A prominent dissident, Jan Jozef Lipski, returned to Poland voluntarily today from the West to face official charges of conspiring to overthrow the Communist authorities by force.

No attempt was made to detain Lipski at the airport despite the fact that the military prosecutor has issued a warrant for his arrest and the charges against him carry a possible death penalty. The 55-year-old literary critic waved a victory sign at his supporters as he passed through customs and was later driven to his Warsaw apartment in the company of his wife.

Lipski's action in returning to his homeland has evoked a mixture of surprise and admiration here. With travel abroad by private citizens throttled back under martial law, the problems entailed in getting out of the country are such that many Poles find it difficult to understand why anyone should want to get back in, particularly if it means prison.

"He's either crazy or a very brave man" was the comment of one Warsaw resident who has been unsuccessfully seeking permission to leave Poland with his family.

The martial-law authorities last week announced the formal arrest of four members of the dissident Committee for Social Self-Defense (KOR in the Polish initials), who have been interned since last December, on conspiracy charges. Arrest warrants were issued for two other KOR members abroad, including Lipski, who was in London undergroing treatment for a heart condition.

Speaking to Western reporters at Warsaw airport, Lipski said he had returned to be with his friends at a difficult time. He described the charges against him as "absurd."

The Communist authorities have sought to blame KOR, which acted as a forerunner to the independent Solidarity trade union, for continuing unrest and street disturbances. The official press has accused dissident intellectuals of turning a genuine workers' revolt in August 1980 against bad government into "counterrevolution."

In a statement released earlier this week, KOR members still at liberty said their movement had always rejected violence as a method of political struggle. As proof, they pointed out that no blood was spilled as a consequence of Solidarity's activities, although violence did result from the government suppression of the independent union.

The KOR statement said that many trials had been carried out for purely political reasons in Poland in the past and sentences passed that later had to be annulled: "These trials became the cause not merely of personal tragedies but a national tragedy as well. They deepened society's mistrust of the authorities and were later denounced as a manifestation of errors and deviations. Let this historical experience serve as a warning."

KOR was founded in September 1976 with 14 members, including some of Poland's most prominent cultural and academic figures. Its initial purpose was to defend workers accused of participating in food riots in June of that year--but it later broadened its activities to promote general public awareness of human rights and to found independent trade union cells.

Lipski, one of KOR's founding members, also faces criminal charges here for helping to organize a strike at the giant Ursus tractor factory outside Warsaw in December 1981 following the imposition of martial law. The trial was suspended in January due to his ill-health and he was allowed to leave the country for treatment. Most people assumed at the time that he would not come back.