simone weil – imagination which fills the void

simone weil gravity and graceThe imagination is continually at work filling up all the fissures through which grace might pass.

Every void (not accepted) produces hatred, sourness, bitterness, spite. The evil we wish for that which we hate, and which we imagine, restores the balance.

The militiamen of the Spanish Testament who invented victories in order to endure death: an example of imagination filling up the void. Although we should gain nothing by the victory, we can bear to die for a cause which is going to triumph, not for one which will be defeated. For something absolutely denuded of power, it would be superhuman (the disciples of Christ). The thought of death calls for a counterweight, and this counterweight—apart from grace—cannot be anything but a lie.

The imagination, filler up of the void, is essentially a liar. It does away with the third dimension, for only real objects have three dimensions. It does away with multiple relationships.

To try to define the things which, while they do indeed happen, yet remain in a sense imaginary. War. Crimes. Acts of revenge. Extreme affliction.

The crimes in Spain were actually perpetrated and yet they resembled mere acts of boastfulness.

Realities which have no more dimensions than a dream.

In the case of evil, as in that of dreams, there are not multiple readings.*  Hence the simplicity of criminals.

Crimes flat like dreams on both sides: on the side of the executioner and on the side of the victim. What is more frightful than to die in a nightmare?

Compensations. Marius imagined future retribution. Napoleon thought of posterity. William II wanted a cup of tea. His imagination was not strongly enough attached to power to be able to span the years: it turned towards a cup of tea.

The adoration of the great by the people in the seventeenth century (La Bruyère). This was a result of imagination filling up the void, a result which has disappeared since money has been substituted for it. Two base results, but money the baser of the two.

In no matter what circumstances, if the imagination is stopped from pouring itself out we have a void (the poor in spirit).

In no matter what circumstances (but sometimes at the price of how great a degradation!) imagination can fill the void. This is why average human beings can become prisoners, slaves, prostitutes and pass through no matter what suffering without being purified.

We must continually suspend the work of the imagination filling the void within ourselves.

If we accept no matter what void, what stroke of fate can prevent us from loving the universe?

We have the assurance that, come what may, the universe is full.

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* For the meaning of this word (lectures) in the vocabulary of Simone Weil, see later chapter on Readings.
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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.

simone weil – detachment

simone weil gravity and graceAffliction in itself is not enough for the attainment of total detachment. Unconsoled affliction is necessary. There must be no consolation—no apparent consolation. Ineffable consolation then comes down.

To forgive debts. To accept the past without asking for future compensation. To stop time at the present instant. This is also the acceptance of death.

‘He emptied himself of his divinity.’ To empty ourselves of the world. To take the form of a slave. To reduce ourselves to the point we occupy in space and time—that is to say, to nothing.

To  strip ourselves of the imaginary royalty of the world.

Absolute solitude. Then we possess the truth of the world.

Two ways of renouncing material possessions:
To give them up with a view to some spiritual advantage.
To conceive of them and feel them as conducive to spiritual well-being (for example: hunger, fatigue and humiliation cloud the mind and hinder meditation) and yet to renounce them.
Only the second kind of renunciation means nakedness of spirit.

Furthermore, material goods would scarcely be dangerous if they were seen in isolation and not bound up with spiritual advantage.

We must give up everything which is not grace and not even desire grace.

The extinction of desire (Buddhism)—or detachment—or amor fati—or desire for the absolute good—these all amount to the same: to empty desire, finality of all content, to desire in the void, to desire without any wishes.

To detach our desire from all good things and to wait. Experience proves that this waiting is satisfied. It is then we touch the absolute good.

Always, beyond the particular object whatever it may be, we have to fix our will on the void—to will the void. For the good which we can neither picture nor define is a void for us. But this void is fuller than all fullnesses.

If we get as far as this we shall come through all right, for God fills the void. It has nothing to do with an intellectual process in the present-day sense. The intelligence has nothing to discover, it has only to clear the ground. It is only good for servile tasks.

The good seems to us as a nothingness, since there is no thing that is good. But this nothingness is not unreal. Compared with it, everything in existence is unreal.

We  must  leave  on  one  side  the  beliefs  which  fill  up  voids  and sweeten  what  is  bitter. The belief  in  immortality. The  belief  in the utility of sin: etiampeccata. The belief in the providential ordering  of  events—in  short  the  ‘consolations’  which  are  ordinarily sought in religion.

To love God through and across the destruction of Troy and of Carthage—and with no consolation. Love is not consolation, it is light.

The reality of the world is the result of our attachment. It is the reality of the self which we transfer into things. It has nothing to do with independent reality. That is only perceptible through total detachment. Should only one thread remain, there is still attachment.

Affliction which forces us to attach ourselves to the most wretched objects exposes in all its misery the true character of attachment. In this way the necessity for detachment is made more obvious.

Attachment is a manufacturer of illusions and whoever wants reality ought to be detached.

As soon as we know that something is real we can no longer be attached to it.

Attachment is no more nor less than an insufficiency in our sense of reality. We are attached to the possession of a thing because we think that if we cease to possess it, it will cease to exist. A great many people do not feel with their whole soul that there is all the difference in the world between the destruction of a town and their own irremediable exile from that town.

Human misery would be intolerable if it were not diluted in time. We have to prevent it from being diluted in order that it should be intolerable.

‘And when they had had their fill of tears’ (Iliad).—This is another way of making the worst suffering bearable.

We must not weep so that we may not be comforted.*

All suffering which does not detach us is wasted suffering. Nothing is more frightful, a desolate coldness, a warped soul (Ovid. Slaves in Plautus).

Never to think of a thing or being we love but have not actually before our eyes without reflecting that perhaps this thing has been destroyed, or this person is dead.

May our sense of reality not be dissolved by this thought but made more intense.

Each time that we say ‘Thy will be done’ we should have in mind all possible misfortunes added together.

Two ways of killing ourselves: suicide or detachment.

To kill by our thought everything we love: the only way to die. Only what we love, however (‘He who hateth not his father and mother . . .’ but: ‘Love your enemies . . .’).

Not to desire that what we love should be immortal. We should neither desire the immortality nor the death of any human being, whoever he may be, with whom we have to do.

The miser deprives himself of his treasure because of his desire for it. If we can let our whole good rest with something hidden in the ground, why not with God?

But when God has become as full of significance as the treasure is for the miser, we have to tell ourselves insistently that he does not exist. We must experience the fact that we love him, even if he does not exist.

It is he who, through the operation of the dark night, withdraws himself in order not to be loved like the treasure is by the miser.

Electra weeping for the dead Orestes. If we love God while thinking that he does not exist, he will manifest his existence.

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* Yet Jesus Christ said: ‘Blessed are they that mourn’. But here Simone Weil is only condemning the tears wrung from us by the loss of temporal goods— tears which man sheds over himself.  [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.

simone weil – to accept the void

simone weil gravity and grace‘Tradition teaches us as touching the gods and experience shows us as regards men that, by a necessity of nature, every being invariably exercises all the power of which it is capable’ (Thucydides).

Like a gas, the soul tends to fill the entire space which is given it. A gas which contracted leaving a vacuum—this would be contrary to the law of entropy. It is not so with the God of the Christians. He is a supernatural God, whereas Jehovah is a natural God.

Not to exercise all the power at one’s disposal is to endure the void. This is contrary to all the laws of nature. Grace alone can do it.

Grace fills empty spaces but it can only enter where there is a void to receive it, and it is grace itself which makes this void.

The necessity for a reward, the need to receive the equivalent of what we give. But if, doing violence to this necessity, we leave a vacuum, as it were a suction of air is produced and a  supernatural reward results. It does not come if we receive other wages: it is this vacuum which makes it come.

It is the same with the remission of debts (and this applies not only to the harm which others have done us but to the good which we have done them). There again, we accept a void in ourselves.

To accept a void in ourselves is supernatural. Where is the energy to be found for an act which has nothing to counter- balance it? The energy has to come from elsewhere. Yet first there must be a tearing out, something desperate has to take place, the void must be created. Void: the dark night.

Admiration, pity (most of all a mixture of the two) bring real energy. But this we must do without.

A time has to be gone through without any reward, natural or supernatural.

The world must be regarded as containing something of a void in order that it may have need of God. That presupposes evil.

To love truth means to endure the void and, as a result, to accept death. Truth is on the side of death.

Man only escapes from the laws of this world in lightning flashes. Instants when everything stands still, instants of contemplation, of pure intuition, of mental void, of acceptance of the moral void. It is through such instants that he is capable of the supernatural.

Whoever endures a moment of the void either receives the supernatural bread or falls. It is a terrible risk, but one that must be run—even during the instant when hope fails. But we must not throw ourselves into 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.

desmond tutu condemns uganda’s proposed new anti-gay law

“We must be entirely clear about this: the history of people is littered with attempts to legislate against love or marriage across class, caste, and race. But there is no scientific basis or genetic rationale for love. There is only the grace of God. There is no scientific justification for prejudice and discrimination, ever. And nor is there any moral justification. Nazi Germany and apartheid South Africa, among others, attest to these facts.”

— Desmond Tutu reacting against the proposed enactment of homophobic legislation in Uganda. Read more about it HERE.

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