DRUGGED UP KILLERS:
A Skeptic's Mythology of Hasan bin Sabbah (AKA Hassan i Sabbah, Hasan-e Sabah, al-Hassan ibn-al-Sabbah, The Old Man of the Mountains) and the Assassins.
Oiga amigos! Oiga amigos! Paco! Enrique!
Listen to the last words of Hassan Sabbah,
The Old man of the Mountain!
Listen to my last words, anywhere!
Listen all you boards, governments, syndicates, nations of the world,
And you, powers behind what filth deals consummated in what lavatory,
To take what is not yours,
To sell out your sons forever! To sell out the ground from unborn feet for ever?
Listen to my last words any world! Listen if you value the bodies for which you would sell all souls forever!
What am I doing over here with the workers, the gooks, the apes, the dogs, the errand boys, the human animals?
Why don't I come over with the board, and drink Coca-Cola and make it?...
— from "The Last Words of Hassan Sabbah" By William S. Burroughs ("Nothing Here But The Recordings", Industrial Records).
Hassan i Sabbah (1034 - 1124) was the first great leader of the Assassins (AKA The Hashishin Order, AKA the Ismaili), a sect of Islamic monk-warriors which in 1090 seized the castle of Alamut in the mountains south of the Caspian Sea, in what we now call Iran. According to mythology, Hassan ruled over a vast empire with his cult of fanatical assassins. He would take them on epic hash-orgies in his garden of pleasure to ensure their loyalty before sending them off to infiltrate and assassinate.
In "The Travels of Marco Polo," Marco Polo claims to have heard the following story in prison while travelling through the region in 1273:
"The Old Man kept at his court such boys of twelve years old as seemed to him destined to become courageous men. When the Old Man sent them into the garden in groups of four, ten or twenty, he gave them hashish to drink. They slept for three days, then they were carried sleeping into the garden where he had them awakened. When these young men woke, and found themselves in the garden with all these marvelous things, they truly believed themselves to be in paradise. And these damsels were always with them in songs and great entertainments; they received everything they asked for, so that they would never have left that garden of their own will. And when the Old Man wished to kill someone, he would take him and say: 'Go and do this thing. I do this because I want to make you return to paradise'. And the assassins go and perform the deed willingly."
Sadly, Marco Polo was 150 years too late, if he was ever anywhere near Alamut at all. His travel writing is always somewhat suspect, as it was at least partly intended to tittilate his wealthy french readers. (A more detailed description of Alamut and the spiritual life of the Assassins was written by Nasiroddin Tusi, present when the Mongols took the castle in 1256; "Alamut Summons - The Garden of True Fai" which exists in French at: http://www.inter-zone.org/hassan.html)
Farhad Daftary, (author of "The Assassin Legends: Myths of the Isma'ilis") uses Marco Polo as a source on the drug-orgy ritual, but notes that the Old Man was a prohibitionist, taking a hard-line on the Koran's ban on alcohol and interpreting it to mean a ban on all intoxicants (except presumably those given ritually to assassins). Strangely, the Old Man is rumored to ave left his room only twice during his rule at Alamut and banned music from being played altogether. He had his wife and daughters sent away to live a simpler life (weaving and spinning), and had both of his sons executed. (Their crimes were wine-drinking and complicity in a murder).
The disrepute of the Assassins in the western world has its genesis in their association with the Templars (AKA Knights Templar). Though the Assasins and the Templars were on opposing sides of the Crusades, they connected on a mystic level. An alliance was signed between Hassan and St Louis and the two groups began to share knowledge and fight the Mongols. The French king Philippe le Bel felt threatened that the Templars were learning Arabic numbers, astrology and algebra, had introduced hashish to Europe and engaged in sodomy as part of their initiation rituals ("which actually allows to open the lower chakra of kundalini" notes Izzy at http://www.inter-zone.org/hassan2.html) — and so had passed a series of reforms designed specifically to persecute them.
Nearly a thousand years later, US drug czar Harry Anslinger cites Hassan and the Assassins as evidence to forbid hemp in the 1930's. Many in the west remember him as a hip, drug-friendly historical reference, quoted by writers such as "the godfather of punk" William S. Burroughs, Brion Gysin, and Hakim Bey. His famous last words: "Nothing is true. Everything is permitted." Assassin myths are occasionally used to discredit Islam and solidify the tenuous link between Hassan and Osama bin Laden. Though both made effective use of so-called "terror" tactics, in this regard they pale in comparison to Vlad Tepes IV (AKA Vlad the Impaler, "Dracula"), the Wallachian prince who found his homeland (now part of Romania) on the front lines of the Crusades in the fifteenth century.
Interestingly, both the Assassins and the less-sophistocated Manson Family engaged in the practice of simulated assassination. The Mansons refered to these as "creepy crawl" missions. They would enter a house with the victim sleeping, quietly rearrange the furniture, hang knives above the bed, beside the victim, etc. The victim would wake up and freak out.
Finally, the word "assassin" is not derived from the Arabic "haschishin" -- smokers of hashish -- primarily because Hassan's followers were Persians and not Arabs. It is more likely derived from "hassassin," followers of Hassan.
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