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A Little Simone Weil and Classical Exegesis Sampler–Part IV: About Friendship

Simone Weil (1909–1943),

a French philosopher,


Today’s sharing from the Blue House of Via-HYGEIA, the Sampler-Part IV, dedicated to the French Philosopher Simone Weil about ‘Friendship‘ and with a little more. Our little sampler’s text source is: ‘Intuitions Pré-Chrétiennes’, La Colombe, Editions du vieux Colombier, Paris 1951. From page 134 to 139. A Via-HYGEIA English translation from the original French. At the time when the debate about pronouns is raging, it is interesting to see Simone Weil place this very subject into a greater context-for her, gnostic Christianity. It is also surprising to find singular echoes in our preceding post with Suhrawardi and Sufi Islam. Emulating thoughts at their best !


The Pythagorean definition of friendship, applied to God and to Man, makes visible mediation as being essentially love and love as being essentially a mediator. This is also what Plato expresses in the ‘Banquet’ (Symposium).

The same definition applies also to friendship between people, even though there is more difficulties, and Philolaus said: ‘The things of the same specie. same root and same rank, do not need harmony.’ It is significant that the Pythagoreans have chosen a definition of friendship that also only applies to the relationship between people in the last resort. Friendship is first between God and the divine beings. Then, it is friendship between God and Man. In the last resort only it is the friendship between two people or more. This hierarchy does not prevent human friendship to have existed among the Pythagoreans in its perfection, as we have the example of the most famous couple of friends, Damon & Phintias. Aristotle was probably inspired by the Pythagorean tradition by placing friendship among his set of virtues. If Iamblichus did not exaggerate, the Pythagoreans recognized and applied to themselves to an admirable degree a commandment very similar to what Christ left to his disciples: ‘Love one another.’

The Pythagorean definition also applies to human beings, because even though they are in fact from the same specie, of the same root and of the same rank, they are not such in their thoughts. For every person, himself is ‘I’, while the others are ‘others’. ‘I’, being the ‘center of the universe’; this central position is shown in space by the perspective. The others, consisting of particles of the universe more or less great according that they are far or closer to ‘I’, the remaining are almost void. It may happen that a person places the central importance outside of the ‘I’ into another person, known or not personally, in whom he places his treasure and heart. Himself becomes a simple particle of the universe, sometimes quite great, sometimes insignificant and small. An extreme fear can produce this effect, as a certain kind of love. In both cases, when for a human being the center of the universe is found in another person, this transfer is always the effect of a tension of mechanical forces that brutally submit the first person to the second. This effect is produced when the tension between forces is such that all thoughts of future in the first person-let it be hope or fear-is embodied necessarily by the second. There is an essential identity as for the brutal and mechanical character of the subordination in the relationship, apparently so different, that binds the slave to a master, a pauper to a benefactor, a ‘grumpy’ soldier  to Napoleon (Via-Hygeia note: in French, ‘un grognard’: a loyal soldier from Napoleon’s ‘great’ army), a certain type of male lover, of female lover, of father, mother, sister, friend, and so on, to the object of their affection. A relationship of this sort can bind two human beings for a short span of time, a month, a day, a few minutes.

Everybody deals with others as they would deal with inert objects, either by the fact they have the power to do this, or by thought; except the cases when a human being is brutally submitted to another that deprive him/her temporarily the power to think in the first person mode by saying ‘I’. There is also another exception. It is when two human beings meet in such circumstances that no one is submitted by a sort of force and they manifest an equal need for the consentement of the other person. Then each of them, without stopping thinking in the first person mode-‘I’, understands perfectly that the other person can also think by saying ‘I’. Justice is produced then as a natural phenomenon. The effort of the legislator must tend towards allowing these occasions as  numerous as possible. But, justice thus being served does not constitute an harmony, and it is a justice without friendship. A saying that Thucydides put in the mouth of some Athenian perfectly defines the natural relationship between human beings: ‘The human spirit being what it is, what is just is examined only if there is an equal necessity on both sides; on the contrary, if there is a strong person and a weak person, the possible is accomplished by the first and accepted by the second.’ He add: ‘We believe, regarding the Gods, and we have the certitude regarding Man, that always by a necessity of nature, everybody commands everywhere where they have the power.

Outside of the occasions where there is an equal necessity on both sides, justice is a supernatural friendship that proceeds from harmony. Harmony is the unity of opposites; opposites are, this person representing the ‘center of the universe’ and that other person who is but a particle of it. There can be a unity only if the thought achieves, for everything it encompasses, an analogous operation to the one that allows to perceive space by reducing the illusions of perspective to their proper place. We must recognize that nothing in this world is the ‘center of the universe’, that it is outside of the world, and that nobody has the right to say ‘I’. We must renounce, in favor of God, for the love of Him and of truth, to this deceptive power that was given to us to think in the first person and say, ‘I’. It was granted to us so it may be possible for us to renounce it out of love. God, alone has the right to say: ‘I AM’. ‘I AM’ is His name and is not the name of any other being. But this renunciation does not consist in carrying one’s proper position of ‘being the center of the world’ to God, like some people do with another human being. It would be loving God, like the playwright Racine’s Oenone love Phaedra, or like his Pylades loves Orestes. Some love God in such a way. Even though they would die like martyrs, it is not the true love of God. The ‘I AM’ of God, differs infinitely  from the deceptive ‘I am’ of a human being. God is not a person in the manner a human being thinks he is. This is, without doubt the meaning of this deep Hindu saying: “We ought to conceive God, on one hand in personal terms and on the other hand, in impersonal terms.’

Only true renunciation to the power of thinking everything in the first person mode, this renunciation, being not a simple transfer, allows a person to know that other persons are his kind. This renunciation is nothing else than the love of God, whether the name of God is present or not to the mind. This is why the two commandments are but one. According to law, the love of God comes first. But, in fact, as with any person with a concrete thought of a real object here on earth, this renunciation necessarily operates when the thought is applied, either to things, either to other people. In the first case, the love for God appears first as a participation to the beauty of the world, the stoic ‘amor fati‘, this participation to this indiscriminate distribution of the light and of the rain that expresses hereunder the perfection of our celestial Father. In the second case, the love for God appears first as the love for another person (in french: l’amour du prochain), and above all for the weak and unhappy other person, who according to the laws of nature, we wouldn’t be aware of while passing by. Finally, as true compassion is supernatural, so is true gratitude.

The renunciation to the power of thinking in the first person mode, it is the the renunciation of all of our goods, in order to follow Christ. All the goods of a person, it is the entire universe seen-through from ourselves as a point of origin. People desire wealth, power and social consideration only because it strengthen in them the ability to think in the first person mode. To accept poverty in the literal meaning of the word, alike what St. Francis did, it is to accept to be a void in the appearance we present ourselves and to others, as if we would be void for real. ‘If we ought to become invisible, there is no better mean than to become poor, says a popular Spanish song. Such an acceptation is the highest degree of the love for truth.

When we apply to mankind the formula: ‘Friendship is an egality made of harmony’, harmony here has the meaning of ‘unity of opposites’. Opposites in me and the other, opposites so distant that they reach their unity only in God. ‘Friendship among people’ and justice are one and the same, except the case when justice is imposed from outside by circumstances. Plato also, in his ‘Banquet’ (Symposium), indicates this identity between perfect justice and love. The Gospel, when dealing into ‘relationships between people’, uses indifferently, the words justice and love with the same meaning; the word justice is used a few times in the subject of alms. Those  to who Christ shows gratitude for a meal given when he was hungry are called just. Two perfect friends are two persons who, being into a frequent relationship during a considerable portion of their lives, are always perfectly just towards one another. An act of justice is a lightning of friendship that a fugitive occasion made happen between the two persons. If there is only an unilateral justice, it is as mutilated.

In each of the three relationship embodied by the word friendship, God is always the mediator. He is the mediator between Himself and Himself. He is the mediator between Himself and with mankind. He is the mediator between a person and another person. God is essentially mediation. God is the unique principle of harmony. This is why singing is a fit medium to praise Him.







More about Simone Weil: 🌿 And :
A Little Simone Weil and Classical Exegesis Sampler–Part IV: About Friendship

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