The Feeling of Poverty is the Feeling for Truth


 The French philosopher, Simone Weil, described by Albert Camus as “the only great spirit of our times (1909 -1943) was "above all, an outsider." (Elisabetta Rombi, A Conversation with Simone Weil, Philosophy Now, Issue 118)

 What distinguished her was the awareness of her own inner poverty - a sense of her own inner emptiness. She was, in New Testament terms, poor in spirit, which is not to be lacking in spirit, but rather to be in that potent state of humility that is the prerequisite for spiritual realization.

 In fact, the realization of truth depends upon just such a state of humility at the core of one’s being. 

 Simon Weil’s conviction was that the feeling of poverty is the feeling for truth. That is, the door to truth begins to open to the degree that we embrace our own inner poverty. 

 Repeating these words mantra-like on a walk the other day had a hugely elevating effect. I confirmed for myself that to strip away all props and to focus only on my own emptiness is indeed the gateway to understanding.

 The walk was a self-emptying experience and I entered a state of prayer. I felt only a sense of wonder and was not aware of clinging to anything.

 My need is more often to be reduced to that state of inner poverty that enables the light to break through.  

 Simone Weil had an image for the state of inner poverty. It was of a barren fig tree. In her words: “I never read the (New Testament) story of the barren fig tree without trembling. I think that is a portrait of me.” 

 I wonder how it would go over today on the success/prosperity lecture circuits - Fig Tree Seminars with Simone Weil? - lots of empty seats.

 Simone Weil, the outsider, was therefore blessedly out of step with all success mongers whose tendency is to skip past any kind of emphasis upon inner humility and to focus instead upon inner wealth - a sure indication that one is in the grip of self-deception.

 Simone Weil stood apart from the illusions men chase after to focus instead upon an attention to the real, which is to be centered upon that transcendent realm that usually escapes attention because of our almost constant diversions and distractions.

 If therefore the real is to be found, she wrote, it will be through "a true and full attention.

 The effect of which is to make your ordinary self disappear. Which allows then something from a deeper level to shine through. Your soul appears. You appear. 

 “Looking," she exclaimed, "is what saves us." We are not, in other words, saved by all of our efforts 'to possess, to consume or to control.'

 We are saved rather by simply watching and waiting, "expecting nothing and surrendering all.”

 We therefore most truly become ourselves not so much by striving, but by letting go. 

 “What could be more stupid,” Weil asks, “than to tighten up our muscles and set our jaws upon virtue, poetry, or the solution of a problem.” 

 No instead, as we become one-pointed, we relax into the realization of the realm of truth.  

 Everything stands still at such moments of realization. We are in a state of pure intuition

 Such moments of revelation meant everything to Simone Weil, as is made clear in a letter she wrote to a priest in 1942: I did not mind having no visible successes, but what did grieve me was the idea of being excluded from that transcendent kingdom to which only the truly great have access and wherein truth abides. I preferred to die rather than live without that truth.” (quote from Rivertext, mixing art and ideas since 1986)

 Simone Weil’s greatest desire was to belong to the kingdom of God.

 This theme of her greatest longing played itself out throughout her short life. Early on, at the edge of becoming a left wing revolutionary, she gave it up upon the realization that a better pursuit would be to develop that capacity for attention.

 As the quality of her inner life deepened, two relevations shook her to the core, altering her forever.

 While in Assisi in 1937: "There, alone in the little twelfth-century Romanesque chapel of Santa Maria degli Angeli, an incomparable marvel of purity where Saint Francis often used to pray, something stronger than I was compelled me for the first time in my own life to go down on my knees.” 

 A year later, while in extreme physical pain, Simone attended a series of church services during the Easter season, for a 10 day period. It was here that her greatest transformation occurred. She wrote: “The thought of the Passion of Christ entered my being once and for all. It was then that, Christ himself came down and took possession of me.” (Adapted from Vincent Di Stefano, Of Poverty and Potency. The Reluctant Mysticism of Simone Weil, Pt 1) 

 Simone's feeling for poverty - the feeling for truth - led to the culminating experience of her life, a breakthrough into spiritual union with Christ. 

 Simone's emphasis had been upon finding the point of eternity within one’s soul and "to keep it safe and to let it grow like a seed."

 Simone Weil’s experiences and words are a reminder to center our lives upon that which transcends all temporal concerns. 

 She said that it was crucial that on a daily basis we ask for that Bread of life, which, upon being eaten, will penetrate, enliven and energize our own psychic depths. 

 In Simone Weil’s words:"This is the bread we should ask for. And we shouldn’t deprive ourselves of this authentic nourishment even for one day.

 When asking for your daily bread you are, she wrote, "reciting Jesus’ prayer: Give us each day our daily bread.

 And, said she: "I think it’s impossible to say the Lord’s prayer, paying full attention to every word, even just once, without a real change inside you.” (quoted by E. Rombi, A Conversation with Simone Weil, Philosophy Now, Issue 118)


Balearic Romance, Sunlounger, Roger Shah