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Simone Weil: On "Forms of the Implicit Love of God"

Simone Weil time again! One of the essays in Waiting for God is entitled "Forms of the Implicit Love of God." Her main argument is that before a soul has "direct contact" with God, there are three types of love that are implicitly the love of God, though they seem to have a different explicit object. That is, in loving X, you are really loving Y. (in this case, Y = God). As for the X of the equation, she lists:

  • Love of neighbor 
  • Love of the beauty of the world 
  • Love of religious practices 
  • and a special sidebar to Friendship

“Each has the virtue of a sacrament,” she writes. Each of these loves is something to be respected, honoured, and understood both symbolically and concretely. On each page of this essay, I found myself underlining profound, challenging, and thought-provoking words. There's so much to consider that I've gone back several times, mulling it over and wondering how my life would look if I truly believed even half of these things...

Here are a few quotes on each topic - some get a little philosophical, but I feel confident that there's something in here for everyone!

Love of Neighbor:
“The gospel makes no distinction between the love of our neighbour and justice.” 
“To treat our neighbour who is in affliction with love is something like baptizing him.” 
“In denying oneself, one becomes capable under God of establishing someone else by a creative affirmation. One gives oneself in ransom for the other. It is a redemptive act.” 
“God is not present, even if we invoke him, where the afflicted are merely regarded as an occasion for doing good.” 
“The sufferer and the other love each other, starting from God, through God, but not for the love of God; they love each other for the love of the one for the other. This is an impossibility. That is why it comes about only through the agency of God.”

Love of the Order of the World:

“By loving our neighbor we imitate the divine love which created us and all our fellows. By loving the order of the world we imitate the divine love which created this universe of which we are a part.” 
“In general…the beauty of the world is almost absent from the Christian tradition. This is strange. It is difficult to understand. It leaves a terrible gap. How can Christianity call itself catholic if the universe itself is left out?” 
“The beauty of the world is Christ’s tender smile for us coming through matter.” 
“Only beauty is not the means to anything else. It alone is good in itself, but without our finding any particular good or advantage in it. It seems itself to be a promise and not a good. But it only gives itself; it never gives anything else.” 
“The longing to love the beauty of the world in a human being is essentially the longing for the Incarnation.” 
“The suitability of things, beings, and events consists only in this, that they exist and that we should not wish that they did not exist or that they had been different.” 
“We have a heavenly country, but in a sense it is too difficult to love, because we do not know it; above all, in a sense, it is too easy to love, because we can imagine it as we please. We run the risk of loving a fiction under this name. If the love of the fiction is strong enough it makes all virtue easy, but at the same time of little value. Let us love the country of here below. It is real; it offers resistance to love. It is this country that God has given us to love. He has willed that it should be difficult yet possible to love it.”

The Love of Religious Practices:

“A change of religion is for the soul like a change of language for a writer. All religions, it is true, are not equally suitable for the recitation of the name of the Lord. Some, without any doubt, are very imperfect mediums…But in general the relative value of the various religions is a very difficult thing to discern; it is almost impossible, perhaps quite impossible. For a religion is known only from the inside.” 
“Each religion is an original combination of explicit and implicit truths; what is explicit in one is implicit in another. The implicit adherence to a truth can in some cases be worth as much as the explicit adherence, sometimes even a great deal more. He who knows the secrets of all hearts alone knows the secret of the different forms of faith. He has never revealed this secret, whatever anyone may say.” 
“Attention animated by desire is the whole foundation of religious practices.” 
“One of the principal truths of Christianity, a truth that goes almost unrecognized today, is that looking is what saves us…It is at those moments when we are, as we say, in a bad mood, when we feel incapable of the elevation of soul that befits holy things, it is then that it is most effectual to turn our eyes toward perfect purity. For it is then that evil, or rather mediocrity, comes to the surface of the soul and is in the best position for being burned by contact with the fire…the effort to look upon purity at such times, has to be something very violent; yet it is absolutely different from all that is generally known as effort, such as doing violence to one’s feelings or an act of will. Other words are needed to express it, but language cannot provide them." 
"The effort that brings a soul to salvation is like the effort of looking or of listening; it is the kind of effort by which a fiancée accepts her lover. It is an act of attention and consent; whereas what language designates as will is something suggestive of muscular effort…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. He raises us easily…There is an easiness in salvation which is more difficult to us than all our efforts.”


“When a human being is in any degree necessary to us, we cannot desire his good unless we cease to desire our own.” 
“There is no friendship where there is inequality…If on one of the two sides there is not any respect for the autonomy of the other, this other must cut the bond uniting them out of respect for himself.” 
“Friendship has something universal about it. It consists of loving a human being as we should like to be able to love each soul in particular of all those who go to make up the human race.” 
“Pure friendship is an image of the original and perfect friendship that belongs to the Trinity and is the very essence of God.”

Implicit and Explicit Love:

“In the period of preparation the soul loves in emptiness. It does not know whether anything real answers its love. It may believe that it knows, but to believe is not to know. Such a belief does not help. The soul knows for certain only that it is hungry. The important thing is that it announces its hunger by crying. A child does not stop crying if we suggest to it that perhaps there is no bread. It goes on crying just the same.
The danger is not lest the soul should doubt whether there is any bread, but lest, by a lie, it should persuade itself that it is not hungry. It can only persuade itself of this by lying, for the reality of its hunger is not a belief, it is a certainty.” 
“God is pure beauty…God is, moreover, our real neighbour…God is also the perfect friend…In fact, contact with God is the true sacrament.” 
“We can, however, be almost certain that those whose love of God has caused the disappearance of the pure loves belonging to our life here below are no true friends of God. Our neighbor, our friends, religious ceremonies, and the beauty of the world do not fall to the level of unrealities after the soul has had direct contact with God. On the contrary, it is only then that these things become real. Previously they were half dreams. Previously they had no reality.”

I'd love to hear your thoughts on these - which strike you as profound? Which confuse you? Which do you disagree with? Let's hear all the thoughts! Let's discuss!


Anonymous said…
The book that this essay was first published in "Waiting on God" is one of those rare books that can change your life. It did for me at least. The essay is probably my favourite from the book. Thank you for putting up this succinct summary for the general public.

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