This is the last of the Malcolm X series and entails death and rebirth. 

 

In 1964, a letter arrived from Mecca via Malcolm X’s assistants. The letter was distributed to close friends and family, and members of the press. It is not difficult to imagine the expression of anyone  who first read that letter. The person must have rubbed his eyes after the first read and reread the letter to ensure that his eyes where not deceiving him. Confident that what was read was true, he must have opened his eyes wide and proclaimed aloud, “What!”

Before anyone can be shocked at the words on that paper, they must first have known the man who penned those words.

 

Previous articles in this Malcolm X series chronicled the journey of this extraordinary individual who was thrown into 20th century America and its ideals. These ideas were resisted by Malcolm’s parents, Earl and Louise Little who advocated the teachings of Marcus Garvey. This in turn had devastating consequences for the Little family – the murder of the father, which led Malcolm’s mother to descend into insanity and resulted in her institutionalisation at a mental hospital and the children being scattered in the foster care system.

 

The series also chronicled the ideas imposed upon Malcolm for the first time in school and his blatant rejection of them. This drove him to look for his place in the world elsewhere – in the underground as a criminal, under the guidance of Shorty whom he soon eclipsed. The second article examined Malcolm’s spiraling descent into that world that filled his being with fear which he had to subside by consuming narcotics and to support this expensive habit, he had to venture into ever more dangerous crimes. It all ended with a ten year incarceration.

 

The third article focused on something extraordinary happening in jail – he had an encounter, a vision of Elijah Muhammad which transformed his life from one of thuggery to being the Minister of the Nation of Islam – Malcolm X.

It touched on his learning and absorbing the teachings of the Nation of Islam until his brilliance led him to ascend its ranks, second only to Elijah Muhammad himself. It also highlighted the motivating force of the Nation of Islam which was anger – being angry at the ‘white devil’ for institutionalising misery, corruption and vice on the black people the world over.

 

This final article will examine a crack that crumbled Malcolm’s persona as Minister Malcolm. In this article when the word persona is used, it is used in its original Latin rendering – a mask.

Elijah Muhammad, who was thought to be a messenger of  the Divine and thus infallible, was found out to have had several children out of wedlock. This shocked Malcolm. He found out that the foundation upon which he built his worldview was sand and everything fell apart. As a result he left the Nation of Islam.

 

Malcolm had been encouraged to go to Mecca on pilgrimage by orthodox Muslims during his speaking tour at American universities as well as by some members of the Nation of Islam. Now free from the doctrines of Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm was free to pursue the true meaning of Islam. Emphasis has to be made that Malcolm went to the Hajj pilgrimage as a blank slate.

 

This state is necessary as indicated by Shaykh Abdalqadir As-Sufi in The Way of Muhammad:

“There is only one method by which you can approach the sufic sciences and that is to start, tabula rasa, by putting away the whole world-picture and value structure which has formed you until now and which is completely the result of your social and historical imprinting which you share with millions of others, whatever particular individuality you may imagine you have over and against those millions of others. You have an idea of how things are, and how you are, how things should be and how you should be. Interposed between you and reality is a functioning, fluctuating conceptualisation of existence that, mingled with your personal emotional responses to event and personality, make up what you think is both ‘you’ and ‘your world’.”

Shaykh Abdalqadir defines sufism as ‘the science of the journey to the King.’ In other words, one has to be a blank slate when one wants to go to the Divine.

 

After performing the Hajj rites, spending time with peoples of different races from all over the world, Malcolm wrote his famous letter that was witnessed by dumbfounded eyes across the world. The letter has in it these words:

“Never have I witnessed such sincere hospitality and overwhelming spirit of true brotherhood as is practiced by people of all colors and races here in this ancient Holy Land, the home of Abraham, Muhammad and all the other Prophets of the Holy Scriptures. For the past week, I have been utterly speechless and spellbound by the graciousness I see displayed all around me by people of all colors.”

Later on, he writes:

“During the past eleven days here in the Muslim world, I have eaten from the same plate, drunk from the same glass, and slept on the same rug – while praying to the same God – with fellow Muslims, whose eyes were the bluest of blue, whose hair was the blondest of blond, and whose skin was the whitest of white. And in the words and in the deeds of the white Muslims, I felt the same sincerity that I felt among the black African Muslims of Nigeria, Sudan and Ghana.

We were truly all the same (brothers) – because their belief in one God had removed the white from their minds, the white from their behavior, and the white from their attitude.

I could see from this, that perhaps if white Americans could accept the Oneness of God, then perhaps, too, they could accept in reality the Oneness of Man – and cease to measure, and hinder, and harm others in terms of their ‘differences’ in color.”

 

This letter shocked the whole world. People were in disbelief that this letter was penned by the same man who used to call the white man the devil with disgust in his voice. This radical transformation deserves a deeper reflection. To better understand this dramatic transformation, we turn to a school of psychology that is most concerned with the idea of rebirth – the school of Carl Jung or Jungian psychoanalysis.

 

Darryl Sharp, a Jungian psychoanalyst, wrote in the Jung Lexicon:

“If any considerable group of persons are united and identified with one another by a particular  frame of mind, the resultant transformation experience bears only a very remote resemblance to the experience of individual transformation. A group experience takes place on a lower level of consciousness than the experience of an individual. This is due to the fact that, when many people gather together to share one common emotion, the total psyche emerging from the group is below the level of the individual psyche. If it is a very large group, the collective psyche will be more like the psyche of an animal. …
… The group experience goes no deeper than the level of one’s own mind in that state. It does work a change in you, but the change does not last.”

 

Malcolm began with the persona – or mask – of ‘Mascot’ by Miss Swerlin. On the streets he was given the hustler mask by a thug named Shorty and Harlem’s criminal class. The persona of Detroit Red coloured his worldview with a particular hue with fear. Certain things shone that where not supposed to shine such as drugs, robbery and violence. These activities eventually led Red to prison.

 

That mask was finally broken in jail when Malcolm heard of a better worldview which he believed would allow his true purpose to emerge. That view was the teachings of the Nation of Islam and he was then given a persona of Minister Malcolm X. This organisation was animated by anger against the widespread and institutionalised racism in the United States. Through their mask Minister Malcolm amplified their messages to all corners of the world. After finding out that the foundation of the teachings of the Nation of Islam were false, he abandoned it.

 

Now in the Holy Land, Malcolm had an existential encounter and wrote, “I have never before witnessed such sincere hospitality and the practice of true brotherhood as I have seen it here in Arabia. In fact all I have seen and experienced on this pilgrimage as forced me to “re-arrange” much of thoughts pattern and to toss aside some.”

 

That is, his existential encounter in Arabia was not coloured by the mask given to him by anyone, Malcolm formulated his own ideas. These ideas were not imposed upon him by others. In Jungian terms, he achieved individuation – he was true to himself. And now he could be true to the world.

 

It is unfortunate that we were not given the chance to see the full manifestation of this individuated man as Malcolm was assassinated  on 21 February 1965, the year after he formed the Hajj. However it is important for the reader to finish this series of articles remembering the value of the Individual. The Individual must be free first. Then and only then can he fill the world with his light.

 

This article will conclude with the words of Ernst Junger:

 

“Towering courage is thus expected of the Individual. He alone is expected to lend justice a helping hand, even against the might of the State. There will be doubts as to whether such people exist. But they will emerge, and when they do they will be Waldganger.

 

It is a breed which will even appear involuntarily on the stage of history since forms of compulsion exist that leave no other choice. True, aptitude must exist. Even William Tell entered the conflict against his own will, but once he had done so he proved to be a Waldganger, an individual in whom the People became aware of their own primordial strength against the tyrant.”

 

This article is Part 4 of 4.

Part 1 is available here 

Part 2 is available here 

Part 3 is available here