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Mazdak: The ancient Leftist and his historical influence

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posted on Mar, 17 2012 @ 11:15 AM
Hello friends, acquaintances, and strangers. Below is a little something I wrote this morning about a rather unknown figure from history. Those people who like reading about history should enjoy this. I hope after reading it you decide to go on your own search to discover more information on the subject. Also, yes it was taken from an external source (my blog linked in the signature) but it is still my own work, I typed it up in Microsoft word while snacking on cheese sticks and sipping orange juice. Anyway, read it and weigh in with your own personal opinion.

Nearly 1,800 years ago in Persia the Sassanid Empire formed. This Zoroastrian Theocracy spanned from Kazakhstan in Central Asia to Egypt in Northern Africa. It was founded by an energetic, charismatic King who begun the Sassanid Dynasty and the unification of Persians. This mighty empire had the highest standard of living during its peak in the 5th century AD. None other could compare to the wealth, luxury, and overall stability of this society.

Sassanid society was composed of a vibrant multiculturalism under a dominant Persian Zoroastrian character. It fused together Greek philosophy with Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism. The elite were composed of traditional classes; the royalty, clergy, and nobility. In order to keep check on the rather unified forces of the nobles and clergy, Sassanid Empire maintained a strong King. However this did not last forever as future Kings became weaker, especially when dealing with clergy and nobles.

Even as the centralization of power was occurring, life was still superior in the society than in neighboring ones. Yet many people were not content with the many luxuries they had. By the 5th century the Empire was highly prosperous yet resentment began among many commoners. This resentment led to envy, as it naturally does. With a rise in resentment and envy, there comes an exploiter. The mighty Sassanid Empire unfortunately experienced such a person.

A man by the name of Mazdak was alive during this time. He lived his life as a Zoroastrian priest, although many within the clergy became weary of his teachings leading to him being branded a heretic. However his teachings became quite famous. They spread quickly throughout the Empire among the commoners. What had existed merely as a relatively small amount of people who were actually resentful had now exploded into a serious, threatening movement.

Beginning around 488 Mazdak’s ideas became highly influential not only as a socio-political proto-ideology but also as a theology. It found support even by the King Kavadh I. Because of his support for this movement he was deposed from the throne in 496, to return several years later then opposed to Mazdakism. However some sources claim that Mazdak did not actually develop the philosophy himself but rather became its most powerful and well known proponent.

It is claimed Mazdak the Elder advocated a philosophy which combined altruism (concern for the welfare of others) with hedonism (pleasure is the only good).

"he directed his followers to enjoy the pleasures of life and satisfy their appetite in the highest degree with regard to eating and drinking in the spirit of equality and friendly intercourse; to avoid dominating one another; to share in women and family; to aim at good deeds; to abstain from shedding blood and inflicting harm on others; and to practice hospitality without reservation".

Nevertheless, it was Mazdak who caused the philosophy to become powerful. His teachings were highly critical of the clergy and traditionalist religious practices. Upon gaining influence, he launched a fierce campaign against the established Zoroastrian clergy.

The clergy, he claimed, were the chief cause for the oppression of Persian people and the poverty which existed. With his influence upon the King, Mazdak was able to have almost all the fire temples closed down. This was a more effective campaign against the clergy than anything experienced during the 19th and 20th centuries in the Western world. Yet his agenda did not end there. He had many more plans for the social revolution.

Mazdak was also a proponent of vegetarianism as the only form of good nourishment. He advocated in support of pacifism yet Mazdakis regularly rioted, killing those they did not particularly agree with. The abolition of private property was perhaps the central issue of his campaign. In defiance of traditional understanding of property, Mazdak advocated for the communal sharing not only of land and good but also of women, specifically those who belonged to the elite.

During this time polyamory became widespread as a sexual revolution engulfed the Empire. The followers believed in ‘free love’ as they had regular sexual intercourse with numerous women outside of the union of marriage, resulting in fatherless children and the confusion of kinship. Along with this he also had the King open the granaries, which were intended for times of crisis or to feed soldiers, so the people of Persia would not have to work.

Mazdakism came to an end in 528 AD after a four year campaign led by Anushiravan who caused a massacre by slaughtering the Mazdakis, including Mazdak himself. Not all were killed though. Those who survived fled into hiding in remote areas. In the 9th century AD a new movement arose, coming out of Mazdakism. They were called Khurramites, a radical egalitarian religious sect. The Khurramites, under the leadership of Babak Khorramdin, led a successful revolt.

The Khurramites’ name meant ‘Those of the Joyous Religion’. This group led a revolt against the Abbasid Caliphate, holding them off for some 20 years. They were opposed to the existence of the Muslim caliphate into Persia, believing instead in the glories of Persia’s past under Zoroastrianism and its political order. Such anger and nationalism stemmed from the ruling Caliph of the Abbasids to kill Abu Muslim, a popular Persian nationalist, especially among the Zoroastrians.

A popular color associated with this group is red, for they were known to wear red dresses. Originally founded by the Persian cleric Sundpadh as a revitalization of an earlier, Mazdak influenced sect of Zoroastrian-Islamic fusionists, it was adopted as the ideology behind Babak’s rebellion. This was a sect which grew out of a response to the execution of Abu Muslim, claiming that he along with Muhammad and Ali had the spirit of God inside.

Where the Khurramites were successful in pushing back the Abbasid forces they implemented a policy of breaking up and redistributing the estates, much as Mazdak had done some 300 years earlier. Their doctrines asserted that shedding blood was wrong except in cases involving revolts, people should be very cleanly, should approach others with kindness, and most surprisingly, free sex was generally good so long as it was consensual because all people should satisfy one’s inclinations.

Qarmatians were an Islamic sect which had their roots in Mazdakism. They established an Islamic utopian community in eastern Arabia after revolting against the Abbasid Empire. Qarmatia was built upon reason and equality. All the property was equally distributed among the citizens. And under the leadership of Tahir Sulayman they stole the Black Stone from Mecca, massacred those making pilgrimage, and threw the bodies in the Well of Zamzam, thus desecrating the sacred site.

Yet perhaps the most relevant of all groups influenced by Mazdak were the Qizilbash. This was a name given to them due to the red colored, twelve gored crimson headwear which indicated their adherence Imams (Twelver Islam) and Shaykh Haydar, the spiritual leader of the Safivayyah movement. It was Shaykh Haydar’s grandson, Isma’il, who founded the Safavid Dynasty of Iran which was based upon the Safivayyah teachings that soon became Twelver Islam, a critical religion today.

Since 85% of Shiite Muslims are Twelvers, Shiite has become synonymous with Twelver. That is important for the fact that Iran today still exists as an official Shiite Islamic nation, adhering to the Twelver faith. Isma’il, as mentioned above, was the founder of the Safavid Dynasty which reunified Iran and established Twelver Islam as the official religion. He is also worth mentioning for he actually claimed to be the ‘hidden imam’, which meant claiming divinity.

The Qizilbash helped to establish the Safavid Dynasty and in so doing became important members of the elite. Many became Ayatollahs or Mujtahids, teaching the Islamic faith in Iran. The way to trace this philosophical lineage is rather simple. It began with Mazdak (5-6th century), then was carried by the Khurramites (9th century), and was later adopted by the Qizilbash (12-16th century). Today they influence Iran and even Pakistan – Former President Yahya Khan was one.


edit on 3/17/2012 by Misoir because: (no reason given)

posted on Mar, 17 2012 @ 11:37 AM
Why so even the Persians have their own Democrat/Liberals/Hippies and other type of Leftist ideology in ancient times
edit on 17-3-2012 by starwarsisreal because: (no reason given)

posted on Mar, 17 2012 @ 12:26 PM
Thank you for education, did not know about it. Will read further.

posted on Mar, 18 2012 @ 12:23 PM
reply to post by Misoir

I don't get it. Are you trying to make some link between Mazdak and the current Iranian regime? Or something to do with Islam? I'd like some summation here since this seems to be an open ended post without a coherent point. If the point was merely to provide information, then why weave it together in such a manner?

posted on Mar, 18 2012 @ 12:43 PM
reply to post by LuckyLucian

The major point was about Mazdak, I continued further because it seemed rather interesting (and thought readers may share that interest) in seeing how his ideas have influenced the Twelver Islamic faith. This is not to say he had an enormous impact, but rather that his philosophical input did contribute to the founding of a particular faith, influence upon esoteric forms of Islam, and upon some aspects of Iranian culture. It was not conspiratorial, just historical.

posted on Mar, 18 2012 @ 09:56 PM
reply to post by Misoir

Ah, ok. Thanks for explaining, it's much appreciated.

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