SJ Games vs. the Secret Service
On March 1 1990, the offices of Steve Jackson Games, in Austin, Texas, were raided by the U.S. Secret Service as part of a nationwide investigation of data piracy. The initial news stories simply reported that the Secret Service had raided a suspected ring of hackers. Gradually, the true story emerged.
Secret Doctrines of the Assassins
Origins of the Nizari Isma’ilis
The Schism in Islam
“..In the year the Christian calendar calls AD 632, a schism even greater than the Reformation was to produce engulfed Islam. Its two great forces, the Sunnis and the Shi’ites, became irrevocably divided. The Shi’ites insisted that the leadership of Islam should have remained in the Prophet’s family and, upon his death, they had pledged their support to Mohammed’s cousin, Ali, who became Caliph or successor to the Prophet.”
– Gordon Thomas, Journey into Madness
“One of the most successful secret societies which the Shi’as founded was centered around the Abode of Learning in Cairo, which was the training-ground for fanatics who were conditioned by the most cunning methods to believe in a special divine mission. In order to do this, the original democratic Islamic ideas had to be overcome by skilled teachers, acting under the orders of the Caliph of the Fatimites, who ruled Egypt at that time.”
– Arkon Daraul, Secret Societies
The Latter Days of the Assassins V3
From A History of Secret Societies by Arkon Daraul
(Citadel Press 1961/1989)
Deliberately modified by Nexus23 Authors :
The ruler of one the most terrifying organizations the world has ever known
was without a lineal successor.
He had had both of his sons killed:one for carrying out an unauthorized murder,
the other for drinking wine; certainly a case of “do as I say, not as I do”.
He called his two most trusted lieutenants from the strongholds
which they maintained on his behalf:
Kia Buzurg-Umid (Kia of Great Promise) and Abu-Ali of Qaswin.
Kia was to inherit the spiritual and mystical aspect,
while Abu-Ali attended to the military and administrative affairs of the Order.
It is said that Hasan bin Sabah died almost immediately afterwards, in 1124,
at ninety years of age;having given the world a new word; assassin.
‘Assasseen’ in Arabic signifies ‘guardians’,
and some commentators have considered this to be the true origin of the word:
‘guardians of the secrets”.
The Organization of the Order, under Hasan,
called for Missionaries (Dayes), Friends (Rafiq) who were disciples,
and Fidavis, devotees.
The last group had been added by Hasan to the Ismaili original,
and these were the trained killers.
Fidavis wore white, with a girdle, cap or boots of red.
In addition to careful coaching in where and when to place the dagger
in the victim’s bosom,they were trained in such things as languages,
the dress and manners of monks,merchants and soldiers, any of whom
they were ready to impersonate in carrying out their missions.
The chief was known as Sayedna (Our Prince, Leader),and popularly
(because of the mountain stronghold of Alamut),as the Sheikh of the Mountain.
This is the figure referred to in Crusaders’writings as ‘Sydney’,
or Senex de Monte,the first word being a literal translation of the word Pir:
Persian for Ancient, or Sage.
There were three Great Missionaries,who ruled three territories.
After the Friends and Fidavis came the Laziks,aspirants who were being trained
for membership of the society,but were as yet uninitiated.
Cast no seeds upon rocks
Hasan reduced the original number of degrees of initiation
from nine to the mystical number of seven.
A similar number of regulations formed the rules of the Order.
This, in fact, comprised the working plan of the spreading of the Faith.
The First Rule was the the Missionary must know human psychology
in such a way as to be able to select suitable people for admission to the cult;
and was summed up in the mnemonic:
Cast no seeds upon rocks.
The second rule of procedure was the application of flattery and gaining,
the confidence of the prospective member.
Third came the casting of doubt into the mind, by superior knowledge.
Fourthly,the teacher must apply an oath to student
never to betray any of the ‘truths’ which were to be revealed to him.
Now he was told, as the fifth stage,
that Ismailism was a powerful secret organization,
supported by some of the most important figures of the time.
After this, the aspirant was questioned and studied,
to discover whether he had absorbed the opinions of the teacher
and attached himself sufficiently into a position of dependence upon his ideas.
Paradise lies in the shadow of swords
At this stage he was asked to meditate upon the meaning
of the reported saying of the prophet that
“Paradise lies in the shadow of swords”.
In the final degree,many difficult passages of the Koran were explained
in terms of allegory.
How is it that the rules of this extraordinarily successful Order
are known in such detail?
It so happened that when the Mongols eventually
overthrew Alamut by force of arms,their chief Halaku(Destruction)Khan,
asked his chief minister to examine their library.
This most learned man, ‘Father of Kings’ Jawani,later wrote a careful book
in which he detailed the organization of the Assassins,
whose name he attributed to the use of the drug Hashish,
which they were said to use in stupefying candidates
for the ephemeral visit to ‘paradise’.
It is possible that recruits were made in another way
than by selecting gullible, fully grown youths.
Legend has it that Hasan, once master of Alamut,
used to buy unwanted children from their parents,
and train them in implicit obedience
and with the sole desire to die in his service.
Buzurg-Umid (‘Great Promise’),the second Grand Master,
maintained the power of the Assassins on much the same pattern:
building new forts, gaining fresh converts,
terrorizing those whom he did not want to have killed
and using them to further his designs of world conquest.
Sultan Sanjar of Persia,
in spite of several expeditions against the Viper’s Nest,
as Alamut was now being called, could do little about him.
Ambassadors on each side were slain;a notable religious leader was captured
by the Assassins, given a mock trial and flung into a furnace.
The Grand Master at this time seldom put on the field
more than two thousand men at a time:
but it must be remembered that they were killers acting
under an iron discipline, and more than a match for any organized army
that they might ever have to face.
Now the Order began to spread in Syria,
where the continued contact with the Crusaders was established.
The warriors of the Cross were in fairly effective control of an area
extending from the Egyptian border to Armenia in the north.
Bahram, a Persian leader of the Assassin cult from Astrabad,
gained control of a mighty fortress in Syria,
in the region known as the Valley of Demons (Wadi-el-Jan),
and from there spread from one fort to another.
The Grand Prior Bahram now moved to an even more substantial fortified place,
Bahram’s successor, Ismail the Lash-Bearer,
planted a trained devotee on the saintly Vizier of Baghdad,
into whose confidence he worked his way to such an extent that this Assassin,
now called the ‘Father of Trust’, was actually made Grand Judge of Baghdad.
A Brief Alliance
The Crusaders had by now been about thirty years in the Holy Land,
and the Assassins decided that they could usefully form an alliance
with them aimed against Baghdad.
A secret treaty was therefore made
between the Grand Master and Baldwin II, King of Jerusalem,
whereby the Ismaili Grand Judge
would have opened the gates of Baghdad treacherously to the Crusaders,
if the fortified city of Tyre were handed
over to the Assassins for their part in the transaction.
Something went wrong.
The judge had ordered an underling to open the city’s gates.
This servant had told the military commander of Damascus,
who lost no time in killing the man,the Vizier and six thousand people
believed to be secret Assassins within the city.
The Damascus garrison fell upon the Crusaders
and beat them back in a thunderstorm which the Christian warriors attributed
to divine anger at their unworthy pact,
and the Assassins as an attempt by the powers of Nature
to allow the Crusaders into the city under its cover.
Meanwhile the Grand Master was indulging in an orgy of destruction
of individual rulers who opposed his creed;
the list is interminable, but this is a fair example:
“The celebrated Aksunkur, Prince of Mosul, was a warrior equally dreaded
by the Christians and the Assassins.
As this Prince, on his return from Ma’ara Masrin,
where the Moslem and Christian hosts had parted without venturing to engage,
entered the Mosque at Mosul to perform his devotions,
he was attacked at the moment when he was about to take his usual seat
by eight Assassins, disguised as dervishes.
Three of them fell below the blows of the valiant Emir;
but ere his people could come to his aid, he had received his death-wound
Things thus continued for the fourteen years
and a quarter of the Second Grand Master’s rule.
When he died he nominated his son Kia Mohammed as his successor.
Under Mohammed the killings continued,
a part of the sea-coast of Palestine came into Assassin hands,
and the cult leaders reaffirmed their overt belief in orthodox Islam.
In public, Ismailis were ordinary Moslems;
the secret doctrine of the divinely guider leader
was not to be discussed with the uninitiated.
But this most successful of secret societies soon showed that
its strength ultimately depended upon a powerful leader:
and Kia Mohammed was not such.
Hasan the Hated
Little by little it became obvious that his own son,
Hasan the Hated, was the stronger personality.
Now Hasan, through some magnetic power,
was able to capture the imagination of the Assassins,soon having it believed
that he himself was none other than the Power of All Powers,
the Hidden Imam,who had been mentioned by the first Grand Master;
an incarnation of all greatness.
So important was he that he was the fountain of power,
and others only held a measure of authority
because he allowed them to have it.
This final absurdity was lapped up by members
who had been conditioned to believe in things which were not,
shall we say, exactly self-evident to the ordinary man.
The doctrine of the all-powerful Invisible Imam was a part of Ismailism;
and Hasan was ready even during his early manhood to assume the role.
But, since his father was able to assert himself
by having some two hundred and fifty of Hasan followers murdered,
he thought it wiser to hold his hand.
In 1163 his chance came.Mohammed died, and Hasan II issued
an order to all Ismailis to collect below the castle of Alamut.
Never before had such an assembly of killers,
fanatics and dedicated perverters of the truth been seen.
Hasan, probably in a state of megalomania,
assured them that he had received a message from the Almighty that as from now,
all the bond of religion were loosed:
everyone might do as he liked.
It was not necessary to keep up the presences.
And, furthermore, he, Hasan, was none other than the Hidden Imam.
His word was law; and he was a form of the divinity,
not merely relaying instructions from above.
There was one further obstacle.
According to Ismaili doctrine,the Hidden Imam was to be of Family of Hashim,
the blood of Mohammed the Prophet.
Such descendants were known and revered:
and it was common knowledge that Hasan II was not one of them.
He overcame this difficulty by stating
that he was not in fact the true son of Kia Mohammed the Persian,
but an adopted child of the Caliphial family of Egypt.
This presence was carried on for four years,
during which the crazed Hasan showed that he was not as mad
as he might have been,by consolidating quite efficiently the power of the cult.
Eventually, he was assassinated by his brother-in-law, Namwar (‘The Famous’).
Now the father-to-son succession seemed to be established.
Mohammed II, son of Hasan II,began the cultivation of letters and sciences
which was to distinguish successive Grand Masters of the Order.
It was a conceit of his,
in the time of the greatest flowering of Persian literature,
that he was supreme among poets and philosophers.
He used his assassins, too, to drive this point well home.
The Imam Razi, one of the greatest thinkers of the time,
refused to acknowledge the Assassins as the most advanced theologians:
so Mohammed II sent an envoy to him,
promising either a swift death by dagger or a pension
of several thousand gold pieces a year.
Suddenly the learned Imam’s discourses seemed to lose their bite.
One day, soon afterwards,he was asked why he did not attack the Assassins
as of old.”Because,” said the old man,
with a nervous glance around the assembly where a murderer might lurk,
“their arguments are so sharp, and pointed.”
For thirty-five years Mohammed II ruled the Ismailis with a rod of iron;
the only law was that of obedience to the Assassin will.
The observances of ritual Islam were abolished.
A new star had arisen:
a power to stiffen resistance to Crusader penetration;
Saladin, who was to become an implacable foe of the Assassins.
The Syrian branch of the cult grew in power,
while the activities of the Eastern Assassins were carried out
much more quietly, with missionaries being sent
to India, Afghanistan, even the remote Pamir mountains
which straddle China and Russia,
where even today adherents of the sect are to be found.
Saladin had overcome the other Ismaili branch and original home of Assassinism
– Egypt – and restored the true faith to the people of the Nile.
He now had enough booty for ten years war against the Crusaders in Palestine,
and troops to spare.His first task was to unify the forces of Islam;
and this he determined to do by force if necessary.
Sinan, Ancient of the Assassin cult in Syria,
decided to oppose this terrible enemy of the Fatimites.
Three assassins fell upon Saladin and nearly killed him.
This made the sect a priority target for the Saracen chief.
The Old Man of the Mountain, for his part,
now unleashed a succession of fanatics,in every kind of disguise, upon Saladin.
By 1176, Saladin decided that an end must be put to the cult.
He invaded their territory and started to lay it waste,
when the Assassin chief offered him freedom of action
to fight the Crusaders, and no further attempt upon his life,
if the cult were spared. These terms were agreed to,and henceforth
no Assassin ever again attempted to molest Sultan Saladin.
This period introduces Sinan as yet another strange
and terrible Assassin leader.
He had decided that he was the incarnation of all power and deity,
and that he would live the part.
Sinan was never seen to eat or drink, sleep, or even to spit.
Between sunrise and sunset he stood on a pinnacle of rock,
dressed in a hair-shirt, and preached his own power and glory
to delighted Assassins.
Thus, at one and the same time, there were two chiefs of the Order,
each busily telling his own followers that he, and he alone, was God.
Hasan in Persia, Sinan in Syria, each commanded legions of devoted killers,
all committed by oath to follow his path.
When Mohammed II died,he was succeeded by his son Jalaludin,
who completely reversed the orders
that the Assassins were to have no outward religious observances.
He felt that he could do a great deal by adopting the cloak of orthodox piety,
and sent ambassadors far and wide to announce
his maintenance of the true faith.
He went so far as to curse his predecessors publicly,
in order to convince the incredulous that such a people as the Assassins
could turn over a new leaf.
As a result of what would today be called a long-term
and comprehensive propaganda plan,
he was acknowledged as a religious leader
by half the orthodox monarchs of Islam,
and (the first Assassin to be so styled) came to be termed Prince Jalaludin.
Jalaludin died in 1203,after twelve years of leadership of the cult,
handing over to Alaeddin (Aladdin),a child of nine years of age.
Weak, inefficient, stupid,Alaeddin made little mark upon history.
It is said that his main activity was tending sheep,
to which he was passionately attached, and he even had a small hut built
in a sheepfold,where he spent most of his time.
He was extraordinarily cruel,in spite of the contact with the sheep,
and continued to terrorize in time-honoured fashion any person,
great or small,who did not pay tribute
or otherwise co-operate with the organization.
The Assassins hands, ears and eyes were everywhere.
Once fully initiated,a man might be sent to a place a thousand miles away,
there to take up residence and live: waiting for the moment when orders came
to him from Alamut to fulfil his fatal destiny.
A story is told of the court of the Shah of Khwarism, thus:
“The Ismaili ambassador spent some time with the Vizier.
One day, after a splendid banquet when the wine
which they had been drinking in violation of the law
had mounted into their heads,
the ambassador told the Vizier by way of confidence
that there were several Ismailis among the pages, grooms, guards
and other persons who were immediately about the Sultan.
The Vizier, dismayed and at the same time curious to know
who these dangerous attendants were, besought the ambassador to point them
out to him, giving him his napkin as a pledge that
nothing evil should happen to them.
Instantly, at a sign from the envoy, five of the persons
who were attendants in the chamber stepped forth, avowing themselves
to be concealed Assassins,On such a day and at such an hour,said one of them,
an Indian, to the Vizier,
‘I might have slain thee without being seen or punished;
and if I did not do so it was only because
I had no orders from my superiors.”
The Vizier begged for his life. But word got the Sultan,
who ordered the Assassins to be apprehended and burned alive,
and “the five chamberlains were cast on the falling pyre,
where they died exulting at being found worthy to suffer
in the service of the great Sheikh of the Mountain.”
The Assassins had the last laugh,
for an order arrived immediately afterwards from Alamut,
that the Shah must pay ten thousand pieces of gold
as compensation for each man killed – which he did.
Another subsidiary activity which the Assassins delighted in
was holding captive in Alamut of useful,
rare and distinguished personages who could be of value to them in educational,
military or other spheres.
One was a physician, another a famous astronomer,
a third the greatest painter in Persia,
who worked to the order of the chief alone.
The End ?
The end of chapter was near, for the Mongol hordes under Halaku,
lieutenant of Chinghiz,were steadily destroying all the civilization of Islam
which lay in their inexorable path westwards.
Rukneddin, son of Alaeddin,succeeded him and tried at first
to turn the Mongol tide.
After a series of encounters, pitched battles,intrigues and counter-intrigues,
Rukneddin was taken.
He played for time as long as he could,
but was eventually murdered in his own turn
by the victorious Mongol chief’s men.
Assassin power in Persia was broken,and what remained of the members
were ordered – none knows by whom – to conceal their faith and await a signal
that the cult was in full operation again.
Alamut was silenced, and the Syrian headquarters alone remained.
It was a long time until the Mamluk Sultan of Egypt was able
to overcome the Mongol thrust.
In 1260, however, he carried the banners of Islam victoriously against them,
and restored the fortress of Alamut and other properties to the Assassins,
who were strongly surviving underground.
They soon found that they had exchanged one master for another,
for the Egyptians were now employing them for their own purposes.
Ibn Batuta, the great traveller of the fourteeth century,
found them well entrenched in their former strong places,
being used as the
“arrows of the Sultan of Egypt with which he reaches his enemies.”
The supposed suppression of the creed which followed the Mongol destruction
did not in fact take place. Copying each other,
historians have asserted that Assassinism died six hundred years ago.
Now and again, however,
fresh facts of their continued existence still come to light.
In the eighteenth century an Englishman, the British Consul at Aleppo in Syria,
was at pains to make this better known:
“Some authors assert,” he writes,”that these people were entirely extirpated
in the thirteenth century by the Tartars…but I,
who have lived so long in this infernal place,will venture to affirm
that some of their spawn still exists in the mountains that surround us;
for nothing is so cruel,barbarous and execrable that is not acted,
and even gloried in, by these cursed Gourdins.”
The Assassins were widely dispersed throughout Asia.
The rise of the Thugs, the secret society of assassination of India,
followed the Mongol invasion of Persia.
Indeed, at least one of the Thug recognition-signals
(Ali bhai Salam!) indicates salutations to Ali,
the descendant of the Prophet most greatly revered by the Assassins.
Ismailis, not all of them recognizing the one chief,
reside in places as far apart as Malaya, East Africa and Ceylon (Sri Lanka).
They would not necessarily feel that they are Assassins in the same sense
as the extremists who followed the old Sheikhs of the Mountains;
but at least some of them revere the descendants of the Lords of Alamut
to the extent of deification.
The modern phase of Ismailism dates from 1810,
when the French consul at Aleppo found that the Assassins in Persia recognized
as their divinely-inspired chief
a reputed descendant of the Fourth Grand Master of Alamut,
who then lived at Kehk,a small village between Isfahan and Tehran.
This Shah Khalilullah “was revered almost like a god and credited
with the power of working miracles…the followers of Khalilullah would,
when he pared his nails,fight for the clippings;
the water in which he washed became holy water.”
The sect next appear to the public gaze through an odd happening.
In 1866, a law case was decided in Bombay.
There is in that city a large community of commercial men
known as Khojas:
“A Persian,” the record tells us,”Aga Khan Mehalati
(i.e., a native of Mehelat, a place situated near Khek)
had sent an agent to Bombay to claim from the Khojas
the annual tribute due from them to him,and amounting to about £ 10,000.
The claim was resisted,and the British court was appealed to by Aga Khan.
Sir Joseph Arnold investigated his claim.
The Aga proves his pedigree,showing that he descended in a direct line
from the fourth Grand Master of Alamut,and Sir Joseph declared it proved;
and it was further demonstrated by the trial
that the Khojas were members of the ancient sect of the Assassins,
to which sect they had been converted four hundred years before
by an Ishmaelite missionary, who composed a work
which has remained the sacred book of the Khojas.”
In the First Afghan War, the then Aga Khan contributed
a force of light cavalry to the British forces.
For this he was awarded a pension. Hitti, in his History of the Arabs,
notes (p. 448, 1951 edition) that the Assassin sect,
known as Khojas and Malwas,
gave over a tenth of their revenues to the Aga Khan, who
“spends most of his time as a sportsman between Paris and London.”
The influence of the new form of organization and training,
as well as initiatory techniques,of the Assassins upon later societies
has been remarked by a number of students.
That the Crusaders knew a good deal about the Ismailis is shown
from the detailed descriptions of them which survive.
S. Ameer Ali, an Orientalist of considerable repute,
goes further in his assessment:
“From the Ismailis the Crusaders borrowed the conception which led
to the formation of all the secret societies,
religious and secular, of Europe.
The institutions of Templars and Hospitallers;
the Society of Jesus, founded by Ignatius Loyola,
composed by a body of men whose devotion to their cause
can hardly be surpassed in our time;
the ferocious Dominicans, the milder Franciscans may all be traced
either to Cairo or to Alamut.
The Knights Templar especially, with their system of grand masters,
grand priors and religious devotees, and their degrees of initiation,
bear the strongest analogy to the Eastern Ismailis.”
The Old Man of the Mountains V3
A History of Secret Societies by Arkon Daraul
(Citadel Press 1961/1989)
Deliberately modified by Nexus23 Authors :
The Eagle’s Nest
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 Emperor and the veiled figure who claimed
to be the incarnation of the God on earth.
Hassan , son of Sabah ,
Sheikh of the Mountains and leader of the Assassins , spoke :
“You see that devotee standing guard on yonder turret-top? Watch!”
“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!”
Such a scene may be worthy of epic movies
like Conan the Barbarian ,
but yet it took place in historical fact.
Sabah the man that came with his uncanny power
and his men whom struck terror from the Caspian to Egypt .
Today , the sect of the Hashishin still exists in the forms of the Ishmaelites ,
whose undisputed chief ,
endowed by them with divine attributes ,
is the Aga Khan.
In the seventh century A.D.
the followers of Islam split into two divisions :
the orthodox ,
who regard Mohammed as the bringer of divine inspiration ;
and the Shiahs ,
who consider that Ali , his successor,
the Fourth Imam was more important .
It is with the Shiahs that we are concerned here .
From the beginning of the split in the early days of Islam ,
the Shiahs relied for the survival upon secrecy ,
although the minority party in Islam ,
they believed that they could overcome the majority,
and eventually the whole world ,
by superior organization and power.
To this end they started a number of societies
which practised secret rites in which
personality of Ali was worshiped,
and whose rank and file
were trained to struggle above all
for the accomplishment of the world dominion.
One of the most powerful secret societies which the Shiahs
founded was centered around the Abode of Learning in Cairo ,
which was the training-ground for fanatics
who were conditioned by the most cunning methods
to believe in a special divine mission.
In order to do this ,
the original democratic Islamic ideas
had to be overcome by skilled teachers ,
acting under the orders of the Caliph of the Fatimites,
who ruled the Egypt at that time .
Ismail the Seventh Imam , He was the embodiment of divinity ,
far more than any Tibetan lama ever was .
They had universities , not much different from Oxford ,
but their purpose and task were
the complete transformation of the mind of the student .
Students had to pass through nine degrees of initiations.
The Lord of the Time
The seventh degree brought revelation of the Great Secret :
that all humanity and all creation were one
and every single thing was part of the whole ,
which included the creative and destructive power.
But , as an Ismaili , the individual could make use of the power
which was ready to be awakened within him ,
and overcome those who knew nothing
of the immense potential of the rest of humanity .
This power came through the aid of the mysterious power called
the Lord of the Time .
Belief as action
The ninth and last degree brought the revelation of the secret that
there was no such thing as belief :
all that mattered was action.
The real success extended abroad only in 1058 to Baghdad,
where a member gained temporary control of Baghdad and coined the money
in the Egyptian Caliph’s name.
This sultan was slain by the Turks , who now entered the picture ,
and the Cairo headquarters was also threatened.
By 1123 , the society was closed down by the Vizier Afdal.
The rise of Turkish power seemed to have discouraged
the expansionist Cairo sect
so strongly that they have almost faded out ,
and little is heard of them after that date.
It was left to Hasan , son of Sabah , the Old Man of the Mountains ,
to perfect the system of the ailing secret society ,
and found an organization which has endured for nearly another thousand years.
Origins of Hasan
Who was Hasan ?
He was the son of a Shiah in Khorasan , a most bigoted man,
who claimed that his ancestors were Arabs , from Kufa .
this assumption was probably due to the fact that such a lineage bolstered
up claims to religious importance , then as now , among Moslems .
The people of the neighbourhood , many of them also Shiahs ,
stated very decisively that this Ali
was a Persian , and so were his forebears .
It is generally thought that this is the true version .
As the Governor of the Province was an orthodox Moslem,
Ali spared no efforts to assume the same guise.
This is considered to be completely permissible,
the Doctrine of Intelligent Dissimulation .
As there was some doubt as to his reliability
in the religious sense , he retired into a monastic retreat,
and sent his son Hasan to an orthodox school.
This school was so ordinary one.
It was here that Hasan met Omar Khayyam
, the tentmaker-poet and astronomer ,
later to be the poet laureate of Persia,
and Nizam-ul-Mulk ,
who rose from peasant hood to become prime minister.
These three made a pact ,according to Nizam’s autobiography ,
whereby whichever rose to high office first would help the others .
After Nizam became vizier to Alp-arslan the Turkish sultan of Persia ,
Hasan wandered through the Middle East , remaining in obscurity ,
waiting for his chance to attain the power of which he had dreamed .
Arslan the Lion died , and was succeeded by Malik Shah.
Suddenly , Hasan presented himself to Nizam ,
demanding to be given a place at court .
Delighted to fulfill his childhood vow ,
the vizier obtained for him a favored place , and relates
what transpired thus in his autobiography :
“I had him made a minister by my strong and extravagant recommendations .
Like his father , however , he proved to be a fraud ,
hypocrite and a self-seeking villain .
He was so clever at dissimulation that he appeared to be pious when he had not,
and before long he had somehow completely captured the mind of the Shah.”
Malik Shah was young ,
and Hasan was trained in the Shiah art of winning people
over by apparent honesty.
But Nizam was still the most important man in the realm ,
with an impressive record of honest dealing and achievements.
Hasan decided to eliminate him.
The task and the fraud
The King had asked in that year , 1078,
for a complete accounting of the revenue and expenditure of the empire ,
and Nizam told him that this would take over a year.
Hasan , on the other hand ,
claimed that the whole work could be done in forty days,
and offered to prove it.
The task was assigned to him.
But something went wrong and Nizam struck back at the last moment saying :
“By Allah , this man will destroy us all unless he is rendered harmless ,
though i cannot kill my playmate.”
Whatever the truth may be ,
it seems that Nizam managed to have such disparities
introduced into the final calligraphic version of the accounts
that when Hasan started to read them they appeared so absurd
that the Shah , in fury , ordered him to be exiled .
As he had claimed to have written the accounts in his own hand ,
Hassan could not justify their incredible deficiencies .
Hasan had friends in Isfahan , where he immediately fled .
There survives a record of what he said there ,
which sheds interesting light upon what was in his mind.
One of these friends , Abu-al-Fazal, notes that Hasan ,
after reciting the bitter tale of his downfall,
shouted these words , in a state of uncontrollable rage:
“If I had two , just two, devotees who would stand by me ,
then I would cause the downfall of that Turk and that peasant.”
Fazal concluded that Hasan had taken leave his senses ,
and tried to get him out of this ugly mood.
Hasan took umbrage,
and insisted that he was working on a plan ,
and that he would have his revenge .
He set off for Egypt, there to mature his plans.
Fazal was himself to become a devotee of the Assassin chief ,
and Hasan , two decades later ,
reminded him of that day in Isfahan:
“Here I am at Alamut , Master of all I survey : and more .
The Sultan and the peasant Vizier are dead. have i not kept my vow?
Was I the madman you thought me to be?
I found my two devotees, who were necessary to my plans.”
Hasan himself takes up the story of the how
his fortunes fared after the flight from Persia .
He had been brought up in the secret doctrines of Ismailism ,
and recognized the possibilities of power inherent in such a system.
He knew that in Cairo there was a powerful nucleus of the society.
And , if we are to believe the words of Fazal ,
he already had a plan whereby he could turn their followers
into disciplined , devoted fanatics , willing to die for a leader.
What was this plan ?
He had decided that it was not enough to promise paradise,
fulfillment, eternal joy to people.
He would actually show it to them ;
show it in the form of an artificial paradise,
where houris played
and fountains gushed sweet scented waters ,
where every sensual wish was granted
amid beautiful flowers and gilded pavilions.
And this is what he eventually did.
Hasan chose a hidden valley for the site of his paradise ,
described by Marco Polo , who passed this way in 1271.
This and other conjuring tricks like the deep,
narrow pit sunk into the floor of his audience-chamber ,
had effects that increased the enthusiasm for martyrdom to the required degree.
Everywhere he created a really devoted disciple (fidayi).
Birth of Alamut
His trusted lieutenant , Hussein Kahini , reported
that the Iraki district where the fortress of Alamut
was situated seemed to be an ideal place for proselytism .
The year was A.D. 1090 .
Hasan was now ready for the next part of his plan.
He attacked and murdered through his assassins
the Vizier Nizam-ul-Mulk (stabbed to the heart),
the Emperor Malik Shah (poisoned) .
Hasan’s revenge upon his class-fellow was to make him
the very first target of his reign of terror.
The Sheikh of the Mountain
With the King’s death ,
the whole realm was split up into warring factions.
For long the Assassins alone retained their cohesion.
In under a decade
they had made themselves masters of all Persian Irak ,
and of many forts throughout the empire.
By now the entire loyalty of the Ismaelis
under him had been transferred from the Caliph
to the personality of the Sheikh of the Mountain,
who became the terror of every prince in that part of Asia ,
the Crusaders chiefs included.
“Despite and despising fatigues , dangers and tortures
the Assassins joyfully gave their lives whenever it pleased the great master ,
who required them either to protect himself or to carry out ,
the faithful , clothed in a white tunic with a red sash ,
the colors of innocence and blood ,
went on their mission without being deterred by distance or danger.
Having found the person they sought ,
they awaited the favorable moment for slaying him ,
and their daggers seldom missed their aim .”
A Tale from the Mountain
Richard the Lionheart was at one time accused
of having asked the ‘Lord of the Mountain’
to have Conrad of Montferrat killed; a plot which was carried out thus:
“Two assassins allowed themselves to be baptized
and placing themselves beside him, seemed intent only on praying.
But the favorable opportunity presented itself;
they stabbed him and one took refuge in the church.
But hearing that the prince had been carried off still alive,
he again forced himself into Montferrat’s presence,
and stabbed him a second time; and then expired, without a complaint,
amidst refined tortures.”
The Order of the Assassins had perfected
their method of securing the loyalty of human beings
to an extent and on a scale which has seldom been paralleled.
The Assassins carried on the battle on two fronts.
They fought whichever side in the Crusades served their purposes.
At the same time they continued the struggle against the Persians .
The son and successor of Nizam-ul-Mulk was laid low by an Assassin dagger.
The Sultan , who had succeeded his father Malik Shah
and gained power over most of his territories was marching against them.
One morning , however, he awoke with an Assassin weapon stuck neatly
into the ground near his head.
Within it was a note, warning him to call off the proposed siege of Alamut .
He came to terms with Assassins , powerful ruler though he undoubtedly was.
They had what amounted to a free hand , in exchange for a pact
by which they promised to reduce their military power.
Hasan lived for thirty-four years after his acquisition of Alamut .
On only two occasions since then had he even left his room:
yet he ruled an invisible empire
as great and as fearsome as any man before or since.
He seemed to realize that death was almost upon him ,
and calmly began to make plans for the perpetual continuance of
the Order of the Assassins .