Reviews of and Quotes From Dr. Schweitzer's Books

Here is my review of a book about Dr. Schweitzer. All the books I review are in English. Many of them are out of print, but generally can be found by a book search from a good used-book dealer. See The Albert Schweitzer Page for links to my reviews of books written by Dr. Schweitzer as well as other related information.

To Dr. Albert Schweitzer: A Festschrift Commemorating His 80th Birthday From a Few of His Friends

Edited By:  Homer A. Jack
Edition:  The Profile Press, 1955
Hardcover, 179 pages

No ISBN Shown


Table of Contents

This book is a collection of essays written as a tribute to Albert Schweitzer for his eightieth birthday in 1955. There are contributions by 22 men and 1 woman from a variety of intellectal fields. Most discuss their understanding and admiration of Schweitzer's ethics of Reverence for Life and for Schweitzer himself. The book also includes translations of three previously published essays by Schweitzer himself. The editor of the volume identifies himself only as H.A.J., but this is almost certainly Homer A. Jack, an official with the Unitarian Universalist Church and longtime acquaintance of Albert Schweitzer.

I found these short essays to be very interesting. Many of the authors were prominent intellectuals, and it is clear that they were deeply inspired by Schweitzer's life and thought. While the essays are only a few pages long, some explain Reverence for Life ethics as clearly as the best of Schweitzer's own writing. They were written under the assumption that the reader is already familar with Schweitzer and his writings, so some essays may be mysterious to those encountering Schweitzer for the first time. But for those of us who know at least the outlines of Reverence for Life and of Schweitzer biography, these essays are a source of inspiration and understanding.

Quotes from To Dr. Albert Schweitzer:

[By J.S. Bixler] "As is well known, Dr. Schweitzer appeals here to his basic affirmation--I am life that wills to live in the midst of other life that wills to live. ... I may doubt all else, including the outside world and all my impressions of it, but I cannot doubt my own inner life. I cannot question the feelings that lie at the springs of my will to live and even my will to doubt itself. The will to live is indubitable. But it is very significant that Dr. Schweitzer goes further than this. ... Dr.Schweitzer recognizes his will to live as one in the midst of other wills to live and thus as leading not to the will to power but the will to love. My awareness of my own will, that is to say, is itself an awareness of a larger will that works through me an dI am led inevitably to an awareness of other wills with a dignity similar to mine and an irresistable claim on my attention."

[By Norman Cousins] "The tragedy of life is in what dies inside a man while he lives--the death of genuine feeling, the death of inspired response, the death of the awareness that makes it possible to feel the pain or the glory of other men in oneself. Schweitzer's aim is not to dazzle an age but to awaken it, to make it comprehend that moral splendor is part of the gift of life, and that each man has unlimited strength to feel human oneness and to act upon it. He has proved that although a man may have no jurisdiction over the fact of his existence, he can hold supreme command over the meaning of existence for him. Thus, no man need fear death; he need fear only that he may die without having known his greatest power--the power of his free will to give his life for others."

[By Noel A. Gillespie] "To [Schweitzer] medicine is merely a tool; the means of expression of the philosophy and theology in which he has attained international fame. One simple remark of his made in Chicago in 1949 is much more penetrating than it seems at first: 'The trouble with people nowadays is that they don't think enough.'"

[By Ladislas Goldschmid, who worked at Schweitzer's hospital in Lambarene for 14 years] "While reflecting upon the Doctor, do not think of an inaccessible being, high on a pedestal, his head in the clouds. On the contrary, whatever it costs him in time and in labor, he is everyone's friend, a man caught up in everyday life, knowing how to scold, to storm sometimes, redeeming soon with a smile the necessary brusqueness of a preceeding moment."

[By Allan A. Hunter] "The secret? Perhaps it is suggested through these words which Dr. Schwietzer was good enough to write with his own hand from Africa early in 1940: 'When as a child I first heard of the Kingdom of God, I was profoundly moved. And always I have carried the thought of the Kingdom of God in my heart. I consider myself happy to be able to serve this Kingdom with thoughts and activities. Someday these thoughts will take root anew in the hearts of men. It is this certitude which gives me courage to live in this day so terrifying to pass through.'"

[By G. Bromley Oxnam] "He judges no man, but his life forces every man to judge himself."

[by Magnus Ratter] "If man is an animal that thinks about yesterday, today, tomorrow--history, mysticism, prophecy--he can no longer think that a good God created the bees because they give honey, a bad God created the mosquitoes because the carry malaria. Modern man must think out a modern faith, setting good and evil in their true relationship in the human, animal and mineral kingdom always aware the kingdoms blend at the frontiers.

In the philosophy of Reverence for Life, with an apt but not a final phrase, Schweitzer has given us an overall look at God and Man. If validated in the spiritual life of the future, it will come so because the teaching was supported by a life. Philosophers are many: good lives are many: on occasion, in history, when these two are one, a city, a people, a culture, moves up one class in the Sunday School of Life."

[by George Seaver] "What is the determining factor of this ethic, that which gives it its power and its inspiration? It is pity. 'Ethics are pity. All life is suffering...' Man can never be truly ethical as long as he regards himself and his fellows as, so to speak, the only pebbles on the beach of the eternal shore; as long as he maintains an attitude of aloof detachment from anything that lives, as long as he adopts the passive role of spectator, and not that of active participant, in the universal tragedy of life. For this would be to do himself an injury; to stifle himself, to deprive himself of the very breadth of this being. But once he accepts his kinship with, and responsibility for, all creatures great and small; once he realizes that they, too, are the concern of the same Creator and the objects of His care, he experiences within him an unburdening, a release, and a sense that he has a right to his own place in the same universe."

Table of Contents of To Dr. Albert Schweitzer

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