Appeared in Autumn/Winter 2003, Vol. XXVIII, Nos. 3, 4
Like so many French intellectuals of the 1930s, the agnostic philosopher Simone Weil was attracted to Communism. It appealed to her since it claimed to care for the oppressed and promised to bring about justice. Yet she never joined the Communist party. Weil was one of those few intellectuals who actually shared for a while the condition of the proletariat by working in different industrial plants for a year. Though naturally clumsy and racked by almost constant headaches, Weil did this in order to understand the problems of the workers from the inside and to search for solutions. She came to see that the answers were not to be found in Communism, and later wrote some scathing articles criticizing its inner contradictions and its poor intellectual framework. Simone Weil shows us that if you seek the truth, you will find it and you will see through the ideologies of your day, however compelling they are. Later on she was to say that even in her agnostic days she was already implicitly seeking and obeying God though she was not even aware of it. This implicit search is probably the greatest protection against ideology. Ultimately, Weil came to the conclusion that all ideologies are fundamentally forms of idolatry. Since their nature is spiritual, the answer to them must have spiritual roots as well.
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