Sun Ra

Here’s Sun Ra’s reading list and guest lecture from 1971 at UC Berkeley

I've never wanted to go to tutorial more in my life.

- Jul 30, 2014

Back when Sun Ra still graced this dimension with his presence, the avant-garde Afrofuturist and his "Arkestra" taught a class/concert hybrid at UC Berkeley called Afro-American Studies 198: The Black Man in the Cosmos. It's not that crazy: Though he was training to be a teacher in college, Herman Poole Blount dropped out and changed his name to Sun Ra following an out-of-planet visit to Saturn.

Members of Sun Ra's Arkestra would make sure none of the students recorded the classes. Luckily for us, someone managed to get one of them on tape, for Sensitive Skin Magazine to post the audio. Just as Sun Ra likely predicted! Hear the whole thing below:

John F. Szwed, author of Space Is The Place: The Lives And Times Of Sun Ra, describes the sort of thing student could expect:

"Sun Ra wrote biblical quotes on the board and then ‘permutated’ them—rewrote and transformed their letters and syntax into new equations of meaning...His lecture subjects included Neoplatonic doctrines; the application of ancient history and religious texts to racial problems; pollution and war; and a radical reinterpretation of the Bible in light of Egyptology."

His class also came with a reading list, up below via Open Culture. Szwed notes that many students would complain of the books being too difficult to find, and Sun Ra would respond that it was the point, because they contained "the secret history of the earth."

If you'd like to know more about the secret history of the earth, here's the official Sun Ra syllabus:

The Egyptian Book of the Dead


Alexander Hislop, Two Babylons

The Theosophical works of Madame Blavatsky

The Book of Oahspe

Henry Dumas, Ark of Bones

Henry Dumas, Poetry for My People

Black Fire, An Anthology of Afro-American Writing

David Livingston, Missionary Travels

Theodore P. Ford, God Wills the Negro

Rutledge, God’s Children

Stylus, vol. 13, no. 1 (Spring 1971)

John S. Wilson, Jazz. Where It Came From, Where It’s At

Yosef A. A. Ben-Jochannan, Black Man of the Nile and His Family

Constantin Francois de Chasseboeuf, Comte de Volney, The Ruins, or, Meditation on the Revolutions of Empires, and the Law of Nature

The Source Book of Man’s Life and Death (Ra’s description of The King James Bible)

Pjotr Demianovitch Ouspensky, A New Model of the Universe. Principles of the Psychological Method in Its Application to Problems of Science, Religion and Art

Frederick Bodmer, The Loom of Language. An Approach to the Mastery of Many Languages,

Blackie’s Etymology

And if you want to know more about Sun Ra himself, here's our Primer.

Sun Ra - Nuclear War

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