History tells us that about the year 1090 A. D., the military and religious order or sect of the Assassins was founded in Persia by Hassan ben Sabbat. This diabolical, fanatical, cruel and murderous tribe, although isolated in the mountains of Lebanon, and in the valleys and glens of Persia and Syria became remarkable for its secret murders committed in blind obedience to the will of their chief, and the heinousness of its crimes was bruited the world over. Their numerous acts of cruelty cast dire panic and consternation in the stoutest hearts not only in Asia but in Europe as well. This branch of the shiite sect, known as Ismalites, was called Hashishan, derived from Hashish, a confection of hemp leaves, cannabis indica. From the Arabic "hashishan" we have the English word "Assasin".
–"The Marihuana Menace" By A. E. Fossier, M.D
Across the luster of the desert and into the polychrome hills, hairless and ochre violet dun and umber, at the top of a dessicate blue valley travelers find an artificial oasis, a fortified castle in saracenic style enclosing a hidden garden.
As guests of the Old Man of the Mountain Hassan-i Sabbah they climb rock-cut steps to the castle. Here the Day of Resurrection has already come and gone- those within live outside profane Time, which they hold at bay with dagger and poisons.
Behind crenallations and slit-windowed towers scholars and fedayeen wake in narrow monolithic cells. Star-maps, astrolabes, alembics and retorts, piles of open books in a shaft of morning sunlight-an unsheathed scimitar.
Each of those who enter the realm of the Imam-of-one’s-own-being becomes a sultan of inverted revelation, a monarch of aberogation and apostasy. In a central chamber scalloped with light and hung with tapestried arabesques they lean on bolsters and smoke long chibouks of haschisch scented with opium and amber.
For them the hierarchy of being has compacted to a dimensionless punctum of the real-for them the chains of Law have been broken-they end their fasting with wine. For them the outside of everything is it’s inside, it’s true face shines through direct. But the garden gates are camouflaged with terrorism, mirrors, rumors of assasination, trompe l’oeil, legends.
Pomegranate, mulberry, persimmon, the erotic melancholy of cypresses, membrane-pink shirazi roses, braziers of meccan aloes and benzoin, stiff shafts of ottoman tulips, carpets spread like make-believe gardens on actual lawns-a pavilion set with a mosaic of calligrammes-a willow, a stream with watercress-a fountain crystalled underneath with geometry-the metaphysical scandal of bathing odalisques, of wet brown cupbearers hide and seeking in the foliage-"water, greenery, beautiful faces."
By night Hassan-i Sabbah like a civilized wolf in a turban stretches out on a parapet above the garden and glares at the sky, conning the asterisms of heresy in the mindness cool desert air. True, in his myth some aspirant disciples may be ordered to fling themselves off the ramparts into the black-but also true that some learn to fly like sorcerers.
The emblem of Alamut holds in the mind, a mandal or magic circle lost to history but embedded or imprinted in consciousness. The Old Man flits like a ghost into tents of kings and bedrooms of theologians, past all locks and guards with forgotten moslem/ninja techniques, leaves behind bad dreams, stilettos on pillows, puissant bribes.
The attar of his propaganda seeps into the criminal dreams of ontological anarchism, the heraldry of our obsessions displays the luminous black outlaw banners of the Assassins…all of them pretenders to the throne of an Imaginal Egypt, an occult space/light continuum consumed by still-unimagined liberties.
Our modern day "assassination cults" have incorporated many of the Hashishins’ techniques into their methodologies. In a CIA training manual titled "A Study of Assassination", you find traces of the Assassins influence throughout. Hassan Sabbah is even mentioned in the document, which is a must read if there ever was one.
- 01-William Burroughs // The Western Lands
- 02-Genesis POrridge // The Old Man Of The Mountain
- 05-Iggy Pop // AQuick Trip To Alamut
- 06-Master Musicians Of Jajouka // The Middleof The Night
Hassan died in 1124, at the age of 90. Having killed his only two potential heirs, he appointed two of his generals to succeed him. One took over the mystical elements of the order, while the other controlled the military and political affairs. During this time the Seljuq Dynasty once again took control in Persia. The new sultan made a pact with the Assassins, whereby the Assassins were given autonomy in exchange for reducing their military forces. The Hashishins persisted for over 100 years after Sabbah’s death, but Alamut was finally sieged and conquered in 1256 by Halaku Khan, son of Ghengis Khan.