Gustave Thibon Dies at 97

A Chapter in 20th-Century French Theology Ends

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ROME, JAN. 23, 2001 (
French philosopher and writer Gustave Thibon, one of the most controversial Christian thinkers of the mid-20th century, died in Saint-Marcel, his birthplace. He was 97.

He is regarded as one of the persons who saved Simone Weil´s writings from oblivion. Weil, a philosopher of Jewish origin and leftist political activist, remained at the threshold of Christianity, without ever crossing it. For his part, Thibon was regarded as a conservative Catholic of monarchical leanings.

Thibon has left extensive writings, which were very popular in their time, characterized by famous brief, pithy phrases, such as: «Whoever rejects being the image of God, will be his imitative monkey for eternity»; «Truth is often a wound and almost never a balsam»; «Love what makes you happy, but not your happiness»; «Man aspires to an absolute, eternal good, but if these aspirations fail, he turns to eroticism or any other form of deceit.»

Gifted with a special mystical bent and, at the same time, very attached to country life (he enjoyed introducing himself as a «peasant writer»), Thibon wrote about 20 books to address essential questions in life from the Christian perspective: the presence of God, love, faith, grace, technology´s control of the human person.

Among his most famous works are «Man´s Destiny» (1941); «Jacob´s Ladder» (1942); «Return to Reality» (1943).

In July 1941, he received Simone Weil in his farm; the previous year she had been expelled from the teaching profession because of the anti-Semitic laws of the Vichy government. The Jewish philosopher was already corresponding with Dominican Father J.M. Perrin and, before leaving the country, she entrusted Thibon with the manuscript of her famous book, «Gravity and Grace,» which the writer published in 1947, acquainting the world with the young philosopher who died of tuberculosis in Great Britain in 1943.

Together with Jean Guitton, Thibon was considered one of the luminaries of 20th century French Catholic thought, but he lived removed from it all, rejecting any undertaking of an academic nature.

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