The Lone Star Sojourn
My hopes to go to take a year off from college are dashed—the course I need to take for graduation is only offered in the spring semester. That would mean that I would have to find out who is God, what is the purpose of life, and and what happens to us after we die… all within four months.
I am going to be Greyhounding it down to Texas—that’s a 36 hour ride on the bus. I had done it before, so I was ready. Not too much stands out in my mind about the trip except that at that time, while I was in the midst of trying to break my desires from the SAD (Standard American Diet), I realized that finding healthy food was at a premium outside of the Happy Valley. The foods at the bus stations were just slabs of highly processed meat steeped in grease. The meat thing wasn’t that big of a deal to me at the time, because I was vegetarian with the occasional fish to get some protein in my system. But it did make me consider what little consideration Americans, in general, gave to what they put in their body.
The other thing that occurred on the trip was I encountered some of Dr. Malachi York’s people in the Philadelphia bus stations. So little did I know that Philly would go on to play such a major role in my life in a couple of more years. At the time, Dr. York’s cult1 was in its quasi-Islamic incarnation of the so-called “Ansarullah community.” They were big in Philadelphia. He (and his followers) was another group I could potentially get with and “do the the knowledge.” From a guy dressed in a white thawb sitting at one of those bus station chairs with a TV monitor, I bought a book entitled (to the effect): The Pale Man is a Disease.
This returns me to the difficulty I was facing trying to have some standard to determine what is wrong and right, what is possible and impossible. At Amherst, a bastion of secular skepticism, the thought of an Afterlife, much less, a re-creation and resurrection of the dead, would’ve been considered a “fairytale from archaic patriarchal (and sexist) religions.” These were also the same people who would reject at all cost that the typical Ancient Egyptian would have been sitting at the back of the bus in Selma, Alabama circa 1955. I figured if they could be wrong about the latter, they could also be wrong about the former. I was skeptical of Amherst’s skepticism, so I was willing to open the wig up as much as possible… to explore the possibilities.
As for my feelings about white people at the time, I had no problem calling them “devils.” It could be possible that not ALL of them were that way, as the Jazz Man had demonstrated, and it was probably my friendship with him that prevented me from going over the edge altogether with race hatred, but the overwhelming majority of whites I had known were either racists, not necessarily white sheet and hood racist, but racist, nonetheless, or they were at least defensive of open racists or complicit with a racist system. They weren’t, as Jazz Man would say, “Down with John Brown.”
Genocidal policies were carried out in the name of white supremacy (it’s enough to consider the namesake of The College and his germ warfare relationship with the Native Americans to catch my drift). These policies were carried out not just by a people who happened to be “white” and were incidentally exterminating others who just happened to be brown or black. They massacred and genocided folks because of their color. And then set up silly, stupid, and schizophrenic social hierarchies based upon the amount of white blood one had—or didn’t have. And I could see how this, as the other Brother Ali said, “poisonous hate still flowed through (many of) their veins,” had sickened the souls of (many) white folk to varying degrees. That’s not to say that all the white folk I knew were like that. Others were trying to do better, but too often they were to wracked by guilt and neuroses to be effectual. And when the Great Race War broke out (ya, I was doing too many Final Calls and Farrakhan cassettes at the time), I couldn’t expect the them to have my back. The Brothers (i.e., fellow African-Americans) were going to have wake up to work this one out.
I had spent several multi-week stints before in Texas, but I had never “lived” there. When arrived, I was determined to increase my dedication to becoming more disciplined and maintaining my regimen. I continued doing stretching routine and took a six week course on hatha yoga. I was getting behind the lids and meditating, usually for two daily sessions: once in the morning for forty-five minutes to an hour and and about half that time in the evening. Frequently I would try to cogitate on the words of Rakim’s, “Follow the Leader”:
Let’s travel at magnificent speeds around the Universe
What could ya say as the Earth gets further and further away
Planets are small as balls of clay
Astray into the Milky Way – world’s outta sight
Far as the eye can see – not even a satellite
As I was within, I would imagine traveling deeper and deeper in space (outer or inner) searching for what I was searching for. I was trying to stretch my mind as much as possible while still maintaining my sanity. I knew that the Truth could not be found by convention. And although I valued research and wide reading, this Truth that I was seeking was not likely to be found between the two covers of a book. Nonetheless, this “Truth” would not contradict the facts of history nor those of common sense.
At this time, I was reading (and implement) Pantanjali’s, Yoga Sutras, which is a famous book of Indian philosophy that discusses many things about inner states of consciousness, among of which is “samhadi”: mental stillness. I wanted to reach a place beyond the fluctuations of the mind. I wanted to withdraw my senses from this ephemeral world. I wanted to attain tranquility; I wanted to attain peace. And I felt that peace could only come from within by gaining mastery over my emotions, focusing my mind, and taming the desires of this physical body. I didn’t have a whole lot to work with—just books, and my neophyte efforts of trying to live a disciplined life but I was willing to give it a try.
Of a most odd synchronicity, it turned out that a Maharishi’s Transcendental Meditation center was less than a ten minute walk from the apartment. I came across it one day while on the way to the Galleria Mall. I was seriously thinking about getting initiated into the TM group, but I had come across some conservative Christian book back in Amherst that was exposing the group saying that in the initiation ceremony, there was an invocation of Hindu so-called deities. Although I was terribly confused regarding Islamic doctrine, I knew that I did not want to commit shirk (take a partner with God) Although I was fascinated by the paranormal, I did not want to involved in practices in which I would be invoking these entities. And to whatever degree my curiosity might still have been piqued about Maharishi’s Meditation technique, the $300 initiation fee quelled further interests.
As for the Galleria Mall, I would work in a small souvenir shop with a couple of young white females. (Ironically, even at the apex of my black nationalist phase, I still found myself working for the “Man”—or in this case, for the “Wo-Man.” (To my credit, so to speak, I only took the job after the Afrocentric school I was to work at did not get up and running.) The job (I considered at the time—I’m not talking about from a Sacred Law perspective) was cool, and I had Fridays off so I would go to the W. D. Mohammed center for their program.
Regarding the W.D. center, I would attend their Friday events, which, as one person has said were akin to Baptist services with the attendees periodically shouting out: “Speak, Brother Imam! Speak!” I could put that aside—i didn’t know anything about rules discouraging one from talking during the khutbah (Friday sermon)—but I didn’t find there what I was looking for. Again, with Islam, I was looking for theological clarity. I wanted to understand the doctrines of the different factions that claimed to be Muslim, and I wanted to know who was right, and how I could logically demonstrate it. My questions were not getting answered.
It was there perhaps, I am not sure, like I said my writing during the time is sparse, that I met a guy named “Jihad.” He had been present at what the followers of W.D. Mohammed call the “First(?) Resurrection”—that is, when Elijah Muhammad died and W.D. Mohammed took over the leadership of the so-called Nation of Islam. Jihad was my mentor of sorts. He worked downtown, selling incense, and passing out fliers on black history from his large duffel bag. I would meet him there, cipher up, and various folks would pass through, whether they be the so-called Hebrew Israelites, some folks involved in neo-Ancient Egyptian metaphysics, a young Five Percenter, who if I remember correctly was from Brooklyn, or plain ole black folks.
Typically, on my days off, after my morning routine, I would throw my “Quest Pack” on my back, with some books, the “Quest Bottle” (a 1.5 liter bottle of Poland Springs) and some raw sunflower seeds (and maybe some pumpkin seeds). I would take the bus downtown to get my stomp on. Once downtown, I’d see Jihad, hit the main library, and the streets trying to “do the knowledge” with my people. Of my hang-outs were several black bookstores (this was a time when black bookstores still carried more than ghetto-drama romance novels), where I would get with folk and we’d call ourselves “gittin’ deep.”
Albeit there was A LOT going on in the dome, I put little of it down on paper. There are not many Journal entries from this period. I believe thirteen in total. I was trying to come to grips with yoga philosophy and meditation, Afrocentricity and the neo-Ancient Egyptian metaphysical system called “Metu Neter,” the works of Schwalller de Lubicz, George James, Anta Diop, the possibility of ancient black populations in Europe (a la David MacRitchie’s, Ancient and Modern Britons), the works of Ivan Van Sertima and the theories of a ancient global diffusion of black people/culture, and what I am calling “Islam.” I am utterly confused. But I am trying to work out some sort of over-arching thesis for ancient civilization that would centrally place the Black Man in history.
In these studies what I am seeing are a lot of cross cultural similarities regarding religion and metaphysical practices. It seems to me that there was a lot more cultural diffusion than the standard Eurocentric model admitted, and that this ancient history could not be understood properly, unless historians stopped trying to overlook, ignore, suppress, and deny the role that ancient black Africans (certainly “black” by standards in the USA) had played. The other thing that struck me was that in the mythology of many of these societies there was talk of “enlightened masters” who came and educated the people and instructed them in the arts of civilization. Furthermore, there seemed to be an acknowledgment of some notion of monotheism, but then over the millenia, people lost sight of the worship of the One Perfect, Eternal, Incomparable God and lapsed into polytheism.2
After about a six week wait, on the day before the 25th of December, I received a copy of Malachi York’s refutation of the Five Percenters…. I thought I was going to have to be institutionalized. He went after everybody: in addition to refuting the Five Percenters themselves, Malachi York attacked Louis Farrakhan, the Saudis, W.D. Mohammed, the “white Arabs,” Sunni Islam, and of course, the Jews and Freemasonry. All at the same time, he was, in essence, demanding that people follow him (and the blasphemous images he claimed were the Prophets… which all looked like him). The book sent my head swirling. I knew not what to make of it, but much of it had, at least a lot of truth to it—I am talking about the dubious political policies of the Saudi regime (even before I truly understood what Wahhabism was, it was clear that the Saudis weren’t straight), the racism in the mosques, and the mass manipulation taking place by the elite of the society.
For worse and for better there was no internet. For worse in the sense there was no way to even try to find out where Malachi York was getting his information from (later, I found out that a lot of York’s “knowledge” about Sumerian civilization and supposed ancient astronauts came from a Jewish author named, Zechariah Sitchin). For better, in the sense that having more data without any scale to weigh it does not lead to guidance but only more confusion. This book was “deeper” and broader than the so-called Pale Man book. Yet, again, I did not have the means to affirm or deny what York was saying. Although I was overwhelmed by the information he was providing, I did have enough sense to try to get to the bottom of the most essential knowledge: that is, Who is God? To that most fundamental of all questions, I could not see where he had a clear answer. After all, by this point, I had already heard our Brothers say: “Allah exists without a place,” and it was pretty much by that statement alone that I judged whether someone professing to Muslim was guided or not.3
During this Lone Star sojourn, I did come across another book that would eventually become pivotal in my being rescued from my heterodoxy and blasphemous confusion. At a used bookstore, I came across a copy of The Life and Times of Al-Ghazali, by the Orientalist, Montgomery Watt. It is a two part book. The first part is a fictional dialogue in which Al-Ghazali refutes a Batini-Shi`ite. Al-Ghazali demonstrates that the true religion would be rationally consistent and not based on “blind faith or “Hidden Imams.” Al-Ghazali asserts that reason cannot be disregarded when seeking to know the truth about the Creator and how to follow the true religion of the Creator. This was exactly what I was looking for given my situation at Amherst. I didn’t just want to call myself “a Muslim,” I wanted to be able to explain the Islamic doctrine, and Al-Ghazali said that it could be done in a rational systematic manner.
The second part of the book is autobiographical. Al-Ghazali was a brilliant Islamic scholar and professor at one of the leading Islamic institutes in the world. However while he was in his early thirties, he had a spiritual crisis and had doubt about his sincerity,4 so he left his post in Baghdad, and lived the life of an ascetic following the path of Sufism. After living in poverty for a dozen years and attaining a high state of spiritual purity and illumination, he returns to Baghdad and teach. And now he teaches not only the orthodox Sunni doctrine and Sacred Law, he also can speak about Islamic spirituality and sincerity from personal experience.
In part two of the book, he talks about the importance of having the proper belief in the Creator, and not adopting heterodox doctrines; he emphasized that one must also adhere to the Sacred Law. But having the correct belief in Allah and outwardly doing the acts of devotion is not enough to save oneself from torture in the Hereafter. A person must have and do the aforementioned with total purity of intent. This means that the base desires must be conquered, the attachments to this evanescent world must be transcended, and the love of showing-off for the creations must be sublimated by a profound and consuming love and fear of Allah, the Lord of everything. That was it. Although I don’t have the details, this is what I am looking for! This would be the formula for liberating my people, and I could get started soon when I return to Amherst.
1Dr. Malachi York is a black racist cultist, whose cult(s) have run the gamut from “quasi-Islamic” to pseudo-Israelite, to a fascination with Ancient Sumeria, to Native Americans. Currently he is serving a 100 year sentence for multiple accounts of child molestation.
2I would find out later that this is in essence what Muslims believe. Muhammad was not the first man to call people to “Islam,” but that God had sent thousands of Prophets before him to the various tribes and nations instructing people to worship the Creator and not the creations, and educating them in the arts of civilization. Some of those Prophets were rejected and some were followed by the people, but in time, the pure monotheistic Message of those Prophets was corrupted, and people began to ascribe godhood to one or more manifestations of the creations. This can be seen with how Jesus’ Sacred Message and call to monotheism was later corrupted and Trinitarianism became the standard doctrine of those claiming to following him.
3Simply believing in that statement does not make a person a guided Muslim, but the one who rejects that statement rejects one of the basic tenets of the Islamic belief: the Creator absolutely does not need or resemble the creations; hence the Creator is not a spatial entity and does not require a place or direction to exist.
4It’s not that Al-Ghazali was doubting the proper belief in Allah that caused the crisis but whether or not he was teaching and doing the acts of worship with complete sincerity to God.