Blackness, Islam, and Esotericism in the Five Percenters
This article draws from black critical theory, Western esotericism studies, and scholarship in Islamic studies to articulate the Five Percenters as expressing what I call “traumatic mysticism.” I first articulate blackness as the esoteric secret of the West. Then, I show how this blackness can produce mystical forms of black life. With these constituents in mind, I see “traumatic mysticism” as “an undifferentiated form of lived experience, characterized by radical relation and identification with others, that entails the perpetual refusal of categorical distinctions.” Traumatic mysticism owes its emergence to (the violence of) the Middle Passage, which resulted in what Hortense Spillers calls an “undifferentiated identity,” or what I label as a radical form of sociality that cannot maintain categorical distinctions. Examining Five Percenter history, thought, and life, I show that their understanding of Islamic terminology, the meaning of the word “god,” and their dissemination of their thought all articulate radical refusals of categorical distinctions—whether these be between transcendence and immanence, individual and collective, or even material (embodiment) and ethereal (divinity). Exhibiting these characteristics leads to a life of irrevocable immanence, manifested through radical democracy and rigorous communal ethics.
Five Percenters; Blackness; Islam; Mysticism; Esotericism; Western