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Reverend Paul Siwek, S.J.

WITH THE EXCEPTION OF MY APOLOGETICAL LECTURES delivered in Paris, and later published under the title In Search of God, all my works have been of a scientific nature. From my youth, science has seemed to me the highest ideal after God. With my entrance into the Society of Jesus (in my native Poland, at the age of fifteen), this belief has lost none of its force with me. On the contrary, it has been strengthened. For I see in science one of the most powerful weapons in the apostolate for God and the salvation of souls. Indeed, how otherwise can we reach non-Catholic intellectuals and move them to give up their atheism, materialism, freudianism, or other abberations ? They will never put a foot in our churches. They will never read a publication written for the faithful. The only way to reach them is through books of a scientific nature. These they will read if only to try to refute us, and in reading them they will, in spite of themselves, learn much that they need to know; they will get a better idea of the Catholic religion, and thereby surely many of them will return to God. Hence, one should not be surprised that Popes Pius XI and Pius XII insisted so strongly on "the apostolate of science" in their allocutions to the professors and students of the Roman colleges. Nor that of all the forms of the modern apostolate of the Jesuits, the present General of the Society did not hesitate to give precedence to science.

The science to which I devoted myself was philosophy, and the problems which particularly interested me were those commonly called metaphysical psychology. Its object is the existence of the soul and its nature,-its spirituality, immortality, free will, affections, tendencies, and so on. Experimental psychology, which I studied in the Psychological Institute in Paris, was also of great help to me in solving these problems.

My first researches were on the relation between soul and body. The results are contained in my three theses; the first, The Psychological Parallelism According to Spinoza, was presented to the Gregorian University in Rome for my degree of Aggregate Professor; the other two were published in Paris in the Collection des Grands Philosophes, and were entitled L'ame et le corps d'apres Spinoza, and La psychophysique humaine d'apres Aristote. Through them I won the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Docteur es Lettres) of the French State after a defense of my theses which lasted for five consecutive hours. In all kindness, may I take the liberty here of warning our students against the "doctorat de la Sorbonne," commonly called "the little doctorate." It is lightly regarded in France and abroad is scornfully called "the export doctorate."

In my theses on Spinoza, I tried to prove the nullity of the monistpantheist solution of psychological problems, that is, of the problems which concern the mutual relations of soul and body. In the thesis of Aristotle I gave the solution which alone satisfies all the requirements of reason and experience.

From 1921 to 1930, I taught at the Gregorian University. To encourage my students to study Aristotle (in my opinion, the world's greatest philosopher), I translated his psychological work, Peri Psyches, from the Greek into Latin. To my translation, I added the Greek text and a commentary. This had necessitated my studying all the Greek manuscripts which included any Aristotelian psychology, and thus I was able to emend the Greek classical text and to clarify certain passages which had hitherto remained obscure. The result was my Aristotelis De Anima libri tres, which was published by the Gregorian University.

For the same reason, I undertook the study of all the Greek manuscripts of the Aristotelian work generally known as the Parva Naturalia, dealing with sensation, memory, dreams, longevity, life, and death. This study covered a hundred and ten manuscripts and required ten years of assiduous labor in the libraries of Rome, Florence, Venice, Milan, Naples, Udine, Paris, Oxford, Madrid, Escoriale, Vienna, Munich, Berne, and Constantinople. This long and costly research was made possible by the generosity of the pre-World War II Polish government.

To Spinoza, besides the two books previously mentioned, I devoted two other works. The first of these, Spinoza et le pantheisme religieux, was honored by a letter of congratulations from Pope Pius XI sent me through his secretary of State, Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli. The second appeared under the title Au coeur du Spinozisme. In both of these works I explained and criticized the foundations of Spinoza's philosophy, which still exerts a great influence on philosophers. It forms the basis of almost all the modern pantheistic systems, while the Communists, on the other hand, see in Spinoza their true "father."

In 1934, Cardinal Hlond invited me to address the Thomist Congress at Poznan on the theory of the reincarnation of souls (metempsychosis), the basic dogma of Theosophy, Anthroposophy, Latin Spiritualism, Brahamanism, Buddhism, and other systems. It is very popular in many countries of Europe, America and Asia; and it constitutes a serious menace to true religious faith.

My series of studies in this field were collected and published in Polish, French, Spanish, and Portuguese, and later in English under the title of The Enigma of the Hereafter. It refuted in advance, so to speak, the theories of Mr. Bernstein's unfortunately popular book, The Search for Bridey Murphy. His arguments in favor of the reincarnation of souls have no validity, as I proved in my review of his book in the May, 1956, issue of The Priest.

On June 10, 1940, Mussolini declared war on the Allies. As my name was on the German black list, I was forced to flee from Rome as soon as possible. After many hazardous experiences, I eventually succeeded in reaching Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. There I was invited to deliver a series of public lectures sponsored by the Centro Don Vital. For my subject, I chose the eternal problem of evil, which was then taking a particularly tragic form in the atrocities being perpetrated by the Nazis on their innocent victims. I had to show how evil could be reconciled with the idea of a just and infinitely good God. These lectures were published in French and Spanish. The English edition, The Philosophy of Evil, included only the first part of the lectures, that which treats of the finality of evil in the existence of living creatures, especially in that of man. The second part, which deals directly with the relation of God to evil, the publisher omitted as being "too theological." Some of it, however, has appeared recently as articles in various scholarly reviews, and I hope to have it published soon in book form.

I come now to my "opus vitae." It is entitled The Riddle of Konnersreuth, and contains the results of my investigations of the phenomena which made a simple country girl a world celebrity.

Once when I was invited to deliver a series of lectures on the Catholic faith, the name of Theresa Neumann was on everyone's lips. Could I not-I asked myself-make her the subject of one of these lectures? Today people demand "concrete proofs of experimental criteria" instead of the abstruse arguments of metaphysics. And such proofs are certainly clear in the marvellous facts of Konnersreuth, -that the arm of God has not been shortened in our time!

Moved by these reflections, I began my study of the case. Unfortunately, most of the works on the subject were limited to the personal impressions of their authors. Even the excellent collections of historical facts made by L. Witt and by M. Gerlich did not include any scientific criticism. Being expert in neither theology or modern science-in particular, psychology-they simply attributed the amazing phenomena in question to miracle.

This mental attitude alarmed the hierarchy, for it exposed the Faith to the contempt of unbelievers. There was need for a scientific work on the Catholic doctrine of such subjects as ecstasy, visions, stigmatism, and prolonged fasting.

My researches were conducted in this spirit, and my book was welcomed by eminent theologians and scientists. In his preface to the work, Archbishop Carinci, Secretary of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, called it "a model of its kind" and "a precious contribution to the study of analogous cases." He added that "Through this work your Reverence has earned the gratitude of Science, of the Church, and in a particular manner, of the Sacred Congregation of Rites."

Just recently, I received from Rome the fifth edition of my Psychologia Metaphysica. It is the official textbook of the Gregorian University as well as of many other Catholic faculties throughout the world. From its initial appearance in 1939, I have been urged to have it translated into English. The same suggestion has often been made in regard to my works on Spinoza. Alas, my material circumstances do not allow me to even think of it. On this point, may I be permitted a personal observation. Only one who is rich can seriously cultivate science, said Aristotle. (He was fortunate in Alexandria the Great without whose generous help most of his books could not have been published!) The Aristotelian aphorism is particularly poignant in the matter of publishing scientific Catholic books in a Protestant country. After years of research in various archives and libraries, the author completes his manuscript and submits it to a publisher who, if he is to continue to publish, must endeavor to get not only a confirmation of its calibre but also an estimate of its potential market. Being Catholic, it will likely be bought only by Catholics; and being scientific, it will probably be bought only by those Catholics interested in the particular problem treated. And so he has often to conclude that he can publish it only if the author bears a large part of its production costs.

But where can the author get the money? Catholic universities are usually so pressed in meeting their own expenses that they cannot help him. If he gets into some lucrative work to raise the money he risks losing his capacity for the intellectual apostolate, or he may become discouraged and abandon it. We often hear of the dearth of American Catholic scientific productions. Certainly the circumstances I have mentioned are an integral part of the problem. Only one who is rich, said Aristotle, can seriously cultivate science. Should that be so in our country and in our time?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Father Siwek was a professor of philosophy at Fordham from 1946 to 1949 and has been a research professor there since 1949. He became an American citizen in 1952. His works are The Philosophy of Evil (1951), The Enigma of the Hereafter (1952), The Riddle of Konnersreuth (1953), La psychophysique humaine d'apres Aristote (1930), L'ame et le corps d'apres Spinoza (1930), Spinoza et le pantheisme religieux (2. ed '50), Le probleme du mal (1942), La reincarnation des esprits (1942), Une stigmatisee de nos jours (1951), Psychologia Metaphysica (5. ed '56), Aristotelis De Animk, libri tres (5. ed '52); as well as works in Polish, Portuguese, and Spanish.

Originally published by Walter Romig in The Book of Catholic Authors

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