Sunday, September 13, 2015


A certain unease hangs in the air. Global conflicts seem to be breaking out everywhere and, even more ominously, the world's two leading nuclear powers --the United States and the Russian Federation --are effectively squaring off now in proxy conflicts in the Ukraine and Syria. In recent days reports have begun to emerge that Russia forces are not active in Syria, a region US forces have been engaged in for several years.

If these potential geopolitical nightmares are not enough, there's the growing economic uncertainties griping the world. China's market has been hammered for the past month all the while it has sold nearly $100 billion worth of US Treasuries. The US market has also been fluctuating frantically as investors nervously await the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee meeting (September 16-17) in which a possible interest rate hike may be announced. Some fearmongerers have suggested that this could trigger a 40% drop in the market. But even mainstream sources have begun to acknowledge the prospect of another recession, even if they place it in 2018.

Meanwhile, civilians murdered by police in the United States continues at a breathtaking rate. Nearly 800 individuals have been murdered by police in this country in 2015, 161 of whom were completely unarmed. Predictably, this has triggered a rash of police killings that has further fueled the myth of the "War on Police." And then there's the specter of the US political scene in which the public seems to have a choice between decaying and corrupt political dynasties such as those of the Clintons and Bushs or the megalomaniac demagoguery of Donald Trump.

The Donald
Needless to say, this has more than a few people in both these United States and abroad feeling very uncertain about the near future. Christian fundamentalists have been having a field day with the four blood moons scheduled to unfold between 2014 and 2015. Three of them have come and gone and the fourth will be upon us on September 28th. Frequently Pope Francis' arrival in the United States on September 22 and following itinerary (which includes an address to a Joint Session of the US Congress on September 24, an address to the United Nations General Assembly on September 25 and a Sunday mass at the Ben Franklin Parkway on September 27) have fueled much speculation along the tired coming-UN-led-New-World-Order lines.

Yes, this researcher is not very impressed by these claims and even gets a sense of the Y2K and 2012 hysteria that promised FEMA-driven genocide but ultimately proved to be much ado about nothing. I do not foresee legions of UN Peacekeepers in America's immediate future, but perhaps attention directed at Pope Francis is not entirely undue. The highly controversial pontiff comes to the United States at a time in which Vatican observers have detected a growing schism within the Church's hierarchy that could have serious repercussions.

The extent of this schism became most evident this past October during a Synod concerning the family that turned into a direct challenge to Francis' papacy. The Spectator reports:
"The October synod was a disaster for Pope Francis. Before it started, he had successfully tweaked the Catholic mood music relating to divorcees and gay people. The line ‘Who am I to judge?’, delivered with an affable shrug on the papal plane, generated friendly headlines without committing the church to doctrinal change. Conservatives were alarmed but had to acknowledge Francis’s cunning. ‘Remember that he’s a Jesuit,’ they said.
"Then Francis did something not very cunning. Opening the synod, which would normally be a fairly routine affair, he encouraged cardinals and bishops to ‘speak boldly’. Which they did, but not in the way he intended.
"The Pope’s first mistake was to invite Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Vatican’s 81-year-old retired head of ecumenism, to set the agenda for the synod by addressing the world’s cardinals back in February. Kasper told them that the church should consider giving Holy Communion to remarried Catholics.
"Even if Francis supports this notion — and nobody knows — his choice of Kasper was a blunder because the cardinal, in addition to being a genial and distinguished scholar, is leader of a German-led faction that represents, in Catholic terms, the far left of the theological spectrum. In 1993 Kasper, then Bishop of Rottenburg-Stuttgart, co-signed a letter by German bishops demanding that Catholics living ‘in a canonically invalid union’ should be allowed to decide for themselves whether to receive the Eucharist. The German church is a law unto itself: although its services are empty, it is rich, thanks to the country’s church tax, and arrogant. To cut a long story short, this faction — which had ruthlessly undermined Benedict XVI’s authority when he was pope –  tried to hijack the synod.
"They messed it up. The synod’s ‘special secretary’, the Italian archbishop Bruno Forte, wrote a mid-synod report suggesting that the participants wanted to recognise the virtuous aspects of gay unions. In doing so, Forte — an even more radical figure — overplayed his hand. Most synod fathers wanted no such thing. Cardinal Gerhard Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Cardinal George Pell, head of the Vatican’s finances, were horrified. They ensured that the final report kicked Communion for divorcees into the long grass and did not even mention homosexual relationships. ‘Synod rebuffs Francis on gays,’ reported the media — the last thing the Pope wanted to read."
Cardinal Walter Kasper, a key mentor to Pope Francis
The disastrous October Synod was but one instance of a growing divide within the Vatican between liberal and conservative forces. The Washington Post notes:
"Yet as he upends church convention, Francis also is grappling with a conservative backlash to the liberal momentum building inside the church. In more than a dozen interviews, including with seven senior church officials, insiders say the change has left the hierarchy more polarized over the direction of the church than at any point since the great papal reformers of the 1960s.
"The conservative rebellion is taking on many guises — in public comments, yes, but also in the rising popularity of conservative Catholic Web sites promoting Francis dissenters; books and promotional materials backed by conservative clerics seeking to counter the liberal trend; and leaks to the news media, aimed at Vatican reformers.
"In his recent comments, Burke was also merely stating fact. Despite the vast powers of the pope, church doctrine serves as a kind of constitution. And for liberal reformers, the bruising theological pushback by conservatives is complicating efforts to translate the pope’s transformative style into tangible changes."

The Post goes on to note that this divide is already spurring intrigues within the Vatican:
"A measure of the church’s long history of intrigue has spilled into the Francis papacy, particularly as the pope has ordered radical overhauls of murky Vatican finances. Under Francis, the top leadership of the Vatican Bank was ousted, as was the all-Italian board of its financial watchdog agency.
"One method of pushback has been to give damaging leaks to the Italian news media. Vatican officials are now convinced that the biggest leak to date — of the papal encyclical on the environment in June — was driven by greed (it was sold to the media) rather than vengeance. But other disclosures have targeted key figures in the papal cleanup — including the conservative chosen to lead the pope’s financial reforms, the Australian Cardinal George Pell, who in March was the subject of a leak about his allegedly lavish personal tastes.
"More often, dissent unfolds on ideological grounds. Criticism of a sitting pope is hardly unusual — liberal bishops on occasion challenged Francis’s predecessor, Benedict XVI. But in an institution cloaked in traditional fealty to the pope, what shocks many is just how public the criticism of Francis has become.
"In an open letter to his diocese, Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, R.I., wrote: 'In trying to accommodate the needs of the age, as Pope Francis suggests, the Church risks the danger of losing its courageous, countercultural, prophetic voice, one that the world needs to hear.' For his part, Burke, the cardinal from Wisconsin, has called the church under Francis 'a ship without a rudder.'
"Even Pell appeared to undermine him on theological grounds. Commenting on the pope’s call for dramatic action on climate change, Pell told the Financial Times in July, 'The church has got no mandate from the Lord to pronounce on scientific matters.' ” 
Cardinal George Pell
Further complicating matters for Francis is that his predecessor, Pope Benedict, is still very much alive and becoming increasingly vocal about his displeasure concerning the direction Francis has taken the Church in. The Spectator notes:
 "And now another voice is being heard. The last pope is neither dead nor senile nor as silent as we thought he was going to be. In the last month Benedict XVI has written to the ex-Anglicans of the Ordinariate expressing delight that they now worship in the former Bavarian chapel in Warwick Street, London; to Rome’s Pontifical Urban University about the dangers of relativism; and, most significantly, to supporters of the old liturgy. ‘I am very glad that the usus antiquior [the traditional Latin Mass] now lives in full peace within the church, also among the young, supported and celebrated by great cardinals,’ he said. In fact, very few cardinals celebrate in the old rite. But one who does is Raymond Burke. ‘Benedict is well aware of that,’ says a Ratzinger loyalist. ‘He’s not under the illusion that he’s still pope, but he was appalled by the sight of Kasper trashing his legacy and he is making his displeasure clear.’ "
In an earlier article from July 2015 The Spectator further elaborated upon Benedict's subtle digs at Francis:
"Last year, the Pope Emeritus slapped down his old adversary Cardinal Walter Kasper, a left-wing German theologian, for suggesting that, when he was still Professor Ratzinger, he supported communion for divorced and remarried Catholics — Kasper’s pet cause. He has warned the Church against ‘any wavering from the Truth’...
"Most of these interventions can be interpreted as implicit criticism of Pope Francis. The ‘wavering from the Truth’ comment was directed at Kasper, a mentor to Francis whose radical ideas provoked fury at last October’s Synod on the Family. (Significantly, the Vatican tried to keep Benedict’s words from reaching the press.) The Ordinariate letter is unlikely to have bothered the Pope, but the message to Latin Mass supporters will have annoyed him. When Benedict praised ‘great cardinals’, he had in mind the arch-conservative Raymond Burke — whom Francis sacked as head of the Vatican’s legal tribunal...
"Liberal Catholics will dismiss Benedict’s comments as the embittered musings of a disappointed 88-year-old and point instead to the million-strong crowd Francis drew in Ecuador this week. They overlook something obvious to visitors to many British parishes: younger clergy and worshippers in the West tend to be natural Benedictines, not Franciscans. My own parish is not ‘traditionalist’ but its liturgy has become more solemn, the music more classical and a crucifix has appeared on the altar: a trademark of the hermeneutic of continuity because the priest symbolically faces east, as once he did literally."
Pope Benedict in "retirement"
While mainline Vatican observers may be surprised by such developments, those who have studied the recent intrigues surrounding the papacy are well aware that Pope Francis is playing a dangerous game by moving so openly against conservative forces within the Curia. The last truly liberal pope to allegedly plot such radical overhauls was Pope John Paul I, who sat upon the chair of Saint Peter for all of thirty-three days.

Pope Jon Paul I
This cleared the way for the rise of Pope John Paul II and his close alley, Joseph Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI. The papacies of both men pushed backed vigorously against the reforms instigated Pope John XXIII and Paul VI during the Vatican II period and which it has long been rumored Pope John Paul I planned on pushing into over drive.

For our purposes here, the ties Popes John Paul II, Benedict and Francis had to various secretive Catholic orders is most illuminating. The conspiratorial right has of course had a field day with Pope Francis being the first Jesuit ever to sit upon the chair of Saint Peter, the Society of Jesus being one of their long time whipping boys.

Indeed, as far as Catholic orders go, none draw the kind of attention from the "alternative" media as do the Jesuits. A quick Google search can find allegations accusing them of the formation of the Bavarian Illuminati and Freemasonry; of being pawns of a Zionist world conspiracy; of instigating the rise of Nazism; of being the puppet masters behind the JFK assassination and 9/11; and of course being key players in the Extraterrestrial Question (a notion that has gained further traction of late due to the interest expressed in alien life of late by several prominent Jesuits).

the emblem of the Society of Jesus
While there can be no doubt that the Jesuits were involved in a host of intrigues in the early centuries of the order, this research has found very little indication of such dirty deeds in the modern era. Indeed, the largest detractors of the Jesuits of late seem to be conservative Catholics, most notably former Jesuit Malachi Martin, enraged over the order's more progressive positions concerning sexuality and science and especially the order's oh-so-tentative support of Liberation Theology in the 1970s.

"Incidentally," it was Pope John Paul II and his close alley, Joseph Ratzinger, who lead the assault against Jesuit support for Liberation Theology in the early 1980s.
"In 1981, John Paul II did an extraordinary thing when he intervened with the Constitutions of the Jesuit order to impose his own leadership on their religious order. The Pope did not like the leadership of Father Pedro Arrupe, who encouraged Jesuits to embraced liberation theology and base communities. When Arrupe had a stroke in 1981, the pope appointed his own man to head the order and forbade the Jesuits to elect their own leader for two years.
"In 1984, Ratzinger attacked liberation theology in an article in the Communion and Liberation journal 30 Giorni in which he complained that the movement liberation theology 'does not fit into accepted categories of heresy because it accepts all the existing language but gives it new meaning.' In March, Ratzinger sent a delegation from his Inquisition Office to Bogota, Columbia, to push for a condemnation of liberation theology from CELAM, the conference of bishops of Latin America..."
(The Pope's War, Matthew Fox, pg. 27)
John Paul II
While Ratzinger would fail in that particular bid, he would manage to almost totally crush Liberation Theology during his own papacy. The movement was all but dead in the Church, until the coronation of the Jesuit Pope Francis. Since then it has begun to experience a bit of a resurgence.

It probably goes without saying, but neither Pope John Paul II or Pope Benedict had much love for the Society of Jesus. As has been noted before here and here, both men seem to have had extensive ties to two even more mysterious Catholic orders: the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (SMOM) and Opus Dei. The former is descendant from the Crusader-era Knights Hospitallers and is more commonly referred to as the Knights of Malta. Opus Dei does not have a nearly millennium spanning pedigree, but its sudden rise after being founded in Spain in the 1920s by the highly controversial Jose Maria Escriva has shocked many within the Vatican. Both orders have on occasion drawn many outlandish claims from the conspiratorial right, but it cannot be denied both orders are close to the inner most circles of power. The prior linked to articles at the beginning of this paragraph give an over view of the facts and fiction concerning either order.

emblems of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (top) and Opus Dei (bottom)
Both SMOM and Opus Dei likely played a key role in the sudden death of Pope John Paul I and the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II via their proxy, the very unconventional Masonic lodge known as Propaganda Due (P2). Much more on P2's role in these tow events can be found here, here and here.

a seal of the Propaganda Due Masonic lodge
The papacy's of both John Paul II and Benedict were greatly influenced by SMOM and Opus Dei. Prior to the ascension of JPII, some progressive forces inside the Vatican greatly disturbed by the sudden rise of Opus Dei had even fought to strengthen the Jesuit order as a counterweight to the far right leanings of the Opusians.
"Towards the end of Paul VI's reign a battle erupted in the Roman Curia between Progressive and Conservative factions. The Progressive faction, which wanted tighter financial controls and opposed greater influence for Opus Dei, was led by Paul's closest aide, Archbishop Benelli. He was credited with resolving one of the most serious crises is of the post-Conciliar Church – the break-up of the Company of Jesus, a project that allegedly had its roots inside the Villa Tevere. Benelli's efforts ensure that the 26,000 Jesuits remained under the command of one general superior, who at the time was Don Pedro Arrupe.
"Benelli was said to have wanted to keep the Company of Jesus intact because it represented the only effective counter-balance to Opus Dei. Moreover, Benelli also made known his distaste for the mercantile morals of Bishop Paul Marcinkus, the head of the Vatican bank whom he regarded as an Opus Dei sycophant..."
(Their Kingdom Come, Robert Hutchison, pg. 206)
Bishop Paul Marcinkus
Paul Marcinkus and his disastrous tenure as head of the Vatican bank wee discussed before here.

Fast forward some thirty years, and we find the Vatican bank once again accused of dubious accounting while the progressive wing of the Curia seems to have returned to power after several decades in the wilderness due to the sudden and almost unprecedented resignation of Opus Dei-backed Pope Benedict. Benedict is in turn replaced by the Jesuit Pope Francis.

This researcher suspects that this chain of events represents some kind of coup within the Vatican just as the sudden death of Pope John Paul I and the attempted assassination of John Paul II in the late 1970s and 1980s effectively concluded a successful conservative coup. But this time the Jesuits are in charge and the standing pope was merely forced to resign. Whether Benedict's resignation was triggered by financial improprieties or something more dubious remains in the air. In The Pope's War, author Mathew Fox chronicles the longstanding protection Benedict provided to pedophile's within the Church hierarchy. Certainly this may have also factored into Benedict's resignation.

But Pope Francis himself seems to have no illusions about the long term prospects of the plotters who backed him. Consider these enigmatic comments Francis made in late 2014:
"Pope Francis has said he might have only two or three years left to live.
"On a plane trip back from South Korea, he told journalists he believed he only had limited time left to complete his reforms of the Roman Catholic Church.
"Asked about how he copes with his popularity, he said: ‘I try to think of my sins, my mistakes, so as not to think that I am some- body important.’
"He then added with a smile: ‘Because I know this is going to last a short time, two or three years and then… to the house of the Father.’
"According to a Vatican source, the 77-year-old has previously told those close to him that he thought he only had a few years left."

Rumors of failing health have of course surrounded Francis as they did John Paul I after his death and Ratzinger at the time of his resignation. But few close to John Paul I give much stock to his alleged health problems (as noted before here) while Benedict has seemed rather lucid in recent public appearances. One suspects that Francis, aware of the intrigues behind John Paul I's death, may be expecting a similar fate.

This makes his up coming visit to the United States under such trying conditions most curious. Already members of Stormfront, a white nationalist website linked to almost 100 deaths in recent years, have called for the Pope's death. No doubt these threats are some what muted due to the abandonment of Francis' original plan to enter the United States via Mexico to express solidarity with migrants.

And of course there are countless rumors that a fair mount of ISIS supporters are among the migrants, ISIS being a group that has threatened the Pope's life, among many other things. Its interesting to note that ISIS has long been suspected of receiving extensive backing from NATO member Turkey. Turkey in turn is home to the fascist Grey Wolves movement that produced Mehmet Ali Agca, the attempted assassin to Pope John Paul II. Much more on Agca and the Grey Wolves can be found here and here.

Needless to say, while the prospect of Pope Francis being assassinated by a white supremacist would be dire, an assassination carried out by a suspected ISIS member would have utterly disastrous geopolitical repercussions. And this makes the final days of September that will witness Francis' US visit all the more volatile.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Legends of Assassins Part II

Welcome to the second installment in my examination of the Nizari Ismailis, more commonly known as the Hashshashins or Assassins. This sect has fascinated and scandalized Western and Islamic sources for many centuries and has led to a host of incredible fabrications concerning the sect. This series attempts to walk a middle ground, dispelling many of the more outlandish claims concerning the Nizari was also addressing their genuine peculiarities.

With the first installment I gave a rundown of the various schisms in Islam that led to the Ismailis and ultimately the Nizari. As was noted there, the sect had its origins in the Fatimid Caliphate of Egypt that was established by the Ismailis. An offshoot of Shi'ism, they had once been the dominate faction before being overtaken by the more orthodox Twelvers (of which modern day Iran is guided by) some years later. The Ismailis had a strong presence in regions such as Syria, Persia and Egypt that had been major centers of Gnosticism some centuries earlier and under the Fatimids universities were established in Egypt that retained traces of the ancient belief systems that had long dominated that region of the world. Indeed, for years it was suggested that these universities were organized along the lines of the ancient Mysteries or modern day secret societies such as the Freemasons, though there is no evidence for this. The institutes of learning chiefly promoted the Fatimid da'wa, or mission, though this does seem to have involved some type of initiation present.
"The organization and evolution of the Fatimid da'wa, as well as the scope and functions of the various ranks (hudud) within that complex organization, are among the most obscure aspects of Fatimid Isma'ilism. Organized hierarchically, the Fatimid da'wa evolved over time, attaining a definite shape during the reign of the Fatimid caliph-imam al-Hakim (996-1021), who established several institutions in Egypt for the training of da'is and propagation of Isma'ili doctrines. The Fatimid da'is were in general highly educated theologians who also produced the bulk of Isma'ili literature of the Fatimid period. Although nothing is known about the procedures they used for winning and educating new converts, it is certain that different methods were adopted for peoples of different religious and socio-cultural backgrounds. The da'is seem to have treated each case individually, also observing a certain degree of gradualism in the initiation and education of converts. But there is no evidence to suggest, as claimed by anti-Isma'ili sources, that there ever existed at any time a fix graded system of seven or nine degrees of initiation into Isma'ilism."
(The Assassin Legends, Farhad Daftary, pgs. 20-21)
The above-mentioned al-Hakim was addressed briefly in part one. To this day he remains a major figure in the highly esoteric Druze sect. He was also the founder of the legendary Dar al-'ilm, commonly referred to in the West as the House of Knowledge. It was one of the premier universities during the Middle Ages. But moving along.

It was from the Fatimid Caliphate that the Nizari would emerge after a dispute over the succession of the imam. The founder of the Assassins sect, Hassan-i Saban, first emerged onto the stage during these turbulent times. This installment shall focus on his extraordinary career. First, a bit about his background:
"Hasan-i-Sabah was born around 1055 in Qum, about seventy-five miles southwest of Tehran in Persia (modern Iran), to a Twelver Shiite family. When Hasan was quite young, the family traveled northeast and settled in the nearby city of Rayy, which had been a center of dai activity since the ninth century mission of Hamdan Qarmat. Hasan developed a love for religious teaching from the age of seven and kept strictly to the Twelver Shiite doctrines of his father until the age of seventeen.
"Then he met a teacher named Amira Darrab, known as a comrade, or rafiq, who introduced into the Sevener or Ismaili doctrines of the Fatimid caliphate. (The rafiq was the first level of instructor below the rank of dai.) Initially Hasan was resistant to the Ismaili teachings. He tells us, in his surviving autobiographical fragment, that he denigrated the Ismalili doctrine as 'philosophy,' that is, of far less value than the pure Islamic religious teachings of the Shia of which he was a fervent believer. In time, however, his respect for Amira Darrab caused him to probe deeper. He immersed himself in study. A severe illness was the final step in his conversion. He became fearful that he would die without attaining the truth. Upon his recovery, he continued his instruction with another Ismaili, Abu Najam Sarraj. He eventually swore the oath of allegiance to the Fatimid caliph al-Mustansir through a third dai named Mumin. In May or June 1072, Abd al-Malik ibn Attash, chief of  the Ismaili dawa in Western Persia and Iraq, visited Rayy and met Hasan. Impressed with the young man, he elevated him to the position of deputy dai and instructed him to travel to Egypt and present himself at the caliph's court. It took Hasan several years to fulfill this command.
(The Templars and the Assassins, James Wasserman, pgs. 97-98)
For centuries it was believed that Hassan had fled Persia due to political intrigues. In a book attributed to the powerful vizier to the Turkish Seljuk sultan, the Persian Nizam al-Mulk, it was alleged he, Hassan and the poet Omar Khayyam had all been students together. Because of a pledge made while in school, Nizam had become a patron to Hasasn and Khayyan after achieving much success only to have Hassan conspire against him in the Persian court. Later historians are highly skeptical of this account, however, due to the age gap between  Nizam (4/10/1018-10/14/1092) and Hassan (1050s-6/12/1124).

Nizam al-Mulk
In other accounts it is held that he ran afoul of Persia authorities after they began to suspect that he was an agent of the Fatimid Caliph. This is a far morel likely explanation, and may partly explain his extended to travels on his way to Egypt. This journey is certainly shrouded in mystery.
"According to the autobiographical fragment, he left Rayy in 1076 and went to Isfahan. From there he traveled northward to Azerbayjan, and thence to Mayyafariqin, where he was driven out of town by the Qadi for asserting the exclusive right of the Imam to interpret religion, and thus denying the authority of the Sunni Ulema. Continuing through Mesopotamia and Syria, he reached Damascus, where he found that the overland route to Egypt was blocked by military disturbances. He therefore turned west to the coast, and, traveling southwards from Beirut, sailed from Palestine to Egypt. He arrived in Cairo on 30 August 1078, and was greeted by high dignitaries of Fatimid court.
"Hasan-i Sabbah stayed in Egypt for about three years, first in Cairo and then in Alexandria. According to some accounts, he came into conflict with the Commander of the Armies Badr al-Jamali because of his support for Nizar, and was imprisoned and then deported from the country. The reason given for the conflict must be a later embellishment, since the dispute over the succession had not yet arisen at the time, but a collision between the ardent revolutionary and the military dictator is far from unlikely."
(The Assassins, Bernard Lewis, pgs. 40-41)
the Fatimid Caliphate engaged militarily during its heyday
The conflict between Nizar (from whom the Nizari derive their title) and the Fatimid Caliph's military dictator was briefly addressed in the first installment. While Hassan almost surely did not play a role in this conflict during his time in Egypt, he would later become the figure for which the Nizari community would rally around. It is, however, a strong possibility that Hasan may have become involved with intrigues during this time.

Regardless, he seemingly received a highly metaphysically inclined education while in Egypt.
"Hasan arrived in Cairo on August 30, 1078, and remained for two to three years. He completed the required course of study and was elevated to the full rank of dai. Historian Enno Franzius describes the Ismaili doctrine to which Hasan devoted himself: 'It was at one and the same time a Shiite sect combining Islamic with pre-Islamic Greek, Persian, Syrian, and Babylonian concepts; an Alid secret society dedicated to the overthrow of the Sunni Abbasids; a revolutionary social movement pledged to improve the lot of the depressed.' The weakened and  threatened condition in which Hasan would find Caliph al-Mustansir may have inspired in him a sense of his own mission in the future survival of Ismailism."
(The Templars and the Assassins, James Wasserman, pg. 99)
For the next nine years Hassan would conduct his mission throughout the mountainous northern region of Iran known as Daylam. This region had long resisted the Arab Muslims and had only grudgingly converted and subjugated themselves to them. It soon became the center of the Shiite movement in Iran and maintained a high degree of independence.

modern day Daylam
Hassan found it to be a fertile ground for his preaching and he won many converts there while avoiding the reach of the Abbasid Caliphate. All the while carrying out his mission Hasan continued to search for a castle which he could make his base of operations. In 1088 he found one that he deemed to be suitably impenetrable before conquering it himself by stealth.
"Throughout his revolutionary and missionary travels, Hasan was searching for an impenetrable fortress from which to conduct his resistance to the Seljuk empire. In about 1088, he finally chose the castle of Alamut, built on a narrow ridge on a high rock in the heart of the Elburz Mountains in a region known as the Rudbar. The castle dominated an enclosed cultivated valley thirty miles long and three miles across at its widest, approximately six thousand feet above sea level. Several villages dotted the valley, and their inhabitants were particularly receptive to the ascetic piety of Hasan. The castle was assessible only with the greatest difficulty through a narrow gorge of the Alamut River. It had been built by the  Daylamese king Wah Sudan ibn Marzuban in about 860. The king was hunting one day and released an eagle, which then perched on a rock that rose another six hundred feet above the valley. Immediately recognizing the strategic value of the bird's choice, the king build a castle, which means 'eagle's teachings' in the Daylami language.
"Hasan employed a careful strategy to take over the castle, which have been granted to its current Shiite owner, named Mahdi, by the Seljuk sultan Malikshah. First, Hasan sent his trusted dai Husayn Qaini and two others to win converts in the neighboring villages. Next, many of the residents and soldiers of Alamut were secretly converted to Ismailism. Finally, in September 1090,  Hasan himself was secretly smuggled into the castle. When Mahdi realize that Hasan had in fact quietly taken over his fortress, he left peacefully. Hasan gave him a draft for 3000 gold dinars in payment. Hasan, it is said, had offered the sum for the amount of land an ox's hide could contain. He then cut the hide into fine strips and strung them together to encompass the entire area of the Alamut rock. Hasan directed Mahdi to the home of a wealthy noble who was to pay the draft. Mahdi had little faith in the validity of the document; however, he eventually presented it to the nobleman, who, when he saw Hasan's signature, immediately kissed the paper and paid out the gold."
(The Templars and the Assassins, James Wasserman, pgs. 100-101)
the modern day ruins of Alamut
This marked the beginning of the Nizari state. Alamut would remain its capital until the castle was finally taken by the Mongols around 1256. Prior to that time the Nizari reach would extend across Persia into Syria and even a few regions beyond. Hassan would immediately begin making improvements to the castle at Alamut while also seizing additional fortresses for his cause after this initial success.
"Once established at Alamut, which was to remain the central headquarters of the Nizari movement until its surrender to the Mongols in 1256, Hasan Sabbah systematically renovated the old fortress, making it truly impenetrable. He also improved and extended the systems of irrigation and cultivation in the Alamut valley, where he dug water canals and planted numerous trees. It was in the same locality that, according to legendary accounts of Marco Polo, a secret 'garden of paradise' had been built by the leader of the Isma'ilis.
"Hasan seized or constructed many other mountain strongholds in northern Persia and in a few other regions, notably in southern Khurasan, known then as Kuhistan (Arabicized, Quhistan), where the Isma'ilis came to control a number of towns as well. By 1092, Hasan Sabbah's activities had already attracted so much attention that the Suljuq sultan Malikshah (1072-92) decided, probably on the advice of his vizier Nizam al-Mulk, to send armies against the Isma'ilis of northern Persia and Khurasan, initiating the first of numerous military encounters between the Persian Isma'ilis and the Saljuqs."
(The Assassin Legends, Farhad Daftary, pg. 32) 
the Khurasan region
The Nizari advances in Khurasan, a region that includes parts of northern Iran, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, is most interesting. Reportedly this region clung to the ancient Persian imperial religion much longer that virtually any other region in Islamic world.
"Far away to the south-east lay the barren, mountainous country of Quhistan, near the present border between Persia and Afghanistan. Its population lived in a scattered and isolated group of oases surrounded on all sides by the great salt desert of the central plateau. In early Islamic times, this region had been one of the last refuges of Zoroastrianism; converted to Islam, it became a resort of Shi'ite and other religious dissidents and, later, of the Ismailis. In 1091-2 Hasan-i Sabbah sent a missionary to Quhistan, to mobilize and extend Ismaili support. His choice fell on Husayn Qa'ini, an able da'i who had played some role in the conversion of Alamut, and who was himself of Quhistani origin. His mission was immediately successful..."
(The Assassins, Bernard Lewis, pgs. 44-45)
Zoroastrianism had no small influence on Gnosticism and, as was noted in part one, the Nizari Ismailis seem to have been particularly successful in regions that had featured a strong Gnostic presence several centuries earlier. This is more seeming evidence that potentially hidden practitioners of pre-Islamic faiths in this region of the world found much to embrace in the doctrine of the Nizari. But moving along.

the Faravahar, one of the primary symbols of Zoroastrianism
Shortly after the advances Hassan made in Khurasan the Ismaili schism I noted in part one broke out. This found Hassan and his followers firmly on the side of Nizar. Hassan would even play a key role in formulating the post-Fatimid doctrines of the Nizari.
"In 1094 the Ismailis faced a major crisis. The Fatimid Caliph al-Mustansir, Imam of the time and head of the faith, died in Cairo, leaving a disputed succession. The his Ismailis in Persia refused to recognize his successor on the Egyptian throne, and declared their belief that the rightful heir was his ousted elder son Nizar... Until this split, the organization in Persia, at least nominally, had been under the supreme authority of the Imam and the Chief Da'i in Cairo. Hasan-i Sabbah had been their agent, first as deputy, then as successor to Abd al-Malik ibn Attash. There was now a complete break, and henceforth the Persian Ismailis neither enjoyed the support nor endured the control of their former masters in Cairo.
"A crucial problem was the identity of the Imam – the central figure in the whole theological and political system of the Ismailis. Nizar had been the rightful Imam after al-Mustansir – but Nizar was murdered in prison in Alexandria, and his sons were said to have been killed with him. Some of the Nizaris claimed that Nizar was not really dead but in concealment and would return as Mahdi – that is to say, the line of Imams was at an end. This school did not survive. What Hasan-i Sabbah taught his followers on this point is not known, but later the doctrine was adopted that the Imamate passed to a grandson of Nizar, who was secretly brought up in Alamut. In one version it was an infant that was smuggled from Egypt to Persia; another it was a pregnant concubine of Nizar's son that was taken to Alamut, where she gave birth to the new Imam. According to Nizari beliefs, these things were strictly secret at the time, and not made known until many years later."
(The Assassins, Bernard Lewis, pg. 49)
a coin minted during the reign of al-Mustansir
Essentially then for a time the Nizari were led by a "Hidden Imam," the concept of which bares some similarities to the notion of "secret chiefs" or" hidden masters" in nineteenth century esoteric circles, as noted in part one. During this period of concealment Hassan and his successors were effectively in control of the Nizari.
"Meanwhile, in the absence of the Nizari imams, who remained hidden from their followers for several decades after Nizar's death in 1095, Hasan Sabbah, and then his next two successors at Alamut, were acknowledged as the supreme central leaders of the Nizari community and da'wa; they were the hujjas or chief representatives of the absent imams (similarly the central leaders of the early Isma'ili movement had originally acted as the hujjas of the hidden Mahdi, Muhammad b. Isma'il). The early Nizari Isma'ilis had also retrieved, with much greater militancy, the revolutionary and millenarian zeal of the pre-Fatimid Isma'ili movement. In both cases, the Isma'ilis represented the politically most active wing of Shi'ism and, as such, they dedicated themselves to the overthrow of the leading established dynasties of the time, notably the Abbasids and their later overlords, the Saljuqids."
(The Assassin Legends, Farhad Daftary, pg. 33)
Hassan Sabbah failed in this monumental task but he none the less managed to found a quasi-political state that encompassed various isolated communities throughout the Middle East, a state that would last for almost two centuries against great odds and repeated challenges. Hassan was a truly remarkable leader in this sense, and has been unfairly maligned by later researcher who depict him as little more than a founder of a drug cult. In point of fact, Hassan's life was defined by a strict code of conduct that he passed on to the community of which he played a leading role in establishing.
"...  An Arabic biographer, by no means friendly, described him as 'perspicacious, capable, learned in geometry, arithmetic, astronomy, magic, and other things.' The Ismaili biography cited by the Persian chroniclers stresses his asceticism and abstinence – 'during the 35 years that he dwelled in Alamut nobody drank wine openly or put it in jars.' His severity was not confined to his opponents. One of his sons was executed for drinking wine; another was put to death on a charge, subsequently proved false, of having procured the murder of the da'i Husayn Qa'ini. 'And he used to point to the execution of both his sons as a reason against anyone's imagining that he had conducted propaganda on their behalf and had had that object in mind.'
"Hasan-i Sabbah was a thinker and writer as well as a man of action. Sunni authors have preserved two citations from his works– a fragment of an autobiography, and an abridgment of a theological treastie. Among later Ismailis, he was revered as the prime mover in the da'wa jadida – new preaching – the reformed Ismaili doctrine which was  promulgated after the break with Cairo, and which was preserved and elaborated among the Nizari Ismailis. Later Nizari works contain a number of passages which may be quotations or summaries of his own teachings. Hasan never claimed to be an Imam – only a representative of the Imam. After the disappearance of the Imam he was the Hujja, the proof – the source of knowledge of the hidden Imam of his time, the living link between the lines of manifest Imams of the past and the future, and the leader of the da'wa. Ismaili doctrine is basically authoritarian. The believer has no right of choice, but must follow the ta'lim, the authorized teaching. The ultimate source of guidance was the Imam; the immediate source was his accredited representative. Men cannot choose their Imam, as the Sunnis said, nor exercise judgment in determining the truth in matters of theology and law. God appointed the Imam, and the Imam was the repository of the truth. Only Imam could validate both revelation and reason; only the Ismaili Imam, by the nature of his office and teaching, could in fact do this, and he alone therefore was the true Imam. His rivals were usurpers, their followers sinners, their teachings falsehood.
"This doctrine, with its stress on loyalty and obedience, and its rejection of the world as it was, became a powerful weapon in the hands of the secret, revolutionary opposition. The painful realities of the Fatimid Caliphate in Egypt had become an embarrassment to Ismaili claims. The break with Cairo, and the transfer of allegiance to a mysterious hidden Imam, released the pent-up forces of Ismaili passion and devotion; it was the achievement of Hasan-i Sabbah to arouse and direct them."
(The Assassins, Bernard Lewis, pgs. 61-63)

It was during May of 1124 that Hassan-i Sabbah became ill and died shortly thereafter. He had ruled Alamut for thirty-five years and in the time frame had never once left the mountain fortress. In fact, he had only left the house in which he resided twice during the thirty-five year period, both times to go atop of the roof of his house to pray. The rest of the time he preoccupied himself with committing the words of the da'wa to writing and administering the affairs of his realm when he was not otherwise engaged in studying. His life has been described as "ascetic, abstemious and pious."

This is certainly in stark contrast to the typical depictions of the "Old Man of the Mountain" (a title conferred on a Nizari chief, but not Hassan, as is commonly claimed). How then did Hassan and the Nizari achieve their infamous reputation in both the Islamic and Western world? In the next installment I shall begin considering how these developments unfolded. Stay tuned.