From Barbados to Black Panther:
Will Afrofuturism Beat Archeofuturism?

[1]4,197 words

“[We] looked up the royal family in the Almanack de Gotha and traced their descent from Solomon and the Queen of Sheba; we found a history which began: ‘The first certain knowledge which we have of Ethiopian history is when Cush the son of Ham ascended the throne immediately after the Deluge.’ … Everything I heard added to the glamour of this astonishing country.” — Evelyn Waugh on Abyssinia (Ethiopia [2])

Here comes the new movie, Black Panther (Coogler, 2018), and the reaction is predictable. The Black chappies and their White enablers are all “We wuz kangz,”and the White Nationalists are all “Once more the MSM tries to poz history.”

As usual, both sides fail to grasp what’s really going on: Black Panther is the latest manifestation of the Hermetic wisdom: imagination is reality. First Trump, now Wakanda.

Here’s the 411 [3] on the movie:

Black Panther is a 2018 American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. Produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, it is the eighteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The film is directed by Ryan Coogler from a screenplay by him and Joe Robert Cole, and stars Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa / Black Panther, alongside Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, and Andy Serkis. In Black Panther, T’Challa returns home as king of Wakanda but finds his sovereignty challenged by a long-time adversary in a conflict that has global consequences.

Black Panther is by no means the first black superhero, although they are thin on the ground. What seems to exercise both sides this time is the kingdom of Wakanda itself.

Centuries ago, as five African tribes war over a meteorite made up of the alien metal vibranium, a warrior ingests a “heart-shaped herb” affected by the metal and gains superhuman abilities. Becoming the first “Black Panther”, he unites the five tribes and forms the nation of Wakanda. As time passes, the Wakandans use the vibranium to develop highly-advanced technology while simultaneously isolating themselves from the rest of the world and posing as a Third World country.

White Nationalists and Alt Right types seem to find the whole idea of an “advanced” African nation to be laughable on its face; and the presentation of this “fantasy” to be vaguely sinister, as if it will further feed the well-known disjunction between African-American self-image and African-American achievement, leading to yet more demands for worship of the Magical Negro.

Reading Carvell Wallace’s piece in New York magazine suggests that something else, more important, is going on.[1] [4]

Ryan Coogler’s film is a vivid re-imagination of something black Americans have cherished for centuries — Africa as a dream of our wholeness, greatness and self-realization.

“Black Panther” is a Hollywood movie, and Wakanda is a fictional nation. But coming when they do, from a director like Coogler, they must also function as a place for multiple generations of black Americans to store some of our most deeply held aspirations. We have for centuries sought to either find or create a promised land where we would be untroubled by the criminal horrors of our American existence. From Paul Cuffee’s attempts in 1811 to repatriate blacks to Sierra Leone and Marcus Garvey’s back-to-Africa Black Star shipping line to the Afrocentric movements of the ’60s and ’70s, black people have populated the Africa of our imagination with our most yearning attempts at self-realization. In my earliest memories, the Africa of my family was a warm fever dream, seen on the record covers I stared at alone, the sun setting over glowing, haloed Afros, the smell of incense and oils at the homes of my father’s friends — a beauty so pure as to make the world outside, one of car commercials and blond sitcom families, feel empty and perverse in comparison. …

So much going on here!  Imagination, Marcus Garvey, shipping lines, and album covers. It all fits together!

Constant Readers will know that I have been thumping the tub for Neville Goddard, the lost Master of New Thought, America’s homegrown Hermeticism, native-born Neoplatonism, and two-fisted Traditionalism.[2] [5] Neville taught, in lectures aimed at modern audiences, the purest form of the Western Esoteric Tradition, from Plotinus to Carl Jung: imagination creates reality.

Neville was the ultimate White Man: tall, handsome, charismatic, with a lilting British accent. The latter came from his homeland: Barbados. And he received his doctrine from another Barbadian (whom he met in New York City): a black Ethiopian rabbi he called Abdullah.

Abdullah taught him Hebrew, the Qabalah, and, most importantly, a method of interpreting the Bible as a psychological document.[3] [6] From all this evolved a method of changing the future through deeply felt imaginative acts that Neville called “The Law.”

The story of what, and how, Abdullah taught Neville is frequently retold, especially by Neville himself. I think it might be best to give it in his own words, transcribed from one of his last lectures, as it has considerable merit, and gives you an idea of his speaking style.

I can tell it best by telling you a story. The year was 1933. Roosevelt was elected. I had been in this country for eleven years. I never really wanted to go back to Barbados. My parents came up in that year, and they pleaded with me to come to Barbados and join the family — become a member of the family; and I declined. I said, “No.” I saw them off at the boat; and strangely enough, as they sailed, — and they were on the deck and I waved “goodbye” to them, — a peculiar feeling came over me, and I had a desire that I had never had in eleven years to go to Barbados. I had just said “goodbye” to them, and said “No” to their request. They would have paid all expenses and brought me back, and everything would have been perfect.

Then from the boat, I went to my old friend Abdullah. He was born, so I am told, in Ethiopia. He was a black man, raised in the Jewish faith, but really understood Christianity as few men that I ever met understood it. He understood the Law, not the Promise. He understood the Law.[4] [7] So, I went to him and I told him the feeling that came over me: that I wanted to go to Barbados. I had just waved at my parents, and a peculiar feeling possessed me; and he said to me, “You are in Barbados.”

Well, that did not make sense to me. I am standing in his place on 72nd Street, off Central Park West; that’s where he lived. He lived at 30 West 72nd Street. And here I am in his place, and he’s telling me that I am in Barbados! He didn’t explain what he meant. So, as the days went by, I said to him, “Ab, I am no nearer to Barbados than I was when I spoke to you.”

And he said to me, “If you are in Barbados, you cannot discuss the means of getting to Barbados.[5] [8] You must actually live in Barbados in your imagination as though you were there — just as if — and view the world from Barbados. If you sleep in Barbados and view the world from Barbados, the means will appear, and you will go to Barbados. But as far as I am concerned, you are already in Barbados, because you desired it with intensity. All you had to do was simply to enter it; and you enter it now in New York City even though it is two thousand miles across water, — and you aren’t going to walk across water; but you enter Barbados and view the world from it. If you see the world from Barbados, then you have to be in Barbados.”

He did not explain to me then, but I learned later that man, being all imagination, is wherever he is in imagination;[6] [9] and imagination is the God-in-man. That is the Eternal Body of the Lord Jesus Christ, and “all things are possible to Him,” and “by Him all things were made, and without Him was not anything made that was made,” — that what is now proven was once only imagined. These things I did not know then. He simply talked in the over-all picture.

But I did my best, and I slept mentally in Barbados in my mother’s home. I looked at the world, and saw it from Barbados. I looked at the world, and saw it from Barbados. I saw New York City two thousand miles to the north of me — northwest, for we are at a certain Latitude 13 North; New York is 42 North. We are the 59th Longitude; New York is the 74th; so I saw it northwest, as I could imagine it.

I heard the tropical noises. We call this land tropical… So, the whole atmosphere differs. Well, I put myself into that, and felt that my mother and father were in their room, and that my brothers — those who were not yet married — were in the house. It’s a huge, big, old home of ours. And there I “slept.”

This was, now, late October. When it came to the end of November, I said to Ab, I said, “Ab, I am no nearer Barbados.” He said, “You are in Barbados.” Then he turned his back on me, walked towards his bedroom, and slammed the door, which was not an invitation to follow him, if you understood Ab. He was teaching me a lesson, the lesson of faith.

If I am actually sleeping in Barbados, no power in the world could interfere with my journey to Barbados. This is, now, late November. The last ship out of New York City sailing for Barbados was the 6th of December. I wanted to get there by Christmas, and so I could not raise the question any more. But on the morning of the 4th or the 3rd of December I got a letter from my brother Victor. I did not ask him or any member of my family to bring me to Barbados.

He said, “We are, you know, a large family” — nine brothers and a sister. “We have never been united around our Christmas table at Christmas since we were a family,” — for there was an interval between my sister Daphne and the last two boys of eight years…

So, I went down to the steamship company because in the letter he said, “I’ve notified the Company to issue you a ticket; then with the $50 you buy what you need for the trip, and then sign the chips; and when the ship comes in, I will meet the ship and pay all the things that you have incurred, all the debts.”

So, when I went down to the ship company, they said to me, “I am sorry, Mr. Goddard, but I do not have a first-class passage for you. We can accommodate you third class. You have the first-class accommodation for meals, and you can have all the other areas of first class; but for sleeping, you have to move into the third class.” I said, “That’s perfectly all right with me. I’ll take it.”

I went back to Abdullah and I told him. Do you know what he did when I said, “I am going third class to Barbados, but I have the accommodations of the first for the daylight hours?”

He said, “Who told you you’re going third class? You are already in Barbados, and you went first class.” Again, he closed the door on me.

I went down to the ship the morning it sailed, on the 6th of December; and the ticket agent said to me, “Mr. Goddard, I have good news for you. We have a cancellation, and now you can go first class, but you will share it with two others. There are three in the cabin.”

“That is perfectly all right with me.” So, I went down first class.[7] [10]

Leaving aside the teaching itself, is any of this real? Mitch Horowitz has amassed considerable evidence from public records in an attempt to document the probable identity of “Abdullah,” the “black Ethiopian rabbi” with whom Neville claimed to have studied Hebrew, the Bible and the Qabalah. Horowitz has noticed that another immigrant New Thought teacher, Joseph Murphy, has recently described his own encounter with a “professor Abdullah, a Jewish man of black ancestry, a native of Israel, who knew, in every detail, all the symbolism of each of the verses of the Old and the New Testaments.”

A check of historical accounts, census records and real estate listings reveals “a plausible candidate”:

He is found in the figure of a 1920s and 30s-era black-nationalist mystic named Arnold Josiah Ford. Like Neville, Ford was born in Barbados, in 1877, the son of an itinerant preacher. Ford arrived in Harlem around 1910 and established himself as a leading voice in the Ethiopianism movement, a precursor to Jamaican Rastafarianism.[8] [11]

Ford’s Ethiopianism also taught “mental metaphysics” and mind healing, as did another movement Ford belonged to, black nationalist Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association.

Yes, Trump’s meme magic, from Peale to Neville to Abdullah, is perhaps ultimately rooted in the black nationalist movement of the 1920s; and blossoming forward, in Black Panther.

Unfortunately for the theory, as Horowitz admits, Abdullah left New York in 1931, responding to Haile Selassie’s offer of land grants in rural Ethiopia for returnees from the black diaspora. This is a period “sparse of records,” but ultimately “Ford died in Ethiopia in September 1935, a few weeks before Mussolini’s troops crossed the border.”

Since Neville claims to have met “Abdullah” in 1931 and then studied under him in New York for 5 years, it seems Ford can’t be “Abdullah,’ although the latter may simply have been a handy “composite of several contemporaneous figures, perhaps including Ford.”

Indeed, I would suggest that what Neville learned from Ford was the Hermetic tradition, and that the “Abdullah” character was an instance of a long-standing meme in which “ancient wisdom” is attributed to one or another exotic though conquered people.[9] [12]

Evola gives a historical dimension to this meme when he points out that the hermetic tradition was preserved from Christian heresy-hunters in the West only by being hidden among the Jews in the form of the Qabalah, re-emerging after the Renaissance. Neville combines both motifs by attributing his initiation to a black rabbi.

Imagination, Marcus Garvey, shipping lines; see, it all fits together!  And Ethiopia: Steve Sailer notes that Ethiopia is the most likely “real-life” parallel to Waknada, with many connections to White European Tradition:

Indeed, there really was a relatively isolated literate civilization in the mountains of northeast Africa: Ethiopia (or, as it was often known, Abyssinia).

Sailer notes Ethiopia’s unusually pleasant climate (though a lack of raw materials – not just vibranium! — has kept it in poverty). Another oddity is its people and culture; as a commenter adds:

Ethiopians a people that are black but with middle eastern features, but can also look indian. The place is filled with semitic and hamitic languages and an alphabet, fidel, that has nothing in common with any other alphabet except maybe the Armenian alphabet!

The food is unique, and based on a grain, teff, only used in Ethiopia. No rice for Ethiopians.
The calendar is different and people count the time differently, with the day in the morning at 1:00 so that 7:00 am is really 1:00 am.

The Christian religion is different too, with each church a replica of a jewish temple, each with a replica of the ark of covenant.

But back to Sailer; he notes that like many distant, exotic lands, Ethiopia has been the target of Western enthusiasms, from the Mediaeval Christians, looking for a mythical “Prester John” to join them in an alliance against Islam,[10] [13] to 1930s Japan; and he concludes his historical survey thus:

The most famous Cult of Ethiopia was the Rastafarians, who first appeared in 1930s Jamaica. They worshipped as a messiah for blacks the emperor Haile Selassie, who before his 1930 coronation had been known as Ras (roughly, “Duke”) Tafari. When the emperor stepped out of his airplane at the Jamaican airport in 1966, the poor man was so alarmed by the mob of dreadlocked ganja smokers welcoming him that he retreated back into his plane.

But what of today, Steve?

A recent tourist said, “Ethiopia is most traditional country I ever visited. A very High Tory country.” Waugh, for instance, went to Ethiopia to help him imagine what England had been like many centuries ago.

For example, it’s still 2008 in Ethiopia. Literally: Ethiopia uses its own calendar, which is more like Caesar’s Julian calendar than the newfangled Gregorian calendar that the Pope instituted in 1582. Ethiopia has twelve months of thirty days and a vestigial thirteenth month of five or six.

Ethiopia came up with the slogan “Thirteen months of sunshine” to promote tourism in the 1960s. This worked fairly well until the Communist revolution of 1974, the ensuing famines, and the current overpopulation.[11] [14]

So Ethiopia is a pretty good “objective correlative” of Wakanda; and a pretty plausible place for the Western Mystery Tradition to have arisen, survived, and been passed onto Neville.

I don’t have any reason to think that the makers of Black Panther have any connection or knowledge of Neville; however, they do seem to be part of a parallel artistic movement known as Afrofuturism [15]:

In film, Afrofuturism is the incorporation of black people’s history and culture in science fiction film and related genres. The Guardian’s Ashley Clark said the term Afrofuturism has “an amorphous nature” but that Afrofuturist films are “united by one key theme: the centring of the international black experience in alternate and imagined realities, whether fiction or documentary; past or present; science fiction or straight drama”.[12] [16]

Wallace’s New York article brings the two together thus:

The artistic movement called Afrofuturism, a decidedly black creation, is meant to go far beyond the limitations of the white imagination. It isn’t just the idea that black people will exist in the future, will use technology and science, will travel deep into space. It is the idea that we will have won the future. Afrofuturism is like, ‘We already won.’

This is the same kind of positive thinking that Donald Trump used to win the presidency despite all odds.[13] [17]

Now you are likely saying to yourself, this is just a bunch of airy-fairy. Indeed, one J. Ross, commenting on Steve’s article online, says that

[Afro-Futurism] is not harmless insofar as it facilitates a false sense of accomplishment and the wrongful denial of the accomplishments of others.

I assume you have already seen Sun Ra’s movie Space Is The Place. Recall the bit where the NASA engineer is applying at Sun Ra’s employment agency but leaves with his tail between his legs because a jazz pianist’s incoherent babble has baffled him.

Now, the Cosmology of [George Clinton’s band] Funkadelic is a different matter, because it’s really a neo-pagan morality of tolerance, connection, and sensual enjoyment, disguised with sci-fi terms.[14] [18]

This is actually an important point; when Neville decided he would be a successful public lecturer, he didn’t just imagine it, and then sit in a closet waiting for success to come to him – he went out and acted like a successful lecturer would (fake it till you make it, as the kids say). Trump didn’t just visualize himself on Air Force One and then sit back; he descended the stairs of Trump Tower and began to campaign with that image of success in mind.[15] [19]

It’s a question of generating the enthusiasm to let you set out and accomplish your goals.  In his earlier book, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life (Portfolio, 2014), Scott Adams points out that while we may not seem to control our physical surroundings, we do control our attitudes, which in turn can make it more likely we will have the enthusiasm and confidence to achieve our goals within those surroundings, thus, in effect, changing the future.

Your body and your mind will respond automatically to whatever images you spend the most time pondering.

Imagination is the interface to your attitude. You can literally imagine yourself to higher levels of energy.

My imagined future acts as a cue to keep my mood elevated today.

Don’t worry if your idea is a long shot. That’s not what matters right now. Today you want to daydream of your idea being a huge success so you can enjoy the feeling. Let your ideas for the future fuel your energy today. No matter what you want to do in life, higher energy will help you get there.

And Adams concludes with a remark that has eerie resonance with our topic today:

If you could control your attitude directly, as opposed to letting the environment dictate how you feel on any given day, it would be like a minor superpower.

Neville learned his stuff from a black, Ethiopian rabbi. Norman Vincent Peale somehow laid his hands on similar material,[16] [20] and taught it to Trump, who used it to win the Presidency by projecting the image of “I’ve already won whatever the facts are today.”[17] [21]

You can laugh all you want at Black Panther and the whole “We wuz kangz” meme; but when the black chappies use it to leapfrog over our decaying White “civilization,” just as Trump leap-kekked over the whole political/media establishment and their “can’t lose” candidate, who’ll have the last laugh?

This is why it doesn’t matter that Wakanda was an idea from a comic book, created by two Jewish artists. No one knows colonization better than the colonized, and black folks wasted no time in recolonizing Wakanda. No genocide or takeover of land was required. Wakanda is ours now. We do with it as we please.[18] [22]


[1] [23] Carvell Wallace, “Why ‘Black Panther’ Is a Defining Moment for Black America [24],” The New York Times Magazine, Feb. 12, 2018

[2] [25] See “Magick for Housewives: The Not-so New (and really quite Traditional) Thought of Neville Goddard; Aristokratia IV (2017); “Afterword to Neville Goddard’s Feeling is the Secret (Amazon Kindle, 2016); and Magick for Housewives: Essays on Alt-Gurus (Manticore: forthcoming).

[3] [26] Even to the last sentence of his last book: “There is no secular history in the Bible.  The Bible is the history of salvation and is wholly supernatural.”  Resurrection (1961).

[4] [27] This was a later development in Neville’s teaching that led to a decline in his popularity.

[5] [28] A key point.  You do not imagine the means, which are innumerable; that is for the world to decide.  You imagine the end, the goal, as if it were already accomplished, and let the means take care of themselves. As Jesus says, “I AM the Alpha and the Omega”; our feeling imagination is the link.

[6] [29] Pete: “I’m not imagining!”  Bert: “The Japanese have a saying: a man is, whatever room he is in.  And right now, Donald Draper is in this room.”  Mad Men, Season 1, Episode 10, “Nixon versus Kennedy. For more on this episode and Mad Men in general, see my collection The End of an Era: Mad Men and the Ordeal of Civility (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2015).

[7] [30] “I am all Imagination,” June 3, 1971.  You can hear it in the YouTube video, “How Abdullah Taught Neville the Law.”

[8] [31] See At Your Command: The First Classic Work by the Visionary Mystic Neville [32]; New York: Tarcher Cornerstone Editions, 2016 (includes Mitch Horowitz’s essay on Neville’s life and work, “Neville Goddard: A Cosmic Philosopher”), and my review here. [33]

[9] [34] Many earlier New Thought writers adopted such pseudonyms as Swami Pachandasi or Yogi Ramacharaka (both William Walker Atkinson). We see another form of this today in “Magic Negro” who instructs clueless White consumers about insurance or banking in many commercials.

[10] [35] See Julius Evola, The Mystery of the Grail, René Guénon, The King of the World, and The Kingdom of Agarttha: A Journey into the Hollow Earth by Marquis Alexandre Saint-Yves d’Alveydre; introduction by  Joscelyn Godwin. The significance will soon appear, that Miles Davis released a jazz-fusion LP called Agartha.

[11] [36] “The Real Wakanda” by Steve Sailer; TakiMag, February 14, 2018; here. [37]

[12] [38]  Clark, Ashley (April 2, 2015). “Afrofuturism on film: five of the best” [39]. The Guardian. Retrieved January 17, 2018.

[13] [40] See my Trump: The Art of the Meme (Amazon Kindle, 2016) and now Scott Adams’ Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter (Portfolio, 2017).

[14] [41] Synchronicity: Sun Ra and Parliament/Funkadelic were heavy influences on the Detroit music scene of the late 60s, as bands like the MC5 and Iggy & the Stooges admitted at the time. See my reflections on the White Wakanda of postwar Detroit in “Greg Johnson Interviews James O’Meara,” reprinted in my collection The Homo and the Negro: Masculinist Meditations on Politics and Popular Culture, edited by Greg Johnson (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2012; second, embiggened edition, 2017), and the title essay of my collection Green Nazis in Space! New Essays on Literature, Art, & Culture, edited by Greg Johnson (San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2015)

[15] [42] Actually, of course, I have no idea what was in Trump’s mind, but it seemed to work.

[16] [43] See my “The Secret of Trump’s a Peale,” here [44]. Peale’s late book, The Power of Positive Imaging, is essentially a re-write of Neville.

[17] [45] “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.” Hebrews, 11:1.

[18] [46] Wallace, op. cit.