"If we love God while thinking that he does not exist, he will manifest his existence."
(Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace)
Simone Weil's writings on religion are beautiful and unforgivingly complex. Though she often rejected the hypocrisy of the institution of the Roman Catholic Church, her writings reflect a clear devotion to the teachings of Christianity. She referred to Christ as "Truth itself" and wrote at length of the importance of practicing obedience to God's will. She staved off baptism and did not consider herself a full member of the Catholic Church in part because of the concept of anathema sit; she disagreed strongly with the Church's practice of denying the Eucharist to those it expelled. In a letter to her spiritual advisor, Father Perrin, titled "The Spiritual Autobiography of Simone Weil," she wrote:
"I have never once had, even for a moment, the feeling that God wants me to be in the Church... In my eyes Christianity is catholic by right but not in fact. So many things are outside it, so many things that I love and do not want to give up, so many things that God loves, otherwise they would not be in existence... Christianity being catholic by right but not in fact, I regard it as legitimate on my part to be a member of the Church by right but not in fact, not only for a time, but for my whole life if need be."
Weil's religious writings chart this tension: the conflict between her individual experience of revelation and the corporate doctrine of Christianity. Fanny Howe called it "a supernatural effort at conversion" which was necessary after an insistently secular, intellectual upbringing. Weil experienced several moments of divine revelation - once, while watching a procession to honor the patron saint of fishing villagers; again, inside the basilica Santa Maria degli Angeli, when she was compelled to kneel; and a third time, when the beauty of a Gregorian chant consumed her and allowed her to detach herself from the pain of a brutal migraine. Weil claimed to have been possessed by the person of Christ several times. These incidents imparted her with a wholly personal relationship to divinity.
Simone Weil had an extreme conception of devotion. She advocated for a kind of personal annihilation; a total erasure of the ego in order to more fully inhabit the personhood of Christ. Her religious writing is also deeply rooted in her experiences with labor and Marxism. While some have labelled her a "Marxist turned mystic," it would be more accurate to call her a Marxist-mystic. Rather than altering or discarding her politics in favor of faith, Marxism informed and deepened Weil's spiritual awakening, in which she came to view Christianity as "a religion of slaves," counting herself among them.
Reading Weil's work leaves me with the distinct impression that I am not seeing the whole picture, and that it might indeed be impossible to do so. It's like reading the print-out of someone's thought process; her prose moves so quickly, jumping from tack to tack, cutting straight to the heart of what she means without preamble or explanation. She refuses to walk the reader through her ideas step by step, instead preferring to drop her conclusions, fully formed, in short sentences and brutal paragraphs. Some of the more difficult sections read as outright challenges. Want to know what she means? Okay. Here are the clues, the puzzle pieces, collected in a few dozen essays. Good luck.
"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."
(Weil, Gravity and Grace)