IN SEARCH OF ZARATHUSTRA is a quest to trace the influence of the prophet the Greeks called Zoroaster and considered the greatest religious legislator of the ancient world. Long before the first Hebrew temple, before the birth of Christ or the mission of Muhammad, Zarathustra had taught of a single universal god, of the battle between Good and Evil, of the Devil, Heaven and Hell, and of an eventual end to the world. Over several decades, Paul Kriwaczek, an award-winning television producer, has cast his film-maker¿s eye across Europe and Central Asia, from Hadrian¿s Wall to the Oxus river, from the Pyrenees to the Hindu Kush. Passing via Nietzsche¿s interpretation of Zarathustra for a post-religious age, the Cathars of 13th-century France, the Bulgars of 9th-century Balkans, and the prophet Mani¿s revision of Zarathustra¿s message in the later Persian empire, Paul Kriwaczek then explores the religion of Mithras ¿ before going back past Alexander the Great¿s destruction of the Persian Empire, and the era of the great Persian kings Cyrus and Darius in the 6th century BC, to the beginning of the first pre-Christian millennium.
The author tries hard to establish this book as an authoritative account of Zoroastrianism’s history, beliefs and impact, but is unconvincing. I found this book to be at times presumptuous in the conclusions it draws from the evidence presented, and hollow in what it tangible information it offers: despite promising to reveal all about Zarathustra, I had to do my own internet research on Parsi, one of the few surviving communities in India and one can find much better resources on the link between Zoroastrianism/Manichaeism and the Bulgars/Cathars.
A book that does not know whether to be an entertaining travelogue or thoughtful historical research, and ends up being neither.
Where this book works is as a travel narrative, and with his interesting observations how certain elements of Zoroastrianism have been overlaid by Islam in Iran.