Waiting for God Summary
by Simone Weil

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Waiting for God Summary

Waiting for God is a collection of letters and essays by Simone Weil that were compiled after her death in 1943 by Father Perrin (a close friend and mentor) and Gustave Thibon (a theologist). Born in Paris, France in 1909, Weil worked as a teacher, political activist, and philosopher. She was raised in a secular household, but identified as Christian later in life (although many analysts identify her as a universalist). Despite her religious leanings, she had a strong focus on spirituality rather than doctrine, and was critical of the Catholic church's complicated and at times polarizing past. Weil studied other religions as well, including Buddhism, Hinduism, and Greek mythology/mysticism. Her religion was considered unorthodox; she was never baptized, and disagreed with religious "patriotism" and materialism. Instead, her work focused on the beauty in religious ceremonies, the love for God, and how religion influences human interactions. Although relatively unknown during her lifetime, Weil has been praised by famous authors and philosophers including T.S. Eliot and Albert Camus for her left-leaning religious theology and philosophy.

Waiting for God reflects Weil's complicated relationship with religion and explores the themes of spirituality and intellect, love, longing, and God. It was never intended to be published as a complete work, but is now considered to be an excellent compilation of Weil's philosophical ideals. The book begins with a series of letters exploring her distance from and disagreements with orthodox Catholicism, the evolution of her own religious beliefs, and discovering "truth" in society and nature. This section is followed by a series of essays exploring similar subjects; including the Catholic commandment to "love thy neighbor", friendship, and our continuous search for beauty in the world. She explores the "just balance" of our world; arguing that God has distanced himself from commanding humanity, and has instead put two pieces in place to guide us: our ability to think autonomously and our need for both physical and emotional "matter". For Weil, this represents the intersection of free will and the natural balance between God and humanity. She also explores the concept of a "sacred longing"; that humanity's search for beauty (both in the world and within each other) is driven by our underlying desire for a tangible god. Weil is radical, unorthodox, and cognizant of her status as an "outsider" in the Catholic church. Her work raises interestingly complex philosophical and religious questions still analyzed by academics and theologists today.

Summary

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Simone Weil was born in Paris on February 3, 1909, to an agnostic Jewish family. She was graduated in 1931 from the École Normale Supérieure as a teacher of philosophy. In 1934, she took a year’s leave from her teaching to take a job at the Renault Works in order to learn through her own experience the hard conditions of the workers there. After another period of teaching, she spent several weeks on the Catalonian front sharing the sufferings of the Republican army there during the Spanish Civil War. She wrote for various journals of the political left and periodically took on manual labor without asking for or receiving any concessions because of her social status, education, or health, which was often poor.

In June, 1941, Weil met the Reverend J. M. Perrin, O.P., and through him Gustave Thibon, a Catholic writer, both of whom had a profound influence on her. In 1938 she had undergone a mystical experience in which, as she reported it, “Christ came down and took me,” and in letters to Father Perrin she told of this experience and of the anguishing reflections that her persistent spiritual search provoked. In May, 1942, she left France with her family to escape from the Nazi-installed Vichy government’s anti-Semitic policies; she traveled to the United States from Casablanca. She was then asked to work with the French provisional government in London and went...

(The entire section is 2,537 words.)