Zack was born in Egypt and had a materially privileged, though lonely, upbringing at a time when Islam was more tolerant, open-minded and progressive. At a young age he discovered the joy of reading all kinds of literature in his father’s marvelous library and the world of books became his refuge and later his life’s calling pursued through academic studies.
During the tumultuous times following the revolution in Egypt in the 1950’s, after his family lost most of their possessions and his father died, Zack put all of his efforts into his academic studies hoping to win a scholarship to study abroad. At the age of 20 he realized this dream and found himself doing post-graduate work in Germany. There he became acquainted with Sri Aurobindo’s Yoga through a German compilation, “Der Integrale Yoga” and felt these inspired words filling a void that all his intellectual pursuits had not been able to.
A profound turning point came when halfway through his doctoral program he fell into a severely debilitating depression where life had no more purpose. At a crucial moment of despair he remembered the Integral Yoga book and gazed at Sri Aurobindo’s photo which shifted something deep within, leading slowly but surely out of the depression and into the beginnings of his spiritual life. In Germany he met and married his wife, a fellow scholarship holder, but soon found an insurmountable conflict growing between his outer married life and inner spiritual life. Though his wife was sympathetic and they continued the marriage for 30 years, moving from Germany to Cairo, to the U.S., in the end they parted as dear and respected friends and Zack was free to pursue his sadhana unencumbered. This led him to Auroville, back to the U.S., to Switzerland, back to Cairo, changing life paths, careers and relationships, still finding the challenge of the outer circumstances at odds with the inner ideal.
Finally at the end of a short visit to Auroville 10 years ago, he received the Adesh, the inner command (and in this case also the outer command) of what he ultimately understood to be a kind of fulfillment of his life’s purpose: to translate Sri Aurobindo and Mother’s works into Arabic. In 2008, Zack returned to the Lodi Ashram and devoted half his time to Ashram work and half to his translation work and to the development of his website which served as a vehicle of outreach into the Arab and Islamic world, to allow some Light of Sri Aurobindo’s teachings to penetrate into the chaos and barbarism of fundamentalism that is raging there. The translation work continued to expand with the publication of 3 books and numerous essays and articles. He continued to grapple with ways to reach the Islamic psyche in a non-threatening way, inviting Muslim readers to perceive the possibility of a spirituality that grows naturally out of the Islamic faith into a wider Light.
In Zack’s words, “The reason I have left Egypt to spend my remaining years in an ashram dedicated to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother is that I find this ashram to be, for me, the most suitable place to deepen, in and around myself, that solid peace… the peace on which, in the long run, a divine life can be established on earth”.
Below are links to Zack’s various writings, many autobiographical. Hope you may enjoy reading through–it is quite a legacy and testament to this unique and beloved child of the Mother. Plans are underway to keep Zack’s website alive and well in perpetuity so that his work may continue to inspire those in the Arab world and elsewhere.
On Personal Spiritual Development