Eastern Philosophy-Spirituality

God as the other within: Simone Weil on God, the self and love

Doğa Çöl read


Simone Weil (1909-1943) is a French philosopher who is also a prominent figure in the tradition of Christian mysticism. In her early philosophical writings and lectures, she describes her understanding of the aim of philosophy as “the Search for the Good”. Very much influenced by Plato, Descartes and Kant, Weil states that God as the absolute Good is beyond known truths and can only be reached through Love. This treatment of love as a destructive power whereby the Self effaces itself in order to get closer to God, echoes a somewhat mystical scheme. Weil believes that the only way to reach such knowledge and therefore God, which in her view is the sole purpose of life and should also be the purpose of philosophy. This dissertation focuses on the grounds that bring her to such conclusions as well as providing an analysis of whether Weil’s philosophical approach as an alternative to metaphysical and ethical problems in philosophy is able to stand firm on its own.


With that in mind, the first chapter of this dissertation is on the nature of the self or what we refer to as the ‘I’ which is a good starting point because anything that an individual contemplates begins with either an explicit or an implicit ‘I’ which is inevitable by any being that would be classified as human. This is perhaps, in a way, our curse as Weil later notes, because we are able to contemplate our very own being as well as the only beings who are also aware of the implications of affliction that we face in our lives. This is not true for other beings, either animals who feel pain but do not contemplate the metaphysics of pain, or God and other supernatural beings who are said to not feel pain. As this is a dissertation of philosophy, it is vital that I must try to keep an open mind regarding definitions and beliefs of supernatural entities insofar as Weil engages with the concepts as such, however it is also important that I try and present an analysis of the way they are defined. This is the reason why the first two chapters include all the major religious and philosophical influences that Weil shares with us in her work. In this way, we will be able to not only revisit and examine but also compare those thoughts and ideas fresh in our minds. It is perhaps one of the most important aspects of a philosophical investigation that we must try and capture the essence of a problem before embarking on a journey where that problem presents other problems with it in its natural habitat.

The nature of self is, thus, first examined in the light of Plato’s works and how Plato presents a concept of the ‘I’ or rather what he understands from this concept. Plato’s understanding of the self is characterized in three parts, the λογιστικόν, the θυμοειδές and the ἐπιθυμητικόν, or the parts related to reason, to spirit and to desire, which make up the tripartite soul. The tripartite soul is the foundation for further investigation regarding the self and consciousness. Through examination of these ideas within Plato’s relevant body of work, a deeper understanding of Weil’s influence of Plato’s concept of the self will be reached. The aim is to look at primary sources but then compare these ideas with Weil’sinterpretation of them in her esoteric view.

DOCTORAL THESİS (Philosophy Department)

Philosophy Doctoral Programme

Thesis Advisor: Prof. Dr. Fatma Hülya Şimga

İstanbul / T.C. Maltepe University Graduate Institute (May, 2023)

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).


War, Suffering, and Detachment: Reading the Bhagavad Gītā with Simone Weil

Maria Clara Bingemer read

Maria Clara Bingemer states she desires to do two things in her essay: “trace the personal and intellectual background against which Weil came to read the Gita” and “discuss some of the main themes which surface in her critical engagement with the text.”  To this end, she begins with a brief biographical overview focusing on Weil’s encounter with the Gita. She then turns to a general discussion of how the Gita served as a source of inspiration for Weil, especially in the sense of contradiction giving rise to a spiritual crisis, which can lead to religious transformation through the vehicle of grace. The next section focuses on incarnation and salvation noting similarities and differences between Hinduism and Christianity in the understanding of these. A discussion of the distinction between force and violence in Weil’s work comes next followed by an in-depth discussion of necessity, detachment, and enlightenment. The chapter concludes with a thoughtful consideration of Weil’s critique of the Gita.

The essay appears in Catherine Cornille, ed., Song Divine : Christian Commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita, Leuven, Peeters (2006), pp. 69-89

ht: Simone Weil Bibliography

Simone Weil, the Gita and the Upanisads

D.J. Jensen read

“This thesis is a study of the influence of the Bhagavad-Gita and the Upanishads on the religious and philosophical thought of Simone Weil. It will examine the major tenets of Weil’s thought in an attempt to determine where Weil was influenced by the teaching of these texts and where she rejected them. Chapter One will be a brief introduction to Weil’s relationship to the Gita and the Upanishads. Chapter Two will look at Weil’s cosmology paying particular attention to her concepts of decreation, necessity gravity, and grace. It will then look at the Indian notions of dharma, karma, and the Samkhya teachings found in the Gita in an attempt to determine where she was influenced by these concepts and where she rejected them. Chapter Three will look at Weil’s views on knowledge paying particular attention to her notions of reading, levels of reading, and levels of knowledge. It will then look at the teachings on knowledge in the Gita and the Upanishads in an attempt to determine their influence on Weil’s thought. Chapter Four will examine Weil’s soteriology, including her views on ‘actionless action’, detachment and affliction. It will then turn to these concepts in the Upanisads and Glta again looking for ways in which they influenced Weil. Chapter Five will draw together the preceding chapters, in an attempt to assess the overall influence of the Bhagavad-Gita and the Upanishads on Weil’s thought. It will conclude with suggestions for further study of Weil’s work.”

Unpublished Masters Thesis (University of Calgary), 1989

ht: University of Calgary Online Library (Simone Weil)

“Simone Weil and The Indian Religious Tradition”

Norman Hendricks read

This work explicates and analyzes the writings of Simone Weil and their relation to Indian religious tradition. Initially, it examines the extent and nature of her interest in India. It then outlines exactly what she said about Indian religious writings, in particular, the Bhagavad Gita and Upanishads. The bulk of the study analyzes these interpretations as well as her total religious vision in relation to Indian spirituality.

Ph.D. Dissertation, McMaster University (Dec. 1971)