Rev. Andrew J. Krzesinski
ON NOVEMBER 20, 1884, I WAS
BORN IN THE CASTLE TOWN of Niepolomice, near Cracow, where my
parents owned a thirty-acre farm. It was near a great forest
of pine and spruce where in the past the Kings of Poland had
come to hunt the deer and the elk.
From childhood I was deeply
impressed with nature and the universe around me, and I remember
reasoning, while still very young, that if nature and the universe
are so beautiful, how much more so must God be Who created them
and maintains them in their perfect order.
Following my elementary education
at Niepolomice, I took the eight-year course (high school and
college) of the Gymnasium of St. Hyacinth in Cracow. From the
beginning I found my school work very easy, especially my favorite
subject, mathematics. In 1906, after passing the "matura"
examinations with honors, the way to the university was open
to me. But I had long since felt the call to the priesthood and
so instead I entered the Grand Seminary in Cracow. After ordination
in 1910, I was at first employed in parochial work; later I taught
philosophy and religion in the college department of the Ursuline
Gymnasium in Cracow. At the same time, I was continuing my own
studies, and in 1919 received the degree of Doctor of Theology
and in 1923 that of Doctor of Philosophy, both at the Jagiellonian
University in Cracow. Next came postgraduate work at the Universities
of Paris (the Sorbonne), London, Rome, Berlin, and Leipzig.
My first book, Reality, Knowledge
and Truth in the History of Philosophy, was published in Polish
in 1924 and won me the appointment as dozent of Christian philosophy
at the Jagiellonian. The following January, I was invited by
Warsaw University to the chair of Christian philosophy, which
had been restored for me by the Polish government. Less than
four years later, however, I resigned, for ideological reasons,
and returned to the Jagiellonian.
In 1927, while still at Warsaw,
I wrote In Defense of the Transcendent World. With but minor
revisions, it was translated from the Polish and published in
Paris in 1931 under the title Une Nouvelle philosophie de l'Immanence.
A critique of the positivist and modernist teachings of a Warsaw
professor formed the basis of my book, Positivism, Modernism
and the Polish Clergy (in Polish, 1928).
My philosophical studies, begun
in 1931, on Western culture as exposed to the attacks of atheistic
Communism and Nazism, both of which sought to destroy its Christian
ideals and built their own world domination on its ruins, I treated
in a well-received vvork, Modern Culture and Its Tragedy (in
Polish, 1934). I was convinced that Western culture, due to its
Christian character, would not only eventually triumph, but would
become a point of contact with other world civilizations and
thus a much-needed harmonizing force in the world. To contribute
all I could to this ideal, I entered upon an intensive study
of the cultures, ethical systems and religions of the Far East.
With the encouragement of my University rector and our Archbishop,
I left the Jagiellonian on February 2, 1936, for the Orient to
make these studies at first-hand.
My travels took me around the
world and lasted a year. First I went to London where the India
Office arranged with the British-Indian Government to facilitate
my research by making contacts for me in Indian intellectual
circles. Then, in crossing the United States, I delivered a lecture
at Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, on "The Critical Situation
of Western Culture" which Monsignor G. Barry O'Toole, head
of the Philosophy department, urged me to put into book form.
From the United States I went to Japan, China, Manchuria, Indo-China,
Thailand (Siam), the Malay States, Burma, India, Sikhim, Tibet,
and Ceylon. In all of these countries I had frequent opportunities
and ample facilities to study their social, religious and cultural
ways of life. In all of them, too, the universities invited me
to lecture on Western civilization; in India alone I spoke before
some twenty such groups composed of professors, students, and
other intellectuals. While in India I met the poet, Rabindranath
Tagore, who invited me to lecture at Santiniketan College which
he had founded and endowed to educate youth in the pure Hindu
tradition. In his residence at Allahabad, I also met Pandit Nehru,
then President of the All India Congress and later Prime Minister
of his newly independent nation. He had recently returned from
Russia and was strongly influenced by Communism, the true ideology
and practice of which I tried to expose to him. It was at his
invitation that I attended the All India Congress meeting at
Tilak Nagar in South India. While there I met Mahatma Gandhi
who, despite the pressure of Congress affairs, took the time
to discuss problems of religious truth and the social and cultural
life of India. At his suggestion, these discussions were continued
at his home near Wardha some days later,
My host in Calcutta, Archbishop Ferdinand Perier, warned me that
for years the bishops of India and China had in vain sought permission
from Lhassa for priests to enter Tibet. "It is impossible,"
he said. But the English Indian government finally succeeded
in securing the necessary permission for me. What I learned there
was well worth all my efforts. The people of Tibet live according
to Buddhist principles in every detail. Tibet is unique in the
world in that probably one third of its population lives in monasteries,
and that representatives of no other religion are allowed in
At the end of April, 1937,
I took leave of the Far East, leaving there not only many friends,
but also my heart.
They form the largest part
of the world's population but, despite their ancient cultures
and many and splendid works of art, the majority live under the
most difficult social and economic conditions; and, while deeply
religious, have only sparks of religious truth. How important
it would be for the glory of God and the good of humanity if
these nations were in possession of full religious truth, of
the highest Christian ideals! I was filled with the desire to
contribute to their cultural and spiritual unity with the Christian
nations. One Christian civilization among all nations, with a
variety of national characteristics, all enjoying full independence
and freedom, and living according to the principles of the one
true religion. With this vision in my mind and heart I left the
En route home, I visited Palestine
and Egypt and again London. Laden with the riches of my researches,
I arrived back at the Jagiellonian in September, 1937.
Some of the fruits of my travels
appeared in Researches on Far Eastern Culture (in Polish, 1938),
The Problem of the Catholic Missions in the Far East (id., 1939),
and in two other books.
To do the work I wanted on
Far Eastern and Western cultures, I needed a better understanding
of culture in America, particularly in the United States. In
June of 1939, I had everything ready for a visit to the United
States but, unfortunately, I delayed starting until September.
By then World War II had broken out, in fact, Cracow was already
surrounded by the German army. Amid bombing and machine gunning,
I eventually made my way to Lithuania (already overridden with
Soviet spies), then through Latvia and Esthonia to Sweden whence
I sailed to the United States, arriving in New York on October
Since then I have lectured
on the Far East at Pennsylvania and Columbia Universities and
have been visiting professor of philosophy at Laval University,
Quebec, Montreal University, and Fordham.
Due to my hasty and hazardous
flight from Poland, much of my Far East research materials were
left there, and as a result I have so far been unable to write
my work contrasting Eastern and Western cultures. However, since
coming here I did have published Is Modern Culture Doomed? (Devin-Adair,
2nd ed., 1944), a French edition of which appeared in Montreal
the following year. Fides of Montreal also published Christianity's
Problem in the Far East in 1945, with a French version following
During World War II, I thought
that an expose of Nazism in the light of Western culture was
called for and so I had published in Boston in 1945 National
Cultures, Nazism and the Church, The Religion of Nazi German~y,
and Nazi Germany's Foreign Policy'.
The injustices to Poland of
the Yalta agreement evoked Poland's Right to Justice (Devin-Adair,
1946). That same year my defense of Poland's western frontiers
appeared under the title Poland, Germany: a Lasting Peace? (DevinAdair)
To comfort and strengthen the
suffering Polish people I wrote for them, in Polish of course,
these four books: In Defense of Poland, Amid the Bombs and Fires,
The Individual Action in Saving Poland, and The Congress of the
I have long been interested
in the problem of mental health. Due to the pressures of life
here, it is a particularly acute problem in the United States,
and so I was happy to be able to act as an observer with the
Psychology Department and Psychiatric Institute of Columbia University
through the years 1950 to 1953. I hope soon to complete my work
on the results of this experience.
Up to the present I have written
some thirty books and about eight hundred articles. My knowledge
of twenty languages has proven very helpful to me.
On January 30, 1950, I became
an American citizen.
I would be grateful to God
if He grants me the time and energy to realize my complete program.