Mazdakism is a religion founded by Mazdak, a socialist Persian (Iranian) reformer in the 6th century BC. He claimed to be a prophet (similar to Mohammed 1,200 years later) and instituted communal possessions and social welfare programs.
The two distinguishing factors of Mazdak’s teaching were the reduction of the importance of religious formalities — the true religious person being the one who understood and related correctly to the principles of the universe — and a criticism of the strong position of Zoroastrian clergy, who, he believed, had oppressed the Persian population and caused much poverty.
Despite the concepts of good conduct and Pacifism, the followers of Mazdak raided the palaces and harems of the rich, removing the valuables to which they believed they had equal rights.
Mazdakism teaches that there were two original principles of the universe: Light, the good one; and Darkness, the evil one. These two had been mixed by a cosmic accident, tainting everything except God. Light is characterized by knowledge and feeling and acts by design and free will, whereas Darkness is ignorant and blind, and acts at random. Mankind’s role in this life was, through good conduct, to release the parts of himself that belonged to Light. But where Manichaeism saw the mixture of good and bad as a cosmic tragedy, Mazdak viewed this in a more neutral, even optimistic way.
Mazdakism distinguished three elements (Fire, Water, Earth), and four Powers (Discernment, Understanding, Preservation and Joy, corresponding to the four chief officials of the Sassanid state, seven Viziers and twelve Spiritual Forces. When the Four, the Seven and the Twelve were united in a human being, he was no longer subject to religious duties. In addition, God was believed to rule the world through letters, which held the key to the Great Secret that should be learnt.
Two distinguishing factors of Mazdak’s teaching were the reduction of the importance of religious formalities—the true religious person being the one who understood and related correctly to the principles of the universe—and a criticism of the strong position of mainstream Zoroastrian clergy, who, he believed, had oppressed the Persian population and caused much poverty.
Mazdak emphasized good conduct, which involved a moral and ascetic life, no killing and not eating flesh (which contained substances solely from Darkness), being kind and friendly and living in peace with other people.
In many ways Mazdak’s teaching can be understood as a call for social revolution, and has been referred to as early communism.