Moorish Orthodox Church of America
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The Moorish Orthodox Church of America is a syncretic, non-exclusive, and religious anarchist movement espousing a vast array of liturgical and devotional traditions laid over a theology that includes teachings gleaned from Moorish Science, Five Percenters, Theosophical mysticism, Hermeticism, Oriental Orthodoxy, the Episcopi vagantes movement, the League for Spiritual Discovery, Western esotericism, Discordianism, the teachings of Noel Ignatiev, Tantra, Nizari Islam, Zoroastrianism, Sufism (particularly from the Sufi Order Ināyati, Chishti, Bektashi and Uwaisi traditions), Taoism, and Vedanta teachings.
History and development
A splinter group of the Moorish Science Temple of America, the Moorish Orthodox Church was founded in New York City in 1962 primarily by Warren Tartaglia, beatniks, spiritual seekers, anarchists and members of the Noble Order of Moorish Sufis (a group that grew out of the Moorish Science Temple #13 in Baltimore on July 7, 1957). The Moorish Orthodox Church of America published a journal entitled the Moorish Science Monitor from 1965-1967, which has been revived at times over the next few decades, including its most recent revival in 2017. Moorish Orthodoxy was founded to explore the more esoteric dimensions of Noble Drew Ali's Moorish Science teachings, but quickly developed into a movement of spiritual exploration beyond its intended purpose, though it maintains Moorish Science as its core. After a long period of quiescence, the Moorish Orthodox Church of America experienced a small renaissance in the mid-1980s owing to the involvement of former members of the beat/beatnik movement, the counter-cultural hippie community, and the gay liberation movement, along with the continued involvement of Sultan Rafi Sharif Bey (who founded the Moorish League) and the prolific writings of Hakim Bey.
After the death of Sultan Rafi Sharif Bey and the disassociation and controversy involving Hakim Bey, membership decreased substantially to only a handful of members internationally. In 1991, the Khalwat-i-Khidr Lodge of Moorish Orthodox Church was founded in Dallas, Texas by a disparate coalition of artists, musicians, rocket scientists, cybermeticists, alternative mystics, and the like. Yehoodi El and Mustafa al-Layla are regarded to be the "leaders" of this new revival of Moorish Orthodoxy through their founding of Khalwat-i-Khidr Lodge, the re-publishing of the Moorish Science Monitor, the establishment of a Dallas radio segment known as the Moorish Radio Flyer on the Mansion of Madness radio show, and by bringing the Moorish Orthodox Church of America to social media, which has been its main avenue of promulgation to this day. Modern Moorish Orthodoxy has been further influenced by and has influenced different movements such as Chaos Magic, Punk subculture, Rave, Thelema, and other non-conformist seekers desiring to embrace a spiritual tradition with an anarchist ethos.
Moorish Orthodoxy embraces an anarchist model of organization, believing strongly in the concept that "you are, each one, a priest, just for yourself" as proclaimed in the Circle 7 Koran. As such, temples are mostly self-declared and/or choose to affiliate themselves and derive their "authority" through another temple and/or an autonomous charter-granting body. These temples also range in size (from one person to near a hundred), focus (Judaism, Christianity, Moorish Science, Zoroastrianism, Islam, etc.), membership credentials (the most popular being the "spiritual passport"), and name (lodge, temple, ashram, church, chapel, etc.) The most "organized" portions of Moorish Orthodoxy tend to be its Adept Chamber, in which bodies are established for the formal study and exploration of both the core and fringes of various spiritual systems. The current bodies of the Adept Chamber are the Order of the Paraclete (Christian), the Fatamid Order (Islam), the Order of Jerusalem (Judaism), the Sabian Order (Paganism and Western Esotericism), with their own initiation rites and rituals.
- Muhammed al-Ahari
- Hakim Bey
- Sultan Rafi Sharif Bey
- Carey Harrison
- James Koehnline
- Warren Tartaglia
- Bill Weinberg
- Patrick D. Bowen (17 August 2015). A History of Conversion to Islam in the United States, Volume 1: White American Muslims before 1975. BRILL. p. 320. ISBN 978-90-04-30069-9.
Then, in 1962 one of the Baltimore group's young members, Warren Tartaglia, left the city to attend New York University, where he introduced the organization to Manhattan's white hipsters, including the man who would become one of the US' most influential non-orthodox Muslims: Peter Lamborn Wilson (Hakim Bey). The New York Group, which was named the Moorish Orthodox Church, would soon adapt other elements of Sufism...
- Eugene V. Gallagher (2004), The New Religious Movements Experience in America, Greenwood Publishing Group, p. 135, ISBN 978-0-313-32807-7,
Another group that traces its origins to the work of Noble Drew Ali is the Moorish Orthodox Church of America. Despite its claim to Orthodoxy, the group, which was started by a handful of white poets and jazz musicians in the 1950s in Washington, D.C., developed a thoroughly eclectic theology.
- Aminah Beverly McCloud (16 July 2014). African American Islam. Routledge. p. 201. ISBN 978-1-136-64937-0.
The last Moorish Science Monitor, according to Peter Lamborn Wilson, appeared in 1966, but the journal was revived in 1986. It is the publication of the Moorish Orthodox Church of America which was "founded in the late 1950s by Europeans who (according to oral sources) had obtained Moorish Science Temple passports as 'Celts' or 'Persians." (Sacred Drift, 49).