Sunday, October 12, 2014

"collective emotions" are "irremediably the domain of the devil"

"the social is irremediably the domain of the devil.  The flesh impels us to say me and the devil impels us to say us; or else to say like the dictators I with a collective signification.  And, in conformity with his particular mission, the devil manufactures a false imitation of what is divine, an ersatz divinity.
     "By social I do not mean everything connected with citizenship, but only collective emotions.
     "I am well aware that the Church must inevitably be a social structure; otherwise it would not exist.  But in so far as it is a social structure, it belongs to the Prince of this World.  It is because it is an organ for the preservation and transmission of truth that there is an extreme danger for those who, like me, are excessively open to social influences.  For in this way what is purest and what is most defiling look very much the same, and, confused under the same words, make an almost undecomposable mixture.
     "There is a Catholic circle ready to give an eager welcome to whoever enters it.  Well, I do not want to be adopted into a circle, to live among people who say 'we' and to be part of an 'us,' to find I am 'at home' in any human milieu whatever it may be.  In saying I do not want this, I am expressing myself badly, for I should like it very much; I should find it all delightful.  But I feel that it is not permissible for me.  I feel that it is necessary and ordained that I should be alone, a stranger and an exile in relation to every human circle without exception."

     Simone Weil, Letter no. 2 on "Hesitations concerning baptism" (Spring of 1942), in Waiting on God, trans. Emma Craufurd (London:  Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd, 1951), 9-10 (8-12).
     Weil is quite right about the "extreme danger".  But (1) "irremediably the domain of the devil" and "in so far as it is a social structure, it belongs to the Prince of this World" are incompatible with (2) "a false imitation of what is divine", "extreme danger", "for those who like me", "what is purest", "for me", and so forth.
     Once again, Weil goes beyond the evidence to make an unacceptably sweeping statement in contradiction of the maxim that what is not assumed is not healed.  Or so it seems to me.

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