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Simone Weil

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


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  • Love is not consolation, it is light.

    • Simone Weil,
    • in Eric Walter Frederick Tomlin, Simone Weil ()
  • Every being cries out in silence to be read differently. Do not be indifferent to these cries.

  • What hope is there for innocence if it is not recognized?

  • A well ordered society would be one where the State only had a negative action, comparable to that of a rudder: a light pressure at the right moment to counteract the first suggestion of any loss of equilibrium.

  • You could not be born at a better period than the present, when we have lost everything.

  • Workers need poetry more than bread. They need that their life should be a poem. They need some light from eternity. Religion alone can be the source of such poetry.

  • Modern life is given over to immoderation. Immoderation invades everything: actions and thought, public and private life.

  • A work of art has an author and yet, when it is perfect, it has something which is essentially anonymous about it.

  • In the intellectual order, the virtue of humility is nothing more nor less than the power of attention.

  • The authentic and pure values, truth, beauty, and goodness, in the activity of a human being are the result of one and the same act, a certain application of the full attention to the object. Teaching should have no aim but to prepare, by training the attention, for the possibility of such an act. All the other advantages of instruction are without interest.

  • Only an indirect method is effective. We do nothing if we have not first drawn back.

  • Distance is the soul of the beautiful.

  • Absolutely unmixed attention is prayer.

  • We have to try to cure our faults by attention and not by will.

  • Of two men who have no experience of God, he who denies him is perhaps nearer to him than the other.

  • Stars and blossoming fruit trees: Utter permanence and extreme fragility give an equal sense of eternity.

  • Necessity is God's veil.

  • The contradictions the mind comes up against, these are the only realities, the criterion of the real. There is no contradiction in what is imaginary. Contradiction is the test of necessity.

  • It is human misery and not pleasure which contains the secret of the divine wisdom.

  • To be innocent is to bear the weight of the entire universe. It is to throw away the counterweight.

  • Time's violence rends the soul; by the rent eternity enters.

  • Time does us violence; it is the only violence.

  • If there were no affliction in this world we might think we were in paradise.

  • If someone does me injury I must desire that this injury shall not degrade me. I must desire this out of love for him who inflicts it, in order that he may not really have done evil.

  • A hurtful act is the transference to others of the degradation which we bear in ourselves.

  • Evil when we are in its power is not felt as evil but as a necessity, or even a duty.

  • Do not allow yourself to be imprisoned by any affection. Keep your solitude. The day, if it ever comes, when you are given true affection there will be no opposition between interior solitude and friendship, quite the reverse. It is even by this infallible sign that you will recognize it.

  • It is a fault to wish to be understood before we have made ourselves clear to ourselves.

  • If we go down into ourselves we find that we possess exactly what we desire.

  • Every kind of reward constitutes a degradation of energy.

  • We should do only those righteous actions which we cannot stop ourselves from doing ...

  • A test of what is real is that it is hard and rough. Joys are found in it, not pleasure. What is pleasant belongs to dreams.

  • We only possess what we renounce; what we do not renounce escapes from us.

  • We possess nothing in the world — a mere chance can strip us of everything — except the power to say 'I.'

  • All the Freudian system is impregnated with the prejudice which it makes it its mission to fight — the prejudice that everything sexual is vile.

  • Two forces rule the universe: light and gravity.

  • 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.

  • All sins are attempts to fill voids.

  • A science which does not bring us nearer to God is worthless.

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

  • Imagination and fiction make up more than three quarters of our real life.

  • Purity is the ability to contemplate defilement.

  • We do injury to a child if we bring it up in a narrow Christianity, which prevents it from ever becoming capable of perceiving that there are treasures of purest gold to be found in non-Christian civilizations. Laical education does an even greater injury to children. It covers up those treasures, and those of Christianity as well.

  • The notion of obligations comes before that of rights, which is subordinate and relative to the former. A right is not effectual by itself, but only in relation to the obligation to which it corresponds ...

  • A right which goes unrecognized by anybody is not worth very much.

  • Liberty ... consists in the ability to choose.

  • To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.

  • Money destroys human roots wherever it is able to penetrate, by turning desire for gain into the sole motive. It easily manages to outweigh all other motives, because the effort it demands of the mind is so very much less. Nothing is so clear and so simple as a row of figures.

  • Nowadays a man can belong to so-called cultured circles without, on the one hand, having any sort of conception about human destiny or, on the other hand, being aware, for example, that all the constellations are not visible at all seasons of the year.

  • Whoever is uprooted himself uproots others. Whoever is rooted himself doesn't uproot others.

  • Uprooting is by far the most dangerous of the ills of human society, for it perpetuates itself.

  • The destruction of the past is perhaps the greatest of all crimes.

  • Culture — as we know it — is an instrument manipulated by teachers for manufacturing more teachers, who, in their turn, will manufacture still more teachers.

  • The true definition of science is this: the study of the beauty of the world.

  • Friendship ought to be a gratuitous joy, like the joys afforded by art, or life ...

  • ... prayer consists of attention. It is the orientation of all the attention of which the soul is capable towards God. The quality of the attention counts for much in the quality of the prayer. Warmth of heart cannot make up for it.

  • If it were conceivable that in obeying God one should bring about one's own damnation whilst in disobeying him one could be saved, I should still choose the way of obedience.

  • It is not my business to think about myself. My business is to think about God. It is for God to think about me.

  • ... as far as possible I only read what I am hungry for, at the moment when I have an appetite for it, and then I do not read, I eat.

  • Everybody knows that really intimate conversation is only possible between two or three. As soon as there are six or seven, collective language begins to dominate. That is why it is a complete misinterpretation to apply to the Church the words 'Wheresoever two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.' Christ did not say two hundred, or fifty, or ten. He said two or three.

  • ... God is rich in mercy. I know this wealth of his with the certainty of experience, I have touched it.

  • The intelligence can only be led by desire. For there to be desire, there must be pleasure and joy in the work. The intelligence only grows and bears fruit in joy. The joy of learning is as indispensable in study as breathing is in running. Where it is lacking there are no real students, but only poor caricatures of apprentices who, at the end of their apprenticeship, will not even have a trade.

  • Those who are unhappy have no need for anything in this world but people capable of giving them their attention.

  • The love of our neighbor in all its fullness simply means being able to say to him: 'What are you going through?'

  • Let us love the country of here below. It is real; it offers resistance to love.

  • Academic work is one of those fields which contain a pearl so precious that it is worth while to sell all our possessions, keeping nothing for ourselves, in order to be able to acquire it.

  • Sin is not a distance, it is a turning of our gaze in the wrong direction.

  • Religion is a form of nourishment. It is difficult to appreciate the flavor and food-value of something one has never eaten.

  • It may be that vice, depravity, and crime are nearly always, or even perhaps always, in their essence, attempts to eat beauty, to eat what we should only look at.

  • We cannot take a single step toward heaven. It is not in our power to travel in a vertical direction. If however we look heavenward for a long time, God comes and takes us up.

  • There is an easiness in salvation which is more difficult to us than all our efforts.

  • To be a hero, one must give an order to oneself.

  • [We are not] to take one step, even in the direction of what is good, beyond that to which we are irresistibly impelled by God, and this applies to action, word, and thought.

  • War is the supreme form of prestige.

  • We must love all facts, not for their consequences, but because in each fact God is there present.

  • The feeding of those that are hungry is a form of contemplation.

  • Fire destroys that which feeds it.

  • The work of art which I do not make, none other will ever make it.

  • Renunciation is submission to time.

  • The highest ecstasy is the attention at its fullest.

  • The world needs saints who have genius, just as a plague-stricken town needs doctors.

  • One could count on one's fingers the number of scientists throughout the world with a general idea of the history and development of their particular science: there is none who is really competent as regards sciences other than his own. As science forms an indivisible whole, one may say that there are no longer, strictly speaking, scientists, but only drudges doing scientific work ...

  • The speed with which bureaucracy has invaded almost every branch of human activity is something astounding once one thinks about it.

  • The whole evolution of present-day society tends to develop the various forms of bureaucratic oppression and to give them a sort of autonomy in regard to capitalism as such.

  • War, which perpetuates itself under the form of preparation for war, has once and for all given the State an important role in production.

  • The whole of our civilization is founded on specialization, which implies the enslavement of those who execute to those who coordinate ...

  • The word 'revolution' is a word for which you kill, for which you die, for which you send the labouring masses to their death, but which does not possess any content.

  • What is surprising is not that oppression should make its appearance only after higher forms of economy have been reached, but that it should always accompany them.

  • ... the instruments of power — arms, gold, machines, magical or technical secrets — always exist independently of him who disposes of them, and can be taken up by others. Consequently all power is unstable.

  • ... man alone can enslave man.

  • ... science has now been for a long time — and to an ever-increasing extent — a collective enterprise. Actually, new results are always, in fact, the work of specific individuals; but, save perhaps for rare exceptions, the value of any result depends on such a complex set of interrelations with past discoveries and possible future researches that even the mind of the inventor cannot embrace the whole.

  • Contradiction itself, far from always being a criterion of error, is sometimes a sign of truth.

  • One must always be ready to change sides with justice, that fugitive from the winning camp.

    • Simone Weil,
    • in Peter Viereck, The Unadjusted Man ()
  • Economics has not yet had a Thales, an Archimedes, or a Lavoisier.

  • The payment of debts is necessary for social order. The non-payment is quite equally necessary for social order. For centuries humanity has oscillated, serenely unaware, between these two contradictory necessities.

  • ... a mind enclosed in language is in prison.

  • The human soul has need of security and also of risk. The fear of violence or of hunger or of any other extreme evil is a sickness of the soul. The boredom produced by a complete absence of risk is also a sickness of the soul.

  • Official history is a matter of believing murderers on their own word.

    • Simone Weil,
    • in Thomas Merton, Faith and Violence ()
  • Christians ought to suspect that affliction is the very essence of creation. To be a created thing is not necessarily to be afflicted, but it is necessarily to be exposed to affliction. ... Affliction is the surest sign that God wishes to be loved by us; it is the most precious evidence of His tenderness.

  • The future is made of the same stuff as the present.

  • The essential characteristic of the first half of the twentieth century is the growing weakness, and almost the disappearance, of the idea of value.

  • The villagers seldom leave the village; many scientists have limited and poorly cultivated minds apart from their specialty ...

  • Science is voiceless; it is the scientists who talk.

  • When literature becomes deliberately indifferent to the opposition of good and evil it betrays its function and forfeits all claim to excellence.

  • It is impossible that the whole of truth should not be present at every time and every place, available for anyone who desires it.

  • The lure of quantity is the most dangerous of all.

  • Art is the symbol of the two noblest human efforts: to construct ... and to refrain from destruction.

  • The entire universe is nothing but a great metaphor.

  • Compassion directed to oneself is humility.

  • ... pain is the root of knowledge.

  • Humility is attentive patience.

  • To get power over is to defile. To possess is to defile.

  • In this world we live in a mixture of time and eternity. Hell would be pure time.

  • If we forgive God for his crime against us, which is to have made us finite creatures, He will forgive our crime against him, which is that we are finite creatures.

  • The essential thing to know about God is that God is the Good. All the rest is secondary.

  • ... one is never got out of the cave, one comes out of it.

  • There is no greater joy for me than looking at the sky on a clear night with an attention so concentrated that all my other thoughts disappear; then one can think that the stars enter into one's soul.

    • Simone Weil,
    • in Simone Petrément, Simone Weil: A Life ()
  • Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.

    • Simone Weil,
    • in Simone Petrément, Simone Weil: A Life ()
  • Fortunately the sky is beautiful everywhere.

    • Simone Weil,
    • in Simone Petrément, Simone Weil: A Life ()
  • The intelligent man who is proud of that intelligence is like the condemned man who is proud of his large cell.

    • Simone Weil,
    • in Simone Petrément, Simone Weil: A Life ()
  • Justice consists in seeing that no harm is done to men. Whenever a man cries inwardly: 'Why am I being hurt?' harm is being done to him. He is often mistaken when he tries to define the harm, and why and by whom it is being inflicted on him. But the cry itself is infallible.

    • Simone Weil,
    • "Human Personality" (1943), The Simone Weil Reader ()
  • What a country calls its vital economic interests are not the things which enable its citizens to live, but the things which enable it to make war; petrol is much more likely than wheat to be a cause of international conflict.

    • Simone Weil,
    • "The Power of Words," The Simone Weil Reader ()
  • The glossy surface of our civilization hides a real intellectual decadence.

    • Simone Weil,
    • "The Power of Words," The Simone Weil Reader ()
  • What is called national prestige consists in behaving always in such a way as to demoralize other nations by giving them the impression that, if it comes to war, one would certainly defeat them. What is called national security is an imaginary state of affairs in which one would retain the capacity to make war while depriving all other countries of it. It amounts to this, that a self-respecting nation is ready for anything, including war, except for a renunciation of its option to make war. But why is it so essential to be able to make war? No one knows, any more than the Trojans knew why it was necessary for them to keep Helen.

    • Simone Weil,
    • "The Power of Words," The Simone Weil Reader ()
  • Our science is like a store filled with the most subtle intellectual devices for solving the most complex problems, and yet we are almost incapable of applying the elementary principles of rational thought.

    • Simone Weil,
    • "The Power of Words," The Simone Weil Reader ()
  • I can, therefore I am.

    • Simone Weil,
    • "Science and Perception in Descartes," Formative Writings 1929-1941 ()
  • Joy is being fully aware of reality ...

    • Simone Weil,
    • in Thierry Gossit, ed., Wendy Brennan, trans., Women Mystics of the Contemporary Era ()
  • The world is God's language to us ...

    • Simone Weil,
    • in Mario von der Ruhr, Simone Weil ()
  • The apprehension of necessity is an imitation of creation.

  • Everything which originates from pure love is lit with the radiance of beauty.

    • Simone Weil,
    • "Human Personality" (1943), Selected Essays 1934-1943 ()
  • Pain and suffering are a kind of currency passed from hand to hand until they reach someone who receives them but does not pass them on.

  • It is not religion but revolution which is the opium of the people.

  • Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating.

  • When a contradiction is impossible to resolve except by a lie, then we know that it is really a door.

    • Simone Weil

Simone Weil, French philosopher, mystic, writer

(1909 - 1943)

Full name: Simone Adolphine Weil.