At the time he wrote the article about the Assassins on page 108 Dr. Albert G. Mackey was endeavoring to enlarge the scope of Masonic studies, to open up new paths in many directions. The article has been taken by some critics of the Craft in too narrow a sense; perhaps because Mackey used the word "Freemasonry " in a sense too broad. One of the legends about a so-called Cult of Assassins stems from a story about Omar Khayyam, author of The Rubaiyat, and tells how a boyhood friend of his, a certain Hassan, became a sort of Persian Robin Hood. Another legend is that Crusaders were harassed by an organized band of land pirates, who were a species of dacoits; in one version of this story the leader was named Hassan, hence his followers were Called Hassanites, or Assassins; also he was called the Old Man of the Mountains, fabled never to die.
Another version is that the Assassins were so called from their use of hashish, or Indian hemp (indicans cabanis), an opiate. But there is the fourth possibility that no such man as Hassan ever lived, but was created, like our Paul Bunyan, out of those tall tales which Near Eastern peoples have vastly prefered to history; countenance is given to this theory by the fact that a tale about The Old Man of the Mountains was one of the stock-in trade of minestels before the Crusades went into the Holyland. In a Thirteenth Century Romance in verse by a pupil of Chrestien of Troyes entitled Flamenica one of the sections is little more than an inventory of that stock; one title is listed as "The Old Man of the Mountains and his Assassins," wedged in among such other fabulous tales as the Fisher King, the Fall of Lucifer, and how Icarus was drowned. Of only one thing can any Masonic student be certain : whether he was legend or was history the Fraternity never had any connection, not even a remote one, or any similarity, with the Old Man of the Mountains.
Note. Anacalypsis, by Godfrey Higgins, quoted by Mackey on page 108, is a monster of a book, ''With a million of quotations in it," somewhat on the order of Burton's Anotomy of Melancholy; of it a cynical critic has said : "a Mason should read all of it and believe none of it"-which is perhaps too harsh, though Higgins' philology is one long verbal insanity.
The Encyclopedia Masonica exists to preserve the wealth of information that has been generated over the centuries by numerous Masonic authors. As Freemasonry is now Speculative and not Operative, the work of a Mason is now conducted in the quarries of symbolism, literature, history and scholasticism. Freemasonry encourages intellectual exploration and academic achievement in its members and many Masons over the years have taken up this calling. The result has been that an incredible amount of philosophy, symbolic speculation and academic insights have been created. However, as Freemasonry teaches, human knowledge is frail and fragile. It is easily lost in the turnings of the ages and unforeseen catastrophes can result in great setbacks to human knowledge.
For too long these great works have sat on forgotten shelves, gathering dust and concealing the light that could be shed on the darkness of our ignorance. The Encyclopedia Masonica has been created to act as an ark, sailing through time, to ensure that future generations of Freemasons have access to the same knowledge that inspired the Brethren that came before them. It will contain the works of such Masonic Luminaries as Albert G. Mackey, Manly Palmer Hall, G.S.M. Ward, Albert Pike and many others. The Encyclopedia Masonica is a living work and the volunteers of Universal Co-Masonry will continue to labor until the most comprehensive Masonic reference work the world has ever seen has been created. The Encyclopedia Masonica is open to any who wish to use it and will remain open so that the treasures contained within may increase the wealth of all those who seek its wisdom.
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