Simone Weil (1909-1943): Mystic & Philosopher | Notice
“… To be touched by Simone Weil is not so much to be seduced by this or that specific idea as by something like love.
– AN Wilson, biographer
“We should not wish for the disappearance of our troubles but the grace to transform them.”
Without a doubt, Simone Weil is the most intriguing author I have ever read. And that means something. I have read countless books while working at four higher education institutions, including 30 years at Auburn University.
I have never met a person like Simone Weil who combined a world class intellect with a compassion for humanity, the energy of a powerhouse and an extremely strong sense of social justice.
Simone grew up in a Jewish family in Paris which completely assimilated into French society. Her father, Bernard, a doctor, gave a comfortable life to her family and her mother started taking care of Simone and her brother André.
Unfortunately, her mom never showed her how to wear makeup or dress. Therefore, she wore clothes that had a distinctive masculine touch. As a youngster, Weil showed no interest in his appearance. Simone tended to be her own person.
His brother, André, learned Sanskrit himself and was familiar with Greek and Latin literature. He is counted as one of the most influential mathematicians of the twentieth century and an expert in algebraic geometry and number theory. André taught Simone to read and she always considered her brother to be smarter than she was, but both turned out to be brilliant.
At 10, Simone said she was a Bolshevik and at 12, she had mastered ancient Greek. Simone also knew Sanskrit, German, French, Latin and could also read Russian literature.
Weil received the doctorate in philosophy at the Sorbonne in Paris with the highest distinction. She then worked in France in a high school, the equivalent of a junior college in the United States.
She did this for several years before taking a job as a factory worker for which she was totally unsuited. She undertook this task in order to understand first-hand the situation of the workers. Weil, a compassionate person, donated money to the labor movement, even though his salary was very low.
Simone has written over a dozen books, all published posthumously. She had a strong influence on Albert Camus, Pope Paul VI, TS Eliot, poet and playwright, director Jean-Luc Goddard, and novelists Flannery O’Connor and Iris Murdoch.
In his early years, Weil wondered if God existed. Weil, however, had three life-changing experiences that completely changed his life. The first took place in 1935, during his visit to Portugal. She came across a procession of women singing hymns and carrying lighted candles.
She considered these women to be slaves who could not help but belong to the Catholic Church. Why this? Perhaps Weil viewed these women as slaves to “necessity,” that is, to God’s plan for the working of the world. He realized to Simone that God was begging her to live according to the divine will.
The second experience occurred in 1937 during a visit to the Church of St. Mary of the Angels in Assisi. She felt pushed by a higher power to “kneel down.”
In 1938, his third mystical experience took place at the Benedictine monastery of Solesmes in Sarthe, France.
This visit to Solesmes convinced Weil that God loved her despite the “affliction” (in French, Malheur) she was having at the time. Weil suffered from severe migraines and while reciting the poem “Love” by George Herbert she stated in her book “Waiting for God”. that “Christ himself came down and took possession of me.”
Later, Weil prayed the “Our Father” in Greek daily before work and wrote that sometimes during the recitation of this prayer “my thoughts were torn from my body” and transported “to a place beyond space. “.
Weil went to the United States in 1942 and, after that, to England to escape the Nazi occupation of France. She died on August 24, 1943 of tuberculosis and refused food and health care because of her compassion for the dire plight of the people of occupied France.
In a future article, I intend to write more about Simone Weil because I feel that she was indeed a holy person, indeed a saint. I recommend readers to check out Eric O. Springsted’s book “Simone Weil,” published by Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY 2009), which is part of the Modern Spiritual Masters series.
Richard Penaskovic is professor emeritus at Auburn University. His writings have been published in the Birmingham News, Columbus-Ledger Enquirer, Montgomery Advertiser and online by Informed Comment and Politurco.