Simone Weil: Gravity and Grace

I’m still (slowly) reading through Simone Weil’s book “Gravity and Grace” for part of my daily time of reflection. Here are a couple great quotes I’ve recently come across dealing with obedience and caring for others.

We should do only those righteous actions which we cannot stop ourselves from doing, which we are unable not to do, but, through well directed attention, we should always keep on increasing the number of those which we are unable not to do (39).
‘I was hungred, and ye gave me meat.’ When was that, Lord? They did not know. We must not know when we do such acts. We must not help our neighbour for Christ but in Christ. May the self disappear in such a way that Christ can help our neighbour through the medium of our soul and body. May we be the slave whom his master sends to bear help to someone in misfortune (40).
To be only an intermediary between the uncultivated ground and the ploughed field, between the data of a problem and the solution, between the blank page and the poem, between the starving beggar and the beggar who has been fed (41).

I’ve dabbled in the past with reading some of Weil’s writings, but it wasn’t until I heard Quaker historian Carole Spencer speak at Friends Association for Higher Education that I wanted to get back to her writings. Spencer spoke in part about the deeply Christian mystical experiences of people like Simone Weil, Meister Eckhart, and Madame Guyon and I realized that something of their spiritual experience they had I wanted.

One thing I really like about “Gravity and Grace” is the brief chapters, each with short, almost poetry-like, statements or reflections based on whatever theme the chapter explores. Some of those themes are: Gravity and Grace (as in the natural laws of the universe and how it contrasts with the grace of God), Void and Compensation, Renunciation of Time, To Desire Without An Object, Love, Evil, The Cross, The Impossible, etc. Within each of these reflections Weil takes a variety of perspectives, and dives a mysticism that is rooted in the great tradition of the via negativa and aesthetic life. I appreciate her attention to human suffering and need, and her own life story is rich enough to really ground what she writes with the weight of lived experience.

I have found her reflections to be grounding for me. I’ve often shied away from the mystical, preferring instead a spirituality of the physical. During Spencer’s talked this past summer I became even more aware of my own propensity to avoid this part of the spiritual life and slowly, meditatively reading through Weil has been one of the ways I’ve been trying to level out my own spiritual practice.

I would recommend Weil to you as well, especially if you’re interested in mystical reading. Because of the way this particular book is broken up it’s works well for this kind of reflective reading, and I continue to be challenged, refreshed, and made more aware of God’s presence in ways that are new to me.