5 Important Lessons About Faith From An Assassin
In the middle of it all stands one man who revolutionised the Assassin Order into what it is today. His name is Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad.
Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad’s Codex was a personal journal written by Altaïr himself after he took over mentorship of the Levantine Brotherhood of Assassins in 1191 until his passing in 1257, following the death of the treacherous Al Mualim.
He finished writing the Codex at 92 years old.
It provides us with an inside look of information obtained from the Apple of Eden, and also Altaïr’s philosophy on life, his personal opinions regarding God and religions, and valuable lessons that we can incorporate into our own lives.
Blind faith is proof of a weak mind.
Just the briefest flicker of doubt was all he (Al Mualim) needed to creep into my mind. But I vanquished his phantoms — restored my self-confidence — and sent him from this world. I freed myself.
If it wasn’t for Altaïr’s mental strength and passion for truth-seeking, he might have succumbed to the Apple of Eden’s power indefinitely.
As the Assassin Order expects undying loyalty to their mentors, it is not surprising that many of the Assassins at Masyaf fell victim to Al Mualim’s manipulation. Altaïr on the other hand, started questioning his mentor after listening to the final words of those that were taken by his blade.
For breaking away from blind faith, he triumphed.
We tend to fight dogma with dogma.
What follows are the three great ironies of the Assassin Order: (1) Here we seek to promote peace, but murder is our means. (2) Here we seek to open the minds of men, but require obedience to a master and set of rules. (3) Here we seek to reveal the danger of blind faith, yet we are practitioners ourselves.
For a group that strongly believes in free will and freethought, the Assassins are bound — almost caged — to their Order. It’s ironic that they are against the Templars’ idea of totalitarianism, but have their own rules and orders that they swore themselves into.
In the same page, Altaïr goes on to ask:
Nothing is true. Everything is permitted. Does our creed provide the answer, then? That one may be two things — opposite in every way — simultaneously? And why not? Am I not proof? We of noble intentions, possessed of barbaric means? We who celebrate the sanctity of life and then promptly take it from those we deem our enemies?
Any Assassin that does not follow the Order wholly is considered a hypocrite, essentially making the Assassin order just another dogma. For an Order that truly believes in the protection of human life, they have no qualms assassinating those who oppose them.
Just because your loyalty lies in a different cause does not mean that you are free from dogma. You are just adhering to a different set of rules.
Life is more important than tradition.
Though I ask my brothers now to abandon their rituals, I do not ask that they abandon the creed. THIS is what makes us assassins. Not the removal of a finger. Not a false promise of paradise. Not the prohibition of poison. Our duty is to the people, not to custom.
When Altaïr took over as mentor to the Assassin Order, he reinvented the Order and moved them towards a more secretive direction. Before his mentorship, Assassins had a “penchant for spectacular displays of public assassinations”.
There is no pride to be found in being an Assassin. Only for your service to the greater good.
There is a Malay saying that goes “Biar mati anak, jangan mati adat” (“Let the child die as long as custom lives”). I believe those who hold on that could learn a thing or two from Altaïr.
Your truth isn’t the Truth.
Over time, any sentence uttered long and loud enough becomes fixed. Becomes a truth. Provided, of course, you can outlast the dissent and silence your opponents. But should you succeed — and remove all challengers — then what remains is, by default, now true.
Throughout history, we have seen many ideologies go head-to-head with each other politically, economically, and socially. Those that came out victorious were given the privilege to dictate history, hoarding the title of ‘Truth” all to themselves, e.g. Islam’s Sunni-Shia divide.
What is Truth then? Will we ever find it? Altaïr answers that question in the next paragraph by saying:
Is it truth in some objective sense? No. But how does one ever achieve an objective point of view? The answer is you don’t. It is literally, physically impossible. There are too many variables. Too many fields and formulae to consider. We can try, of course. We can inch closer and closer to a revelation. But we’ll never reach it. Not ever…
It is our responsibility to pursue rational inquiry to its limit. It is important we each pursue our own paths of discovery and not be confined by the rigidity of traditional thinking.
To Altaïr, the denial of knowledge is heresy.
God is but a convenient excuse.
How naive to believe there might be a single answer to every question. Every mystery. That there exists a lone divine light which rules over all. They say it is a light that brings truth and love. I say it is a light that blinds us — and forces us to stumble about in ignorance.
Using God to justify actions is a lazy man’s answer to the universe. I’ve met a lot of people who purposely stay away from rational enquiry simply because “God said so” or “God told me to”.
I long for the day when men will turn away from invisible monsters and once more embrace a more rational view of the world. But these new religions are so convenient — and promise such terrible punishment should one reject them — I worry that fear shall keep us stuck to what is surely the greatest lie ever told.
Fear of eternal punishment has caused people to succumb to blind faith and loyalty to religions. People have taken lives and shed blood to please a deity they do not have objective proof, without realising that they are used as pawns in a political agenda.
That’s why we need to be more like Altaïr: Question anyone who tells you rationality is a sin.