Korzybski: A Biography (Free Online Edition)
Copyright © 2014 (2011) by Bruce I. Kodish
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During his time in Rome, Alfred also developed acquaintances among clerics and officials at the Vatican. This came about through a chance meeting while walking down the street one day. Alfred came face to face with one Prince Radizwill, a friend of his father, whom he had also known in Poland. This particular Prince Radizwill, from a famous Polish-Lithuanian Magnate family of enormous wealth, espoused a staunch Catholicism (Korzybski considered him a “fanatic”), along with Polish patriotism. Several years before, Radizwill had approached Alfred’s father requesting that he allow Alfred to join an organization of aristocratic Polish Catholic youth. As a friendly gesture, Alfred joined for the price of the nominal membership fee (equivalent perhaps to a dollar) and with no further involvement. When Radizwill saw Alfred on the Roman street he immediately invited him, as a ‘dedicated Polish Catholic youth’, to speak the next day at a meeting Radizwill had arranged before a group of Cardinals and the Governor of the Jesuits. Alfred demurred but Prince Radizwill insisted.
The next day Alfred found himself in a meeting room of an old convent sitting at the end of a long table next to Radizwilll with a roomful of Catholic clergy and Vatican dignitaries. Radizwill introduced him as “a representative of Polish youth” speaking on “The Relationship of the Polish Youth Toward the Clergy, and the Clergy Toward Polish Youth”. Some of the priests in attendance may have felt a shock when they recognized the young man they had seen before at Pincio Garden concerts—the “Maladetto Pollaco”. Alfred, who had never spoken in public before, didn't seem to have any difficulty getting up before this distinguished audience and taking the next hour or so to “give hell” to the Catholic Church since, in his opinion, the Church as a whole had betrayed the Polish national cause.(8)
The speech didn’t please Radizwill who began to pinch Alfred’s leg under the table, presumably to get him to shut up. Alfred, who had been “boiling against the clergy” for years, continued his speech. Under the table, in turn, he kicked Radizwill in the shins. Despite these distractions and the nature of the speech, his audience seemed to find his presentation impressive. Every Cardinal there invited Alfred for lunch or dinner. Alfred also got an audience with Pope Leo XIII, who despite his views against Polish nationalism, impressed Alfred as a “high grade” individual.(9) For the rest of his life, Alfred disdained the Catholic Church as an institution, considering it totalitarian in outlook. However, he continued to like and make friends with individual Catholics, including clerics.
In Rome, Alfred became friendly with one cleric in particular—an educated and intelligent monk named Bernardine. Korzybski would visit Bernardine, born a wealthy French marquis, in his simple monastic cell which had only a couple of hard wooden benches to sit and sleep on. They would talk for hours about philosophy, science, etc. One thing Bernardine told him made a great impression on Alfred—the monk’s admission of the agnosticism or at least the non-literal, “philosophically minded” ‘religion’ of the “upper crust” of the Catholic hierarchy of those days. This revelation surprised him. It is not clear whether this mollified or increased Alfred's cynicism towards the Church.
You may download a pdf of all of the book's reference notes (including a note on primary source material and abbreviations used) from the link labeled Notes on the Contents page. The pdf of the Bibliography, linked on the Contents page contains full information on referenced books and articles.8. Korzybski 1947, pp. 460-462.