This article discusses the world of inter-war black alternative spirituality in Chicago through an examination of the philosophies of the Moorish Science Temple of America. This influential movement flourished in a dozen American cities in the late 1920s and was active in city politics, community uplift, and the promotion of black business ventures. Previously misconstrued as a cynical confidence game that preyed on poor southern migrants, or alternatively, as the result of African Muslim cultural survivals or Muslim proselytizing in the United States, the exact meaning of Moorish Science to believers is still largely unknown. To shed light on this religion, this study pieces together the earlier religious texts from which the Moorish prophet, Noble Drew Ali, plagiarized his own scripture, the Holy Koran of the Moorish Science Temple. These texts, the Aquarian Gospel and a Rosicrucian work, Unto Thee I Grant, link Moorish Science to a whole network of alternative spiritualities that focused on the power of the individual to bring about personal transformation through mystical knowledge of the divine within. Using the context of other spiritual groups and people using these same books, the article suggests possibilities as to how the Moors may have understood the prophet's teachings. Further, this study examines the surrounding economy of popular knowledge about the Muslim world, Africa, alternative world histories, and mystical fraternal philosophies that inter-war Chicagoans must have shared with the prophet in order to have found meaning in Moorish Science. This context of popular knowledge goes a long way in explaining why believers accepted the prophet's ideas and his public representations of his beliefs through his use of exotic costumes, names, and symbols. This world of alternative beliefs in inter-war black communities of the North has not been fully appreciated in scholarly literature. But this world is the real story behind the mystery of the Moorish Science Temple since it demonstrates how sophisticated were the mystical lives of many black southern migrants in the years after the Great Migration.
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