CESNUR - center for studies on new religions
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The 2002 CESNUR International Conference

Minority Religions, Social Change, and Freedom of Conscience

Salt Lake City and Provo (Utah), June 20-23, 2002

SIMONE WEIL:  Kenotic Thought and "Sainteté Nouvelle"

J. Edgar Bauer
A paper presented at CESNUR 2002, Salt Lake City & Provo. Preliminary version. Do not reproduce or quote without the consent of the author

"[...] elle m´avais exposé un certain nombre d´arguments pour et contre sa conversion au catholicisme, et je lui avais répondu:  'Au fond, tes arguments seraient exactement les mêmes si tu pensais à te convertir à l´hindouisme, à l´islam, au bouddhisme, etc.'  Elle avait répliqué:  'Oui, c´est à peu près ce que je pense.'"

André Weil on his sister, Simone Weil.[1]

simone weil1.  In her relatively short life, Simone Weil (1909-1943) created a body of work whose intellectual scope and acuity are remindful of religious thinkers such as Blaise Pascal or Søren Kierkegaard.  Since no book by Simone Weil appeared in her lifetime and only a few of her writings were intended for publication, a noteworthy reception of her ideas took place only when selections of her notes, diaries and fragments began to be published posthumously after World War II.[2]  Among the most prominent of her assiduous readers was Pope Paul VI.[3]  Throughout the second half of the last century, Simone Weil's œuvre has drawn critical attention from authors as diverse as Albert Camus, Czeslaw Milosz and Susan Sontag.  Given that the publication of Simone Weil's complete works is still underway, the present interpretive elucidations  concentrate on some key texts of her mature thought with the intention of outlining the overall design of her central religious concerns. 


2.  Simone Weil's intellectual and existential search encompassed several of the major religious and sapiential traditions.  Since her religiosity was imbued by Greek thought, Gnosticism, Chinese wisdom, Christian mysticism, and Indian philosophy, it is not surprising that scholars have been especially attentive to her perceptive elaborations on the universal truths informing these -- at first sight -- hardly compatible spiritual worldviews.  The obvious difficulties in determining Simone Weil's personal religious stance has often led the students of her work to content themselves with assessing her  predilection for certain historical forms of religion and analyzing the psycho-social determinants of her religious self-identification.  Neither the historicist nor the psycho-biographical approach, however, has sufficiently explored her critical view of past and present religions, let alone the implications of her critique of religion for the kind of religiosity she envisioned in the future.  On these assumptions, the following considerations focus on her relentless critique of religion and its power structures in the name of a kenotic conception of a future and    -- in a way -- timeless religiosity.


3.  Simone Weil was born in Paris on February 3, 1909, and died of the consequences of starvation and tuberculosis on August 24, 1943, in Ashford, England.  She and her brother André (1906-1998), one of the foremost mathematicians of the 20th century, were raised in the agnostic atmosphere of an assimilated Jewish home.  Having been one of the most brilliant disciples of the French philosopher Alain  (Émile Chartier) (1868-1951), Simone Weil eventually became a teacher.  Her intellectual and spiritual development was deeply influenced by her experience as a factory worker, by her decision to fight against the royalists in the Spanish Civil War, as well as by her critical involvement with Marxism, trade-unionism and pacifism.  In spite of her religious and metaphysical propensities, she remained throughout her life mostly ignorant of Jewish practice and Talmudic thought.  Tellingly, her only visit to a synagogue -- which happened to be one of Ethiopian rite -- took place at the time of her exile in New York, a year before her death.[4]  In view of her general attitude toward Judaism, the French Catholic philosopher Gabriel Marcel characterized her as a  "practically de-judaised Jewess,"[5] while Jewish authors, mindful of her criticism of the Old Testament[6] and of the Jewish idea of election, have penned books with titles such as Simone Weil ou la haine de soi [7]  or Simone Weil:  Portrait of a Self-Exiled Jew [8], in which the influence of the all too superficial schemes of Theodor Lessing's treatise Der jüdische Selbsthaß [9] [literally:  The Jewish Selfhatred] is apparent.  Against the generalized  tendency to read Simone Weil's critique of Judaism as an act of self-hatred,  the following remarks aim at interpreting her critical stance as a creative radicalization of the Jewish rejection of idolatry that constitutes the very heart of prophetic monotheism.[10]    


4.  People who met Simone Weil in different periods of her life were often inclined to consider her a "saint."[11]  Even her own brother used the term when he pointed out that "[...] her vocation or role or business in life from a very early age was to be a saint, and from an early age she trained herself quite consciously for that purpose."[12]  Such views are not surprising if one considers some well-established data concerning her life and personality.  At the age of five, for instance, she expressed a kind of symbolic solidarity with the French soldiers at the front during World War I by refusing to eat sugar and wear socks.  This decision of the child resonates with the one taken by the adult Simone Weil of limiting her diet to the rations available for the French living in the occupied territory, thereby causing the tuberculosis and malnutrition of which she died.[13]  Those who on account of her ascetic solidarity regard her as a saint, however, can invoke no historical religion that could sanction such a claim.[14]  Although the hagiographical assessments of Simone Weil are based to a large extend on a Christian conception of saintliness, the very fact that she explicitly rejected baptism excludes her by principle from the possibility of being acknowledged as a Christian saint.[15]  Besides, her refusal of nourishment and the consequent imperilment of her own life can hardly be interpreted as corresponding  to the established views of the major Christian denominations regarding suicide.  Not surprisingly, a cautious student of  Simon Weil's work like T.S. Eliot carefully nuances his estimate in this respect by pointing out that hers was "a kind of genius akin to that of the saints."[16]   Others like Michele Murray recur to the problematic concept of "secular saint" with its implication of a religionless Christianity as propounded by the German protestant theologian and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer.[17]  Contrasting with the pleas in favor of Simone Weil's candidacy for Christian saintliness, Simone Weil herself clearly questioned the very assumptions that could sustain such a questionable honor.  In Attente de Dieu[18] she noted:  "Aujourd´hui ce ne rien encore que d´être saint, il faut la sainteté que le moment présent exige, une sainteté nouvelle, elle aussi sans précédent."[19] [Today, it is still nothing to be a saint, what is needed is the saintliness which  the present moment demands, a new saintliness, without precedent.]  Shortly after, she pointed out that the new type of saintliness "[...] c´est presque l´analogue d´une révélation nouvelle de l´univers et de la destinée humaine."[20] [is almost the analogy to a new revelation of the universe and of human destiny.]


5.  In Simone Weil's life, religion played a dominant role in the years following the mystical epiphanies she experienced in 1938.  Long before, however, her wish to partake in the suffering of the distressed led her to a life-style of  extreme austerity.  It was under these circumstances that, in 1937, Simone Weil became increasingly attracted to Christianity, a religion she considered to be in its true essence a religion of slaves, and therefore in utter contradiction to the actual form it had taken in history.  On this assumption, Simone Weil objected against Catholicism -- the denomination she knew best and respected the most  --[21]  that it had ended by perverting itself for the sake of power.  The historical  "double stain" on the Church that Simone Weil denounces originates in the fact that Israel imposed on Christian believers the acceptance of the Old Testament and its almighty God, and  that Rome chose Christianity as the religion of the Empire.[22]  Despite its universal redemptive mission, the Church became from its very beginnings heir of Jewish nationalism and of the totalitarianism inherent in Imperial Rome.  As the spiritual locus in which both traditions of power displaced the religion of powerless slaves, Christianity became the actual negation of its own  foundational leitmotiv:   the self-annulment of divine omnipotence by the godly act of kenosis or self-abasement.


6.  The first sentence of Simone Weil's book Pensées sans ordre concernant l´amour de Dieu[23]  runs:  "Il  ne dépend pas de nous de croire en Dieu, mais seulement de ne pas accorder notre amour à de faux dieux."[24] [It does not depend upon us to believe in God, but only not to give our love to false gods.]  Correspondingly, Simone Weil stresses that the rejection of idolatry does not presuppose a positive belief in the one God,[25] but just the refusal to identify the divine with power.[26]   More than just rejecting a plurality of gods,[27] the anti-idolatrous stance dismantles the assumption that omnipotence, and  not the good  kat´exochen is the essential attribute of the Godly.[28]  Since Simone Weil regarded Jewish nationalism as a variety of the "idolâtrie sociale"[29] [social idolatry] at work in the illegitimate self-assertions of the Roman Empire, it is not surprising that she epitomized the God named by the Tetragrammaton as "un faux dieu"[30] [a false god] and repeatedly deprecated  the people of Israel.  Despite the plethora of her negative assessments in this regard, however, Simone Weil's view of the Hebrew Bible is in fact much more nuanced than most of her critics seem prepared to acknowledge.  In the first place, Simone Weil contended that the Old Testament is divided in two great unities by the foundational experience of Exile.  While the Hebrews in pre-Exilic times did not worship God as the Good, and, in consequence, were not able to distinguish between God and the devil,[31] those living after the Exile introduced in their narratives insights deriving from Chaldean, Persian and Greek wisdom that contradicted the idolatry inherent in their past beliefs.  Thus, Simone Weil praises the Book of Job as "une pure merveille de vérité et d´authenticité"[32] [a pure marvel of truth and authenticity], and characterizes Daniel as "le premier être pur"[33] [the first pure (human) being].   She further asserts that the prophet Isaiah was the first one to bring "de la lumière pure"[34] [pure light] and that some of his "paroles fulgurantes"[35] [shinning words] concerning the Suffering Servant urged her to believe.  More importantly, Simone Weil disregarded at times her own historical scheme of the Old Testament, and acknowledged in crucial junctures the presence of  true insight in clearly pre-Exilic texts.  In a passage of  Lettre à un religieux,[36] for instance, she considers the Song of Songs and certain psalms as untainted by the false idea of God and expands the list of sacred texts acceptable to her to include Tobit and the beginning of the Book of Genesis.[37]  In La Pesanteur et la Grâce[38]  Simone Weil will even antedate the appearance of emblematic figures of purity and include among them Abel, Enoch, Noah and Melchizedek.[39]  Lastly and more importantly, in a passage of  Intuitions pré-chrétiennes[40]  Simone Weil acknowledged in the "I am" of the Torah the true name of God.[41]  In light of these significant nuances, her approach of Judaism, far from being a token of Jewish self-hatred, is indicative of a self-critical intelligence prepared to question generally cherished assumptions for the sake of the truth it relentless searches.  In the last resort, Simone Weil's intellectual endeavors are remindful of the anti-idolatrous, self-critical tradition that was grounded by the Hebrew prophets and that her older contemporary Arnold Schönberg (1874-1951) certainly bears in mind when Moses, in the libretto of  his dodecaphonic opera Moses und Aron, [42]  exposes even the Burning Bush as a mere image that

"give[s] not to the body
what it needs with regard to spirit,
nor to the soul what is sufficient
for its self-denial
with regard to eternal life."[43]   


7.  While missing a "Iaveh suppliant"[44] [supplicant Jahveh] in the Old Testament, Simone Weil does not actually call in question Israel's divine election, but limits its purpose to a uniquely paradoxical fact:  "Israël a été élu seulement en un sens, c´est que le Christ y est né."[45] [Israel has only been elected in one sense, namely that Christ was born therein.]  In her view, this fact is a source of perplexity because Jesus embodies the consequent negation of Israel's prevalent self-understanding as a people elected by a God of Power.  While regarding the Christian cross as the token of God's own renunciation of divine omnipotence, Simone Weil emphasizes that this godly self-abasement was already utterly real in the initial act of creation, for it entailed God's self-limitation in face of the world being brought into existence.  Clearly, Simone Weil's contentions regarding God's own finitization draws on the originally Kabbalistic conception of God's "retreat" from His own infinity in order to leave makom  (i.e., room or space) for the emergence of the creational world.[46]  Against this background, the overcoming of power-worshiping idolatry evinces itself as the human re-enactment of God's twofold self-negation as manifested in the act of primal recession and on the cross of the godly doulos  [slave].   Since the denial of the idolatrous God occurs paradigmatically as God's own self-abandonment to non-being, the negation of the idea of a particular or national election necessitates the principled de-realization of human power.  On this account, original Christianity appears as an instantiation of the  "catholic," i.e., universal religion of  God's self-renouncement as achieved by the kenosis of His Logos.


8. Simone Weil is perhaps the first Jew in history to have an experience of mystical union with Jesus[47] without having been baptized and previous to a definitive rejection of baptism.  In 1938, she reported that, during a meditative recitation of George Herbert's poem Love bade me welcome, "le Christ lui-même est descendu et m´a prise"[48] [Christ himself came down and took me].   Although Simon Weil claimed that neither the senses nor the imagination had any part in this mystical encounter, she felt "la présence d´un amour analogue à celui qu´on lit dans le sourire d´un visage aimé"[49] [the presence of a love similar to that which one reads in the smile of a loved face].  It seems safe to assume that the remembrance of this experience was the kernel of the short narrative which Simone Weil wrote before leaving Marseille for America in May 1942[50] and was first published after her death as the "Prologue" [Prologue] of  La connaissance surnaturelle.[51]  In this mysteriously elusive text that has been characterized as a "fable,"[52] an unnamed "he" commands the narrator to kneel in front of an altar "comme devant le lieu où existe la vérité" [as in front of the place where truth exists].  Although the narrator has made clear from the start that "Je n´ai pas été baptisée" [I have not been baptized], she will eventually eat bread and drink wine with the unnamed one.   The intricacies of the brief episode seem to reflect a passage in La Pesanteur et la Grâce where Simone Weil, depicting her stance with regard to the Catholic Church, contends that in order to accomplish its much needed "nettoyage philosophique" [philosophical cleaning] one would have to be "dedans et dehors" [inside and outside].[53]  Correspondingly, the narrator of the "Prologue" appears to be "outside" by the fact of not having been baptized, and at the same time "within" on account of her worship of truth.  Even though the numinous setting of the whole occurrence is sealed by a meal remindful of the one held in Emmaus according to the Lucan Gospel,[54] Simone Weil was careful to underline in a text titled "Autobiographie spirituelle"[55]:   "[...] je trahirais la vérité, c´est-à-dire l´aspect de la vérité que j´aperçois, si je quittais le point où je me trouve depuis la naissance, à l´intersection du christianisme et de tout ce qui n´est pas lui."[56] [I would betray the truth, that is, the aspect of truth that I perceive, if I would abandon the point where I am since my birth, at the intersection of Christianity and all that which is not it.]  It hardly needs to be stressed that Judaism belongs to the non-Christian factors in her life which determined her being "outside" by birth.  From Simone Weil's stance, the decision to remain her life long at a religious crossroad constituted the indispensable conditions for undertaking the task of cleansing religion from the idolatry of power.


9.  Viewed as a whole,  Simone Weil's religious thought is structured by the tensional relationship between obedience and criticism.  Thus, while stressing that  "la crucifixion du Christ est le modèle de tous les actes d´obéissance"[57] [the crucifixion of Christ is the model of all acts of obedience], she underscored throughout her writings the need for the mind to exert its critical capacities wherever the issue of power is at stake.  From this perspective, the free assumption of the obedient condition of a slave is the sine qua non for fully deploying the critical might of intelligence against oppression.  Since such a critical slave obeys, but not with his intelligence, Simone Weil never compromised her probity by submitting her intellect to ecclesiastical authority.  While Francis of Assisi and other great saints of the Christian tradition surrendered their minds, wills and actions to the power of the Church, Simone Weil was not prepared to assume her enslaved condition within an ecclesiastical setting of hierarchical obedience, but only in the alienating world of ordinary life.  Not having submitted her intellect to a Church that she considered to be at the origin of the present-day "malaise de l´intelligence"[58] [uneasiness of the intelligence], Simone Weil was free to expose the religious power structures that pervert the redemptive movement of  kenosis.  Against this background, her dictum "la Croix seule me suffit"[59] [the Cross alone is enough for me] is indicative of her willingness to assume the kenotic condition in order to unmask the Church's idolatrous transformation of the cross into a symbol of theo-political power.  Hence, it was not hubris or the "sin of pride" -- a favourite topos of her Catholic commentators -- that prompted her to remain outside the Roman Church.  Rather, the decision was a strict consequence of her kenotic religiosity informed by the gift of her relentlessly anti-idolatrous intelligence.


10.    The kenotic and critical use of the mind remits to God's self-annihilation as manifested in the abasement of the "Médiateur" [mediator], the term Simone Weil uses to translate and interpret the Johannine Logos.   This Mediator neither transfers nor transmits divine power, but rather discloses the metaphysical emptiness of power that results from God's finitization.  Being devoid of power, the Mediator is a slave who embodies the human point of  non-activity where pure attentiveness faces evil and overcomes it by the sole means of  its full recognition.  Since "la pureté est le pouvoir de contempler la souillure"[60] [purity is the power to contemplate defilement], only the attentive contemplation of evil is redemptive and elicits the essential content of universal religion.  On these assumptions, Simone Weil rejects the idolatrous hypostatizing of historical contingencies that has led to the dogmatic self-understanding of Christianity and to its exclusion policy as expressed in the ecclesiastical anathema sit.[61]  Given that only the religion of pervasive kenosis can be truly universal, no single historical individual can exhaust its fullness by virtue of his redemptive acts, and no religious institution can grasp and articulate its meaning by means of dogmatic or doctrinal teachings.   In the last resort, it is in the name of religious universalism that Simone Weil calls for a reversion of historical Christianity to its origins as a religion of kenosis.        


11.  Simone Weil's primary concern with the existential common ground of religion and the universal perspective of redemption, has led her numerous critics and detractors to accuse her of syncretism and eclecticism, and, consequently, of being incapable of assessing the uniqueness of the Christian message.  Typically, one of such critics decries her as a  "demi-Christian mystic" whose religion was a "syncretist melange of Gnosticism, Christianity, Hinduism and Greek speculation."[62]   This sort of criticism  bluntly overlooks the fact that Simone Weil, while acknowledging the fundamental  differences between historical religions, undertook the eminently philosophical task of determining the quintessential core where historical religions converge, and claimed that this core constituted the criterion for judging how religions have deployed their redemptive messages throughout history.  Having disclosed the kenotic thrust of religion as its essence,  Simone Weil was able not only to explore the grounds common to atheistic and theistic religions, but also to re-assess the religious relevance of the atheism that underlies Western secularism.  Far from being disquieted by atheism, she contended that to repeat to oneself  the idea "que (Dieu) n´existe pas"[63] [that God does not exist] constitutes a method of religious purification.  Such an idea is of course not just an hypothetical assumption designed to support spiritual asceticism, but corresponds to Simone Weil's fundamental premise that God's kenosis entails the de-realization of His existence.  Ultimately, the kenotic insight resumed in her assertion that "la Croix seule me suffit" [the Cross alone is enough for me], attains its full deployment in the a-theological dimension resulting from God's self-finitization.[64] 


12.  In unyielding opposition to the authoritarian pretensions of a Church that demands intellectual surrender to its dogmas and regards itself as the "patrie terrestre"[65] [earthly fatherland] of its members, Simone Weil's kenotic thought leads up to an a-theology of exile that copes with the paradox of becoming rooted in God's absence.[66]  Refusing to acquiesce in the spiritual comforts that the traditions of Judaism and Christianity claim to offer, Simone Weil stresses the need for a form of saintliness without precedent in history.  The "sainteté nouvelle"[67] [new saintliness] she envisaged assumes that the search for redemptive truth can only take place on the basis of complete freedom of thought, and dismisses the ideal of a sacrificium intellectus on the altars of organized religion as perhaps the most fundamental  perversion in the long history of the Church.  If one bears in mind the scope and import of Simone Weil's contentions, it is hardly surprising that, in her view, the needed new saintliness presupposes a greater geniality than that of Archimedes.[68]  Tellingly, her a-theological demarche toward the redemptive universality of kenosis could be paralleled at most with Franz Kafka's strategy of overcoming power by taking refuge in what he called "das Kleine" [the small].[69]  In a brief passage that Elias Canetti[70] considers akin to a Taoist text, Franz Kafka explains what "small" meant to him:

"Zwei Möglichkeiten:  sich unendlich klein machen oder es sein.  Das zweite ist Vollendung, also Untätigkeit, das erste Beginn, also Tat." [71]

[Two possibilities:  to make oneself infinitely small or to be (such).  The second one is perfection, therefore non-activity; the first (is) beginning, therefore action.]        

For her part, Simone Weil, in one of her last essays, wrote:

"Toujours le même infiniment petit, qui est infiniment plus que tout." [72]

[Always the same infinitely small, which is infinitely more than all.]        




[1] [Weil, André:]  Le mathématician André Weil parle de sa sœur avec Malcolm Muggeridge.  In: Little, J.P. et A. Ughetto (Eds.):  Simone Weil.  La Soif de l´Absolu. Marseille:  Sud (Revue Littéraire) No. 87 / 88, 1990, p. 17.  Translation by the author:  "[...] she had propounded to me a certain number of arguments for and against her conversion to Catholicism, and I replied to her:  'Basically, your arguments would be exactly the same if you would be planning to convert to Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, etc.'  She answered:  'Yes, that is more or less what I think.'" 

[2]  Cf. White, George Abbott:  Simone Weil's Bibliography:  Some Reflections on Publishing and Criticism.  In:  White, George Abbott (Ed.):  Simone Weil.  Interpretations of a Life.  Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1981, pp.  181-194. 

[3] Cf.  McLellan, David:  Utopian Pessimist.  The Life and Thought of Simone Weil.  New York / London / Toronto / Sydney / Tokyo:  Poseidon Press, 1990, p. 268:  "[...] Paul VI is said to have counted Weil, together with Pascal and Bernanos, as one of the three most important influences on his intellectual development."

[4] Cf. Cameron, J.M.:  The Life and Death of Simone Weil.  In:  White, George Abbott (Ed.):  Simone Weil.  Interpretations of a Life, op. cit., p. 36.  

[5] Marcel, Gabriel:  Simone Weil.  In:  The Month, Vol. 2, No. 1 (July 1949), p. 18.

[6] Significantly, Simone Weil usually does not refer to the "Torah," but to the "Old Testament," the name applied by Christians to their canonical  revision of the Hebrew Bible.  For a brief overview of the difference between the two cf.:  Bloom, Harold:  Preface on Names and Terms.  In:  Bloom, Harold:  The Book of J.  Translated from the Hebrew by David Rosenberg.  Interpreted by Harold Bloom.  New York:  Vintage Books, 1991, pp. 3-5.   

[7] Giniewski, Paul:  Simone Weil ou la haine de soi.  Paris:  Berg International, 1978.

[8] Nevin, Thomas R.:  Simone Weil:  Portrait of a Self-Exiled Jew.  Chapel Hill:  University of North Carolina Press, 1991.

[9] Lessing, Theodor:  Der jüdische Selbsthaß[1930].  München:  Matthes & Seitz, 1984.

[10] Among the few commentators that could possibly share this assessment is T.S. Eliot, who pointed out:  "She was intensely Jewish, suffering torments in the affliction of the Jews in Germany; yet she castigated Israel with all the severity of a Hebrew Prophet.  Prophets, we are told, were stoned in Jerusalem: but Simone Weil is exposed to lapidation from several quarters."  (Eliot, T.S.:  Preface.  In:  Weil, Simone:  The Need for Roots.  Prelude to a Declaration of Duties towards Mankind.  With a Preface by T.S. Eliot.  London:  Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd., 1952, pp. vii-viii.)

[11] Referring to an episode that occurred in 1917, Simone Pétrement writes:  "Cette vieille bonne dit un jour:  'Simone, c´est une sainte.'  Ce fut sans doute la première fois que cette parole fut prononcée." (Pétrement, Simone:  La vie de Simone Weil.  Avec des lettres et d´autres textes inédits de Simone Weil.  Paris:  Fayard, 1973, p. 29.)

[12] White, George Abbott:  Introduction.  In:  White, George Abbott (Ed.):  Simone Weil.  Interpretations of a Life, op. cit., p. 11.

[13] Cf. Murray, Michele:  The Jagged Edge:  A Biographical Essay on Simone Weil.  In:  White, George Abbott (Ed.):  Simone Weil.  Interpretations of a Life, op. cit., p. 26-27.

[14] Thus Susan Sontag writes:  "Some lives are exemplary, others not; and of exemplary lives, there are those which invite us to imitate them, and those which we regard from a distance with a mixture of revulsion, pity and reverence.  It is, roughly, the difference between the hero and the saint (if one may use the latter term in an aesthetic, rather than a religious sense).  Such a life, absurd in its exaggerations and degree of self-mutilation—like Kleist's, like Kierkegaard's—was Simone Weil's." (Sontag, Susan:  Review of  Selected Essays by Simon Weil, translated by Richard Rees.  Oxford University Press.  The New York Review of Books.  February 1, 1963.  Source:  http://www.nybooks.com/articles/13783 [Site accessed 7 May 2002])

[15] Cf. the unequivocal position on this issue of Simone Weil's  friend and biographer Simone Pétrement:  "Elle n´a jamais eu, même une fois, même une seconde, la sensation que Dieu la voulait dans l´Église." (Pétrement, Simone:  La vie de Simone Weil, op. cit., p. 616.)

[16] Eliot, T.S.:  Preface.  In:  Weil, Simone:  The Need for Roots, op. cit., p. VI.

[17] Murray, Michele:  The Jagged Edge:  A Biographical Essay on Simone Weil.  In: White, George Abbott (Ed.):  Simone Weil, op. cit., p. 21.

[18] Translated under the titles:  Waiting on God (London:  Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1951); and Waiting for God (New York:  Putnam's Sons, 1951).

[19] Weil, Simone:  Attente de Dieu.  Préface de J.M. Perrin.  Paris:  Fayard, 1966, p. 81.

[20] Weil, Simone:  Attente de Dieu, op. cit., p. 81.

[21] Cf. T.S. Eliot's assessment:  "I must affirm that there is no trace of the Protestant in her composition:  for her, the Christian Church could only be the Church of Rome."  (Eliot, T.S.:  Preface.  In:  Weil, Simone:  The Need for Roots, op. cit., p. viii)

[22] Weil, Simone:  Lettre à un religieux. Paris: Gallimard, 1974, p. 49.

[23] Literally:  Thoughts without order concerning the love of God.

[24] Weil, Simone:  Pensées sans ordre concernant l´amour de Dieu.  Paris:  Gallimard, 1968, p. 13.

[25] Cf. Weil, Simone:  Pensées sans ordre concernant l´amour de Dieu, op. cit., p. 42.

[26] Cf. Weil, Simone:  Pensées sans ordre concernant l´amour de Dieu, op. cit. , p. 48.

[27] In her contention that the belief in God is not a prerequisite for salvation Simone Weil coincides with Hermann Cohen, one of the great theological thinkers in Jewish history.  Cf. Cohen, Hermann:  Religion der Vernunft aus den Quellen des Judentums.  Nach dem Manuskript des Verfassers neu durchgearbeitet und mit einem Nachwort versehen von Bruno Strauß.  2. Auflage.  Leipzig:  Fock, 1929.  Nachdruck:  Wiesbaden:  Fourier Verlag, 1978, p. 384:  "Solange die ewige Seligkeit noch an bestimmte Glaubensbedingungen gebunden ist, ist nicht nur sie selbst illusorisch, sondern mit ihr auch die sittliche Gleichberechtigung der Menschen, mithin die wahrhaftige Humanität.  [...]  Durch unseren Satz [...] wird die Seligkeit dem Menschen an sich zugesprochen, und die Bedingungen des Menschentums werden nur innerhalb der reinen menschlichen Sittlichkeit bestimmt.  Der Glaube an den einzigen Gott wird nicht gefordert, sondern nur die Enthaltung von Gotteslästerung und vom Götzendienst, der jedoch seinen positiven Nebenanteil an der Verletzung der Sittlichkeit hinsichtlich der Keuschheit hat."

[28] Cf. Weil, Simone:  Pensées sans ordre concernant l´amour de Dieu, op. cit., p. 48.

[29] Weil, Simone:  Pensées sans ordre concernant l´amour de Dieu, op. cit., p. 51.

[30] Weil, Simone:  Lettre à un religieux, op. cit.,  p. 72.

[31] Cf. Weil, Simone:  Pensées sans ordre concernant l´amour de Dieu, op. cit., p. 55.

[32] Weil, Simone:  Pensées sans ordre concernant l´amour de Dieu, op. cit., p. 89.

[33] Weil, Simone:  Pensées sans ordre concernant l´amour de Dieu, op. cit., p. 57.

[34] Weil, Simone:  La Pesanteur et la Grâce.  Paris:  Plon, 1979, p. 167.

[35] Cf.  Weil, Simone:  Lettre à un religieux, op. cit.,  p. 62.

[36] Translated under the title:  Letter to a Priest  (London:  Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1953 and New York: Putnam's Sons, 1953).

[37] Cf.  Weil, Simone:  Lettre à un religieux, op. cit.,  p. 71.

[38] Translated under the title:  Gravity and Grace  (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1952 and New York:  Putnam's Sons, 1952).

[39] Weil, Simone:  La Pesanteur et la Grâce, op. cit., p. 166.

[40] Translated under the title:  Intimations of Christianity  (London:  Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1957).

[41] Cf.  Weil, Simone:  Intuitions pré-chrétiennes.  Nouvelle édition.  Paris:  Fayard, 1985, p. 137.   The relevant passage reads:  "Dieu seul a le droit de dire ‘Je suis’;  ‘Je suis’ est son nom et n´est le nom d´aucun autre être."  Cf. especially Exodus 3, 14.  Unfortunately, Simone Weil does not draw the philosophical consequences of her assertion when dealing with Israel's pre-Exilic "false god."

[42] For an analysis of the critical import of the libretto cf.:  Bauer, J. Edgar:  Arnold Schoenberg:  The Minority of the "Inconceivable God."  A paper presented at The 1998 CESNUR International Conference, Torino, Italy.  In:  Torino: Website of CESNUR / The Center for Studies on New Religions: www.cesnur.org/2002/bauer.htm, 2002.

[43] Schoenberg, Arnold:  Moses und Aron.  Oper in drei Akten.  Mainz, London, New York, Tokyo:  Schott, 1957, p. 31:  "[...] dem Leib nicht geben, / was er braucht gegen den Geist, / der Seele, was deren Wunschlosigkeit / zu ewigem Leben genug ist."   The passage is taken from the third act of the opera.  The translation is by the author.

[44] Weil, Simone:  Pensées sans ordre concernant l´amour de Dieu, op. cit., p. 50.

[45] Weil, Simone:  Pensées sans ordre concernant l´amour de Dieu, op. cit., p. 52.

[46] Cf. on this issue:  Scholem, Gershom:  Schöpfung aus Nichts und Selbstverschränkung Gottes. In:  Scholem, Gershom:  Über einige Grundbegriffe des Judentums.  Frankfurt am Main:  Suhrkamp Verlag, 1970, pp. 53-89;  Scholem, Gershom:  Zehn unhistorische Sätze über Kabbala.  In:  Scholem, Gershom: Judaica 3.  Studien zur jüdischen Mystik.  Frankfurt am Main:  Suhrkamp Verlag, 1981, pp. 264-271; Scholem, Gershom G.:  Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism.  New York:  Schocken Books, 1961, Fifth and Sixth Lecture ("The Zohar") and Seventh Lecture ("Isaac Luria and his School").

[47] For the biographical background of this experience cf.:  Pétrement, Simone:  La vie de Simone Weil, op. cit., pp. 456-457.

[48] Weil, Simone:  Attente de Dieu, op. cit., p. 45.

[49] Weil, Simone:  Attente de Dieu, op. cit., p. 45.

[50] Interestingly, C. Durand, in reference to this narrative, writes:  "Visiblement, Simone Weil s´est épanchée dans cette méditation et nous a livré son cœur: on peut le [= ce texte] considérer un peu comme son Mémorial."  (Durand, C.:  Attente et refus du baptême.  In:  Perrin, J.-M. (Ed.):  Réponses aux questions de Simone Weil.  Paris:  Aubier / Éditions Montaigne, 1964,  p. 60.)  

[51] Weil, Simone:  La Connaissance Surnaturelle.  Paris:  Gallimard, 1950, pp. 9-10.  Literal translation of the title:  Supernatural Knowledge.

[52] du Plessix Gray, Francine:  Simone Weil.  London:  Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2001, p. 224.

[53] Weil, Simone:  La Pesanteur et la Grâce, op. cit., p. 134.

[54] Cf. especially Luke 24: 28-35.

[55] Literally:   Spiritual Autobiography.  

[56] Weil, Simone:  Attente de Dieu, op. cit., p. 54.

[57] Weil, Simone:  Attente de Dieu, op. cit., p. 190.

[58] Weil, Simone:  Lettre à un religieux, op. cit.,  p. 70.

[59] Weil, Simone:  Lettre à un religieux, op. cit.,  p. 62.

[60] Weil, Simone:  La Pesanteur et la Grâce, op. cit., p. 124.

[61] Cf. on this issue:  Bauer, J. Edgar:  "Häresie":  Religionskritische Thesen zur Auflösung des Begriffs im Geiste des Judentums.  In:  Pieper, Irene, Michael Schimmelpfennig, Joachim von Soosten (Hrsg.): Häresien. Religionshermeneutische Studien zur Konstruktion von Norm und Abweichung. München:  Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 2003, S. 169-188.

[62] Murray, Michele:  The Jagged Edge:  A Biographical Essay on Simone Weil.  In: White, George Abbott (Ed.):  Simone Weil, op. cit., p. 28.

[63] Weil, Simone:  La Pesanteur et la Grâce, op. cit., p. 25.  Then, the sentence follows:  "Eprouver qu´on l´aime, même s´il n´existe pas."

[64] In another passage Simone Weil confirms her basic stance when she confesses:  "[...] toutes les fois que je pense à la crucifixion du Christ, je commets le péché d´envie."  (Weil, Simone: Attente de Dieu, op. cit., p. 62.)

[65] Weil, Simone:  Attente de Dieu, op. cit., p. 78.

[66] Cf. Weil, Simone:  La Pesanteur et la Grâce, op. cit., p. 47.

[67] Weil, Simone:  Attente de Dieu, op. cit., p. 81.

[68] Cf. Weil, Simone:  Attente de Dieu, op. cit., p. 81.

[69] Cf. on this issue:  Bauer, J. Edgar: Franz Kafka:  Power, Religious Minorities, and the Inception of Existence.  A paper presented at The CESNUR 1999 International Conference, Bryn Athyn College, Bryn Athyn,  Pennsylvania, U.S.A.  In:  Torino:  Website of CESNUR / The Center for Studies on New Religions: www.cesnur.org/2003/bauer_kafka.htm, 2003. 

[70] Cf. Canetti, Elias:  Der andere Prozeß.  Kafkas Briefe an Felice.  München – Wien:  Carl Hanser Verlag, 1984, p. 89.  Generalising, Canetti also writes:  "Doch der einzige, seinem Wesen nach chinesische Dichter, den der Westen aufzuweisen hat, ist Kafka." (p. 89.)

[71] Kafka, Franz:  Gesammelte Werke.  Herausgegeben von Max Brod.  Taschenbuchausgabe in sieben Bänden.  Frankfurt am Main:  Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, 1976, Vol. 6:  Hochzeitsvorbereitungen auf dem Lande und andre Prosa aus dem Nachlaß, p. 38.

[72] Weil, Simone:  Écrits de Londres et dernières lettres.  Paris:  Gallimard, 1957, p. 108.


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