Hasan-i-Sabah: Assassin Master (Hardcover)
This publication includes the first English translation of the 1310 biography of Hasan-i-Sabah by Rashid al-Din: The Biography of Our Master (Sar-Guzasht-i-Sayyidna)
Hasan-i-Sabah was born in northern Persia around 1050 and died in 1124. He was an Ismaili missionary (or dai) who founded the Nizari Ismailis after the usurpation of the Fatimid Imamate by the military dictator of Egypt. It may be said that Hasan founded and operated the world’s most successful mystical secret society, while building a political territory in which to maintain his independence. The small empire he created would be home to him, his followers, and their descendants for 166 years.
Today, under the leadership of the Aga Khan, the Nizari Ismailis are one of the preeminent Muslim sects in the world, numbering some twenty million members in twenty-five countries.
The medieval Nizaris were also known as Assassins or Hashishim. They became embedded in European consciousness because of their contact with the Knights Templar, and other Crusaders and visitors to the Near East. Several Europeans reported back with strange (and largely false) tales of the Assassins. In the fourteenth century, they were widely popularized by the famed Venetian traveler and writer Marco Polo in The Travels of Marco Polo. He added a whole new level of myth in his account of the sect (included in this volume along with extensive commentary).
Of greatest interest is the idea that the Assassins were the spiritual initiators of the Knights Templar. If this is true, Hasan-i-Sabah would be in part responsible for the European Renaissance that would reclaim the spiritual centrality of the Hermetic writings and the Gnostic/Esoteric trends that continue to this day.
Essential reading for an understanding of modern esoteric secret societies and today’s headlines coming from the Middle East. Includes 9 maps.
About the Author
James Wasserman is a lifelong student of esotericism. His writings include The Mystery Traditions and Aleister Crowley and The Practice of the Magical Diary. He lives in New York City with his wife, Nancy. Visit him at www.studio31.com.
Tobias Churton is a writer and filmmaker, best known for his work on English television's award-winning Gnostics series and the bestselling book that accompanied it. Churton was also foundereditor of the controversial Freemasonry Today magazine. He recently completed a dramatic film on Elias Ashmole and the origins of Freemasonry, A Mighty Good Man.
"First, let me congratulate you on an overwhelming undertaking. You are dealing with a subject that is not well-understood and has been a magnet for a great deal of disinformation over the centuries. You have had to start at rock bottom and work your way up through layers of flawed data that have accumulated (and hardened) to such an extent that one would need a pile driver to punch through.
I hope your readers understand that and, as you mention in your opening, it isn’t necessary to wade through the background and historical narrative—as valuable as it is—for those who want to get right to the heart of the subject matter, which is Hasan himself.
Hasan comes through your work as a complex, three-dimensional human being in spite of all the mythology surrounding him and the Assassins. Importantly, Islam is shown to be a multi-faceted faith with a complicated history, something that not many modern commentators understand.
In addition, the translations at the end are well worth the cover price as they are not available anywhere else and they do help to clear up some misconceptions about Hasan and the Ismailis.
Thus, I whole-heartedly endorse this project."
— PETER LEVENDA, author of Dark Lord and Tantric Temples
"Jim Wasserman presents a compelling portrait of Hasan-i-Sabah and the Nizari Ismaili branch of Shia Islam. Hasan-i-Sabah, the founder of the renowned Order of Assassins, exemplifies all the spiritual richness and political complexity of Islam, and Wasserman is a skilled storyteller who illuminates the events of history with both scholarship and mystical insight. This valuable book also includes, for the first time in English, medieval Persian texts describing the life of Hasan-i-Sabah, and Wasserman’s explication makes these fascinating texts accessible."
— JAMES H. CUMMING, author of Torah and Nondualism
"Nearly nine hundred years after his death, Hasan-i-Sabah, founder of the mysterious sect known as the “Assassins,” continues to exert his influence across the Middle East and the West. Mystic, heretic, pious Muslim, master of politics, war, scholar, and prolific author, Hasan is a mystery not easily penetrated; yet, Wasserman takes us carefully by the hand through the labyrinth of legend and history that compose our understanding of a man thought to be pivotal in transforming the Knights Templar into an esoteric body, as well as in the transmission of Hermetic doctrines to the West. The Byzantine complexity of the medieval Islamic world is revealed, and with it, deep insights into the present world conflict—the “war on terrorism.” This book is essential reading for anyone wishing to know more about secret societies, Islam, and their combined role in a historical and contemporary context."
— MARK STAVISH, director of the Institute of Hermetic Studies
"I have been able to go back nine hundred years and get a feel for this legendary leader. The unfolding history was also great. So much stays the same. Despite the darkness and constant fighting, it was the eternal striving for realization that shines through most in your book. This is an outstanding effort."
— CLAIRE DEEM, pianist
"James Wasserman escorts readers on a kaleidoscopic journey from the first stirrings of human civilization to a hurricane millennia later: the birth of the fearsome Assassins. Wasserman’s passionate knowledge illuminates the myth, mystery, life and teachings of the semi-mythical Assassin master Hasan-i-Sabah, and shows how these echo through the ages and inform the unrest that continues to reverberate in the Fertile Crescent today."
— RICHARD KACZYNSKI, author of Perdurabo: The Life of Aleister Crowley.
"In 1256, the Mongol invaders destroyed Alamut and its library, thus making it seemingly impossible to distinguish truth from fantasy in understanding the nature of the Assassins and the mystical gnosis that shaped their philosophy. What little we do know has been assumed to be all we could know. But in this essential book, James Wasserman has tirelessly examined all the available evidence and provided a serious and sober assessment of the initiatory society that may well have played a decisive role in the shaping of European history with its influence on the Knights Templar during the Crusades. This book, which I believe is destined to become an essential reference book in this field, stands out for its inclusion of the first English translation of The Biography of Our Master by Rashid al-Din, and even more significantly, for the author’s lucid and extensive presentation of the mysterious Qiyama Doctrine that earned this Order the unrelenting hatred of the Orthodox authorities of their day (such as the Seljuk Sunnis and the Twelver Shiites). I thought there was no more that could be said about the Nizari Ismalis. Thank you James Wasserman for proving me wrong."
— JON GRAHAM, writer, translator, and acquisitions editor