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Episode #175 ... Simone Weil - Vessels of God

2023-02-02 | 🔗

Today we continue talking about the work of Simone Weil.







This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Hello, everyone, I'm stephen west, this is philosophize. This important message to listen to the podcast. There were two episodes of the podcast released today parts three and four of this Simone veil series episode, which is part for builds up of ideas that were discussed in the last episode, which is part three. So if you haven't yet listen to part three highly recommend you go and do that first part. Three is called them imitation. This episode is called vessels of god. Both of them are released. Right now thinks we're doing you can help keep the show going I am doing all I can to make it interesting for you, fine folks, philosophize this dot org for ways to do that. I hope you'll have the show today, so we ended last time, comparing attention and will as two different ways of approaching the task of self transformation, doesn't really common. Attitude in the western world that how strong of a person you are just comes down to how much stuff you can do that you absolutely hate. How long can you force yourself to do something to yourself if anyone else did the exact same thing to you. We wouldn't call it so
improvement as much as we call it a class be felony a violation of the geneva convention. We see people that can do this stuff to themselves a strong but is having a strong, will an uncomfortable spots, really all that we should respect about a person that makes them strong or a Simone veil saying, are there other important skills that need to be developed as well, that are just better gives to have all things considered across the multiple situations that life may throw your way. Real, quick recap at the very end, the last episode for anybody. Listen to these two parts separately the example used last time was: let's say you want to read more, but you hate reading. How do you get yourself to change from someone who doesn't read into someone who reads: ok, but one approach, it's really popular in the west is it change, occurs through willpower and discipline. The strategy simple you hate reading, but your forced herself to do it anyway be grind your struggle through it and after enough time, forcing yourself to read eventually just me of something you do that's a habit eventually getting yourself to read, takes about as much willpower as it takes to get up in the more.
And take a shower or to brush your teeth. In other words, it's not something the agonize over. It's just something that you do forcing yourself through strength. the will is one way of getting yourself to do the things you don't want to do, but a totally different way of oriented yourself too the things you don't really want to be doing is to see them as things they haven't, really put your full effort into seen clearly. Yet that sure you may hate reading right now, but let's break them down. What is that really? Were you born with a deep seated hatred of words on a page. What you have a bad experience at a barnes and noble. When you were seven point, is you hate reading because you have a lot of assumptions about this activity that your dreading called reading. Maybe if you took a fraction of the effort you could spend forcing yourself to read for months and Why that effort to broadening your horizons, to opening yourself to try to see this activity of reading through a new set of eyes. Maybe you could find something that interests you about it and magical
getting yourself to do the thing. A hate doing isn't really a problem anymore, your life's driven by desire instead of denial, no first thing that we needs to be said here is that Simone veil did not see these two things as mutually exclusive. No doubt she thought people need both. will and attention to be able to be the best person they can be, but she doesn't want us to consider each of them individually as tools and a really about which situations in life each of these tools are the most useful in, and she thinks that when you do that, you start to realize the built in limitations of something like will indiscipline, just listen to how she writes about it. She says quote: we have to try to cure our faults by attention and not by will the will only controls a few movements of a few muscles and these movements are associated with the idea of the change of position of nearby objects. I can wield to put my hand flat on the table if inner purity
inspiration or truth of thought were necessarily associated with attitudes of this kind? They might be the object of will. As this is not the case, we can only beg for them or should we cease to desire them. End quote what she say in here, but first of all, she's making the point that the will is certainly good at doing some things for people, but if you really broke it down, the will is mostly go to performing physical stuff, it's a great all the use if your golden life is that you want to increase your max dead, lift, wait, it's a great tool, if you want to sit in an ice bath or any uncomfortable situation and endure things for as long as you can, if you're a writer, the will is great at getting it to sit down and put pin to paper and start doing the work, but there are certain things that strength of the will connect. get you closer to, for example, if you're a writer, you can't will yourself to something like creativity, you can try to use the will there if you want you can try to write really really hard for hours on end. You can say I'm not getting up from this table until I
in two thousand words today you can force yourself to move the pencil up and down on the pisa poor? But if every word you right is completely uninspired, the nearest wasting trees. At that point she says what could be more stupid than to tighten up our muscles and try to will arson I into writing a good poem or to will ourselves into an understanding of virtue likes. You said before you can't will yourself into an understanding of the truth just by going down to the library and reading really hard for a while. Now don't get me wrong again. The will is an amazing tool at doing some stuff, but the point is making at the end of quote from before is if. All you ever worked on when developing yourself in this life was will and discipline. If you didn't practice this cultivation of attention at all, Then, when you're, in a situation where you need something like inspiration or moral clarity or an openness to the truth, if all you have is discipline and will trend of physically assert yourself onto the moment. What can you do in that spot? It's the wrong tool for the job. That's why,
ass those questions at the end of the quote, pretty facetiously, I might add she says: what do you do? Do you just find some way to convince yourself? You dont want these things anymore. Do you beg somebody else for inspiration? She asked again both of these skills are necessary, but to Simone bay. We have to be honest with ourselves and recognize that sometimes the more useful skill to have in a situation, not to be able to will everything about the universe into existence, but instead to do the work to become so open and receptive to experience that you become capable of being a catalyst for the universe, to exist screw you, it's not obvious. By now is gonna be extremely different, take on morality than the existentialist heroism that was beginning to dominate europe during her time. This is also why the suspension of the ego, when the personal biases- that's why all this has to go where ultimately trying to develop a cent
activity, to be able to receive something that lies outside of the five conventional senses we typically operate within. Just as there are things that can't be wheeled into existence by physical brute force. There are things that cannot perceived by the human senses that still nonetheless exists to Simone veil. There is obviously some sort of continuity to this existence that were in there's something that lies outside of our perspective of space and time that guarantees existence, as it is from moment to moment, or at least has so far. The thing that makes an apple tree sprout an apple instead of a strawberry? What is that I mean you can describe it through something like dna, but what guarantees the continuity of that dna? What process is that dna, a science, I think record of to Simone v, there was an order, a cemetery, a harmony to the universe. She writes about. What's included in it. At one point, he says quote all beauty all truth: justice, all legitimacy, all order and all human behaviour. That is,
mindful of obligations and quote so what are you talking about their well she's We are talking about something non material here which would explain why a huge fan of sites, like Simone own wooden, necessarily want to use science to classify this kind of stuff, but it definitely is an important question. How do we scribes something like what she's talking about here in purely secular terms. Is it possible that certainly not a bunch of magical thinking she's bring into this she's us in the world's built on the back of a unicorn or something what she is saying, though, is that there are certain mystical elements of human reality that can't yet be understood by purely empirical study. So do we just ignore them? Do we all talk about things that are totally be mystified and fully understood by science, science or figure it out eventually or, but that the EU potentially missing out on a huge piece of what being a person is. You can try to put it in purely secular terms if you want
but some only thinks the best language use. When describing this beauty truth, justice order, she's, just gonna, referred to it as god for someone that hears the word. God and you start convulsing in your chair because how loaded the term is and how can any intel? in person really believe in something like a god. Less. You forget from episode one that Simone bay is among the most philosophically educated human beings tat ever lived. This is not just when throwing around terms not realising the weight of them. This is also not someone trying to do. You to come to their bible study class on Wednesday? In fact, every given in your head right now about the existence or non existence of a god, these social you quality of a belief in god she would to her all of em a hundred times over in her life and I'm sure, she's a whatever language you'll want to describe what she's gonna call god, but understand that this god Simone talking about is nothing like the god. That's talked about in the ramblings of fundamentalists. This is not a guy, You should rely on to save you from all the problems of this planet, while you
sit around on sunday reading stories about an arc. This is not a guy the prey to and ask for favours It's not a where you sit on his lap like he's santa claus and ask for a MR potato head for christmas. This is a vision of god and all of that which lies outside of space and time That is centred around moral accountability. It is, centred around the obligation we have to the impersonal universal truth that transcends a particular culture or a particular ideology. This is a u. Versus good, that links all people together. It lies in the heart of every one. She says and something that we ve forgotten because the structure of modern society. In the way it teaches us to horribly pay attention to the world and to see the people around. Thus merely in terms of how useful they are to us. This is a vision of god that says that if there Anything in line with this universal good that ever gets done on this planet recognise that that good stuff happened ultimately because it was done by some person somewhere, in other words, the only way that god every
this in the world, the Simone veil is if we are the ones who are enacting this universal good Simone veil. Then we are essentially vessels of god and when you start to look at it that way doesn't have you just instantly make you realize the responsibility we have as people to do good things if god can be thought of as a kind of frequency than to extend that comparison. You can think of yourself is kind of like an antenna, and there are messages being sent all the time over this frequency for you to be able to potentially receive you can call these messages god, if you're religious, you're, more secular, you can call them the universe. Totally different option is to call them mass consciousness that what she calls universal messages, but you're really receiving bits of a larger collective wisdom, that's being exchanged by people culturally, but whatever you decide to call them one thing for sure to her: you don't says these more universal messages, if you're locked into a closed system of thinking like an ideology and here's one of our big points, if we existed in a world
where there were no people than had ever done the work or had transcended experiences that we're calibrated enough an intended to receive this frequency? There would be no beauty. There would be no new creativity. There would be no new justice In other words, if you're living in that sort of world Simone veil says than the atheist is right, god doesn't exist, no evidence in that world that these messages are being sent either. God we exist to Simone veil, when there is a person who has done the work to receive this higher level message and then take action as a vessel in the world for these new forms of justice, beauty order, mindfulness of obligations and so on, most important thing to remember about this whole process to Simone veil is that it all relies on that taking action part of the equation it's in that participate, she's in the going on of your society that any of the stuff, the justice, the beauty whenever that participation is the only way the stuff ever becomes real to Simone veil.
This is an extremely important point in her work. So let's talk about it a little. You know some people cease, cutting philosophy as an alternative to living a religious life like have, you got church when you're a kid, and you can get those answers and believe in them more power to you, but if, for whatever reason, you can't do that and you still want to grapple with the difficult questions are being a person. Some people think philosophy is the best way. Get there, but Simone vase ought a different way. She's our philosophy as the requisite work. That needs to be done to prepare someone mine to be able to properly live a religious and morally consistent life philosophy, humbles a person if they study at long enough philosophy, gets into question those personal prejudices. You're limited viewpoint, your position within culture, even language used to express yourself philosophy, in other words, prying someone
the attention of the world in a way where their far less prone to projecting themselves out onto the world and then thinking they arrived at? The truth, but philosophy only primes you to receive this universal good. It's not enough to just receive it too Mon vey. It's not enough to sit around philosophizing about stuff all day being a vessel for goodness in this world requires an act of being yeah. to take action for anything real to happen. You know you can be the most hallo, braided antenna in the history of the world that these universal messages. You can have the perfect song up in your head, the perfect book waiting to be written deeply inspired. You ve opened yourself up to what the world this feeling right now you ve come up with something that just needs to be exact, asked at this moment, but if the idea only ever exist up in your head, because you don't take action, then you're never really a vessel for anything. You never really becomes real and then what usually happens as some other person, some other antenna out their recognizes the same message that needs to be expressed and someone
its rights, a song or rights. The book and there's been many a person that sat around watching other people that came out with an idea that they had first and sit around lamenting the fact that they should have gotten all the credit, but no it's only in action and participation that somebody becomes a vessel, for good to Simone veil. This also helps to explain why the key innovation of people that we talked about on episode to you know uprooting people robbing them of their culture and their ability to participate in culture. This explains why this is such an effective tactic to use if your goal was to spiritually impoverished people. This applies also to the society of the spectacle that recently talked about to Simone veil. The concept of the spectacle would make sense. In theory, I mean, if you dont, have to kidnap people and tear them away from their culture fish, equally, if you can reduce someone's reality to a succession of self referential images that they consume, and now they don't put
separating the reality anymore. They just consume what other people feed them. This explains why the spectacle would be such an effective method of keeping people feeling a sense of learned, helplessness and emptiness. What she's ultimately getting at is the pit we used to prey or meditate or have any number of religious rituals and allowed them to feel a stronger connection to the god that they believed in, but under some mon vase, vision of god. It's through participation in action as a vessel for good that you end up feeling more spiritually connected the things and if, for whatever reason you can't participate or are not willing to? Of course, the world seems like a godless and meaningless place when you're not meaningfully participating in anything there's an interesting line of thought. She goes on in one of her journal. She says the way it should be. Probably in these modern, productive material societies that we live in, where so many elements are centred around the manipulation, materials and nature around us. Our workplace should probably be. The creation of spiritual connection for the modern person work could eat.
We play the role and our psychology that prayer used to serve for people. I mean think about it. It's an activity where we're participating were working where creating something this productive and for the people around us for the world we live in. That sounds like a place where we should A similar level of joy in connection for our contribution to the whole process is going on, but that's not What actually is in actuality. We have people grouped into these collectives that do their best to alienate people from how their work connects to others in a meaningful way. We never meet the person that made the beautiful base that we have. Is it simply a coincidence that that's the way things are set? But anyway, now that I've spent years a your life telling you about how important attention once for Simone veil, talk about how we can get better at it. How do we become a better antenna for feeling connected to the universe on a deeper level or what she calls god, while to Simone veil, the more you practice, the better you get at it
the better you get at it. The more messages it you're gonna start noticing, but if you're starting from absolute zero here- and you want to know how to get started practising attention, there are three types of experiences that you can gravitate towards in your life Now. These three activities initially look like very different, explicit activities, but she thought the more you practice, the more you experienced them. The more you'll start to realise that all of them are actually just the same experience It's the same recognition of what she calls an underlying implicit love of god once again, moving away from the particulars to access the universal. The first way to practice is to try to orient yourself towards love of the beauty of the world. The second is to orient Attention towards the love of your neighbour and the third is an orientation towards love for religious ceremonies, Let's go through these one by one, but one thing that obviously needs to be said right at the outset. Here is that it is not a coincidence that everybody listen to. This has at least heard a story of someone who's, witness the beauty of nature or help
fellow person or experienced a religious ceremony and claim to have had some sort of transcendent moment? It's also not a coincidence that most of those people, have. No idea who Simone veil is, which is just to say it's not like these people, are on the payroll or something promoting her philosophy, Simone veil, clearly speaking to something that some more universal human experience here and when you consider the parallels between these sorts of experiences and other religious experience is people claim to have a say in the contemplative practice or psychedelic sir. I just think Simone veil would be very open to the possibility that a lot of people are all accessing the same thing here and having very similar insights for a reason. So anyway, the first exercise you could try is feeling love for the beauty, of the world. Now you can obviously witness the beauty of the world anywhere because eaten, mountain range just as much as you can see it in the eyes of someone, you love, but again, if we're coming up with a way to get your foot in the door of this whole process of cultivating attention, one place, people tend to find it easier to focus their attention. Probably cause
so immersive is by getting away from your normal life and going out into nature. Hopefully, some are safe, with no bears and just trying, when you're out there to feel your presence in the grand scheme of all of this pretty come for people to do this sort of thing and come back and say, man. When I was out there, I just felt so connected to everything, saw my place in the larger order of things. That's one possible access point to this experience. The second exercise it could do its feeling, love for your neighbor. Now again, how many people have you heard say things like. I saw someone when I was out today. They obviously we're in a bad spot. I did my best to talk to them did, but I could to help them and on the other side of it, I felt this intense feeling of section. I thought which are connected with this person on a human to human level, regardless of how they looked, regardless of who they voted for or any other particulars like that. That's an experience to try to cultivate as well.
You know this connection, it's available when you open yourself and receive someone as they are we're not just projecting yourself onto their experiences caring for another person or for another life form, for that matter is an absolutely critical part of the human experience a lot of people. It can be the entire way people feel like their actions, mean anything at all. There are people that go their entire life, in this narcissistic haze, where it's all about them all the time feeling zero connection, anything around them and then one day there in a situation where they suddenly have to take care of something other than themselves, and they just get hit like a truck with this sense of purpose that their serving for another person. They start to feel that connection to other people that really we all begin life with, as babies, born into the care of others totally possible to reconnect with that and love of your neighbour is something it's available to most people all the time. The third exercise she recommends is to try to orient your attention towards these self transcendence, that's possible in a religious ceremonies. Now this one's a little bit more com,
hated, see anyone whose religious probably has already felt a connection like this before it some religious ceremonies, but to the night will just folks out there. This applies to you too. Maybe it's a nonreligious person, you at least witness stay religious ceremonies, going on, and maybe when you were watching it, you have at least been able to acknowledge that look. Whether I believe in the same things are not these people clearly having some kind of different experience here that there's a whole different inner gee, that's often going on in these religious ceremonies, were people can sort of lose them cells in the moment where did not have to worry for a bit about protecting their egos or the judgment of others and its in this? that, I think the main thing about religious ceremonies just remember that make them and easier access point of feeling this connection with what she calls. God is not the particular relief, in that the ceremonies connected to, but it's in the openness of the format of the ceremony, it's an event where everybody gathers together and the whole agreement. Is that we're all here to attempt to connect to something greater than ourselves and part of that agreement.
Is it no? One here is going to judge you for trying to do that before, Are you wanna be based on that definition? I think mt. I would say that a lot of things fall into this category of a religious ceremony that aren't necessarily connected any organized religion, how about someone that goes to a concert or a music festival and gets lost in the music dancing, how about somebody that goes on a vision, quest or something tons of potential examples here, you'll have to find the things in your life that apply, but one things for certain. If there's any vice. I think Simone veil would offer to someone who is just starting out on this journey of getting past the conditioned personal ways of making sense of the world. I think it would be too not make the mistake of thinking that, just as you practice the exercises for a bit that you somehow arrived at the pinnacle of what it is that she's talking about see it so easy to think, Oh yeah, I'm to be more open today, put on my little circle glasses and be more like simone veil, yeah there's this guy, I that works and accounting at my office, tonal moron, genuinely just
pathetic human being in every sense of the word, but you know what I'm gonna take him out to coffee today, I wanna be open and perceptive, just like Simone veil, when he starts talking and saying all the insufferable stuff. He usually says that ruins my life, I'm going to use it as an opportunity today, I'm going to use it as an opportunity to practice patience. Identify some things that I love about this person and try to get those, rub off on me a bit. But what are you really doing there? She would ask: are you accepting that person. The way that they are is this a deeply of your neighbor, where you're trying to connect to them on a universal level or are you just re, framing aspects of their existence to be something that benefits you in your own personal projects again it so easy to set out on this journey of trying to cultivate attention and to see a little bit of progress to think well on the most open receptive person that I know, I must have done it. When I was practising the other day, I must have reached saint hood. Call me sent
steve. From now on, he kind of reminds me of a really common story. You hear when people try to learn mindfulness meditation, somebody will start meditating the follow the instructions they'll pay attention to their breath. They'll pay attention to the sensations in their body. Allow the thoughts to come and go. Don't judge them just to serve them, be present and I'll get on meditating and they want to be more present in life and will read the words of the wise in masters. What are they say? What is it to be present? Well, it's quite simple. When I walk, I walk when I eat I eat and when I sleep, I sleep, the read this stuff and I ll say: hey. I think I'll get it now. I shouldn't think about the past. I shouldn't worry about the future, I just gotta be right here in the present, so whatever I'm doing, I just got a focus on that activity and nothing else right. That's what it means to be in the present moment when I'm driving I'm thinkin about dry even now is that technically moving in the right direction when it comes to presence sure you could say that you're, certainly more present than if your mind was just come.
lately wandering in all directions with no effort being made at all. But, on the other hand, there is obviously a very severe difference between the experience of that person and the experience presence that someone's going for when their living in a buddhist monastery on top of a mountain. Is it better than nothing probably, but some they might say, just be sure to remember their levels to this stuff, and the same thing applies to the skill of attention. Never forget she would say that society, incentives as people to fall back into these old habits are projecting their agenda under things, including this process of cultivating attention. So, if you're looking for a solution, all the time or for seeking a destination where you pray
just being open in respect of enough and now I'm a moral sage, you're no doubt going to find that destination. Cultivating attention then, has to go hand in hand with a healthy level of self awareness. We have to keep ourselves and check because nobody else out there is going to do it for us, not even society. We have to remain humble and the only way you can ever hope to do. That really is. If we develop your ability to think as clearly as possible member, she thought that lucidity was the only path through the virtues of moderation and key. Rich two virtues. She says that without which life is nothing but a disgraceful frenzy, but the value of moderation and courage extend are beyond our own personal development? We all We need both of these things to be able to effectively resist anything in the politically without ourselves becoming a disgraceful frenzy in the process, and this is where the mathematicians situation from last episode becomes a bit more complicated, because let's say you can get to the point. We are actually seeking. The truth
and let's say you follow her solution of refusing to join one of these collectives and you take the road, less travelled and work on the skill of attention by the end of her life. It was clear to her that there are certain situations that the world can throw your way. We're just refusing to join. A collective way of thinking was not the appropriate level of protest. If you are going to be a morally consistent person, she actually lived through one of these situations by the way when hitler invaded poland and then denmark and the norway in belgium and as he went, there came to be a time and Simone veil life were just be, a pacifist and refusing to participate that sort of resistant started to seem to her to be pointless, I mean by all means she would say if the situation does not require violence. Nonviolent civil disobedience is great, but so says when you're facing someone like an adolf hitler at a certain point in a certain kind of social conflict, you have to fight fire with fire. She says he catches sit back passively, taking personal
pride in the fact that your morally superior to the nazis, our history is going to look back on me and say that I was in the right. No, that's not enough! Sometimes, and people out there being colonized and murdered. Simone veil thought there were situations in life where it's going to be necessary for a person seeking the truth to make the choice to align themselves with the collective. And most of the time when they do that. That's gonna be something that person sees as a lesser evil in the moment that they have to support, and while we can never view the philosophy of Simone veil by any means a completed work just given how early she died, I think she'd want to say to this thinking person that feels They have to resist the way that things are by temporarily, aligning with the collective that, when you choose a lesser evil? never allow yourself to forget that you ultimately chose evil there. We need courage and moderation to make these choices.
Be the two virtues that most closely resemble moral obligation and thinking. Clearly, two things I don't think I've ever seen any other philosopher more committed to then Simone veil. Thank you for listening talked to you. Next time
Transcript generated on 2023-04-12.