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chapter nine m sectarianism (1841–1846) O n 15 December 1840, close to a million people gathered on a route from the Arc de Triomphe to the Invalides, stamping their feet in the fourteen-degree cold, to witness the arrival of Napoleon’s remains from St. Helena. Like most of his fellow émigrés, Mickiewicz watched entranced as the towering catafalque drawn by sixteen magnificent horses carried the remains of the emperor past plaster statues of French heroes and kings, smoking braziers, and escutcheons inscribed with the names and dates of his victories. And right then and there, “in broad daylight,” the poet had a vision (or so he later maintained when such premonitions were at a premium): “I saw a man driving a one-horse carriage from the depths of [Lithuania], in poverty, through mud and mist, and I sensed that this man was bearing greatness! great things!” Unbeknownst to Mickiewicz, that man was somewhere there in the enormous crowd, having come to Paris expressly to commune with the spirit of the victor at Austerlitz.1 1 Andrzej Towiański experienced his first call on 11 May 1828, while praying in the Bernardine church in Vilnius. On a date that would subsequently be marked in red on the Towianist calendar, he “saw in his spirit for the first time the entire Cause for the realization of which he had been sent to earth.” The son of a relatively well-to-do landowner, he was at the time a twenty-nine-year-old magistrate at the city court with a law degree from the University of Vilnius—a former classmate, in fact, of Mickiewicz, although never part of his circle. He had been a sickly child, intensely introspective and deeply religious. As a young man with a taste for romantic poetry, the occult, and, quite possibly, Jewish mysticism, he had already sensed that he “bore within him God’s thought.” Now, as a magistrate, he had 282 adam mickiewicz an opportunity to observe the workings of human nature, while at the same time already exercising an uncompromising moral focus in meting out justice. The experience in the Bernardine church simply confirmed his vocation. He felt destined to “move the earth from pole to pole.”2 Before long, in the persons of his schoolmate Ferdynand Gutt, a bright, sensitive graduate of Vilnius’smedicalschoolwithadeeplyfeltsocialconscience,andWalentyWańkowicz, Fig. 19 Andrzej Towiański. Daguerreotype, ca. 1850. Courtesy of the Adam Mickiewicz Museum of Literature, Warsaw. sectarianism (1841–1846) 283 the “dim-witted” painter known for his portrait of Mickiewicz on the Crimean crag, Towiański found two acolytes. He began speaking to them of a ladder of spiritual perfection, of Christ and Napoleon, and of the interdependence of this world and the world of spirits; of the need “to work in faith on the moral perfection of oneself and others who are pure, to lay away moral and physical strength” so as to be ready for the imminent arrival on earth of a “newman”of God,“aChristfromamongourownpeople,”whowillleadmankindinagreat spiritual rebirth. “Pure, simple, and worldly wisdom,” Gutt had no doubt that this “man of providence” was already standing before him, the very same man, in fact, whom “[Mickiewicz] would later see in Father Piotr’s Vision [in Forefathers’ Eve, part 3].”3 Two years after his life-altering experience, Towiański married Karolina Max, the beautiful , and spiritually evolved, daughter of a polonized German wainwright. Gossip had it that the two spent their wedding night “in a cemetery, calling up spirits so as to consummate their marriage not only physically, but also spiritually.” However this may be, Karolina quicklygraspedherroleasTowiański’shelpmate,thefemalehalfofa“holyfamily”inwhich she embodied St. Philomena and St. Margaret combined. For the moment, though, she remained in the background, nurturing a family while her husband made his first attempts to spread his message. Unaffected by the uprising, which in any case he deemed misbegotten , Towiański resigned from his position at the municipal court and in 1832 traveled to St. Petersburg, for decades a magnet for spiritualists of various stripes. After a year and a half of ambitious, but unsuccessful, proselytizing—apparently two of the tsar’s ministers, Sergei G. Stroganov and Mikhail M. Speranskii, refused to bite—he took his mission to the spas of Central Europe and the Polish émigrés of Dresden. There too, however, his gospel met with skepticism, although Mickiewicz’s friend Odyniec, who ran into Towiański in Dresden in 1835–1836...


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