Awaiting God (218 pages) combines a fresh translation (by Weil scholar, Brad Jersak) of Simone Weil's Waiting for God and Letter to a Priest (Attente de Dieu and Lettre un Religieux) in one volume. These works are considered Weil's primary essays and letters. In addition, Simone Weil's niece has contributed an introductory article entitled, Simone Weil and the Rabbi's: ComAwaiting God (218 pages) combines a fresh translation (by Weil scholar, Brad Jersak) of Simone Weil's Waiting for God and Letter to a Priest (Attente de Dieu and Lettre un Religieux) in one volume. These works are considered Weil's primary essays and letters. In addition, Simone Weil's niece has contributed an introductory article entitled, Simone Weil and the Rabbi's: Compassion and Tsedekah, which puts Weil's relationship with Jewish thought into perspective. She includes source material from the Rabbis that put Weil (however reluctantly) in line with rabbinical thought throughout her major themes. The book is the ideal English introduction to the works and thought of Simone Weil, including important preface material (by Jersak) on how to read her work, as well as her relationship to Roman Catholicism and Judaism. Table of Contents • Translator's Preface • Introduction by Sylvie WeilPart 1 — Essays 1. Reflections on the Right Use of School Studies in View of the Love of God 2. The Love of God and Affliction 3. Forms of the Implicit Love of God a. Love of Neighbor b. Love of the Order of the World c. Love of Religious Practices d. Friendship e. Implicit and Explicit Love 4. Concerning the Our Father Part 2 — Letters • Preface to her letters: Weil on Catholicism and Judaism 5. Hesitations Prior to Baptism 6. Hesitations Prior to Baptism 7. Departure from France 8. Spiritual Autobiography 9. Intellectual Vocation10. Last Thoughts11. Letter to a PriestA clarification: This work is distinct from "Waiting for God". "Waiting for God" itself is a collection which includes all of the above essays and letters, except "Letter to a Priest", which is usually published separately....
|Title||:||Awaiting God: A New Translation of Attente de Dieu and Lettre a Un Religieux|
|Format Type||:||Kindle Edition|
|Number of Pages||:||204 Pages|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
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Awaiting God: A New Translation of Attente de Dieu and Lettre a Un Religieux Reviews
I begin my review with a quote from David Benner, who offered me the inspiration to finally read Weil first hand after reading her citations repeatedly in the writings of various contemplative authors, including Richard Rohr who has obviously been inspired by Weil. Benner is speaking about the importance of paying attention in the contemplative journey: “Prayerful paying attention is not scrunching up our willpower and tightening our focus, but simply opening our self to what we encounter. This makes it much more an act of release than effort. We release any attempt to control attention and instead allow it to be absorbed by our present experience. This insight lies right at the heart of the profound spiritual wisdom found in the teaching and life of Simone Weil. No one has taught me more about what it means to pay attention as a way of being open to God. A French Jew born in 1909, Simone Weil was trained as a philosopher but subsequently spent most of her short adult life working in a car factory, labouring in the French vineyards, serving with the Spanish Republican Army on the Catalonian front and working with the French Resistance during the Nazi occupation of France – all while writing some of the most brilliant and profoundly spiritual books to emerge from the twentieth century”.With such high praise from Benner, I began searching for my first Weil book to read. When I came across one that was translated by one of our Soulstream partners Brad Jersak (who committed his doctoral dissertation to studying the writings of Weil), I launched into what has been one of the most mysterious, provocative, disturbing, and unravelling reading challenges that I have encountered in recent years. It became immediately obvious to me that Weil was a philosopher and obviously well-versed in the classic literature, particularly Greek literature. She is not an easy read by any stretch. It is rare when I have to read a book as carefully and deliberately as I had to read this one in order to be able to mine the many gems dispersed generously throughout. Unfortunately, I can only refer to a few in this “brief” review.It seems to me that Weil stands above her peers by her integrity – her integrity of intellect and of desire. Her intellectual integrity led to her the deliberate decision to remain outside of the church, a decision she goes to great lengths to try to explain to her mentor and priest for whom she had very obvious high esteem. Yet was not at all shy to challenge him on many fronts. From her vantage point outside of the church, she is able to analyze and critique not only the church but also the Christian religion for the ways in which it has been contaminated by the church, particularly by the unholy alliance that the Roman Emperor Constantine made with the church in the 4th century A.D. My decision to leave the church just over one year ago has not been without many unanswered questions of my own and a perpetual awareness of how words are so limited whenever I try to offer reasons to other people for my decision. In reading Weil discuss many of her reasons for remaining outside of the church, I found myself resonating with many of them and felt like I had found in Weil an understanding and compassionate friend. I have found that one of the most desirable consequences of leaving the church has been my increased affinity with others who by means of their own intellectual integrity have been unable to embrace God through the church or even religion but have nevertheless exhibited more passion in their spiritual search than so many placid Christians I know that appear locked in their many certitudes and religious pride. As Weil explains her reasons for refusing Catholic baptism , she declares that “no thought troubles me more than separating myself from the immense and afflicted mass of unbelievers. I have the essential need— and I think I can say the vocation— to mingle with people and various human cultures by taking on the same ‘color’ as them, at least to the degree that my conscience does not oppose it. I would disappear among them until they show me who they really are, without disguising themselves from me, because I desire to know them to the point that I love them just as they are”. I was in large part compelled to leave the church because I had increasingly found myself losing my identity in the evangelical culture. Being removed from the church has been very difficult in spite of all of the freedom it has granted me. So often I have felt like I have lost a part of who I am. Only in the past year have I become aware of the extent to which my identity was so much wrapped up in my allegiance to the church. I now see that I could not have realized this while still immersed in it. I have always been fascinated by Richard Rohr’s repeated warnings of the dangers of what he calls “religious belonging systems”. Weil has given me a new understanding and appreciation of these dangers. I can only offer this provocative quote to offer some idea of the dangers that Weil recognized to be inherent in such religious belonging systems: “All things carefully considered, I believe they come down to this: what scares me is the Church as a social thing . . . I have in myself a strongly gregarious spirit. I am by natural disposition extremely easily influenced in excess, and especially by collective things. I know that if in this moment I had before me twenty German youth singing Nazi songs in chorus, part of my soul would immediately become Nazi. It is a very great weakness of mine . . . I am afraid of the patriotism of the Church that exists in the Catholic culture. I mean ‘patriotism’ in the sense of sentiment analogous to an earthly homeland. I am afraid because I fear contracting its contagion. Not that the Church appears unworthy of inspiring such sentiment, but because I don’t want any sentiment of this kind for myself. The word ‘want’ is not accurate. I know— I sense with certainty— that such sentiment of this type, whatever its object might be, would be disastrous in me. Some saints approved the Crusades and the Inquisition. I cannot help but think they were wrong. I cannot withdraw from the light of conscience. If I think I see more clearly than they do on this point— I who am so far below them— I must allow that on this point they must have been blinded by something very powerful. That something is the Church as a social thing. If this social thing did such evil to them, what evil might it not also do to me, one who is particularly vulnerable to social influences, and who is infinitely feebler than they?” Later in this book Weil clarifies the limits of intellectual integrity in the realm of mystery and further emphasizes that the intellect can only find its proper good in subordination to love. Despite her profound intellect, she is perhaps first a mystic and only secondly a philosopher. I was even more profoundly impacted by her integrity of desire. As a contemplative wannabe, I have become persuaded of the many deficits and limitations of all human initiative, especially when inevitably contaminated by human pride, achievement, and competition. I loved her declaration of the fundamental pre-eminence of God’s initiative in the closing pages of this book: “The idea of God’s quest for man is a splendour and unfathomably profound. When it is replaced by the idea of man’s quest for God there is decadence”. The contemplative believes that God’s initiative is most profoundly discovered in our desire. Weil iwa so committed to the integrity of desire as the most reliable evidence of God’s initiative with in her, that she was resistant to doing anything, no matter how apparently good or righteous, in the lack of such desire. “I suppose it was my waning desire as much as anything that propelled me out of the church. Yet how could I explain as legitimate grounds for leaving that I just didn’t feel like going to church anymore – to myself much less anyone else? How sweet to my soul were the following words of Simone (for by the end of reading her book, I truly felt like I was on a first name basis with her!): “God rewards the soul that focuses on Him with attention and love, and God rewards that soul by exercising a rigorous compulsion on it, mathematically proportional to this attention and love. We must abandon ourselves to this pressure, and run to the precise point where it leads, and not a single step further, not even in the direction of what is good. At the same time, we must continue to focus on God, with ever more love and attention, and in this way obtain an even greater compulsion — to become an object of a compulsion that possesses for itself a perpetually growing portion of the soul. Once God’s compulsion possesses the whole soul, one has reached the state of perfection. But no matter what degree we reach, we must not accomplish anything beyond what we are irresistibly pressured (compelled) to do, not even in the way of good.”Clearly the only means by which God can convey his will to us through our desires is if we are fully attentive and aware. Such awareness comes only to a soul willing to wait. In another book (An Anthology), Weil speaks of the value of attention: “Attention, taken to its highest degree, is the same thing as prayer. It presupposes faith and love. Absolutely unmixed attention is prayer”. She goes on to speak of the face of beauty behind which God is so often concealed. It is in our attention to beauty that we so often awake to the presence of God in our world. Weil invites us to consider how “The beauty of the world is the tender smile of Christ to us through matter. He is really present in universal beauty. Love of this beauty proceeds from God and descends into our souls and goes out to God present in the universe. It too is something like a sacrament.” Weil is controversial. She is bold in confronting both the church and the parts of the Bible that she views as inconsistent in representing the God of love which Jesus embodies. As a Jew, she is harsh in her treatment of the Jewish religion: “In the view of the Hebrews (at least before the exile, with few exceptions) sin and affliction, virtue and prosperity, were inseparable, which makes Yahweh an earthly father rather than a heavenly Father, visible rather than invisible. He is therefore a false god. A single act of pure charity is impossible under that conception”.Not covered in this review is the attention that Weil gave in her writing to the plight of the afflicted. In this book she made this reflection: “The capacity to pay attention to an afflicted person is something very rare, very difficult; it is nearly a miracle. It is a miracle. Nearly all those who believe they have this capacity do not. Warmth, movements of the heart, and pity are not sufficient.” I conclude this review by continuing the biographical sketch began with the quote by David Benner. In her life, Simone exhibited an exceptional compassion for the suffering of others. It has been told that at the age of six, she refused to eat sugar after she heard that soldiers fighting in World War I had to go without. It was believed that she may have died from tuberculosis during WW II, possibly exacerbated by malnutrition after refusing to eat more than the minimal rations that she believed were available to soldiers at the time. Her life has an ironic parallel to the life of Jesus (although in entertaining this comparison, I am in no way trying to raise her to God-like status) in that she was well acquainted with physical suffering (she suffered from poor health throughout her life), established herself as a scholar at the ripe age of 12 (the age at which she was proficient in ancient Greek) and then died in her early 30s. Although perhaps a bit of a stretch in continuing with this unusual comparison (which for some strange reason I find difficult to resist) is the fact that, according to her biographer (as quoted on Wikipedia), Simone Pétrement, “ Weil decided early in life that she would need to adopt masculine qualities and sacrifice opportunities to have love affairs in order to fully pursue her vocation to improve social conditions for the disadvantaged. From her late teenage years, Weil would generally disguise her ‘fragile beauty’ by adopting a masculine appearance, hardly ever using makeup and often wearing men's clothes”. If Weil had a love life, perhaps it was with Francis of Assisi, whom she adored: “I fell in love with St. Francis since I first came to know about him. I have always believed and hoped that some day fate would drive me into the life of a vagabond and beggar that he entered freely”. While in Assisi in the spring of 1937, Weil experienced a religious ecstasy in the same church in which St Francis had prayed. Perhaps her love of St. Francis is what endeared Weil to Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest who has perhaps more than any other single contemplative teacher influenced my own contemplative journey.
I listened to this as an audiobook which is not the way to take in a contemplative mystic, but it got me over the hump. I have had several failed attempts to read Waiting For God, and the audio got it done for me. I'm now on my second listen through and will likely consult my old paperback copy (different translation). I appreciate Weil's honesty as she weighs her understanding of spirituality against Catholic dogma and attempts to go where her reasoning takes her. She is spiritual but not religious par excellence.
Simone Weil's writing is an exemplar of offering philosophical acuity to the tasks of spiritual ascesis and theological discipline. By far my favorite essay in this collection is the first, in which Weil's ability to weave philosophical learning and precision with spiritual discipline is at its height. She argues in this essay -- which, I believe, is paradigmatic for the whole collection to follow -- that all of education should serve as training in the virtue of "attention". Attention, understood as the work of suspending one's own predispositions and preferences so that the subject at hand can work on one's understanding, is training for the goal of the Christian life: prayer. Through giving oneself and one's attention to academic tasks -- mathematics, science, history, philosophy, theology -- especially when they are not one's preference, one fosters the virtue of attending to that which transcends oneself so that one might be changed through such an encounter.Weil rightly argues that this is a fundamental virtue of prayer, and prayer is possible only insofar as we learn attention. The following chapters deal with various topics under a similar rubric: the nature of affliction, service to the poor, the Catholic faith.The second part of the book is comprised of letters to her priest, mostly describing her conflicting feelings about becoming baptized. She was never baptized, and in these letters the reader listens in on penetrating self-analysis and rigorous reflection on the nature of the church and her perceived failings in its truly being "Catholic."A very worthwhile read.
I love Simone Weil. I love her self-sacrificial compassion, her faith, and her honesty. I think every Christian should read her stuff.