A Little Simone Weil and Classical Exegesis Sampler–Part II: About ANANKE
Simone Weil (1909–1943),
a French philosopher,
🌿Today’s sharing from the Blue House of Via-HYGEIA, the Sampler-Part II, dedicated to the French Philosopher Simone Weil with the sole subject of Ananke, Necessity, a key concept developed in Plato’s ‘Timaeus’. 🌿’In ancient Greek religion, Ananke (Ancient Greek: Ἀνάγκη), from the common noun ἀνάγκη, “force, constraint, necessity”) is the personification of inevitability, compulsion and necessity. She is customarily depicted as holding a spindle. One of the Greek primordial deities, the births of Ananke and her brother and consort, Chronos (the personification of time, not to be confused with the Titan Cronus), were thought to mark the division between the eon of Chaos and the beginning of the cosmos. Ananke is considered the most powerful dictator of fate and circumstance. Mortals and gods alike respected her power and paid her homage. Sometimes considered the mother of the Fates, she is thought to be the only being to influence their decisions (according to some sources, excepting Zeus also)’. (Wikipedia)🌿Our little sampler’s text source is: ‘Intuitions Pre-Chretiennes’, Editions La Colombe, Le Vieux Colombier, Paris 1951. A Via-HYGEIA English translation from the original French. From page 29 to 36. Plato’s ‘Timaeus’ excerpts included in Simone Weil’s text, the English translations are ours- when not stipulated otherwise🙂There is much here that brilliantly echoes what Suhrawardi exposes in his treatises, or what Thomas Vaughan writes about the ‘Iynx-Wheel’. You are about to discover a fascinating and remarkable excerpt-in its simplicity and by the consequences of its deep expositions! More to come with Sampler-Part III, soon🌿
The spindle of Ananke,the beginning of the cosmos,
engraving by Edmond Lechevallier-Chevignard (1825-1902) .
About ANANKE, NECESSITY
as in Plato’s ‘Timaeus’
§ 47b-‘Contemplating the circular movements of the spirit in the heavens, we ought to make use of them as models for the circular translations of the thought in us, as they are related to each other; the former settled, the other unsettled; hence we ought to learn and participate in the essential rectitude of the proportions; by the discovery or the initiation to the circular movements of God-that are blameless, we ought to stabilize ours, as they are straying.’
Therefore the Word is for Man a model to imitate. Here, not the incarnated Word into a human being, but the Word as organizer of the whole universe, being incarnated in the entire universe. We ought to reproduce in us the order of the world. There lies the source of the idea of micro-cosm and macro-cosm that had haunted the Middle Ages so much. It is of such a deep nature, almost unfathomable. The key is the symbol of circular movement.
This unquenchable desire in us that is always turned towards outside and has for domain an imaginary future, we ought to force it to curl-in on it-self and to focus its tip upon the present. The movement of the celestial bodies that are part of our lives-in days, months and years-are our model in this matter, because their revolutions (note: retour in French) are so regular that for the stars, the future does not differ at all from the past. If we contemplate in them this equivalence between the future and the past, we pierce throughout time reaching eternity, and, being delivered from the desire that is turned towards the future, we are also freed from the imagination that goes with it, which is the unique source of error and lies. We participate into the rectitude of the proportions, where there is no arbitrary, therefore, no game for the imagination.
§ 47e/48a-‘We must also add to this exposition what is produced by necessity. Because the production of this world was operated by a combination composed of necessity and spirit. But, spirit rule over necessity by persuasion. It persuades it to push most of the things that are produced towards their outmost perfection. It is by this manner, according to this law, by the mean of necessity ruled by a wise persuasion, that from the origin the universe was composed.’
These lines reminds us of the Chinese concept of the ‘non-acting-action’ of God (note: 無為; pinyin: wúwéi-‘inexertion’, ‘inaction’, or ‘effortless action’), that is found in several Christian texts and in the paragraphs of Plato’s ‘Banquet’ about the softness of Love that partakes in no violence, that is obeyed voluntarily; and also in these verse from Aeschylus’ ‘Supplicant Maidens’: ‘§96- From their high-towering hopes he hurls mankind to utter destruction; yet he does not marshal any armed violence — all that is wrought by the powers divine is free from toil. Seated on his holy throne, unmoved, in mysterious ways he accomplishes his will.‘ (Topos)
God does not coerce (note: ‘ne fais pas violence’ in French) the secondary causes to achieve his aims. He accomplishes this through the inflexible mechanism of necessity without distorting any cogs. His wisdom remains above (and when it does descend, it is with great discretion). Each phenomenon has two reasons for being (note: raison d’être, in French), one is its cause in the mechanism of nature, and the other takes its place in the world’s providential order, and it is never allowed to use one as an explanation upon the plan where the other exists.
This aspect of the order of the world ought to be imitated by us. Once a certain threshold has been crossed, the supernatural part of the soul rules over the natural part-not be coercion, not by will, but by desire.
§ 90a-‘…wherefore care must be taken that they have their motions relatively to one another in due proportion. And as regards the most lordly kind of our soul, we must conceive of it in this wise: we declare that God has given to each of us, as his daemon, that kind of soul which is housed in the top of our body and which raises us — seeing that we are not an earthly but a heavenly plant up from earth towards our kindred in the heaven. And herein we speak most truly; for it is by suspending our head and root from that region whence the substance of our soul first came that the Divine Power keeps upright our whole body.’ (Topos)
§ 90c & d–‘…he must fall short thereof in no degree; and inasmuch as he is for ever tending his divine part and duly magnifying that daemon who dwells along with him, he must be supremely blessed. And the way of tendance of every part by every man is one — namely, to supply each with its own congenial food and motion; and for the divine part within us the congenial motions are the intellections and revolutions of the Universe. These each one of us should follow, rectifying the revolutions within our head, which were distorted at our birth, by learning the harmonies and revolutions of the Universe, and thereby making the part that thinks like unto the object of its thought, in accordance with its original nature, and having achieved this likeness attain finally to that goal of life which is set before men by the gods as the most good both for the present and for the time to come.‘ (Topos)
Speaking of the circular movements of the universe, Plato not only ponders about the cycles of the day, month and year, but also about the notions he binds them with in his symbolic system, namely, the Same & the Other; which translates into identity & diversity, unity & multiplicity, absolute & relative, pure & tainted with evil, spiritual & sensible, supernatural & natural. The stars revolve only parallel to the equator, the sun revolves both in parallel with the equator and with the ecliptic; likewise, in these couples of contraries that are in reality but one, the second term is not symmetrical to the first, but is bound to it while being opposed by it. All the possible events come to insert themselves in the frame that the two combined movements of the sun and the heavens constitute-the frame of the days distributed in seasons throughout the year-without ever being able to disturb it. Such a disturbance, is not even thinkable. Moreover, pleasures & pains, fears & the most violent desires must insert themselves in us, without bringing any trouble in the established relationship within our soul between the part focused upon this world, and the part focused towards the other. This relationship ought to be such that it will highlight upon the flowing of time a ray of eternity, whatever the events coming to fill-in the minutes.
The image of Man as a plant whose root dive deep into the heavens (note: See our Lotus de Paini Sampler II for this image of Man and plant symbolism) is linked in the ‘Timaeus’ to a theory of chastity, that Plato concealed in splitting it into a few parts, consequentially, i do not know if it was spotted as such. This plant is watered by a celestial spring, a divine seed, that enters the head. For the person that continuously works the spiritual part and the intellectual part of him/her self, contemplating and imitating the order of the world, everything that is in the head-including this divine seed-is taken by circular movements, similar to those that make the heavens, the stars and the sun revolve. This divine seed is what Plato calls a divine being that dwells with us, in us and that we ought to serve. But, for the people who leave the upper faculties of the soul inert, the circular movements in the head becomes chaotic and ceases. The divine seed then descends along the spine and becomes carnal desire. It is still an independent being dwelling inside of us, but now a demonic being that does not listen to reason and wants to solve everything with violence. This is how Plato speaks of it in the ‘Timaeus’.
So, instead of looking at the love for God as a sublimated form of carnal desire-such as so many people do in our present time-Plato thought that carnal desire is a corruption, a deterioration of the love for God. And, even though it is very difficult to interpret some of his images, it is certain that he conceived this relationship as a truth, not only spiritual but also biological. He thought that for those that loved God, the inner organs did not function in the same manner that for those who did not; the love for God being, of course, the cause and the effect of this difference.
This conception is inspired by the religion of the Mysteries; because the link between chastity and the love for God is the central idea of Euripides’ ‘Hippolyte’, a tragedy of an Eleusinian and Orphic inspiration-As a short disgression, we can tell that in the last twenty centuries, in the theater stage of the diverse European countries, no other tragedy embodied this idea as a central theme, as ‘Hippolyte’ did.
In order to understand what Plato binds together into the symbolism of the circular movement, we ought to notice that this movement is the perfect union between the number and the continuous. The mobile object passes from one point to the next one without any discontinuity, as if along a strait line. At the same time, if we focus our attention on a point of the circle, the mobile object travels crosses it a certain number of times. Therefore, the circular movement is the image of the union of the limited and the unlimited Plato in his ‘Philebus’ says it is the key of all knowledge and Prometheus’ gift to humanity. It is also absolutely true that this union forms our thought about Time, and that Time reflects the circular movement of the stars. Time is continuous, but we count the days and the years with whole numbers. In order to understand that it is not a mere meditation theme for intellectuals, but of a absolutely essential matter for every human being, we need to remember ourselves that one of the most horrible torture that ever existed was about putting someone in an absolutely dark dungeon-or the opposite: in a cell always lit with electricity-without talking about what date or which hour it is. It we would ponder deeply enough, we would find a deep joy about the simple procession of the days. These thoughts were still alive at the time of saint Benedict; the monastic rules have had among other purposes to sensibilize the monks with the circular aspect of time. It is also the secret of the virtue of music.
The Pythagoreans were saying, not the ‘union of the limit and the limitless’-but which is even more beautiful-‘the union between what limits and the limitless’. What limits, is God. God said to the ocean: ‘Do not cross this boundary, etc…’ What is limitless only exists by receiving from outside a limit. Everything that exists down here on Earth is composed, not only of all the material realities, but also of all the psychological realities inside of us and in others. From then, there is only hereunder finite goods and evils. The limitless good and evil that we presume exist in this world, and that we necessarily place in the future, are of an imaginary nature.
The desire for a limitless good that dwells at every moment in every human being, even the most depraved, has only a reality outside of our world and the deprivation of this good is the only evil that is not limitless. Placing the knowledge of this truth at the center of the soul, in such a manner that all of the movements of the soul are ordered in connection with her, is imitating the order of the world. Because, then, what is limitless in the soul-that is absolutely everything its natural part contains-receives a limit imprinted from outside by God present in her. She stays full of these naturally unorderly affectations, pleasures & pains, fears & desires-likewise in the world there is scorching summers & frosty winters, storms & droughts: But all continuously bound and submitted to an absolutely inalterable order.
The contemplation of the relationship between arithmetical and geometrical quantities is very useful to this matter by showing that everything that is part-in whatever manner-of a quantity, which is not only matter & space, but also everything that is bound to time and everything that is progressing by degrees, is without mercy bound to limit by the chains of necessity.
This contemplation reaches its purpose when the incomprehensible order of these relationships and the marvelous concordances that are found there make us feel that the same flow that is needed upon the plane of the intelligence is beauty upon the immediate plane above and obedience in connection to God.
When we have understood in the very depths of our soul that necessity is only but just one of the faces of beauty, the other face being good, then everything that makes this necessity sensible, worries, pains, obstacles, become a supplementary reason for us to love. There is a popular saying, that when an apprentice hurts himself, ‘it is the craft that is embodying in him’. Likewise, when we have understood this, we can think that all pain is beauty incarnating.
(To be continued with Sampler-Part III)