Paweł Okołowski

Professor at the University of Warsaw. A student of professors Bogusław Wolniewicz and Zbigniew Musiał. He specializes mainly in axiology and philosophical anthropology. 

"The attitude of Bogusław Wolniewicz (1927–2017) to Christianity was shaped by a long life process, starting from baptism. From the 1940s, a faith crisis took place however: in Wolniewicz's soul faith derrived form home, collided with the data of the intellect and with the new Marxist faith - wrties dr hab Paweł Okołowski


Ms Ewa Wolniewicz-Warska asked me recently (7 July 2019) a difficult question: "When did her Father turn towards Christianity? " Well, the attitude of Bogusław Wolniewicz (1927–2017) to Christianity was shaped by a long life process, starting from baptism. From the 1940s, a crisis took place in it: in Wolniewicz's soul faith derrived form home, collided with the data of the intellect and with the new Marxist faith, as a result of which the first was suppressed. After all, morality remained, also permanent respect for great people of the Church - like Primate Stefan Wyszyński. In the times of Marxist involvement, it managed Wolniewicz fear of duplicity, especially that half of Christian creed was already rejected permanently. But his accent to Christianity remained though in secret; primarily due to strong ties with his mother Marta, and also because of the metaphysical potential of the other part of the creed that he had not thought over deep enough at that time. Basically, his relationship with Christianity remained suppressed until the 1980s. In October 1968, Wolniewicz wrote an introduction (instead of Leszek Kołakowski who was expelled from the communist party and from the university) to Avenarius's book prepared in BKF. On the first page he used the phrase "for us Marxists." It certainly wasn't in his hands rhetorical figure, but confessional declaration. Note that if this phrase was replaced with "for us Tomists", except for the reference to the next sentence, nothing would be changed essentially in the text. The author gave an excellent one analysis of Avenarius's thoughts. Well, Marxism of Wolniewicz was of a special kind: he stood on the (false!) belief that logical coherence is more important than psychological; that the thought style can be rebuilt according to the first phrase, that one can incorporate foreign but true theses into the doctrine. He was wrong: beliefs are not just doctrines, they are governed by psychological coherence. What seems contrary to faith is rejected, even if it wasn't contradictory. In 1970 Wolniewicz had no illusions. At that time he also published his last two "Marxist" (because of Lenin) articles. (Father Bocheński could write them as well). He was convinced, almost "organoleptically", that his leftist faith is fake. Later, in the era of Gierek it completely went bankrupt in his heart. Where did he draw his strength from to work on Wittgenstein, Freg, Fleck; for the destruction of occultism and the foundations of structures of his own system? Like Elzenberg - from the standards of youth and childhood. According to Zbigniew Musiał, already "before" the political turn of the years 1980/1981 Wolniewicz definitely rejected Marx's optimistic view of human nature (and meliorism in general). A article “Primary values from today's perspective”, the scientific view of the world from 1980 can be determined from the Christian spirit (because it is consistent with what the Professor later recognized directly as the guiding values of Christianity, e.g. in the book “Three currents” from 2006). However, Wolniewicz percieved Primate Józef Glemp (or the political attitude of the Church in general) critically at that time (later he changed the assessment of Primate Glemp - he told me about it in 2016). In the 70s, Wolniewicz observed Kołakowski's turn towards Christianity. He informed students about this fact during a lecture in 1985 (Although he was ambivalent about this change because of growing irrationalism in Kołakowski's thought). He also watched regularly Lem's pro-Catholic position, and Miłosz's carefully Catholic views. As for the rite, the story is perfectly reflected in Zbigniew Musiał's account. During the near centenary of Elzenberg's birth (1987) Wolniewicz took away suddenly Musała and Schradego (two of his former doctoral students, and then friends) to Stare Powązki - to find and show his master's grave. When they stood over the tomb (extremely modest then), the professor said: "What can you say?" And he intrigued "Our father…". They finished the prayer together. And they left the cementary in silence, not returning to this reaction in the conversations. The rite remained alive with Wolniewicz, and could not be replaced by anything. And here are the facts I know (mainly from the seminar I attended for 15 years) determining the trajectory of the professor's change of attitude to Christianity. On October 16, 1987, Wolniewicz introduced analysis of the Socrates principle, opting for its rejection (meliorism), i.e. submitting the Persian and Christian tradition in anthropology. (In articles - from 1986 and 1987 - about Kotarbiński and Elzenberg it was already clearly visible). On December 18, 1987, Wolniewicz emphatically states that man is evil by nature; and that in this case he follows Christianity. March 4, 1988, Professor confronts false anthropology of liberalism and discusses the true - Dostoevsky (from the Grand Inquisitor). On November 24, 1988, lecturing on Schopenhauer anthropology, he says that in this field, "Schopenhauer (Atheus) was in solidarity with Christianity." He also says: "For 200 years faith in progress displaces Christianity which is right "(regarding human nature). On November 22, 1989, Wolniewicz puts Christianity above Buddhism. Two things determine this: bad will in human nature and the glory of God - as an answer to the question "what does man live for?". Two essential issues in Christianity and absent in Buddhism. On November 21, 1990, the professor presents three theories of evil in St. Augustine - rejecting two: Stoic and Neoplatonic. March 20, 1991 - on the occasion of someone's paper on M. Weber - Wolniewicz gives a speech on three Christian religions and doctrinal differences between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism (relationship of five main concepts of doctrine). He only mentions that Orthodoxy is a "separate matter." On March 18, 1992, Wolniewicz declares: "There are two pillars of white man's civilization: Christianity and science. They are from the beginning conflicted with each other, mainly from the Renaissance." He will repeat that thought to his death. [This is the oldest note with this content. Maybe in the archive older could be founded, the query will show it]. He also adds: "Theology is neither true nor false - it speaks to the spirit like music." In 1993 (when I became his assistant) the professor says privately to me: "Do not read only Wolniewicz, but great philosophical works, e.g. “On the State of God” by St.Augustine. After 1994 I studied Bierdayew's philosophy (doctorate 2001) - encouraged by Wolniewicz's evidently favorable attitude towards Christianity. Berdyaev was for me an excellent interpretator of Christianity (but not for Professor, in which he was - today I know – right). In 1999, Ulrich Schrade named Professor's philosophy neopaganism ('Philosophy Education' 1999 No. 27), which Wolniewicz he could not forgive him for a long time. But he was content with the description “neo-Augustinism” - which appared in a polemic of Zbigniew Wójcikiewicz with Schrade ("Philosophical Education" 1999 No. 28). June 26, 2001 appears in "Życie" daily interview with the Professor - “Rationality of Christianity.” On that days Wolniewicz urges me to devote my habilitation to Jonathan Edwards (I devote to Lem, which he also supports). After 2001 – and after the celebration of anniversary in Jedwabne and the 9/11 in NY - the book “Xenophobia and Community” is created (2003; together with Z. Musiał). And in it, the phrase “Christianity” appears in the index. As well as in the Index of “Philosophy and Values III” (2003). In his earlier books there were no such entries in the indexes (it was: religion). It's an emblematic fact. It shows that not only some interpretation of Christianity is close to Wolniewicz (Augustinism), but it is as a whole - the Holy Universal Church. The professor comes to conviction that Berdyaev expressed 70 years earlier: "Or brotherhood in Christ, or an antichrist association." Tertium non datur. From now on, Wolniewicz's criticism of some elements of Christianity becomes immanent criticism, out of concern for it - not external and destructive. He enjoys from the spontaneous participation of their grandchildren in the life of the Church as well. In the years 2004–2009 Bogusław Wolniewicz runs autonomous activity on Radio Maryja. (On its waves, among other things, he says they are Marx's theses that are not contrary to Christianity – though realizing already that thay can not be integrated with Christianity). In public, words are falling from his mouth - which amazes many – "Praise the Jesus Christ”, which is an expression of rite and doctrine of his community. In 2014, an article was created, dedicated to Marian Przełęcki On Christianity - containing the most complete Wolniewicz's position in the matter in question (reprinted in: Philosophy and values, IV, 2016). At the end I would say that: Bogusław Wolniewicz was Romana Catholic who went through (like many in the 20th century) a "crisis of faith." In his case it was a special crisis: it contained a clear conversion (for a time of 1/3 of his life), and a “latent resident” that finally got the better of him. This "crisis" has never been syncretism, let alone nihilism. Therefore, the starting question posed by the Professor's daughter can be replaced with a more appropriate one: when did Wolniewicz finish the conversion? I answer: partly already in 1980, in 1992 almost completely and finally in 2003. Return to Christianity (not "turning towards" - as in case of Kołakowski or Lem) did not mean, however, that Wolniewicz's faith completely coincided with the teaching of the Church. That is why the Professor honestly called himself a "Roman unbeliever Catholic". These two faiths crossed, giving a great ratio. Whereas the difference on the Church's side, in which the professor did not believe, but fused with this ratio, because he found it better than anything that other social formations propose, beyond the reach of individual souls. Although Christianity preaches personal immortality, and similar ideas quarrel with reason, there is nothing better in in the world to replace it. And as a individuals we are not “selfsufficiant” - people do not choose faith, but vice versa, and it is always this way. In 1993 Wolniewicz wrote: "[...] in a world next to human nature there is also another force that can be described as gratia Dei, as God's grace. " It is easy for me to understand this accession to Christianity (from introspection but also from autopsy) that I was undergoing analogous evolution myself (and others from my generation who resemble me). I can even say, with full responsibility: I am in the Church thanks to Wolniewicz (not only thanks to him, but mainly thanks to his Anselmian steadfast "faith seeking understanding"). After all, the transformation of Bogusław Wolniewicz's attitude is due to the greatness of his person and work, and unlike ours - spectacular and culturally priceless. It can have an impact on history because it is unusual - neo-Augustine -template. As Professor's daughter said: Gombrowicz was "on the side of human order ", and Wolniewicz - on God's order.