on abolition of parties
essay by simone weil [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simone_Weil] (1957) from kindle version from anarchist library [https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/simone-weil-on-the-abolition-of-all-political-parties] via Translated in 2013 by Simon Leys
On the Abolition of All Political Parties
The mere fact that they exist today is not in itself a sufficient reason for us to preserve them..t The only legitimate reason for preserving anything is its goodness
we would/could have a legit global re\set (a way out) if we just realized that this is true for any form of m\a\p
First, we must ascertain what is the criterion of goodness.
It can only be truth and justice; and, then, the public interest.
yeah.. not deep enough.. what is public interest anyway..? who gets to say? who’s public? what interest.. when we are all so intoxicated from sea world living
Democracy, majority rule, are not good in themselves. They are merely means towards goodness, and their effectiveness is uncertain. For instance, if, instead of Hitler, it had been the Weimar Republic that decided, through a most rigorous democratic and legal process, to put the Jews in concentration camps, and cruelly torture them to death, such measures would not have been one atom more legitimate than the present Nazi policies (and such a possibility is by no means far-fetched). Only what is just can be legitimate. In no circumstances can crime and mendacity ever be legitimate.
Our republican ideal was entirely developed from a notion originally expressed by Rousseau: the notion of the ‘general will.’ However, the true meaning of this notion was lost almost from the start, because it is complex and demands a high level of attention.
Few books are as beautiful, strong, clear-sighted and articulate as Le Contrat social (with the exception of some of its chapters). It is also said that few books have exerted such an influence – and yet everything has happened, and still happens today, as if no-one ever read it.
Rousseau took as his starting point two premises. *First, reason perceives and chooses what is just and innocently useful, whereas every crime is motivated by passion. Second, reason is identical in all men, whereas their passions most often differ. From this it follows that if, on a common issue, **everyone thinks alone and then expresses his opinion, and if, afterwards, all these opinions are collected and compared, most probably they will coincide inasmuch as they are just and reasonable, whereas they will differ inasmuch as they are unjust or mistaken.
**yeah i think that sounds more like decision making than curiosity.. no need to compare in order to call differences unjust or mistaken.. rather..
imagine if we just focused on listening to the itch-in-8b-souls.. first thing.. everyday.. and used that data to augment our interconnectedness.. we might just get to a more antifragile, healthy, thriving world.. the ecosystem we keep longing for..
It is only this type of reasoning that allows one to conclude that a universal consensus may point at the truth.
hmm.. to me.. not a consensus (makes people think we need to agree to something before doing it) it just is.. and not sure we need to talk about truth ness..
Truth is one. Justice is one. There is an infinite variety of errors and injustices. Thus all men converge on what is just and true, whereas mendacity and crime make them diverge without end. Since union generates strength, one may hope to find in it a material support whereby truth and justice will prevail over crime and error.
yeah.. maybe semantics.. but ideas of truth and justice mess with us.. they bring in forms of m\a\p
This, in turn, will require an appropriate mechanism. If democracy can provide such a mechanism, it is good. Otherwise, it is not.
need: tech as it could be as mech
In the eyes of Rousseau (and he was right), the unjust will of an entire nation is by no means superior to the unjust will of a single individual.
However, Rousseau also thought that, most of the time, the general will of a whole nation might in fact conform to justice, for the simple reason that individual passions will neutralise one another and act as mutual counterweights. For him, this was the only reason why the popular will should be preferred to the individual will.
In order to apply the notion of the general will, several conditions must first be met. Two of these are particularly important.
First, at the time when the people become aware of their own intention and express it, there must not exist any form of collective passion.. t
because maté trump law et al
Collective passion is an infinitely more powerful compulsion to crime and mendacity than any individual passion. In this case, evil impulses, far from cancelling one another out, multiply their force a thousandfold. Their pressure becomes overwhelming – no-one could withstand it, except perhaps a true saint.
The second condition is that the people should express their will regarding the problems of public life – and not merely choose among various individuals; or, worse, among various irresponsible organisations . t (for the general will does not have the slightest connection with such choices).
For a while – all too briefly – these representatives truly were simple channels for the expression of public opinion.
Such a thing was never to happen again.
did it ever happen.. i think not
Merely to state the two conditions required for the expression of the general will shows that we have never known anything that resembles, however faintly, a democracy. We pretend that our present system is democratic, yet the people never have the chance nor the means to express their views on any problem of public life. Any issue that does not pertain to particular interests is abandoned to collective passions, which are systematically and officially inflamed.
even deeper.. i don’t think legit free people would focus their days on problems in life
The very way in which words such as ‘democracy’ and ‘republic’ are being used obliges us to examine with extreme attention two problems:
1. How to give the men who form the French nation the opportunity to express from time to time their judgment on the main problems of public life?
why? better to reset everyday.. start from scratch/itch-in-the-soul
2. How, when questions are being put to the people, can one prevent their being infected by collective passions?
can’t be prevented.. so why question people.. better to listen.. and connect.. imagine if we ness
If one neglects to consider these two points, it is useless to speak of republican legitimacy.
Solutions will not easily be found. Yet, after careful examination, it appears obvious that any solution will necessarily involve, as the very first step, the abolition of all political parties.
To assess political parties according to the criteria of truth, justice and the public interest, let us first identify their essential characteristics.
There are three of these:
- A political party is a machine to generate collective passions.
- A political party is an organisation designed to exert collective pressure upon the minds of all its individual members.
- The first objective and also the ultimate goal of any political party is its own growth, without limit.
Because of these three characteristics, every party is totalitarian – potentially, and by aspiration. If one party is not actually totalitarian, it is simply because those parties that surround it are no less so. These three characteristics are factual truths – evident to anyone who has ever had anything to do with the every-day activities of political parties.
As to the third: it is a particular instance of the phenomenon which always occurs whenever thinking individuals are dominated by a collective structure – a reversal of the relation between ends and means.
Everywhere, without exception, all the things that are generally considered ends are in fact, by nature, by essence, and in a most obvious way, mere means. One could cite countless examples of this from every area of life: money, power, the state, national pride, economic production, universities, etc., etc.
The goal of a political party is something vague and unreal. If it were real, it would demand a great effort of attention, for the mind does not easily encompass the concept of the public interest. Conversely, the existence of the party is something concrete and obvious; it is perceived without any effort. Therefore, unavoidably, the party becomes in fact its own end
And it is precisely because the notion of the public interest which each party invokes is itself a fiction, an empty shell devoid of all reality, that the quest for total power becomes an absolute need.
the material growth of the party becomes the sole criterion by which to measure the good and the bad of all things. It is exactly as if the party were a head of cattle to be fattened, and as if the universe was created for its fattening.
One cannot serve both God and Mammon. If one’s criterion of goodness is not goodness itself, one loses the very notion of what is good.
Once the growth of the party becomes a criterion of goodness, it follows inevitably that the party will exert a collective pressure upon people’s minds. This pressure is very real; it is openly displayed; it is professed and proclaimed. It should horrify us, but we are already too much accustomed to it.
beyond party ness.. but yeah.. that’s us.. already too much accustomed to it.
Political parties are organisations that are publicly and officially designed for the purpose of killing in all souls the sense of truth and of justice. Collective pressure is exerted upon a wide public by the means of propaganda. The avowed purpose of propaganda is not to impart light, but to persuade. Hitler saw very clearly that the aim of propaganda must always be to enslave minds. All political parties make propaganda. A party that would not do so would disappear, since all its competitors practise it. All parties confess that they make propaganda. However mendacious they may be, none is bold enough to pretend that in doing so, it is merely educating the public and informing people’s judgment.
and too.. in perpetuating the idea that life is about truth and justice.. any form of m\a\p
Political parties do profess, it is true, to educate those who come to them: supporters, young people, new members. But this is a lie: it is not an education, it is a conditioning, a preparation for the far more rigorous ideological control imposed by the party upon its members
again.. deeper.. all ed ness (any form of people telling other people what to do) is conditioning/killing/distracting us
Just imagine: if a member of the party (elected member of parliament, candidate or simple activist) were to make a public commitment, ‘Whenever I shall have to examine any political or social issue, I swear I will absolutely forget that I am the member of a certain political group; my sole concern will be to ascertain what should be done in order to best serve the public interest and justice.’
Such words would not be welcome. His comrades and even many other people would accuse him of betrayal.. This man would be expelled from his party, or at least denied pre-selection; he would certainly never be elected.
Furthermore, it seems inconceivable that anyone would dare to utter such words. .Conversely, everybody feels that it is completely natural, sensible and honourable for someone to say, ‘As a conservative …’ or ‘As a Socialist, I do think that …’
Actually, this sort of speech is not limited to partisan politics; people are not ashamed to say, ‘As a Frenchman, I think that …’ or ‘As a Catholic, I think that …’
marsh label law et al
..this is the heart of the matter.
If there were no truth, it would be right to think in such or such a way, when one happens to be in such or such a position. Just as one’s hair is black, brown, red or blond because one happened to be born that way, one may also express such or such a thought. Thought, like hair, is then the product of a physical process of elimination.
If, however, one acknowledges that there is one truth, one cannot think anything but the truth. One thinks what one thinks, not because one happens to be French or Catholic or Socialist, but simply because the irresistible light of evidence forces one to think this and not that.
If there is no evidence, if there is doubt, then it is evident that, given the available knowledge, the matter is uncertain. If there is a small probability on one side, it is evident that there is a small probability – and so on. In any case, inner light always affords whoever seeks it an evident answer. The content of the answer may be more or less affirmative – never mind. It is always susceptible to revision, yet no correction can be effected unless it is through an increase of inner light.
If a man, member of a party, is absolutely determined to follow, in all his thinking, nothing but the inner light, to the exclusion of everything else, he cannot make known to the party such a resolution. To that extent, he is deceiving the party. He thus finds himself in a state of mendacity; the only reason why he tolerates such a situation is that he needs to join a party in order to play an effective part in public affairs. But then this need is evil, and one must put an end to it by abolishing political parties.
A man who has not taken the decision to remain exclusively faithful to the inner light establishes mendacity (untruthfulness) at the very centre of his soul. For this, his punishment is inner darkness..t
It would be useless to attempt an escape by establishing a distinction between inner freedom and external discipline, for this would entail lying to the public, towards whom every candidate, every elected representative, has a special duty of truthfulness. If I am going to say, in the name of my party, things which I know are the opposite of truth and justice, should I first issue a warning to that effect? If I don’t, I lie.
Of these three sorts of lies – lying to the party, lying to the public, lying to oneself – the first is by far the least evil. Yet if belonging to a party compels one to lie all the time, in every instance, then the very existence of political parties is absolutely and unconditionally an evil.
In advertisements for public meetings, one frequently reads things like this: ‘Mr X will present the Communist point of view (on the issue which the meeting shall address). Mr Y will present the Socialist point of view. Mr Z will present the Liberal point of view.’
How do these wretches manage to know the various points of view they are supposed to present? Who can have instructed them? Which oracle? A collectivity has no tongue and no pen. All the organs of expression are individual. The Socialist collectivity is not embodied in any person, and neither is the Liberal one. Stalin embodies the Communist collectivity, but he lives far away and it is not possible to reach him by telephone before the meeting.
No, Mr X, Mr Y, Mr Z each consulted themselves. Yet, if they were honest, they would first have put themselves in a special psychological state – a state similar to the one which is usually attained in the atmosphere of Communist, Socialist or Liberal gatherings.
If, having put oneself in such a state, one were to abandon oneself to automatic reactions, one would quite naturally speak a language in full conformity with the Communist, Socialist or Liberal ‘point of view.’ To achieve this result, there is but one condition: one must absolutely resist the contemplation of truth and justice. If such contemplation were to take place, one would run a horrible risk: one might express a ‘personal point of view.’
When Pontius Pilate asked Jesus, ‘What is the truth?,’ Jesus did not reply. He had already answered when he said, ‘I came to bear witness to the truth.’
There is only one answer. Truth is all the thoughts that surge in the mind of a thinking creature whose unique, total, exclusive desire is for the truth.
total exclusive desire for truth?
we have no idea what legit free people would/could be like.. oi
Mendacity, error (the two words are synonymous), are the thoughts of those who do not desire truth, or those who desire truth plus something else. For instance, they desire truth, but they also desire conformity with such or such received ideas.
*Yet how can we desire truth if we have no prior knowledge of it? This is the **mystery of all mysteries. Words that express a perfection which no mind can conceive of – God, truth, justice – silently evoked with desire, but without any preconception, have the power to lift up the soul and flood it with light.
*huge red flag
**on each heart ness
It is when we desire truth with an empty soul and without attempting to guess its content that we receive the light. Therein resides the entire mechanism of attention.
It is impossible to examine the frightfully complex problems of public life while attending to, on the one hand, truth, justice and the public interest, and, on the other, maintaining the attitude that is expected of members of a political movement. The human attention span is limited – it does not allow for simultaneous consideration of these two concerns. In fact, whoever would care for the one is bound to neglect the other.
why all of us needs a global reset.. because thinking we have to examine problems is part of the conditioning.. part of the whalespeak
Even for those who do not compromise their inner integrity, the existence of such penalties unavoidably distorts their judgment.
If a man undertakes extremely complex numerical calculations knowing that he will be flogged every time he obtains an even number as the final result, he finds himself in an acute predicament. Something in the sensual part of his soul will induce him each time to give a slight twist to the calculations, in order to obtain an odd number at the end. His wish to react may indeed lead him to find even numbers where there are none. Caught in this oscillation, his attention is no longer pure. If the complexity of the calculations demands his total attention, inevitably he will make many mistakes – even if he happens to be very intelligent, very brave and deeply attached to the truth.
of math and men ness.. oi
What should he do? It is simple. If he can escape from the grip of the people who wield the whip, he must run away. If he could have evaded his tormentors in the first place, he should have.
It is exactly the same when it comes to political parties.
When a country has political parties, sooner or later it becomes impossible to intervene effectively in public affairs without joining a party and playing the game. Whoever is concerned for public affairs will wish his concern to bear fruit. Those who care about the public interest must either forget their concern and turn to other things, or submit to the grind of the parties. In the latter case, they shall experience worries that will soon supersede their original concern for the public interest.
Political parties are a marvellous mechanism which, on the national scale, ensures that not a single mind can attend to the effort of perceiving, in public affairs, what is good, what is just, what is true. As a result – except for a very small number of fortuitous coincidences – nothing is decided, nothing is executed, but measures that run contrary to the public interest, to justice and to truth.
If one were to entrust the organisation of public life to the devil, he could not invent a more clever device.
We must acknowledge that the mechanism of spiritual and intellectual oppression which characterises political parties was historically introduced by the Catholic Church in its fight against heresy.
A convert who joins the Church..he automatically registers his implicit acceptance of countless specific articles of faith which he cannot possibly have considered – to examine them all a lifetime of study would not be sufficient, even for a person of superior intelligence and culture.
How can anyone subscribe to statements the existence of which he is not even aware? By simply and unconditionally submitting to the authority which issued them!
ok yeah.. so i guess we do grok unconditional ness.. just to the wrong center
In fact – and with very few exceptions – when a man joins a party, he submissively adopts a mental attitude which he will express later on with words such as, ‘As a monarchist, as a Socialist, I think that …’ It is so comfortable! It amounts to having no thoughts at all. Nothing is more comfortable than not having to think.
one can say that one is in touch with this journal and its circle, but one is not aware of being part of it; there is no clear boundary between inside and outside.
Whenever a circle of ideas and debate would be tempted to crystallise and create a formal membership, the attempt should be repressed by law and punished.
nah.. we just need to org around legit needs so that we get back/to the dance.. anything else crystallises and creates some form of structural violence and so crystallises and creates and perpetuates not us ness
Generally speaking, a careful examination reveals no inconveniences that would result from the abolition of political parties. Strange paradox: measures like this, which present no inconvenience, are also the least likely to be adopted. People think, if it is so simple, why was it not done long ago?. t
And yet, most often, great things are easy and simple.
The institutions that regulate the public life of a country always influence the general mentality – such is the prestige of power. People have progressively developed the habit of thinking, in all domains, only in terms of being ‘in favour of’ or ‘against’..t any opinion, and afterwards they seek arguments to support one of these two options. This is an exact transposition of the party spirit.
The intellectual world is permanently full of trends and factions, in various stages of crystallisation.
In art and literature, this phenomenon is even more prevalent. Cubism and Surrealism were each a sort of party. Some people were Gidian and some Maurrassian. To achieve celebrity, it is useful to be surrounded by a gang of admirers, all possessed by the partisan spirit.
In the same fashion, there was no great difference between being devoted to a party or being devoted to a church – or being devoted to anti-religion. One was in favour of, or against, belief in God, for or against Christianity, and so on. When talking about religion, the point was even reached where one spoke of ‘militants.’
Even in school, one can think of no better way to stimulate the minds of children than to invite them to take sides – for or against..t They are presented with a sentence from a great author and asked, ‘Do you agree, yes or no? Develop your arguments.’ At examination time, the poor wretches, having only three hours to write their dissertations, cannot, at the start, spare more than five minutes to decide whether they agree or not. And yet it would have been so easy to tell them, ‘Meditate on this text, and then express the ideas that come to your mind.’
Nearly everywhere – often even when dealing with purely technical problems – instead of thinking, one merely takes sides: for or against. Such a choice replaces the activity of the mind. This is an intellectual leprosy; it originated in the political world and then spread through the land, contaminating all forms of thinking.
This leprosy is killing us; it is doubtful whether it can be cured without first starting with the abolition of all political parties.
The Importance of Simone Weil
But perhaps if not God, there is a goddess who walks through battlefields and concentration camps, penetrates prisons, gathers every drop of blood, every curse? She knows that those who complain simply do not understand. Everything is counted, everything is an unavoidable part of the pangs of birth and will be recompensed. Man will become a God for man. On the road toward that accomplishment he has to pass through Calvary. The goddess’s name is pronounced with trembling in our age: she is History.
In her decision not to be baptised and to remain faithful to Christ but outside of His Church, we should distinguish two motives. First, her feeling of personal vocation, of obedience to God who wanted her to stay ‘at the gate’ all her life together with all the neo-pagans. Second, her opposition to the punitive power of the Church directed against the heretics.
In 1943 she died in the sanitarium at Ashford, apparently from malnutrition, as she limited her food to the level of rations allotted by the Germans to the French population.
Such was the life of Simone Weil. A life of deliberate foolishness. In one of her last letters to her family, commenting upon the role of fools in Shakespeare’s plays, she says: ‘In this world only human beings reduced to the lowest degree of humiliation, much lower than mendicancy, not only without any social position but considered by everybody as deprived of elementary human dignity, of reason – only such beings have the possibility of telling the truth. All others lie.’ And on herself: ‘Ravings about my intelligence have for their aim the avoidance of the question: Does she tell the truth or not? My position of “intelligent one” is like being labelled “foolish,” as are fools. How much more I would prefer their label!’
intellect ness et al
Tactless in her writings and completely indifferent to fashions, she was able to go straight to the heart of the matter which preoccupies so many people today. I quote: ‘A man whose whole family died under torture, and who had himself been tortured for a long time in a concentration camp. Or a sixteenth-century Indian, the sole survivor after the total extermination of his people. Such men if they had previously believed in the mercy of God would either believe it no more, or else they would conceive of it quite differently than before.’ Conceive of it how? The solution proposed by Simone Weil is not to the taste of those who worship the goddess of History; it may be heretical from the Thomist point of view as well.
Following the Manichaean tradition, Simone Weil used to say that when we pronounce the words of the Lord’s Prayer: ‘Thy kingdom come’ we pray for the end of the world as only then the power of the Prince of Darkness will be abolished. Yet she immediately added that ‘Thy will be done on earth’ means our agreement to the existence of the world. All her philosophy is placed between these two poles.
There is a contradiction between our longing for the good, and the cold universe absolutely indifferent to any values, subject to the iron necessity of causes and effects. That contradiction has been solved by the rationalists and progressives of various kinds who placed the good in this world, in matter, and usually in the future. The philosophy of Hegel and of his followers crowned those attempts by inventing the idea of the good in movement, walking toward fuller and fuller accomplishment in history. Simone Weil, a staunch determinist (in this respect she was not unlike Spinoza), combated such solutions as illegitimate. Her efforts were directed toward making the contradiction as acute as possible. Whoever tries to escape an inevitable contradiction by patching it up is, she affirms, a coward. That is why she has been accused of having been too rigid and having lacked a dialectical touch. Yet one can ask whether she was not more dialectical than many who practise the dialectical art by changing it into an art of compromises and who buy the unity of the opposites too cheaply.
Certainly her vision is not comforting. In the centre we find the idea of the wilful abdication of God, of the withdrawal of God from the universe. I quote: ‘God committed all phenomena without exception to the mechanism of the world.’ ‘The distance between the necessary and the good is the selfsame distance as that between the creature and the Creator.’ ‘Necessity is God’s veil.’ ‘We must let the rational in the Cartesian sense, that is to say mechanical rule or necessity in its humanly demonstrable form, reside wherever we are able to imagine it, so that we might bring to light that which lies outside its range.’ ‘The absence of God is the most marvellous testimony of perfect love, and that is why pure necessity, necessity which is manifestly different from the good, is so beautiful.’
But Simone Weil did not turn her back on history and was a partisan of personal commitment. She denied that there is any ‘Marxist doctrine’ and denounced dialectical materialism as a philosophical misunderstanding. . By such a criticism she revealed the unpleasant secret known only to the inner circles of the Communist parties. On the contrary, class struggle, filling thousands of years of history, was for her the most palpable reality. Meditations on social determinism led her to certain conclusions as to the main problem of technical civilisation. That problem looks as follows. Primitive man was oppressed by the hostile forces of Nature. Gradually he won his freedom in constant struggle against it; he harnessed the powers of water, of fire, of electricity and put them to his use. Yet he could not accomplish that without introducing a division of labour and an organisation of production. Very primitive societies are egalitarian, they live in the state of ‘primitive communism.’ Members of such communities are not oppressed by other members, fear is located outside as the community is menaced by wild animals, natural cataclysms, and sometimes other human groups. As soon as the efforts of man in his struggle with his surroundings become more productive, the community differentiates into those who order and those who obey. Oppression of man by man grows proportionally to the increase of his realm of action; it seems to be its necessary price. Facing Nature, the member of a technical civilisation holds the position of a god, but he is a slave of society. The ultimate sanction of any domination of man by man is the punishment of death – either by the sword, the gun, or from starvation. Collective humanity emancipated itself. ‘But this collective humanity has itself taken on with respect to the individual the oppressive function formerly exercised by Nature.’
Today Simone Weil could have backed her social analyses with many new examples; it is often being said that under-developed countries can industrialise themselves only at the price of accepting totalitarian systems. China, for instance, would have provided her with much material for reflection.
The basic social and political issue of the twentieth century is: ‘Can this emancipation, won by society, be transferred to the individual?’ Simone Weil was pessimistic. The end of the struggle between those who obey and those who give orders is not in sight, she argued. The dominating groups do not relinquish their privileges unless forced to. Yet in spite of the upheavals of the masses, the very organisation of production soon engenders new masters and the struggle continues under new banners and new names. Heraclitus was right: struggle is the mother of gods and men.
*This does not mean we can dismiss history, seeing it as eternal recurrence, and shrug at its spectacle. Willing or not, we are committed. We should throw our act into the balance by **siding with the oppressed and by diminishing as much as possible the oppressive power of those who give orders. Without expecting too much: hubris, lack of measure, is punished by Fate, inherent in the laws of iron necessity.
*perhaps we need to though.. history ness et al
**perhaps until now.. for (blank)’s sake
Perhaps my intention, when preparing a Polish selection of her works, was malicious. But if a theological fight is going on – as it is in Poland, especially in high schools and universities – then every weapon is good to make adversaries goggle-eyed and to show that the choice between Christianity as represented by a national religion and the official Marxist ideology is not the only choice left to us today.
The works of Simone Weil are read by Catholics and Protestants, atheists and agnostics. She has instilled a new leaven into the life of believers and unbelievers by proving that one should not be deluded by existing divergences of opinion and that many a Christian is a pagan, many a pagan a Christian in his heart. Perhaps she lived exactly for that. Her intelligence, the precision of her style, were nothing but a very high degree of attention given to the sufferings of mankind. And, as she says, ‘Absolutely unmixed attention is prayer
In the Light of Simone Weil
Milosz and the Friendship of Camus
Medical scientists relying upon population statistics have established that the most remarkable instances of longevity are found hidden in remote mountains, among individuals who lead uneventful, monotonous and boring lives.
In 1953, he made his situation even worse by publishing what was to become his most influential work, The Captive Mind, written ‘not for a Western audience, but against it’ – against its obtuse and wilful blindness; the purpose was indeed to remind his readers that ‘if something exists in one place, it will exist everywhere.’ ..At the very moment when the intellectual and literary world was shunning him as if he had the plague, one man, a man of courage and integrity, extended to him a brotherly hand and helped him survive: Albert Camus. Soon, a deep friendship developed between the two writers – a friendship that was further strengthened by their shared admiration for Simone Weil.
Regarding Camus, one cannot fully understand his intellectual and spiritual development during the last part of his life – from the end of the war till his premature death in 1960 – without taking into account the exceptional importance of the influence on him of Simone Weil’s thought and the example of her life. It is a point which even his best biographers have not fully grasped, thus confirming Emerson’s opinion that literary biography is a vain and futile exercise, since it attempts to describe lives, the most significant events of which, by very definition, took place in a realm of silence and invisibility.
The religious position of Milosz appears both symmetrical with and opposite to that of Simone Weil. Her remark on the pagans who are naturally Christian, and the Christians who are naturally pagan, could fairly well summarise their respective situations. Simone Weil had a great desire to join the Church, in order to be allowed to partake in the sacraments; she denied herself this blessed privilege: she deliberately did not cross the threshold and remained outside – in solidarity with, and out of compassion for, the wretched condition of the neo-pagans. Milosz, conversely, born and educated within the Church, often wished to leave it; he wished to escape both the Polish Church of his childhood – political and chauvinistic – and the dismal caricature of Protestantism into which he saw that Western post-conciliar Catholicism was hopelessly drifting.
Milosz once defined himself as an ‘ecstatic pessimist’ and it is perhaps in this that he most resembles Simone Weil. In front of the mystery of evil, there is not much room in their faith for a Providence (that would comfort suffering), nor for a Communion of the Saints (that would endow suffering with meaning).
Is a consoling religion a debased form of religion? ‘Love is not a consolation, it is a light’ – this sentence of Simone Weil is admirable; but why should light not be consoling? At least, this is how the humble souls perceive it, when they piously light candles in front of the holy images of the Virgin Mary, or of some saints. Yet, of course, we can hardly imagine our philosopher – with her implacable genius – ever indulging in such practices (which, however, Pascal himself did not despise).