1. #1

    The Ideology of Peace in the first Assassin's Creed?

    Hi guys,

    Please help me out here.

    I'm doing research (Masters thesis) on the ideology of peace that's communicated in the first AC game.
    After playing it, and scouring through the in-game transcript, I have come to these conclusions:

    -Religion and God, as well as sacred texts are elements that are mentioned repeatedly. And usually in an unfavourable light, as in men justifying their actions by using faith and God's name (for both Crusaders and Saracens). Example dialogue,

    Altair: Conquered the Holy Land?
    Sibrand: Freed it you fool! From the tyranny of faith

    -There can only be peace when there is order. And order can only be achieved when men are controlled and disciplined (robbed of their free will), as was mentioned by various characters, such as Vidic and Al Mualim.

    I don't know, but I feel that there is contradiction here: I mean if Al Mualim wants peace through order and discipline, isn't that what religion is supposed to do? Then why is he against religion and God so much? Does he still serve the Templar in the end? Or just his own personal motives?

    -There is no room for diplomacy, like when Altair said "Some men cannot be reasoned with" and as such that is why war and violence is key to achieving peace.

    There are multitudes of representations in the game as well. I think the Piece of Eden is meant to represent all the illusions that men have blinded themselves with, using things such as faith and God, and it's also meant to represent our justification for our ignorance of questioning what is true and what is not.

    The feather that Altair uses to mark with blood after each assassination, what does this represent? That freedom (feather) can only be achieved when evil is slaughtered (blood)?

    If I have any other that I missed, please feel free to tell me. And tell me what you guys think. I truly appreciate the input!
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  2. #2
    Locopells's Avatar AC Forum Mod
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    From the Codex in ACII,

    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.

    I have no satisfactory answer to these charges, only possibilities... Do we bend the rules in service to a greater good? And if we do, what does it say of us? That we are liars? That we are frauds? That we are weak? Every moment is spent wrestling with these contradictions and in spite of all the years I've had to reflect, still I can find no suitable answer... And I fear that one may not exist.

    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?
    From the AC Wiki:

    The three great ironies were observations that described the contradictions between the Creed, and the actions of the Assassins who followed it. They were:

    1. The Assassins seek to promote peace, but commit murder.
    2. The Assassins seek to open the minds of men, but require obedience to rules.
    3. The Assassins seek to reveal the danger of blind faith, yet practice it themselves.

    Though seemingly hypocritical, the ironies did not undermine the Assassins' cause. Rather, they demonstrated the way in which they embraced contradiction, "that one may be two things – opposite in every way – simultaneously.
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  3. #3
    AH! Yes, the ironies and contradictions! Thank you so much!


    Originally Posted by Locopells Go to original post
    From the Codex in ACII,



    From the AC Wiki:
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  4. #4
    Interesting topic for a thesis. This is why I love AC, that it touches on subjects that are incredibly deep, complex and ancient. It's not as simple as good vs evil or right wing vs left wing, but free will and order, and the advantages and disadvantages of both. It's an almost bottomless subject.

    But to your points:

    - I don't think AC has ever been expressly anti-religious. It just warns against the blindness of faith and the dangers of extremism. As someone with religious faith, I entirely agree with this idea. If anything, it has encouraged me to question every aspect of religion, politics and news instead of receiving it on trust.

    - 'There can only be peace when there is order.' This one's a tricky one. I don't have enough knowledge of AC lore or quotes to hand to fully argue the details of this point, but again - it's an incredibly deep subject and without a satisfying answer. On the one hand it's true - order = peace. But on the other hand, taking away free will is a violent act and therefore not peaceful. This is why the Assassin philosophy is more realistic. I don't think they strive solely for peace (at least no one that I can think of), but simply to retain free will. Of course true and universal peace is, I think, impossible when people have their free will, but this is the price we pay. One of my favourite quotes from one of my favourite characters:

    'This Templar fantasy of his is dangerous. It flies in the face of reality. The world is a tapestry of many colours and patterns; a just leader would celebrate this, not seek to unravel it.'
    Suleiman.

    But then this brings us to our free will. Another excellent piece of dialogue in AC comes with the battle between Connor and Haytham - the old, cynical, intelligent vs the young, impressionable, naive, headstrong. (I know you're only referring to the first AC, but this is still some of the strongest writing I've ever seen in gaming.)

    'The sheep need a shepherd... under our rule all would be equal. Do the Patriots offer the same?'
    'They offer freedom.'
    'Which I've told you - time and time again - is dangerous. There will never be consensus son, between those who help to ascend. They will each differ in their views on what it means to be free. The peace you so desperately seek does not exist.'
    'No. Together they will forge something new - better than what came before.'
    'These men are united now by a common cause. But when this battle is finished they will fall to fighting amongst themselves about how best to ensure control. In time it will lead to war. You will see.'
    'The Patriot leaders do not seek control. There will be no monarch here. The people will have the power - as they should.'
    'The people never have the power - only the illusion of it. And here's the real secret - they don't want it. The responsibility is too great to bear. It's why they're so quick to fall in line as soon as someone takes charge. They want to be told what to do. They yearn for it. Little wonder, that, since all mankind was built to serve.'

    You make an excellent point about the PoE representing the illusions men bind themselves too. I'd go further with that, since it also represents people's willingness to submit, to be controlled, to accept blindly. It's the embodiment of a lot of fairy tales and myths - the el dorado, pandora's box etc (there are loads more). A kind of promised land.

    Never thought about the feather much. I think it's significant that it's a white feather (perhaps an eagle's, though I don't know of any white eagles). I'm sure you can look more deeply into the symbolism of birds and eagles (which is incredibly common throughout history and cultures). But birds such as white doves often represent freedom, purity, truth, hope. The Holy Spirit in Christianity is often represented by a bird (look to the story of Noah and the flood for similar ideas). So therefore I think you're right - blood on the feather is likely a symbol of the necessity of violence in order to uphold peace - or the need to fight for truth. Purity, at least in a very dishonest world, is not enough to guarantee peace.

    I'm trying to think of other possible symbols. The eagle is a common motif in AC 1 - Altair roughly means 'the flying bird,' and a lot of his clothing and weapons is laden with that sort of symbolism. Other than that, you could look to the characters - none of them are entirely evil or saintly, but instead exist in shades of grey, the protagonist included. I think each one of the Templars represents a weakness of humanity that could very well cause them to lose faith in it - whether that's vanity/humiliation (Abu'l Nuqoud), greed (Majd Addin, al-Mualim), loss of religious faith (Sibrand), political disenchantment (William of Montferrat). Jubair al-Hakim is an excellent example of freedom of speech and the hypocrisy of the Assassins (which could then be linked to an ideology of peace.) These are just off the top of my head, and I may be going completely off on a tangent.

    But the depth of symbolism in religious and political subjects are some of the many reasons why I love the AC series, and in particular AC1. Can I ask what you're studying?
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  5. #5
    Originally Posted by Aisoreal Go to original post
    Hi guys,

    I don't know, but I feel that there is contradiction here: I mean if Al Mualim wants peace through order and discipline, isn't that what religion is supposed to do? Then why is he against religion and God so much? Does he still serve the Templar in the end? Or just his own personal motives?



    The feather that Altair uses to mark with blood after each assassination, what does this represent? That freedom (feather) can only be achieved when evil is slaughtered (blood)?

    Al Mualim, while secretly associated with the Templars unknown to Altair, Is not loyal to the Templar cause. Al Mualim just wants the POE. He orders Altair to kill them all so that he "doesn't have to share" the POE. He used it to turn the people into mindless zombie followers because he saw the world as only seeing peace if under his complete control. Which is not exactly what the Templars want, while they admit to wanting more control and to eliminate differences in ideologies and thoughts(religious, scientific, cultural) they didn't ever want zombies, only a stable and controlled peace, and Robert's words to Altair at Arsuf tend to agree with that point. While we never fully get the complete picture of what the Templars wanted to ultimately do in that game, we do get from their words and Altair and Al Mualim's at the end, that it is not as severe as what Al Mualim did, as they seem angered/fearful/betrayed by him.


    As for the feather........dude sometimes a feather is just a feather.

    People tend to look way to far into things partially because it has been glorified as a type of profession these days(English Teachers, Art Critics, Movie Reviewers, etc)
    For example an author could write:

    "The blue curtain fluttered in the night breeze".

    An English Teacher would be all over it...... Oh the blue curtain is a symbol of human sadness(blue) as they float uncontrollably through their lives(destiny) and the darkness outside represents our confusion at the road ahead of us(since it is dark and the wind is coming from there)

    However the author could walk right in and say.......Oh?! Really????? Nahhhhh....in all honesty I was just describing what the room looked like. All I meant by it was "The blue curtain fluttered in the night breeze".

    So sometimes a feather is just a feather and a curtain is just a curtain. You see what I mean. You can honestly find meaning in any object or picture and make it a symbol for something else, yet that does not mean that is what it was intended for. In ACs case I honestly believe using a feather as a marker only means that......The assassins use feathers stained with blood to prove they killed their target....nothing more....no deeper meaning. But if you really wanted to you could force it to mean something to you if you wanted, a symbol is only a symbol if you view it that way.

    Take for example a swastika. Previously it was a symbol of peace, balance, and the circle of life in ancient India. Then later on it became just a meaningless symbol(like anything in wingdings font). It was only given its current meaning during the Events in WW2 and now is associated with evil, racism, and death. The kind of symbol that can get you called to the principals office(headmaster for you Europeans on here) for drawing on a wall. How does something go from meaning good things, to meaning nothing, to meaning evil? Perception. Because you are taught it is evil.

    A person who lived in the middle of nowhere their whole life and never learned of WW2 would just see it and think nothing of it. In all truth a swastika is only a swastika it is your perception and what you have been taught that gives it any kind of meaning. The same goes for any other kind of symbol. A Cross, Star of David, Crescent Moon, Bald Eagle(US), Lion(Britain), Hammer and Cycle(Communism). The list goes on and on. To a person who doesn't know, or if we are never told ourselves all of these things would mean nothing. It is based all on what you want to see when you look at it. It just happens that they have agreed meanings, and we teach each other that is what they mean. There is no real power or true "meaning" to any of these things they are just what they are at face value in all truth. The "meaning" is a nonexistent thing we create in our own minds. Just like the English Teacher takes an authors intended description of a curtain, and tries to make it a symbol for the human condition.

    It is somewhat a result of the tendency for blind faith that we assign meaning to such silly inanimate objects. I know this is probably not what you were expecting or looking for as a response, but I hope it helps. Maybe you could include it somehow as an analysis of humanities tendency to just blindly accept/follow. But the feather is just a feather.
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  6. #6
    Err, that's weird logic. You seem to be saying that because we give things meanings, we should therefore disregard all meaning. We're humans - our entire lives are filled with meaning. That doesn't make it useless.

    I see what you're saying - we can often apply meaning to things that might not be there, but that's a subjective thing and kind of the entire purpose of being. Okay, the hypothetical author you mentioned might not have intended the curtain flowing in the breeze to mean anything, but does that make the person who interpreted it to mean something wrong? Of course not. That's that person's opinion. It would be dull if we all conformed to the author's beliefs.

    So no, I don't necessarily agree with you about the feather in AC. If it meant nothing, then why not wipe your target's blood on a cloak or a piece of cloth? Or for that matter why get blood on anything in the first place? The feather's been put there for a reason. I don't think it's a coincidence that the bird motif is everywhere in AC.

    On that note - any thoughts as to why the AC robes are white and red?
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  7. #7
    Well you kind of just elaborated what I meant to say. It is ALL about subjectivity. Just because there is something there and it wasn't intended to mean anything doesn't mean it can't have meaning to someone else. I was meaning to get across that there is no one "true" or definate meaning. And in some cases ther could be no meaning at all. Sometimes a feather can just be a feather but we impulsively want to attribute a higher meaning or divine purpose to things as an aspect of our nature. And often times overcomplicate the things around us and get so distracted by minor irrelevant details we become blind to the overall point. But that isn't all situations sometimes meaning is supposed to be there. Others it is invented by us wanting to be there.

    As for the robes. I want it to mean that the robes mean a kind of purity in the assassin order the red represents the blood spilled both by the assassins and their victims in the effort to defend purity. The beaked hood to resemble the eagles beak which is their chosen symbol because of its nobility. The way it is constantly scanning for prey and ever vigilant. And the way it swiftly strikes it's prey and leaves just as swiftly as it struck. It's a perfect animal to symbolize the assassins. And the black robes of the mentor shows that they have to be wiser than the others and accept the impurity of the world around them(thus the black instead of white) but that is what I WANT it to mean. My blind faith in what it SHOULD be.

    In reality the TRUTH the actual meaning could be that the White just looked really cool with a red sash, and it blended with monks so that's why the designers chose it. And the Eagle just because it was a bad *** animal. And the beaked hood because it's cool. The black robes of the mentor could just be to distinguish him from the others clearly. Or to hint that Al Mualim was evil.

    None of that is what I believed but could be the case. Doesn't make me wrong. I created my own TRUTH in my mind and I believe that is what it means. I created that illusion for myself and chose to follow it. It doesn't mean it is true. And doesn't mean the authors intention is the only way. We assign our own meaning to the world around us. The only thing that will always remain is that the feather is a feather or the robes are white and red. We fill in the blanks ourselves.

    As the assassins put it themselves "nothing is TRUE. Everything is PERMITTED". And to be able to accpg alternatives or that there could be no meaning at all makes us wiser. See what I mean?
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  8. #8
    Hi and thanks for your response!

    As a person of faith myself, I do admit that it was something that struck me, you know this whole business of using God and religion as an excuse to commit senseless and cruel acts. But it is something that happens in real life too, and it has made me personally, question the beliefs that people hold: is it what God truly wants us to believe, or is it what we make ourselves to believe what God wants us to believe (if that makes sense).

    If you will allow me, aside from the ideology, I am also looking at realism that is presented in the game, and whether or not the degree of realism AC presents affects the way players view the 'ideology of peace' message that is communicated in the game. In your own personal opinion, do you think AC is 'real' or brings into focus issues that happen in real-life in any way? And does this affect how you understand, perceive, accept or reject the ideology they present?

    Cheers for your great input so far and let me know what you think!

    PS: I actually study intercultural communication, with lots of stuff on identity, religion, and culture, as well as bits of media and ideology.


    Originally Posted by jdowny Go to original post
    Interesting topic for a thesis. This is why I love AC, that it touches on subjects that are incredibly deep, complex and ancient. It's not as simple as good vs evil or right wing vs left wing, but free will and order, and the advantages and disadvantages of both. It's an almost bottomless subject.

    But to your points:

    - I don't think AC has ever been expressly anti-religious. It just warns against the blindness of faith and the dangers of extremism. As someone with religious faith, I entirely agree with this idea. If anything, it has encouraged me to question every aspect of religion, politics and news instead of receiving it on trust.

    - 'There can only be peace when there is order.' This one's a tricky one. I don't have enough knowledge of AC lore or quotes to hand to fully argue the details of this point, but again - it's an incredibly deep subject and without a satisfying answer. On the one hand it's true - order = peace. But on the other hand, taking away free will is a violent act and therefore not peaceful. This is why the Assassin philosophy is more realistic. I don't think they strive solely for peace (at least no one that I can think of), but simply to retain free will. Of course true and universal peace is, I think, impossible when people have their free will, but this is the price we pay. One of my favourite quotes from one of my favourite characters:

    'This Templar fantasy of his is dangerous. It flies in the face of reality. The world is a tapestry of many colours and patterns; a just leader would celebrate this, not seek to unravel it.'
    Suleiman.

    But then this brings us to our free will. Another excellent piece of dialogue in AC comes with the battle between Connor and Haytham - the old, cynical, intelligent vs the young, impressionable, naive, headstrong. (I know you're only referring to the first AC, but this is still some of the strongest writing I've ever seen in gaming.)

    'The sheep need a shepherd... under our rule all would be equal. Do the Patriots offer the same?'
    'They offer freedom.'
    'Which I've told you - time and time again - is dangerous. There will never be consensus son, between those who help to ascend. They will each differ in their views on what it means to be free. The peace you so desperately seek does not exist.'
    'No. Together they will forge something new - better than what came before.'
    'These men are united now by a common cause. But when this battle is finished they will fall to fighting amongst themselves about how best to ensure control. In time it will lead to war. You will see.'
    'The Patriot leaders do not seek control. There will be no monarch here. The people will have the power - as they should.'
    'The people never have the power - only the illusion of it. And here's the real secret - they don't want it. The responsibility is too great to bear. It's why they're so quick to fall in line as soon as someone takes charge. They want to be told what to do. They yearn for it. Little wonder, that, since all mankind was built to serve.'

    You make an excellent point about the PoE representing the illusions men bind themselves too. I'd go further with that, since it also represents people's willingness to submit, to be controlled, to accept blindly. It's the embodiment of a lot of fairy tales and myths - the el dorado, pandora's box etc (there are loads more). A kind of promised land.

    Never thought about the feather much. I think it's significant that it's a white feather (perhaps an eagle's, though I don't know of any white eagles). I'm sure you can look more deeply into the symbolism of birds and eagles (which is incredibly common throughout history and cultures). But birds such as white doves often represent freedom, purity, truth, hope. The Holy Spirit in Christianity is often represented by a bird (look to the story of Noah and the flood for similar ideas). So therefore I think you're right - blood on the feather is likely a symbol of the necessity of violence in order to uphold peace - or the need to fight for truth. Purity, at least in a very dishonest world, is not enough to guarantee peace.

    I'm trying to think of other possible symbols. The eagle is a common motif in AC 1 - Altair roughly means 'the flying bird,' and a lot of his clothing and weapons is laden with that sort of symbolism. Other than that, you could look to the characters - none of them are entirely evil or saintly, but instead exist in shades of grey, the protagonist included. I think each one of the Templars represents a weakness of humanity that could very well cause them to lose faith in it - whether that's vanity/humiliation (Abu'l Nuqoud), greed (Majd Addin, al-Mualim), loss of religious faith (Sibrand), political disenchantment (William of Montferrat). Jubair al-Hakim is an excellent example of freedom of speech and the hypocrisy of the Assassins (which could then be linked to an ideology of peace.) These are just off the top of my head, and I may be going completely off on a tangent.

    But the depth of symbolism in religious and political subjects are some of the many reasons why I love the AC series, and in particular AC1. Can I ask what you're studying?
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  9. #9
    @Bmark94

    Thanks for your input!

    I understand what you mean by the meanings certain objects may or may not possess. It is all about subjectivity really - it can mean something or nothing, depending on the person that views it. That's why as a student performing research, I guess when I try to argue for something (like seeing a particular meaning an object embodies) I guess I have to backup my claims with academic references (and perhaps input from seasoned players as well!)

    Thanks again! Btw, as I am also looking for realism, do you think that AC reflects real-life or issues in real-life in anyway?
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  10. #10
    ^ It definitely reflects real life issues, otherwise I don't think its story would work as well as it does. But like any good story, it uses metaphors and symbols to better communicate its meaning. The question of free will and control is ancient, and has been around since the dawn of civilization.

    As you said, the Apple of Eden can represent a lot of things, from blind faith, to desire, to willingness to submit. Our modern world is full of this - we submit every day to authorities we don't always question - politicians, newspapers, television, media. But by slow increments we can become indoctrinated to a certain belief and world view. Take the city of Baghdad for instance - if over a period of 10 years all we hear about it is suicide bombs and Islamist fundamentalists, we will begin to believe that they are disproportionate to reality. Our view of the world becomes tainted, an illusion if you will. It's part of the truth but not the whole truth.

    The Creed encourages the questioning of these authorities. And by questioning we are able to dispel that illusion and learn truth.

    On the topic of truth, I like this dialogue:

    The Crusades are a prime example of the blindness of faith and the willingness to submit. People might look at the Crusades as an abhorrent example of the evil of religion, of the Catholic Church, of Christianity etc. (I'm not denying this per se); they distance themselves from it, but what people often fail to understand is that this is ongoing. It's happening every day, just under a different guise. Look at the 2003 Iraq invasion. Ostensibly western forces were searching for WOMDs - ostensibly crusaders were seeking to reclaim the Holy Land. Soon the two became an entirely different matter altogether, perhaps to install a pro-western government, capitalise on oil, take control of land and trade routes, the list goes on. Or look at Syria today. On the surface this is a corrupt government vs rebels, but beneath the surface it's a proxy war fought between western forces (US, France, Germany, UK) and eastern (Russia, Iran, China).

    The AC world works because of these parallels. It's a timeless struggle, an age-old story which will inevitably repeat itself again and again. This is why for me the Middle Eastern setting is so powerful and successful, because it is literally the meeting point and the crucible between east and west. And why it is so often in turmoil.
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