Simone Weil, the French philosopher and political activist, had a deep appreciation for the Ancient Greeks and their works. She delved into the works of Homer, Sophocles, and Plato, among others.
Simone Weil’s influential book ‘Intimations of Christianity among the Ancient Greeks’ revolves around the belief that certain concepts and themes present in Ancient Greek thought and literature foreshadowed or resonated with Christian ideas and values. She further explores these parallels in her book ‘Gravity and Grace’ and in various essays.
Weil argues that the Ancient Greeks had glimpses or intuitions of truths that would later find their full expression in Christianity. She believed that despite the absence of a direct knowledge of Christ, the Greeks possessed a longing for divine truth and exhibited qualities that could be seen as precursors to Christian virtues.
One key aspect of Weil’s idea is the concept of ‘metachi,’ which she borrows from Plato’s dialogue ‘Phaedrus.’ Metachi refers to the intermediate spaces or intermediaries that bridge the gap between the visible and invisible, the material and spiritual realms. Weil saw metachi as a manifestation of the Christian concept of the Incarnation, where the divine and the human are united. She believed that the Ancient Greeks, through their myths, rituals, and art, sought to express and explore these intermediary realms.
For example, in her essay ‘The Love of God and Affliction,’ Weil suggests that the Greek myths of Eros and Psyche offer glimpses of divine love and the human soul’s quest for union with the divine. She finds in these myths echoes of the Christian understanding of God’s love for humanity and the yearning for communion with God.
Weil also emphasises the Greek concept of ‘kenosis’, or self-emptying, as a parallel to the Christian idea of self-sacrifice. In her essay ‘Forms of the Implicit Love of God,’ she writes, ‘The Greek spirit was the first to grasp the intellectual meaning of the Christian kenosis.’ She points to the works of Aeschylus, where heroes willingly undergo suffering and self-sacrifice for the greater good, as a precursor to the Christian notion of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.
Weil draws attention to the Greek idea of ‘logos’, meaning both reason and word, which she sees as an anticipation of the Christian notion of the Word made flesh in Christ. She highlights Heraclitus and the Gospel of John’s prologue as examples of this parallel.
Weil fuses the influences on Christianity by the Ancient Greeks, and finds a resonance that points to a deeper spiritual and human truth. Her exploration of these intuitions of Christianity among the Ancient Greeks serves to bridge the gap between the two traditions and highlight the universality of spiritual ideas.
In her book ‘The Iliad or the Poem of Force’, Weil provides a profound analysis of Homer’s epic. She explores the theme of force and its impact on humanity, drawing attention to the destructive nature of violence. Weil’s quote, ‘Force is as pitiless to the man who possesses it, or thinks he does, as it is to its victims; the second it crushes, the first it intoxicates,’ reveals her profound understanding of the dynamics of power and its consequences, which resonates with Homer’s classic depiction of the Trojan War.
Regarding Sophocles, Weil wrote extensively on his play ‘Antigone’ and its exploration of moral conflict. She highlights Antigone’s rebellion against an unjust law and the clash between human and divine laws. Weil’s quote, ‘The true hero, the true subject at the centre is moral courage,’ demonstrates her ability to grasp the underlying themes and philosophical questions posed by Sophocles.