Faculty image Henryk Skolimowski Professor Emeritus Department of Humanities


Henryk Skolimowski (born 1930 in Warsaw) is a Polish philosopher.  He completed technical studies and philosophy in Warsaw. He received his Ph.D. in philosophy from Oxford University.

The student of Tadeusz Kotarbińskiand Kazimierz Ajdukiewicz, he specialized in logic and philosophy of language. Skolimowski earned a doctorate at the University of Oxford, where he also taught before he began his professorships at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, and then at the University of Michigan, where he was for 23 years a professor of philosophy, and now holds the position of professor emeritus. Today he is considered to be the leading thinker in the field of eco-philosophy.

Skolimowski's work is partly inspired by his desire to overcome human angst and modern alienation caused by the overwhelming preponderance of modern technology and its hidden ideology. Our increasing dependence on technology, at the expense of a right relationship with Nature and the planet, is one of the  prime concerns of Skolimowski's work. Another inspiration of his work is his awareness that organized  patriarchal religions are increasingly unable to provide a meaningful spiritual platform from which modern human beings may appropriately evolve.

During decades of travel and involvement with leading thinkers across the globe, Skolimowski has become familiar with a great variety of cultures, and has been lauded by many for his work. He is the author of over 50 books and over 600 hundreds of scholarly and philosophical papers.  He is also a poet.  He writes in English. In the years 1992-1997 Skolimowski held the Chair of Ecological Philosophy at Technical University of Lodz, the first position of this kind in the world.

Degrees and Scholarly Titles:

  • M.Sc (geodesy) 1956 - Warsaw University of Technology, Warsaw, Poland,
  • MA (Philosophy) 1959 - University of Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland,
  • D.Phil. 1964 - University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom.

Academic experience:

  • University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom - scholar 1959-60, 1962–64, 1968–69
  • University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom - research scholar 1969-70
  • University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA - Assistant professor, associate professor 1964-70
  • Philosopher in Residence at Arcosanti, Arizona, USA 1969-85
  • University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA - Professor 1971-1993
  • Philosopher in Residence, Dartington Hall, Devon, UK 1979-83
  • Technical University of Lodz, Chair of Ecological Philosophy, Lodz, Poland - Professor 1992-97

He was a member of scientific organizations such as:

  • member of the task force on Appropriate Technology of the US Congress
  • consultant to the program on Technology and Culture of UNESCO 1976-78
  • TeilhardSociety in London - Vice President 1980-90
  • International Union for the Conservation of Nature 1981-86
  • Committee "Man and Environment," Polish Academy of Sciences 1995-2010

Other information:

  • Skolimowski is a creator of a new branch of philosophy called Eco-Philosophy, which claims that THE WORLD IS A SANCTUARY. From this central assumption immediately follows reverence for life and for all there is, responsibility for the world and society, altruism and sharing as the basis for ethics, and ecological spirituality, which maintains that the ecological and the spiritual are one.
  • Swimming against the current of the disengaged academic philosophy, Skolimowski has insisted, for the last four decades, that philosophy must be committed to life, must be living philosophy, helping life to unfold and to flourish. More recently, he proposed a new cosmology of light, according to which Light is the source of it all; it is truly a Great Mother; if we have the eyes to see and the mind to bear its greatness. Light is the source of all spiritualities and religions.
  • Skolimowski's passions are: hiking in the mountains - the higher the better; watching the sunrise over the Himalayas - it has been his sublime experience; also watching the stars in the mountains on moonless nights...and sometimes dialoguing with the stars.
  • creator of a new department of philosophy - Eco-philosophy, Poland 1993
  • Founder of the Eco-Philosophy Center based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA. 1981
  • member of the President's Council for Environmental in Poland 1994/97

Awards and distinctions:

  • Gold Medal of Merit, Ministry of the Environment, Poland 1999
  • Medal of the City of Wroclaw 1997 (for activities in the field of environmental protection in Poland)
  • Zielone Serce Przyrodzie, Warsaw 2001

Bibliography Books

  • 2011. The Lotus and the Mud: Autobiography of a Philosopher. Creative Fire Press.
  • 2010. World as Sanctuary: The Cosmic Philosophy of Henryk Skolimowski. Creative Fire Press.
  • 2010. Let There Be Light: The Mysterious Journey of Cosmic Creativity. Wisdom Tree.
  • 2005. Philosophy for a New Civilization. Gyan Publishing House.
  • 2001. The Dawn of the Ecological Era (with Ashwani Kumar). Concept Books.
  • 1999. Dharma, Ecology and Wisdom in the Third Millennium. Concept Books.
  • 1994. The Participatory Mind: A New Theory of Knowledge and of the Universe. Penguin/Arkana.
  • 1994. Eco-Yoga: Practice and Meditations for Walking in Beauty. Gaia Books.
  • 1993. A Sacred Place to Dwell. Element Books.
  • 1992. Living Philosophy: Eco-Philosophy as a Tree of Life. Penguin/Arkana.
  • 1991. Dancing Shiva in the Ecological Age. Clarion Books
  • 1989. The Other Side of the Rational Mind. The Intl Cultural Foundation.
  • 1989. Out of the Cosmic Dust. Vasanta Press.
  • 1985. Eco-Theology: Toward a Religion for our Times. Eco-Philosophy Publications.
  • 1984. Theatre of the Mind. Quest Books.
  • 1983. Technology and Human Destiny. Madras Univ. Press.
  • 1981. Eco-Philosophy: Designing New Tactics for Living. Marion Boyars.
  • 1967. Polish Analytical Philosophy. Routledge and Kegan Paul.


In addition Henryk Skolimowski published over 600 articles. A more complete Bibliography of Henryk Skolimowski can be found in the book, THE WORLD AS SANCTUARY, Creative Fire Press, 2010.

External links

  • [1]The Eco-philosophy Centre website
  • Google Books
  • Google Scholar
  • Speakingtree.in/henrykskolimowski on Google
  • Mirlyn Catalog umich on Google. Search Henryk Skolimowski
  • Voice of Vir Singh for Henryk Skolimowski on Google




             Henryk Skolimowski

From Oxford —To Beverly Hills—To Ann Arbor

It was not easy for a young man from a Communist Poland to stop at Oxford and… in due time to earn and receive a D.Phil in philosophy. And it was not easy either to jump over the ocean and find a professorial position in one of the American universities upon arrival. Yet I accomplished both these things in 1964. You might say good luck. I suppose it was. Yes, and perhaps the guidance of stars, in which I believed.
Oxford was difficult and intimidating because of its profundity. They knew everything best and they were so sure of it. America was disconcerting and discombobulating because of its apparent ease. Everything goes. Everything flows. But nothing stays.
From Oxford I landed in Los Angeles. I remember well majestic palm trees along Sunset Boulevard. At first I stayed in a Japanese villa of a friend in Beverley Hills. I was pinching myself not being quite sure whether I was in some kind of heaven or simply hallucinating. I woke up soon enough after being arrested 6 times for walking in Beverly Hills. 
I was teaching at USC and asking myself: where are the people, remembering well the words of Sophocles: “The city is the people.” For all its glamor, California and L.A. rubbed me the wrong way. I was longing for the spires of Oxford and the bucolic scenes of Poland. Yet I had to survive nearly six years in L.A. It was not all a misery… but some was. The redeeming moments were the meetings with flower children and discussions with the hippies. When I was given a single pink carnation, on Sunset Boulevard… without a word… the experience was electrifying. 
The salvation came from The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. It is here that I lived the best 23 years of my life and was able to spread my wings beyond my expectations. Within a few days after I arrived at Ann Arbor (at first as a visiting professor), I knew it was my kind of place. To begin with, coffee houses were a real thing, like in Paris, Cracow and Warsaw. The aroma was just right inside and the discussions were passionate — my kind of thing.
Lots of students everywhere, particularly on the Diag. Sophocles was right: the city is the people. The Diag has been the heart of the University, a place entrusted with so much of good energy. On a fine day, whether you would sit anywhere, or walk through the Diag – with your heart open — you would feel this energy reverberating around you. The students are batteries of bursting energy. I found them at U of M neither too snooty nor too sluggish, but just right, alive and slightly arrogant. Not pompous but aware of their worth.
 Hill Auditorium, a Temple of Music
Within an easy stroll, almost an extension of the Diag, there is a big temple, called Hill Auditorium. A music temple for me, containing 4000 listeners, and offering great performances all the year around. At first I could not understand it at all — how can you find a Mecca for music in a hidden smallish mid Western city? But there it was. I very promptly bought myself season tickets for important series.
It is here, in Hill Auditorium, that I met Arthur Rubinstein in the flesh, after he had already turned 80. He gave a scintillating recital. Afterwards, during the reception, he was in a champagne spirit and eager to speak Polish. He opened his arms widely and said smilingly to me: “They received me here wonderfully.” It was his 16th or 17th visit to Ann Arbor. Then he added half mischievously and half mockingly: I will tell you a secret now.” I was all ears. “They come en masse not so much to listen to my music but to see me…because they think that this might be my last performance.” And he chuckled gently. It was reassuring and uplifting to see this radiant man performing so superbly and enjoying his life so much. 
Also at Hill Auditorium, I met Vladimir Ashkenazy, just after his breathtaking performance. His whole being was still emanating ecstatic vibrations. After he settled a bit I asked: “How does it feel to be a conductor, after being a pianist for so many years?” He searched for an answer and finally said: ”Now it is all right. And I love the energy of great symphonic pieces, which is so ascending…” I looked into his eyes. He was reliving his music again. An unearthly man. A joy to watch. 
Some years later I also met Karl Heinz Stockhausen. He came to rehearse one of his pieces, in Hill Auditorium, of course. I was curious why he came to Ann Arbor, while he could rehearse in Europe. So I decided to find out and meet the man. Well he needed a special brass band, which Ann Arbor possessed. They were rehearsing a part of his huge new composition called “Days of the Week.” The day they were rehearsing was “Wednesday.” The young main actor who played the part of Lucifer was dressed in sleek black attire. He played trumpet and was accompanied by a brass ensemble. The young man playing the trumpet was Markus Stockhausen, the son of the great composer. He played his part over and again, sometimes consulting with his father; and played again and again. This is how perfection is accomplished. I knew the meaning of the drill, as I spent endless hours listening to rehearsals at the back of Warsaw Philharmonic orchestra. I loved to watch how music is shaped and perfected. I listened and watched the rehearsal of the Stockhausens with true fascination.
Karl Heinz Stockhausen is usually a taciturn man, a bit aloof and stiff. On this occasion he was quite open. Perhaps because of the arrangement of space. They were rehearsing simultaneously on the stage and in the stalls. I asked Karl Heinz what piece they were rehearsing. I knew his music quite a bit. He explained at length that it was a big oratorium, really big. In earlier times it would be called the Days of Creation. He called it Days of the Week. He was in the middle of the cycle. He was rehearsing  “Wednesday.” I asked him how long it would take him to complete the work. Without much hesitation and without any worry, he said “about ten years.” I thought he was brave and optimistic to assume that all would be well with him and his work in ten years time.
As it happened, it took him 20 years to complete the work. Originally he thought that the performance would take 10 to 12 hours. When it was finally completed, it was estimated that it would take 22 hours.  He did finish the work. But he never heard it performed in its entirety while he was alive. He died in 2007.
While talking to Stockhausen during the rehearsals, I was aware that I was witnessing history in the making. A man of genius in front of me was attempting the impossible. He tried to express the essence of life and spirit in one musical work.
I was proud that the University of Michigan was participating in his great opus. I still am. Incidentally, the monumental piece was finally named Light, in German. A most appropriate name for his endeavor. 
Searching For Alternative Worlds
Music has been my passion, my inspiration and my joy. Yet philosophy has been my greater passion still and also my mission. When I was young I dreamt to be a great conductor. I settled finally for admiring other great conductors. Besides, I decided that being a conductor is not as great as being a composer. Composing is the greatest and most pure of human creations. I concluded finally that the two greatest forms of human creation are composing music and creating new metaphysics. In each case we are creating something out of nothing. You need to take a deeper breath to understand that. You can do that. I know you can.
I didn’t come to the University of Michigan to listen to great concerts and converse with great performers, although it has been an unexpected bonus. I did come with a sense of mission — to contribute to a new understanding of reality, thus to create a fragment of a new metaphysics. This agenda has unveiled itself but slowly.
At the beginning of my stay at U of M, I established, with some senior colleagues, such as John Platt and Donald Michael, a faculty seminar for all profs of the university, entitled: Science, Technology and Future Societies (STAFS). The times were turbulent, change was in the air, all kinds of deeper issues needed to be addressed, beyond and above the concerns of specialized disciplines. Every week in one of the elegant conference rooms at Rackham, we were holding symposia of which Plato might possibly be proud.
The discussions were sometimes fierce and always significant. I chose the best minds of the faculty members as speakers. Because of the nature of the seminar, people were not refusing but rather eager to share their views. I was even able to entice Joseph Brodsky to give a presentation, although he was known for refusing everybody. Incidentally, Brodsky’s was the most enigmatic presentation of all. I was surprised and delighted that U of M was such a powerhouse of ideas.
One of the speakers, invited to give a presentation at STAFS, was Lord Eric Ashby, of Clare College, Cambridge. Every seminar had the same format: 30 min presentation, 10 min comments, by a preselected U of M scholar, and 50 min of roving discussion. The noble Lord chose a noble subject: “Reconciliation of Man With Nature.” And he spoke eloquently and convincingly. Then the local scholar, prof. Gunnar Olson of geography department, started his comments with the following words: “What Lord Ashby says is rubbish…” The noble Lord jumped excitedly from the edge of the table on which he was sitting — while confronting the audience — and slightly agitated said: “Jolly good.” And while Gunnar was sorting out his views, the Lord was visibly enjoying himself. 
No, we were not trying to be mean to Lord Ashby. But rather showing that we were independent and a little fierce while trying to understand and confront the great social and philosophical dilemmas of our times — which so often have been brushed aside nonchalantly. I was Coordinator of the Seminar for the whole year. My purpose was to keep the show going on a high plateau, amidst diversity and tolerance. Of course, I was helped and aided by senior faculty, especially those of independent minds. Most faculty members were buried in their research. But some were committed to larger moral and social problems. These became so called visible professors.
As for Lord Ashby, we did not become estranged after his presentation at the seminar. On the contrary, we became close friends. Whenever I visited London, Lord Ashby would invite me to tea with him at the House of Lords. Was I flattered? A little. But more importantly, I was gratified that I could speak on equal terms with mighty lords and that together we could search for new solutions to present perilous problems.
The Great Period of Examined Life
In the 60s and 70s U of M was an aware and sensitive campus. And the students were sharp, concerned and morally alert. I felt very gratified to have these bright and committed students in my classes, particularly in my seminars on Alternative Futures. We were quite bold in seeking new visions and solutions, being convinced that there are other futures possible, in addition to the squalid visions of the status quo. My students were my best allies. It is difficult to say what I mean exactly. But there was a sense of common empathy, which went beyond academic ideas, in maintaining the vision of equity and human justice.
Now, it is a privilege of students — of any time — to search, be critical, and attempt to improve the world. Yet in the 60s and 70s, we witness an altogether a deeper phenomenon. What we witnessed was what Sokrates called Examined Life. It was quite astonishing to see that out of their own will and through their own inner impulses, the students (and other young people) were questioning their own life, their own values and the values and dogmas of society at large. The result was catharsis, awakening and quite a bit of chaos. When the change is deep, the shocks are inevitable and chaos follows like a shadow. Chaos is a residue, not the core of changes. If you only concentrate on the chaos, you miss the real thing. And the real thing was quite profound.  
The changes in our visions and consciousness, being the result of the tempestuous 60s and 70s, have been epochal. We are changed people. Students and the faculty at U of M may be proud that they participated in the epochal events and debates. These debates and controversies were sometimes rough. Let us remember: significant changes do not occur smoothly.
What is most important is that we stood for universal human values. We need to see it clearly that we upheld great human values — sometimes woven in the canvass of more specific issues, such as  discrimination, justice, equity and tolerance. When change is unfolding, it takes a variety of guises and manifestations. Some are small and confusing. Some are prominent and pronounced. It was not an accident that SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) was created out of the folds of U of M, in 1963. It was not an accident that President John F. Kennedy came to Ann Arbor to announce, from the steps of Michigan Union, important ideas that were to inspire the next generation. These ideas are now a part of the treasury of the American Ethos.
It is sweet to believe in great dreams. In this sense the generations of the 60s and 70s, at U of M, were lucky ones. There were many good causes being pursued. And so many important and fierce controversies. There was a sense that life had a meaning. These great causes were inspired by the inner moral conviction that things have gotten out of joint on a moral plane and people were hurt and abused and unnecessary wars were waged. 
Unfolding of Eco-Philosophy
How did I fare in this period of turmoil, excitement and search for new visions? I think I fared well. It was a great challenge to my philosophical integrity but also to my philosophical imagination. I listened to students. And they trusted me. They expected more of us, the learned professors, than we could deliver. But when we delivered at least something, they appreciated it. They also watched carefully who we were as human beings, how we were able to live up to our own ideals. Early in the development of my new philosophical system (at the beginning of the 70s), I decided that right philosophy for our times must be a guide to life. This philosophy I finally called EcoPhilosophy.
I participated in various debates on the Campus and elsewhere. But I also noticed that inside myself something bigger was brewing — the conviction that we must reexamine the foundations of our thinking and our cosmology. Thus my philosophical activities were running on two parallel tracks: one was the determination that we must do something about our moral plight; and the other was building a new  philosophical system, by going back to the foundations. When asked I was prepared to speak in various debates and challenge the ideas of the status quo. As the result of speaking more and more often on behalf of dispossessed and on the issue of human justice, I became a “visible” professor. A strange term, but somehow nobilitating. I think, first of all, that being visible requires courage. Courage is not especially valued as an academic acumen. And this is odd because without courage you cannot do first rate research, that is original research. 
While pursuing what I would call moral and social courage, I was also sharpening and fine-tuning my philosophical courage. I have always known that designing and expressing new philosophical systems requires both vision and courage. Looking at the philosophical scene in the second part of the 20th century, I was dismayed by the lack of vision and courage in philosophical thinking. Technical philosophy does not require any courage or vision for that matter. 
One of the questions, which I wanted to answer in some depth, was: Why is technology constantly misfiring, and often in an ugly way? I knew already in the early 70s that the answer is not in technology itself, but much deeper. 
After several years of thinking I had my answer, which became a foundation of my new philosophy. The answer was in cosmology or the underlying assumptions we make about the world. During the last four centuries we have assumed a mechanistic cosmology, based on the presumption that the world is a clock like mechanism. This was a big mistake as our cosmology became deficient in so many ways.
Instead I have proposed a completely different assumption: THE WORLD IS A SANCTUARY. The idea appears so simple. Yet, once you contemplate it, and utter the words, everything changes. The process of articulating the idea was long. The consequences were immediate and far-reaching: we need to change the foundations of our cosmology and thinking, not in a superficial way but in depth. The bulk of my ideas was expressed in what I call ECOPHILOSOPHY. At first it was viewed as an oddity. Then accepted as almost common sense. I shall not go into the details of EcoPhilosophy. I have written several volumes on the subject. Some of my books have been published in several languages.
The main point I have been making and still am making is that new solutions (based on new visions) are possible and are rationally justified. These solutions, if and when consistently applied, would lead to a better world for all. What I am saying is not corny or populist. It is a plain truth. Yes, one has to have the courage in simply stating important things, which affect us all. Otherwise we sink in verbiage, moral ambiguities and amnesia.
Because EcoPhilosophy has been able to articulate some fundamental things in a new way, and had the courage to express them simply and without beating about the bush, I was increasingly invited to speak not only around the campus but also around the world.
In the age of high specialization, when very narrow and technical subjects are favored and philosophy is treated contemptuously, it may be wise to reflect that the very narrow and technical solutions will NOT help us, as a society, to overcome deep problems and pathologies, which have been plaguing us. What might really help us is deeper philosophical thinking and also the courage to confront our superficiality, cowardice and pretense. It is quite laughable that the whole world becomes excited when a new particle is “discovered” — even if it is a figment of physicists’ imagination.   It is quite lamentable that the world is silent and mute when new philosophies are invented and shared.
Looking Forward to 2017
I feel quite privileged that I lived and worked, thought and danced (yes, creative philosophy is a form of dancing) at a time when we did not suffer moral amnesia, when great issues of the world were our concern and not only our preoccupations with monetary matters.
There are cycles and cycles in the world. The cycles of responsibility and altruism are never a shame to humanity. The cycles of irresponsibility and naked grasping often are. As the U of M is preparing for the celebration of its two hundred years of existence, in 2017, let us acknowledge quite clearly that the 60s and 70s were great decades of the university. It was a time that U of M was a world university. 
I am happy that I can eulogize the best of U of M. Yet, I feel responsible to remind all, as we approach 2017, that not only scientific discoveries and technical innovations are important but also human spirit and philosophical thinking. And who is going to decide what is more important: an invention of a new chemical compound (which ultimately may become a toxin poisoning our food), or an introduction of such an idea as “the world is a sanctuary” or “reverential thinking?” Indeed who is going to decide? The people who wield power? Or the people who are void of power, except the power of thinking and loving? Finally, let us ask the most important questions: In whose world are we living? And to what purpose?
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