Book Review – Waiting for God by Simone Weil

by Mark Votava


Simone Weil is a mysterious twentieth century mystic, philosopher who died at a young age in her early thirties.  This is a fascinating book where she talks about how she does not want to be a part of the church because it will separate her from others who lead a common life.  She had a deep love for God, but struggled with the church in her time.  Her death was a result of fasting to the point of health complications and starvation on behalf of poor labor workers.

This woman led her life outside of the box of the status quo Christian tradition as most mystic do and are marginalized because of it.  In Waiting for God, Simone Weil has an emphasis on beauty in the world, friendship and simply waiting for the precious gifts of life without grasping after them.

The idea of creative attention in loving our neighbor has been a path of authentic engagement for me as I live in my local community.  Creative attention has stirred my soul to love.  This book has inspired in me a different way to hold the church, my neighbor and my own soul.

I love Simone’s stance toward the church, the world and others.  She did not want to live separated from others and did not like systems that fostered this separation.  May we all have the courage to follow her example of deep love and compassion for the world we live in.

  • No friendship where there is inequality

“There is no friendship where there is inequality.”

  • The universe is beautiful on all levels

“…we must have faith that the universe is beautiful on all levels…  It is this very agreement of an affinity of perfect beauties that gives a transcendent character to the beauty of the world.  Nevertheless the part of this beauty we experience is designed and destined for our human sensibility.”

  • Co-operation of divine wisdom in creation

“The beauty of the world is the co-operation of divine wisdom in creation…”

  • Absent from the Christian tradition

“…we might say that the beauty of the world is almost absent from the Christian tradition.  This is strange.  It is difficult to understand.  It leaves a terrible gap…”

  • By loving our neighbor we imitate the divine love

“By loving our neighbor we imitate the divine love which created us and all our fellows.  By loving the order of the world we imitate the divine love which created this universe of which we are a part.”

  • Being made of creative attention

“Love for our neighbor, being made of creative attention, is analogous to genius.”

  • Developing the power of attention

“Happy are those who pass their adolescence and youth in developing this power of attention…”

  • The capacity to give one’s attention is a miracle

“Not only does the love of God have attention for its substance; the love of our neighbor, which we know to be the same love, is made up of this same substance.  Those who are unhappy have no need for anything in this world but people capable of giving them their attention.  The capacity to give one’s attention to a sufferer is a very rare and difficult thing; it is almost a miracle; it is a miracle…”

  • We obtain the most precious gifts by waiting for them

“We do not obtain the most precious gifts by going in search of them but by waiting for them.  Man cannot discover them by his own powers, and if he sets out to seek for them he will find in their place counterfeits of which he will be unable to discern the falsity.”

  • Not the slightest love for the Church

“But I have not the slightest love for the Church in the strict sense of the word, apart from its relation to all these things that I do love.  I am capable of sympathizing with those who have this love, but I do not feel it…”

  • Friendship has something universal about it

“Friendship has something universal about it.  It consists of loving a human being as we should like to be able to love each soul in particular of all those who go to make up the human race…”

  • Distance kept and respected

“There is not friendship where distance is not kept and respected.”

  • Transform bond into friendship

“When Christ said to his disciples, ‘Love one another,’ it was not attachment he was laying down as their rule.  As it was a fact that there were bonds between them due to the thoughts, the life, and the habits they shared, he commanded them to transform these bonds into friendship, so that they should not be allowed to turn into impure attachment or hatred.”

  • The soul loves in emptiness

“In the period of preparation the soul loves in emptiness.  It does not know whether anything real answers its love.  It may believe that it knows, but to believe is not to know.  Such a belief does not help.  The soul knows for certain only that it is hungry.  The important thing is that it announces its hunger by crying.  A child does not stop crying if we suggest to it that perhaps there is no bread.  It goes on crying just the same.”

  • Beauty is a miracle

“Beauty is always a miracle…”

What do you think of this twentieth century mystic Simone Weil?