The Templars and the Assassins
The Militia of Heaven
by James Wasserman
Paperback: 320 pages, 5 maps
Destiny Books ISBN-10: 089281859X
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From the Preface
A thousand years ago the eerie stillness of what is now the Israeli desert was shattered by the thunderous cacophony of armored horses' hooves racing to battle. The metal to metal clash of swords and lances striking armor and shield resounded through the field. Battle cries mixed with the screams of the wounded, the blasts of trumpets, the shouted commands in many foreign tongues. Muslim battled Christian for possession of a strip of land upon which both their religions were founded. Some thousands of miles away in the mountain fastness south of the Caspian Sea in modern Iraq, a Persian adept sat wrapped in a rigid posture of meditation, while his mind's eye gazed upon another deadly scene. One of his most trusted disciples, disguised as a Sufi mystic, had just approached the litter of the powerful Seljuk vizier. His dagger plunged into the vizier's heart seconds before he too was struck down by the guards. Hasan-i-Sabah must have experienced a moment of relief, as the death of his sworn enemy would lessen the Turkish threat to Alamut. Fate would soon smile kindly again on the besieged Assassin community as the Seljuk Sultan himself passed away within weeks of his slain vizier.
The richness of the historical truths of the Order of Assassins and the Knights Templar intertwine inexorably with the myths that have stimulated the imagination of countless minds through the centuries. Both the Assassins and Templars were destroyed as heretics some seven hundred years ago. While the Assassins (more properly Nizari Ismailis) survive to this day under the leadership of the Aga Khan, the period of their history under discussion was obliterated by their Mongolian and Mameluke conquerors in 1256 and 1273 respectively. They were slandered by Sunni heresiologists who considered them religious criminals, and by medieval Christian historians who considered them pagan idolaters. The Templars similarly have no surviving corpus of written material, despite the probability that as a medieval religious order, they kept scrupulous records of their doings. They too were written in dark ink by historians of the same power structure that tortured and murdered them and destroyed their Order. As history is written by the victors, we make haste at the outset to state that our study focuses on the vanquished.
My initial attraction to the Assassins and Templars was based on my interest in secret societies. I have devoted most of my life to participating and sharing in the mystical aspirations embodied in a secret society that claims derivation from the mythical union between the Assassins and Templars during the Crusades. I have also made a great effort to understand the influence of associations of people whose interests are far less spiritually motivated than those just described. Associations whose concerns are the political management, read domination, of mankind.
I believe that an examination of the Assassins under Hasan-i-Sabah will reveal a deeply mystical secret society which did much to manipulate the political reality of its day in order to spread its religious teaching and establish its own political freedom in a hostile environment. The Knights Templars as a group were less sophisticated. However, the early influence of the mystical teachings of St. Bernard would have created an inner corps of initiates who sought spiritual attainment through their association with the Order, and who benefited greatly by their exposure to the wisdom they would encounter in Holy Land.