SEPARATION. “Master” Video Series
The first principle of mastery is SEPARATION, from which we can explore the further concepts of departure, misanthropy, and desperation:
Sub-Concept 1. Departure
The master must leave all others, must withdraw from the everyday world and abandon the reality of the crowds. He must establish a sanctuary at far distances, somewhere in the hills, the caves, the subterranean lairs, a remote island, desert, jungle, or sea. Desolate landscapes where he can buy time to think, buy time to reinvent himself, time to transform into something more than what was allowed before. It is in this seclusion, this nowhere, that he becomes a phantom-being of different proportions, a horrendous or beautiful shadow, and starts to plot his eventual return to the world, both in hostility and in ecstasy.
Example 1. The Old Man of the Mountain
To better imagine the ideas of separation and departure, we can look to the story of Hassan Sabbah, hypnotic leader of a famous group of killers known as the Hashishin (literally meaning “those who smoke hashish” but from which the word “assassin” also descends). They say Hassan Sabbah seized a fortress called Alamut in an isolated mountain range of Northern Persia. From there he formed a secret order, where by day he would train his disciples in poetry, philosophy, music, and mysticism, and then by night send them to commit strategic murders across the empire. For decades he would bring havoc upon kings and their palaces, never even leaving the courtyards and libraries of his tower; and yet all feared him, feared the daggers of the Hashishin. And it all began from the first impulse toward departure, the moment when he decided to take to strange heights, to exist in the chasms above, faraway and inaccessible, and thus to become the most iconic figure of his time…the Old Man of the Mountain.
Sub-Concept 2. Misanthropy
The master must slowly become a misanthropist, a figure of acute hatred, one who despises humanity from the far reaches of his accursedness. From his outcast vantage, he passes judgment upon those who remained in the cities; and the more he remembers them, the more he sees only their wretchedness. He believes that existence has fallen into the wrongs hands and that mankind should not rule over the destiny of this life.
The master must believe in persecution; he must feel he is always under siege, always hunted by those who would subvert his plans. An epoch of rivals, stalkers, and killers surround him, ready to collect his head. His suspicion grows with time; he suspects that enemies wait crouching around every corner and down every quiet alleyway. Everything works against him; everyone seeks his downfall.
Example 2. The Peasant of the Stone Garden
To better understand misanthropy, we can look to a deaf Iranian peasant named Darvish Khan, one who could hear nothing and speak to no one his entire life. As a consequence, he created an elaborate stone garden upon his land where he would dance in states of rapture and delirium. No human forms, only the rock fragments, the deranged sculptures, and the reflections of sun and moon to keep him company. We can wonder what he spoke to them in his infinite silence, in his aloneness, in the separation of the stone garden.
Sub-Concept 3. Desperation
The master is a figure of pure desperation. This makes him dangerous, for he is capable of integrating whatever methods are required to survive. He believes that the laws of men and gods have betrayed him, that even the stars in all their chaos, and even the strange pendulums of chance and destiny, have left him to perish. He is the embodiment of misfortune, a pale image enveloped first in despair; but then he weaponizes this torment, and despair becomes harsher, sharper, more engraved. Despair becomes its more war-like elder brother: desperation. And one should fear the most desperate ones.
Example 3. The Madman of the Asylum
The schizophrenic writer Antonin Artaud once said that the entire history of existence amounted to nothing more than an attempt to torture and crucify him. He claimed that millions of years ago, in the void of the cosmos, there emerged a whisper of black magic that spoke his name, Artaud, and that everything since then was just the grand procession of a vendetta against his soul and body. Thus, it was from within the cold walls of the Rodez insane asylum in southern France, that he wrote these words: “These terrifying forms which advance on me, I feel that the despair they bring is alive.”
Such is the voice of the one most separated from all else.
Author: Jason Mohaghegh
Filmmaker: Ghazal Zamani
Video Credits [Materials Included]–Score: Max Richter, “Song.” Images: Larbi Cherkaoui, “Black and White Series,” mixed on paper, 2013, http://www.larbicherkaoui.com/uk/); Agit Ugur Uladag, “Alamut Painting”.