Simone Weil: Awaiting God (Freshwind Press: 2013), Intro. by
Sylvie Weil, Trans. by
There are many
thoughtful thinkers who hold Simone Weil as high as the Holy Eucharist. There
are others who think Weil lost her way in a distorted notion of inner and outer
asceticism. Then there are those who truly take the time to heed and hear Weil,
to welcome her probes into the depths of the soul, who weigh, in a judicious
manner Weil’s insights and aberrations. Simone
Weil: Awaiting God brings together some classical essays and letters by
Weil, and a thoughtful and probing essay by Weil’s niece, Sylvie Weil. Brad
Jersak’s Preface is more than worth the read as is his creative translations.
Most who read
Simone Weil know little about her living niece, Sylvie Weil, but Sylvie Weil’s
evocative and probing missive, At Home
with Andre and Simone Weil (2010), brings into thoughtful dialogue fruitful
and engaging reflections (with some surprising speculations) by Sylvie about
her controversial aunt. Sylvie neither idealizes nor demonizes Simone Weil, but
she does question some of her aunt’s dubious conclusions on a variety of
topics. The article in Awaiting God
by Sylvie Weil, “Simone Weil and the Rabbis: Compassion and Tzedakah”, is pure
gold-----Sylvie certainly held her own against her demanding aunt in her many
probes into the depths of the Jewish Tradition.
above that Brad Jersak had done some innovative translations of Weil in the
best tradition of dynamic equivalence. The essays Brad chose are quintessential
Weil, and Weil’s Waiting for God was
the well the essays were drawn from. The letters Brad has used reflect the
unrelenting nature of Weil’s quest and the tough questions she insists on
asking and pushing to their limits. The letters were from 1942 (when Weil was
nearing the end of her life) and the final letter, “Letter to a Priest” is a
must read keeper.
Simone Weil: Awaiting for God is a plough to soil book. Weil did have her
limitations, but the good she offered should be gratefully received by one and
all. T.S. Eliot wrote a fine Preface to Simone Weil’s The Need for Roots, and, in many ways, Eliot was a broader, deeper
and subtler thinker than Weil, but he knew the makings of saint when he saw
one, hence his generous Preface.
There can be no
doubt Brad has been deeply impacted by Simone Weil, and his interactions with
Sylvie Weil have enriched his understanding of Simone Weil. Simone Weil: Awaiting God is a book
about what it means to be still, to await, to be receptive at a level few dare
go. It is to such awaiting places that Weil points and the curious cannot help
Great things are done when men
and mountains meet. This is not done by
jostling in the street.
I read, when in
my twenties, most of William Blake’s writings from cover to cover and spent
many a quiet moment meditating my way through his evocative paintings. Needless
to say, Blake is not the easiest poet and painter to interpret, so I took the
time to read and correspond with some of the leading Blake scholars. Allen
Ginsberg sent me a copy of his booklet, Your
Reason and Blake’s System (1988). Northrop Frye, author of Fearful Symmetry: A Study of William Blake (1947), and I corresponded. I enjoyed many a
letter from Kathleen Raine who wrote Blake
and Antiquity (1963). My interest in Thomas Merton was largely initiated by
the MA he wrote on Blake in 1939 called Nature
and Art in William Blake: An Essay in Interpretation (1939). I was also,
when doing my PHD at McMaster in the 1980s, delighted to attend the many
lectures by E. P. Thompson whose book, Witness
Against the Beast: William Blake and the Moral Law (1993) is a must read
It is quite
impossible to reduce the reformed and evangelical traditions to a homogenous
grouping, but there are dominant tendencies within such a family that have shaped and defined
the tradition. It is these dominant tendencies, defended by the leaders (Sanhedrin)
of such a clan, that must be noted and questioned---The Sanhedrin, in short,
have reduced and constricted the catholic vision to the smallest circle turns,
then questioned the Orthodoxy of those who differ with them. Such a tendency is
a form of single vision slumber and those who are yearning and questing for a
fuller notion of the faith journey must needs wake from such sleep. What are
the pills taken that lead to such a slumber and what will sleepers see once
they awake? Let me, all too briefly, bring to the table five pills often taken
that once digested lead to single vision sleep.
The most firmly Canadian cultural, social and political tradition is Red Toryism. With deep spiritual and political roots in the development of the Confederation, the Red Tory factor was at the root of commonweal over the radical individualism that shaped the republic to the south of us.
Canada chose a peaceful evolution toward statehood rather than a bloody revolution, and constitutional system based on the principle of “peace, order and good government.”
Among the leaders and philosophers of our Red Tory tradition are many voices too often forgotten and neglected, to our social and cultural peril. The most well-known voice in the mid 20th century, George Grant, gave voice to this peril in his most poignant work. He anguished over the decline and loss of Canadian nationalism in his famous Lament for a Nation.
If George Grant can be said to have a literary successor, it is surely Ron Dart. Keepers of the Flame is his latest contribution to jolting our collective memory to recall the spiritual and social foundations of our nation. Dart calls upon us to rediscover the Red Tory treasure which has made the Canadian experience unique, given us the means to resist both the anarchism of the American left and the sometimes brutal and destructive individualism of its political right.
In page after page, Dart sweeps us along the stream of great Canadian men and women of letters, philosophers, poets, novelists, clerics and often colourful politicians who made the Red Tory experience the roots of Canadian sovereignty and ethos.
Keepers of the Flame is essential reading for all who love and value the Canadian experience, sense of commonweal, ability to compromise when necessary, and continue a peaceful national evolution.
We will see much more from the pen of Ron Dart, and look forward to it with anticipation.
Keepers of the Flame:
Canadian Red Toryism (2012) – A Short Review
Professor Ron Dart’s latest book, Keepers of the Flame: Canadian Red Toryism, a collection of Dart’s
essays written over a period of about 15 years, was published by Fermentation
Press out of Quebec in the closing days of December 2012. For those of us who’ve
read Dart’s earlier work, the content of the book should come as no surprise.
Within the pages of Keepers of the Flame,
many a familiar topic is discussed, pondered and thought about:
Red Toryism (its roots and new routes, to play
off the title of an earlier text by Dart)
Liberalism (its matrix, principles, prejudices
Awaiting God is a fresh translation of two of Simone Weil's works, Attente de Dieu (Waiting for God) and Lettre a un Religieux (Letter to a Priest). This edition features an Introduction by Weil's niece, Sylvie, entitle 'Simone Weil and the Rabbis: Compassion and Tsedekah' and a translator's preface by Weil scholar, Brad Jersak.
The book is available on Kindle and can be accessed by Kindle reader apps for smart phones and tablets.
There are those who hold Simone Weil as high, almost, as the Holy Eucharist. There are others who place Weil, almost, in Hades. Then, there are those who sift wheat from chaff in the life and writings of Simone Weil -- such is the judicious approach of Brad Jersak's Simone Weil: Awaiting God. The Introduction by Sylvie Weil (Simone's niece) adds a tender touch, also.
Ron Dart Department of Political Studies/Philosophy/Religious Studies University of the Fraser Valley Abbotsford BC
Bill Blaikie, The
Blaikie Report: An Insider’s Look at Faith
and Politics (The United Church of
We in what is
called the “mainstream” media tend to be secularists who either consider
religion to be a private matter or have no religious faith at all. We tend
therefore to minimize or miss the importance of religion in politics.
(Globe and Mail: October 10 2012)
dialogue about faith and politics is often a contentious one, but not to ponder
the significance of the conversation is to capitulate to the prejudices of
secularism. The publications of The
Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada (Marci
McDonald: 2010) and Pulpit and Politics:
Competing Religious Ideologies in Canadian Public Life (Dennis Gruending:
2011) have made it abundantly clear that many who take their faith journey
seriously become political.