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.

The Road to Lambarene: A Biography of Albert Schweitzer

Written By:  Waldemar Augustiny
Translated by:  William J. Blake
Edition:  Federick Muller, London.  1956.
Hardcover, 228 pages

No ISBN Shown


Table of Contents

This biography, published not long after Schweitzer received his Nobel Peace Prize, is advertised as being "edited and approved" by Schweitzer himself. It is impossible to know how much Schweitzer contributed. There doesn't appear to be a lot of original material about his life that doesn't appear elsewhere, particularly in his previously published autobiographical books. But to a large degree, this book is not about the particular happenings of Schweitzer's life, but rather it is about his message.

Augustiny clearly considers Schweitzer to be an extraordinary man who excelled at so many things as to seem superhuman. The focus of his book is on the development and meaning of Reverence for Life, which Augustiny would like to see applied by (European) societies in an attempt to regain their ethical foundations, and especially by individuals, who are ultimately responsible for the good and the evil in the world.

As a biography of Schweitzer, this book is incomplete (having been written more than 10 years before Schweitzer died) and sketchy. For instance, almost nothing is written about his marriage. There is some interesting detail about Schweitzer's internment in a French camp during World War I and his subsequent illness. But the main value of the book is Augustiny's explanation of Schweitzer's concepts of the will to live and reverence for life.

Quotes from The Road to Lambarene:

[Regarding Albert Schweitzer] "The world sees in him the great friend of humanity and believes that in the labor of love at Lambarene his particular achievement is to be seen. That is at the very least a one-sided view. He himself, once, as a mature man, explained the meaining of his life: 'I live and work in the world as a man who wants to make men better, more inward, by way of thought.'"

[Quoting from a sermon that Schweitzer gave a the wedding of Theodor and Elli Heuss:] "The great happiness, at this moment, is not that two persons have solemnly promised in their hearts that they will live for each other, but rather that their thoughts also signify: we wish to live with each other for a purpose: ... we have grasped what meaning there is in the tasks of our time, that we must do our best to help to advance, to improve in the working out of the new spirit. All work which is not done in this light is a mere motion, and without content. The spirit, however, in which we work, is the spirit of Jesus."

[Regarding Schweitzer's decision to return to Lambarene and re-found the hospital after World War I] "But now he did not have the same motives impelling him as he had seven years before, when he had founded the hospital. At that time, as we have seen, Schweitzer had conceived of it in terms of the spirit in which he had then spoken and written. In order to achieve purity soul, he had gone to Africa and Lambarane as a personal act, born out of the responsibility of a single human being." ... "In Africa he had confronted issues which he felt were not his concern but that of all Europeans. Thus he was called upon to act for Europe in seeking to resolve these problems. When he re-erected Lambarene it would not be as a person dedicated to a good work: it would be as a man responsible to Europeans for the performance of this obligation. Lambarene would burn like a torch that would recall to Europe that its culture could be redeemed not by covetous motives in Africa but rather through ethical drives that would show it that everywhere, but especially in the colonies, its highest achievement would come by way of brotherly love."

"Schweitzer had recognised the will, as manifested in humanity, as wholly contradictory to the one obtaining in nature. When man's nature is cut in two through the struggle of each against all, the goodwill in man rejects that division. But when man makes a gift of his very reason for living, when good reigns supreme in man, then a new light is found, one that never was upon this earth. Then, out of the riddle of the universe, out of its depth a ray of light comes into the soul. It brings about the working-out of the universal force; one that has love's will and which is love."

"The ethics of reverence for life does not allow a person to withdraw into himself and work for his personal fulfillment alone. ... Every person has a participation in equal human dignity, and everyone has, therefore, the same responsibility for the fulfillment of world tasks. In an unhealthy development, it has come about that millions of persons have transferred responsibility from themselves to the setting about them. They assume that everything they do or neglect to do can be shifted on to the responsibility of government, parties, societies."

[Waldemar, summarizing how Schweitzer's message should affect you] "AS a person, you are a living ethical will. What you are worth as such is not determined by your position in society, by your assets, by your knowledge, or by the power you hold. The decision is made by the degree of humanity that you have reached. The foremost duty is to become increasingly human. For that you need no dramatic actions. Lambarene was the work of one person, and was made possible by special circumstances. You have any number of opportunities to manifest your humanity--in your employment; in relation to others with whom you have professional contacts; with friends; in your family. Not only evil is infectious: so is good. Warm another's heart through friendship; the flame will be passed along. If it is at all possible, Schweitzer advises, take some avocation that will enable you to help others."

Table of Contents of The Road to Lambarene

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