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A Gallery of Thoughts on Arts, Culture and Orthodox Christian Spirituality

Antanas Maceina, the Long-suffering Sage

On January 27, we will commemorate 110 years since the birth of one of the greatest Lithuanian philosophers, Antanas Maceina (1908-1987). In his numerous works, he was able to combine philosophy, religion and literature in a unique and inspiring way. Maceina was born and died on the same day, so January 27 will also mark the 31st anniversary of his death.

Antanas Maceina saw the light of the day for the first time in a village near Prienai on the river Nemunas.  He planned to become a priest, and spent almost four years in a seminary, but acquired a degree in Lithuanian and German philology at Kaunas University instead.  Despite leading a secular life in a family, he remained not only a preacher in his soul, but also a monk in the world dedicated to artistic and intellectual creation in solitude.

Maceina studied philosophy and pedagogy under his mentor, the famous philosopher and pedagogue, Stasys Šalkauskas. After receiving a bachelor's degree, he continued his studies abroad, in Leuven, Freiburg, Strasbourg and Brussels. In 1933 he maried a university professor, Julija Tverskaite, with whom he had three children.

The following year, Maceina defended his doctoral dissertation, "National Upbringing," and then taught education and philosophy of culture at Kaunas University from 1935-1940. At the time of the first Soviet occupation in 1940, he immigrated to Germany. Two years later he returned to his homeland, but on the eve of the second Soviet occupation in 1944, he fled his country again, this time without his family. He never saw his children again. As one of the leading young Lithuanian intellectuals, he would have surely been sent to Siberia, if not liquidated.

From 1949, he taught philosophy at the University of Wurzburg, then from 1956 Russian philosophy and Spiritual History of Eastern Europe at the University of Freiburg, and, finally from 1962 until his retirement in 1971 he taught courses in Russian and Soviet Philosophy at the University of Munster, in the city where he spent the last years of his life.

Antanas Maceina was an eminent philosopher, culturologist and pedagogue, but he would not have been nearly as prominent if it weren't for his writing style, mesmerising, seductive and original. His knowledge of theology, pedagogy, cultural studies, literature and philosophy was profound, but he was first and foremost a brilliant writer who expressed his thoughts in an inventive and stylistically impeccable way.

Maceina wasn't well known in his country until the renewed Lithuanian independence, but from 1991 to 2008 his entire life-long output, including newspaper articles and letters to his family, was collected and published in 16 volumes. Save for the last few volumes, they have all been sold despite a large circulation. A significant number of his works have also been translated into German and Russian. He is a well known thinker in those two countries.

Perhaps his most comprehensive creation is the trilogy Cor Inquietum ("A Restless Heart"), consisting of three books. The Grand Inquisitor is a treatise about Dostoyevsky's famous poem, free will and its abuse. The Secret of Villainy is about Vladimir Soloviev's "A Short Tale about Antichrist," the nature of evil and the sweeping apostasy of our time. The Drama of Job is a study about suffering, temptation and gratitude.

In 2008, Maceina's daughter-in-law, Tatjana Maceiniene, who translated most of his works into Russian, wrote an insightful biography about Antanas Maceina, Wisdom Born in Suffering (Išmintis, gimusi kančioje). In it, she depicts not only the personality of the great philosopher revealed in his letters to his wife and children, but his patience, faith, love for Russian literature and Lithuanian culture, and his unparalleled perseverance.

Antanas Maceina was also an accomplished poet, dreamy, cerebral and sophisticated.

Svetozar Postic

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