For Weil, "The beautiful is the experimental proof that the incarnation is possible". The beauty which is inherent in the form of the world (this inherency is proven, for her, in geometry, and expressed in all good art) is the proof that the world points to something beyond itself; it establishes the essentially telic character of all that exists. Her concept of beauty extends throughout the universe: "we must have faith that the universe is beautiful on all levels...and that it has a fullness of beauty in relation to the bodily and psychic structure of each of the thinking beings that actually do exist and of all those that are possible. It is this very agreement of an infinity of perfect beauties that gives a transcendent character to the beauty of the world...He (Christ) is really present in the universal beauty. The love of this beauty proceeds from God dwelling in our souls and goes out to God present in the universe". She also wrote that "The beauty of this world is Christ's tender smile coming to us through matter".
Beauty also served a soteriological function for Weil: "Beauty captivates the flesh in order to obtain permission to pass right to the soul." It constitutes, then, another way in which the divine reality behind the world invades our lives. Where affliction conquers us with brute force, beauty sneaks in and topples the empire of the self from within
Robert Coles held Simone Weil's work in the highest regard
Born in Paris, Weil came from a highly intellectual family. After a brilliant academic career at school and university, she taught philosophy interspersed with periods of hard manual labor on farms and in factories. Throughout her life she combined sophisticated and scholarly interests with an extreme moral intensity and identification with the poor and oppressed. A twentieth-century Pascal (see Vol. 4), this ardently spiritual woman was a social thinker, sensitive to the crises of modern humanity. Jewish by birth, Christian by vocation, and Greek by aesthetic choice, Weil has influenced religious thinking profoundly in the years since her death. "Humility is the root of love," she said as she questioned traditional theologians and held that the apostles had badly interpreted Christ's teaching. Christianity was, she thought, to blame for the heresy of progress. During World War II, Weil starved herself to death, refusing to eat while victims of the war still suffered
Beginning with Wallace Stevens, the influence of Simone Weil’s philosophy of decreation on American poetry has been substantial, if often underestimated. Focusing on recent volumes by Jorie Graham and Anne Carson, I suggest that this use of Weil’s philosophy presents a new way of understanding a dominant trend towards the metaphysical and difficult in modern American poetry. In various and divergent ways, both poets’ work explicitly points towards a decreated world and explores the ways in which poetry replaces prayer when God is absent. Both in form and content, this work expands upon and illuminates ideas put forth by thinkers such as Blanchot and Nancy, but it is primarily through an understanding of Weil and decreation that such work can best be approached. For Carson and Graham, poetry is the best expression of the imminent void; by placing their work in a definite Weilian context, it is possible to reveal their claims about the nature of truth, God and the material world more fully. -joriegraham.com
excerpt from joriegraham.com: Weil thus provides a way to see the human imagination, both individual and collective, at the centre of modern ways of being. Decreation provides a path from the world of belief to the world of the individual; when a system of thought predicated on creation fails, what remains is the truth of the imaginative endeavour. This move does not negate the existence of the world: in fact, the entire notion of decreation is predicated on the pre-existence of a broader creation from which all knowledge and being comes. Yet creation itself does not provide a way for its own understanding; the process of uncreating allows the individual to examine her role in relation to creation through the act of self-negation. As Simon Critchley summarises Stevens’s thesis: ‘God is dead, therefore I am. The problem is that it is not at all clear who I am’ (Critchley 2005: 43). Or as J. Hillis Miller expresses it: ‘God is dead, therefore I am. But I am nothing. I am nothing because I have nothing, nothing but awareness of the barrenness within and without’ (1990: 35).
It is only in the death of God that the rest of the world is now revealed as unknowable and thus it is only when God is nothing that ‘man’ too may be revealed as nothing. As Jean-Luc Nancy writes: ‘“God”, the motif or theme of God, the question of God, no longer means anything to us. Or else – as is all too obvious to an unbiased eye – what the theme of God might mean to us has already moved or been carried entirely outside of him’ (1991: 112). God has been replaced in the human imagination by the larger created world, but without God the creation of the world is a mystery, and the stance of the individual in relation to that world is even more elusive. The problem, as Stevens phrases it in ‘Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction’, is that we are caught between a world revealed and understood through individual sight and the fear that this world is something which precedes us: ‘we live in a place / That is not our own and, much more, not ourselves’ (Stevens 1976: 102). Decreation is ‘a seeing and unseeing in the eye’ (Stevens 1976: 104); it is what allows the poet not to make the world, but to discover it:
These poems illustrate the ways in which the self attempts to shield the self from nothingness by physical means. The void, or ‘nothing’, is both desired and feared; the autobiographical self is surrounded by nothingness and uses the poem, as prayer, to shield herself against it. Here, then, Graham engages not so much with decreation as with destruction, its ‘blameworthy substitute’ that makes the created ‘pass into nothingness’ (Weil 1952: 28). The ‘familiar position’ of kneeling, the hands on the eyes, the frequent appearance of watchful cats, are all an attempt to put matter in between the self and nothingness, to use the created to combat its own destruction. For Graham, the self and the understanding of what the self might be are revealed as what remains against the void. The poet cannot love God (or another human) without being persuaded that such an other exists, and thus she turns to the tangible world of hands and eyes and floor as that which must remain real, even as it is revealed to be insufficient. Although the material world may disappear, it also gives rise to self-conception; the self is that which can contemplate both the world full of things and the void. Following Weil, the self also becomes that
which stands between matter and God: ‘All the things that I see, hear, breathe, touch, eat; all the beings I meet – I deprive the sum total of all that of contact with God, and I deprive God of contact with all that in so far as something in me says “I”’ (Weil 1952: 36).
Weil reconciles the goodness of God in a world of suffering as follows:
“She argued that the presence of evil and suffering in the world was evidence of God’s love, and that Man had no right to ask anything of God, or of anyone whom they love. Love which expects rewards was not love at all in Weil’s eyes.”
Weil believes the realisation of truth is available to everyone, that human beings need to pay attention and truth will come to them. She is fond of telling a metaphor, says David Levy, that of a wall separating two prisoners who cannot communicate except by banging on the wall. In this way, they relate to each other, if imperfectly. In the same way as they are separated from each other, so are we separated from God, but He is accessible to us. We just need to “bang on the wall.”
We engage the world by forms of the implicit love of God. Beauty, friendship, religious ceremonies – all these can lead Mankind to God
Weil believes we have no will of our own. In her Notebooks, she speaks of the Zen method, quoted by Iris Murdoch.
“The primitive Zen method seems to consist of a gratuitous search of such intensity that it takes the place of all attachments. But, because it is gratuitous, it cannot become an object of attachment in so far as it is actively pursued, and the activity involved in this fruitless search becomes exhausted. When exhaustion point has been almost reached, some shock or other brings about detachment.”
In the chapter “Consciousness and Thought,” in Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals, Iris Murdoch says of Weil:
“The imageless austerity of Zen is impressive and attractive. It represents to us ‘the real thing’; what it is like to be stripped of the ego and how different this is… Simone Weil felt a natural affinity with this extremism, which, indeed, she practised in her own life. She, at the same time, loved Plato and the mystical Christ.”
Simone Weil describes this distance as decreation, a form of un-selfing.
On the In Our Time programme, David Levy of the University of Edinburgh explains what Weil means when she speaks of decreation. This is a term with a specialised meaning. It relates to the act of creation. When God created us, He limited Himself, in His perfection and power, to “create space for us.”
Therefore, if we decreate ourselves to some extent, we reverse some of that act of creation and, as a result, we come closer to God.
Weil committed herself to politics and political activism.
Gary Goodwin in his Registry of Mysticism quotes from her work, The Need for Roots, 1949:
“What a country calls its vital economic interests are not the things which enable its citizens to live, but the things which enable it to make war. Gasoline is much more likely than wheat to be a cause of international conflict.”
For states of pain and grief which transcend mere unhappiness, she employs the term “malheur.” Murdoch suggests this could be translated as “affliction” although there is no accurate translation into English. Most “afflictions” normally can be alleviated in some way. Malheur is something that demolishes the spirit, and leaves the human being with no relief and no hope.
However, paradoxically, Weil says that malheur can be a route to a knowledge of God. In Our Time explains how we can feel melancholy, for example, after a love affair has ended. This can lead us to becoming more lucid about our faults. In that moment, we may stop fooling ourselves and recognise that we are selfish or self-serving.
Murdoch quotes from Weil’s Notebooks, Volume 2: “…exposure to God condemns what’s evil in us.”
“Simone Weil’s obedience and necessity are better understood as a confrontation with what is not just unintelligible, but pointless,” says Iris Murdoch.
Murdoch is saying that Weil is not trying to propel us towards moral improvement. She is focused mainly on the idea of obligations. “Moral change comes from an attention to the world whose natural result is a decrease in egoism through an increased sense of the reality of, of course, other people, but also other things.”
This, Murdoch explains, is close in meaning to Oriental wisdom – that, ultimately, as human beings, we have no will.
Levy quotes Weil’s famous wisdom: “To stop saying ‘I’ one needs to pay attention.”-Simone Weil: Love is the Intermediary Between Us and the Divine by Janet Cameron May 11, 2014 -decodedpast.com