simone weil – decreation

simone weil gravity and graceDecreation: to make something created pass into the uncreated. Destruction: to make something created pass into nothingness. A blameworthy substitute for decreation.

Creation is an act of love and it is perpetual. At each moment our existence is God’s love for us. But God can only love himself. His love for us is love for himself through us. Thus, he who gives us our being loves in us the acceptance of not being.

Our existence is made up only of his waiting for our acceptance not to exist. He is perpetually begging from us that existence which he gives. He gives it to us in order to beg it from us.

Relentless necessity, wretchedness, distress, the crushing burden of poverty and of labour which wears us out, cruelty, torture, violent death, constraint, disease—all these constitute divine love. It is God who in love withdraws from us so that we can love him. For if we were exposed to the direct radiance of his love, without the protection of space, of time and of matter, we should be evaporated like water in the sun; there would not be enough ‘I’ in us to make it possible to surrender the ‘I’ for love’s sake. Necessity is the screen set between God and us so that we can be. It is for us to pierce through the screen so that we cease to be.

There exists a ‘deifugal’ force. Otherwise all would be God.

An imaginary divinity has been given to man so that he may strip himself of it like Christ did of his real divinity.

Renunciation. Imitation of God’s renunciation in creation. In a sense God renounces being everything. We should renounce being something. That is our only good.

We are like barrels with no bottom to them so long as we have not understood that we have a base.

Elevation and abasement. A woman looking at herself in a mirror and  adorning  herself  does  not  feel  the  shame  of  reducing  the self, that infinite being which surveys all things, to a small space. In the same way every time that we raise the ego (the social ego, the  psychological  ego etc.)  as  high  as  we  raise  it,  we  degrade ourselves  to  an  infinite  degree  by  confining  ourselves  to  being no more than that. When the ego is abased (unless energy tends to raise it by desire), we know that we are not that.

A very beautiful woman who looks at her reflection in the mirror can very well believe that she is that. An ugly woman knows that she is not that.

Everything which is grasped by our natural faculties is hypothetical. It is only supernatural love that establishes anything. Thus we are co-creators.

We participate in the creation of the world by decreating ourselves.

We only possess what we renounce; what we do not renounce escapes from us. In this sense, we cannot possess anything whatever unless it passes through God.

Catholic communion. God did not only make himself flesh for us once, every day he makes himself matter in order to give himself to man and to be consumed by him. Reciprocally, by fatigue, affliction and death, man is made matter and is consumed by God. How can we refuse this reciprocity?

He emptied himself of his divinity. We should empty ourselves of the false divinity with which we were born.

Once we have understood we are nothing, the object of all our efforts  is  to  become  nothing.  It  is  for  this  that  we  suffer  with resignation, it is for this that we act, it is for this that we pray.

May God grant me to become nothing.

In so far as I become nothing, God loves himself through me.

There is a resemblance between the lower and the higher. Hence slavery is an image of obedience to God, humiliation an image of humility, physical necessity an image of the irresistible pressure of grace, the saints’ self-abandonment from day to day an image of the frittering away of time among criminals, prostitutes, etc.

On this account it is necessary to seek out what is lowest, as an image.

May that which is low in us go downwards so that what is high can go upwards. For we are wrong side upward. We are born thus. To re-establish order is to undo the creature in us.

Reversal of the objective and the subjective.

Similarly, reversal of the positive and the negative. That is also the meaning of the philosophy of the Upanishads.

We are born and live in an inverted fashion, for we are born and live in sin which is an inversion of the hierarchy. The first operation is one of reversal—Conversion.

Except the seed die… It has to die in order to liberate the energy it bears within it so that with this energy new forms may be developed.

So we have to die in order to liberate a tied up energy, in order to possess an energy which is free and capable of understanding the true relationship of things.

The extreme difficulty which I often experience in carrying out the slightest action is a favour granted to me. For thus, by ordinary actions and without attracting attention, I can cut some of the roots of the tree. However indifferent we may be to the opinion of others, extraordinary actions contain a stimulus which cannot be separated from them. This stimulus is quite absent from ordinary actions. To find extraordinary difficulty in doing an ordinary action is a favour which calls for gratitude. We must not ask for the removal of such a difficulty: we must beg for grace to make good use of it.

In general we must not wish for the disappearance of any of our troubles, but grace to transform them.

For men of courage physical sufferings (and privations) are often a test of endurance and of strength of soul. But there is a better use to be made of them. For me then, may they not be that. May they rather be a testimony, lived and felt, of human misery. May I endure them in a completely passive manner. Whatever happens, how could I ever think an affliction too great, since the wound of an affliction and the abasement to which those whom it strikes are condemned opens to them the know- ledge of human misery, knowledge which is the door of all wisdom?

But  pleasure, happiness, prosperity, if  we  know  how  to recognize in them all that comes from outside (chance, circumstances, etc.), likewise bear testimony to human misery. They should be used in the same way. This applies even to grace, in so far as it is a sensible phenomenon.

We have to be nothing in order to be in our right place in the whole.

Renunciation demands that we should pass through anguish equivalent to that which would be caused in reality by the loss of all loved beings and all possession, including our faculties and attainments in the order of intelligence and character, our opinions, beliefs concerning what is good, what is stable, etc. And we must not lay these things down of ourselves but lose them—like Job. Moreover the energy thus cut off from its object should not be wasted in oscillations and degraded. The anguish should therefore be still greater than in real affliction, it should not be cut up and spread over time nor oriented towards a hope.

When the passion of love goes as far as vegetative energy, then we have cases like Phèdre, Arnolphe, etc.: ‘Et je sens là dedans qu’il faudra que je crève…’*

Hippolyte is really more necessary to the life of Phèdre, in the most literal sense of the word, than food.

In order that the love of God may penetrate as far down as that, nature has to undergo the ultimate violence. Job, the cross…

The love of Phèdre or of Arnolphe is impure. A love which should descend as low as theirs and yet remain pure… We must become nothing, we must go down to the vegetative level; it is then that God becomes bread.

If we consider what we are at a definite moment—the present moment, cut off from the past and the future—we are innocent. We cannot at that instant be anything but what we are: all progress implies duration. It is in the order of the world at this instant that we should be such as we are.

To isolate a moment in this way implies pardon. But such isolation is detachment.

There are only two instants of perfect nudity and purity in human life: birth and death. It is only when newly-born or on our death-bed that we can adore God in human form without sullying the divinity.

Death. An instantaneous state, without past or future. Indispensable for entering eternity.

If we find fullness of joy in the thought that God is, we must find the same fullness in the knowledge that we ourselves are not, for it is the same thought. And this knowledge is extended to our sensibility only through suffering and death.

Joy within God. Perfect and infinite joy really exists within God. My participation can add nothing to it, my non-participation can take nothing from the reality of this perfect and infinite joy. Of what importance is it then whether I am to share in it or not? Of no importance whatever.

Those who wish for their salvation do not truly believe in the reality of the joy within God.

Belief in immortality is harmful because it is not in our power to conceive of the soul as really incorporeal. So this belief is in fact a belief in the prolongation of life, and it robs death of its purpose.

The presence of God. This should be understood in two ways. As Creator, God is present in everything which exists as soon as it exists. The presence for which God needs the co-operation of the creature is the presence of God, not as Creator but as Spirit. The first presence is the presence of creation. The second is the presence of decreation. (He who created us without our help will not save us without our consent. Saint Augustine.)

God could create only by hiding himself. Otherwise there would be nothing but himself.

Holiness should then be hidden too, even from consciousness in a certain measure. And it should be hidden in the world.

Being and having. Being does not belong to man, only having. The being of man is situated behind the curtain, on the supernatural side. What he can know of himself is only what is lent him by circumstances. My ‘I’ is hidden for me (and for others); it is on the side of God, it is in God, it is God. To be proud is to forget that one is God… The curtain is human misery: there was a curtain even for Christ.

Job. Satan to God: ‘Doth he love Thee for thyself alone?’ It is a question of the level of love. Is love situated on the level of sheep, fields of corn, numerous children? Or is it situated further off, in the third dimension, behind? However deep this love may be there is a breaking-point when it succumbs, and it is this moment which transforms, which wrenches us away from the finite towards the infinite, which makes the soul’s love for God transcendent in the soul. It is the death of the soul. Woe to him for whom the death of the body precedes that of the soul. The soul which is not full of love dies a bad death. Why is it necessary that such a death should happen without distinction. It must indeed be so. It is necessary that everything should happen without distinction.

Appearance clings to being, and pain alone can tear them from each other.

For whoever is in possession of being there can be no appearance. Appearance chains being down.

Time in its course tears appearance from being and being from appearance by violence. Time makes it manifest that it is not eternity.

It is necessary to uproot oneself. To cut down the tree and make of it a cross, and then to carry it every day.

It is necessary not to be ‘myself ’, still less to be ‘ourselves’.

The city gives us the feeling of being at home.

We must take the feeling of being at home into exile. We must be rooted in the absence of a place.

To uproot oneself socially and vegetatively.

To exile oneself from every earthly country.

To do all that to others, from the outside, is a substitute (ersatz) for decreation. It results in unreality.

But by uprooting oneself one seeks greater reality

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*  ‘And I feel that I must die of it…”

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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.

One thought on “simone weil – decreation

  1. Pingback: on undoing the self and paying attention | fleurmach

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