bill laswell

Hashisheen - The End Of Law


CD jewel case + large booklet


Fifth project by Bill Laswell for Sub Rosa,
published in 1999.

Hashisheen is the result of two years of hard work and collaborations. This conceptual project guided and supervised by Bill Laswell is presented through voices and music from artists such as: WS Burroughs, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Jah Wobble, Paul Schütze, Techno Animal, Genesis P-Orridge...

A series of pieces about the ancient (11th century) and mystic story of Hasan bin Sabbah, Alamut the "Garden of Earthly Delights" and the rites of the Hashisheens (also called the "Assassins").

"The work of William S. Burroughs and collaborator Brian Gysin is the main inspiration and key to the initiation of The Hashisheen project...their cut-up experiments changed the course of modern fiction and had a profound effect on film and contemporary collage music. Through immense exposure to their innovative experimentation I developed a strong interest in North Africa, Arab culture, Islam, the Tangier scene, the Master Musicians of Jajouka, Paul Bowles, Ritual Magick, drugs and travel (physical and otherwise) and discovered their obsession with the wild heretical actions of the Persian-Hassan-I-Sabbah, who claimed to be the incarnation of God on earth - Hassan, son of Sabbah, Sheikh of the mountains and leader of the Assassins. Hashisheen - The End of Law, like the spells cast by Burroughs/Gysin, is a collaborative effort... Research and transformations by Peter Lamborn Wilson, spoken word produced by Janet Rienstra, with soundtrack contributions from - Paul Schutze, Techno Animal, Jah Wobble, Sussan Deyhim, Nicky Skopelitis and others. How Hassan-i-Sabbah came by his uncanny power and how his devotees struck terror into the hearts of men from the Caspian to Egypt, is one of the most extraordinary of all tales of secret societies. Today the sect of the Hashisheen still exists in the form of the Ismailis, whose undisputed chief endowed by them with divine attributes, is the Aga Khan. Mektoub" - Bill Laswell


I have long been a fan of Peter Lamborn Wilson. His texts as Hakim Bey compiled in the Autonomedia book 'T.A.Z. The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism' which was first published in 1985,
then in 1991 (and perhaps again, several times since then) remains a source of continuous inspiration. I re-experienced a previous incarnation as a corsair when I read (and re-read) 'Pirate Utopias', also published by Autonomedia in 1995. His vivid writing immersed me once more in the synaesthesic world of visible, audible and reekable pirate communities of the 17th century. These short-lived Moorish Pirate Republics were created by insurrectionaries and populated by renegades, adventurers, rebels, heretics and free-men (and women), which drew on the best of known philosophies, governmental structures and military strategy to augment and strengthen it's fight in the Holy War in which it was engaged. Then there's the collection of essays titled 'Immediatism', published by AK Press, which were originally broadcast (and published) as a series of Radio Sermonettes in New York. This book contains further thoughts on Ontological Anarchism. Ontological Anarchism suggests that... "No 'state' can 'exist' in chaos, which both as ancient myth and as 'new science' lies at the heart of all projects. Since only absolutely nothing can be predicated with any real certainty as to the true nature of things, all projects (as Nietzsche says) can only be 'founded on nothing'. Out of nothing we will make something (the process of 'project'). Out of nothing we will imagine our values, and by this act of invention we will live. In effect chaos is life, all movement is chaos. From this point of view, Order appears as death, cessation, crystallisation, and (alien) silence. All ontological claims are spurious, except the claim of chaos - which however, is undetermined - and therefore government of any sort is impossible. Ontological Anarchy proposes that we wake up, and create our own day - even in the shadow of the State, that pustulant giant who sleeps, and whose dreams of order metastasise as spasms of spectacular violence..."

Of course throughout history there have been individuals who have tried to readjust firstly their own reality, then the reality of others according to this idea, albeit with different conceptual systems and by default, different terminology. One historical personality who tried this (with amazing success, it must be said), and who's shadow can almost always be found lurking in the ideas and writings of Peter Lamborn Wilson, is Hasan-I Sabbah. I first encountered Hasan-I Sabbah in 'The Illuminatus Trilogy'- written by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson, who cited Hasan-I Sabbah as a model of brain conditioning and control. In 1090AD Hasan-I Sabbah, aka 'The Old Man of the Mountains' founded the mediaeval Persian sect of the Hashisheen, or Assassins. Indeed, some say the secret of Hasan-I Sabbah's rise to power is to be found lurking in these two words - hashish and assassin - which some historians suggest are derived from corruption's of his full name: Hashishin. Hasan skilfully modelled his secret order on the earlier Abode of Learning of the Fatimid Caliphs of Cairo and on other Ismaeli sects. He broke with the Fatimites in 1094, however, and became a power in his own right, using hashish to create an earthly paradise for his followers who could then be counted upon to perform any act - including political assassinations - which Hasan required of them. Following his bold seizure of the mountain fortress in Daylam in 1090, Hasan built an exquisite garden, which he would use as a lure and reward for his network of secret agents. Situated in the middle of the desert and accessible only by invitation and a journey through a series of convoluted and well-guarded roads, this garden was presented as the Paradise of which Mohammed spoke. It was misleadingly described by Marco Polo as a place of exotic liquors and drugs, with rivers of milk and honey, where succulent fruits and even more succulent houris, skilled in all manner of seduction, awaited the faithful who, not afraid of confronting death, and of committing murder, were guaranteed their place there by Hasan. Once selected, so the story goes, individuals unknowingly consumed a soporific brew. Upon awakening they would find themselves in this 'artificial' Paradise, feeling far too good, far more than Allah said they should, and unwilling and perhaps unable to control their appetites for the toothsome delicacies, both fruit and flesh, which floated before them, and which were so strictly denied by Mohammed and his Law. After all the highest and most intense pleasures should only come after death to those who strenuously deny themselves of them in life. Of course it may only have been the hallucinatory effects of the concoctions they were administered which made them so susceptible to the visions that appeared before them, and the whispered promises of The Old Man of the Mountains. History is unclear, rumours abound. When it was thought they had participated long enough in this Garden of Delight, they would once again be induced to sleep and then wake up again, this time amongst roughly hewn mediaeval masonry where they would undoubtedly commit themselves to the cause and the deal would be finalised. These Assassins would, after a secret training, be despatched into the world, and it is said that some would work for a politically important family for years and years, often even being accepted as a loved and trusted member of it. However, if and when Hasan gave a sign, they would perform the required execution without flinching, leaving behind on the pillow a dagger as the signature of the organisation before disappearing into the night. It is claimed that this network of operatives could reach as far as Paris. They had been made aware that for the period of time in which they were required to face death, they were immortal - indeed it is a holy man who goes to meet death, rather than waiting for it to come to him. 'Danger,' wrote William Burroughs, 'is a biological necessity.'

Alamut Castle

Hasan exerted almost total power over his followers and his influence was widely felt, but he was only one of a multitude of conflicting powers at a particularly turbulent period of history. The Assassins had to contend not only with the competing factions within the Islamic Empire and the rise of Turkey to dominance, but also with the Crusading Christians, represented mostly by the Order of the Knights Templars, which was founded in 1119 Jerusalem just a few years before Hasan's death. Originally founded to provide protection to crusader in the Holy Land the Templars grew, like the Assassins to be a power in their own right. And like the Assassins, it wasn't long before the original motives were forgotten and the initiates of the order fought more for political power and loot, than for advancement of their religious dogmas. One historian has suggested that the Assassins may even have founded the Templars, though Western historians generally discount this possibility. Despite the apparent animosity that existed
between them, the two organisations did co-operate occasionally, such as in the attack on Damascus in 1129, and thereafter both became important independent forces in the struggle for Palestine. Hasan-I Sabbah died in 1124 after having fought on both sides of the Crusades, but other Grand Masters of the order carried on his work until their defeat by the invading Mongols under Hulagu Khan in about 1257. The Mongols left not one stone of the foundations of the fortress of Alamut unturned in their efforts to stamp out any traces of the libertarian religion which rested on the now famous doctrine: "Nothing Is True, Everything Is Permitted".

In modern times, descendants of the fourth Grand Master of Alamut became the Aga Khans and the scattered sect of Hashisheens still revere this Ismaeli ruler as undisputed chief. The current Aga Khan is one of the most powerful men in the world, who trades in countries, not acres, and who remains unaccountable for any of the activities he is apparently involved in. As he is not currently the topic of this discussion, I suggest you do your own research - a web-search will undoubtedly reveal more... Peter Lamborn Wilson, the man who I mentioned at the very start of this
piece now has another feather in his cap. His prevailing interest in the Assassins must surely have been the motivating force behind this new CD of (mostly) spoken word on this Belgian label. He is given credit for compiling the texts, some of which are from his own hand, which appear on this release. Other texts present magical legends and myths, and descriptions by enemies, admirers and members of the Assassins against backdrops of (fortunately) unobtrusive music 'to produce - under the proper conditions - a visionary experience of the Hashisheen and their 'inner history'. Bill Laswell compiled (and made some of) the music which appears here. Texts are read by the likes of Iggy Pop, William Burroughs, Ira Cohen, Anne Clark and Sussan Deyhim and additional music is provided by Jah Wobble, Techno Animal, Nicky Skopelitis and Eyeless In Gaza, to name but a few.

As you will by now be aware, this is a subject so close to my heart that I am willing to dismiss anything I think may be wrong with it's presentation here. This is a perfectly packaged and very precious jewel in the Sub Rosa crown and one which must surely ensure them a place in the hourglass of the history of documentation.

(This text contains extensive quotations from the 'Hashisheen' CD booklet, Neal Wilgus' book 'The Illuminoids' - available from Loompanics in the States, and Peter Lamborn Wilson's own writings. My acknowledgement and thanks to them all)




01 First Reading 0:29 / vocals Sussan Deyhim
02 The Old Man Of The MountaiN 3:12
vocals Genesis P-Orridge, Percy Howard
03 The Western Lands 6:12 featuring Techno Animal
vocals Iggy Pop, William S. Burroughs
04 The Spilled Cup 1:47 / featuring Sussan Deyhim
05 Marco Polo's Tale 1:43 / featuring Nicky Skopelitis
vocals Hakim Bey
06 Pilgrimage To Cairo 1:50 / vocals Hakim Bey
07 Freya Stark At Alamut 0:20
featuring Anton Fier vocals Nicole Blackman
08 Castles 0:57
featuring Anton Fier vocals Percy Howard
09 Hashish Poem 2:52 vocals Nicole Blackman
10 Sinan's Post 1:56 / vocals Ira Cohen
11 Assassinations 0:33 / featuring Anton Fier
vocals Nicole Blackman
12 The Mongols Destroy Alamut 1:14
featuring Paul Schütze
vocals Percy Howard
13 The Divine Self 5:09 / producer Jah Wobble
14 Morning High 3:03 / featuring Nicky Skopelitis
vocals Lizzy Mercier Descloux & Patti Smith
15 A Quick Trip To Alamut 3:41 / featuring Paul Schütze
vocals Iggy Pop
16 Slogan 0:47 featuring Helios Creed
vocals Genesis P-Orridge
17 Book Of The Highest Initiation 2:41
featuring Helios Creed / vocals Genesis P-Orridge
18 The Lord Of The Resurrection 0:52 / vocals Umar Bin Hassan
19 Assassinations 2 0:52 / featuring Anton Fier
vocals Nicole Blackman
20 Tale Of The Caliph Hakem 5:00 / producer Eyeless In Gaza
vocals Anne Clark & Genesis P-Orridge
21 The Assassins 2:05 / vocals Hakim Bey
22 Last Reading 0:37 / vocals Sussan Deyhim

Iggy Pop