Personal and impersonal in Simone Weil

 

Giulia Paola Di Nicola e Attilio Danese[1]

 

We would like to introduce some aspects of Simone Weil’sthought concerning the relationship between the “Personal and impersonal”. Our talk has two parts, “Pars destruens” and “Pars construens”.

 

A. Pars Destruens

 

The distance from Personalism. It is known that Simone Weil expressed a definite refusal of the term “personalism”. Such a refusal should be contextualized and not be underestimated. Weil thought that personalism, which she knew above all through Maritain, Mounier and their friends, was tied to bourgeois circles,more or less like Sartre and De Beauvoir’s existentialism: “… Personalist philosophy – she wrote – was born and has spread not in the popular  classes, but among writers, who professionally, possess, or hope to acquire, a name and a reputation”[2].

It is evident the contrast between that middle class environment of the personalists of the Thirties, whom she knew very well from birth, and friends chosen by Weil: unionists, workers, socialists, anarchists, revolutionary intellectuals and people hostile to any establishment. Simone had a visceral need to be deeply in tune with people’s sufferings: to feel herself in tune with life, she had to run away from the world of social conventions. Personally, she did that concretely, as we know, choosing to be a worker and a farmer.It’s because of a sort of moral obligation that led her to choose the most authentic values: “I have, above all, the sense of having escaped from a world of abstractions and finding myself among real men – clever or not – but of authentic goodness or wickedness”[3].

Nevertheless we have to keep in mind her critical attitude to the concept of “person” itself. Simone considered it essential to go against that notion, avoiding the vagaries of the ego’s delirium, in her opinion generally underestimated by personalists and by those who assume an abstract and elite concept of the person based on the defence of rights. She had the impression that for those intellectuals, the focus of one’s life consisted in looking for gratification and reassurance. This was a moral matter (because she feared egocentrism) and a metaphysical matter: the person cannot be the criterion of truth; if the ego desires truth, that truth has to be elsewhere and has to overcome the person. It is in this context that the theme of the impersonal takes place. 

Weil’s distance from the personalists is not as strong as it appears. The outward refusal does not correspond to a real theoretical distance. Studying deeply the meaning of the terms she used, one can even havethe impression that she falls into a contradiction when, at the same time, she refuses the term “person” and then she puts all her effort into promoting it. Some concepts she stresses, such as relationship, respect of diversity, conscience, integrity, are peculiar to personalists and belong as well to the whole of Weil’s thought. The criticized expression Rights of the person doesn’t appear very far from “obligations”, the term preferred by Simone Weil, to stress a moral engagement with every human being. After all, what should we say about her detailed listing of the “obligations toward human beings” of her last years (as in “Enracinement”)?We can find there, again, many echoes of what personalists developed in the same period, although expressed in different ways.

It would be better to underline Weil’s wish to escape from a half consolatory truth, to avoid traps of naturalism and culturalism, of individualism and collectivism, of spiritualism and materialism, in order to approach, as nearly as possible, the central nucleus of an anthropology that cannot be self-referential, but that needs to look outside, toward an impersonal – in the sense of meta-personal – truth, a truth that finally reveals itself as a loving Person.

Weil’s aim is to free human beings from the tendency to build idols considered as truth, all along a life-trip that is a sort of despoliation. The person’s de-creation is the preliminary condition to being a person on a higher and different level and to approaching the truth that comes from a superior plane.

 

Problems of language. “S. Weil and personalists couldn’t be adversaries. But they used an almost entirely contradictory lexicon with evident misunderstandings[4]“.  Fraisse also adds nevertheless, that it would be wrong to reduce everything to a lexicon, because the strongly negative connotation of the concept of the person must be connected to its inevitable degeneration in the mouths of men and women who when saying the term “person” really mean “me”. In Weil’s lexicon we have to read person as me, impersonal as truth, individual as thought and collective as mass. This sets a very different linguistic universe from the personalists, in whose view, instead, ego means individualism, person emerges from relationship, from the transcendence of itself, while the impersonal is linked/coupled with the anonymous, collective, “on”, which means the world born when the ego abdicates its own responsibility and becomes mass.   

According with Weil’s perspective the Person’s task, all its life long, is to avoid the recurrent risk of confusing truth with impressions, inclinations, needs and all things that, sooner or later, prove to disregard the  truth. Finally there’s a metaphysical question: truth could be reached in different ways: through intellectual knowledge, through hard manual work or through misfortune, but the most important thing is that it not get confused with the ego, that it opens itself to something that is beyond itself and that it receives as a gift.  

 

Person and sacred. Speaking of the person, one risks making sacredwhat it is not sacred, or at least confusing the sacred and the social; it would be better to clearly say “what  prevents the person from feeling sacred is the fact that s/he isn’t sacred at all”[5]. Only the seed of goodness that lives inside man is sacred. Consequently: “What is sacred – and it’s different from the person – is what in a human being is impersonal. All that is impersonal in men is sacred, and just this”[6].  In his Notebook, A. Camus would agree with her[7].   The nucleus of the problem is in the substantial difference, platonic and metaphysical, which Weil wants to confirm between  supernatural Good and all that     which is other than the good; the distance  the two levels doesn’t go away by accumulation, but by jumps.   

 

Abstraction. The term “person” sounds to S. Weil like an indefinite abstraction, corrupted by an unfounded substantialism that, because of its inability to define the object of speech, exposes itself to every kind of manipulation. In her opinion there’s inevitably too much rhetoric around this term, which would reveal a sort of escape in comparison to the concrete necessities of individual  men and women. If we proceed for abstractions,  human beings are cut out, since abstraction and oppression go together: “It is the cause of every sort of tyranny to take a notion, impossible to define and to conceive it, as a rule of public ethic”[8].   

A lot of other lofty concepts are similar and are misused in rhetorical proclamations, as, for example, the word “nation”, “sovereignty”. It is said: “Sovereignty belongs to the people”; this is an unrealized and unattainable proclamation; it would be more realistic to say: “Sovereignty resides in a chosen national assembly”[9]

Besides, because it is abstract, the concept of person considers everyone equal, and that is false and  a really big source of discrimination. Underestimating concrete inequalities, the “egalitarian” concept underlines injustice, given that men and women differ from each other in birth, social class, education, temperament; there is no worse injustice than treating differences as equal.

This is another reason to sustain that it’s not the generic person that must be taken into consideration but that man whom one can meet along the street with his needs and his sufferings, that man who doesn’t succeed in being a “person” in the proper sense, because, as Weil writes: “…its expansion is a social privilege”[10]

 

Person and human rights. Building a connective human fabric among nations, after the two World Wars, necessitated, as we know, the agreement around the Universal Declaration of Human Rights  (1948), with the great contribution of personalists, particularly Jacques Maritain. Simone Weil stresses the conceptual weakness of notions of the person and of rights[11].  

A human being is a lot more than a sum of rights, than the integrity of single aspects of his body and psyche. Mutilating one aspect, we inevitably injure the whole person[12]

To think of the person as the “subject of rights” would be to consider interpersonal relationships as a mercantile exchange. According to her personality, Simone fears the deception of a concept that flatters man’s most egocentric dimension when, on the contrary, it should be aimed at creating the conditions for relationships based on authenticity and mutual responsibility.

Instead, to aim at realizing the person, one would be forming a climing attitude, making some societies a strident shouting match of dissatisfied egos and flattering the lowest part of ego, that part most affected by evil’s conditioning. Just in the impersonal dimension it is possible to faces and change social relationships based on prestige.  

False rights. Not all desires can be right, but the idea that the ego is primarily the titular of rights indiscriminately confuses  real experiences with desires. That makes it difficult to recognize true needs. Inevitably some needs of the person are codified and protected as rights, while others are dismissed.The claim for rights is inevitably partial and it often neglects the main points. There are highly desirable and ineffable goods, not only because there are no words to say them, but also because there are no people able to understand their value and to pursue them: “The Soul has some needs as well, and when they are not satisfied, it is in a state analogous to that of a hungry and crippled body”[13]. After all they aren’t exactly rights because they arrive without a human being who can demandthem. They are decisive for the soul, but they don’t derive from thought, wish or from a collective reality. The role of society towards these goods is not to grant them. Society’s task is simply “cleaning the air”, or rather making the intelligence and heart ready and available to understand these kind of goods.

 

  1. Pars construens

 

Obligations. If person cannot demand the soul’s good as a right, it does however havethe obligation to follow the call of the truth in every circumstance of human life. It is responsible for the direction that marks its look and its life. Mutual care, fruit of a proper social feeling, springs from theimpersonal: «Each one who reaches the impersonal, finds its own responsibility toward all human beings. This responsibility is concerned with protecting in them, not the person, but all those fragile possibilities of passing into the impersonal »[14] .  

From this conviction, Weil articulates a Déclaration des obligations envers l’ être humain. She wanted journalists, entrepreneurs, judges and all those in a socially powerful position, to be forced to sign thedeclaration[15]

In Enracinement, Simone Weil shows that it’s necessary to assure a satisfactory relationship between pairs of equally necessary contraries: obedience and authority, loneliness and social life, personal and collective ownership, punishment and honour, truth and liberty of expression, equality and hierarchy, cooperation and personal initiative, safety and risk, rootedness in one’s own environment and universal communication. Stressing only one aspect, without the opposite corresponding pole, is a sin of simplification that leads to inhuman results and is unworthy of the noble political art. 

 

The defence from “us”. The Impersonal is not only a obstacle to the ego’s delirium, but also to the power of collectivism, which Simone distrusts as “Plato’s beast”. There is, in the human being, a specific temptation to abdicate to personal responsibility, favoured by different assemblages (group, party, Trade Union, Church…). The individual delegates its own responsibility to a massive ego, resulting from the sum of individuals espousing a dominant belief, conforming to a majority, idolizing a leader. We know that Simone herself very much feared this tendency as a typical temptation of group relationships. She confessed that, carried away by a group, she too would have been able to shout “Heil Hitler”. Because of that tendency, she didn’t want any Party membership card. Writing to P. Perrin, she also connects this distrust with Catholic milieus: «There’s a Catholic milieu that is always ready to welcome, with warnings,  whoever enters it. Now I don’t want to be adopted by  a milieu, to live in a milieu in which the “us” pronoun is used, to belong to this “us”, to feel myself at home in a human milieu, whatever it is. Saying “I don’t want”, I express myself badly, because I would like it: all this is very pleasant, but I feel that it is not for me, I feel that for me it is necessary and prescribed to be alone, to be aforeigner and in exile in any human milieu, without exception»[16].   

“Us” is not the impersonal but an inflation of the ego. Escaping from the impersonal, it pursues false paradises, sweet shelters, dreams of greatness and deliriums of power. «The Human being doesn’t escape from the collective except by raising himself over the personal to penetrate the impersonal. At that moment there is something in this man, a particle of his soul, on which nothing of the collective can have any sway»[17]. There is a personal hard-working that cannot be given up, that demands the assent to one’s proper “vocation”. It  constitutes an unforgivable omission, the most serious act of dishonesty to surrender oneself to society, to “what is said”[18].

 

The third one. Is the refusal of a collective tout court a undervaluation of society? Is there a possibility of arelationship beyond the imposition of ego and of us?

In Weil’s opinion, the radical disenchantment with society is the premise that allows an authentic interpersonal relationship, which is possible when “I” and “you” meet each other in a point that joins them without confusing them. Only by taking root in a common being, can “I” and “you” realize that transcendence of their immediateness and escape from the temptation to assert mastery over the other. That appeal to a third one as essential to a right relationship between I and You is  a leitmotiv of XX century philosophies.

In Simone Weil’s view, it is an essential metaphysical and ethical distance that can join individuals. This conception of friendship, fed on respect and on voluntary renunciation, is more and more developed, thanks to the recovery of Greek and evangelical sources, alluding to a third element with a human-divine face.

A good friendship needs respect, humility, self-effacement, virtues to connect with the recognition of the mystery that surrounds the “ego” and “you”, as if nobody had the right totear the veil that hides the difference of the other.  

Overcoming her adolescent upheavals, Simone Weil cultivates friendships with the rigor of a pure love, not consummated, avoing the “embrassons nous”, companionship. She fundamentally was inflexible on the rule that she gave herself: always keep friendship at that level where it feeds off  shared ideals and it does not  mutilate, but strengthen the aspiration to the good. She knew well that the feelings of gratitude and affection can divert from one’s own road, confusing friendship and truth Amicus Plato sed magis amica veritas[19]. She was more and more convinced that true unity is only possible in God.  

She makes reference to Plato: «It is impossible that two human beings are one, and nevertheless they meticulously respect the distance that separates them, if God is not present in each one of them. The point of meeting of two parallel lines is infinity»[20]. From the point of view of mathematics, this reality is in the proportional average between numbers and unity, symbolic of  divine mediation, what Pythagoras considered the key, the bridge between God and creation. The direct experience of Christ convinced Simone that the true mediation is Christ: «Christ has perhaps wanted to underline Christian friendship when he said: “When two or more of you are gathered  in my name, there will I be also”. A pure friendship is an image of the original and perfect friendship of the Trinity, which is the same essence of God”[21]. The promise to make friendship a privileged place of Christ’s presence on earth makes it a sacrament: “It can be thought – Simone emphasizes – that a pure friendship, as well as the charity…, contains something of a sacrament”[22].   

Such a model is a mysterious harmony of the personal and impersonal, aspects that, in the reality of things, are hardly compatible. Every other way of conceiving a relationship between the impersonal and personal is fallacious.

It isn’t possible to reach the Trinitarian level of unity without the cross, that is living contradiction without wanting to run away, without too hastily resolving it, because every attempt at synthesis, if it is not God, is just a deceptive consolation.  Monotheism therefore cannot be other than Trinitarian if it wants to avoid fictitious unity[23]

In the Trinity, differences are not destined to disappear: the separation is the fertile wound, that makes possible a successful unity.

 

Impersonal obedience. Obedience, another key word of Weil’s universe, would be pure oppression if it were not connected to  a Trinitarian concept.  According to Weil, this virtue, very exploited by every typology of power, doesn’t concern itselfonly with human nature; on the contrary, it concerns itselfwith the metaphysical concept of the person, with the “to have to be” of the human being. Paradoxically, she suggests that God is obedience and therefore He obeys both his relationship with the world and, somehow, his Trinitarian relationship. Having himself retreated from the world and having introduced in the world autonomous laws of development, He continually has to allow that the world be what it is, and not other. Accordingly: “The same power of God is also obedience”[24].  

In other terms, because obedience and omnipotence are not contradictory, omnipotence should be obedience to creative love and love should be nothing other than obedient power. Therefore: “What, in the man, is the true image of God; it is something that is connected with the fact of being a person, but which is not the person. Rather it is the faculty to abdicate being a person. It is obedience”[25].  

 

World’s order. When we experience necessity, which dominates nature and which resembles Leopardi’s stepmother (Tsunami, eruption of the volcano, earthquakes…), it is difficult to think of a personal God. Similar unpredictable events are like a shock that disarranges every sense of history and faith. This absence of acceptable explanations, this being at the mercy of the irrational is the main problem of the Greeks, who expressed fundamental questions without giving answers. In these cases: “Intelligence of necessity is an imitation of creation”[26].  

The mystery is that God’s hiding doesn’t mean his absence. Imitating the world’s order, the inactive passivity of natural things, means abandoning the ambition to understand, to manage one’s own life and nature and to accept posing questions without getting answers, to wish for a harmony thatisnot there, to ask forlove even if there is no one who cansatisfy it, suspended in the words not said by God. Consent is inside the intersection between necessity and love[27].

To love the world’s order just the way it is, is a choice and represents the demand not to build a “stopgap solution”.The most extraordinary miracles are merely the real fruit of true charity.

 

Events. Every event brings traces of truth, because it inducesthe soul to accept both what is in its favour and what is not. Events don’t derive from a personal choice, they are imposed from outside. This allows it to assimilate believers and atheists who have no experience of God: “All those who have pure love for  others and acceptance of the world’s order, including misfortune, all people, even if they live and die apparently as atheists, they are surely saved….When one meets this kind of men, it is useless to want to convert them. They are all converted, although not visibly; they have been regenerated from water and spirit, even if they have never been baptized; they have eaten the bread of life, even if they have never communicated”[28]

Events allow believers to see the shining face of a personal hidden God: “The Events of life, all without exception, are, by covenant, marks of God’s love, as the Eucharistic bread is the flesh of Christ. But a covenant with God is more real than any other realities. God establishes with his friends a conventional language. Every event of life is a word of this language. Such words are all synonyms, but, as it happens in beautiful languages, each one has its particular specificity, each one is untranslatable. The shared sense of all these words is: “I love you”. One drinks a glass of water. The water is God’s “I love you”. One stays for two days in the desert without finding anything to drink. The withering throat is God’s “I love you”. God is like an importunate woman who is glued to her lover and whispers to his ear many times, without stopping: “I love you – I love you – I love you…”. The beginners in learning this language believe that only some of these words mean “I love you”. Those that know the language know that these words contain a unique meaning. God doesn’t have any words to tell his creatures: “I hate you”. In a certain sense,the creature is more powerful than God. Man can hate God but God cannot hate man. This impotence makes Him an impersonal person. He loves, not in the same way I love, but as an emerald is green. He is “I love”. And also I, if I were in the state of perfection, I would love as an emerald is green”[29]

 

Time. God theCreator put between Himself and creation the impersonality of time over which he doesn’t have power. Hope would be only a superficial optimism if it didn’t imply the acceptance of such impersonality and of patient waiting moment by moment, until consummation and death. Neither man nor God can change something that has not happened into something that has happened.   The acceptance of time demands a sort of inactivity, similar to that of objects abandoned in the water that float according to their specific weight.

Even God is victim of time that He created and He submits his logic of love to the impersonal logic of history: “God waits as a mendicant who stands, immovable and silent in front of someone who will perhaps give him a piece of bread. Time is this waiting… Stars, mountains, seas, all that tells us of time reveals the supplication of God”[30].   

The meeting between man and God can be realized only in the time, althought they miss their appointment: “God and humanity are as two lovers who confuse the place of their appointment. Both of them are there early, but they’re in two different places and they wait, they wait,they wait. He is standing, immovable, tied to that place during the eternity of time. She is distracted and impatient. Unfortunate her, if  she has enough of it and leaves! All because the two different places are at the same point in the fourth dimension”[31]

 

Joy. Joy, that man looks for, is over pleasure. It implicates the impersonal one as well, no more, no less than misfortune, springs from attention to look for, to wait and to recognize the good as a gift. It is the same for Beauty. Only if human being is able to live this impersonal, can heproduce great works and enjoy a deep joy, which cannot be grant for nothing. He has to decide to attain the divine one, that comes to him with flashes of unexpected wisdom.

 

Personal-impersonal God. Only an impersonal God can be the absolute Good. He cannot be for his nature the irascible and astute sovereign that applies the categories of friend and enemy to condemn all those that don’t align with his truth. The demythologizing of God is the other front of the post-modern disenchantment that prevents us from making of God an idol,to the same extent of a human being.

The expression “Personal-impersonal” translates the not eliminable antinomy[32], an unsolvable tension among the two poles, with a preferential underline for the impersonal one at every level, philosophical-metaphysical, ethical and theological. From one side to preserve such open antinomy assures the honesty of mind, from the other one, it alludes to the possible harmony of the opposite ones in the person. Simone Weil attributes the word person in a proper way just to God: “The term person is properly applied to God and also the term of impersonal”[33].

Thanks to the analogical key Creator/creature, human beings imitate God on one side being as perfect as their Father – and Simone Weil explains “blind to the crime and the virtue”[34] – and on the other side answering to His love in a personal way; on the other side avoiding the traps of a cruel anonymity and escaping fromthe romantic-psychological illusions.

One can be assured to have succeeded in that coexistence of obedience to the impersonal God and of nuptial love with Christ, if he can face the suffering. It is necessary “to live the contradiction” to discover that this presence of contradiction makes human life intrinsically Trinitarian: “The correlations of contraries arelike a staircase.  Every step raises us to a superior plan where the relationship lives and joins the contraries. Until we reach a point in which we have to think together with the contrary ones, but where we cannot have access to the plan in which they are tied up.  This is the last step of the staircase. We cannot climb anymore there; we have to look, to wait, to love. And God comes down”[35]

  

Catholicism. In order to assume God’s perspective, we need to be real “Catholics”, or rather to widen the heart to the totality of the created cosmos, recognizing anywhere the seeds of good, with that look tuned in God that characterizes the great saints: “I believe that S. Francesco of Assisi and S. Giovanni of the Cross have been this way. Therefore they were both poets”[36].

Catholicism is the opposite of confessionalism and integralism: “Our love has to have the same extension through the whole space, the same quality in every portion of the space, the same light of the sun. The Christ ordered us to reach the perfection of our celestial Father imitating this indiscriminate distribution of light. Also, our intelligence has to have this complete impartiality. All of what exists is equally sustained in the existence by God’s creative love. God’s friends have to love him so much to confuse their love with God’s respecting love for everything”[37].  

If Catholicism wants to correspond to its universal vocation, it should simply think about the process of kenosis of the incarnation of God’s Verb; otherwise: “How could we propagate him through the whole flesh of European nations if it didn’t contain in itself everything, absolutely everything?   But lies, of course. But in everything that exists it is always possible to find more truth than lie”[38].

 

  1. In Weil’s opinion, personalists don’t pay enough accurate theoretical attention to misfortune. It is present anywhere in the world. Life is not understood without death, joy is not understood without pain, person is not understood without misfortune. It strikes all individuals, even though in different times and ways, without making distinctions of class and culture, without following some logical or ethical thread.

Experiences of misfortune are impossible to explain, such as the emptying of the person; they’re simply unsaid, they’re the mute discarding of a person, because “those people who could tell them, cannot formulate them, those people who could formulate them, cannot tell them”[39]. Because misfortune is senseless, it reaches the impersonal. To have an objective, as in the martyrdom or in the “offered” suffering, reduces the impact of misfortune: “To do of a suffering an offer is a consolation, …. Suffering has no meaning. This is the true essence of its reality. It is necessary to love its absence of meaning. Otherwise God is not loved”[40]. Because it has no reason to be, to disarrange certainties and to create an abysmal void, misfortune forces every one to live the experience of Christ: “Why did you abandon me?” 

By unjust sufferings, It is the consent that frees the soul from evil; it has the miraculous virtue to transform evil in heaven, injustice in justice. For this reason the suffering, welcomed without cowardice and revolt, becomes the precious pearl that also allowseverybody to penetrate in the mystery of God: “… it is really in misfortune that God’s mercy is resplendent; in the depth, in the centre of its inconsolable bitterness. If, persevering in loving, one cannot hold back the cry anymore: “My God, why have you abandoned me?”; if one remains in that point without stoppingand loving, one understands that there isn’t misfortune, that there is not joy anymore, but it is the central essence, essential, pure, not sensitive, common to joy and to suffering, thatit is the same love of God. You understand then that joy is the sweetness of the contact with God’s love, that misfortune is the wound of the same contact, when it is painful, and what is important is only this contact, not the wayin which it happens”[41].  

  Simone sees the cross as the true privilege for soul and writes: “For the privilege to be before dying in a perfectly similar situation to that of Christ when, on the cross, he said “My God, why have you abandoned me?” for this privilege, I will gladly resign what is called “Heaven”»[42].

The Cross’s Universality.Weil’s philosophical-theological reflection is about the Christ of abandonment, seen as the centre of history, as thekey of insoluble problems in all fields of knowledge and of experience, and as theguarantee of liberation from idolatry “In every time, in every country, wherever there is misfortune, Christ’s Cross represents the truth of it. Every man that loves truth and doesn’t run away from it in, to escape from misfortune, heparticipates with Christ’s cross, regardless of his faith. If God would have consented to deprive a country or a certain epoch of Christ, we would know it from an unequivocal sign, from the fact that, among them misfortune does not exist. We don’t know anything similar in the whole of history. Anywhere there is misfortune, there is the cross, hidden, but present for whoever prefers truth to lies, orlove to hate”[43]

Humanity’s many wounds nail human beings to the cross, wherever they are in time and space, and they set to them the big dilemma: to love it or to run away. Those people who are attracted to the cross as their “country”[44] are really lucky: “God does in and with that soul what he did without it. In this way the Cross is the door toward the depths of God’s wisdom”[45]. It is not by chance that ingeniousness is considered the excellent fruit of thebeloved cross: “A genius is not, perhaps, another thing,but the ability to cross “dark nights”. Those people who don’t have of it… they discourage and say: “I am not able; I’m not made for that, I don’t understand anything”[46]. Therefore a genius possesses the secret of world’s lever: “A genius, likeGrace, is the wing that (raises Ch to rises) up what it is heavy”[47].   

Divine and creatural reality, with their proper natural differences, share laceration and union, since the whole cosmos, history and Trinity play that harmonic dissonance of the Cross: “The same [God], since any other would have been able to do it, went to the maximum of distance, the endless distance. This endless distance between God and God, supreme laceration, pain to which any other are comparable, love’s wonder, is the crucifixion. This laceration, on which supreme love puts the bond of supreme union, perpetually plays again through the universe, at the bottom of silence as two separate and fused notes, as a pure and agonizing harmony. This is the word of God. All creation is this vibration. When human music in its greatest purity passes through our souls, we are able to feel this feeling. When we have learned to listen to silence, we’re able to feel that laceration, more clearly, thanks to it”[48].  

  

Eucharistic relationships. Deepening Trinitarian analogy pushes Weil to increasingly recognize in the circular interpersonal relationships, the dynamics of laceration and harmony, of crucifixion and resurrection. This circular movement is, in fact, “the perfect image of the eternal and happy action that is the life of Trinity”[49]

Love is a banquet in which everyone offers him or herself to the other to become one thing: man eats God and he’s eaten by Him; God, who offers himself as bread, in reality, eats man. Such a circuit can be extended to nature: «”If wheat’s grain doesn’t die”: it has to die for freeing the living matter and the energy it brings, so that it takes form in other combinations. We have to die as well for freeing energy that sticks to us (would it not be easy for priests to speak to farmers of seeding in such  way?”[50]). It is on this note that we can understand the acceptance or the refusal of the reciprocity man-God.  

All of history, in a problematic form, is the miracle of the impossible and always pursues reciprocity between man and God, freely given in the Eucharistic love: “God has not been flesh just once, He becomes flesh every day and gives himself to man and to be eaten. Reciprocally, through work, suffering and death, man becomes material and gives himself to be consumed by God. How to refuse this reciprocity?”[51]

 

 

 

A short curriculum of

Giulia Paola Di Nicola and Attilio Danese

 

Giulia Paola Di Nicola and Attilio Danese are University Professors and teach respectively Sociology and Political Philosophy in various Italian Universities and as visiting professor abroad (Canada, Belgium, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Brasil). Married, with two sons, Giulia Paola and Attilio founded the Personalist Research Center and the relative Review: “Prospettiva Persona”, that had as first president Paul Ricoeur, the personnalist French philosopher dead in 2005 (look at the web site: www.prospettivapersona.it .

They participated as member of the scientific Committee to different educational projects and organizations (i. e. they are members of the Board of Governors  of INTAMS, International Academy on Marital Spirituality,  in Bruxelles, of the Editorial Board of the Review “Intams Review”, of the project on the Citizenship organized by INDIRE, in Florence). They are also actively engaged in the Scientific Committee of the Italian Bishop Conference’s Family Office.

 

 

Giulia Paola Di Nicola teaches Sociology at “G. D’Annunzio university” (Chieti) and she is President of the Prize for woman’s Studies (Center “M. Marangelli”, Conversano, Bari). She co-directs the cultural Review “Prospettiva Persona” and various book collections.

Between her books:

– Uguaglianza e Differenza. La reciprocità uomo-donna, Città Nuova, Roma 1988, 19892, tr. spagnola Igualdad y diferencia. Reciprocidad hombre-mujer, Narcea, Madrid 1991;

– Antigone. Figura femminile della trasgressione, ed. Tracce, Pescara 1991 (già edito nel 1990 dalla Regione Sicilia e nuovamente pubblicato con Andromeda, Teramo 1998), Women Price, Civitanova Marche 1992;

– Per un’ecologia della società. Problemi di sociologia, Dehoniane, Roma 1994, pp. 319. – Il linguaggio della madre. Aspetti sociologici e antropologici della maternità, Città Nuova, Roma 1994.

Infanzia maltrattata tra lusinghe e inganni, Paoline, Milano 2001.

 

Attilio Danese, considered a leader in the international network of personalists, got the International “Emmanuel Mounier Prize” (Paris, 1985). He directed two European projects for the U. E. on the development of democracy in East countries. He is president of “Personalist research Center” and co-directs the review “Prospettiva Persona”. Between his books:

Unità e Pluralità. Mounier e il ritorno alla persona, pref.di Paul Ricoeur, Città Nuova,             Roma 1984. Premio internazionale “E. Mounier” 1985

Cittadini Responsabili. Questioni di etica politica, Dehoniane, Roma 1992.

Persona, comunità e istituzioni,           ECP, Firenze 1994

 – Il Federalismo. Cenni storici e implicazioni politiche,  Città Nuova, Roma 1995

                  -Non uccidere Caino, Paoline, Milano 2002.

     

Giulia Paola Di Nicola and Attilio Danese wrote together several books together, some of which have been translate in Spanish, Polish, Portuguese, French. Particularly appreciated have been the books on Simone Weil, E. Mounier, Ignazio Silone, such as those on conjugal and marital spirituality.

 

–       Simone Weil. Abitare la contraddizione, Dehoniane, Roma 1991, 71-268, 420-550 (Premio Nazionale di saggistica “Città di Montesilvano”, Presidente I. Mancini, 1991);

–       Ethique et Personnalisme, Université catholique de Louvain, Ciaco éditeur, Louvain la Neuve 1989, pp.68-114, II édition hors commerce, Teramo 1992.

–       Abissi e Vette. Il percorso spirituale e mistico di Simone Weil, Libreria Edit. Vaticana, Città del Vaticano 2002 (portoguese ed.: Abismos e Apices, Ediçoes Lodola, Sao Paulo SP 2003);

–       Silone. Percorsi di una coscienza inquieta, Fondazione Silone, L’Aquila 2006 (Portoguese Edition: Abismos et cumes, Publicaçoes monasticas, Juiz de Fora 2005).

Simone Weil. Azione e contemplazione, (a cura, con M. C. Bingemer), Effatà, Cantalupa (To) 2005 (portoghese, french and spanish version);

Perdono…per dono. Quale risorsa per la società e la famiglia, Effatà, Torino 2005.

Le ragioni del matrimonio, Effatà, Torino 2006

– Persona e impersonale. Simone Weil e la questione antropologica, Rubbettino, Soneria Mannelli, 2009.

 

 

[1] Attilio Danese is professor of Political Philosophy (Teramo University) and co-director of the cultural review “Prospettiva persona”. He is the President of the “Centro Ricerche Personaliste”.  Giulia Paola Di Nicola is professor of Sociology in Chieti University and  codirector of the review “Prospettiva Persona”. Alone and together they wrote a number of books as in the website: www.prospettivapersona.it  On S. Weil their main book (without counting a number of articles) are: Simone Weil. Abitare la contraddizione, Dehoniane, Roma 1991; Abissi e vette. Il percorso mistico di Simone Weil, Libreria Ed. Vaticana, Roma 2002; Simone Weil. Azione e contemplazione (ed. G. P. Di Nicola and M. C. Bingemer), Effatà, Torino, 2005; Persona e impersonale. La questione antropologica in S. Weil, Rubettino, Soneria Mannelli 2009.

[2] This the indignant reaction of G. Hourdin: “Such affirmations are not only false, but also slanderous. I have known well E. Mounier, Jean Lacroix, Mr. Sturzo and they’re were among the founders of the personalism. Their faith, their indifference, the popular environment ..are out of discussion. All have known the experience of the innocent misfortune. Mounier for his daughter ( handicap), Lacroix for his suffered old age,. Sturzo for the persecution and the exile. They had of the person a different vision from that of SW” (G.HOURDIN, SW, cit., 236). It’s important to remember some letters between Mounier and SW (Cf. G. LEROY, CSW, 4 (1984)315-319 and the critique of Mounier to the Enracinement, in “Esprit”, 163 (1950). Cf A. Danese, Mounier e il ritorno alla persona, Città Nuova, Roma

[3] CO, 24.

[4] S. FRAISSE, SW, the personne et les droits de the homme, CSW, 2, June 1984, 125.

[5] EL, 19-20.  

[6] EL, 16.  

[7] “It is not human person that one needs to protect, but the possibilities that it implicates” (A. CAMUS, Taccuini, Gennaio 1942- Marzo 1951, inOpere, Bompiani, Milan, 1965,  282).   “There is from the smallest infancy up to the grave, in the deepest part of the heart of every human being, something that, despite the whole experience of committed, suffered and observed crimes, is always waiting for some good and not for evil. It’s this, before every other thing, which is sacred in every human being. Good is the only source of the sacred. There is nothing of the sacred but the good and what is related to the good” (EL, 11-13).

[8] EL, 12.  

[9] EL, 6.

[10] EL, 27.  

[11]“The notion of rights, launched through the world in 1789, has been, for its limits, impotent to realize the function that was intended. To join together two insufficient notions when speaking of the human person’s rights won’t bring us farther than we are now” (EL, 12).  

[12]So, in the example of “extracting eyes”, Weil plays on the paradox of a defence of person as if it could be limited to the right to preserve its eyes: “Once blind, he will be a human person exactly as before. I wouldn’t have quite injured the human person in him. I would have destroyed only his eyes” (EL, 12).  

[13] EL, 81.

[14] EL, 19-20.  

[15]«Every man that has the power to oppress or to deceive other men, should assume the obligation not to do it» (EL, 87).

[16] AD, 30.

[17] EL, 19.

[18]A comparative study of the great mystics supports this attitude of fundamental honesty. This study joins East and West in a whole great transversal stream and will confirm to Simone the duty to go beyond personalism and collectivism, beyond being assimilated or drowned in society’s ego: «The whole effort of mystics has always aimed at arriving at a point where there is no part in their soul that says “me”. But the part of the soul that says “us” is infinitely more dangerous» (EL, 17).

[19]This attitude had also been for her meaningful in relationship to faith, as she communicates to P. Perrin confiding to him that her faith came directly from God: «My friendship for you would have been for me a reason to refuse your message; I would have been afraid of possibilities of error and illusion entailed by human influence in the field of divine things» (AD, 70).

[20] AD, 207; cf. IP, 127-129.

[21] AD, 207; cf. IP, 127-129.

[22] AD, 207.

[23]“The belief in a unique God, without distinction of Persons or of principals of what is good and what is bad has as a consequence or as a cause, in every case, that it is inseparable from the moral blindness which was found by the Hebrews. Unity of contraries is badly done” (C, III, 253).

[24] CS, 309.

[25] EHP, 11, 17, 51.  

[26] C, III, 104.

[27] Cf. IP, 147.

[28] LR, 37-38.

[29] Cahiers IV, 161-162.

[30] Cahiers IV, 177.

[31] Cahiers IV, 178.

[32] CS, 77-78.

[33] AD, 213.

[34] Cahiers IV, 162.

[35] C, II, 408.

[36] AD, 80.

[37] AD, 79.

[38] AD, 53-54.

[39] EL, 28.  

[40] C III, 109.

[41] AD, 69-70.

[42] Cahiers, IV, 198.

[43] PSO, 124.

[44] PSO, 113.

[45] C, III, 192.

[46] C, I, 206.

[47] C, III, 158

[48] PSO, 92.

[49] IP, 27. “The Trinity is an action that has itself as subject and object and it’s perfectly represented by the circular movement” (C, II, 395). Cf. C, III, 311; CO, 268, 367; IP, 159.

[50]C, II, 58. S. WEIL, Le christianisme et la vie des champs (April 1942) , in PSO, 21-33.

[51] PG, 38.

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