Christian Theology

Militant Liturgies: Practicing Christianity with Kierkegaard, Bonhoeffer, and Weil

Aaron Simmons read

Traditional philosophy of religion has tended to focus on the doxastic dimension of religious life, which although a vitally important area of research, has often come at the cost of philosophical engagements with religious practice. Focusing particularly on Christian traditions, this essay offers a sustained reflection on one particular model of embodied Christian practice as presented in the work of Søren Kierkegaard. After a discussion of different notions of practice and perfection, the paper turns to Kierkegaard’s conception of the two churches: the Church Triumphant and the Church Militant. Then, in light of Kierkegaard’s defense of the latter and critique of the former, it is shown that Kierkegaard’s specific account gets appropriated and expanded in Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s account of “costly grace” and “religionless Christianity,” and Simone Weil’s conception of “afflicted love.” Ultimately, it is suggested that these three think

Religions, vol.12, no. 5 (May 12, 2021)

Simone Weil for the Twenty-First Century

Eric O. Springsted read

This in-depth study examines the social, religious, and philosophical thought of Simone Weil.

Simone Weil for the Twenty-First Century presents a comprehensive analysis of Weil’s interdisciplinary thought, focusing especially on the depth of its challenge to contemporary philosophical and religious studies. In a world where little is seen to have real meaning, Eric O. Springsted presents a critique of the unfocused nature of postmodern philosophy and argues that Weil’s thought is more significant than ever in showing how the world in which we live is, in fact, a world of mysteries. Springsted brings into focus the challenges of Weil’s original (and sometimes surprising) starting points, such as an Augustinian priority of goodness and love over being and intellect, and the importance of the Crucifixion. Springsted demonstrates how the mystical and spiritual aspects of Weil’s writings influence her social thought. For Weil, social and political questions cannot be separated from the supernatural. For her, rather, the world has a sacramental quality, such that life in the world is always a matter of life in God―and life in God, necessarily a way of life in the world.

Simone Weil for the Twenty-First Century is not simply a guide or introduction to Simone Weil. Rather, it is above all an argument for the importance of Weil’s thought in the contemporary world, showing how she helps us to understand the nature of our belonging to God (sometimes in very strange and unexpected ways), the importance of attention and love as the root of both the love of God and neighbor, the importance of being rooted in culture (and culture’s service to the soul in rooting it in the universe), and the need for human beings to understand themselves as communal beings, not as isolated thinkers or willers. It will be essential reading for scholars of Weil, and will also be of interest to philosophers and theologians.

Eric O. Springsted is the co-founder of the American Weil Society and served as its president for thirty-three years. After a career as a teacher, scholar, and pastor, he is retired and lives in Santa Fe, NM. He is the author and editor of a dozen previous books, including Simone Weil: Late Philosophical Writings (University of Notre Dame Press, 2015).

University of Notre Dame Press, 2021

The Occult Mind of Simone Weil

Simone Kotva read

This article argues that Weil’s interest in occult and esoteric subjects such as Gnosticism and Egyptian mystery religion was not an eccentric sideline to an otherwise ‘Christian’ mysticism but emerged necessarily out of her philosophical method, which, quite independently of those texts where Weil deals with esoterica, displays that pathos of hiddenness so characteristic of occultism: the notion, expressed especially clearly in her late work, that philosophy is the search for a truth hidden from the eyes of ordinary persons and accessible only to those able to endure the ordeals required to gain access into its mysteries. In the second part of the argument, I show that Weil’s ‘occultism’ was not an isolated phenomenon but symptomatic of broader trends among intellectuals at the time.

Philosophical Investigations, vol. 43, nos. 1-2, pp. 122-141.

Traces of Resurrection: The Pattern of Simone Weil’s Mysticism

Stuart Jesson read

Abstract: In her “Letter to a Priest,” Simone Weil makes the following, typically bold, assertion concerning belief in the Resurrection: “Hitler could die and return to life again fifty times, but I should still not look upon him as the Son of God. And if the gospel omitted all mention of Christ’s Resurrection, faith would be easier for me. The Cross by itself suffices me.”1 This statement has often served as an indication that Weil’s version of Christian mysticism has no place for the Resurrection. Throughout the collection of short essays, articles, and notebooks produced at the end of her life Weil reflects frequently, in profound and intriguing ways, on the significance of death, its effect on human thought, and its place in moral and spiritual life. Not only is death “the source of all untruth and of all truth for men,”2 the crucifixion of Christ becomes the center not only of her spirituality but also of her metaphysics; creation, for Weil, is the cross that crucifies God.3 In some of the more extreme formulations scattered through the notebooks, in particular, Weil gives that impression that she sees life as a cosmic mistake that it is the task of spiritual life to rectify, through acceptance of death: “Birth involves us in the original sin, death redeems us from it.”4 Death is the humiliating destiny of all finite creatures, but if one can refuse the various compulsive ways there are of evading the thought of this, and consent to, or even love this necessity, one thereby participates in the process of “decreation,” the eradication of the autonomous self.

Stuart Jesson, “Traces of Resurrection: The Pattern of Simone Weil’s Mysticism,” in T. Cattoi T. & C.M. Moreman, eds, Death, Dying, and Mysticism. Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Study of Mysticism, New York: Palgrave Macmillan (2015), pp. 49-64.

Stephen Plant on Simone Weil: Parts I & II

Stephen Plant watch

Dr. Plant is Dean and Runcie Fellow at Trinity Hall and lectures on Christian theology and on ethics in the Faculty of Divinity. He has written and edited several books including Bonhoeffer (Continuum, 2004), Simone Weil: A Brief Introduction (Orbis Books 2008), Letters to London (SPCK, 2013), and Taking Stock of Bonhoeffer ( Ashgate, 2014). From 2007-13 he edited the influential journal Theology for SPCK/SAGE. His current research includes theology and international development, on which he is writing a book for Bloomsbury Press, and the theology and life of Karl Barth. He is willing to consider doctoral students in 20th century Protestant theology, theology and international development, and political theology.

YouTube, April 22, 2012 // Part 1 here  // Part 2 here

René Girard’s Mimetic Desire as Seen in the Writings of Simone Weil

E. Jane Doering read

Rene Girard’s expansive comments apropos Simone Weil to a French journalist in 1987 give food for exploring intertwining of themes in the thought of Girard and Weil, whom he considered one of the greatest intellects of her time. I plan to expand those concepts of Weil that he admired: mimetic desire, reciprocal violence, collective victimization, Christ as the Truth, and caritas, while testing their limits, and suggest divergences of thought: on historical progress; disdain for the Old Testament, despite her Jewish ancestry; and the Revelation in respect to non-Christian societies.

In the concept of mimetic desire, Girard applauded Simone Weil’s horror of the “Great Beast” mentality, which she found even in the Church. He praises her insights into Christ’s parable of the adulterous woman for its mimetic group behavior but also for its implied concepts of punishment. The mimetic rivalry that holds primacy in her “The Iliad: A Poem of Force,” impelling the Greeks and the Trojans to destroy each other, had a decisive influence on Girard.

Girard prized Simone Weil’s “theory of the human condition,” illuminated by the Gospels: Christ incarnates the Truth; to pursue the Truth implies always going toward Him. Loving God and loving the order of the world are one, and love of neighbor must govern social decisions. Weil selflessly spent her early activist energies on encouraging marginalized workers to improve their inhuman working conditions. Weil’s concept of decreation has its model in Christ, i.e., He is the innocent, pure, victim, a model of selflessness, free consent to God’s love, and total obedience. In the Bhagavad Gita, Weil found corroboration of her ideas for minimizing violence and its contagion.

The two principal Girard texts for my presentation will be: Violence and the Sacred, and Battling to the End: Conversations with Benoît Chantre.

E. Jane Doering, “René Girard’s Mimetic Desire as Seen in the Writings of Simone Weil” at Transforming Violence: Cult, Culture, and Acculturation, (Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame University, 2010).