Written By: Albert Schweitzer Translated by: Charles R. Joy Reviewed Edition: Beacon Press, Boston, 1953 Hardcover, 116 pages No ISBN Shown Quotes Table of Contents
This volume contains three speeches and one article by Albert Schweitzer discussing Goethe's ideas and life. (See the Table of Contents for specifics on dates and locations.) Schweitzer's admiration for Goethe is clear, and for the most part Schweitzer sticks to describing Goethe's contributions, rather than discussing how they have affected his own life and thought. The extent of Goethe's influence on Schweitzer is apparent in that a modern reader is likely to attribute to Schweitzer many of the very same praiseworthy qualities that Schweitzer himself attributed to Goethe.
[From Anniversary] "Goethe is well aware that in all the thoughts of guilt and guilt-consciousness with which we are occupied we are touching upon a great secret which we cannot comprehend and cannot fathom. He surmises, however, that the power which guilt seems to have over us is not appointed to destroy us, but in the end must contribute to our purification. ... When guilt begins to operate in a man he is on the way to salvation through the unfathomable secret of love, which penetrates into the darkness of earth like a beam of eternal light."
[From Anniversary] "What is Goethe's man, of whom so many things have been said so obscurely? He is that for which Goethe strives in his own life: a man of deep sincerity, who at the same time is a man of deed, and as such is a strong but unobtrusive personality."
[From Anniversary] "In a thousand different ways mankind has been persuaded to give up its natural relations with reality, and to seek its welfare in the magic formula of some kind of economic and social witchcraft, by which the possiblity of freeing itself from economic and social misery is only still farther removed!
And the tragic meaning of these magic formulas, to whatever kind of economic and social witchcraft they may belong, is always just this, that the individual must give up his own material and spiritual personality and must live only as one of the spiritually restless and materialistic multitude which claims control over him."
[From Philosopher] "Goethe's philosophy is a philosophy of nature based upon an elementary view of reality. The dominant idea of it is this: only that knowledge is true which adds nothing to nature, either by thought or imagination; and which recognizes as valid only what comes from a research that is free from prejudices and preconceptions, from a firm and pure determination to find the truth, from a meditation which goes deeply into the heart of nature.
The knowledge that this research will give us of God, of the world and of man, whether it is great or small, will be sufficient to validate our life. Of this Goethe is persuaded."
[From Thinker] "For behind everything stands Goethe's saying: 'Everyone must realize the love that is peculiar to him.' He is afraid that man will be told: 'You must forget yourself.' He says: 'Think of the love that is in you, which is in you to be realized. Let it become what it wants to become in you.'"
[From Prize] "My own fate has been such that I have vitally experienced in the very fiber of my being the fortunes of our age and concern about our humanity. That I may experience these things as a free man, in a time when so many whom we need as free personalities are confined in some narrow calling, that I, like Goethe, may serve as a free man because of a fortunate combination of circumstances--this seems to me a grace that lightens my laborious life. Everything that I can accomplish in my work seems to me only a thankful acknowledgment to fortune for this great favor. ...
Goethe's spirit places a three-fold obligation upon us: We must wrestle with circumstances, so that those who are imprisioned by them in their exhausting jobs may nevertheless be able to preserve their spiritual lives. We must wrestle with men, so that, distracted as they constantly are by the external things so prominent in our time, they may find the road to inwardness and remain on it. We must wrestle with ourselves and with everyone else, so that, in an age of confusion and inhumanity, we may remain loyal to the great humane ideals of the eighteenth century, translating them into the thought of our age and attempting to realize them."
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