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The great secrets of human bombs society part 4/5

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Assassins' paradise and Hasan’s techniques
An afternoon with a barely clad girl willing to engage him in carnal delights would have the usual impact on a pubescent boy heightened even more by his narcotic-induced state of mind.
Hasan’s manipulation of his young followers spawned more than an efficient killing machine. It also spawned other fables that may or may not be rooted in reality.
As described in the ancient work Art of Imposture by Abdel-Rahman of Damascus, Hasan strengthened his power over the trusting disciples by digging a deep, narrow pit in the floor of his chambers.
Within the pit he positioned a young man, known to others in the fortress, so that only the youth’s head appeared above the level of the floor. Then, after filling in the space surrounding the young man’s body, Hasan had a two-piece circular dish with a hole in the middle set on the floor around the man’s neck as though the head were resting on a plate. To add to the subterfuge, fresh blood was poured on the plate, completing the realistic impression of a severed head.

Recruits, perhaps drugged with hashish, were brought into the room and, in their presence, the “head” explained that he had followed the Master’s instructions, earning himself a place in Paradise. While his awed compatriots listened, the much-alive young man described all the pleasures he was enjoying there—endless fruit and wine, luxurious surroundings, and beautiful and willing young virgins.

You have seen the head of a man who died while carrying out my commands,” Hasan told the undoubtedly wide-eyed onlookers.
“He is a man you all know. I willed him to speak with his own tongue of the pleasures that his soul is enjoying even now. Go and fulfill my orders.” It was pretty persuasive stuff, made even more plausible when, after the recruits departed, Hasan chopped off the talking head—no doubt to its owner’s surprise—and displayed it on the parapet of the fortress for everyone to see.
Their former colleague, Hasan’s followers believed, was indeed enjoying the pleasures of Paradise, even as they remained on earth. How soon could they join him?
None of the reported techniques used by Hasan and those who replaced him is surprising to contemporary experts Psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton, in his book Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism, outlines three primary characteristics of secret societies that are as effective today as they were in Hasan’s time.
They are the following:

1. A charismatic leader who becomes an object of worship when the general principles that originally sustained the group lose their power.
2. A process such as coercive persuasion or thought reform.
3. Economic, sexual and other forms of exploitation of group members by the leader and ruling coterie.

The Assassins were not overly selective in choosing their victims during the Crusades, they supported whichever side suited their purposes while maintaining a vendetta against Sunnis. On at least one occasion they combined forces with the Knights Templar, hated enemies of Saladin and his Islamic defenders of Jerusalem.
And by charging fees from others in a murder-for-hire operation, the Assassins built a substantial income over the years.
When their reign of terror against selected targets rose to a crest, a mere rumor that an individual had somehow offended Hasan or had been selected for death was sufficient for the man to flee for his life. Few managed to escape.
Added to the certainty of death was the uncertainty of its time and place. The sultan’s own Prime Minister, Nizam-al-Mulk, was cut to pieces by an Assassin posing as a dervish while Nizam was being carried in a litter to his harem, his mind likely diverted with expectations of carnal delights even as the dagger was plunged into his chest. The Atabeg1 of Hims warned that he had been selected for murder by the Assassins, kept a contingent of armed guards always at his side. As the atabeg entered a mosque for prayers, the guards relaxed their vigil, for who would dare offend Allah by committing murder at such a time? In an eye blink, the atabeg was surrounded by Assassins who cut him to ribbons. And when a Christian, the Marquis Corrado di Montefeltro, was named for death, he was attacked by two Assassins posing as monks even as the marquis was being entertained by the Bishop of Tyre at a banquet. They managed only to wound the marquis before one of the Assassins was killed. The other managed to escape and hide in the chapel, where he knew the marquis would arrive to give thanks for his deliverance from certain death. He did, and as the marquis knelt in prayer, the surviving Assassin emerged from behind the altar and finished the job before dying in bliss at the hands of guards.
When it served their advantage, the Assassins chose intimidation over outright murder. After the Assassins dispatched the son of Nizam-al-Mulk with their daggers, the father declared he would lead an army unlike any in history, march on Alamut, and destroy it and all of its inhabitants. One evening, arriving within sight of the fortress and making camp in the foothills of the Alborz, Nizam-al- Mulk went to sleep confident that he would rise the next day to Atabeg was a title of nobility commonly used in Mesopotamia from the twelfth century. The term indicated a governor of a nation, below an emperor or king in rank but above a khan, as well as a military adviser to a young and inexperienced prince lead his warriors against the Assassins, wiping them from the face of the earth.
When he awoke in the morning, he found a dagger buried to its hilt in the sand next to his head, the blade piercing a note warning that nothing but massacre awaited him and his army.

None of Nizam-al-Mulk’s entourage could explain how the dagger and note had been placed there. No one had been seen approaching his tent. Had it been ghosts or spirits? Whatever it was, Nizam-al-Mulk decided to call off his attack, instructing his forces to avoid the region in the future, and providing Hasan and his followers with a free hand throughout the Muslim world.
As Hasan increased both his power and wealth he expanded his authority, acquiring and strengthening fortifications among the crags of the Alborz, each impregnable to all but the largest most dedicated armies. And as the years passed, Hasan acquired a description that sounds almost paternal to today’s ears.
He and each of his descendants who led a group of Assassins, including the Dai-el-Kebir, became known as the Old Man of the Mountain.

The Assassins did not restrict themselves to political or spiritual figures, nor did they lack an appreciation for the power of psychology to achieve their goals, as they proved with their intimidation of the sultan. The Imam Razi, one of he great Muslim intellectuals of his era, was foolish enough to insult the Assassins by declaring they were not qualified theologians, until visited by an envoy of the group who offered the Imam a choice: death by dagger or an annual pension of a thousand gold pieces. The imam’s condemnation promptly ceased, causing a colleague to ask why the wise man was no longer criticizing the Assassins. The old man glanced quickly around. “Because,” he whispered, “their arguments are so sharp and pointed.”


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