Mazdaznan is a fascinating syncretistic health movement based on the religious teachings of Christian and Zoroastrian ideas. The movement focuses especially on breathing exercises, body culture, and a vegetarian diet.
The belief system was founded in the late 1800s by Otoman Zar-Adusht Ha'nish, born as Otto Hanisch. The name of the movement is supposedly derived from a combination of the Persian word Mazda with Znana. The combination into one term is supposed to stand for "master thought".
Mazdaznan places great emphasis on belief in Mazda, who is the "good creator." The doctrines at the core of the movement are an eclectic combination of elements of Christianity as well as Hinduism.
The trinititarian expression of divinity in this religion, recognizes a Holy Family of Father as the male principle, the Mother as the procreative female principle, and the Child as the destiny and salvation of mankind. The movement holds that man's primary purpose on the Earth is to reclaim the planet and make it a suitable place for God to live.
Followers believe that the power of breathing is the best way to make the material world a perfect place, and that is the reason the movement instructs a proper discipline of rhythmic chanting and praying, and breath control. These breathing exercises are supplemented through a vegetarian diet.
Hadish, the founder of this movement, claimed to have been an enlightened visionary, sent by the Inner Temple Community of El-Khaman in order to spread the tenets of this practice throughout the world. He began to teach the discipline in the last few years of the 19th century, and the movement was officially inaugurated in 1902, in New York City.
Several scholars took the teachings of this practice to other countries. In Europe, the teachings were spread by David and Frieda Anmann, former farmers from California. David Ammann was later expelled from the city of Leipzig, Germany, after publishing the book Inner Studies.
One of the most notable followers of the European movement was Johannes Itten, an abstract painter who taught at the Bauhaus. Itten insisted on stringently adhering to the fundamental practices of this institution, such as shaven head, colonic irrigation, and wearing crimson robes.
Spreading of the Movement
In its first ten years of existence, this movement spread throughout other cities in the United States, establishing a headquarters office in Chicago. The group began to publish a magazine called The Mazdaznan.
The headquarters were transferred to Los Angeles in 1916, where they remained until 1980 when the offices moved to Encinitas, California. By that time, many centers had been established in England, Belgium, France, Denmark, Mexico, Germany, Switzerland, and Holland.
The movement today has several thousand followers in Germany, but the last manager of the United States headquarters vanished in 2001. The organized Mazdaznan movement was revived in 2007 by Peter deBoer in Canada, but it no longer exists in the United States, although there are likely several hundred isolated practitioners in America.