authors of Old Testament scriptures during their captivity under Persian rule to better understand the centuries of integrated Zoroastrian and Jewish societies. We will also recognize how early concepts of “good and evil,” “light and darkness,” and “holy and evil spirits” were later incorporated into Christianity and Islam. Finally, we will better understand how deeply ingrained Zoroastrian philosophical influences continue to play a cultural role in the daily lives of Iranians, Afghans, Kurdish people, Indian Parsis, and many others. This course is an updated version of a 2017 OLLI winter-term course.
Johnnie Hicks is an OLLI member who has previously taught courses on world cultures and religions. She holds an MA degree in counseling and human development from the University of Iowa and has focused her career around multicultural issues, both here and abroad.