simone weil – renunciation of time

simone weil gravity and graceTime is an image of eternity, but it is also a substitute for eternity.

The miser whose treasure has been taken from him. It is some of the frozen past which he has lost. Past and future, man’s only riches.

The future is a filler of void places. Sometimes the past also plays this part (‘I used to be,’ ‘I once did this or that…’). But there are other cases when affliction makes the thought of happiness intolerable; then it robs the sufferer of his past (nessun maggior dolore…).

The past and the future hinder the wholesome effect of affliction by providing an unlimited field for imaginary elevation. That is why the renunciation of past and future is the first of all renunciations.

The present does not attain finality. Nor does the future, for it is only what will be present. We do not know this, however. If we apply to the present the point of that desire within us which corresponds to finality, it pierces right through to the eternal.

That is the use of despair which turns the attention away from the future.

When we are disappointed by a pleasure which we have been expecting and which comes, the disappointment is because we were expecting the future, and as soon as it is there it is present. We want the future to be there without ceasing to be future. This is an absurdity of which eternity alone is the cure.

Time and the cave. To come out of the cave, to be detached, means to cease to make the future our objective.

A method of purification: to pray to God, not only in secret as far as men are concerned, but with the thought that God does not exist.*

Piety with regard to the dead: to do everything for what does not exist.

The suffering caused by the death of others is due to this pain of a void and of lost equilibrium. Efforts henceforward follow without an object and therefore without a reward. If the imagination makes good this void—debasement. ‘Let the dead  bury their dead.’ And as to our own death, is it not the same? The object and the reward are in the future. Deprivation of the future—void, loss of equilibrium. That is why ‘to philosophise is to learn to die’. That is why ‘to pray is like a death’.

When pain and weariness reach the point of causing a sense of perpetuity to be born in the soul, through contemplating this perpetuity with acceptance and love, we are snatched away into eternity.

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*God does not in fact exist in the same way as created things which form the only object of experience for our natural faculties. Therefore, contact with supernatural reality is at first felt as an experience of nothingness. [Editor’s note.]

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Excerpted from Simone Weil‘s Gravity and Grace. First French edition 1947. Translated by Emma Crawford. English language edition 1963. Routledge and Kegan Paul, London.

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