Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, Vol 16, No 1 (2020)

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God Comes to Her: St. Teresa of Ávila, Simone Weil, and the Kantian Conception of Modern Religious Experience

Elvira Basevich


What does god mean to have a mystical experience of god? Does it entail the ecstasy or affliction? In this essay, I present St. Teresa of Ávila and Simone Weil’s somatic accounts of religious experience in light of the idea of the highest good. The highest good aligns virtue with happiness to ensure that those who are good are rewarded and the evil suffer. For Teresa, she primes herself for divine visitation by cultivating a patient orientation towards the heavens and visits from god can assume a physically gratifying form, whereas Weil confronts the presence of god through the experience of affliction, that is, the extreme suffering of the innocent at the hands of others. I then offer a Kantian reflection on why the experience of affliction present a distinct challenge for the cultivation of moral agency: How can those who have experienced affliction keep intact the moral faith that goodness can (re)appear in the world in the aftermath of affliction. 

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