The Paradox of Attention

Simone Kotva read

Philosophy and theology have long harboured contradictory views on spiritual practice. While philosophy advocates the therapeutic benefits of daily meditation, the theology of grace promotes an ideal of happiness bestowed with little effort. As such, the historical juxtaposition of effort and grace grounding modern spiritual exercise can be seen as the essential tension between the secular and sacred.

In Effort and Grace, Simone Kotva explores an exciting new theory of spiritual endeavour from the tradition of French spiritualist philosophy. Spiritual exercise has largely been studied in relation to ancient philosophy and the Ignatian tradition, yet Kotva’s new engagement with its more recent forms has alerted her to an understanding of contemplative practice as rife with critical potential.

Here, she offers an interdisciplinary text tracing the narrative of spiritual exertion through the work of seminal French thinkers such as Maine de Biran, Félix Ravaisson, Henri Bergson, Alain (Émile Chartier), Simone Weil and Gilles Deleuze. Her findings allow both secular philosophers and theologians to understand how the spiritual life can participate in the contemporary philosophical conversation.

Essay in Effort and Grace: On the Spiritual Exercise of Philosophy, London: Bloomsbury Academic, pp. 131-172.

Poetry As Decreation: Impersonality and Grace in T.S. Eliot and Simone Weil

Emily M. King read

This thesis posits that however separated T.S. Eliot and Simone Weil are by circumstance, political affinity, and Church affiliation, their thoughts intersect at a crucial point. While Weil’s theory of decreation and Eliot’s notion of impersonality are often cast as theological and poetic innovations, they both hearken back to the Christian mystical tradition – specifically, the aspect of via negativa. Placed alongside one another, Weil’s poetic mysticism and Eliot’s concern for the spiritual reveal the capacity of poems to decreate and bring the reader to a moment of void that awaits the fulfillment of grace. This thesis will study these topics with express consideration of Eliot’s Four Quartets and Weil’s notebooks, especially Gravity and Grace.

Honor’s Thesis, Department of English, Stanford University, May 2019.

L’Image Chlorophyllienne de la Grâce Chez Simone Weil (The Chlorophyllic  Image of Grace in Simone Weil)

Florence de Lussy read

Abstract (English translation)

“The Greeks were haunted by the idea of grace.” Simone Weil analyses this idea on the basis of the Greek word charis understood in the sense of gratuitous gift (with no reference to the sense proposed by the Hebrew language). Her taste for science and her inclination to link sensible realities and spiritual events through analogies bring her to compare the work of grace to the phenomenon of chlorophyll assimilation (or photosynthesis). In all her texts up to the last pages of L’Enracinement, she employs a powerful framework opposing Weightiness and Grace and considers the notion of Grace in terms of the ascending energy that directs the growth of plants toward light.

Grace, vol. 17 (July 2016)

The Religious Philosophy of Simone Weil: An Introduction

Lissa McCullough read

The French philosopher Simone Weil (1909-1943), a contemporary of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre, remains in every way a thinker for our times. She was an outsider, in multiple senses, defying the usual religious categories: at once atheistic and religious; mystic and realist; sceptic and believer. She speaks therefore to the complex sensibilities of a rationalist age. Yet despite her continuing relevance, and the attention she attracts from philosophy, cultural studies, feminist studies, spirituality and beyond, Weil’s reflections can still be difficult to grasp, since they were expressed in often inscrutable and fragmentary form. Lissa McCullough here offers a reliable guide to the key concepts of Weil’s religious philosophy: good and evil, the void, gravity, grace, beauty, suffering and waiting for God. In addressing such distinctively contemporary concerns as depression, loneliness and isolation, and in writing hauntingly of God’s voluntary ‘nothingness’, Weil’s existential paradoxes continue to challenge and provoke. This is the first introductory book to show the essential coherence of her enigmatic but remarkable ideas about religion.

New York: I.B. Tauris

“War and Grace: The Force of Simone Weil on Homer”

A. Poole

Arion, 3rd series, vol. II. no1, pp. 1-15