Weil on sensitivity and courage


Here is more Simone Weil, in a profound illustration of grace:

If I say to myself every morning: ‘I am courageous, I am not afraid’, I may become courageous but with a courage which conforms to what, in my present imperfection, I imagine under that name, and accordingly my courage will not go beyond this imperfection. It can only be a modification on the same plane, not a change of plane.

Contradiction is the criterion. We cannot by suggestion obtain things which are incompatible. Only grace can do that. A sensitive person who by suggestion becomes courageous hardens himself; often he may even, by a sort of savage pleasure, amputate his own sensitivity. Grace alone can give courage while leaving the sensitivity intact, or sensitivity while leaving the courage intact.

[Gravity and Grace, pp. 99-100. See the discussion in Simone Weil and Theology, pp. 172-173.]

This is also a good example of Weil’s aphoristic style. She would write in her journals whenever an insight, an illumination of reality, came to her mind. Gravity and Grace is a collection of excerpts from her journals.



  1. Please help me understand why you see Simone as a Gnostic? I am either an ignoramus or have but read this work to page 100; Last Thoughts.

    “Today it is not enough meekly to be a saint, but we must have the saintliness demanded by the present moment, a new saintliness, itself also without precedent.”

    • There are numerous factors that point toward Weil’s Gnostic tendencies, including (1) her rejection of most of the Old Testament for reasons that Marcion also held, (2) her deeply held Platonism and Platonist mysticism, which influenced Gnosticism in the early Church and thereafter, (3) her defense of the Cathars, a medieval Gnostic sect in Southern France, and not only because they were brutally persecuted but because she identified (to some extent) with their theology, and (4) her doctrine of “decreation” has Gnostic and Stoic overtones in regard to the material world and influences her focus on the Cross, not the Resurrection, in her theology.

      This does not mean that Weil is entirely a Gnostic. She doesn’t believe in a demiurge, an alternate evil deity that is responsible for the material world, because she rejects the mythology of Gnosticism. We could say that she has a demythologized Gnosticism that mixes with Christianity. She also seems to have held a high view of the sacrament of the Eucharist, which would undermine a Gnostic understanding of the material world.

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