Nations of Gods & Earths

by Sara Gran

(Occasional rambling non-scholarly thoughts on nonmainstream religions/belief systems/spiritual traditions/schools of spiritual science that interest me)

Growing up in Brooklyn, I was fascinated (and still am) by the spiritual movement called Nation of Gods and Earths (NGE), known colloquially as Five Percenters, or, along with the Nation of Islam and other groups, just plain old “black muslims,” an innaccurate but functional nickname (there are many Muslims in Africa and of African descent in the diaspora who practice so many different forms of Islam as to render the term useless, but it’s stuck, at least in New York City). The NGE was born out of the Nation of Islam, which was born itself from the  Moorish Science Temple. The MST has a really interesting history: according to one story, Noble Drew Ali, the founder of the religion and a stage magician, received Egyptian Mysteries in a pyramid at Giza. According to other stories, he blended together elements if Islam, freemasonry, and other religions to found the first MST church in New Jersey in the teens or twenties, which later moved the Chicago and then spread through African-American communities throughout the country, but faded to a few small outposts by the thirties (and still exists, on a small scale). I’m not at all clear on what the original MST actually believed, but out of this brilliant experiment were born both the Nation of Islam and the tiny but important and influential Moorish Orthodox Church, a kind of counter-culture semi-religion that I’ve never actually met a member of. And out of the Nation of Islam, famous over the years for transforming into a political movement with a conformist, neo-militaristc stance, came the Nation of Gods and Earths, a creative flowering of inspiration that (from the outside, at least) has little resemblance to the NOI.

If you’ve heard, in rap music or real life, people use terms like “dropping science” or “dropping knowledge,” you have heard the influence of the NGE. References to “the Asiatic black man” or to “elevate” by spreading knowledge are also NGE inspired. Like many schools of yoga, Judaism, or Buddhism, NGE folks believe that they have access to knowledge which tells the real story of –well, just about everything. There is an NGE school of numerology called Supreme Mathematics and an NGE method  of gematria (the Kabbalistic science

of linking letters to numbers and doing the math to find hidden meanings in language–a kind of deconstructionist math). Numerology is one reason why NGE members often have uniquely-spelled names (for example,  singer Erykah Badu). Many NGE members eat a vegan and/or raw diet–among many other forces they have played a role in the spread of veganism and an awareness of alternative health practices within black community (interestingly, I’ve read that a higher percentage of African American people are vegetarian/vegan than white people, which jibes with my experience although I can’t remember the source ). And although they are clear on their believe that the Black man and woman are the original man and woman on this earth, I have never known this movement to espouse anti-white or anti-jewish views. My impression is they’re more about being pro-the-things-they-like than anti-the-things-they-don’t-like, which may seem like a simple distinction but is actually, I think, profound.  According to one website: “Allah’s Nation, The Nation of Gods and Earths, is NOT A HATE GROUP, GANG, OR RELIGION. We are NOT ANTI-WHITE OR PRO BLACK, we are ANTI-DEVILISHMENT AND PRO-RIGHTEOUSNESS. We recognize the the OPPORTUNITY AND CHANCE of everyone from the Human Families of the Planet Earth to make a positive contribution to CIVILIZATION regardless of their ethnicity.”

The NGE has no leader, as far as I know. Their beliefs often remind me of some of the schools of yoga I’ve studied–for example, that everything is to be sacred and bears spiritual significance, from clothing to food to thoughts. Another similarity is the belief (if I understand correctly), that all knowledge is within, and through study of the self you can learn the truth of reality–in yoga this is called svadhyaya.

The Five Percenters are referred to as such because they believe that 85% of humanity sleepwalks through life and doesn’t know the truth, 10% do know the truth but will try to hide it for selfish aims, and only 5% will both know the truth and disseminate this knowledge. Unfortunately, that sounds about right to me. But I do believe we can do much better in years to come.

A photo of the 1928 Moorish Science Temple Con...

Image via Wikipedia

4 Comments to “Nations of Gods & Earths”

  1. Apropos of nothing (OK, apropos of the sleepwalkers to which the 5-per-centers refer), the spiritual teacher / mystic G.I. Gurdjieff (and, I’m sure, a thousand other philosopher-types) characterized the vast majority of human experience, even among those striving for enlightenment, as being akin to sleep-walking. Unconscious. Going through the dailiness of our lives on autopilot. And ‘higher consciousness’ wasn’t simply about ‘knowing the truth’ so much as it was trying to use that truth toward actually experiencing some of those moments of our day–on even the most mundane level, like being aware of your hands in the sink as you’re washing the dishes, and the work they’re doing–as they’re actually happening. To be in-the-moment, even just occasionally… This has nothing to do with N.G.E., of course…

  2. The automoton–I just learned about this! (I think I mentioned there is a heavy Gurdjieffien presence in my town?) So interesting they believe you have to grow a soul. That’s exactly what interests me–where are these unrelated systems agree. In yoga they don’t use the language of “sleep” but that of “illusion,” with most people being stuck in the illusion of like (aka maya in sanskrit). And again, as in Gurdjieffian stuff, awareness is the solution (I think!) Interesting stuff!

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