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representatives of the rationalist current in the later Polish Reformation, from the late 16th century to the first half of the 17th century.
The Socinians are named for one of their founders, the Italian F. Socinus (1539-1604), who emigrated to Poland in 1579. They gradually rose to predominance among the Polish Brethren, a religious community that was founded in 1569 in Rakow and that subsequently became the hub of Socinian activity. In the 1620’s, during the ascendancy of Socinianism, the Socinian school—the Academy—established here in 1602 attracted hundreds of students from many countries.
The fundamental beliefs of Socinianism were systematized by Socinus, J. L. Wolzogen, J. Crell, S. Przypkowski, J. Szlichtyng, and A. Wiszowaty. The Socinians, like all the Polish Brethren, were antitrinitarian in that they rejected the Trinity, regarding Christ not as god but as a man endowed with divine attributes—that is, the Socinians to some extent revived the early Christian heresy of Arianism. They also denied the doctrine of original sin. Unlike the early Polish Brethren, the Socinians were religious rationalists, recognizing the authority of the Holy Scriptures only “insofar as they do not contradict man’s reason.” They defended the principle of religious toleration and advocated freedom of conscience. They made a substantial contribution to the development of philosophical-religious thought. Some Socinians were in effect covert deists.
The Socinians devoted a great deal of attention to education and enlightenment and propagated the natural sciences and mathematics of their time. Their ideology, though rationalist and therefore philosophically progressive, was regressive in a socioeconomic sense, at least by comparison with the ideology of the radical plebeian current of Grzegorz Pawel- of Brzeziny, M. Czechowic, and other Polish Brethren of the 1560’s and 1570’s; that is, the Socinians represented the conserva- tive-szlachta wing of the Polish Brethren.
In 1658, with the onset of the Catholic reaction, the Sejm passed a resolution banishing the Socinians from the Rzeczpospolita (Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth). The Socinians emigrated mainly to Holland; there and elsewhere Socinianism gradually lost its identity among the other currents of Protestantism.
REFERENCESPol’skie mysliteli epokhi Vozrozhdeniia. Moscow, 1960.
Ogonowski, Z. Socynianizmpolski. Warsaw, 1960.