Law In "RL" vs Law In Computers (Community)

Law In "RL" vs Law In Computers // Community

1  |  

your hiroshi

Feb 25, 2002, 11:36pm
"Consider an apocalyptic statement: "Nothing is true.
Everything is permitted." --Hassan I Sabbah. Not to
be interpreted as an invitation to all manner of
unrestrained and destructive behavior; that would be
a minor episode, which would run its course.
Everything is permitted because nothing is true. It
is all make-believe, illusion, dream... ART. When
art leaves the frame and the written word leaves the
page -- not merely the physical frame and page, but
the frames and pages of assigned categories -- a
basic disruption of reality itself occurs: the
literal realization of art. "

Introduction from Apocalypse
by William S. Burroughs (with illus. by Keith Haring)
Pub. by George Mulder Fine Arts, New York


Well, it's all the same. Law is law.

I am not a law student. In fact, I am not the smartest man you'll ever meet.
Nope.

Lemme see... law.... laws are....

Laws exist to the degree that they can be enforced. If it can't be enforced,
it's not a law. Morality primarily deals with various flavors of the
essential Golden Rule. Morality really has no interest in victimless crimes,
but law loves that kind of stuff.

In RL, I can easily stick a toothpick into a sleeping person's eye. It's
pretty easy. But not only is it illegal, it's just plain wrong. I have
absolutely no desire to do such a thing, and I bet few people do.

In software, on the other hand, the only things that are truly illegal are
those things that are truly impossible. If you don't want me to copy the CD
your music company pressed, you have to make it technically impossible for
me to make a perfect copy. Sorry, you have to. Not only that, your customers
may want to pay a little less for a copy-protected CD. Sorry.

In the world of software, not only is it absurd, it is rude to tell people
that they should not do something that obviously, implicitly, they can
easily do if they want to. User interfaces are not supposed to grant people
power to do things that they are not supposed to do.

A great example of this is when I visit someone's world in AW... I try out
some avatars and immediately someone snaps "Av Check". Or worse, someone
snaps "That's a restricted avatar.".

No, IT'S NOT!!!! If I can select it, IT'S NOT RESTRICTED.

This is not a moral debate, it's a matter of designing appropriate user
interfaces. It is the software architect's responsibility to guide the user
experience into polite, pleasant, and moral pathways. No one should ever be
surprised or angered by what another person does with their software. If
they are not happy with how it is used, they should change the software, not
the users.

dion

Feb 25, 2002, 11:52pm
In real life, you can do anything that is physically possible. Many of those
things have severe consequences but you can do them nonetheless. On the
internet, it's much the same. You can do whatever that is possible by the
means of the software, but people can put consequences on them. If you are
using a restricted avatar and they don't like that and you refuse to get
off, they can eject you for a few minutes and if you do it again, they can
eject again, or eject for a longer period of time. They are the boss of it.
It's not law, it's a rule that they can enforce whenever they like.

Unfortunately, some people don't think of the internet as real-life. They
don't think of the other people on the internet as actual people, so they
think that there's no feelings when they yell at them. For some people, they
have no feeling from that because they have the same outlook. But others,
like me, have been on the internet for a long time and have become attached
to it. The severe anger that seems to be portrayed by others is usually just
a nutcase at his computer laughing at your reactions because he cannot see
the hurt on your face. It's human instinct for people to know when others
are hurt by the emotion on their face, so when that emotion is not there,
some people seem to think that there is no emotion.

[View Quote]

your hiroshi

Feb 26, 2002, 4:08am
Okay, I guess I need to clarify a bit.


I'm a human being, and I really make an effort to abide the Golden Rule. I
will not knowingly treat others as I mysyelf would not want to be treated.

I have been on the internet for a long time. I feel here.

I am a software engineer. I tend to apply a mental excercise to my online
experience:
What, in this experience, should be taken for granted as static, and what
should we strive to imrove upon?



I do not want to be set up to walk into a social trap, where I accidentally
offend sensitive individuals through no intentional action on my part.
People should be free to have their own customs and ways, and we're real
jerks if we don't try to respect that.

In the world of Software, our software should reflect our values. It's been
many revs since the Ancient Nebbishes of Berkeley crept out of their caves,
leaving behind their VT consoles and moving into houseboats in Sausalito,
losing 35 pounds and getting calf implants. In the original MUDS, we had to
show who we were by emoting, bowing, and paying linguistic respect to our
fellows. Language will always be important. We must not make light of
communication. Those of us who can must remember what it's like to share our
souls with telnet.

But we don't all hail from that star. We were not all members of the SCA at
one point or another. The Internet is bigger than one civilization.
"Netiquette" is one protocol, among many, and for some users there is no
discernable protocol....

..... So I ask, what can the software developers (and we are all software
developers) do to create a Universe where it is safe to be
different/diverse? How can we create an experience that does not fall apart
when an uninitiated Guest drops by, and has no concern for typing with all
caps? Typing with all caps is a convention. It's a convention meaning "I'm
shouting", or so we say, but really it means "I'm a redneck", or "I'm
intentionally trying to be rude". But why do we think so? Is it so important
that we pass this notion of correctness onto the next generation? Some
online communities are extremely sensitive to spelling and grammar, where
others are not.

I think the reason is because we are playing Make Believe, and we don't want
another kid, especially a bully, coming in and throwing our consensual
reality into debug mode.
Here is where I depart from some others:

A) I believe that by definition Virtual Reality should exist completely
without depending upon consent. (Reality exists whether or not we believe it
does.)
B) You should not need to share the same beliefs with others for it to be a
valid experience.
C) All aspects of that reality should be discovered through Empirical
evidence, not a backstory.
D) The physcial limitations of the Virtual World, and the User Interface
provided, should be the only needed definition of the Law.
E) Any Virtual World that does not function without a concensual notion of
acceptible behavior is limited in its evolution.

Telnet and AOL/Compuserve are all moving into the past, going where the bbs
has gone. We should be out to discover new ways of building civilizations
that are truly different than those we have lived in already.

j b e l l

Feb 26, 2002, 5:22am
do you even understand that quote? ..hmm...

[View Quote]

j b e l l

Feb 26, 2002, 5:22am
People should be free to have their own customs and ways, and we're real
jerks if we don't try to respect that.

read that sentance, see the hipocricy (assuming jerks is a negative
stareotype, keyword, negative)? ..think about it..

if a jerk is one who is negative, one who is not supported, then you are
stating one who does Not respect other's customs and ways is a negative
person, is wrong.. in saying that you are being hipicrital of yourself.. but
saying they are wrong for not respecting customs, is in itself, not
respecting customs..

hmm.. when you look at life and the thought process of the human mind, don't
exclude yourself.
Even though you may feel smarter for certain realizations, keep in mind that
between the lines, "the satanist is the same as the christian."

j b e l l

Feb 26, 2002, 5:22am
ya know.. after reading parts of this in the reply, i have became interested
in it and will go over the article, attempting to clrfy afof thfuzzy points,
maybe give a bit of enlightenement to your theories..
-
"Nothing is true. Everything is permitted." --Hassan I Sabbah.
-
...the other info you had here was just one mans interpertation of the above
quote.. a very broad quote, at that, i read it to state that simply because
nothing can be fully proven, it can not be slated as truth.. because nothing
can be slated as truth, nothing can be fully proven. ..does that make sense?
read between the lines..
-

Well, it's all the same. Law is law.
-
yes, obviously..
-

I am not a law student. In fact, I am not the smartest man you'll ever meet.
Nope.
-
modesty.. i can see right through you.. you think we're all CrAzY! .. i
can't blame you..
-

Lemme see... law.... laws are....


Laws exist to the degree that they can be enforced. If it can't be enforced,
it's not a law.
-
ok.. and..
-

Morality primarily deals with various flavors of the
essential Golden Rule. Morality really has no interest in victimless crimes,
but law loves that kind of stuff.
-
Morality and the golden rule.. hmm.. morality primarily deals in what we saw
when we were raised, i.e. a white child in the south so many years ago sees
no falsehood in the "morality" of slavery.. a christian brought up in a
christian home sees no morality outside of their beliefs..
The golden rule is a way we rationalize lies
Victim is to transversal of a word, the grass is a victim of the lawn mower,
and the lawn mower is the victim of the sticks in the yard.. we're all
victims, we're all victimizers.. it's a tool for manipulation and sympothy
-

In RL, I can easily stick a toothpick into a sleeping person's eye. It's
pretty easy. But not only is it illegal, it's just plain wrong. I have
absolutely no desire to do such a thing, and I bet few people do.
-
I'de hope not.. but what if someone was raised that poking a sleeping person
in the eye with a toothpick was a sign of upmost respect.. then would it be
wrong? would it be illegal? ..would it still seem "so insane" .. it's all
with how you were reaised and experienced certain things..
-

In software, on the other hand, the only things that are truly illegal are
those things that are truly impossible. If you don't want me to copy the CD
your music company pressed, you have to make it technically impossible for
me to make a perfect copy. Sorry, you have to. Not only that, your customers
may want to pay a little less for a copy-protected CD. Sorry.
-
it's not the perfect copy of the CD that's in question, it's what's on the
cd.. the words, the sounds that it produces.. those are copyrighted and can
not be copied, er "stolen" ..they shouldn't have to make it technologically
impossible for you to break a law, to get you to follow it.. that is an
oxymoron.. if there was no way to copy it, there wouldn't be a law and there
wouldn't be a problem, therefor if they did make it impossible to copy, then
they wouldn't need to, because their wouldn't be a problem, because their
wouldn't be a law (does that make sense? again, read between the lines..
don't focus on the words, but the words behind them)
-

In the world of software, not only is it absurd, it is rude to tell people
that they should not do something that obviously, implicitly, they can
easily do if they want to. User interfaces are not supposed to grant people
power to do things that they are not supposed to do.
-
is it rude to tell a "drug dealer" not to sell drugs, that's somethign they
can easily do if they want, and they make lots of profit.. it's convenient,
and profitable.. yet it's not rude to send a drug dealer to jail.. sure they
are on two different planes, but they are the exact same situation..
-

A great example of this is when I visit someone's world in AW... I try out
some avatars and immediately someone snaps "Av Check". Or worse, someone
snaps "That's a restricted avatar.".

No, IT'S NOT!!!! If I can select it, IT'S NOT RESTRICTED.
-
i can steal a cop car. i can get the keys, start the ignition, and drive it
away.. yet it's illegal, or as you like to put it, restricted..
-

This is not a moral debate, it's a matter of designing appropriate user
interfaces. It is the software architect's responsibility to guide the user
experience into polite, pleasant, and moral pathways. No one should ever be
surprised or angered by what another person does with their software. If
they are not happy with how it is used, they should change the software, not
the users.
-
it's a debate on interpertation..
the only reason that there is a debate on it.. is that there is a debate on
it.. it's feeding off of itself because we are too distracted by the words
to see.. the words..
-

goober king

Feb 26, 2002, 7:48am
Dude, I really gotta ask you something: We're you drunk when you went
through the NGs at 2:30 in the morning?! Most of the stuff you've put
out has been either pointless one-liners or incoherent babble such as
the post below. I *know* you can do better than this...

Going with the thrust of the thread, I'm not trying to "control" you.
Just wondering why there seems to be a decrease in coherency...

[View Quote] > ya know.. after reading parts of this in the reply, i have became interested
> in it and will go over the article, attempting to clrfy afof thfuzzy points,
> maybe give a bit of enlightenement to your theories..
> -
> "Nothing is true. Everything is permitted." --Hassan I Sabbah.
> -
> ..the other info you had here was just one mans interpertation of the above
> quote.. a very broad quote, at that, i read it to state that simply because
> nothing can be fully proven, it can not be slated as truth.. because nothing
> can be slated as truth, nothing can be fully proven. ..does that make sense?
> read between the lines..
> -
>
> Well, it's all the same. Law is law.
> -
> yes, obviously..
> -
>
> I am not a law student. In fact, I am not the smartest man you'll ever meet.
> Nope.
> -
> modesty.. i can see right through you.. you think we're all CrAzY! .. i
> can't blame you..
> -
>
> Lemme see... law.... laws are....
>
>
> Laws exist to the degree that they can be enforced. If it can't be enforced,
> it's not a law.
> -
> ok.. and..
> -
>
> Morality primarily deals with various flavors of the
> essential Golden Rule. Morality really has no interest in victimless crimes,
> but law loves that kind of stuff.
> -
> Morality and the golden rule.. hmm.. morality primarily deals in what we saw
> when we were raised, i.e. a white child in the south so many years ago sees
> no falsehood in the "morality" of slavery.. a christian brought up in a
> christian home sees no morality outside of their beliefs..
> The golden rule is a way we rationalize lies
> Victim is to transversal of a word, the grass is a victim of the lawn mower,
> and the lawn mower is the victim of the sticks in the yard.. we're all
> victims, we're all victimizers.. it's a tool for manipulation and sympothy
> -
>
> In RL, I can easily stick a toothpick into a sleeping person's eye. It's
> pretty easy. But not only is it illegal, it's just plain wrong. I have
> absolutely no desire to do such a thing, and I bet few people do.
> -
> I'de hope not.. but what if someone was raised that poking a sleeping person
> in the eye with a toothpick was a sign of upmost respect.. then would it be
> wrong? would it be illegal? ..would it still seem "so insane" .. it's all
> with how you were reaised and experienced certain things..
> -
>
> In software, on the other hand, the only things that are truly illegal are
> those things that are truly impossible. If you don't want me to copy the CD
> your music company pressed, you have to make it technically impossible for
> me to make a perfect copy. Sorry, you have to. Not only that, your customers
> may want to pay a little less for a copy-protected CD. Sorry.
> -
> it's not the perfect copy of the CD that's in question, it's what's on the
> cd.. the words, the sounds that it produces.. those are copyrighted and can
> not be copied, er "stolen" ..they shouldn't have to make it technologically
> impossible for you to break a law, to get you to follow it.. that is an
> oxymoron.. if there was no way to copy it, there wouldn't be a law and there
> wouldn't be a problem, therefor if they did make it impossible to copy, then
> they wouldn't need to, because their wouldn't be a problem, because their
> wouldn't be a law (does that make sense? again, read between the lines..
> don't focus on the words, but the words behind them)
> -
>
> In the world of software, not only is it absurd, it is rude to tell people
> that they should not do something that obviously, implicitly, they can
> easily do if they want to. User interfaces are not supposed to grant people
> power to do things that they are not supposed to do.
> -
> is it rude to tell a "drug dealer" not to sell drugs, that's somethign they
> can easily do if they want, and they make lots of profit.. it's convenient,
> and profitable.. yet it's not rude to send a drug dealer to jail.. sure they
> are on two different planes, but they are the exact same situation..
> -
>
> A great example of this is when I visit someone's world in AW... I try out
> some avatars and immediately someone snaps "Av Check". Or worse, someone
> snaps "That's a restricted avatar.".
>
> No, IT'S NOT!!!! If I can select it, IT'S NOT RESTRICTED.
> -
> i can steal a cop car. i can get the keys, start the ignition, and drive it
> away.. yet it's illegal, or as you like to put it, restricted..
> -
>
> This is not a moral debate, it's a matter of designing appropriate user
> interfaces. It is the software architect's responsibility to guide the user
> experience into polite, pleasant, and moral pathways. No one should ever be
> surprised or angered by what another person does with their software. If
> they are not happy with how it is used, they should change the software, not
> the users.
> -
> it's a debate on interpertation..
> the only reason that there is a debate on it.. is that there is a debate on
> it.. it's feeding off of itself because we are too distracted by the words
> to see.. the words..
> -
>
>
>


--
Goober King
Coherency is important in a world made of text...
rar1 at acsu.buffalo.edu

kellee

Feb 26, 2002, 10:45am
Can i print those last two posts out and frame em?? :o)) good on yer

your hiroshi

Feb 26, 2002, 3:42pm
Okay, one more time.

Point I:

a) In the parlance of the Enlightenment, our civilization is a Social
Contract. We agree to terms of how to relate to each other, what to expect
of our government, etc.
b) CyberSpace is absolutely not a Social Contract, and I am highly
suspicious of any social engineering to make it so.

Point II:

In CyberSpace,

a) If I am able to do something, I have the right to do it.
(If I can type 20 lines of jibberish into a chat window in a public
place, I have the right to do so.)

b) If I am not able to do something, I do not have the right to do it.
(Typing "::scratches chin::" is an unacceptable substitute for my avatar
scratching its chin.)

silenced

Feb 26, 2002, 3:55pm
> Okay, one more time.
>
> Point I:
>
> a) In the parlance of the Enlightenment, our civilization is a Social
> Contract. We agree to terms of how to relate to each other, what to expect
> of our government, etc.
> b) CyberSpace is absolutely not a Social Contract, and I am highly
> suspicious of any social engineering to make it so.

ok?

>
> Point II:
>
> In CyberSpace,
>
> a) If I am able to do something, I have the right to do it.
> (If I can type 20 lines of jibberish into a chat window in a public
> place, I have the right to do so.)

Just because you can do something doesn't mean you have the right to do it.
If I can burn down your house in real life does that make it right or legal,
just because I can? Same thing goes for the Internet, you have to follow
your local laws, and I'm pretty sure those of whom you offend or violate.
If you copy and sell games online (assuming they're copyrighted), and
someone finds out and reports it to the company, you're going to have a
lawsuit on your hands. You don't have a right to crack into someone's
computer either, but you can do it, it's not legal either unless you get
permission.

> b) If I am not able to do something, I do not have the right to do it.
> (Typing "::scratches chin::" is an unacceptable substitute for my
avatar
> scratching its chin.)

No, the internet is not an "alternative reality where laws do not exist."
Rules are rules (laws are laws), you have to follow them no matter what you
use.

-Silenced

filmkr

Feb 26, 2002, 4:38pm
You may wake up one day having your PC taken away as evidence and appearing in
court facing criminal charges for the illegal data that was stored and could not
be deleted. This is currently happening to quite a few people who have conducted
illegal activities on the net. In the past 12 months there have been numerous
cases. In one matter the FBI got a life conviction against one couple who was
peddling child porn. When Bill Clinton was in office quite a few laws were
overlooked by Janet Reno... even Bill's perjuries statements under oath... But
today the law is coming down heavy handed once more to clean up the trash...
and for those who say "but I am not in the U.S." "You can't touch me" Tell that
to Bin Laden *S* The U.S. is showing it will root out wrong doing no matter
where it is at... So the choice is simply your own,,, yes you can DO IT... and
yes, they can fry your butt for doing it.... :)

It is so much more delightful to be honest and good... it brings one light and
happiness *S* Don't waste your life on wrong doing and bad attitude... it's
simply not worth it...

Filmkr


[View Quote] > Okay, one more time.
>
> Point I:
>
> a) In the parlance of the Enlightenment, our civilization is a Social
> Contract. We agree to terms of how to relate to each other, what to expect
> of our government, etc.
> b) CyberSpace is absolutely not a Social Contract, and I am highly
> suspicious of any social engineering to make it so.
>
> Point II:
>
> In CyberSpace,
>
> a) If I am able to do something, I have the right to do it.
> (If I can type 20 lines of jibberish into a chat window in a public
> place, I have the right to do so.)
>
> b) If I am not able to do something, I do not have the right to do it.
> (Typing "::scratches chin::" is an unacceptable substitute for my avatar
> scratching its chin.)

foxmccloud

Feb 26, 2002, 5:14pm
You simply don't understand the meaning of his post. He never praised having a bad attitude or something.

What I understand from his posts is that while morality is widely respected in the real world, it is not in the cyberspace, and you have to cope with it. From a developer's point of view, that means preventing users from having a way to do bad things. In the real world those things just won't be done because they're bad, even if no one is there to prevent them from doing it.
Correct me if I didn't get the meaning of your posts, hiroshi.

One more thing. Before the U.S. can try to root out the wrong off of the whole planet, they'll have to start by showing the right example, and they are a long, long way from doing so. And walking in the opposite direction. Right now I see them just as bad as China for that matter.

Fox Mc Cloud

"filmkr" <nospam at privacy.com> a écrit dans le message news: 3C7BD3FA.F68B66E8 at privacy.com...
> You may wake up one day having your PC taken away as evidence and appearing in
> court facing criminal charges for the illegal data that was stored and could not
> be deleted. This is currently happening to quite a few people who have conducted
> illegal activities on the net. In the past 12 months there have been numerous
> cases. In one matter the FBI got a life conviction against one couple who was
> peddling child porn. When Bill Clinton was in office quite a few laws were
> overlooked by Janet Reno... even Bill's perjuries statements under oath... But
> today the law is coming down heavy handed once more to clean up the trash...
> and for those who say "but I am not in the U.S." "You can't touch me" Tell that
> to Bin Laden *S* The U.S. is showing it will root out wrong doing no matter
> where it is at... So the choice is simply your own,,, yes you can DO IT... and
> yes, they can fry your butt for doing it.... :)
>
> It is so much more delightful to be honest and good... it brings one light and
> happiness *S* Don't waste your life on wrong doing and bad attitude... it's
> simply not worth it...
>
> Filmkr

sw chris

Feb 26, 2002, 10:35pm
Um, Jbell, is what you're trying to say is "if you can do it without getting
caught, it's legal"? Because that's what a lot of what you're saying seems
to come down to.

SW Chris

[View Quote]

your hiroshi

Feb 27, 2002, 12:42am
Yes, Fox. That's what I mean. I am not an anarchist.


[View Quote]

your hiroshi

Feb 27, 2002, 12:59am
"Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun."
Mao Zedong

In software, power grows out the barrel of a compiler. When software users
are allowed by the software to do bad things, it's not a moral crisis, it's
a bug.

Consider this situation. A world owner puts up a stack of signs at GZ.

"No Cussing!"
"Keep of the grass! Or you will be ejected."
"My house is private property!"

Sooner or later, conflict will arise. You almost have to conclude that the
world builder actually wants conflict. The world builder must assert his
power by violence (eject button).


There are interesting alternatives to this scenario.

We have what we just described:

A) World builder waits for someone to slip up, then punishes them by
criticism and ejection.

We have an automated form of this:

B) Bot detects cussing and movement onto private property. Makes threats
and ejects.

We also have a "no fault" scenario that does not seek to blame or punish.

C) Transparent walls around private property. Walls go down when
password whispered to bot. Exhaustive list of cuss words blocks out some,
but not all, offensive language.


I would say that if a world builder does not opt for scenario C, they are
asking for trouble and negligent to those who do not understand his/her
culture.

your hiroshi

Feb 27, 2002, 1:08am
An excellent case study of this would be the AW Rules Of Encroachment.

The Rules Of Encroachment were developed in forum over a period of serveral
weeks. The rules provide for the protection of private property and the
elimination of vandalism.

The Rules, when drafted, were posted at AWGZ. But they were not merely
posted as if a line had been drawn in the sand. Significant code changes
were made. Objects created within the world hierarchy were now tagged with
owner information that provided the data to drive the Rules Of Encroachment.

Peace was achieved not by punishment. Peace was gained by making changes, at
the lowest level, to the end-user rights.

your hiroshi

Feb 28, 2002, 12:36am
Please try to understand that I am not an advocate for anarchy.

I do not believe that life should be a game of "king of the mountain", where
whoever has the most might has the most right.

I do not approve of hacking or stealing anything.

I do think there should be law online. But the law must be in the software
itself or else it will bring on a load of trouble.


When I work on the design of user interfaces, I do not rely upon my
end-users to have any knowledge of how to use my software. I do not rely
upon them to agree with me about what is fair use of my software. I try to
assume as little as possible. If someone uses my software to do something
unethical or destructive, I am to some degree responsible. When you create
an online product, that responsibility is multiplied by the number of people
your product touches. If a law, or Term of Service, is not baked in to the
software itself.... Why isn't it?

I, the programmer, cannot stand over my users and snip at them.
"Don't do that!"
"You can't print yet, you have press the 'prepare printing' button!"
"If you log on while Bob is online, you will boot him... Please wait."

And the same goes for all aspects of human behavior online. Anything that
people can do, they will do. We can argue about whether or not they have a
right to, but there they go.

j b e l l

Feb 28, 2002, 4:54am
according to your hiroshi, yup

[View Quote]

posh

Feb 28, 2002, 6:00am
Omg lol you said this? My comments are totally out of the context of this
conversation... but, PULEASE.. say that to Ann? LOL geezzzzz InSaNiTy I
really love the honest and good part.. now THAT is a zinger

[View Quote]

your hiroshi

Mar 1, 2002, 8:52am
[View Quote]
http://www.disinfo.com/pages/article/id1562/pg1/


nothing is true, everything is permitted
by Brian D. Hodges (hajj at disinfo.net) - September 10, 2001

Nothing is True, Everything is Permitted: A Deconstruction of the Last Words
of Hassan-i Sabbah
By Brian D. Hodges
September 6, 2001


According to legend, the master of the Order of Assassins uttered the famous
phrase "nothing is true, everything is permitted" on his deathbed prior to
his soul departing for Hell. [1] This axiom has made its way into a number
of historical accounts regarding Sabbah and the Nizari Isma'ilis. As with so
much of the lore surrounding the "order", it is likely that this quote is no
more true than most of the other legends circulated by Western historians,
medievalists, anarchists and occultists. It is worth looking into three
competing explanations for how it found acceptance and examine the
probabilities of each.

First we should examine some of the most egregious myths that have
propagated through the centuries. The most obvious is that the Isma'ilis
never referred to themselves as "assassins"; other groups used the terms as
epithets toward the Nizaris and the efforts of many scholars to accurately
identify the term's etymology have met with little success. [2] The most
common explanation one finds - that it was a derivation of hashishin, or
cannabis-users - is fairly ridiculous given the abstemious nature of
Sabbah's lifestyle; indeed, he had his own son Muhammad executed for being
drunk in public. [3] A cursory reading of poems written by Sabbah, published
by the Institute for Isma'ili Studies, [4] indicates a man who fits more
into what we might term a "fundamentalist" mindset today than a wild-eyed
radical mystic. Sabbah has been referred to as the "Old Man of the Mountain"
which is a compound error; the term shaykh ('old man' or 'elder') was
applied only to Sinan al-Rashid - the leader of the Syrian, hence Arabic,
Isma'ili faction - by the Crusaders, and "old man of the mountain" was only
translated into Arabic (shaykh al-jabal) after it had appeared in Old
French, Latin and Italian in European works. Moreover, Sabbah was known as
Sayyidna ('master') among his devotees at Alamut. [5] Finally, there has
never been substantive data which indicates there was any linkage at all
between the Nizaris and Adam Weishaupt's Order of Illuminati. This appears
to have been a fanciful literary exploration of Idries Shah's, who made much
of the Illuminati / Assassin association writing as Arkon Daraul in A
History of Secret Societies. The connection has been endlessly hyped -
without any supporting documentation, historical references, or even
consideration of the geopolitical realities concerning such a relationship -
by Robert Anton Wilson in some of his Illuminatus!-inspired writings and Jim
Marrs in Rule by Secrecy, among others.

With this dubious track record in mind, let us turn to an analysis of the
phrase and its utterer.

Barry Miles' Explanation

A significant amount of the material that built up around the Assassins has
come from modern Beat and alternative writers such as William Burroughs,
Brion Gysin and Peter Lamborn Wilson / Hakim Bey. Gysin visited Alamut in
1972 and noted that the fabulous Gardens reputed to have flourished there
could not have had the physical space necessary to justify the myths
surrounding them. [6] Burroughs and Gysin - among notable others - lived at
the Beat Hotel in Paris at various intervals in the late '50s - early '60s
and explored a wide array of metaphysical concepts and applications,
including some Middle Eastern sources. Barry Miles in Beat Hotel writes that
the essence of the quote came from a book about Sabbah by Betty Bouthol ca.
1936; Burroughs apparently arrived at the exact phrase via the "cut-up",
another method of which he was particularly fond. Taking phrases from
Bouthol, he cut them into separate words, reassembling them into the axiom
we know today. Miles notes further:


Over the years, Bill evolved an elaborate cosmology around Hassan, which
bore little relationship to historical fact. [7]
The Weaver Budayl

A competing explanation comes from a historical figure who lived after
Sabbah and developed a following based on the corruption some of the Nizari
master's teachings, resulting in a retroactive misattribution of his words
and actions to Sabbah himself. Budayl, a weaver, proclaimed:


.. . . there is no reality to what is declared lawful or forbidden in
religion. Prayers and fasting must therefore be abandoned.[8]

Structurally this sentiment is very close to Sabbah's wording.

The Isma'ilis reacted to his ideas by capturing and executing most of
Budayl's adherents in a move that mirrored later actions against the Sufat
or Pure Ones. To paraphrase Captain Willard in Apocalypse Now: what do you
call it when the heretics accuse the heretic? In any case, it is possible
that the spirit of the quote, if not its letter, has mistakenly become
associated with Sabbah as a result of Budayl.

Haram vs. Halal

A heresiography of the various divisions of the Shi'a (the minority party in
Islam) categorizes the Isma'ilis according to this precept:


Their third name is hurumiyya, for they say halal about many haram actions.
[. . .] For example, they say, "Paradise means to escape worships and to do
enjoyable things. Hell means to endure the burden of worships and to refrain
from haram actions." [9]

It is important to examine the substance of this statement from a linguistic
viewpoint. Haram means 'forbidden', which carries the same connotations as
'unclean' in Judaic tradition. Conversely, halal means permitted, allowed or
clean. Compare that to this quote, taken from Radd-i Rawafid:


The Ismailiyya group, says that Qur'an al-karim has a batin [invisible inner
essence] as well as a zahir [outward appearance]. The zahir, when compared
to the batin, is like the shell of a hazel-nut in comparison to its kernel.
Whatever a person would obtain by enduring the difficulty and trouble of
obeying the commandments and prohibitions, which make up the zahir, is
easily attainable by adapting oneself to the batin. So, one does not have to
go into trouble by worshipping. For making people believe these statements
of theirs, they quote the thirteenth ayat of Hadid sura, which points out
the wall between the people who are in Paradise and those who are in Hell.
They say, "There is no haram (prohibition). Everything is halal (permitted).
[10]

Virtually Sabbah's own alleged words. It is unclear whether the
classification results from the writers' encounter with Budayl-influenced
material or if it arose independently of that; nonetheless, the concept is
demonstrably present among Muslim scholars of the period.

The quote appears as a corruption of familiar Qur'anic pre- and
pro-scriptions. It is much like a Christian priest accusing a "witch" of
saying the Lord's Prayer backwards whilst engaged in an orgiastic ceremony.
Taken in the broad context of religious studies (especially for
textually-based religions), this is a very common occurrence: stating that a
given individual or party is going against some written advice or
prohibition as an indictment of their heresy.

The Truth in "Nothing Is True" and the Implications for its Acceptance

Like the etymology of "Assassin", the true provenance of "nothing is true,
everything is permitted" is likely lost to the vagaries of history, poor
translations and the collision between competing cultural paradigms. One,
none or all of the above attempts at explanation could be correct. Does it
matter who said it, and does it matter at all? These two questions are
interrelated.

In the final analysis, the Isma'ilis are better known for a great many
contributions to Islamic and 'Alid thought - far more (and far more
important) than ascription of a crypto-anarchistic statement by its founder
nearly a thousand years ago. So much of what Western historians, travelers
and researchers have disseminated about the "Order of Assassins" is
inaccurate, biased and misunderstood that it hardly matters whether Sabbah
said these words on his deathbed or not, and modern Nizaris would be
unlikely to adhere to its logic in any event. Given the data shown above,
though, he could have said it. One could easily envision Burroughs
formulating it - with or without a cut-up - and there have been all manner
of libertines, politicians, military and religions leaders who have lived by
its guidance whether they formulated the sentiment in those words or not.
One finds it written in magickal journals and splashed on web pages the
world over, frequently without even knowing where it came from. So the
answer to the first question must be negative.

The second question is more problematic. Esoteric spiritual seekers often
encounter unusual practices at various points in their initiations;
sometimes these rituals involve exposure to fear, disgust, sensuality,
asceticism or combinations thereof. This phrase unlocks a gateway into the
realm of extreme initiations, where one must truly break the chains of the
Law. [11] But these praxes are not for everyone, nor are they meant to
substitute for the development of the soul; they are specific to a person's
state of being at a given time and are strong medicine that can heal an
initiate at one level and destroy him at another. Thus hearing the axiom on
the mouth of a disaffected teenager is either quaint or annoying depending
on one's sympathies or horrifying if that youth is on an armed rampage
through a school building.

The statement is a tool - and a very powerful one - and not one for
everybody's tool box. Just as spiritual practices require guidance and
wisdom from one's initiator (whether human, oneiric, chemical or
experiential), so this maxim can lead to great liberation or extreme havoc.
Some need first to understand the ancient dictum "discipline precedes
freedom" before they will be able to dance with the last words of Hassan-i
Sabbah.

Endnotes:

[1] This quote has been attributed to William S. Burroughs as well as the
historian Juvaini, depending on the source material - most of which is
incorrectly referenced. I was not able to find any data to substantiate
Juvaini.[2] Farhad Daftary. The Assassin Legends. London: IB Tauris & Co,
1995. p. 131ff.

[3] Farhad Daftary. The Isma'ilis: Their History and Doctrines. New York and
Oxford: Cambridge University Press, 1990. P. 367.

[4] Kutub Kassam (ed.). and Faquir Hunzai (trans.). Shimmering Light: An
Anthology of Ismaili Poetry. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1997.

[5] Daftary 1995, p. 116; Daftary 1990, p. 367ff. The Persian equivalent of
shaykh al jabal is pir-i kuhistan.

[6] Brion Gysin and Terry Wilson. Here to Go: R101 (San Francisco: RE/Search
Books, 1982; London: Quartet Books, 1982). Recently re-released as Brion
Gysin: Here to Go. London and New York: Creation Books, 2001.

[7] Barry Miles. The Beat Hotel: Ginsberg, Burroughs, and Corso in Paris,
1957-1963. New York: Grove Press, 2000. p. 204.

[8] The Heritage Society. The Legend of Paradise.

[9] al-Shahrastání. Mihal wa Nihal. See: The Heritage Society. Genesis of
the word "Assassin".

[10] Waqf Ikhlas. Translation of Radd-i-Rawafid ("Document of the Right
Word").

[11] Sabbah's inheritor, Hassan II, did utter a phrase which has been
under-appreciated in the occult community: "The Chains of the Law have been
Broken.", thus ushering in the abrogation of Shari'a and the beginning of
the golden period of Isma'ili metaphysical exploration. Daftary 1990, p.
386-88; Daftary 1995, p. 40-42.

1  |  
Awportals.com is a privately held community resource website dedicated to Active Worlds.
Copyright (c) Mark Randall 2006 - 2022. All Rights Reserved.
Awportals.com   ·   ProLibraries Live   ·   Twitter   ·   LinkedIn