In conversation with Jane Clark, we are reminded about the mysterious nature of الله سبحانه و تعالى (Allāh) as the source of Guiding Light. Jane, a Senior Research Fellow of the Muḥyiddīn Ibn ʿArabī Society, co-founder of the Journal of Consciousness Studies, and currently editor of the Beshara Magazine, an independent non-profit organization that serves as a platform for intelligent and thought-provoking material on unity in the contemporary world, first stepped onto the path of spirituality not as a seeker, but as a hardwired scientist agnostic raised as an atheist. Similar to Jane’s series of life events, we are taken alongside in recollection, from physics to Ibn al-ʿArabī’s metaphysics.
In 1974, Jane was at the brink of giving up her PhD, finding herself, like many of us do, in a profession (as a physicist) stuck at the fork of dissatisfaction. Around this time, she went on a car-ride to Gloucestershire—enticed by the country’s offering of stunning and varied countryside. Coincidently, she joined a study group at Swyre farm reading what came to be known as 29 pages: an introduction to Ibn al-ʿArabī. Although ungrounded in any kind of theology with little intellectual understanding of what was being said at the time, subliminally, she knew, a deeper calling and invitation. Three years later, after a serious motor bike accident, she enrolled in an intensive eight month course of study on Ibn al-ʿArabī at the mystical grounds of Swyre farm.
Jane’s foundational grounding was in Ibn al-ʿArabī, under the mentorship of Bulent Rauf, a Turkish Ṣufī with a strong connection toالشيخ الأكبر (al-shaykh al-ʾAkbar). Ibn al-ʿArabī’s teachings were the basis for the unified perspective. Intentionally, the study of metaphysics continued with the Christian tradition, Bhagavad Gita, Tao de Ching, and the like. A means of expansivity. Can one recognize the unity within other traditions? At the same time, let go or not get fixated on a belief?
With Jane, together we traverse the paved road of digital archives; the why and how there are now over 3,000 copies of manuscripts in digital form today. Our conversation highlights and distinguishes the role of books as a conduit to personal transformation, bridging each individual to receive directly from الوجه الخاص (al-wajh al-khāṣ), the ‘particular face’ of God. Jane paints the imagery of a private umbilical cord between each person and the One Reality. There is no intermediary. The connection, the transmission, is direct. In context, what is fascinating, is the large number of original manuscripts that have been preserved, either written by or attested to by Ibn al-ʿArabī, from around 800 years ago! Almost 66 to count and the knowledge, as Jane reminds us, is in the books.
Enfolding and unfolding in discourse are Ibn al-ʿArabī’s renowned texts: الفتوحات المكية (Futūḥāt al-Makkīyah) and theفصوص الحكم (Fuṣuṣ al-Ḥikam), connecting us back to disciples including Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī, Moa'yyad al-Din al-Jandī, and ʿUsman Yaḥya.
Most pronounced is Jane’s exposition on Ibn al-ʿArabī teachings on love; “He and Rūmī are completely at one really on this matter.” Everything is underpinned by love.
We journey in and through with Jane, from the Beshara School back into the web of knowledge preservation and sharing, circling and backtracking, to the four elements constituting Beshara’s residential courses at the time: working with the mind; meditation; work as service to others and the world; and, devotional practice. Full embodiment of the human constitution of thoughts, emotions, and bodily feelings. Experiential knowledge beyond intellectual standing. Deepening integration. Connecting, receiving, directly from the One. Reminded, once again: “The written heritage has an extraordinary pedigree.”