Across the luster of the desert & into the polychrome hills, hairless & ochre violet dun & umber, at the top of a dessicate blue valley travelers find an artificial oasis, a fortified castle in saracenic style enclosing a hidden garden.
As guests of the Old Man of the Mountain Hassan-i Sabbah they climb rock-cut steps to the castle. Here the Day of Resurrection has already come & gone — those within live outside profane Time, which they hold at bay with daggers & poisons.
Behind crenellations & slit-windowed towers scholars & fedayeen wake in narrow monolithic cells. Star-maps, astrolabes, alembics & retorts, piles of open books in a shaft of morning sunlight — an unsheathed scimitar.
Each of those who enter the realm of the Imam-of-one’s-own-being becomes a sultan of inverted revelation, a monarch of abrogation & apostasy. In a central chamber scalloped with light and hung with tapestried arabesques they lean on bolsters & smoke long chibouks of hashish scented with opium & amber.
For them the hierarchy of being has compacted to a dimensionless punctum of the real — for them the chains of Law have been broken — they end their fasting with wine. For them the outside of everything is its inside, its true face shines through direct. But the garden gates are camouflaged with terrorism, mirrors, rumors of assassination, trope l’oeil, legends.
Pomegranate, mulberry, persimmon, the erotic melancholy of cypresses, membrane-pink shirazi roses, braziers of meccan aloes & benzoin, stiff shafts of ottoman tulips, carpets spread like make-believe gardens on actual lawns — a pavilion set with a mosaic of calligrammes — a willow, a stream with watercress — a fountain crystalled underneath with geometry — the metaphysical scandal of bathing odalisques, of wet brown cupbearers hide-&-seeking in the foliage — ‘water, greenery, beautiful faces.’
By night Hassan-i Sabbah like a civilized wolf in a turban stretches out on a parapet above the garden & glares at the sky, conning the asterisms of heresy in the mindless cool desert air. 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 emblem of Alamut holds in the mind, a mandal or magic circle lost to history but embedded or imprinted in consciousness. The Old Man flits like a ghost into tents of kings & bedrooms of theologians, past all locks & guards with forgotten moslem/ninja techniques, leaves behind bad dreams, stilettos on pillows, puissant bribes.
The attar of his propaganda seeps into the criminal dreams of ontological anarchism, the heraldry of our obsessions displays the luminous black outlaw banners of the Assassins…all of them pretenders to the throne of an Imaginal Egypt, and occult space/light continuum consumed by still-unimagined liberties.”
Hakim Bey, T.A.Z. The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism (Brooklyn, NY: Autonomedia, 2003 ), 13-14.