What We Know About The Online Cult University Of Cosmic Intelligence

"Luminous being." "Exit Earth, enter reality." "Enlightening and illuminating the minds of the carbonated beings." Some might see language like this as pointing to a genuine spiritual practice, perhaps of the New Age variety. Others might look at the person saying such things and see a cult leader.

Rashad Jamal White (who prefers to leave his last name out) insists that he's nothing of the kind. He further insists that his organization, the University of Cosmic Intelligence, is not a cult — it's simply a website and YouTube channel where he opines on a range of scientific, historical, and religious topics. He told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch all of this from a prison cell, in the context of a story about six missing people from St. Louis with connections to his university. As of January 2024, the missing — which included two young children — had not been seen in five months.

Jamal's assurances did not assuage the families of the missing. They and investigators who spoke to Fox 2 Now were confident that Jamal and his university were implicated in the disappearances and bizarre behavior of the missing six before they vanished. But if the University of Cosmic Intelligence is a cult, what does it preach? Here's what we know about the group and its founder.

The University of Cosmic Intelligence promotes polygamy and conspiracy theories

Rashad Jamal might protest descriptions of the University of Cosmic Intelligence, but Police Major Steve Runge of Berkeley, Missouri thinks its purpose is plain as day. The only difference is where it's headquartered. "Everything's on the internet now, so why not have a cult on the internet?" he said to Fox 2 Now. A look at the organization's website shows videos on esoteric topics and spiritual memes mingling with a shop for crystals, soaps, and necklaces priced north of $100 and outgoing links to dead social media accounts.

Looking past the website, Runge found that the university promotes polygamy and antigovernment attitudes, while Vice reported that it trumpets anti-vaccine rhetoric and a concept of Black nationalism taken to the extreme. Jamal preaches that Black and Latino people are gods, and he himself is a semi-divine being on a mission to save all of Earth. He also endorses some truly strange conspiracy theories, from the idea that NBA players are robots to an alien spacecraft invading a mall in Miami (per The Guardian).

The disappearances from St. Louis aren't the first time members of the university have made the news, either. Two of them were arrested for murder in Alabama in 2022, and another was accused of killing his own mother the same year. According to Runge, neighbors of the missing St. Louis six described them as worshipping the sun and going out into their backyard naked.

The university's founder has been convicted of child molestation

Rashad Jamal's Instagram describes him as a "poet/prophet/revolutionary/luminous being." But before he founded the University of Cosmic Intelligence and adopted the persona of a demigod, he was a rapper. A Chicago native who grew up, he says, in violence and poverty and relocated to Atlanta for a music career. He has two albums, released back to back between 2022 and 2023.

Jamal claims that the death of George Floyd in 2020 moved him to speak out about his esoteric beliefs. His online spiritual activities put him in good company — Vice reported on a growing number of such figures using YouTube, TikTok, and other platforms to gain followers. And his following is among the largest. But the videos Jamal puts out for the university have been done from prison since he was arrested in 2022, and in August 2023, he was convicted of child molestation and cruelty to children following accusations brought by an ex-girlfriend who said he abused her child. Jamal had previously been convicted of domestic abuse in 2018.

Jamal, who is under an 18-year sentence, says that he's being persecuted, claims echoed by some of his followers. He also says that he never knew the six people who went missing from St. Louis and that it would be impossible for him to know everyone who tunes into his live-streamed preaching. But Cartisha Morgan, mother and grandmother of two of the missing six, drew a line between Jamal's "manipulation" and the disappearances for Fox 2 Now. "I would have never imagined that I'd never have known where my daughter and granddaughter are right now," she said.