The Test of Necessity

‘When, in such a quantity of words, some of the writings of the saints seem not only to differ from, but even to contradict, each other, one should not rashly pass judgement concerning those by whom the world itself is to be judged, as it is written: “The saints shall judge nations” (Wisdom 3: 7-8), and again “You also shall sit as judging” (cf. Matthew 19:28). Let us not presume to declare them liars or condemn them as mistaken – those people of whom the Lord said “He who hears you, hears me; and he who rejects you, rejects me” (Luke 10:16). Thus with our weakness in mind, let us believe that we lack felicity in understanding rather than that they lack felicity in writing –- those of whom the Truth Himself said: “For it is not you who are speaking, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks through you” (Matthew 10:20). So, since the Spirit through which these things were written and spoken and revealed to the writers is itself absent from us, why should it be surprising if we should also lack an understanding of these same things?’

Pierre Abelard, Prologue to Sic et Non.

‘The contradictions the mind comes up against – these are the only realities; they are the criterion of the real. There is no contradiction in what is imaginary. Contradiction is the test of necessity. Contradiction experienced to the very depth of the being tears us heart and soul; it is the cross.

The demonstrable correlation of opposites is an image of the transcendental correlation of contradictories.

Contradiction is the point of the pyramid.

Simultaneous existence of incompatible things in the soul’s bearing; balance which leans both ways at once: that is saintliness, the actual realization of the microcosm, the imitation of the order of the world. The simultaneous existence of opposite virtues in the soul – like pincers to catch hold of God.’

Simone Weil, An Anthology, translated by Sian Miles.

‘Is it not as clear as day that man’s condition is dual?…These fundamental facts, solidly established on the inviolable authority of religion, teach us that there are in faith two equally constant truths. One is that man in the state of his creation, or in the state of grace, is exalted above the whole of nature, made like unto God and sharing in his divinity. The other is that in the state of corruption and sin he has fallen from that first state and has become like the beasts. These two propositions are equally firm and certain.

All is one, all is diversity. How many natures lie in human nature!”

Blaise Pacal, Pensées, Series VII, translated by A. J. Krailsheimer.

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