Ibn ‘Arabi and the Contemporary West Beshara and the Ibn ‘Arabi Society By Isobel Jeffery-Street (Sheffield, UK and Oakville, CT: Equinox, 2012. 298 pages.)

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G. A. Lipton

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Abstract

Although the thought of the Andalusian Sufi Muhyi al-Din ibn ‘Arabi (d.
1240) has become increasingly popular in the West during the last century,
only very recently has there been any attempt to analyze his contemporary reception.
Isobel Jeffery-Street’s recent study on Ibn ‘Arabi in the West – with
its dual focus on the Beshara School “for the study of esoteric education” and
the Muhyiddin Ibn ‘Arabi Society – offers a fecund starting place for such
analysis, since these interrelated institutions have been two of the most significant
sources for the growing Western recognition of Ibn ‘Arabi over the
last thirty years.
Ibn ‘Arabi’s eclectic, unitive metaphysics has a long-standing and popular
correlation with the so-called doctrine of waḥdat al-wujūd (the Unity of Existence
[or Being]), although he never used such particular phraseology.1Nevertheless,
the book’s conceptual lynchpin and that of the Beshara School itself
is formed around this idea, which the author blithely reifies as central to Ibn
‘Arabi’s “complex Neo-Platonic Gnostic system” (p. 6, n. 13). As if directly
reflecting the variegated discourses from which Beshara emerged during the
1970s, this study combines rather antiquated categorizations of “Oriental Sufism”
(p. 6) with New Age rhetoric of global spiritual revival. Accordingly,
Jeffery-Street aims ...

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