Reviews of and Quotes From Dr. Schweitzer's Books

Here are my reviews of some of Albert Schweitzer's books. It is far from a comprehensive list of Schweitzer's books. All are English translations from French or German. Some of them are out of print, but generally can be found in a good research library or by a book search from a good used-book dealer. Also included here are reviews of compilations of his writings. See The Albert Schweitzer Page for reviews of books about Dr. Schweitzer and related information.

Out of My Life and Thought

Written By:  Albert Schweitzer

Translated By: Antje Bultmann Lemke

Original Edition:  Henry Holt and Company, 1933

Reviewed Edition:  Henry Holt and Company, 1991

Paperback, 272 Pages

ISBN 0-8050-1862-X


Table of Contents

Dr. Schweitzer's autobiography, this book describes both his life and his philosophy. It describes his childhood and early years of theological study, his love of organs and Bach, his decision to enter missionary work, the subsequent years of medical training, and his first 16 years of missionary work in Africa. It covers his life up to 1930, when he was 55 years old.

A very readable book, this book is an excellent introduction to Dr. Schweitzer's life and ethics. According to the preface, he considered it his most important book. In Schweitzer's usual modest but not self-denigrating style, he describes how he came to believe in the important of service to humanity. The reader is bound to be awed by the scope of Schweitzer's intellectual and spiritual accomplishment, but reassured by the man's humble concern for others.

The only significant drawback of this book is that it ends fairly early in his missionary career. It is left to others to complete his biography.

Quotes from Out of My Life and Thought

"He accepts as being good: to preserve life, to raise to its highest value life which is capable of development; and as being evil: to destroy life, to repress life which is capable of development. This is the absolute, fundamental principle of the moral, and it is the necessity of Thought."

"Great values are lost at every moment because we miss opportunities, but the values that are turned into will and action constitute a richness that must not be undervalued. Our humanity is by no means as materialistic as people claim so complacently."

"The philosophy of Reverence for Life takes the world as it is. And the world means the horrible in the glorious, the meaningless in the fullness of meaning, the sorrowful in the joyful. Whatever our own point of view the world will remain for us an enigma.

But that does not mean that we need stand before the problem of life at our wits' end, because we have to renounce all hope of seeing the course of world events as having any meaning. Reverence for Life leads us into a spiritual relationship with the world independent of a full understanding of the universe. Through the dark valley of resignation it takes us by an inward necessity up to the shining heights of ethical acceptance of the world.

We are no longer obliged to derive our ethical worldview from knowledge of the universe. In the principle of Reverence for Life we possess a concept of the world founded on itself. It renews itself in us every time we reflect thoughtfully about ourselves and our relation to life around us. It is not through knowledge, but through experience of the world that we are brought in to relationship with it.

"The most immediate fact of man's consciousness is the assertion 'I am life that wills to live in the midst of life that wills to live,' and it is as will to live in the midst of will to live that man conceives himself at every moment that he spends meditating on himself and the world around him."

"Following the precise statements of the two oldest Gospels, I counter the untenable earlier interpretations of the life of Jesus with a new concept: I show that His thought, word, and action were based on His expectation that the end of the world was near and that the Kingdom of God would be revealed. This interpretation is called 'eschatological' (from the Greek word eschatos, meaning 'the last') and it is in accordance with the traditional Jewish-Christian doctrine concerning the events leading to the end of the world."

Table of Contents of Out of My Life and Thought

  1. Childhood, School and University
  2. Paris and Berlin, 1898-1899
  3. The First Years in Strasbourg
  4. Study of the Last Supper and the Life of Jesus
  5. Teaching Activities at the University of Strasbourg. The Quest of the Historical Jesus
  6. The Historical Jesus and the Christianity of Today
  7. My Work on Bach
  8. On Organs and Organ Building
  9. I Resolve to Become a Jungle Doctor
  10. My Medical Studies, 1905-1912
  11. Preparing for Africa
  12. Literary Studies During My Medical Course
  13. First Activities in Africa, 1913-1917
  14. Garaison and St. Remy
  15. Back in Alsace
  16. Physician and Preacher in Strasbourg
  17. The Book of African Reminiscences
  18. Gunsbach and Journeys Abroad
  19. The Second Period in Africa, 1924-1927
  20. Two Years in Europe. The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle

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