ALAMUT IN LITERARY & ANARCHIST THEORY
NOTE: For a synopsis of this document and more information about the history of Alamut please refer to my Index to the History of Alamut.
EXCERPTS from: ALAMUT
Welcome to Alamut, an ongoing project inspired by literary theory & anarchist texts. Alamut is essentially a study of the works of Hakim Bey and Deleuze & Guattari.
Alamut was the mountain fortress of Hasan-i Sabbah and the later heads of the Assassins. Alamut represents more than just a physical place, more even than a symbolic home of the movement. Alamut was with you in what you did; Alamut was in your heart from the moment of your arrival and introduction to "Heaven" until the moment you died.
Alamut might be an example of a permanent autonomous zone, a P.A.Z. Certainly it's status as a mountain fortress unassailable by outside forces for over a hundred years would seem to make it more likely a candidate than anything seen in America today.
Bey rightly notes that sincere attempts to create independent societies have always been either crushed or absorbed, up through today's Branch Davidians or MOVE, both of which met firey reprisals from the State.
On the other hand, Alamut might be seen as a temporary autonomous zone as well. The Assassins (and the Isma'ili) continued to function after the Mongols had driven them away. (In fact, I believe that the Egyptians later recaptured the fortress and returned it to the Assassins, but like so much else about the sect, I'm not sure if this is fact or myth). The Assassins had Alamut as symbol and unification for their secret society; the Alamut in their hearts & souls could never be captured.
Hasan-i Sabbah (or Hasan bin Sabbah, or any number of transliterations from the Arabic) is a genuine historical figure. An Ishmaelite (or Isma'ili; this still-extant branch of Shiite Islam is headed by the Aga Khan) political intriguer of the late 11th century, Hasan-i Sabbah became a major political force in Persia and the entire Islamic world by use of some surprisingly modern political techniques. Hasan-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. (PERRY NOTE: all other sources claim 1256)
However, that isn't the reason Hasan-i Sabbah is relevant 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, Hasan-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 Sabbah, Sheikh of the Mountains and leader of the Assassins, spoke. 'You see that devotee standing guard on yonder turret-top? Watch!'
Hasan-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 initiate to sexual pleasures. Food & drink flowed freely. Hasan-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 Hasan-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...
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