Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Religion: Sauve Qui Peut

Reading further along in On Science, Necessity, and the Love of God, I found that Simone Weil is a proponent of the theory that The Republic is an allegory:

“We must remember that this city is a fiction, is purely a symbol representing the soul. Plato says so: 'Perhaps there is a model of it in heaven for whoever wishes to see it and, seeing it, to found the city of his own self.' [Republic, VI, 519c-520e.] The different categories of citizen represent the different parts of the soul. The philosophers, those who come out from the cave, are the supernatural part.” [p.112]

This idea is comforting to those of us who have been troubled by some of the totally impractical, and in places undesirable, proposals made by Plato’s Socrates, if enacted in the real world. Weil goes on:

“The entire soul must detach itself from this world, but it is only the supernatural part which enters into relation with the other world. When the supernatural part has seen God face to face it must turn back to rule the soul, so as to keep the whole of it awake, whereas in those whose deliverance has not been accomplished it is in a state of dreaming.” [p.112]

Consider this in relation to the Buddhist concept of the Bodhisattva:

Main Entry: bo•dhi•satt•va
Variant(s): or bod•dhi•satt•va /"bO-di-'s&t-v&, -'sät-/
Function: noun
Etymology: Sanskrit bodhisattva one whose essence is enlightenment, from bodhi enlightenment + sattva being -- more at BID
: a being that compassionately refrains from entering nirvana in order to save others and is worshipped as a deity in Mahayana Buddhism

The analogy to Plato here is that every human being who is successful in turning his attention towards God, must tear himself away from that glorious vision, and turn his attention back towards his material self, in order to live an earthly life directed towards the Good, thereby achieving his salvation. In effect, every saint is his own bodhisattva:

“The natural part of the soul, detached from this world and with no way of reaching the other, is in the void during the process of deliverance. It must be restored to contact with this world, which is its own; but to a legitimate contact which stops short of attachment.” [p.112]

It is perhaps interesting and fruitful to contemplate this “void,” as mentioned above, in the light of St. John of Cross and his exposition of the Dark Night of the Soul.

In summarizing this concept, Weil speaks in terms of “incarnation,” making these ideas that much more suggestive of the bodhisattva:

“In short, after having torn the soul from the body and having passed through death to approach God, the saint must incarnate himself, as it were, in his own body so as to shed upon this world, upon this earthly life, a reflection of the supernatural light; so as to make a reality of this earthly life and this world, for until then they are only dreams. It falls to him, in this way, to complete the creation. The perfect imitator of God first disincarnates and then incarnates himself.”

Compare this with such New Testament teachings as John 12.24:

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.”