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Secret Societies of the Middle Ages

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Trena Alloway
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« on: January 04, 2009, 10:38:03 pm »

Secret Societies of the Middle Ages
by Thomas Keightley
[1837]


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Trena Alloway
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« Reply #1 on: January 04, 2009, 10:41:25 pm »

This is Thomas Keightley's history of three secret societies of the Middle Ages: the Assassins, the Templars and the Fehmgerichte.

The Assassins, a shadowy group based in a remote stateless area, practicing a radical variant of Islam, and promising their followers a reward in the hereafter if they died in battle, has obvious modern parallels.

Of interest to contemporary readers will be Keightley's treatment of the Templars, an organization of crusaders who at their height controlled huge wealth and influence from the British Isles to the Holy Land. Although some Masonic scholars consider the Templars to be the forerunners of Freemasonry, they were a qualitatively different kind of organization. The Templars had an internal class system, based on the medieval social hierarchy. However a member's role in the organization remained fixed, unlike the progressive grades of Freemasonry. There was little of the symbolism and regalia of Masonry. Initiations served primarily to indoctrinate the new Templar on the harsh realities of membership: a life of obedience, chastity and poverty.

The history of the downfall of the Templars, involving a complicated international plot to strip them of their wealth, a questionably elected French Pope, confessions based on torture, and dark accusations of pagan rites, is one of the most fascinating parts of the book.

The short section on the medieval German Fehmgerichte, although consistent with the theme of the book, seems a bit tacked-on. This organization of secret tribunals in a lawless time had a reputation for hard and fast justice, much like the vigilantes of the American wild west.

Keightley also wrote The Fairy Mythology, available at sacred-texts.

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« Reply #2 on: January 04, 2009, 10:43:06 pm »

SECRET SOCIETIES OF THE MIDDLE AGES.
by Thomas Keightley
Charles Knight & Co., London
[1837]
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« Reply #3 on: January 04, 2009, 10:43:36 pm »

CONTENTS
 
 Page
 
Introduction
 1
 

THE ASSASSINS.
 
 

CHAPTER I.
 
 
State of the World in the Seventh Century--Western Empire--Eastern Empire--Persia--Arabia--Mohammed--His probable Motives--Character of his Religion--The Koran
 13
 

CHAPTER II.
 
 
Origin of the Khalifat--The first Khalifs--Extent of the Arabian Empire--Schism among the Mohammedans--Soonees and Sheähs--Sects of the latter--The Keissanee--The Zeidites--The Ghoollat--The Imamee--Sects of the Imamee--Their political Character--The Carmathites--Origin of the Fatimite Khalifs--Secret Society at Cairo--Doctrines taught in it--Its Decline
 21
 

CHAPTER III.
 
 
Ali of Rei--His son Hassan Sabah--Hassan sent to study at Nishaboor--Meets there Omar Khiam and Nizam-al-Moolk--Agreement made by them--Hassan introduced by Nizam to Sultan Malek Shah--Obliged to leave the Court--Anecdote of him--His own account of his Conversion--Goes to Egypt--Returns to Persia--Makes himself Master of Alamoot
 43
 
p. viii
 
 
 
 Page
 

CHAPTER IV.
 
 
Description of Alamoot--Fruitless attempts to recover it--Extension of the Ismaïlite Power--The Ismaïlites in Syria--Attempt on the Life of Aboo-Hard Issa--Treaty made with Sultan Sanjar--Death of Hassan--His Character
 56
 

CHAPTER V.
 
 
Organization of the Society--Names given to the Ismaïlites--Origin of the name Assassin--Marco Polo's description of the Paradise of the Old Man of the Mountain--Description of it given by Arabian writers Instances of the obedience of the Fedavee
 66
 

CHAPTER VI.
 
 
Keäh Buzoorg Oomeid--Affairs of the Society in Persia--They acquire the Castle of Banias in Syria--Attempt to betray Damascus to the Crusaders--Murders committed during the reign of Keäh Buzoorg
 84
 

CHAPTER VII.
 
 
Keäh Mohammed--Murder of the Khalif--Castles gained in Syria--Ismaïlite Confession of Faith--Mohammed's Son Hassan gives himself out for the promised Imam--His followers punished--Succession of Hassan--He abolishes the Law--Pretends to be descended from the Prophet--Is murdered
 93
 

CHAPTER VIII.
 
 
Mohammed II.--Anecdote of the Imam Fakhr-ed-deen--Noor-ed-deen--Conquest of Egypt--Attempt on the Life of Saladin
 102
 

CHAPTER IX.
 
 
Sinan the Dai-al Kebir of Syria--Offers to become a Christian--His Ambassador murdered by the Templars
 
 
p. ix
 
 
 
 Page
 
--Cardinal de Vitry's Account of the Assassins--Murder of the Marquis of Montferrat--Defence of King Richard
 114
 

CHAPTER X.
 
 
Death of Jellal-ed-deen--Character of Ala-ed-deen, his successor--The Sheikh Jemal-ed-deen--The Astronomer Nasir-ed-deen--The Vizir Sheref-al-Moolk--Death of Ala-ed-deen--Succession of Rukn-ed-deen, the last Sheikh-al-Jebal
 148
 

CHAPTER XI.
 
 
The Mongols--Hoolagoo sent against the Ismaïlites--Rukn-ed-deen submits--Capture of Alamoot--Destruction of the Library--Fate of Rukn-ed-deen--Massacre of the Ismaïlites--St. Louis and the Assassins--Mission for the Conversion of the People of Kuhistan--Conclusion
 156
 

THE TEMPLARS.
 
 

CHAPTER I.
 
 
Introduction--The Crusades--Wrong Ideas respecting their Origin--True Causes of them--Pilgrimage--Pilgrimage of Frotmond--Of the Count of Anjou--Striking Difference between the Christianity of the East and that of the West--Causes of their different Characters--Feudalism--The Extent and Force of this Principle
 169
 

CHAPTER II.
 
 
First Hospital at Jerusalem--Church of Santa Maria de Latina--Hospital of St. John--The Hospitallers--Origin of the Templars--Their original Poverty--They acquire Consideration--St Bernard--His Character
 
 
p. x
 
 
 
 Page
 
of the Templars--The Order approved of and confirmed by the Council of Troyes--Proofs of the Esteem in which they were held
 185
 

CHAPTER III.
 
 
Return of the Templars to the East--Exoneration and Refutation of the Charge of a Connection with the Ismaïlites--Actions of the Templars--Crusade of Louis VII.--Siege of Ascalon--Sale of Nassir-ed-deen--Corruption of the Hospitallers--The Bull, Omne Datum Optimum--Refusal of the Templars to march against Egypt--Murder of the Ismaïlite Envoy
 199
 

CHAPTER IV.
 
 
Heroism of the Templars and Hospitallers--Battle of Hittin--Crusade of Richard of England and Philip of France--Corruption of the Order--Pope Innocent III. writes a Letter of Censure--Frederic II.--Great Slaughter of the Templars--Henry III. of England and the Templars--Power of the Templars in Moravia--Slaughter of them by the Hospitallers--Fall of Acre
 210
 

CHAPTER V.
 
 
Classes of the Templars--The Knights--Their Qualifications--Mode of Reception--Dress and Arms of the Knight--Mode of Burial--The Chaplains--Mode of Reception--Dress--Duties and Privileges--The Serving-Brethren--Mode of Reception--Their Duties--The Affiliated--Causes and Advantages of Affiliation--The Donates and Oblates
 221
 

CHAPTER VI.
 
 
Provinces of the Order--Eastern Provinces--Jerusalem--Houses of this Province--Tripolis--Antioch--Cyprus--Western Provinces--Portugal--Castile and Leon-Aragon--France and Auvergne--Normandy--Aquitaine--Provence--England--Germany--Upper and Central Italy--Apulia and Sicily
 242
 
p. xi
 
 
 
 Page
 

CHAPTER VII.
 
 
Officers of the Order--The Master--Mode of Election--His Rights and Privileges--Restraints on him--The Seneschal--The Marshal--The Treasurer--The Draper--The Turcopilar--Great-Priors--Commanders--Visitors--Sub-Marshal--Standard-bearer
 253
 

CHAPTER VIII.
 
 
Chapters--Mode of holding them--Templars' Mode of Living--Amusements--Conduct in War
 266
 

CHAPTER IX.
 
 
Molay elected Master--Last attempt of the Christians in Syria--Conduct of the Three Military Orders--Philip the Fair and Pope Boniface VIII.--Seizure of the Pope--Election of Clement V.--The Papal See removed to France--Causes of Philip's enmity to the Templars--Arrival of Molay in France--His interviews with the Pope--Charges made against the Templars--Seizure of the Knights--Proceedings in England--Nature of the Charges against the Order
 276
 

CHAPTER X.
 
 
Examination of the captive Knights--Different kinds of Torture--Causes of Confession--What Confessions were made--Templars brought before the Pope--Their Declarations--Papal Commission--Molay brought before it--Ponsard de Gisi--Defenders of the Order--Act of Accusation--Heads of Defence--Witnesses against the Order--Fifty-four Templars committed to the Flames at Paris--Remarkable words of Aymeric de Villars-le-Duc--Templars burnt in other places--Further Examinations--The Head worshipped by the Templars--John de Pollincourt--Peter de la Palu
 293
 

CHAPTER XI.
 
 
Examinations in England--Germany--Spain--Italy--Naples and Provence--Sicily--Cyprus--Meeting of the
 
 
p. xii
 
 
 
 Page
 
Council of Vienne--Suppression of the Order--Fate of its Members--Death of Molay
 317
 

THE SECRET TRIBUNALS OF WESTPHALIA.
 
 

CHAPTER I.
 
 
Introduction--The Original Westphalia--Conquest of the Saxons by Charlemagne--His Regulations--Dukes of Saxony--State of Germany--Henry the Lion--His Outlawry--Consequences of it--Origin of German Towns--Origin of the Fehm-gerichte, or Secret Tribunals--Theories of their Origin--Origin of their Name--Synonymous Terms
 332
 

CHAPTER II.
 
 
The Tribunal-Lord--The Count--The Schöppen--The Messengers--The Public Court--The Secret Tribunal--Extent of its Jurisdiction--Places of holding the Courts--Time of holding them--Proceedings in them--Process where the Criminal was caught in the fact--Inquisitorial Process
 346
 

CHAPTER III.
 
 
Accusatorial Process--Persons liable to it--Mode of Citation--Mode of Procedure--Right of Appeal
 360
 

CHAPTER IV.
 
 
The General Chapter--Rights of the Emperor--Of his Lieutenant--Of the Stuhlherrn, or Tribunal-Lords
 372
 

CHAPTER V.
 
 
Fehm-courts at Celle--At Brunswick--Tribunal of the Knowing in the Tyrol--The Castle of Baden--African Purrahs
 377
 
p. xiii
 
 
 
 Page
 

CHAPTER VI.
 
 
The Emperor Lewis the Bavarian--Charles IV.--Wenceslaus--Rupertian Reformation--Encroachments of the Fehm-courts--Case of Nickel Weller and the Town of Görlitz--Of the City of Dantzig--Of Hans David and the Teutonic Knights--Other instances of the presumption of the Free-counts--Citation of the Emperor Frederic III.--Case of the Count of Teckenburg
 385
 

CHAPTER VII.
 
 
Cause of the degeneracy of the Fehm-courts--Attempts at reformation--Causes of their high reputation--Case of the Duke of Würtemberg--Of Kerstian Kerkerink--Causes of the Decline of the Fehm-jurisdiction
 398
 



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« Reply #4 on: January 04, 2009, 10:44:41 pm »

. 1

SECRET SOCIETIES
OF
THE MIDDLE AGES.
INTRODUCTION.
IF we had the means of investigating historically the origin of Secret Societies, we should probably find that they began to be formed almost as soon as any knowledge had been accumulated by particular individuals beyond what constituted the common stock. The same thing has happened to knowledge that has happened to all other human possessions,--its actual holders have striven to keep it to themselves! It is true that in this case the possessor of the advantage does not seem to have the same reason for being averse to share it with others which naturally operates in regard to many good things of a different kind; he does not, by imparting it to those around him, diminish his own store. This is true, in so far as regards the possession of knowledge considered in its character of a real good; the owner of the treasure does not impoverish himself by giving it away, as he would by giving away his money, but remains as rich as ever, even after he has made ever so many others as rich as himself. But still there is one thing that he loses, and a thing upon which the human mind is apt to set a very high value; he loses the distinction which he derived from his knowledge. This distinction really serves, in many respects, the

p. 2

same purpose that money itself does. Like money, it brings observation and worship. Like money, it is the dearest of all things, power. Knowledge, however held, is indeed essentially power; to ken, that is, to know, is the same word and the same thing with to can, that is, to be able. But there is an additional and a different species of power conferred by knowledge when it exists as the distinction of a few individuals in the midst of general ignorance. Here it is power not only to do those things the methods of doing which it teaches; it is, besides, the power of governing other men through your comparative strength and their weakness.

So strong is the motive thus prompting the possessor of knowledge to the exclusive retention of his acquisitions, that unless it had been met by another motive appealing in like manner directly to our self-interest, it appears probable that scarcely any general dissemination of knowledge would ever have taken place. The powerful counteracting motive in question is derived from the consideration that in most cases one of the most effective ways which the possessor of knowledge can take of exciting the admiration of others, is to communicate what he knows. The light must give itself forth, and illuminate the world, even that it may be itself seen and admired. In the very darkest times, the scholar or philosopher may find his ambition sufficiently gratified by the mere reputation of superior attainments, and the stupid wonder, or it may be superstitious terror, of the uninquiring multitude. But as soon as any thing like a spirit of intelligence or of curiosity has sprung up in the general mind, all who aspire to fame or consideration from their learning, their discoveries, or their intellectual powers, address themselves to awaken the admiration of their fellow-men, not by concealing, but by displaying their knowledge

p. 3

[paragraph continues] --not by scaling up the precious fountain, but by allowing its waters to flow freely forth, that all who choose may drink of them. From this time science ceases almost to have any secrets; and, all the influences to which it is exposed acting in the same direction, the tendency of knowledge becomes wholly diffusive.

But in the preceding state of things the case was altogether the reverse. Then there was little or no inducement to the communication of knowledge, and every motive for those who were in possession of it to keep it to themselves. There was not intelligence enough abroad to appreciate, or even to understand, the truths of philosophy if they had been announced in their simplicity, and explained according to their principles; all that was cared for, all that was capable of arousing the vulgar attention, was some display, made as surprising and mysterious as possible, of their practical application. It would even have been attended with danger in many cases to attempt to teach true philosophy openly, or to make open profession of it; it was too much in opposition to some of the strongest prejudices which everywhere held sway. It is not, then, to be wondered at, that its cultivators should have sought to guard and preserve it by means of secret associations, which, besides excluding the multitude from a participation in the thing thus fenced round and hidden, answered also divers other convenient purposes. They afforded opportunities of free conference, which could not otherwise have been obtained. There was much in the very forms of mystery and concealment thus adopted calculated to impress the popular imagination, and to excite its reverence and awe. Finally, the veil which they drew around their proceedings enabled the members of these secret societies to combine their efforts; and arrange their plans, in

p. 4

security and without interruption, whenever they cherished any designs of political innovation, or other projects, the open avowal and prosecution of which the established authorities would not have tolerated.

The facilities afforded by the system of secret association, and it may even be said the temptations which it presents, to the pursuit of political objects forbidden by the laws, are so great as to justify all governments in prohibiting it, under whatever pretence it may be attempted to be introduced. It is nothing to the purpose to argue that under bad governments valuable political reforms have sometimes been effected by such secret associations which would not otherwise have been attained. The same mode of proceeding, in the nature of the thing, is equally efficacious for the overthrow of a good government. Bad men are as likely to combine in the dark for their objects as good men are for theirs. In any circumstances, a secret association is an imperium in imperio, a power separate from, and independent of, that which is recognized as the supreme power in the state, and therefore something essentially disorganizing, and which it is contrary to the first principles of all government for any state to tolerate. In the case of a bad government, indeed, all means are fairly available for its overthrow which are not morally objectionable, the simple rule for their application being that it shall be directed by considerations of prudence and discretion. In such a case a secret association of the friends of reform may sometimes be found to supply the most effective means for accomplishing the desired end; but that end, however desirable it may be, is not one which the constitution of the state itself can rationally contemplate. The constitution cannot be founded upon the supposition that even necessary alterations of it are to be brought about through agencies out of

p. 5

itself, and farming no part of its regular mechanism. Whenever such agencies are successfully brought into operation, there is a revolution, and the constitution is at an end. Even the amendment of the constitution so effected is its destruction.

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« Reply #5 on: January 04, 2009, 10:45:01 pm »

Yet most of the more remarkable secret associations which have existed in different ages and countries have probably either been originally formed to accomplish some political end, or have come to contemplate such an object as their chief design. Even when nothing more than a reformation of the national religion has been, as far as can be discovered, the direct aim of the association, it may still be fairly considered as of a political character, from the manner in which religion has been mixed up in almost every country with the civil institutions of the state. The effect which it was desired to produce upon the government may in many cases have been very far from extending to its complete abolition, and the substitution of another form of polity; an alteration in some one particular may have been all that was sought, or the object of the association may even have been to support some original principle of the constitution against the influence of circumstances which threatened its subversion or modification. Whether directed to the alteration or to the maintenance of the existing order of things, the irregular and dangerous action of secret combinations is, as we have said, a species of force which no state can reasonably be expected to recognize. But it may nevertheless have happened at particular emergencies, and during times of very imperfect civilization, that valuable service has been rendered by such combinations to some of the most important interests of society, and that they have to a considerable extent supplied the defects of the rude and imperfect arrangements of the ordinary government.

p. 6

The system of secret association is, indeed, the natural resource of the friends of political reform, in times when the general mind is not sufficiently enlightened to appreciate or to support their schemes for the improvement of the existing institutions and order of things. To proclaim their views openly in such circumstances would be of no more use than haranguing to the desert. They might even expose themselves to destruction by the attempt. But, united in a secret association, and availing themselves of all the advantages at once of their superior knowledge and intelligence, and of their opportunities of acting in concert, a very few individuals may work with an effect altogether out of proportion to their number. They may force in a wedge which in time shall even split and shiver into fragments the strength of the existing social system, no matter by how many ages of barbarism it may be consolidated. Or, in the absence of a more regular law and police, they may maintain the empire of justice by stretching forth the arm of their own authority in substitution for that of the state, which lies paralysed and powerless, and turning to account even the superstitions and terrors of the popular imagination by making these, as excited by their dark organization and mysterious forms of procedure, the chain whereby to secure the popular obedience.

On the whole, the system of secret association for political objects, even when there is no dispute about the desirableness of the ends sought to be accomplished, may be pronounced to be a corrective of which good men will avail themselves only in times of general ignorance, or under governments that sin against the first principles of all good government, by endeavouring to put a stop to the advancement of society through the prohibition of the open expression of opinion; but, in countries where the liberty of

p. 7

discussion exists, and where the public mind is tolerably enlightened, as entirely unsuited to the circumstances of the case as it is opposed to the rules and maxims on which every government must take its stand that would provide for its own preservation. In these happier circumstances the course for the friends of social improvement to follow is to come forward into the full light of day as the only place worthy of their mission, and to seek the realization of their views by directly appealing to the understandings of their fellow-citizens.

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« Reply #6 on: January 04, 2009, 10:45:27 pm »

One evil to which secret societies are always exposed is the chance of the objects and principles of their members being misrepresented by those interested in resisting their power and influence. As the wakeful eyes of the government, and of those concerned in the maintenance of the actual system, will be ever upon them, they must strictly confine the knowledge of their real views and proceedings to the initiated, and as their meetings must for the same reason be held in retired places, and frequently by night, an opportunity, which is rarely neglected, is afforded to their enemies of spreading the most calumnious reports of their secret practices, which, though conscious of innocence, they may not venture openly to confute. By arts of this kind the suspicions and aversion of the people are excited, and they are often thus made to persecute their best friends, and still to bow beneath the yoke of their real foes. The similarity of the accusations made against secret associations in all parts of the world is a sufficient proof of their falsehood, and we should always listen to them with the utmost suspicion, recollecting the quarter from which they proceed. Of the spotless purity of the Christian religion when first promulgated through the Roman world no one can entertain a doubt; yet when persecution obliged its

p. 8

professors to form as it were a secret society, the same charges of Thyestian banquets, and of the promiscuous intercourse of the sexes, were made against them, which they themselves afterwards brought, and with probably as little truth, against the various sects of the Gnostic heresy. Wherever there is secrecy there will be suspicion, and charges of something unable to bear the light of day will be made.

The ancient world presents one secret society of a professedly political character--that of the Pythagoreans. Of religious ones it might be expected to yield a rich harvest to the inquirer, when we call to mind all that has been written in ancient and modern times concerning the celebrated mysteries. But the original Grecian mysteries, such as those of Eleusis, appear to have been nothing more than public services of the gods, with some peculiar ceremonies performed at the charge of the state, and presided over by the magistrates, in which there were no secrets communicated to the initiated, no revelation of knowledge beyond that which was generally attainable. The private mysteries, namely, the Orphic, Isiac, and Mithraic, which were introduced from the East, were merely modes employed by cunning and profligate impostors for taking advantage of the weakness and credulity of the sinful and the superstitious, by persuading them that by secret and peculiar rites, and the invocation of strange deities, the apprehended punishment of sin might be averted. The nocturnal assemblies for the celebration of these mysteries were but too often scenes of vice and debauchery, and they were discountenanced by all good governments. It is to these last, and not to the Eleusinian mysteries, that the severe strictures of the fathers of the church apply. *

The history of Pythagoras and his doctrines is


p. 9

extremely obscure. The accounts of this sage which have come down to us were not written till many centuries after his death, and but little reliance is to be placed on their details. Pythagoras was a Samian by birth; he flourished in the sixth century before Christ, at the time when Egypt exercised so much influence over Greece, and its sages sought the banks of the Nile in search of wisdom. There is, therefore, no improbability in the tradition of Pythagoras also having visited that land of mystery, and perhaps other parts of the East, and marked the tranquil order of things where those who were esteemed the wise ruled over the ignorant people. He may therefore have conceived the idea of uniting this sacerdotal system with the rigid morals and aristocratic constitution of the Dorian states of Greece. His native isle, which was then under the tyranny of Polycrates, not appearing to him suited for the introduction of his new system of government, he turned his eyes to the towns of Magna Græcia, or Southern Italy, which were at that time in a highly flourishing condition, whose inhabitants were eager in the pursuit of knowledge, and some of which already possessed written codes of law. He fixed his view on Croton, one of the wealthiest and most distinguished of those towns.

Aristocracy was the soul of the Dorian political constitutions, and the towns of Magna Græcia were all Dorian colonies; but in consequence of their extensive commerce the tendency of the people was at that time towards democracy. To preserve the aristocratic principle was the object of Pythagoras; but he wished to make the aristocracy not merely one of birth; he desired that, like the sacerdotal castes of the East, it should also have the supremacy in knowledge. As his system was contrary to the general feeling, Pythagoras saw that it was only by gaining

p. 10

the veneration of the people that he could carry it into effect; and by his personal advantages of beauty of form, skill in gymnastic exercises, eloquence, and dignity, he drew to himself the popular favour by casting the mantle of mystery over his doctrines. He thus at once inspired the people with awe for them, and the nobles with zeal to become initiated in his secrets.

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« Reply #7 on: January 04, 2009, 10:45:45 pm »

The most perfect success, we are told, attended the project of the philosopher. A total change of manners took place in Croton; the constitution became nearly Spartan; a body of 300 nobles, rendered by the lessons of the sage as superior to the people in knowledge of every kind as they were in birth, ruled over it. The nobles of the other states flocked to Croton to learn how to govern by wisdom; Pythagorean missionaries went about everywhere preaching the new political creed; they inculcated on the people religion, humility, and obedience; such of the nobles as were deemed capable were initiated in the wisdom of the order, and taught its maxims and principles; a golden age, in which power was united with wisdom and virtue, seemed to have begun upon earth.

But, like every thing which struggles against the spirit of the age, such a political system was not fated to endure. While Croton was the chief seat of Pythagoreanism, luxury had fixed her throne in the neighbouring city of Sybaris. The towns were rivals: one or the other must fall. It was little more than thirty years after the arrival of Pythagoras in Croton that a furious war broke out between them. Led by Milo and other Pythagoreans, who were as expert in military affairs as skilled in philosophy, the Crotoniates utterly annihilated the power of their rivals, and Sybaris sank to rise no more. But with her sank the power of the Pythagoreans. They judged

p. 11

it inexpedient to give a large share of the booty to the people; the popular discontent rose; Cylon, a man who had been refused admittance into the order, took advantage of it, and urged the people on; the Pythagoreans were all massacred, and a democracy established. All the other towns took example by Croton, a general persecution of the order commenced, and Pythagoras himself was obliged to seek safety in flight, and died far away from the town which once had received him as a prophet. The Pythagoreans never made any further attempts at attaining political power, but became a mere sect of mystic philosophers, distinguished by peculiarities of food and dress.

Ancient times present us with no other society of any importance to which we can properly apply the term secret.

The different sects of the Gnostics, who are by the fathers of the church styled heretics, were to a certain extent secret societies, as they did not propound their doctrines openly and publicly; but their history is so scanty, and so devoid of interest, that an examination of it would offer little to detain ordinary readers.

The present volume is devoted to the history of three celebrated societies which flourished during the middle ages, and of which, as far as we know, no full and satisfactory account is to be found in English literature. These are the Assassins, or Ismaïlites, of the East, whose name has become in all the languages of Europe synonymous with murderer, who were a secret society, and of whom we have in general such vague and indistinct conceptions; the military order of the Knights Templars, who were most barbarously persecuted under the pretext of their holding a secret doctrine, and against whom the charge has been renewed at the present day; and,

p. 12

finally, the Secret Tribunals of Westphalia, in Germany, concerning which all our information has hitherto been derived from the incorrect statements of dramatists and romancers. *

It is the simplicity of truth, and not the excitement of romance, that the reader is to expect to find in the following pages,--pictures of manners and modes of thinking different from our own,--knowledge, not mere entertainment, yet as large an infusion of the latter as is consistent with truth and instruction.




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Footnotes
8:* See Lobeck's excellent work "Aglaophamus."

12:* Since the present work was prepared, a translation of Von Hammer's History of the Assassins has been published by Dr. Oswald Charles Wood.



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« Reply #8 on: January 04, 2009, 10:47:05 pm »

. 13

THE ASSASSINS *.
CHAPTER I.

State of the World in the 7th Century--Western Empire--Eastern Empire--Persia--Arabia--Mohammed--His probable Motives--Character of his Religion--The Koran.

AT the commencement of the 7th century of the Christian era a new character was about to be impressed on a large portion of the world. During the two centuries which preceded, the Goths, Vandals, Huns, and other martial tribes of the Germanic race, had succeeded in beating down the barriers opposed to them, and in conquering and dismembering the Western Empire. They brought with them and retained their love of freedom and spirit of dauntless valour, but abandoned their ancient and ferocious superstitions, and embraced the corrupt system which then degraded the name of Christianity. This system, hardened, as it were, by ideas retained and transferred from the original faith of its new disciples, which ideas were fostered by those passages of the books of the Hebrew Scriptures which accorded with their natural sentiments, afterwards, when allied with feudalism, engendered the spirit which poured the hosts of Western Europe over the mountains and plains of Asia for the conquest of the Holy Land.


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A different picture was at this time presented by the empire of the East. It still retained the extent assigned to it by Theodosius; and all the countries from the Danube, round the east and south coasts of the Mediterranean, to the straits of Gades, yielded a more or less perfect obedience to the successors of Constantine. But a despotism more degrading, though less ferocious, than those of Asia paralyzed the patriotism and the energy of their subjects; and the acuteness, the contentiousness, and the imagination of the Greeks, combined with mysticism and the wild fancy of the Asiatics to transform the simplicity of the religion of Christ into a revolting system of intricate metaphysics and gross idolatry, which aided the influence of their political condition in chilling the martial ardour of the people. The various provinces of the empire were held together by the loosest and feeblest connexion, and it was apparent that a vigorous shock would suffice to dissolve the union.

The mountains of Armenia and the course of the Euphrates separated the Eastern Empire from that of Persia. This country had been under the dominion of the people named Parthians at the time when the eagles of the Roman republic first appeared on the Euphrates, and defeat had more than once attended the Roman armies which attempted to enter their confines. Like every dominion not founded on the freedom of the people, that of the Arsacides (the Parthian royal line) grew feeble with time, and after a continuance of nearly five centuries the sceptre of Arsaces passed from the weak hand of the last monarch of his line to that of Ardeshir Babegan (that is the son of Babec), a valiant officer of the royal army, and a pretended descendant of the ancient monarchs of Persia. Ardeshir, to accomplish this revolution, availed himself of the religious prejudices of the Persian people. The Parthian monarchs had

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inclined to the manners and the religion of the Greeks, and the Light-religion--the original faith of Persia, and one of the purest and most spiritual of those to which a divine origin may not be assigned--had been held in slight estimation, and its priests unvisited by royal favour. It was the pride and the policy of Ardeshir to restore the ancient religion to the dignity which it had enjoyed under the descendants of Cyrus, and Religion, in return, lent her powerful aid to his plans of restoring the royal dignity to its pristine vigour, and of infusing into the breast of the people the love of country and the ardour for extending the Persian dominion to what it had been of old; and for 400 years the Sassanides * were the most formidable enemies of the Roman empire. But their dominion had, at the period of which we write, nearly attained the greatest limit allotted to Oriental dynasties; and though Noosheerwan the Just had attained great warlike fame, and governed with a vigour and justice that have made his name proverbial in the East, and Khoosroo Purveez displayed a magnificence which is still the theme of Persian poetry and romance, and carried his victorious arms over Syria and Egypt, and further along the African coast than even those of Darius I. had been able to advance, yet defeat from the gallant Emperor Heraclius clouded his latter days, and the thirteenth year after his death, by showing the Persian armies in flight, and the palladium of the empire, the jewel-set apron of the blacksmith Kawah, in the hands of the rovers of the deserts, revealed the secret that her strength


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was departed from Persia. The brilliancy of the early part of the reign of Khoosroo Purveez had been but the flash before death which at times is displayed in empires as in individuals. The vigour was gone which was requisite to stem the torrent of fanatic valour about to burst forth from the wilds of Arabia.

It is the boast of Arabia that it has never been conquered. This immunity from subjugation has, however, been only partial, and is owing to the nature of the country; for although the barren sands of the Hejaz and Nejed have always baffled the efforts of hostile armies, yet the more inviting region of Yemen, the Happy Arabia of the ancients, has more than once allured a conqueror, and submitted to his sway. The inhabitants of this country have been the same in blood and in manners from the dawn of history. Brave, but not sanguinary, robbers, but kind and hospitable, of lively and acute intellect, we find the Arabs, from the days of Abraham to the present times, leading the pastoral and nomadic life in the desert, agriculturists in Yemen, traders on the coasts and on the confines of Syria and Egypt. Their foreign military operations had hitherto been confined to plundering expeditions into the last-mentioned countries, unless they were the Hycsos, or Shepherd Kings, who, according to tradition, once made the conquest of Egypt. Arabia forming a kind of world in itself, its various tribes were in ceaseless hostility with each other; but it was apparent that if its brave and skilful horsemen could be united under one head, and animated by motives which would inspire constancy and rouse valour, they might present a force capable of giving a fatal shock to the empires of Persia and of Rome.

It is impossible, on taking a survey of the history of the world, not to recognize a great predisposing

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cause, which appoints the time and circumstances of every event which is to produce any considerable change in the state of human affairs. The agency of this overruling providence is nowhere more perceptible than in the present instance. The time was come for the Arabs to leave their deserts and march to the conquest of the world, and the man was born who was to inspire them with the necessary motives.
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« Reply #9 on: January 04, 2009, 10:50:12 pm »

Mohammed (Illustrious *) was the son of Abd-Allah (Servant of God), a noble Arab of the tribe of Koreish, which bad the guardianship of the Kaaba (Square House of Mecca), the Black Stone contained in which (probably an aerolite) had been for ages an object of religious veneration to the tribes of Arabia. His mother was Amineh, the daughter of a chief of princely rank. He was early left an orphan, with the slender patrimony of five camels and a female Æthiopian slave. His uncle, Aboo Talib, brought him up. At an early age the young Mohammed accompanied his uncle to the fair of Bozra, on the verge of Syria, and in his 18th year he signalized his valour in an engagement between the Koreish and a hostile tribe. At the age of 25 he entered the service of Khadijah, a wealthy widow, with whose merchandise he visited one of the great fairs of Syria. Mohammed, though poor, was noble, handsome, acute, and brave; Khadijah, who was fifteen years his senior, was inspired with love; her passion was returned; and the


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gift of her hand and wealth gave the nephew of Aboo Talib affluence and consideration.

Mohammed's original turn of mind appears to have been serious, and it is not unlikely that the great truth of the Unity of the Deity had been early impressed on his mind by his mother or his Jewish kindred. The Koreish and the rest of his countrymen were idolaters; Christianity was now corrupted by the intermixture of many superstitions; the fire-worship of the Persians was a worshipping of the Deity under a material form; the Mosaic religion had been debased by the dreams and absurd distinctions of the Rabbis. A simpler form than any of these seemed wanted for man. God, moreover, was believed to have at sundry times sent prophets into the world for its reformation, and might do so again; the Jews still looked for their promised Messiah; many Christians held that the Paraclete was yet to come. Who can take upon him to assert that Mohammed may not have believed himself to be set apart to the service of God, and appointed by the divine decree to be the preacher of a purer faith than any which he then saw existing? Who will say that in his annual seclusions of fifteen days in the cave of Hira he may not have fallen into ecstatic visions, and that in one of these waking dreams the angel Gabriel may not have appeared to his distempered fancy to descend to nominate him to the office of a prophet of God, and present to him, in a visible form, that portion of his future law which had probably already passed through his mind *?


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[paragraph continues] A certain portion of self-delusion is always mingled with successful imposture; the impostor, as it were, makes his first experiment on himself. It is much more reasonable to conclude that Mohammed had at first no other object than the dissemination of truth by persuasion, and that he may have beguiled himself into a belief of his being the instrument selected for that purpose, than that the citizen of a town in the secluded region of Arabia beheld in ambitious vision from his mountain-cave his victorious banners waving on the banks of the Oxus and the Ebro, and his name saluted as that of the Prophet of God by a fourth part of the human race. Still we must not pass by another, and perhaps a truer supposition, namely, that, in the mind of Mohammed, as in that of so many others, the end justified the means, and that he deemed it lawful to feign a vision and a commission from God in order to procure from men a hearing for the truth.

Whatever the ideas and projects of Mohammed may originally have been, he waited till he had attained his fortieth year (the age at which Moses showed himself first to the Israelites), and then revealed his divine commission to his wife Khadijah, his slave Zeid, his cousin Ali, the son of Aboo Talib, and his friend, the virtuous and wealthy Aboo Bekr. It is difficult to conceive any motive but conviction to have operated on the minds of these

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different persons, who at once acknowledged ledged his claim to the prophetic office; and it speaks not a little for the purity of the previous life of the new Prophet, that he could venture to claim the faith of those who were most intimately acquainted with him. The voice of wisdom has assured us that a prophet has no honour in his own country and among his own kindred, and the example of Mohammed testified the truth of the declaration. During thirteen years the new religion made but slow and painful progress in the town of Mecca; but the people of Yathreb, a town afterwards dignified with the appellation of the City of the Prophet (Medinat-en-Nabi), were more susceptive of faith; and when, on the death of Aboo Talib, who protected his nephew, though he rejected his claims, his celebrated Flight (Hejra) brought him to Yathreb, the people of that town took arms in his defence against the Koreish. It was probably now that new views opened to the mind of the Prophet. Prince of Yathreb, he might hope to extend his sway over the ungrateful Mecca; and those who had scoffed at his arguments and persuasions might be taught lessons of wisdom by the sword. These anticipations were correct, and in less than ten years after the battle of Bedr (the first he fought) he saw his temporal power and his prophetic character acknowledged by the whole of the Arabian peninsula.

It commonly happens that, when a new form of religion is proposed for the acceptance of mankind, it surpasses in purity that which it is intended to supersede. The Arabs of the days of Mohammed were idolaters; 300 is said to have been the number of the images which claimed their adoration in the Caaba. A gross licentiousness prevailed among hem; their polygamy had no limits assigned to it *.


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« Reply #10 on: January 04, 2009, 10:50:38 pm »

For this the Prophet substituted the worship of One God, and placed a check on the sensual propensities of his people. His religion contained descriptions of the future state of rewards and punishments, by which he allured to obedience and terrified from contumacy or opposition. The pains of hell which he menaced were such as were most offensive to the body and its organs; the joys of Paradise were verdant meads, shady trees, murmuring brooks, gentle airs, precious wines in cups of gold and silver, stately tents, and splendid sofas; the melody of the songs of angels was to ravish the souls of the blessed; the black-eyed Hoories were to be the ever-blooming brides of the faithful servants of God. Yet, though sensual bliss was to be his ultimate reward, the votary was taught that its attainment demanded self-denial on earth; and it has been justly observed that "a devout Mussulman exhibits more of the Stoical than of the Epicurean character *." As the Prophet had resolved that the sword should be unsparingly employed for the diffusion of the truth, the highest degree of the future bliss was pronounced to be the portion of the martyrs, i.e., of those who fell in the holy wars waged for the dissemination of the faith. "Paradise," says the Prophet, "is beneath the shadow of swords." At the


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day of judgment the wounds of the fallen warrior were to be resplendent as vermilion, and odoriferous as musk; and the wings of angels were to supply the loss of limbs. The religion of Mohammed was entitled Islam (resignation), hence its votaries were called by the Arabs Moslems, and in Persian Mussulmans. Its articles of belief were five--belief in God, in his angels, in his Prophet, in the last day, and in predestination. Its positive duties were also five--purification, prayer, fasting, alms, and the pilgrimage to Mecca. Various rites and observances which the Arabs had hitherto practised were retained by the Prophet, either out of regard for the prejudices of his followers, or because he did not, or could not, divest his own mind of respect for usages in which he had been reared up from infancy.

Such is a slight sketch of the religion which Mohammed substituted for the idolatry of Arabia. It contained little that was original; all its details of the future state were borrowed from Judaism or from the Magian system of Persia. The book which contains it, entitled the Koran (reading), was composed in detached pieces, during a long series of years, by the illiterate Prophet, and taken down from his lips by his scribes. His own account of its origin was that each Sura, or revelation, was brought to him from heaven by the angel Gabriel. It is regarded by the Mohammedan. East, and by most European Orientalists, as the masterpiece of Arabian literature; and when we make due allowance for the difference of European and Arabian models and taste, and consider that the rhyme * which in prose is insufferable to the former, may to the latter sound grateful, we may allow that the praises lavished on it are not


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unmerited. Though tedious and often childish legends, and long and tiresome civil regulations, occupy the greater part of it, it is pervaded by a fine strain of fervid piety and humble resignation to the will of God, not unworthy of the inspired seers of Israel; and the sublime doctrine of the Unity of God runs like a vein of pure gold through each portion of the mass, giving lustre and dignity to all. Might we not venture to say that Christianity itself has derived advantage from the imposture of Mohammed, and that the clear and open profession of the Divine Unity by their Mohammedan enemies kept the Christians of the dark ages from smothering it beneath the mass of superstition and fable by which they corrupted and deformed so much of the majestic simplicity of the Gospel? No one, certainly, would dream of comparing the son of Abd-Allah with the Son of God, of setting darkness by the side of light; but still we may confess him to have been an agent in the hands of the Almighty, and admit that his assumption of the prophetic office was productive of good as well as of evil.

The Mohammedan religion is so intimately connected with history, law, manners, and opinions, in the part of the East of which we are about to write, that this brief view of its origin and nature was indispensable. We now proceed to our history.


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Footnotes
13:* Hammer's Geschichte der Assassinen (History of the Assassins), and the same writer's Fundgruben des Oriente (Mines of the East), M. Jourdain's Extrait de l’Ouvrage de Mirkhond sur la Dynastie des Ismaelites, and Malcolm's History of Persia, are the principal authorities for the following account of the Assassins.

15:* The name given to the dynasty founded by Ardeshir, from his pretended ancestor Sassan, a grandson of Isfundear, a hero greatly celebrated in the ancient history of Persia. Isfundear was the son of Gushtasp, who is supposed to be the Darius Hystaspes of the Greek historians. Sir John Malcolm has endeavoured to identify Isfundear with the Xerxes of the Greeks.

17:* The Oriental proper names being mostly all significant, we shall translate them when we first employ them. As, however, it is not always that it can be discovered what the original Arabic characters are of an eastern word which we meet in Roman letters, we shall be sometimes obliged to leave names unexplained, and at other times to hazard conjectural explanations. In the last case, we shall affix a mark of doubt.

18:* The Kubla Khan of Coleridge (Poetical Works, vol. i. p. 266) is a fine instance of this power of the mind, withdrawn from the contemplation of material objects. The reader will probably recollect the sign given from heaven to Lord Herbert of Cherbury, on the occasion of his work written against revealed p. 19 religion. The writer has lately heard an instance of a lady of fortune, to whom, as she reclined one day on a sofa, a voice seemed to come from heaven, announcing to .her that she was selected as the instrument for accomplishing a great work in the hands of God; and giving, as a sign, that, for a certain number of months, she should be unable to leave the sofa on which she was lying. Such is the power of imagination, that the supposed intimation in regard to the sign actually took effect; she believed herself to have lost the power of motion, and therefore did in reality lose it.

20:* See, in Sir J. Malcolm's History of Persia, the dialogue p. 21 between the Persian king Yezdijird and the Arab envoy. "Whatever," said the latter, "thou hast said regarding the former condition of the Arabs is true. Their food was green lizards; they buried their infant daughters alive; nay, some of them feasted on dead carcasses and drank blood, while others slew their relations, and thought themselves great and valiant when, by such an act, they became possessed of more property. They were clothed with hair garments, knew not good from evil, and made no distinction between that which is lawful and that which is unlawful. Such was our state. But God in his mercy has sent us by a holy prophet a sacred volume, which teaches us the true faith," &c.

21:* Hallam, Middle Ages, ii, 165.

22:* The Hebrews, as appears from the poetic parts of the Scriptures, had the same delight in the clang of rhyme as the Arabs. See particularly Isaiah in the original.



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« Reply #11 on: January 04, 2009, 10:51:20 pm »

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CHAPTER II.

Origin of the Khalifat--The first Khalifs--Extent of the Arabian Empire--Schism among the Mohammedans--Soonees and Sheähs--Sects of the latter--The Keissanee--The Zeidites--The Ghoollat--The Imamee--Sects of the Imamee--Their political Character--The Carmathites--Origin of the Fatimite Khalifs--Secret Society at Cairo--Doctrines taught in it--Its Decline.

THE civil and ecclesiastical dignities were united in the person of Mohammed. As Emir (prince) he administered justice and led his followers to battle; as Imam (director) he on every Friday (the Mohammedan sabbath) taught the principles and duties of religion from his pulpit. Though his wives were numerous, the Prophet had no male issue surviving at the time when he felt the approaches of death; but his daughter Fatima was married to his cousin Ali, his early and faithful disciple, and it was naturally to be expected that the expiring voice of the Prophet would nominate him as his Khalif (successor) over the followers of his faith. But Ayesha, the daughter of Aboo Bekr, Mohammed's youthful and best beloved wife, was vehemently hostile to the son of Aboo Talib, and she may have exerted all the influence of a revengeful woman over the mind of the dying Prophet. Or perhaps Mohammed, like Alexander, perplexed with the extent of dominion to which he had attained, and aware that only a vigour of character similar to his own would avail to retain and enlarge it, and, it may be, thinking himself answerable

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to God for the choice he should make, deemed it the safest course to leave the matter to the free decision of his surviving followers. His appointing Aboo Bekr, a few days before his death, to officiate in his pulpit, might seem to indicate an intention of conferring the khalifat on him; and he is said to have at one time declared that the strength of character displayed by his distinguished follower, Omar, evinced his possession of the virtues of a prophet and a khalif. Tradition records no equally strong declaration respecting the mild and virtuous Ali.

At all events the Prophet expired without having named a successor, and the choice devolving on his companions dissension was ready to break out, when Omar, abandoning his own claims, gave his voice for Aboo Bekr. All opposition was thus silenced, and the father of Ayesha reigned for two years over the faithful. Ali at first refused obedience, but he finally acknowledged the successor of the Prophet. When dying, Aboo Bekr bequeathed the sceptre to Omar, as the worthiest, and when, twelve years afterwards, Omar perished by the dagger of an assassin, six electors conferred the vacant dignity on Othman, who had been the secretary of the Prophet. Age having enfeebled the powers of Othman, the reins of authority were slackened, and a spirit of discord pervaded all Arabia, illustrative of the Prophet's declaration of vigour being essential to a khalif. A numerous body of rebels besieged the aged Othman in Medina, and he was slain, holding the Koran in his lap, by a band of murderers, headed by the brother of Ayesha, who, the firebrand of Islam, it is probable had been secretly active in exciting the rebellion.

The popular choice now fell upon Ali, but the implacable Ayesha stimulated to revolt against his authority

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two powerful Arab chiefs, named Telha and Zobeir, who raised their standards in the province of Arabian Irak. Ayesha, mounted on a camel, appeared in the thickest of the battle, in which the rebel chiefs were defeated and slain. The generous Ali sent her to dwell at the tomb of the Prophet, where she passed in tranquillity the remainder of her days. The khalif himself was less fortunate. Moawiya, the Governor of Syria, son of Aboo Sofian, the most violent of the opponents of the Prophet, assumed the office of the avenger of Othman, whose death he charged on Ali and his party, and, declaring himself to be the rightful khalif, roused Syria to arms against the Prophet's son-in-law. In the war success was on the side of Ali, till the superstition of his troops obliged him to agree to a treaty; and shortly afterwards he was murdered by a fanatic in the mosk of Coofa. His son Hassan was induced by Moawiya to resign his claims and retire to the city of Medina; but his more high-spirited brother, Hussein, took arms against the khalif Yezid, the son of Moawiya; and the narrative of his death is one of the most pathetic and best related incidents of Oriental history *. The sisters and children of Hussein were spared by the clemency of the victorious Yezid, and from them descend a numerous race, glorying in the blood of Ali and the Prophet.

The Arabian empire was now of immense extent. Egypt, Syria, and Persia had been conquered in the reign of Omar. Under the first khalifs of the dynasty of the Ommiades (so called from Ommiyah, the great-grandfather of Moawiya), the conquest of Africa and Spain was achieved, and the later princes of this family ruled over the most extensive empire of the world.


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The great schism of the Mohammedan church (we must be permitted to employ this term, the only one our language affords) commences with the accession of the house of Ommiyah. The Mohammedans have, as is generally known, been from that time to the present day divided into two great sects, the Soonees and the Sheähs, the orthodox and the dissenters, as we might venture to call them, whose opposite doctrines, like those of the Catholics and the Protestants of the Christian church, are each the established faith of great and independent nations. The Ottoman and the Usbeg Turks hold the Soonee faith; the Persians are violent Sheähs; and national and religious animosity concur in making them the determined and inveterate foes of each other.

The Soonees hold that the first four khalifs were all legitimate successors of the Prophet; but as their order was determined by their degree of sanctity, they assign the lowest rank to Ali. The Sheähs, on the contrary, maintain that the dignity of the Prophet rightfully descended to the son of his uncle and the husband of his daughter. They therefore regard Aboo Bekr, Omar, and Othman, as usurpers, and curse and revile their memory, more especially that of the rigid Omar, whose murderer they venerate as a saint. It must be steadily kept in mind, in every discussion respecting the Mohammedan religion, that Mohammed and his successors succeeded in establishing what the lofty and capacious mind of Gregory VII. attempted in vain--the union of the civil and ecclesiastical powers in the same person. Unlike the schisms of the eastern and western, of the Catholic and Protestant churches, which originated in difference of opinion on points of discipline or matters of doctrine, that of the Mohammedans arose solely from ambition and the struggle for temporal power. The sceptre of the greatest empire of

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the world was to be the reward of the party who could gain the greatest number of believers in his right to grasp the staff and ascend the pulpit of the Prophet of God. Afterwards, when the learning of the Greeks and the Persians became familiar to the Arabs, theological and metaphysical niceties and distinctions were introduced, and the two great stems of religion threw out numerous sectarian branches. The Soonees are divided into four main sects, all of which are, however, regarded as orthodox, for they agree in the main points, though they differ in subordinate ones. The division of the Sheähs is also into four sects, the point of agreement being the assertion of the right of Ali and his descendants to the imamat, or supreme ecclesiastical dignity; the point of difference being the nature of the proof on which his rights are founded, and the order of succession among his descendants. These four sects and their opinions are as follows:--

I. The first and most innocuous of the sects which maintained the rights of the family of Ali were the Keissanee, so named from Keissan, one of his freedmen. These, who were subdivided into several branches, held that Ali's rights descended, not to Hassan or Hussein, but to their brother, Mohammed-ben-Hanfee. One of these branch-sects maintained that the imamat remained * in the person of this Mohammed, who had never died, but had since appeared, from time to time, on earth, under various names. Another branch, named the Hashemites, held that the imamat descended from Mohammed-ben-Hanfee to his son Aboo-Hashem, who transmitted it to Mohammed, of the family of Abbas, from whom it descended to Saffah, the founder of the Abbasside dynasty of khalifa †. It is quite evident



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that the object of this sect was to give a colour to the claims of the family of Abbas, who stigmatized the family of Ommiyah as usurpers, and insisted that the khalifat belonged of right to themselves. Aboo-Moslem, the great general who first gave dominion to the family of Abbas, was a real or pretended maintainer of the tenets of this sect, the only branch, by the way, of the Sheähs which supported the house of Abbas.

II. A second branch of the Sheähs was named Zeidites. These held that the imamat descended through Hassan and Hussein to Zein-al-Abedeen, the son of this last, and thence passed to Zeid (whence their name), the son of Zein; whereas most other Sheähs regarded Mohammed Bakir, the brother of Zeid, as the lawful imam. The Zeidites differed from the other Sheähs in acknowledging the three first khalifs to have been legitimate successors of the Prophet. Edris, who wrested a part of Africa from the Abbasside khalifs, and founded the kingdom of Fez, was a real or pretended descendant of Zeid.

III. The Ghoollat (Ultras), so named from the extravagance of their doctrines, which, passing all bounds of common sense, were held in equal abomination by the other Sheähs and by the Soonees. This sect is said to have existed as early as the time of Ali himself, who is related to have burnt some of them on account of their impious and extravagant

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« Reply #12 on: January 04, 2009, 10:51:52 pm »

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opinions. They held, as we are told, that there was but one imam, and they ascribed the qualities of divinity to Ali. Some maintained that there were two natures (the divine and the human) in him, others that the last alone was his. Some again said that this perfect nature of Ali passed by transmigration through his descendants, and would continue so to do till the end of all things; others that the transmission stopped with Mohammed Bakir, the son of Zein-al-Ahedeen, who still abode on earth, but unseen, like Khizer, the Guardian of the Well of Life, according to the beautiful eastern legend *. Others, still more bold, denied the transmission, and asserted that the divine Ali sat enthroned in the clouds, where the thunder was the voice and the lightning the scourge wherewith he terrified and chastised the wicked. This sect presents the first (though a very early) instance of the introduction into Islam of that mysticism which appears to have had its original


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birth-place in the dreamy groves of India. As a political party the Ghoollat never seem to have been formidable.

IV. Such, however, was not the case with the Imamee, the most dangerous enemies of the house of Abbas. Agreeing with the Ghoollat in the doctrine of an invisible imam, they maintained that there had been a series of visible imams antecedent to him, who had vanished. One branch of this sect (thence called the Seveners--Sebiïn) closed the series with Ismaïl, the grandson of Mohammed Bakir, the seventh imam, reckoning Ali himself the first. These were also called Ismaïlites, from Ismaïl. The other branch, called Imamites, continued the series from Ismaïl, through his brother Moosa Casim, down to Askeree, the twelfth imam. These were hence called the Twelvers (Esnaashree). They believed that the imam Askeree had vanished in a cavern at Hilla, on the banks of the Euphrates, where he would remain invisible till the end of the world, when he would again appear under the name of the Guide (Mehdee) to lead mankind into the truth. The Imamee, wherever they might stop in the series of the visible imams, saw that, for their political purposes, it was necessary to acknowledge a kind of locum tenentes imams; but, while the Zeidites, who agreed with them in this point, required in these princes the royal virtues of valour, generosity, justice, knowledge, the Imamee declared themselves satisfied if they possessed the saintly ones of the practice of prayer, fasting, and alms-giving. Hence artful and ambitious men could set up any puppet who was said to be descended from the last of the visible imams, and aspire to govern the Mohammedan world in his name.

The Twelvers were very near obtaining possession of the khalifat in the time of the first Abbassides;

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for the celebrated Haroon Er-Rasheed's son, Al-Mamoon, the eighth khalif of that house, moved either by the strength or preponderance which the Sheäh party had arrived at, or, as the eastern historians tell us, yielding to the suggestions of his vizir, who was devoted to that sect, named Ali Riza, the eighth imam, to be his successor on the throne. He even laid aside the black habiliments peculiar to his family, and wore green, the colour of Ali and the Prophet. But the family of Abbas, which now numbered 30,000 persons, refused their assent to this renunciation of the rights of their line. They rose in arms, and proclaimed as khalif Al-Mamoon's uncle Ibrahim. The obnoxious vizir perished, and the opportune death of Ali Riza (by poison, as was said) relieved the son of Haroon Er-Rasheed from embarrassment. Ali Riza was interred at Meshed, in the province of Khorasan; and his tomb is, to the present day, a place of pilgrimage for devout Persians *.

The Ismaïlites were more successful in their attempts at obtaining temporal power; and, as we shall presently see, a considerable portion of their dominions was wrested from the house of Abbas.

Religion has, in all ages, and in all parts of the world, been made the mask of ambition, for which its powerful influence over the minds of the ignorant so well qualifies it. But the political influence of religion among the calmer and more reasoning nations of Europe is slight compared with its power over the more ardent and susceptible natives of Asia. Owing to the effects of this principle the despotism of the East has never been of that still, undisturbed nature which we might suppose to be its character. To say nothing of the bloody wars and massacres which have taken place under the pretext of religion


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in the countries from Japan to the Indus, the Mohammedan portion of the East has been, almost without ceasing, the theatre of sanguinary dramas, where ambition, under the disguise of religion, sought for empire; and our own days have seen, in the case of the Wahabees, a bold though unsuccessful attempt of fanaticism to achieve a revolution in a part of the Ottoman empire. It was this union of religion with policy which placed the Suffavee family on the throne of Persia in the fifteenth century; and it was this also which, at a much earlier period, established the dominion of the Fatimite khalifs of Egypt. The progress of this last event is thus traced by oriental historians *:--

The encouragement given to literature and science by the enlightened Al-Mamoon had diffused a degree of boldness of speculation and inquiry hitherto unknown in the empire of the Arabs. The subtile philosophy of the Greeks was now brought into contact with the sublime but corrupted theology of the Persians, and the mysticism of India secretly mingled itself with the mass of knowledge. We are not, perhaps, to give credit to the assertion of the Arab historian that it was the secret and settled plan of the Persians to undermine and corrupt the religion, and thus sap the empire, of those who had overcome them in the field; but it is not a little remarkable that, as the transformation of the Mosaic religion into Judaism may be traced to Persia, and as the same country sent forth the monstrous opinions which corrupted the simplicity of the Gospel, so it is in Persia that we find the origin of most of the sects which have sprung up in Islam. Without agreeing with those who would derive all knowledge from India, it may be held not improbable that the


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intricate metaphysics and mysticism of that country have been the source of much of the corruption of the various religions which have prevailed in Cis-Indian Asia. It is at least remarkable that the north-east of Persia, the part nearest to India, has been the place where many of the impostors who pretended to intercourse with the Deity made their appearance. It was here that Mani (Manes), the head of the Manichæans, displayed his arts, and it was in Khorasan (Sun-land) that Hakem, who gave himself out for an incarnation of the Deity, raised the standard of revolt against the house of Abbas. But, be this as it may, on surveying the early centuries of Islam, we may ob- serve that all the rebellions which agitated the empire of the khalifs arose from a union of the claims of the family of Ali with the philosophical doctrines current in Persia.

We are told that, in the ninth century of the Christian era, Abdallah, a man of Persian lineage, residing at Ahwaz, in the south of Persia, conceived the design of overturning the empire of the khalifs by secretly introducing into Islam a system of atheism and impiety. Not to shock deep-rooted prejudices in favour of the established religion and government, he resolved to communicate his doctrines gradually, and he fixed on the mystic number seven as that of the degrees through which his disciples should pass to the grand revelation of the vanity of all religions and the indifference of all actions. The political cloak of his system was the assertion of the claims of the descendants of Mohammed, the son of Ismaïl, to the imamat, and his missionaries (dais) engaged with activity in the task of making proselytes throughout the empire of the khalifs. Abdallah afterwards removed to Syria, where he died. His son and

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grandsons followed up his plans, and in their time a convert was made who speedily brought the system into active operation *.

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« Reply #13 on: January 04, 2009, 10:52:12 pm »

The name of this person was Carmath, a native of the district of Koofa, and from him the sect was called Carmathites. He made great alterations in the original system of Abdallah; and as the sect was now grown numerous and powerful, he resolved to venture on putting the claims of the descendants of Ismaïl to the test of the sword. He maintained that the indefeasible right to earthly dominion lay with what he styled the imam Maässoom (spotless), a sort of ideal of a perfect prince, like the wise man of the Stoics; consequently all the reigning princes were usurpers, by reason of their vices and imperfections; and the warriors of the perfect prince were to precipitate them all, without distinction, from their thrones. Carmath also taught his disciples to understand the precepts and observances of Islam in a figurative sense. Prayer signified obedience to the imam Maässoom, alms-giving was paying the tithe due to him (that is, augmenting the funds of the society), fasting was keeping the political secrets relating to the imam and his service. It was not the tenseel, or outward word of the Koran, which was to be attended to; the taweel, or exposition, was alone worthy of note. Like those of Mokanna, and other opponents of the house of Abbas, the followers of Carmath distinguished themselves by wearing white raiment to mark their hostility to the reigning khalifs, whose garments and standards retained the black hue which they had displayed against the white banners of the house of Ommiyah. A bloody war was renewed at various periods during


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an entire century between the followers of Carmath and the troops of the khalifs, with varying success. In the course of this war the holy city of Mecca was taken by the sectaries (as it has been of late years by the Wahabees), after the fall of 30,000 Moslems in its defence. The celebrated black stone was taken and conveyed in triumph to Hajar, where it remained for two-and-twenty years, till it was redeemed for 50,000 ducats by the emir of Irak, and replaced in its original seat. Finally, like so many of their predecessors, the Carmathites were vanquished by the yet vigorous power of the empire, and their name, though not their principles, was extinguished.

During this period of contest between the house of Abbas and the Carmathites, a dai (missionary) of the latter, named Abdallah, contrived to liberate from the prison into which he had been thrown by the khalif Motadhad a real or pretended descendant of Fatima, named Obeid-Allah *, whom he conveyed to Africa, and, proclaiming him to be the promised Mehdi (guide), succeeded in establishing for him a dominion on the north coast of that country. The gratitude of Obeid-Allah was shown by his putting to death him to whom he was indebted fir his power; but talent and valour can exist without the presence of virtue, and Obeid-Allah and his two next descendants extended their sway to the shores of the Atlantic. Moez-ladin-Allah, his great-grandson, having achieved the conquest of Egypt and Syria, wisely abandoned his former more distant dominions along the coast of the Mediterranean, his eye being fixed on the more valuable Asiatic empire of he Abbassides. This dynasty of Fatimite khalifs,


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as they were called, reigned during two centuries at Cairo, on the Nile, the foes and rivals of those who sat in Bagdad, on the banks of the Tigris. Like every other eastern dynasty, they gradually sank into impotence and imbecility, and their throne was finally occupied by the renowned Koord Saladin.

Obeid-Allah derived his pedigree from Ismaïl, the seventh imam. His house, therefore, looked to the support of the whole sect of the Seveners, or Ismaïlites, in their projects for extending their sway over the Mohammedan world; and it was evidently their interest to increase the numbers and power of that sect as much as possible. We are accordingly justified in giving credit to the assurances of the eastern historians, that there was a secret institution at Cairo, at the head of which was the Fatimite khalif, and of which the object was the dissemination of the doctrines of the sect of the Ismaïlites, though we may be allowed to hesitate as to the correctness of some of the details.

This society, we are told, comprised both men and women, who met in separate assemblies, for the common supposition of the insignificance of the latter sex in the east is erroneous. It was presided over by the chief missionary (Dai-al-Doat *), who was always a person of importance in the state, and not unfrequently supreme judge (Kadhi-al-kodhat †). Their assemblies, called Societies of Wisdom (Mejalis-al-hicmet), were held twice a-week, on Mondays and Wednesdays. All the members appeared clad in white. The president, having first waited on the khalif, and read to him the intended lecture, or, if that could not be done, having gotten his signature on the back of it, proceeded to the assembly and delivered a written discourse. At the



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conclusion of it those present kissed his hand and reverently touched with their forehead the handwriting of the khalif. In this state the society continued till the reign of that extraordinary madman the khalif Hakem-bi-emr-illah (Judge by the command of God), who determined to place it on a splendid footing. He erected for it a stately edifice, styled the House of Wisdom (Dar-al-hicmet), abundantly furnished with books and mathematical instruments. Its doors were open to all, and paper, pens, and ink were profusely supplied for the use of those who chose to frequent it. Professors of law, mathematics, logic, and medicine were appointed to give instructions; and at the learned disputations which were frequently held in presence of the khalif, these professors appeared in their state caftans (Khalaä), which, it is said, exactly resembled the robes worn at the English universities. The income assigned to this establishment, by the munificence of the khalif, was 257,000 ducats annually, arising from the tenths paid to the crown.

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« Reply #14 on: January 04, 2009, 10:52:35 pm »

The course of instruction in this university pro. seeded, according to Macrisi, by the following nine degrees:--1. The object of the first, which was long and tedious, was to infuse doubts and difficulties into the mind of the aspirant, and to lead him to repose a blind confidence in the knowledge and wisdom of his teacher. To this end he was perplexed with captious questions; the absurdities of the literal sense of the Koran, and its repugnance to reason, were studiously pointed out, and dark hints were given that beneath this shell lay a kernel sweet to the taste and nutritive to the soul. But all further information was most rigorously withheld till he had consented to bind himself by a most solemn oath to absolute faith and blind obedience to his instructor. 2. When he had taken the oath he was admitted to

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the second degree, which inculcated the acknowledgment of the imams appointed by God as the sources of all knowledge. 3. The third degree informed him what was the number of these blessed and holy imams; and this was the mystic seven; for, as God had made seven heavens, seven earths, seas, planets, metals, tones, and colours, so seven was the number of these noblest of God's creatures. 4. In the fourth degree the pupil learned that God had sent seven lawgivers into the world, each of whom was commissioned to alter and improve the system of his predecessor; that each of these had seven helpers, who appeared in the interval between him and his successor; these helpers, as they did not appear as public teachers, were called the mute (samit), in contradistinction to the speaking lawgivers. The seven lawgivers were Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, and Ismaïl, the son of Jaaffer; the seven principal helpers, called Seats (soos), were Seth, Shem, Ishmael (the son of Abraham), Aaron, Simon, Ali, and Mohammed, the son of Ismaïl. It is justly observed * that, as this last personage was not more than a century dead, the teacher had it in his power to fix on whom he would as the mute prophet of the present time, and inculcate the belief in, and obedience to, him of all who had not got beyond this degree. 5. The fifth degree taught that each of the seven mute prophets had twelve apostles for the dissemination of his faith. The suitableness of this number was also proved by analogy. There are twelve signs of the zodiac, twelve months, twelve tribes of Israel, twelve joints in the four fingers of each hand, and so forth. 6. The pupil being led thus far, and having shown no symptoms of restiveness, the precepts of the Koran were once more brought under consideration, and he was told that all the positive portions of


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religion must be subordinate to philosophy. He was consequently instructed in the systems of Plato and Aristotle during a long space of time; and (7), when esteemed fully qualified, he was admitted to the seventh degree, when instruction was communicated in that mystic Pantheism which is held and taught by the sect of the Soofees. 8. The positive precepts of religion were again considered, the veil was torn from the eyes of the aspirant, all that had preceded was now declared to have been merely scaffolding to raise the edifice of knowledge, and was to be flung down. Prophets and teachers, heaven and hell, all were nothing; future bliss and misery were idle dreams; all actions were permitted. 9. The ninth degree had only to inculcate that nought was to be believed, everything might be done *.

In perusing the accounts of secret societies, their rules, regulations, degrees, and the quantity or nature of the knowledge communicated in them, a difficulty must always present itself. Secrecy being of the very essence of everything connected with them, what means had writers, who were generally hostile to them, of learning their internal constitution and the exact nature of their maxims and tenets? In the present case our authority for this account of a society which chiefly flourished in the tenth and eleventh centuries is Macrisi, a writer of the fifteenth century. His authorities were doubtless of more ancient date, but we know not who they were or whence they derived their information. Perhaps our


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safest course in this, as in similar cases, would be to admit the general truth of the statement, but to suffer our minds to remain in a certain degree of suspense as to the accuracy of the details. We can thus at once assent to the fact of the existence of the college at Cairo, and of the mystic tenets of Soofeeism being taught in it, as also to that of the rights of the Fatimites to the khalifat being inculcated on the minds of the pupils, and missionaries being thence sent over the east, without yielding implicit credence to the tale of the nine degrees through which the aspirant had to pass, or admitting that the course of instruction terminated in a doctrine subversive of all religion and of all morality.

As we have seen, the Dai-al-doat, or chief missionary, resided at Cairo, to direct the operations of the society, while the subordinate dais pervaded all parts of the dominions of the house of Abbas, making converts to the claims of Ali. The dais were attended by companions (Refeek), who were persons who had been instructed up to a certain point in the secret doctrines, but who were neither to presume to teach nor to seek to make converts, that honour being reserved to the dais. By the activity of the dais the society spread so widely that in the year 1058 the emir Bessassiri, who belonged to it, made himself master of Bagdad, and kept possession of it during an entire year, and had money struck, and prayer made, in the name of the Egyptian khalif. The emir, however, fell by the sword of Toghrul the Turk, whose aid the feeble Abbasside implored, and these two distinguishing acts of Mohammedan sovereignty were again performed by the house of Abbas. Soon afterwards the society at Cairo seems to have declined along with the power of the Fatimite khalifs. In 1123 the powerful vizir Afdhal, on occasion of some disturbance caused by them, shut up the Dar-al-hicmet,

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or, as it would appear, destroyed it. His successor Mamoon permitted the society to hold their meetings in a building erected in another situation, and it lingered on till the fall of the khalifat of Egypt. The policy of Afdhal is perhaps best to be explained by a reference to the state of the East at that time. The khalif of Bagdad was become a mere pageant devoid of all real power; the former dominions of the house of Abbas were in the hands of the Seljookian Turks; the Franks were masters of a great part of Syria, and threatened Egypt, where the khalifs were also fallen into incapacity, and the real power had passed to the vizir. As this last could aspire to nothing beyond preserving Egypt, a society instituted for the purpose of gaining partisans to the claims of the Fatimites must have been rather an impediment to him than otherwise. He must therefore have been inclined to suppress it, especially as the society of the Assassins, a branch of it, had now been instituted, which, heedless of the claims of the Fatimites, sought dominion for itself alone. To the history of that remarkable association we now proceed.


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Footnotes
26:* See Ockley's History of the Saracens.

28:* Hence they were named the Standing (Wakfiyah).

28:† Abbas, the ancestor of this family, was one of the uncles p. 29 of the Prophet. They obtained possession of the khalifat A.D. 750, and retained it through an hereditary succession of princes for 500 years. Al-Mansoor, the second khalif of this dynasty, transferred the royal residence from Damascus, where the Ommiades had dwelt, to Bagdad, which he founded on the banks of the Tigris. This city, also named the City of Peace, the Vale of Peace, the House of Peace, has acquired, beyond what any other town can claim, a degree of romantic celebrity by means of the inimitable Thousand and One Nights. Such is the ennobling power of genius!

30:* Khizer, by some supposed, but perhaps erroneously, to be the prophet Elias, is regarded by the Mohammedans in the light of a beneficent genius. He is the giver of youth to the animal and the vegetable world. He is clad in garments of the most brilliant green, and he stands as keeper of the Well of Life in the Land of Darkness. According to the romances of the East, Iskander, that is, Alexander the Great, resolved to march into the West, to the Land of Darkness, that he might drink of the water of immortality. During seven entire days he and his followers journeyed through dark and dismal deserts. At length they faintly discerned in the distance the green light which shone from the raiment of Khizer. As they advanced it became more and more resplendent, like the brightest and purest emeralds. As the monarch approached, Khizer dipped a cup in the verdant Water of Life, and reached it to him; but the impatience of Iskander was so great that he spilt the contents of the cup, and the law of fate did not permit the guardian of the fount to fill it for him again. The moral of this tale is evident. Its historic foundation is the journey of the Macedonian to the temple of Ammon.

32:* See Frazer's Khorasān.

33:* Lari and Macrisi, quoted by Hammer.

35:* Macrisi is Hammer's authority for the preceding account of Abdallah. It is to be observed that this Abdallah is unnoticed by Herbelot.

36:* The genuineness of the descent of Obeid-Allah has been a great subject of dispute among the eastern historians and jurists. Those in the interests of the house of Abbas strained every nerve to make him out an impostor.

37:* That is, Missionary of Missionaries.

37:† Cadhi of Cadhis.

39:* Hammer, p. 54.

40:* Mr. De Sacy (Journal des Savans, an 1818) is of opinion that the Arabic words Taleel and Ibahat will not hear the strong sense which Hammer gives them. The former, he says, only signifies that Deism which regards the Deity as merely a speculative being, and annihilates the moral relations between him and the creature; the latter only denotes emancipation from the positive precepts of laws, such as fasting prayer, &c., but not from moral obligations.



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