a l a m u t

...the original undifferentiated oneness-of-being still radiates serene as the black pennants of Assassins, random & perpetually intoxicated.

--Bey, TAZ


Hassan i Sabbah (or Hasan bin Sabah, or any number of transliterations from the Arabic) is a genuine historical figure. An Ishmaelite (or Ismali; this still-extant branch of Shiite Islam is headed by the Aga Khan) politcal intriguer of the late 11th century, Hassan i Sabbah became a major political force in Persia and the entire Islamic world by use of some surprisingly modern political techniques. Hassan i Sabbah's followers, based out of his mountain fortress of Alamut were possibly amongst the best spies in the region, working with Christian Crusaders and any of the varied sects & nations of Islam at the time. And, of course, his followers left at least one lasting legacy--the English word "assassin" (from the Arabic for "guardian"). Alamut fell to the Mongols in 1260.

the story

However, that isn't the reason Hassan i Sabbah is relevent to Bey (or William S. Burroughs, or Robert Anton Wilson, or people writing about chaos magick, or any of the other fringe-dwellers who have adopted him for their own). The reason lies in the oft-quoted maxim attributed to him:

Nothing is true, everything is permitted.

For a writer like Bey, this maxim must ring true. Paradoxically, Hassan i Sabbah managed to install his followers with a sense of freedom, at the same time as making them fanatically loyal to himself.

"Two men in the year 1092 stood on the ramparts of a medieval castle--the Eagle's Nest--perched high upon the crags of the Persian mountains: the personal representative of the [Persian] Emperor and the veiled figure who claimed to be the incarnation of God on Earth. Hasan, son of Sabah, Sheikh of the Mountains and leader of the Assassins, spoke. 'You see that devotee standing guard on yonder turret-top? Watch!'

"He made a signal. Instantly the white-robed figure threw up his hands in salutation, and cast himself two thousand feet into the foaming torrent which surrounded the fortress.

"'I have seventy thousand men--and women--throughout Asia, each one of them ready to do my bidding. Can your master, Malik Shah, say the same? And he asks me to surrender to his sovereignty! This is your answer. Go!'"

from A History of Secret Societies, by Arkon Daraul.

Hassan i Sabbah showed his followers Heaven at Alamut; when initiates were brought to him, they were drugged and taken to a part of the mountain sculpted to resemble the Muslim ideas about Heaven. Houris were there to introduce the intiate to sexual pleasures. Food & drink flowed freely. Hassan i Sabbah had only to tell the initiate that those who died in his service were guaranteed to return to Heaven after death. With that prospect like ahead of them, the Assassins were willing to follow Alamut's orders blindly, even to the point of denying their religious affiliations when asked (rare at the time).


The paradox of Hassan i Sabbah can be seen in Bey's writing on the Assassins. "True, in this myth some aspirant disciples may be ordered to fling themselves off the ramparts into the black--but also true that some of them will learn to fly like sorcerers." The Assassins lived in a world beyond Divine Law where no one interposed between themselves and God--a world where, by sacrificing themselves, they became free...