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
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
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
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
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
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
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