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No. 48, April, 1999



M. Abbé Francesco Ricossa


This study may shed some light on John Paul II’s thinking, and specifically on his interest in and sympathy for the Jewish world, an interest which led him to the historic meeting with Grand Rabbi, Toaff at the Synagogue of Rome on April 13, 1986.

We suggest that in service of casting light on the thought of John Paul II, the reader follow us along several circuits which link Karol Wojtyla to Adam Mickiewicz, and the latter to Jacob Frank, by taking as our research’s point of departure on these two figures, two witnesses least susceptible to being prejudiced in this area concerning John-Paul II: Father deLubac, the theologian made a cardinal by John-Paul II himself, and the Christian Democratic philosopher and politician, Rocco Buttiglione.

October 16, 1978

"On the evening he was elected, October 16, 1978, from the Balcony of St. Peter’s in Rome, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, now John Paul II, saluted Mickiewicz, as a witness of the Catholic faith and of freedom. And in far-off Krakow, which the exiled poet was never able to see, there were ‘processions celebrating the Pontifical electio by honoring the heroes of Polish history signifying to us that from Adam Mickiewicz to Karol Wojtyla there is the continuity of the same hope which history has finally seemed to smile upon.’" (La Croix, 27/10/1978) (1)

Here is what Father de Lubac wrote, in order to link the affinity between the two Polish poets, Karol Wojtyla and Adam Mickiewicz. And Buttiglione observed: "It is interesting to note that, immediately after his election to the Sovereign Papacy, the first place to which John-Paul made a pilgrimage, was to the Mentorella sanctuary, near Rome, which is under the care of the Resurrectionist Fathers." (2) And, the "legend is that after the 1831 revolt [of the Poles against the Tsar], some of the heads of the revolution met in Paris, in exile. During a meeting on Pentecost, 1826, and after having again analyzed the political situation and having judged it desperate, Mickiewicz concluded that it was necessary to found a religious order, in order to save the soul of the Nation. ‘We need a new order, there is no other salvation. But who can found it? I am too proud.' And it was then that the great poet appointed Bogdan Janski who, shortly afterward, did found the Resurrectionist Order with Piotr Semenenko and Hieronim Kajsiewicz." (3) The young Wojtyla had thus been influenced by Adam Mickiewicz, as emphasized by Buttiglione. (p.36) and John Paul II solemnly confirmed this by two significant gestures immediately after his election. (4) But who was Mickiewicz?

Just a Polish Mazzini?

Edgar Quinet, Jules Michelet, Adam Mickiewicz: "three Anabaptists of the French School," (Daniel Halévy), "the holy trinity who were behind the 1848 explosion." (Giovanni Sovazzi, speech on the occasion of the dedication of the bust of Mickiewicz, Rome, November 29, 1879.) Lubac emphasized the differences among the three friends and colleagues of the French School: "Mickiewicz,who had admired Voltaire in his early youth, detested him; Michelet and Quinet were members of the committeee formed to raise a statue to him." (5) Mickiewicz was Catholic and Bonapartiste; his friends were atheists and republicans. Certainly, Mickiewicz was a specific type of revolutionary: a ‘mystic.’"

Born in Lithuania on December 24, 1798 (200 years before K. Wojtyla’s election] during the Tsarist regime, in 1815, he founded the Society of Philomathes at the University of Vilna, (then Philarèthes, then the Rayonnants]) "for apparently literary goals….[but] in reality, political ones." (6), for which he was arrested and exiled in 1829. He went then to Rome: [H]e underwent an illuminist and Voltarian spiritual formation; in Rome he recaptured an understanding of the superior creative force of the faith in contrast to only reason; it was this concept that inspired all of his poetry." "In 1831, after having tried in vain to resuscitate his insurgent party, he left for Paris." There, he frequented the Polish emigré milieus and for them, the Encyclical of Gregory XVI, Cum primum, issued June 9, 1832, giving his support to the Russian repression against the Polish (7) was a great deception. In 1839, he taught at the University of Lausanne, and the following year, at the College of France, in Paris, as we have seen. "In 1848, during the people’s revolt, M., who all his life had followed national movements and was a friend of Mazzini [who had translated some of his poetry], and also a friend of other patriots, founded a legion which fought in the first Italian war of independence." He returned to Paris after the first defeat, then departed again for a political mission to Constantinople, where he died in 1855. From these few biographical facts taken from the Catholic Encyclopedia, emerges the figure of a liberal Catholic Mickiewicz, vaguely Mazzinian. This is bad enough, but is there more?

Mickiewicz and Lamennais

Father de Lubac does not hesitate to classify Mickiewicz as part of the "spiritual posterity of Joachim of Fiore," even if further on he defends Mickiewicz’s orthodoxy, just as he defended Father Teilhard de Chardin’s, with whom he explicitly linked Miekiewicz. (8) A desperate attempt in both cases. Thus, through Lubac, we deepen our knowledge of Mickiewicz.

Above all, it is the reading of L’Essai sur l’indifférence ["Essay on Indifference"] by Lammenais which, during his deportation from St. Petersburg, brought Mickiewicz closer to "Catholicism." (p. 242). In 1831, Mickiecz met the "prophet of La Chesnaie" in Paris, and they became friends: they were nicknamed, with reason, "the Pilgrims of the future" (9). Mickiewicz wrote to Lelewel on May 23, 1832, "Lamennais is the only Frenchman who has sincerely wept for us." (p. 240). Mickiewicz’s work, Les livres de la nation polonnaise et de son pèlerinage ["History of the Polish Nation and its Pilgrimage"] (1832), was translated into French by Janski (the future founder of the Resurrectionists) and by Count de Montalembert. The latter’s name figures in the statement, "[T]he book spread among liberal Catholics." It was Montalembert and Lamennais who would choose the title of the French edition, that is, Livre des pèlerins polonais ["The Polish Pilgrims’ Book"] (1833); Montalembert wrote its preface, and Lamennais added his own "hymn to Poland." I recall that Lamennais’ ideas, expressed in his journal, L’Avenir, had already been condemned by Gregory XVI in his August 15, 1832 encyclical, Mirari Vos, but the Pope, hoping that he would turn away from his errors, had refrained from naming the unfortunate priest. However, what caused Lamennais to fall into the abyss which led him into apostasy was the brochure that Mickiewicz had given him. Lamennais "had admired Mickiewicz’s booklet: ‘Such a pure expression of the Faith and liberty in one place is a marvel in our servile and unbelieving century’….[He said that] he had begun editing a little book ‘strongly analogous, but for lack of firm commitment, he did not pursue it. Reading the Pilgrims’ manuscript was the ‘spark’ that ignited him. He imitated its ‘biblical and visionary style’ and imported its parabolic structure in ‘Words of a believer.’ He knew about the letter that Maruice de Guerin wrote to his friend, Hippolyte de la Morvonnais, dated May 10, 1834, about the three works of M. de Lamennais and Silvio Pellico "(My prisons") which had appeared one after the other: ‘a terrible trilogy…three sledgehammers, and from Catholic men, pure men, holy men.’" (pp. 241-242).

But the Pope did not rate the same appreciation: ‘the correction was rude….If the Roman condemnation of June 1834 [the encyclical, Singulari nos, by Gregory XVI]

...So it was that Lammenais’ and Mickewiez’s paths diverged: the first apostasized, the second seemingly submitted and in 1834 founded "the United Brothers Association", which Janski, the ex-Carbonaro joined (p.244). Finally in 1836, as we have said, they both founded the religious order of the Resurrectionists.

Mickiewicz and Messianism

Although Mickiewicz no longer saw one heretic (Lamennais), he did see another one, worse perhaps: Andrzej Towianski (1799-1871), with whom he had studied in Vilna. Towianski had gone to Paris in 1841, "He cured from a distance" Mickiewicz’s wife, who had been hopitalized in a mental hospital, and so, for Mickiewicz, became like "a messenger from God." ‘For the next three years, the last two being spent at the College of France, Mickiewicz made himself the herald of Towianism." (pp. 253-25) [sic] Towianski was an adept of "messianism," a current begun by Hoëné-Wronski (1778-1853) "who wound up believing that he was charged with announcing ‘the end of Christianity.’" [p. 251]. Also messianists were two famous men of Polish letters, Zygmunt Karsinski (1812-1859) and Auguste Cieszkovski (1814-1894): the first "announced that the Church of Peter was approaching its end, like all of the old order," the second "announced the opening of the third and last age of history: after antiquity, which was the age of the Father and [then] Christianity, which was the age of the Son, there would be the age of the Holy Spirti, who by bringing about the unity of human and Divine will, would install the Kingdom of God on earth; then the ‘fullness of nations’ that had been announced by St. Paul, would be fulfilled" (pp. 250-51).

As for Towianski, in his humility, he believed he was, after Napoleon, (10) the third epiphany of Christ, the predestined leader who to be born of a nation, Poland, martyr and redemptor like Christ. He was the ‘griséand occultist of mystical literature; perhaps he was initiated into many secret societies" (p. 252)."His metaphysical and moral system, anti-rationalist and anti-authoritarian, was influenced by Saint Saint-Martin, Swedenborn, by T. Grabianka.." (11) But it was also influenced by a certain Jacob Frank, whom I shall treat. It is interesting to note that, for Towianski, at the end of time, hell would no longer exist. (8) Many authors have been influenced by Towianski: the Polish Poet, Juliusz Slowaki (1803-1849), who would predict the election of a Slavic Pope (12), our subject here, Mickiewicz; the modernist writer, Fogazzaro. (13) Mickziewicz, Slowaki, and Krasinski were listed by Buttiglione as Karol Wojtyla’s "masters." (p. 32) In 1841, Towianski exposed his thinking in a book (placed on the Index in 1858) titled, Biesiada, or The Banquet. Indeed, Mickiewicz, promoted it at the prestigious College de France. "In December, 1843, he made the subject of his course ‘la Cène’, or the Banquet, without naming the author, and evaded quoting it directly. [He said] that it is the most precious and ripe fruit to fall from the tree of life of the Slavic race,’ it is a proclamation of war against all doctrine, against every rationalist system.’" (p. 254) "I feel that I am supported by a force that does not come from man," said Mickiewicz during his course on March 19, 1844…."I proclaim to heaven the living evidence of a new revelation." (p. 254)

It is no wonder that Mickiewicz and his own had been defined as the "new Montanists." (14) The State (Louis-Philippe) and the Church were anxious, each one expressing this anxiety in different ways. The first discretely made Mickiewicz give up his Chair in 1844 and, on April 15, 1848, the second put the two books of his Parisian course on the Index, that is, L’Eglise et le Messie ["The Church and the Messiah"] and L’Eglise officielle et le messianisme .["The Official Church and Messianism"].

Mickiewicz and the "Official Church"

If a new Messiah, a new Savior, a new Revelation were announced, what then of the (ancient) Church? Obviously, it would have to disappear in order to cede its place to the new one (this is what Krasinski thinks) or better, it would be transformed (Mickiewicz’s thinking). While waiting for the new dispensation, she is the "official Church" as opposed to "the Church of the future" (p. 270) which emerges from its predecessor like a butterly from its chrysallis." (15) "The lessons of the College de France in 1842-1844 are hard ones for the ‘official Church.’ They reject any idea of ‘being insulting to the men who represent her but note that she ‘has lost the prophetic spirit.’ The ‘old clerical theology’ is insufficient to guide us; she still teaches us to know God, but she doesn’t make us "feel’ him’" (p. 260) Mickiewicz is taken for "a prophet" (p. 246), "an enlightened one" (p. 249), when he speaks, he becomes ecstatic (p. 249) and he is considered to be a saint and a mystic. (p. 239) "A universal foreboding," affirms Mickiewicz, "warns us of the imminence of a new crisis…The souls who are most attached to the old tradition, such as Joseph deMaistre (16), foreshadow this." (p. 260) The "official" Church has become rationalistic: This Church, whose existence is a miracle, evades speaking of miracles", she "no longer knows how to ward off and condemn", but "she will be saved despite (the priests) and against them" (p. 269) (17) "Since the Reformation" Catholicism began the petrification, and, Protestantism, the putrefaction." (p. 269); in order to remedy this process, there must be a Catholic ecumenism as a response to deMaistre. (ibidem)

The following well summarized Mickiewicz’ ideas on the Church: "It was January 16, 1844. Never since its founding had any of those attending the College de France ever heard anything like it from one of its Chairs….That day, the historian of Slavic literature [Mickiewicz], proclaimed his Catholic vision." Mickiewicz recounted to the students the legend written by Krasinski four years before: (18)

Christmas. At St. Peter’s in Rome, the Pope says Mass surrounded by tired old men. Suddenly in their midst a young man dressed in purple: it is the Church of the future, in the person of John. (19) He tells the crowd of pilgrims that the times are fulfilled, then, going to the tomb of the head of the Apostles, he calls him by his name and orders him to leave the tomb. The corpse rises and cries out: ‘Bad luck!" Then, the cupola of the Basilica cracks open and splits. The young Cardinal asks, "Peter, do you recognize me?" The corpse replies, "Your head rested on the breast of the Savior, and have never died. I know you." Peter goes back into the tomb, after having given his place to John.

The Polish pilgrims, out of fidelity, die under the ruins of St. Peter’s Basicila. "Peter has died forever. The Roman Church is finished, its last faithful are dead. The break is complete." Mickiewica recaptures Krasinski’s allegory but he changes it at the end. The Polish peasants who ‘are looking for the Church of the future' do not perish under the ruins, but save the Church. "They," ----and these are Mickiewicz’s words----"shall open this cupola to the light of heaven, so that it looks like that pantheon of which it is a copy;" (20) so that it may be the basilica of the univeres, the pantheon, the pan-cosmos and pandemic, the temple of all spirits; so that it gives us the key of all of the traditions and all of the philosphies…" (p. 271)

DeLubac thinks that Mickiewicz corrects Krasinski in an orthodox sense; oppositely, Journet, says that he "emphasizes the heretical aspect." For Mickiewicz, it is true, the Church of John does not destroy Peter’s Church, but is born from it like a butterfly from its chrysallis; for my part, I would say that Mickiewicz is just as heretical as Krasinski, but more dangerous. "Be on your guard against false prophets. They come to you in sheeps’ clothing." (Matthew, 7, 15). And then, on April 5, 1848, at the head of his Polish division, Mickiewicz gets into the midst of a procession into the St. Peter’s Basilica, and believes that the realization of the dream of "Christmas Night" is near (CF p. 458). But on April 29, Pius IX refuses to declare war against Austria. The Roman Republic, led by Mazzini, Mickiewicz’ friend, desposes the Pope, but is also led toward defeat. The realization of a "spiritual" Church, the object of his dreams was resuscitated later; Mickiewica separated from Towianski in 1845. However, he would intervene in his favor with the French government in 1848 and in 1851 (p. 275, n. 4) and, as we shall see, he will not abandon his false mysticism one bit.

Mickiewicz, Martinist Mason

In effect, the relations with Towianski were also of an occult type, or rather Masonic. Was Mickewicz a Mason? From the beginning, in 1817, we see that he founded the secret society, the Philomaths (Towarzystwo filomatow). In 1820, he joined another secret society, the Philarethes, which he speaks of in the third part of his 1833 book, Dziady (Ancestors). Alas, I don’t know if the Philarethes have something to do with the Masonic lodges called the Philalethes. (21) Whatever the case may be, these Polish secret societies were the replica (and often the ally) of the Russian secret societies---a type of Slavic Carbonarism---which would give rise to the 1825 Decembrist revolt, the Tzarist government had recognized the hand of Masonry, and it is precisely because of this situation, that it was made illegal in Russia. (22) To support the suspicion that the secret societies to which the young Mickiewicz belonged were not Masonic, a meeting will lead him to Martinism: the meeting with Oleszkiewick. "No one would have as strong an influence on him as the Pole, Josef Oleszkiewick, painter, mystic, disciple of Saint-Martin, and who would be the first to initiate Mickiewicz to the most profound religious experiences of his life." (23) So it is that the Voltarian, Mickiewicz, became a Martinist, from rationalist to "mystic;" in 1836, he published Zdania I uwagi (Feelings and observations), a collection of quotes from the works of Böhme.(24), Silesius and Saint-Martin. (25) With Saint-Martin, we are amid fullblown Masonry, and even full blown Jewish Cabalism! It is in this esoteric environment, well established before the his affiliation with Towianski’s movement, that Mickiewicz’ thought becomes bogged down in the mud, "Strongly touched in his youth by the mystique of the secret societies---de Lubac must admit ---by Böhme with whom he fell in love in Dresden in 1832 (26), by the visions of Frederick Wanner, by Swedenborg, (27)by Baader and by Saint-Martin whom he had read in Paris in 1833, but also by Catherine Emmerich…and by the great mystics of the Christian tradition, above all Denys (who he tried to translate into Polish), he resembled Joseph de Maistre, who would be closer to the sources of popular inspiration, and to Lammenais who would remain faithful." (p. 245) Surely, the more Lubac tries to excuse Mickiewicz, the worse it involuntarily becomes, so much so that he makes clear the place occupied by Mickiewicz among the most dangerous thinkers of "Masonic-Christian" esotericism.