Do human beings (living things) have real “free will”? The philosophical debate over this question probably will continue eternally even as most people believe they know the answer. I maintain that we do have “free will," but only a little (let’s guess 5%). That little bit, a divine “spark," sets in motion an alteration of fixed destinies that evolve as people multiply and shift the course of history.
Earth, air, water, and fire were the most evident powers available to human dwellers in the deserts and mountains of central Asia as early civilization took root. Most dynamic and evidently life-affirming in a visible sense to the people then was the phenomenon of fire — a heat generated by a “spark” and a power capable of destroying or creating things. There was, in another way to put it, a good and evil.
Image of Zoroaster taken by me at current fire temple
Way back when, even predating Judaism, the one true god, Ahura Mazda (Lord of Wisdom), was proclaimed in pre-Persia as the uncreated spirit, wholly wise, benevolent and good, as well as the creator and upholder of Asha (“truth," as opposed to druj, or “lie”), by the prophet Zoroaster (or Zarathustra). Fire was "grandly conceived as a force informing all the other Amesha Spentas [Immortals], giving them warmth and the spark of life.” (Mary Boyce, 1975, A History of Zoroastrianism, Vol. I, Leiden/Köln: Brill; and others).
In Zoroastrianism, the purpose in life is to "be among those who renew the world...to make the world progress towards perfection".
At the time of Darius, Ahura Mazda, the divine creator, was symbolized by a "faravar,"a guardian angel holding a solar disc (apparently the Hittites used this symbol also). This symbol is at the Zoroastrian temple in Yazd. See below - the faravar and solar ring also seem to be inscribed in the cliff walls above the tombs at Persepolis and Naqsh-e Rostam.
Above the City of Persepolis (note the faravar -- a bird-like symbol alongside a round ball)
Naqsh-e Rostam - Tombs of Xerxes, Artaxerxes I and Darius II (an exchange of a ring, ie, maybe the sun)
In modern Iran, traveling south from Kashan to Yazd, we drift back in time and circulate with the ghosts of the so-called “fire worshippers.” The religion persists today, but only in a minority of worshippers (estimated less than 200,000), scattered about Iran and India. Zoroastrianism is first mentioned in recorded history in the 5th-century BCE, and along with a Mithraic influence, served as the state religion of the pre-Islamic Iranian empires for more than a millennium, from around 600 BCE to 650 CE. Zoroastrianism was suppressed from the 7th century onwards following the Muslim conquest of Persia of 633–654.
The older Mithraic faith (Yazdânism) apparently is still practiced amongst Kurds. And of course the name of the city of Yazd, in Iran's central desert, suggests a hangover influence of the Mithra, the Light of the World, identified with Sol Invictus (the great "bull" of the sun), who was born like Jesus on December 25th (a virgin beginning) and also like Jesus ascended to the heavens with 12 disciple-like angels. (I encountered evidence of the bull's and the lion's enigmatic interference in human affairs throughout Iran, depicted on its palaces and antiquities).