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Gravity and Grace was the first ever publication by the remarkable thinker and activist, Simone Weil. In it Gustave Thibon, the farmer to whom she had entrusted her notebooks before her untimely death, compiled in one remarkable volume a compendium of her writings that have become a source of spiritual guidance and wisdom for countless individuals. On the fiftieth annivers Gravity and Grace was the first ever publication by the remarkable thinker and activist, Simone Weil. In it Gustave Thibon, the farmer to whom she had entrusted her notebooks before her untimely death, compiled in one remarkable volume a compendium of her writings that have become a source of spiritual guidance and wisdom for countless individuals. On the fiftieth anniversary of the first English edition - by Routledge & Kegan Paul in 1952 - this Routledge Classics edition offers English readers the complete text of this landmark work for the first time ever, by incorporating a specially commissioned translation of the controversial chapter on Israel. Also previously untranslated is Gustave Thibon's postscript of 1990, which reminds us how privileged we are to be able to read a work which offers each reader such 'light for the spirit and nourishment for the soul'. This is a book that no one with a serious interest in the spiritual life can afford to be without.


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Gravity and Grace was the first ever publication by the remarkable thinker and activist, Simone Weil. In it Gustave Thibon, the farmer to whom she had entrusted her notebooks before her untimely death, compiled in one remarkable volume a compendium of her writings that have become a source of spiritual guidance and wisdom for countless individuals. On the fiftieth annivers Gravity and Grace was the first ever publication by the remarkable thinker and activist, Simone Weil. In it Gustave Thibon, the farmer to whom she had entrusted her notebooks before her untimely death, compiled in one remarkable volume a compendium of her writings that have become a source of spiritual guidance and wisdom for countless individuals. On the fiftieth anniversary of the first English edition - by Routledge & Kegan Paul in 1952 - this Routledge Classics edition offers English readers the complete text of this landmark work for the first time ever, by incorporating a specially commissioned translation of the controversial chapter on Israel. Also previously untranslated is Gustave Thibon's postscript of 1990, which reminds us how privileged we are to be able to read a work which offers each reader such 'light for the spirit and nourishment for the soul'. This is a book that no one with a serious interest in the spiritual life can afford to be without.

30 review for Gravity and Grace

  1. 5 out of 5

    Fergus

    Have you ever had the freeze-out existential heeby-jeebies? That inner gnawing and glacial apprehension of the glaring Void within you? It’s irksome. And it can be relentless. Simone Weil had it, big time. She FORCED herself into its demesne - “coure le Froid, avec ses silences de sceau!” - by undertaking the brutal and menial work (considering she was a brilliant mathematician) of wartime factory labour in France. Why’d she do it? Out of a compassionate sense of SOLIDARITY with the soulless wartim Have you ever had the freeze-out existential heeby-jeebies? That inner gnawing and glacial apprehension of the glaring Void within you? It’s irksome. And it can be relentless. Simone Weil had it, big time. She FORCED herself into its demesne - “coure le Froid, avec ses silences de sceau!” - by undertaking the brutal and menial work (considering she was a brilliant mathematician) of wartime factory labour in France. Why’d she do it? Out of a compassionate sense of SOLIDARITY with the soulless wartime work force within it. In short, Evangelization! Graham Greene said she Tried Too Hard. I say, if you’re called to be a saint, you DO it. I read this wonderful book back in 1972: I had picked up two music options in the last year of my degree work, and practical classical music was a prerequisite. In previous academic years I had always bought myself tickets for our collegiate concert series. Big names like Julian Bream and big works like Britten’s harrowing Curlew River were often on the bill. Well, that final year, my music teacher enjoined me to be her guest for that series. She musta seen promise in my abilities, though music nowadays lags far behind in priority with my reading addiction. But I’ll never forget the time I went alone (she had a previous engagement)... There I was, without light conversation, fidgeting in my seat before the concert (and at intermission) while wrapped up in Weil’s grave and monumental book, Gravity and Grace. What a lady! “Aux glaciers attentatoire” - and SO attentive was she that her acutely sensitive soul could detect the subterranean distant rumble of an impending avalanche of sheer evil. “Do not go gentle into that good night”? Weil did not. She went in agonized solidarity with the less fortunate - her final act. A hunger strike. NOW that it’s in a New Edition - having been out of print for so long - new readers have No Excuse for not reading this masterpiece. Grab your chance, BEFORE it’s off the market again!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jenna

    10 metaphors Weil uses that I want to remember: 1. the chlorophyll metaphor (p. 47): God, as the source of humankind’s moral energy, is likened by Weil to sunlight; she then expresses a longing for a “chlorophyll” that would enable her to feed directly on this sunlight. 2. the screen metaphor (p. 78): Harkening back to the myth of Semele, Weil compares suffering to a “screen” standing between humankind and God. If this screen did not exist, Weil argues, direct exposure to God’s radiance would caus 10 metaphors Weil uses that I want to remember: 1. the chlorophyll metaphor (p. 47): God, as the source of humankind’s moral energy, is likened by Weil to sunlight; she then expresses a longing for a “chlorophyll” that would enable her to feed directly on this sunlight. 2. the screen metaphor (p. 78): Harkening back to the myth of Semele, Weil compares suffering to a “screen” standing between humankind and God. If this screen did not exist, Weil argues, direct exposure to God’s radiance would cause humankind to instantly evaporate “like water in the sun.” I don’t see how anyone could buy this one. 3. the shadow metaphor (p. 87): Philosophers, especially those of the Buddhist ilk, frequently liken the self to a substanceless “shadow”; no less frequently, they enjoy comparing God to sunlight. Weil seamlessly melds those two metaphors, creating this breathtaking sentence: “The self is only the shadow which sin and error cast by stopping the light of God.” 4. the balance metaphor (p. 97): Weil argues that people’s actions should be driven by attention toward the impulsion of divine necessity, rather than by will/intention toward an ego-chosen object or goal. Then comes this cryptic metaphor: “Action is the pointer of the balance. We must not touch the pointer, but the weight.” 5. the walking-stick metaphor (p. 111): Like a blind man’s walking stick, “the only organ of contact with existence is love. That is why beauty and reality are identical. That is why joy and the sense of reality are identical.” Like the Buddhists, Weil rejects all attachments; nevertheless, she is able to conceive of a definition of love that is independent of attachment. For Weil, pure love is simply recognition of the existence of, and the inherent value of, a person other than oneself. Pure love is when you are grateful to someone simply for existing and have no desire to possess them or change them: “To love purely is to consent to distance, it is to adore the distance between ourselves and that which we love” (p. 115). 6. the mountain metaphor (p. 152): Someone standing on a mountain’s slope can only see the part of the mountain they are standing on, but someone standing on the mountain’s peak can see the entire mountain. Weil uses this as a metaphor for the path to sainthood and the acquisition of virtues along the way. 7. the pincers metaphor (p. 155): For Weil, logical contradiction is a pincers for “catching” the divine. 8. the window-washing metaphor (p. 186): Wiping the dust off of a windowpane makes the windowpane transparent; likewise, science “wipes the dust off of” the natural world. The danger, Weil cautions us, lies in forgetting that the purpose of window-washing is not to make the window more visible, but to make the landscape beyond the window more visible. I.e., the ultimate purpose of science ought not to be illumination of the natural world, but of the divinity that lies beyond it. 9. the wall-between-two-prison-cells metaphor (p. 200): Paraphrasing this one would only do it injustice. “Two prisoners whose cells adjoin communicate with each other by knocking on the wall. The wall is the thing which separates them but it is also their means of communication. It is the same with us and God. Every separation is a link.” 10. the tangent metaphor (p. 223): Weil conceives of humanity as a line (one-dimensional), God as a circle (two-dimensional, a “higher order” of being), and Christ as the point of tangency where the two meet. “It is impossible for an order which is higher [than another] to be represented in it except by something infinitely small. A grain of mustard seed, etc.”

  3. 5 out of 5

    David M

    'The great sorrow of human life is knowing that to look and to eat are two different operations.' 'Love is not consolation. It is light.' 'Absolutely unmixed attention is prayer. ' Creation as god's distance, etc - In my judgment Weil was one of the most fascinating people to ever live. We're all just playing games by comparison. 'The great sorrow of human life is knowing that to look and to eat are two different operations.' 'Love is not consolation. It is light.' 'Absolutely unmixed attention is prayer. ' Creation as god's distance, etc - In my judgment Weil was one of the most fascinating people to ever live. We're all just playing games by comparison.

  4. 4 out of 5

    S

    There is no way to review this book without coming-off as if you were too young to have read it.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Craig Werner

    I've struggled to find the right entry point to Simone Weil, having dipped into various collections of her essays and reflections. I reached Gravity and Grace because Susan Sontag mentioned it in an essay on filmmaker Robert Bresson. For me, at least, this was by far the best approach. G&G belongs in the genre of aphoristic/essays; it includes several dozen pieces extracted from Weil's notebooks entrusted to a Catholic priest she'd met in France during the period when she was gravitating to Chri I've struggled to find the right entry point to Simone Weil, having dipped into various collections of her essays and reflections. I reached Gravity and Grace because Susan Sontag mentioned it in an essay on filmmaker Robert Bresson. For me, at least, this was by far the best approach. G&G belongs in the genre of aphoristic/essays; it includes several dozen pieces extracted from Weil's notebooks entrusted to a Catholic priest she'd met in France during the period when she was gravitating to Christianity, though not in any vaguely orthodox sense, Catholicism. She's far too radical a thinker to have fit well into any hierarchy and there are many passages that bear about as much affinity with Zen as with any Western church. It's hard to imagine a vision more unsparing than Weil's. Her psychology reminds me at times of Dostoevky's--I started reading G&G when I was also reading Crime and Punishment. She has less than no sentimental believe in what she refers to as "consolations." (See the quote on friendship below.) Rather, she encounters the universe as a kind of dialectic between gravity--everything that weighs us down, drawing us into a fundamentally corrupt and hypocritical social, material world--and grace, the energy that can transform suffering into....the fact that I can't finish that sentence tells you something about the elusiveness, the spiritual rigor, of Weil's thought. I think the best way to go from there is to provide a montage of quotes from the book. It's not easy to read or comprehend--I limited myself to a couple of essays (none longer than ten pages, a few only two or three) each day. “Creation is composed of the descending movement of gravity, the ascending movement of grace, and the descending movement of the second degree of grace.” (48) “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.” (56) “Unconsoled affliction is necessary. There must be no consolation. Ineffable consolation then comes down.” (57) “Humility consists in knowing that in what we call ‘I’ there is no source of energy by which we can rise. Everything, without exception, that is of value in me comes from somewhere other than myself, not as a gift, but as a loan which must be ceaselessly renewed.” (76) “In general, we must not wish for the disappearance of any of our troubles, but grace to transform them….May they rather be a testimony, lived and felt, of human misery. May I endure them in a completely passive manner.” (82) “We must prefer real hell to an imaginary paradise.” (101) “To wish to escape from solitude is cowardice. Friendship is not to be sought, not to be dreamed, not to be desired; it is to be exercised (it is a virtue). We must have done with all this impure and turbid border of sentiment. Schluss!” (116) “The extreme greatness of Christianity lies in the fact that it does not seek a supernatural remedy for suffering, but a supernatural use for it.” (132) “The world, in so far as it is completely empty of God, is God himself. Necessity, in so far as it is absolutely other than the god, is the good itself. That is why all consolation in afflication separates us from love and from truth.” (162) “Absolutely unmixed attention is prayer.” (170)

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sophfronia Scott

    Simone Weil is mentioned several times in the correspondence of Thomas Merton and Czeslaw Milosz (compiled in the book "Striving Towards Being"). The favorable words of these admired authors made me curious to explore Weil's work. I started with "Gravity and Grace." For those also new to Weil's work I should point out this book is not a continuous narrative: it is a compilation of writings from the notebooks she entrusted to her friend Gustave Thibon before her death in 1943. For this reason the Simone Weil is mentioned several times in the correspondence of Thomas Merton and Czeslaw Milosz (compiled in the book "Striving Towards Being"). The favorable words of these admired authors made me curious to explore Weil's work. I started with "Gravity and Grace." For those also new to Weil's work I should point out this book is not a continuous narrative: it is a compilation of writings from the notebooks she entrusted to her friend Gustave Thibon before her death in 1943. For this reason the book reads like a series of thoughts--in some cases it seems Weil is trying to reason out a complex concept for herself in much the same way an artist might doodle or a scientist might scribble down formulas. I will admit there were parts of this book that were maddeningly confusing. However these were balanced with nuggets that I found to be entirely fresh and hopeful: "God's love for us is not the reason for which we should love him. God's love for us is the reason for us to love ourselves. How could we love ourselves without this motive?" I read "Gravity and Grace" from beginning to end, but it doesn't have to be consumed this way. In fact I will probably come back to this material repeatedly because there are many deep thoughts here that just need to be chewed over in that way. Since it is organized by topic you can pretty much dive into it wherever you like. I say go into this book with an open mind and a sufficient appetite for spiritual discovery.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Vicky

    I must love being nothing. How horrible it would be if I were something! I must love my nothingness, love being a nothingness. (111). Like that Emily Dickinson poem? Or that Múm album?

  8. 5 out of 5

    Michael Perkins

    Simone Weil was a Platonist Christian Jewish mystic which can make it hard to understand what she is saying if there is not much context. But here are some of my favorites.... "Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity" “To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.” “There is something else which has the power to awaken us to the truth. It is the works of writers of genius. They give us, in the guise of fiction, something equivalent to the actu Simone Weil was a Platonist Christian Jewish mystic which can make it hard to understand what she is saying if there is not much context. But here are some of my favorites.... "Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity" “To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.” “There is something else which has the power to awaken us to the truth. It is the works of writers of genius. They give us, in the guise of fiction, something equivalent to the actual density of the real, that density which life offers us every day but which we are unable to grasp because we are amusing ourselves with lies.” “The love of our neighbor in all its fullness simply means being able to say, "What are you going through?” “Compassion directed toward oneself is true humility.” “The joy of learning is as indispensable in study as breathing is to running.” “How many people have been thus led, through lack of self-confidence, to stifle their most justified doubts?” “Whatever debases the intelligence degrades the entire human being.”

  9. 5 out of 5

    ♥ Ibrahim ♥

    I love Simone Weil for a number of reasons: she is a woman and she is a philosopher who had both her mind and intuition fully active and greatly working. Some idiots think that philosophy is only for men and men only have the capacity for critical thinking. Simone Weil proves them wrong. Others think that to be philosophically minded is to be at odds with faith. Wasn't it Martin Luther who called reason the whore of Babylon? What an idiot! She proves him wrong too. Reason is a tool that the Lord I love Simone Weil for a number of reasons: she is a woman and she is a philosopher who had both her mind and intuition fully active and greatly working. Some idiots think that philosophy is only for men and men only have the capacity for critical thinking. Simone Weil proves them wrong. Others think that to be philosophically minded is to be at odds with faith. Wasn't it Martin Luther who called reason the whore of Babylon? What an idiot! She proves him wrong too. Reason is a tool that the Lord created Himself and uses for His glory. His glory is, as St. Irenaeus says, the living man. You can enjoy Weil's book even in a devotional setting. All her books have built my faith and sharpened my mind at the same time. She is a great example of a Christian woman could be like, not this subservient type that is highly promoted in Fundamentalist Christian circles in America as well as in the Middle East as we see from the writings of Beverly LaHaye for instance.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Patricia

    Sometimes Weil seems awfully austere. However, her work is full of soul-rearranging gems like this: "Justice. To be ever ready to admit that another person is something quite different from what we read when he is there (or when we think about him). Or rather, to read in him that he is certainly something different, perhaps something completely different from what we read in him. Every being cries out silently to be read differently." Sometimes Weil seems awfully austere. However, her work is full of soul-rearranging gems like this: "Justice. To be ever ready to admit that another person is something quite different from what we read when he is there (or when we think about him). Or rather, to read in him that he is certainly something different, perhaps something completely different from what we read in him. Every being cries out silently to be read differently."

  11. 4 out of 5

    James Koppen

    Deserves ten out of five stars. No, all of the stars in the universe. This medium cannot express its greatness.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    far more satisfying than lovey dovey contemporary christianity, simone presents a horrifying image of god whose very presence annihilates our selfhood and whose love commands us to submit to his will as slaves. sometimes it is difficult to discern wisdom which is applicable to life and that which is really scary and unpleasant to think about

  13. 4 out of 5

    Caleb Ingegneri

    If you like to spend hours disentangling texts only to realize you know nothing, this is the book for you. If you are a Platonist, knockout. Welcome to high Platonism, population legion. We have cookies, we have flowers, we have Marxist mystics. What should a book of mystical theology do: Restate old truths? Provoke mystical experiences? Inspire the reader to action? On the first day of discussing Gravity and Grace with a reading group of ten people, the prevailing question was not 'What should If you like to spend hours disentangling texts only to realize you know nothing, this is the book for you. If you are a Platonist, knockout. Welcome to high Platonism, population legion. We have cookies, we have flowers, we have Marxist mystics. What should a book of mystical theology do: Restate old truths? Provoke mystical experiences? Inspire the reader to action? On the first day of discussing Gravity and Grace with a reading group of ten people, the prevailing question was not 'What should we do?' but, 'How should we discuss this book?' Weil's aphorisms do not tell a story. They cut to the chase, giving the insights of Weil's spiritual life without the fluff. They tell us to accept gravity, love distance, and pay attention. Her message is enticing to anyone in a similar spiritual headspace as Weil—me and possibly you. But as a result, they can also easily conform to what you already believe even if that is not Weil's intention. Be careful. There is no guidebook. Where we're going we need no maps. Gravity and Grace is an arrangement of Weil's aphoristic notebooks scrawlings by topic instead of chronology. I'm glad the editor juxtaposed Weil's statements so well here, but I am suspicious of whether this book conforms to what Weil would want to communicate to us in a wholistic work. Maybe, whether it is arranged right is not the question to ask—it is what it is. Nonetheless, I left the book looking for places where Weil would give a more clear account of her provocative and inspiring ideas. GG can provoke deep reflection and spiritual experiences through punchy aphorisms. It may be for you, it may not. As I read Weil's essays in Waiting For God, I am getting more accessible and well-expounded ideas, but I still wonder—is this who we should all be reading?

  14. 5 out of 5

    Peter Landau

    Simone Weil is my favorite Jew-turned-Christian thinker. She’s a nut! I can’t understand much of what she says in her aphoristic collection of religious thoughts, GRAVITY AND GRACE, but it sure makes little sense to me. Her writings are engaging in a way that the long introduction isn’t. While informative, the Christian hoodoo of the introduction makes sense until you think about it and then it comes falling down like the walls of Jericho. Weil isn’t so easily dismissed. Her thinking is more sol Simone Weil is my favorite Jew-turned-Christian thinker. She’s a nut! I can’t understand much of what she says in her aphoristic collection of religious thoughts, GRAVITY AND GRACE, but it sure makes little sense to me. Her writings are engaging in a way that the long introduction isn’t. While informative, the Christian hoodoo of the introduction makes sense until you think about it and then it comes falling down like the walls of Jericho. Weil isn’t so easily dismissed. Her thinking is more solid, though to me feels as if built on shaky ground. I’m just not certain that there is a meaning or even a need to parse one from our existence. Her almost masochistic attraction to a kind of spiritual martyrdom would be comical if it weren’t so tragic. Where she gets me is in her embrace of contradiction as the seed from which all spiritual truths sprout. Maybe that’s why her simple prose is so maddeningly difficult for me to comprehend. It’s not meant to be understood intellectually. She’s writing about a world that is beyond words.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Abby

    “The work of art has an author and yet, when it is perfect, it has something which is essentially anonymous about it. It imitates the anonymity of divine art. In the same way the beauty of the world proves there to be a God who is personal and impersonal at the same time and is neither the one nor the other separately.” Although I had already encountered most of this in the Weil anthology I read some months ago, it was a pleasure to read this unfiltered, free version of her earliest work. Such a “The work of art has an author and yet, when it is perfect, it has something which is essentially anonymous about it. It imitates the anonymity of divine art. In the same way the beauty of the world proves there to be a God who is personal and impersonal at the same time and is neither the one nor the other separately.” Although I had already encountered most of this in the Weil anthology I read some months ago, it was a pleasure to read this unfiltered, free version of her earliest work. Such a powerful mind, with thoughts I could fall into as if into a dark pool. “Everything without exception which is of value in me comes from somewhere other than myself, not as a gift but as a loan which must be ceaselessly renewed. Everything without exception which is in me is absolutely valueless; and, among the gifts which have come to me from elsewhere, everything which I appropriate becomes valueless immediately I do so.”

  16. 5 out of 5

    Cate White

    "We should be indifferent to good and evil, but, when we are indifferent, that is to say when we project the light of our attention equally on both, the good gains the day. This phenomenon comes about automatically. There lies the essential grace. And it is the definition, the criterion of good. A divine inspiration operates infallibly, irresistibly, if we do not turn away our attention, if we do not refuse it. There is not a choice to be made in its favor, it is enough not to refuse to recognize "We should be indifferent to good and evil, but, when we are indifferent, that is to say when we project the light of our attention equally on both, the good gains the day. This phenomenon comes about automatically. There lies the essential grace. And it is the definition, the criterion of good. A divine inspiration operates infallibly, irresistibly, if we do not turn away our attention, if we do not refuse it. There is not a choice to be made in its favor, it is enough not to refuse to recognize that it exists." page 172

  17. 4 out of 5

    Bethany

    I both wholly agree and disagree with Weil at any given moment, which is perhaps the reception she deserves, given her stance on the necessity of contradiction as the litmus for truth/reality (with which I entirely agree, except, I guess, for when I don't). A pithy, dense read. I predict I will return to it occasionally, and find my interpretations changed, and myself changed again because of this. I both wholly agree and disagree with Weil at any given moment, which is perhaps the reception she deserves, given her stance on the necessity of contradiction as the litmus for truth/reality (with which I entirely agree, except, I guess, for when I don't). A pithy, dense read. I predict I will return to it occasionally, and find my interpretations changed, and myself changed again because of this.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Brandon Kemp

    Simone Weil, like her richly allusive fragments, remains difficult to characterize. She veered between anarchist and traditionalist, mystic and philosopher. She supported the Spanish leftists against Franco's dictatorship--but never fired her weapon. She revered the Catholic church and many of its mystics (though she found the canonization of Constantine scandalous), even as she combined the best insights of the Catholic and Protestant traditions (and a great deal from Buddhism, Hinduism, Daoism Simone Weil, like her richly allusive fragments, remains difficult to characterize. She veered between anarchist and traditionalist, mystic and philosopher. She supported the Spanish leftists against Franco's dictatorship--but never fired her weapon. She revered the Catholic church and many of its mystics (though she found the canonization of Constantine scandalous), even as she combined the best insights of the Catholic and Protestant traditions (and a great deal from Buddhism, Hinduism, Daoism, and Platonism as well), choosing to exist on the outskirts of institutionalized religion. Consequently, this "book"--which, as I understand it, was salvaged from her diaries and organized thematically--is likely to challenge individuals wherever they find themselves politically or spiritually. What's more, it challenges one in a profoundly practical way. Even someone as passably atheistic (to adapt Derrida's self-description) as myself found much to respond to in these pages. Indeed, Weil, not unlike Tillich, seems to feel the line between theism and nontheism is, from a certain point of view, overstated. She speaks often of a God that is absent from creation, who is revealed in our emptiness, and consequently must be experienced by the human subject as absence in order for us to discover our own fragile, empty natures. Like Catherine of Siena, then, she has no problem affirming the identity of the human subject and God, and speaks alternatingly of the latter as the Absolute and as nothingness. Her meditations draw equally from science and spirituality, from literature and politics. Weil contradicts herself, but not unknowingly: "The contradictions the mind comes up against, these are the only realities, the criterion of the real.... Method of investigation: As soon as we have thought something, try to see in what way the contrary is true." In these pages, Weil does just that. Some of her lessons are difficult to bear, let alone apply. One sees in certain passages, like those in which Weil likens her presence in the world to that of a "tactless" friend coming between two lovers (God and the world), why Martha Nussbaum, eager to defend passionate attachment to the world against Platonic detachment, calls some of Weil's ideas "dangerous." And yet as uncomfortable as we might find Weil's emphasis on self-effacement, solitude, and detachment, there is a moral and practical insight lurking beneath it all that is difficult to deny: "It is impossible to forgive whoever has done us harm, if that harm has lowered us. We have to think that it has not lowered us, but revealed our true level... I am also other than what I imagine myself to be. To know this is to know forgiveness." Nor is our nothingness the whole story (for to be nothingness is to be identical to the Absolute, in some elusive but intuitively real sense). Elsewhere she writes with a difficult-to-describe mixture of confidence and humility on subjects ranging from the illusory nature of the objects of our desire (Lacan would agree) to the truths and falsities of Marxism and anarchism: "The whole of Marxism, in so far as it is true, is contained in the page of Plato on the Great Beast; and its refutation is there too.... [A future which is completely impossible, like the ideal of the Spanish anarchists, i]f it is conceived of as impossible, it transports us to the eternal....The constant illusion of Revolution consists in believing that the victims of force, being innocent of the outrages that are committed, will use force justly if it is put into their hands." Prescient remarks perhaps. But this independence of mind and spirit did not lead Weil to quietism either. "If we know in what way society is unbalanced, we must do what we can to add weight to the lighter scale.... But we must have formed a conception of equilibrium and be ever ready to change sides like justice, 'that fugitive from the camp of conquerors.'" Her ruminations, although frequently pithy, call for re-reading and repeated reflection. While I may have finished this book, I am confident that it is not yet finished with me.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Maria

    Not much can be said as a review of a book like this one. It is itself the sum total of what is possible to say at all. Though it's funny that in some of her opinions she is dead-wrong, and still it doesn't get in the way. Not much can be said as a review of a book like this one. It is itself the sum total of what is possible to say at all. Though it's funny that in some of her opinions she is dead-wrong, and still it doesn't get in the way.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Michael A.

    I read this a few years back but failed to understand or appreciate it... perhaps i will give it a go sometime in the future!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

    “Attention, taken in its highest degree, is the same thing as prayer. It presupposes faith and love.” Surely the writing of this book was an act of grace.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Annabelle Lim

    I believe this is a book that will take many rereads to fully appreciate the brilliance of Simone Weil. Gravity and Grace, a collection of her journal writings compiled into one, served as a window into the unique soul of this Christian mystical writer. But perhaps it was my lack of agreement and understanding of Weil’s worldview that made it a tough book to appreciate and enjoy. From her paradoxical perspective of all things obeying gravity’s descent except for the pull of grace, which in turn I believe this is a book that will take many rereads to fully appreciate the brilliance of Simone Weil. Gravity and Grace, a collection of her journal writings compiled into one, served as a window into the unique soul of this Christian mystical writer. But perhaps it was my lack of agreement and understanding of Weil’s worldview that made it a tough book to appreciate and enjoy. From her paradoxical perspective of all things obeying gravity’s descent except for the pull of grace, which in turn leads to the secondary descent of grace, the capability of the nothingness of God, to the inability to love oneself but loving others meant indirectly loving oneself instead; the nuggets of her insight are countless. Do I agree with such direct and intrinsic relationships between two opposing entities, as man is a slave to action and effort or true art only being born from anarchy? I cannot say. As a good friend of mine advised, one way to read this book is to appreciate and learn from the wisdom that resonates. The rest can be left for deeper pondering and prayer. For my first read, this is my takeaway.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Russell

    This book, written in exquisitely sparse but beautiful prose, challenged everything I thought I’d long ago settled in regards to the questions of good and evil, love and hate, and the attempts in thought, language, and actions to live or die according to the precepts so arranged. It’s a Catch-22 for philosophical minds, theological authority, and ego-based beings. If you know a thing is good but can articulate it, then it is not good but just a lesser reflection of evil. But evil is the seed of This book, written in exquisitely sparse but beautiful prose, challenged everything I thought I’d long ago settled in regards to the questions of good and evil, love and hate, and the attempts in thought, language, and actions to live or die according to the precepts so arranged. It’s a Catch-22 for philosophical minds, theological authority, and ego-based beings. If you know a thing is good but can articulate it, then it is not good but just a lesser reflection of evil. But evil is the seed of all good, a condition that engenders suffering, and creates the space in the mind for God. Only God doesn’t succumb to that sort of perceived conclusion. To see God is to die and so we claim to know God in order to avoid seeing and in so doing delay death. And death, what a head spinner that is...to die either by the sword or in the cross as our only options. The references not only to Monitheistic religions but also to eastern ideas of no-god and the Bhagavad Gita’s many gods as coexisting without contradiction gets at the heart of the language problem and something deeper, that which cannot be spoken of. Amazing book sure to generate thoughtful discussion without any sure conclusion. Loved it.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Caroline Loftus

    “Love is not consolation, it is light.” Weil is such a fascinating, inspiring, and challenging figure. I will be thinking about the many (sometimes frustrating) insights in this book for a long time. I dragged out reading this book over weeks because I did not want to be done with it. The reception of Simone Weil in the world of letters is quite interesting because most critics want to either revere her as a saint or reduce her to a lunatic. It is clear from reading her that she is neither of th “Love is not consolation, it is light.” Weil is such a fascinating, inspiring, and challenging figure. I will be thinking about the many (sometimes frustrating) insights in this book for a long time. I dragged out reading this book over weeks because I did not want to be done with it. The reception of Simone Weil in the world of letters is quite interesting because most critics want to either revere her as a saint or reduce her to a lunatic. It is clear from reading her that she is neither of these things, and I think the need of critics to dichotomize her has something to do with her gender. The one major flaw of this book is that it is not really her book at all, but a posthumous arrangement of her journals by her friend, who seems to leave out the parts of these writings which were critical of the Catholic Church. Still, every single line in this work contains enough thought to nourish the mind for a long time.

  25. 4 out of 5

    mizzle

    Although I cannot completely agree with Weil’s philosophy, nor can I choose to live my life by it, her insights lended me joy in understanding. When you approach this book without judgement, it’s enlightening to see the world through Weil’s perspective. She reminds us that everything is connected, and encourages us to adopt a sense of humility in all that we do. “To harm a person is to receive something from him. What? What have we gained (and what will have to be repaid) when we have done harm? Although I cannot completely agree with Weil’s philosophy, nor can I choose to live my life by it, her insights lended me joy in understanding. When you approach this book without judgement, it’s enlightening to see the world through Weil’s perspective. She reminds us that everything is connected, and encourages us to adopt a sense of humility in all that we do. “To harm a person is to receive something from him. What? What have we gained (and what will have to be repaid) when we have done harm? We have gained in importance. We have expanded. We have filled an emptiness in ourselves by creating one in somebody else.” This was a truly challenging read in that you have to approach all theories without a sense of judgement, but rewarding nonetheless.

  26. 5 out of 5

    G. Lawrence

    A collection of thoughts, really, and deserves a second read as some were very complicated and need thinking about. Fascinating read.

  27. 5 out of 5

    jt

    Her insights are often lovely. Unfortunately I'm not one for this kind of Platonic mysticism. Nevertheless some of her reflections on friendship, work, and social change are worthwhile. I wish she hadn't hated Aristotle so much... Her insights are often lovely. Unfortunately I'm not one for this kind of Platonic mysticism. Nevertheless some of her reflections on friendship, work, and social change are worthwhile. I wish she hadn't hated Aristotle so much...

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Schad Manuel

    Simone Weil left most of her readers perplexed. She lived by fierce conviction with a rare dedication to God and others and had an intellect capable of unraveling the systems of thought that motivate governing principles or organizations. She had an uncanny ability to detect contradiction and the profound power to live within that paradox.   Read more: https://bookoblivion.com/2020/01/28/s... Simone Weil left most of her readers perplexed. She lived by fierce conviction with a rare dedication to God and others and had an intellect capable of unraveling the systems of thought that motivate governing principles or organizations. She had an uncanny ability to detect contradiction and the profound power to live within that paradox.   Read more: https://bookoblivion.com/2020/01/28/s...

  29. 4 out of 5

    Reece Carter

    Not gonna lie, this one was a lot more challenging than I expected. I think it also showed me that I don't enjoy reading aphorism-style books, where it's just a collection of thoughts without a real narrative push behind it. Even things like Anti-Oedipus, which was also impossibly difficult for me, were a bit better because there was an argumentative flow to it. That said, I think it's clear that Weil has some immense level of genius going on in her head; but for me, I had a really hard time acc Not gonna lie, this one was a lot more challenging than I expected. I think it also showed me that I don't enjoy reading aphorism-style books, where it's just a collection of thoughts without a real narrative push behind it. Even things like Anti-Oedipus, which was also impossibly difficult for me, were a bit better because there was an argumentative flow to it. That said, I think it's clear that Weil has some immense level of genius going on in her head; but for me, I had a really hard time accessing it through her notes in this collection. This collection of thoughts (henceforth called a book) is really trying to get at God and our relation to it. I say 'it' because Weil herself refers to God as formless. It certainly isn't the God of Christianity, or Judaism, or Islam (all of which Weil repudiates to some degree), but rather it is the Creator as such. Weil's idea of creation is that at one point, God was *everything* and the world didn't exist yet. To create the world (and us) God had to withdraw from some of the *everything*. This means two things: 1) there is an inherent distance between us and God and 2) God is fully absent in our world. The title, Gravity and Grace, refers to the forces that Weil says are present in the distance (the metaxu) between us and God. Weil's gravity is not like Newton's, but rather is a force that pulls us away from God, while grace does the opposite. How do we use grace to get closer to God? Can we fight against gravity? What kind of ethics can be derived from Weil's metaphysics as outlined here? She addresses all of these in the book. A major theme in Gravity and Grace is that of contradiction. In fact, this is one of the principal areas in which I struggled. Editor's notes throughout the book assure us that by contradicting herself at various points, Weil is only solidifying her own philosophy, but I was frequently left unable to process this. For instance, she talks about how our world is not real, that it is a veil between us and God, and that detachment and suffering (Aurelius, is that you?) are the ways to break down this veil. However, she also advocates for things like tradition and intervention in the social sphere; she herself was quite political. I was never really able to reconcile these views, but I guess some people have. On the flip side, one of the contradictions that I loved and am still fascinated by in other works is that of 'presence in absence.' God created distance between us and It so that we would feel Its absence and know It existed. Wow. All things exist in their opposites and all opposites are on the same categorical level (that last bit was something Weil used to conceptualize an absolute Good which has no opposite, and that the good we think of as the opposite of evil is really just a lesser form of the capital G Good). That's the broad overview, but in the style of Weil's collection, I wanted to include some of my own stream of consciousness thoughts based on quotes from Gravity and Grace. --"It is not by chance that you have never been loved." Weil here is talking about how we should not desire things like love and friendship and how we should view them as gratuitous: things to be enjoyed in the moment but not desired. It also gets at her idea that nature is suffering and that all people should resign themselves to suffering as this is what will get them closer to God. --"Now everything which has a value is the product of a meeting, lasts throughout the meeting and ceases when those things which met are separated." Again we see this stoic idea of detachment from things (I think in this paragraph she even references Buddhism). This idea of living in the present is interesting, because Weil also says that to live in the present is to not exist -- something I've been thinking about for a long time. If you do not consider the past or future, there is no context for your present state, so you cease to exist. In Weil's words you "kill the self." With this quote, Weil is reminding us that and enjoyment should be constrained only to the experience of it itself, and never be sought out. --"It is when from the innermost depths of our being we need a sound which does mean something -- when we cry out for an answer and it is not given us -- it is then that we touch the silence of God." I liked this quote because it reeeeeks of semiotics. We know that language is really arbitrary and we're able to function with this knowledge...most of the time. However, every now and then we're forced to scream into the void, searching for meaning that we know isn't there. It's like sometimes we just have to reassert our previous conclusion that there is no meaning. This, as well as many passages that sound just like Kierkegaard, is evidence that Weil is definitely inspired by existentialism. --"It is the social which throws the color of the absolute over the relative." The bits at the end on Social Harmony and the Great Beast were probably the most enjoyable because they contained the most praxis. Here, Weil discusses the fallibility of human value -- we think what we call 'good' is actually The Good, but we only thing this because it's what society has decided. The influence of society and the Other on thought is clearly a big deal for Weil, who suggests that we should be willing to 'switch sides' at a moment's notice in the pursuit of the absolute Good. This idea in particular made me think of Kierkegaards teleological suspension -- you can supersede the ethic of society with the ethic of God's will. --"Is there always identity between what we love and what we hate?" Finally, this quote was interesting because the surrounding text talks about how 'the evil from the hilt [of the sword] is transferred to the point' and how the oppressed, given the power of the oppressors, will go on to oppress others in another way. This kind of cycle makes Weil think that maybe the things we value (justice, freedom, love) are really just alternate manifestations of things we hate. Again we come back to the idea of things being in their opposites, i.e. darkness being an absence of light that makes the presence of light even more salient. Maybe the things we desire are actually just distortions of the feelings we feel as people condemned to suffer by the love of God. Really makes ya think. Anyways, this is definitely good bubble gum for the brain but I was not personally able to extract much from it. I liked some of Weil's ideas and the way she wrote in such a stream-of-consciousness manner, but I was also frustrated by the vagueness and contradictoriness at times. Also good if you're interested in mysticism in spirituality and how that may be a better alternative to organized religion.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    Weil is clearly fascinating and there's plenty of material in here to keep the modern mystic busy for long long time. Unfortunately, I'm afraid that much of the beauty of her thought may be lost in translation and the editor's decision to group snippets according to theme may not have been the best choice. I could barely wade into a thought before being interrupted, making it unnecessarily difficult to grasp some of the more complicated concepts that Weil is working with here. Also, I was led to Weil is clearly fascinating and there's plenty of material in here to keep the modern mystic busy for long long time. Unfortunately, I'm afraid that much of the beauty of her thought may be lost in translation and the editor's decision to group snippets according to theme may not have been the best choice. I could barely wade into a thought before being interrupted, making it unnecessarily difficult to grasp some of the more complicated concepts that Weil is working with here. Also, I was led to believe that there would be more wide-ranging and meaningful references to the eastern traditions....this really is French Catholic mysticism through and through.

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