Mysticism

Philosophy, out of Bounds: The Method and Mysticism of Simone Weil

Carmen Maria Marcous read

ABSTRACT: The purpose of this study is exposition on the themes of method and mysticism in the work of Simone Weil. Nearly a decade before the onset of her first mystical experience, Weil developed a method to be rigorously applied in daily philosophical reflection. She outlines this method in her dissertation on Descartes (1929-1930). I examine the question of how Weil applied method to philosophical reflection on her mystical experiences (onset 1938-1939). I analyze Weil’s mystical experiences as a type of transformative experience in L. A. Paul’s strict sense of the term. On Paul’s view, an experience is transformative if it is both epistemically and personally transformative. An experience is epistemically transformative if the only way to know what it is like to have it is to have it yourself. An experience is personally transformative if it changes your point of view, including your core preferences (Paul, 2014).

I present a thought experiment and textual evidence to motivate the claim that Weil’s mystical experiences meet Paul’s conditions for transformative experience. I then propose two epistemological facts that can be revealed by philosophical reflection on mystical experience. First, it is possible to read meaning erroneously in the appearances of things. Second, it is possible to come to hold to the certainty of a conviction for reasons that elude the intellect. My findings suggest that Weil’s late views on philosophy accommodate these two epistemological constraints, thereby demonstrating a possible connection between Weil’s mystical experiences and her mature views on the nature, scope, and proper method of philosophy. However, my preliminary findings also suggest that Weil’s early work on method may have anticipated these epistemological obstacles prior to the onset of her first mystical experience. Thus, further exposition of Weil’s method is needed to support or elucidate the claim (Rozelle-Stone and Davis, 2021) that Weil’s epistemology underwent significant changes because of her mystical experiences.

Carmen Maria Marcous a Dissertation submitted to the Department of Philosophy in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Florida State University, College of Arts and Sciences (2022).

Simone Weil and George Herbert on love through poetry

H. Roberts read

Abstract: In two letters written shortly before she sailed from Marseille in May 1942, Simone Weil reveals the profound impact George Herbert’s ‘Love (III)’ had on her. When reciting the poem to herself during intense headaches, she had a religious experience that involved Christ descending and taking her up. This article offers a comparative case study of focused attention on poetry as a form of prayer leading to a religious experience. It offers a close reading of ‘Love (III)’ through the lens of Weil’s philosophical and spiritual writings from the last year of her life and vice-versa. The beauty of poetry on Weil’s account is analogous to the beauty of the world and hence can approach human expression of God’s will or the ineffable order of the universe.

Forum for Modern Language Studies (2022)

The mysticism of the ordeal of the absence of God in the context of the Second World War. The case of Simone Weil and Etty Hillesum

Pierre Gillouard read

Based on the study of the writings of Simone Weil and Etty Hillesum during the Second World War, this article intends to identify the characteristics of an unprecedented moment in the history of mysticism where the experience of God’s presence is irreducibly associated with the ordeal of his absence in the events of this world. If this link between the experience of absence and that of presence echoes the classic image of John of the Cross’s “dark night”, its conceptualisation in both Simone Weil and Etty Hillesum reveals two emerging features that break with the earlier mystical tradition. On the one hand, the ordeal of absence is no longer experienced as a purifying punishment inflicted by God himself, but rather as the ordeal of contemporary reality where God is recognised as the Absent One “par excellence”. On the other hand, the experience of presence does not put an end to that of absence, so that one can speak of the concomitance of the absence and the presence of God in the mystical experience of the 20th century.

Dans Études théologiques et religieuses 2022/1 (Tome 97), pages 49 à 65

 

Attention in Simone Weil’s Thought

Zahra Qasemzadeh, Seyyed Mostafa Mousavi Azam, & Ehsan Momtahen read

Abstract

Simone Weil has considered attention more than any other philosopher and mystic. Her thoughts on attention are not merely cognitive, scientific, or psychological issues, rather, it has direct and far-reaching effects on education, theology, and even politics. She expresses attention as a way of life, both at individual and socio-political levels. According to Simone Weil, although man does not create or make anything by paying attention to it, attention brings life to what is being attended to. Only that man’s attention to surrounding matters is a life-giving one which is “pure”. Pure attention is free from any attachments and through which man frees himself from imaginary and illusory matters and achieves the truth. What leads a person to pure attention is “to desire without an object”. On the other hand, Simone Weil refers to the suspension of thought as a state of pure attention, which is to endure void and wait.

In Simone Weil’s view, pure attention can be considered as love, because just as attention is consenting for anything other than oneself, so love also requires recognizing reality by turning away from oneself. Simone Weil introduces attention-based ethics, and by turning one’s attention to God, not only she builds her individual ethics, but also her epistemology and socio-political philosophy. And along with divine grace, she considers attention as an antidote that is necessary for man’s salvation.

Philosophy of Religion Research, vol. 19, no. 37, issue 1 (Summer/Autumn 2021), pp. 1-28

Theatre project explores the philosophy of French mystic Simone Weil

Staff Reporter read

‘Simone Weil: Performance as an experience of nothingness’ is a new theatre research project by Dr. Tyrone Grima, which explores an approach to theatre-making, inspired by the philosophy and the spirituality of the French mystic, Simone Weil.

The project translates in a practical and experiential manner the insights of the spirituality and the philosophy of Simone Weil, particularly those on art and theatre, to the performative medium. This with the aim of discovering a way of putting into practice the theoretical framework of Weil in theatre-making. Central to the approach is the notion of ‘nothingness’.

Newsbook, June 10, 2021.