Mysticism

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.

Mathematics and the Mystical in the Thought of Simone Weil

John Kinsey read

On Simone Weil’s “Pythagorean” view, mathematics has a mystical significance. In this paper, the nature of this significance and the coherence of Weil’s view are explored. To sharpen the discussion, consideration is given to both Rush Rhees’ criticism of Weil and Vance Morgan’s rebuttal of Rhees. It is argued here that while Morgan underestimates the force of Rhees’ criticism, Rhees’ take on Weil is, nevertheless, flawed for two reasons. First, Rhees fails to engage adequately with either the assumptions underlying Weil’s religious conception of philosophy or its dialectical method. Second, Rhees’ reading of Weil reflects an anti-Platonist conception of mathematics his justification of which is unsound and whose influence impedes recognition of the coherence of Weil’s position.

Philosophical Investigations, vol. 43, nos. 1-2 (January-April 2020), pp. 76-100.

The Power to Say I. Reflections on the Modernity of Simone Weil’s Mystical Thought

Marc De Kesel read

Interdisciplinary Journal for Religion and Transformation in Contemporary Society, pp. 165-181

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.

Effing the Ineffable: The Mysticism of Simone Weil and Ludwig Wittgenstein

K G M Earl read

Both Simone Weil and Ludwig Wittgenstein hold mysticism—i.e., the belief in something utterly transcendent—centrally. The mysticism present in Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico- Philosophicus presents a problem: if “the mystical” is “deep” nonsense, and there is something important that cannot be sensibly presented in language, we are left in an undesirable situation. The mystical is taken to be of paramount importance but is ultimately inaccessible to reason. Weil, starting with political and theological considerations, arrives at a similar problem. A mystical position yields the “problem of mysticism”: There is the mystical; it is of crucial importance, and it is inaccessible to our reason. Weil’s mystical praxis of decreation is a solution to the problem. This does not present a way that we can come to the mystical, but a way that we can become aware of its revelation, which bypasses our reason.

Dalhousie University Halifax, Nova Scotia, MA dissertation.

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

Stuart Jesson

in Death, Dying and Mysticism, Christopher Moreman & Thomas Cattoi, eds. New York: Palgrave-Macmillan

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