Attributed to Hassan i Sabbah, called the "Old Man of the Mountain", founder and ruler of the Hashishim, or assassins. Variously quoted as Sabbah's last words on his deathbed, or as a motto, or ritual passphrase tought to the highest advanced members of the cult, to be recited with the speaker's back to Mecca. In either case, the quote is emblematic of the radical relativism and manipulation of belief Sabbah cultivated in order to control his followers. Recruits were drugged unconscious and taken into the garden interior of a stronghold that was outfitted with every luxury and pleasure, where they remained for a time until, drugged again, they would be returned to the outside and led to believe that they had been transported to Paradise, courtesy of Sabbah, who presented himself as a spiritual figure equal in stature to Mohammed, with the power to grant this access. In this way, Sabbah secured loyalty from his followers that has rarely been rivalled. It is related of him that he would at times demonstrate this loyalty to visitors by causing sentries posted in high places around his fortress to jump to their deaths at a gesture from him.
Also referred to throughout many of William S. Burroughs' writings. For the author, the statement became a radical assertion of uncensored creative freedom, as in this quote:
Consider an apocalyptic statement: nothing is true everything is permitted. Hasaan I Sabah,
the old man in the mountain. Not to be interpreted as an invitation to all manner of
unrestrained and destructive behavior, that would 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 that assign the categories.
A basic disruption of reality itself occurs. The literal realization of art. Success will write
apocalypse across the sky. The artist aims for a miracle. The painter wills his pictures to
move off the canvass with a separate life. movement outside of the picture and one rip in the
fabric is all it takes for pandemonium to break through.
Since the 1970's, also adopted, perhaps through this connection with Burroughs, by Peter J. Carroll, Hakim Bey, and others associated with the philosophy and theory of Discordianism and Chaos Magic.