Inspirational Quotes from Albert Schweitzer

Having read the works of Albert Schweitzer I have found him to be one of the most profound thinkers of modern times. A number of synchronistic events and connections happened that lead me to reading his philosophical works.

What started this was Desmond Green telling me he wanted to create the Reverence for Life University as part of our project in Jamaica called the Global Breath Consciousness Institute. I was not aware that Albert had coined the phrase "Reverence for Life" when I had written the concept for Desmond.

Reverence for Life became the philosophical foundation for the VISION Book, and I have included the essays from the book at the bottom of this page.

Here are several quotes from Albert Schweitzer, one of the greatest thinkers of our times.

The city of truth cannot be built on the swampy ground of skepticism. Our spiritual life is rotten throughout because it is permeated through and through with skepticism, and we live in consequence in a world which in every respect is full of falsehood. We are not far from shipwreck on the rock of wanting to have even truth organized.

Truth taken over by skepticism which has become believing has not the spiritual qualities of that which originated in thinking. It has been externalized and rendered torpid. It does obtain influence over a man, but it is not capable of uniting itself with him to the very marrow of his being. Living truth is that alone which has its origin in thinking.

Just as a tree bears year after year the same fruit and yet fruit which is each year new, so must all permanently valuable ideas be continually born again in thought. But our age is bent on trying to make the barren tree of skepticism fruitful by tying fruits of truth on its branches. (Life, p. 259) from Albert Schweitzer and Anthology. The Beacon Press. 1947.


The Loss of Self Confidence
The circumstances of the age do their best to deliver us up to the spirit of the age.

The seed of skepticism has germinated. In fact, the modern man has no longer any spiritual self-confidence at all. Behind a self-confident exterior he conceals a great inward lack of confidence. In spite of his great capacity in material matters he is an altogether stunted being, because he makes no use of his capacity for thinking. It will ever remain incomprehensible that our generation, which has shown itself so great by its achievements in discovery and invention, could fall so low spiritually as to give up thinking. (Life, p. 257) from Albert Schweitzer an Anthology. The Beacon Press. 1947.

The Man of Today

The man of today is exposed to influences which are bent on robbing him of all confidence in his own thinking. The spirit of spiritual dependence to which he is called on to surrender is in everything that he hears, or reads; it is in the people whom he meets every day; it is in the parties and associations which have claimed him as their own; it pervades all the circumstances of his life.

From every side and in the most varied ways it is dinned into him that the truths and convictions which he needs for life must be taken by him from the associations which have rights over him. The spirit of the age never lets him come to himself. Over and over again convictions are forced upon him in the same way as, by means of the electric advertisements which flare in the streets of every large town any company which has sufficient capital to get itself securely established, exercises pressure on him at every step he takes to induce him to buy their boot polish or their soup tablets.

By the spirit of the age, then, the man of today is forced into skepticism about his own thinking, in order to make him receptive to truth which comes to him from authority. To all this constant influence he cannot make the resistance that is desirable because he is an overworked and distracted being without power to concentrate. Moreover, the manifold material trammels which are his lot work upon his mentality in such a way that he comes at last to believe himself unqualified to make any claim to thoughts of his own. (Life, pp. 255 f.) from Albert Schweitzer an Anthology. The Beacon Press. 1947.

Modern Thought has No Goal

With the spirit of the age I am in complete disagreement, because it is filled with disdain for thinking. That such is its attitude is to some extent explicable by the fact that thought has never yet reached the goal which it must set before itself. Time after time it was convinced that it had clearly established a world-view which was in accordance with knowledge and ethically satisfactory. But time after time the truth came out that it had not succeeded.

Doubts, therefore, could well arise as to whether thinking would ever be capable of answering current questions about the world and or relation to it in such a way that we could give a meaning and a content to our lives. [Life, p. 254] from Albert Schweitzer an Anthology. The Beacon Press. 1947.

Thinking Drops the Tiller

In modern thinking the same thing happens as in religion. Thinking drops the tiller from its hand in the middle of the storm. It renounces the idea of giving human beings ideals by the help of which they can get on with reality. It leaves them to themselves, and that in a most terrible moment. For the present moment is terrible. Man has won power over the forces of nature and by that has become superman - and at the same time most miserable man! For this power over the forces of nature is not being used beneficially, but destructively. [Religion, p. 1520] from Albert Schweitzer an Anthology. The Beacon Press. 1947.

Modern Thinking Unequal to its Task

The spirit of the age rejoices, instead of lamenting, that thinking seems to be unequal to its task, and gives it no credit for what, in spite of imperfections, it has already accomplished. It refuses to admit, what is nevertheless the fact, that all spiritual progress up to today has come about through the achievements of thought, or to reflect that thinking may still be able in the future to accomplish what it has not succeeded in accomplishing as yet. [Life, p. 255] from Albert Schweitzer an Anthology. The Beacon Press. 1947.

Life Without Thought

No one who opens the sluices to let a flood of skepticism pour itself over the land must expect to be able to bring it back within its proper bounds. Of those who let themselves get too disheartened to try any longer to discover truth by their own thinking, only few find a substitute for it in truth taken from others. The mass of people remain skeptical. They lose all feeling for truth, and all sense of need for it as well, finding themselves quite comfortable in a life without thought, driven now here, now there, from one opinion to another [Life, p. 258] from Albert Schweitzer an Anthology. The Beacon Press. 1947.

The Religion of Our Age

If one reviews the development of religion since the middle of the nineteenth century, one understands the tragic fact that although really living religion is to be found among us, it is not the leaven that leavens the thinking of our age. [Religion, p. 1484] from Albert Schweitzer an Anthology. The Beacon Press. 1947.

The Lack of Reason in Our Time

The history of our time is characterized by lack of reason which has no parallel in the past. Future historians will one day analyze this history in detail, and test by means of it their learning and their freedom from prejudice. But for all future times there will be, as there is for today, only one explanation, viz., that we sought to live and to carry on with a civilization which had no ethical principle behind it. [Decay, p. 61] from Albert Schweitzer an Anthology. The Beacon Press. 1947.

The Clogged Spirit

A fundamental impulse to reflect about the universe stirs us during those years in which we begin to think independently. Later on we let it languish, even though feeling clearly that we thereby impoverish ourselves and become less capable of what is good. We are like springs of water which no longer run because they have not been watched and have gradually become choked with rubbish.

More than any other age has our own neglected to watch the thousand springs of thought; hence the drought in which we are pining. But if we only go on to remove the rubbish which conceals the water, the sands will be irrigated again, and life will spring up where hitherto there has been only a desert. [Decay, pp. 92 f.] from Albert Schweitzer an Anthology. The Beacon Press. 1947.

The Divorce of Science and Reflection

Today thought gets no help from science, and the latter stands facing it independent and unconcerned. The newest scientific knowledge may be allied with an entirely un-reflecting view of the universe. It maintains that it is concerned only with the establishment of individual facts, since it is only by means of these that scientific knowledge can maintain its practical character; the coordination of the different branches of knowledge and the utilization of the results to form a theory of the universe are, it says, not its business. Once every man of science was also a thinker who counted for something in the general spiritual life of his generation. Our age has discovered how to divorce knowledge from thought, with the result that we have, indeed, a science which is free, but hardly any science left which reflects. [Decay, p. 72] from Albert Schweitzer an Anthology. The Beacon Press. 1947.

Secondary Issues Prevail

Our philosophizing has become more and more involved in the discussion of secondary issues. It has lost touch with the elemental questions regarding life and the world which it is man's task to pose and to solve, and has found satisfaction more and more in discussing problems of a purely academic nature and in a mere virtuosity of philosophical technique. It has become increasingly absorbed in side issues. Instead of genuine classical music it has frequently produced only chamber music, often excellent in its way, but not the real thing. And so this philosophy, which was occupied only in elucidating itself, instead of struggling to achieve a world-view grounded in thought and essential for life, has led us into a position where we are devoid of any world-view at all, as an inevitable consequence of this, of any real civilization. [Ethics, p. viii] from Albert Schweitzer an Anthology. The Beacon Press. 1947.

The Danger of Technical Language

Technical expressions are a danger for every system of philosophy, whether Indian or European. For they may become formulae which hinder the natural development of thought in the same way as ruts in a road hinder traffic. So to find out what are its real contents it is reasonable to test a system of thought by setting aside expressions which it has coined for its own use and compelling it to speak in ordinary comprehensible language. [Indian, p. ix] from Albert Schweitzer an Anthology. The Beacon Press. 1947.

The Tragedy of Western Thought

Western thought is not governed by mystical thought by the idea that the one thing needful is the spiritual union of man with infinite Being, and therefore (if it is obliged to renounce the hope of attaining to a knowledge of the universe that corresponds to ethical world- and life affirmation), it is in danger of saying it is satisfied not only with lowered ideals, but also with an inferior conception of world-view. That is the tragedy that is being enacted before our eyes. [Indian, pp. 253 f.] from Albert Schweitzer an Anthology. The Beacon Press. 1947.

Spiritual Bankruptcy

Renunciation of thinking is a declaration of spiritual bankruptcy. Where there is no longer a conviction that man can get to know the truth by their own thinking, skepticism begins. Those who work to make our age skeptical in this way, do so in the expectation that, as a result of renouncing all hope of self-discovered truth, men will end by accepting as truth what is forced upon them with authority and by propaganda. [Life, p. 258] from Albert Schweitzer an Anthology. The Beacon Press. 1947.

The Ideals that We Need

Humanity has always needed ethical ideals to enable it to find the right path, that man may make the right use of the power he possesses. Today his power is increased a thousandfold. A thousandfold greater is now the need for man to possess ethical ideas to point the way. Yet at the very moment when this happens, thinking fails. In this period of deepest need thinking is not giving to humanity the ideals it needs so that it may not be overwhelmed. Is that our destiny? I hope not. I believe not. I think that in our age we are all carrying within us a new form of thought which will give us ethical ideals. [Religion, p. 1520] from Albert Schweitzer an Anthology. The Beacon Press. 1947.

Here is an excerpt from the introduction to my book VISION: We ARE Re-Creating the World - a Resource Manual "tool-box" for Revitalization and Empowerment Through Grass-roots Strategies and Environmental Awareness

More on Reverence for Life

I guess I was always a rebel when I was a professor. Of course I had to play the game in order to get published. But one of the ideas that I just didn´t understand was the requirement to “cite” other people´s work at all times when proposing new concepts. I know that if this book was being reviewed by academics that I would likely be shot or sent to the gallows for questioning such a foundational principle of academia.

However, how do new ideas come in? Of course many of us know the quote attributed to Solomon stating that there is nothing new in the world. This is very likely so. But in our current status, as far as I can tell, we need new ideas. And to always have to search for some other person who proposed the same, or similar idea before we can present a new one seems to be a “cart before the horse” or “chicken and egg” dilemma. What about “divine inspiration”? Of course I am not proposing that these new ideas become foundational to the rest of history, or that they are hard and fast rules. But to my way of thinking we need to be open to all possible ideas that come to us as we are looking for solutions to the challenges that we face. As far as I know new ideas are coming  to people all the time. And for me the requirement to find some other person who previously discovered and wrote about the same idea really puts a governor on breakthroughs. In my life I likely have come to understand two ultimate or universal truths “change is inevitable” and “fact is stranger than fiction” 1.

One researcher that I have become absolutely fascinated with is David Wilcock ( Through his work I was introduced to a most powerful work called the Law of One Series. The source of these incoming messages was the L/L Research group. The Law of One essentially presents a concept that is supported by all of the great spiritual and religious teachings. That idea, or “Law” is there is only One thing that makes up everything (both existing and non). This Truth is validated in innumerable places and the great literatures of all faiths, and one citation from the Vedas of Sanskrit literature which will suffice to substantiate this point:

There was not then what is nor what is not. There was no sky, and no heaven beyond the sky. What power was there? Where? Who was that power? Was there an abyss of fathomless waters?

There was neither death nor immortality then. No signs were there of night or day. The ONE was breathing by its own power, in deep peace. Only the ONE was: there was nothing beyond.

Darkness hidden in darkness. The all was fluid and formless. Therein, in the void, by the fire of fervor arose the ONE.

And in the ONE arose love. Love the first seed of the soul. The truth of this the sages found in their hearts: seeking in their hearts with wisdom, the sages found that bond of union between being and non-being.

Who knows in truth? Who can tell us whence and how arose this universe? The gods are later than its beginning: who knows whence comes this creation?

Only that god who sees in higher heaven: he knows whence comes this universe, and whether it was made or uncreated. He only knows, or perhaps he knows not.

Rig. Veda x. 129

The L/L Research group began to receive messages, as described before as if they had connected to a sort of cosmic radio station. There were three individuals in this group and the channeling sessions were handled in the most deliberate and scientific fashion recording all the messages that they received. David Wilcock introduces the Law of One in the following way.

[In my opinion, the Law of One series -- comprising 106 sessions from 1981 to 1983 -- is far and away the most accurate and important 'channeled' work in modern times. It is the philosophical and scientific foundation of everything on this website (David’s site is A stunning array of specific data points have since been validated by scientific discoveries and/or inside whistleblower testimony.

As fantastic as everything you are about to read sounds, it has all been verified by multiple different sources of information and/or is either directly mentioned or strongly alluded to in the Law of One series. The truth is much stranger and more interesting than fiction!]

The Law of One is the most amazing, and sometimes mind boggling thing I have ever read. And there is no way to summarize the five volumes in any way that will do it justice. However, for the purpose of concluding this introduction to this Truth of there being only ONE, I am including the first “definition” of sorts provided by Ra the messenger of the Law of One. As I understand it though, all of the volumes that could be written in the whole world, or the cosmos would never come near to sufficing in relaying the whole message necessary for our comprehension of the Law of One, much less the ONE. But to make the connection to the ancient wisdom teachings of our world, as per the previous citation from the Vedas, to the continually instreaming messages from other sources I give you this quotation:

I am Ra. Consider, if you will, that the universe is infinite. This has yet to be proven or disproven, but we can assure you that there is no end to your selves, your understanding, what you would call your journey of seeking, or your perceptions of the creation.

That which is infinite cannot be many, for many-ness is a finite concept. To have infinity you must identify or define the infinity as unity; otherwise, the term does not have any referent or meaning. In an infinite Creator there is only unity. You have seen simple examples of unity. You have seen the prism which shows all colors stemming from the sunlight. This is a simplistic example of unity.

In truth there is no right or wrong. There is no polarity for all will be, as you would say, reconciled at some point in your dance through the mind/body/spirit complex which you amuse yourself by distorting in various ways at this time. This distortion is not in any case necessary. It is chosen by each of you as an alternative to understanding the complete unity of thought which binds all things. You are not speaking of similar or somewhat like entities or things. You are every thing, every being, every emotion, every event, every situation. You are unity. You are infinity. You are love/light, light/love. You are. This is the Law of One.
The Law of One, Book I, Session 1. Page 72

For a Little more expansion on this idea, here is an excerpt of a part of the actual interview from Book One, Session 4 (p. 91-92)

Questioner: My objective is primarily to discover more of the Law of One, and it would be very helpful to discover the techniques of healing. I am aware of your problem with respect to free will. Can you state the Law of One and the laws of healing to me?

Ra: The Law of One, though beyond the limitation of name, as you call vibratory sound complexes [words], may be approximated by stating that all things are one, that there is no polarity, no right or wrong, no disharmony, but only identity. All is one, and that one is love/light, light/love, the infinite Creator.

One of the primal distortions of the Law of One is that of healing. Healing occurs when a mind/body/spirit complex [human being] realizes, deep within itself, the Law of One; that is, that there is no disharmony, no imperfection; that all is complete and whole and perfect. Thus, the intelligent infinity within this mind/body/spirit complex re-forms the illusion of body, mind, or spirit to a form congruent with the Law of One. The healer acts as energizer or catalyst for this completely individual process.

One item which may be of interest is that a healer asking to learn must take the distortion understood as responsibility for that ask/receiving. This is an honor/duty which must be carefully considered in free will.

I understand that many people will have difficulty in comprehending the concept of One if they haven´t previously considered it. Much less will they appreciate the profound information that was brought in by the LL Research group back in 1981. Soon, I suspect this story will change. I do recommend that anyone with curiosity about who we are, who You are, why you are here, and who wants to understand, possibly, a greater understanding of human history read the Law of One Series.

However, since so many people will not accept such an unusual source of information, let us return to one the great people who tried to bring a powerful message for transformation to the world. This is just to provide the reader with a solid understanding that we must have a dependable philosophical, spiritual, or ethical principle to guide us across this bridge that we have to build in order to create more balanced civilizations. I have highlighted certain statements to emphasize the importance of having a strong foundation for endeavors to “re-create the world”.

Albert Schweitzer – establishing the context

“The second point which I desire should obtain currency is that of the connection between civilization and our theory of the universe. At the present time no regard is paid to this connection. In fact, the period in which we are living altogether misses the significance of having a theory of the universe. It is the common conviction nowadays, of educated and uneducated alike, that humanity will progress quite satisfactorily without any theory of the universe at all.

The real fact is that all human progress depends on progress in its theory of the universe, whilst, conversely, decadence is conditioned by a similar decadence in this theory. Our loss of real civilization is due to our lack of a theory of the universe.

Only as we again succeed in attaining a strong and worthy theory of the universe, and find in it strong and worthy convictions shall we again become capable of producing a new civilization. It is this apparently abstract and paradoxical truth of which I proclaim myself the champion.

Civilization, put quite simply, consists in our giving ourselves, as human beings, to the effort to attain the perfecting of the human race and the actualization of progress of every sort in the circumstances of humanity and of the objective world. This mental attitude, however, involves a double predisposition: firstly, we must be prepared to act affirmatively toward the world; secondly, we must become ethical.

Only when we are able to attribute a real meaning to the world and to life shall we be able to give ourselves to such action as will produce results of real value. As long as we look on our existence in the world as meaningless, there is no point whatever in desiring to effect anything in the world. We become workers for that universal spiritual and material progress which we call civilization only in so far as we affirm that the world and life possesses some sort of meaning, or, which is the same thing, only in so far as we think optimistically.

Civilization originates when men become inspired by a strong and clear determination to attain progress, and consecrate themselves, as a result of this determination, to the service of life and of the world. It is only in ethics that we can find the driving force for which such action, transcending, as it does, the limits of our own existence.

Nothing of real value in the world is ever accomplished without enthusiasm and self-sacrifice.

But it is impossible to convince men of the truth of world and life-affirmation and of the real value of ethics by mere declaration. The affirmative and ethical mentality which characterizes these beliefs must originate in man himself as the result of an inner spiritual relation to the world. Only then will they accompany him as strong, clear and constant convictions, and condition his every thought and action.

To put it in another way: World- and life-affirmation must be the products of thought about the world and life. Only as the majority of individuals attain to this result of thought and continue under its influence will a true and enduring civilization make progress in the world. Should the mental disposition toward world- and life-affirmation and toward ethics begin to wane, or become dim and obscured, we shall be incapable of working for true civilization, nay, more, we shall be unable even to form a correct concept of what such civilization should be.

And this is the fate which has befallen us. We are bereft of any theory of the universe. Therefore, instead of being inspired by a profound and powerful spirit of affirmation of the world and of life, we allow ourselves, both as individuals and as nations to be driven hither and thither by a type of such affirmation which is both confused and superficial. Instead of adopting a determined ethical attitude, we exist in an atmosphere of mere ethical phrases or declare ourselves ethical skeptics. . . .

How is it that we have got into this state of lacking a theory of the universe? It is because hitherto the world- and life-affirming and ethical theory of the universe had no convincing and permanent foundation in thought. We thought again and again that we had found such a basis for it; but it lost power again and again without our being aware that it was doing so, until, finally, we have been obliged, for more than a generation past, to resign ourselves more and more to a complete lack of any world-theory at all.

Thus, in this introductory part of my work, I proclaim two truths and conclude with a great note of interrogation. The truths are the following: The basic ethical character of civilization, and the connection between civilization and our theories of the universe. The question with which I conclude is this: Is it at all possible to find a real and permanent foundation in thought for a theory of the universe which shall be both ethical and affirmative of the world and of life?

The future of civilization depends on our overcoming the meaninglessness and hopelessness which characterize the thoughts and convictions of men to-day, and reaching a state of fresh hope and fresh determination. We shall be capable of this, however, only when the majority of individuals discover for themselves both an ethic and a profound steadfast attitude of world- and life-affirmation, in a theory of the universe at once convincing and based on reflection.

Without a general spiritual experience there is no possibility of holding our world back from the ruin and disintegration toward which it is being hastened. It is our duty then to rouse ourselves to fresh reflection about the world and life. In “Civilization and Ethics,” the second part of this philosophy of civilization, I describe the road along which thought has led me to world- and life-affirmation and to ethics. The root-idea of my theory of the universe is that my relation to my own being and to the objective world is determined by reverence for life. This reverence for life is given as an element of my will-to-live, and becomes clearly conscious of itself as I reflect about my life and about the world. In the mental attitude of reverence for life, both ethics and world- and life-affirmation are involved. It is not any kind of insight into the essential nature of the world which determines my relation to my own existence and to the existence which I encounter in the world, but rather only and solely to my own will-to-live, which has developed the power of reflection about itself and the world.

The theory of the universe characterized by reverence for life is a type of mysticism arrived at by self-consistent thought when persisted in to its ultimate conclusion. Surrendering himself to the guidance of this mysticism, man finds a meaning for his life in that he strives to accomplish his own spiritual and ethical self-fulfillment, and simultaneously and in the same act helps forward all the processes of spiritual and material progress which have to be actualized in the world.

I do not know how many, or how few, will allow themselves to be persuaded to travel with me on the road indicated above. What I desire above all things—and this is the crux of the whole affair—is that we should all recognize fully that our present entire lack of any theory of the universe is the ultimate source of all of the catastrophes and misery of our times, and that we should work together for a theory of the universe and of life, in order that thus we may arrive at a mental disposition which shall make us really and truly civilized men.

Strasbourg, Alsace

February, 1923

From the Philosophy of Civilization. Translated by C.T. Campion. The MacMillan Company, New York, 1950.

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