Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
I started reading this book on Google Books and quickly exhausted all of its available pages. I was pretty much hooked from the get-go. Mostly due to my recent fascination with the cult of Assassins.
I recently read a wonderful book called Cannabis: A History by Martin Booth. In this book the Islamic history of marijuana smoking is extensively discussed, including the rumors that the Assassins were avid users of this herb, called the Hashishin by some for their alleged use of hashish. However, Martin Booth asserts that there is no evidence that the Assassins ever had systematic use of cannabis by the Assassins, and that this was probably just slander against them by their enemies.
He wrote that very little is known about the Assassins.
Though this certainly sparked my curiosity, I became irrevocably obsessed with the Assassins after hearing Bil Laswell’s album Hashisheen: The End of the Law.
This album is difficult to describe. But to those who are already in the know, the beat movement, jazz, and this sort of 50s hipsterism was way ahead of the curve when it came to pondering the Assassins. In part, just by making shit up.
William S. Burroughs was particularly keen on pondering and simultaneously inventing the Assassins.
To me, the secret society of the Assassins is what this book is all about.
I don’t really care about the Templars, and this book didn’t reveal anything particularly exciting about the Templars. I know there is a ton of people, including probably all Dan Brown fans, who love the Templars and could read about the Templars all day. But from what I could tell from this book, the Templars were basically solid chivalrous medieval christians who were hardcore about the crusades.
Just a bunch of stand-up guys. That’s also Wassermans’ take on the Masons as far as I can tell.
Now back to the Assassins. Oh yes.
For those of you who play the video game Assassins Creed much of what I write here will be old news. Though I have yet to play this game every time I try to wow my friends with interesting trivia about the Assassins they are merely hearing my banter about what has already been very nicely put into a popular video game.
Though I would add that if you read this book you will be able to differentiate between the real and myth of that game. The game seems to indulge many of the popular myths about the Assassins.
Now, my first question is did the Assassins smoke pot? I don’t know. No one really knows. The term Hash-shi-shin may have been a way that other Muslims spread propaganda against them. By saying that they were basically pot heads. Cannabis use thrived in the middle east, and we really get it from them in the west. So this would not have necessarily been an obscure insult.
Though it is entirely possible because the Assassins routinely practiced very mystical, very esoteric, and in my opinion extremely forward thinking futuristic versions of Islam.
Wasserman goes into great depth about the historical setting and the cultural shifts that Islam was undergoing, and more importantly the Ismaili sect of Islam which has Shia roots and teaches that the world at any time hosts a living messianic super being called the hidden imam (which mainstream Shia also believe in). But, speaking as a radical, neo-beatnik, aesthetic terrorist who listens to music inspired by revolt, the Ismaili version is much more interesting.
At times the leader of the Assassins would have the clout, charisma and vision to make their followers wonder if they were in the presence of this great Buddha.
Sometimes these guys were extremely libertine, forbidding Sharia law (all the repressive Muslim strictures) and enforcing a kind of liberalism and modernity of culture which really boggles a historically literate mind to know this flourished a thousand years ago.
The most interesting character of the book is easily the leader of the Syrian Assassins, who’s stories read like the modern DC Vertigo comic Hellblazer, who’s star is a former punk rock singer who happens to be a demonological prodigy, a Faust, a Merlin, an Aleister Crowley.
This aesthetic and philosophy, this incarnation of memes, has deep roots in Islam and the Assassins were a particularly fascinating historical fruit of this phenomena.
The book is worth it for that part, at least. But if you are into Templars, then Wasserman comes highly recognized for his expertise and I sincerely hope you are pleased.
I was a little bored. I don’t blame Wasserman. I blame the Templars.
Love is the law. Love under will.