Keywords

Mystical Experience: Women’s Pathway to Knowledge

Maria Clara Bingemer read

Abstract:  The mystical experience is generally understood as an affective one, made of love and union. The history of Christianity has been marked by this type of experience and owes to it some of its most luminous milestones and highlights. Christian mystics have been great founders, bright intellectuals, and paradigmatic figures in raising new issues for Theology and Philosophy theology, philosophy, social justice, and politics. In this article we wish to reflect and write about two issues in the vast area of mystical studies, focusing specifically on Christian mysticism:

(1) The link between mystical experience and knowledge; and

(2) Mystical experiences lived through by women as a pathway to and from knowledge. We will briefly highlight a few women mystics in order to set the stage for the topic to be further developed below.

Firstly, we will attempt to circumscribe the concept of mysticism by retrieving some of the main thoughts of scholars who have studied the mystical phenomenon and writings of individuals who experienced it. For this purpose, we will apply some elements from philosophy, but mostly from theology.

Secondly, we will pursue our reflection with the aid of thoughts by philosophers and theologians who thought and argued that mystical experience is and contains knowledge and bears not only affective and spiritual, but also intellectual, fruit. Thirdly, we will attempt to show how a significant group of women were the specific protagonists of this synthesis between experience and knowledge and how this allowed them to bring original contributions to their context and historical time.

We conclude with a detailed commentary and reflection on the French 20th-century mystic Simone Weil who, as both an intellectual and a mystic, was a pioneer in bringing a prophetic vision on some issues that would inspire society, the Church, and spiritual life many decades after her death. As such, she became a paradigmatic figure who demonstrated that intellectual ability does not entail only rational thinking, but consists in a great level of spiritual sensitivity, which brings altogether an enormous responsibility in leading humanity towards fulfilling its vocation to live fully. Our conclusions will be based on the countercultural benefits that mystical experience, as lived through by women, can bring to contemporary times.”

  • Religions, vol. 14, no.2 (Jan. 2023), p. 230.

Maria Clara Bingemer (PhD, Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome) is a noted Brazilian theologian. A full professor at Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro (PUC), she focuses her research on systematic theology, mysticism, and in particular on Latin American and liberation theology. Bingemer’s current research project is on Mysticism and Testimony: a study of knowledge, language and praxis in contemporary mysticism.

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

Doğa Çöl read

Abstract

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.

Excerpt

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)

Hannah Arendt and Simone Weil: Political Thinkers in Dialogue

Kathryn Lawson & Joshua Livingstone, eds. read

Abstract: Hannah Arendt and Simone Weil were two of the most compelling political thinkers of the 20th century who, despite having similar life-experiences, developed radically distinct political philosophies. This unique dialogue between the writings of Arendt and Weil highlights Arendt’s secular humanism, her emphasis on heroic action, and her rejection of the moral approach to politics, contrasted starkly with Weil’s religious approach, her faith in the power of divine Goodness, and her other-centric ethic of suffering and affliction.

The writings here respect the profound differences between Arendt and Weil whilst pulling out the shared preoccupations of power, violence, freedom, resistance, responsibility, attention, aesthetics, and vulnerability. Without shying away from exploring the more difficult concepts in these philosophers’ works, Hannah Arendt and Simone Weil also aims to pull out the relevance of their writings for contemporary issues.

About the editors

  • Kathryn Lawson is a Researcher at Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada. She contributes to the online archive project on Simone Weil, Attention, and is the author of several book chapters on continental philosophy, religion and Arendt and Weil.
  • Joshua Livingstone is a Researcher at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. He is author of a forthcoming book chapter on Hannah Arendt.

Related

  • Additional references to works on Weil and Arendt can be found here.

 

Eric Voegelin’s and Simone Weil’s return to Ancient Greece

Thomas Sojer read

Summary: Two enigmatic figures of 20th-century political theory, Eric Voegelin and Simone Weil, stand out with idiosyncratic receptions of ancient Greek texts. Both thinkers diagnosed that, as political agents in late modernity, we have unlearned to read world-making ancient texts and their narratives in their cosmic dimension and thus lost what has rooted European culture and history. Against this backdrop, Voegelin and Weil share ‘antidotal’ practises of combining historically and generically distinct material. These practices aim at fathoming a primordial experience at work in European narratives. With this comparative analysis of Voegelin’s and Weil’s symbolic readings (exemplified in this paper by passages from the Iliad, the History of the Peloponnesian War, and the Symposium), Thomas Sojer presents some considerations how their combinatory imagination of ancient material could supply late modern political agents with a pathos, a meaningful self-world relationship that was thought to have gone missing.

Book Review: The Ethics of Attention: Engaging the Real with Iris Murdoch and Simone Weil

Cathy Mason read

Excerpt: “‘Attention, Iris Murdoch tells us in ‘The Idea of Perfection’, is “the idea of a just and loving gaze directed upon an individual reality.’ (Murdoch 1999: 327). She takes this to be the characteristic and proper mark of moral agents, a claim that is both descriptive – a claim about what in fact characterises us as agents – and normative – a claim about how we should act, what we need to do more of in order to become better moral agents.

Silvia Caprioglio Panizza follows Murdoch in making both of these claims. Her new book The Ethics of Attention is an extended discussion of the role and importance of attention within our moral lives. Panizza here draws on the work of Murdoch and Simone Weil to explore the nature and moral importance of attention. This commonplace and recognisable activity, she suggests, is both essential for accessing moral truth and also morally significant in and of itself. Moreover, it is ‘fundamental to morality’ (16) in that many of the other things we care about morally (such as moral knowledge and moral motivation) are well-understood as depending on attention.'”

Cathy Mason is an Assistant Professor in Philosophy at Central European University.

Questioning Greece with Heidegger and Simone Weil

Maria Villela-Petit read

Abstract: “In this book a long-time student of phenomenology and of Greek art and philosophy stages a “loving quarrel” between two daring thinkers who loved Greece but had diametrically opposed interpretations of its legacy. Maria Villela-Petit brings out unsuspected strengths in Simone Weil’s readings of Homer, Plato, and Greek Tragedy and unsuspected weaknesses in Heidegger’s historical construction and the tradition of German philhellenism which shaped it.”