Last Updated on August 7, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 866
Simone Weil is a fascinating figure. She was very spiritual, very sincere, and very moral, and lived at times a harsh, almost masochistically ascetic life. For a time she worked as a laborer in different factories so that she could better understand the life of the working classes. In this way, she was a precursor to George Orwell, who later did likewise and published his experiences in Down and Out in Paris and London.
Waiting for God is a collection of Weil's thoughts about the relationship between mankind and God. Below are some quotations from the book.
To give up our imaginary position as the center, to renounce it, not only intellectually but in the imaginative part of our soul, that means to awaken to what is real and eternal, to see the true light and hear the true silence.
In this first quotation, Weil encourages the reader to give up the illusion that we, as humans, are the centre of God's creation. Before Copernicus, in the 16th century, produced evidence to prove that the Earth was not the centre of the universe but revolved around the sun, it was assumed that God had put us at the center of the universe because we were His most important creations, created in His image. This was a geocentric world view. Copernicus introduced a heliocentric world view.
Nonetheless, hundreds of years after Copernicus, mankind still tends to think of itself as at the centre of things metaphorically, if not literally. Weil encourages us to let go of this self-aggrandizing illusion and instead embrace the humility of relative insignificance. We are not secondary gods at the center of things, but rather humble servants at the edges. And only, Weil proposes, when we humble ourselves by accepting this truth will we be 'quiet' enough and receptive enough to "awaken to what is real and eternal." In another of her books, Gravity and Grace, Weil uses terms like "real and eternal" to describe what she understands as God's grace.
Some saints approved the Crusades and the Inquisition. I cannot help but think they were wrong. I cannot withdraw from the light of conscience. If I think I see more clearly than they do on this point—I who am so far below them—I must allow that on this point they must have been blinded by something very powerful. That something is the Church as a social thing. If this social thing did such evil to them, what evil might it not also do to me, one who is particularly vulnerable to social influences, and who is infinitely feebler than they?
This second quotation captures rather well Weil's own humility and also her liberal, compassionate character. Although she disagrees with those saints who approved of the Crusades and the Inquisition, she refuses to consider herself in any way more informed or more tolerant than them. That she herself disagrees with the Crusades and the Inquisition points to her compassion (for those who suffered and died) and, furthermore, points to how she was unafraid to think for herself. The broader point that she is making in the quotation is that the Church, specifically here the Catholic Church, can sometimes get in the way of our relationship with God. And this, according to Weil, is because the Church encourages a sense of social belonging, and in turn an 'us versus them' mentality. The implication is that...
(The entire section contains 866 words.)
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