Simone Weil was a mystic, social activist and philosopher from France during the era of the Second World War.
Weil was an incredibly bright student, becoming well-versed in ancient Greek and Sanskrit in her teenage. She was also a kind soul, as her compassion and empathy led her to boycotting sugar at the age of five, when she learnt that it was unavailable to the French soldiers fighting in the First World War. She did not only study philosophy, but also learnt science, philology and languages throughout her career. She mainly taught philosophy during her life, while privately jotting down her intellectual ideas which gained popularity after her death.
Upholding the distinctiveness of her personality, Weil took the path less taken by the leftists of the twentieth century: the path of mysticism and religion. Being born in a secular Jewish household, she unexpectedly became interested in Christian mysticism and became deeply religious. This affinity towards religion can also be observed throughout her philosophical essays and compilations.
In addition to religion, politics is also a major concern in Weil’s works. She linked spirituality with social responsibilities and presented a relationship between groups and the individuals they accommodate. She was concerned with the hardships the working class has been bearing throughout the beginning of times and aimed at strengthening the bond between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie.
In Lectures of Philosophy, a compilation of lectures for her Philosophy classes by Weil contains many topics among which the concept of truth is a highly discussed one. She defines truth not only on a rational level, but psychologically as well. She discusses what experiences are required for an individual to classify an event as ‘true’.
While dealing with metaphysics, the concept of absence remained a matter of great interest to her. According to Weil’s beliefs, God is the all-present, and is fully here, while the creatures of God have only been created where God was not present. This idea bears similarity to the concepts present in Jewish mysticism.
The notion of affliction, or ‘malheur’, is also present in Weil’s philosophy. She deems affliction as a greater pain than suffering, a pain which only some souls are capable of feeling. These souls are active spiritually, and are also the least deserving of this great pain. Affliction is an additional suffering which transcends the body and mind, and directly wounds the soul.
Her collection of writings has been divided into twenty volumes. Gravity and Grace (1947) is her most important work, comprising of her ideas of religion and spirituality. In the essay TheNeed for Roots (1949), she presses upon the responsibilities of an individual to his state and vice versa. In Oppression and Liberty (1955), Weil deals with atrocities of war and the hardships factory workers face regularly. Waiting for God (1951) is her spiritual autobiography, while Notebooks is a three-volume commentary on miscellaneous philosophical ideas. Her works mostly deal with the relationship between God, men and society, and the moral and spiritual limitations the modern lifestyle has brought with itself.
Simone Weil passed away while suffering from tuberculosis during World War II, as she refused to eat more than the minimum portion allocated for each soldier at the time of war.
Her writings were given their due appreciation late after her death. Even though her work is neglected in the modern times, her compassion and love for humanity has earned her the respect of those who have come across her ideas.