But Gnosticism in one shape or other, was still surviving in the very head-quarters of the Order, amongst their closest allies or enemies, the mountaineers of Syria. The Templar-Order had been modelled after an original, the last to be looked for according to modern views, for Von Hammer has here been successful in demonstrating that its constitution is a servile copy of that of the detested “Assassins.” The statutes of the latter prove the fact beyond all gainsaying; they were found upon the captives of their capital, Alamoot, by the Mogul, Halakoo, in the year 1335, when by a most singular coincidence, Caliph and Pope were busied in exterminating the model and the copy in the East and West, at one and the same time. From these documents were verified the “Eight Degrees” of initiation as established by Hassan, the first Grand Master or “Prince of the Mountain.” These degrees, probably suggested by the ancient Mithraic tests, were:–
I. The Trial of knowledge.
II. The Trial of Persuasiveness; i.e., the talent for proselytism.
III. Denial of the truth of the Koran, and of all other sacred scriptures.
IV. The Trial of silent and perfect obedience.
V. The Disclosure of the names of the Great Brothers of the Order, royal, sacerdotal and patrician, in all parts of the world.
VI. The Confirmation of all the preceding steps of knowledge.
VII. The Allegorical interpretation of the Koran, and of all other scriptures. In this lodge the divinity of all founders of religious systems was alike denied. Religion was shown to be a mere step to knowledge, its narratives to be merely allegorical and exhibiting the progress of civil society: thus, Man’s Fall signified political slavery; Redemption his restoration to liberty and equality.
VIII. That all actions were indifferent, provided only they were done for the good of the Order; * there being no such thing, absolutely, as vice or virtue.
It will be seen that the principle running through these “Degrees” is identical with that pervading the main counts in the Articles of Accusation brought against the Templars.
The same author (History of the Assassins) shows that the organization of the Templars was exactly modelled upon that of the Assassins, and thus confronts the several degrees in each of the two orders.
Of the Assassins.
I. The Grand Master, or Prince of the Mountain.
II. The Dais-al-Kabir, or three great viceroys under him.
III. The Dais, or provincial masters.
IV. The Refek, or chaplains.
V. The Lazik, or military body.
VI. The Fedavee, or death-devoted.
VII. The Batinee, or secret brethren, i.e., those affiliated to the order.
Of the Templars.
I. The Grand Master.
II. The three Grand Priors.
III. The Provincial Prior.
IV. The Chaplains.
V. The Knights.
VI. The Esquires.
VII. The Serving-brethren.
VIII. The Donati and Oblati.
IX. The Affiliati. †
The “Donati” and “Oblati” were sworn, in return for the protection afforded to them by the Order, to leave to it all their property at their deaths, and consequently to refrain from having offspring, or even to stand sponsors to the children of others. If married at the time of joining the Order, they were bound to put away their wives. Infraction of the vow was punished by perpetual imprisonment. The “Affiliati” had, probably, nothing to do with the secrets of the Order; they merely, in return for a certain sum paid down, received their daily maintenance (their commons) out of the corporate fund; such an arrangement being a simple anticipation of the principle of life annuities, and admirably suited to the requirements of those barbarous times.
It is not a matter for surprise that the grand elements of ancient Gnosticism should have thus been discovered lurking in the secret rules of the Order of Assassins; when the origin of that order is investigated, it proves to be only a branch of the Ismaelites, or those Persians who supported the cause of the descendants of Ali. But Abdallah, himself a Magian, had from the beginning founded in the midst of these Ismaelites, a secret society composed of those Persians who had, through Arab compulsion, embraced Mohammedanism only in name. By inculcating those vital dogmas of the old Gnosis, that knowledge was the real end of Religion, and that in all scriptures the allegorical interpretation was the only true one, Abdallah united under his teaching the remnants of all the older religions that still lurked in Persia, in fact he did in Persia under the Caliph, what the new Manichean Chrysocheir was doing at Tephrice under the Byzantine emperor. The Ismaelites having gradually become absorbed into the new sect, succeeded, in the tenth century, in placing a prince of Ali’s line upon the throne of Cairo, thus founding the Fatimite dynasty. After this, Hassan, who had served with distinction under the Seljuk Sultans, aided by his brethren to when he had returned, having captured the hill fortress of Alamoot or ‘The Vultures’ Nest’ (1090 A.D.), set himself up there as an independent prince, and established his community as a political body, under the constitution already described. In a short time these bold sectaries made themselves masters of all the strong places of Lebanon, thereby securing their independence of the Egyptian Caliph. The Druses are only the modern representatives of the suppressed Assassins. Like them, they are Ismaelites, their ostensible founder being Hakim, a Fatemite Caliph of Cairo, who professed himself the new incarnation of the Godhead. Their notion that the present seat of their ever absent Grand Master is Europe, tallies curiously enough with Von Hammer’s theory about the close relationship that existed between the Templars and the actual progenitors of the Druses. These same Druses may also possibly represent the ‘polytheists and Samaritans’ who flourished so vigorously in the Lebanon as late as the times of Justinian, to whose persecuting zeal Procopius ascribes the extermination of a million inhabitants of that district alone. Of their present creed, preserved in unviolated secrecy, nothing authentic has ever come to light; popular belief amongst their neighbours makes them adorers of an idol in the form of a calf, and to celebrate their nocturnal assemblies, orgies like those laid to the charge of the Ophites in Roman, of the Templars in mediæval, and of the Freemasons (continental) in modern times. Their notion of their Head residing in Scotland has an odd resemblance to the German appellation “Scottish Brethren,” given to our Masons. Some such association of ideas seems to have led the Lessing to maintain that “Freemason,” in German Masson, has nothing whatever to do with the English meaning of the word, but comes from mass only, the proper name for a Templar lodge, called also a “Round Table.” For this derivation he cites Agricola, an authority removed by no more than 150 years from the date of the suppression of the Order. On this account, he adds, the old Templar buildings in Bologna and Milan still retain the title “de la magione,” that is, “of the masson;” although a less acute critic would, most assuredly, only be able to discover here nothing deeper than an Italian corruption of the French maison in its common sense.
The Gnostics and Their Remains, by Charles William King,