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    Can We Avoid Idolatry?

    “We do not have to acquire humility,” Weil suggests. “There is humility in us. Only we humiliate ourselves before false gods.”

    By Simone Weil

    June 12, 2022
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    In this short section, Simone Weil identifies a tension at the heart of human existence: we have a desire for absolute good but live in a world of imperfect good. To avoid despair, we focus our desire on someone or something which becomes our god. Weil believed that in the modern era, when there is little cultural recognition of absolute truth or God, totalitarianism of all kinds will flourish; people have such a need to worship that they will bow down before an autocratic ruler. The real heroes of our time, she would say, are those who refuse to settle for an earthly fix for their longings and can therefore view the “great beast” of totalitarianism and other idolatries with lucidity. —Laurie Gagne, editor

    Idolatry comes from the fact that, while thirsting for absolute good, we do not possess the power of supernatural attention, and we have not the patience to allow it to develop.

    Lacking idols, it often happens that we have to labor every day, or nearly every day, in the void. We cannot do so without supernatural bread.

    Idolatry is thus a vital necessity in the cave. Even with the best of us it is inevitable that it should set narrow limits for mind and heart.

    Ideas are changeable; they are influenced by the passions, by fancy, by fatigue. Activity has to be constant. It has to continue each day and for many hours each day. Motives for our activity are therefore needed which shall be independent of our thoughts, hence of our relationships: idols.

    light shining through colorful stained glass

    Photograph by Jakub Pierozynski

    All men are ready to die for what they love. They differ only through the level of the thing loved and the concentration or diffusion of their love. No one loves himself.

    Man would like to be an egoist and cannot. This is the most striking characteristic of his wretchedness and the source of his greatness.

    Man always devotes himself to an order. Only, unless there is supernatural illumination, this order has as its center either himself or some particular being or thing (possibly an abstraction) with which he has identified himself (Napoleon for his soldiers, or Science, or some political party, etc.). It is a perspective order.

    We do not have to acquire humility. There is humility in us. Only we humiliate ourselves before false gods.


    From Love in the Void: Where God Finds Us by Simone Weil, edited by Laurie Gagne (Plough Spiritual Guides)

    Contributed By SimoneWeil Simone Weil

    Simone Weil was a modern mystic and philosopher.

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