WESTERN

Simone Weil: atheism as purification


1931 Passes her agr˛gation brilliantly in July.
  In August obtains her first position as a teacher of philosophy at the girls' Lyc˛e of Le Puy, seventy miles southwest of Lyons.
1932 In Le Puy actively supports unemployed demonstrators. A public scandal ensues and she is transferred.
  Visits Germany in the summer to observe the political situation, just before Hitler's accession to power.
  Begins to teach at the girls' Lyc˛e in Auxerre, near Paris. her controversial teaching methods cause problems and her students do poorly in their examinations. The school administrators abolish her position as a teacher of philosophy, and she is released.
1933 Her interest in political sociology begins to take firm shape.
  Spends the month of August with her parents at Chambon-sur-Lignon.
  Takes a new teaching positions at the girls' Lyc˛e in Roanne, a city sixty-five miles to the west of Lyons. Acquires a reputation for being a communist and an atheist.
  On December 3, in the city of Saint-Etienne, takes part in the famous "March of the Miners" planned by the national CGT [Confeederation G˛n˛rale du Travail] Miners' Federation to protest unemployment and wage cuts.

- chronology of Simone Weil's life, in the Simone Weil Reader,
edited by George A. Panichas (David McKay Co. NY 1977) p xxxvii

The fideist theory (N.B. fideism is the view that any affirmation of the mind does not come from reason, but from feeling): one believes something because one wants to believe it; belief in certain things becomes an obligation. Fideism is a view very well suited to all forms of spiritual tyranny; fideism always ends up in the subordination of thought to a social myth.
But the fact that doubt is possible shows that fideism is false. What is more, whenver one tries to suppress doubt, there is tyranny.
- Simone Weil, Lectures in philosophy (Leçons de philosophie)
translated by Hugh Price (Cambridge University Press 1959, 1978) p 103 One of the most exquisite pleasures of human love--to serve the loved one without his knowing it--is only possible, as regards the love of God, through atheism.
- Simone Weil, First and last notebooks (last notebook 1942)
(Oxford University Press 1970) p 84

In order to obey God, one must receive his commands.
How did it happen that I received them in adolescence, while I was professing atheism?
To believe that the desire for good is always fulfilled--that is faith, and whoever has it is not an atheist.
- Simone Weil, First and last notebooks (last notebook 1942)
(Oxford University Press 1970) p 137

No human being escapes the necessity of conceiving some good outside himself towards which his thought turns in a movement of desire, supplication, and hope. consequently, the only choice is between worshipping the true God or an idol. Evey atheist is an idolater--unless he is worshipping the true God in his impersonal aspect. The majority of the pious are idolaters.
- Simone Weil, First and last notebooks (last notebook 1942)
(Oxford University Press 1970) p 308

Wrongly or rightly you think that I have a right to the name of Christian. I assure you that when in speaking of my childhood and youth I use the words vocation, obedience, spirit of peverty, purity, acceptance, love of one's neighbor, and other expressions of the same kind, I am giving them the exact signification they have for me now. Yet I was brought up by my parents and my brother in a complete agnosticism, and I never made the slightest effort to depart from it; I never had the slightest desire to do so, quite rightly, I think. In spite of that, ever since my birth, so to speak, not one of my faults, not one of my imperfections really had the excuse of ignorance. I shall have to answer for everything on that day when the Lamb shall come in anger.
You can take my word for it too that Greece, Egypt, ancient India, and ancient China, the beauty of the world, the pure and authentic reflections of this beauty in art and science, what I have seen of the inner recesses of human hearts where religious belief is unknown, all these things have done as much as the visibly Christian ones to deliver me into Christ's hands as his captive. I think I might even say more. The love of these things that are outside visible Christianity keeps me outside the Church. ... ... But it also seems to me that when one speaks to you [Father Perrin] of unbelievers who are in affliction and accept their affliction as a part of the order of the world, it does not impress you in the same way as if it were a question of Christians and of submission to the will of God. Yet it is the same thing.
- Simone Weil, her last letter to Father Perrin from a refugee camp in Casablanca, 26 may 1942
the Simone Weil Reader, edited by George A. Panichas (David McKay Co. NY 1977) p 111

It represents--but in a much nobler form--Maurras' doctrine, "Politique d'abord." But Maurras, with perfect logic, is an atheist. The Cardinal [Richelieu], in postulating something whose whole reality is confined to this world as an absolute value, committed the sin of idolatry. ... The real sin of idolatry is always committed on behalf of something similar to the State.
- Simone Weil, Prelude to Politics, completed shortly before her death in 1943
the Simone Weil Reader, edited by George A. Panichas (David McKay Co. NY 1977) p 199

Antiquity is often accused of having only been able to recognize collective values. In fact, this mistake was only made by the Romans, who were atheists, and by the Hebrews; and in the latter case, only up to the time of the Babylonian exile.
- Simone Weil, Prelude to Politics, completed shortly before her death in 1943
the Simone Weil Reader, edited by George A. Panichas (David McKay Co. NY 1977) p 212

Our patriotism comes straight from the Romans. ... It is a pagan virtue, if these two words are compatible. The word pagan, when applied to Rome, early possesses the significance charged with horror which the early Christian controversialists gave it. The Romans really were an atheistic and idolatrous people; not idolatrous with regard to images made of stone or bronze, but idolatrous with regard to themselves. It is this idolatry of self which they have bequeathed to us in the form of patriotism.
- Simone Weil, Prelude to Politics, completed shortly before her death in 1943
the Simone Weil Reader, edited by George A. Panichas (David McKay Co. NY 1977) p 220

Rome is the Great Beast of atheism and materialism, adoriing nothing but itself. Israel is the Great Beast of religion. Neither one nor the other is likable. The Great Beast is always repulsive.
- Simone Weil, Prelude to Politics, completed shortly before her death in 1943
the Simone Weil Reader, edited by George A. Panichas (David McKay Co. NY 1977) p 393

Religion in so far as it is a source of consolation is a hindrance to true faith; and in this sense atheism is a purification. I have to be an atheist with that part of myself which is not made for God. Among those in whom the supernatural part of themselves has not been awakened, the atheists are right and the believers wrong.
- Simone Weil, Faiths of Meditation; Contemplation of the divine
the Simone Weil Reader, edited by George A. Panichas (David McKay Co. NY 1977) p 417

That is why St. John of the Cross calls faith a night. With those who have received a Christian education, the lower parts of the soul become attached to these mysteries when they have no right at all to do so. That is why such people need a purification of which St. John of the Cross describes the stages. Atheism and incredulity constitute an equivalent of such a purification.
- Simone Weil, Faiths of Meditation; Contemplation of the divine
the Simone Weil Reader, edited by George A. Panichas (David McKay Co. NY 1977) p 418

The last sentence she wrote in the notebook found after her death was: "The most important part of education--to teach the meaning of to know (in the scientific sense)."
The whole of Simone Weil is contained in these few words.
- Biographical Note, Simone Weil, Waiting for God (GP Putnam's Sons 1951, Harper 1975) p xi

Simone Weil has observed: "There are two atheisms of which one is a purification of the notion of God."
- William Robert Miller (ed.), The New Christianity (New York: Delacorte Press 1967) p 267; in Paul Schilling,
God in an age of atheism (Abingdon: Nashville 1969) p 17

Simone Weil 1909-1943


Home | Typologies | Judaism | Classical Greece | Christianity | Islam | Modern
Suspicion | Academia | Religious | Daoism | Indian/Hindu | Confucianism | Buddhism
Native American | African | Definitions | Literature | Metaphors | Songs

created 1jun1996, revised 20mar98     |     comments on this site? tpkunesh@atheisms.info