Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Albert Schweitzer

German Theologian, Musician, Missionary, Philosopher

"Affirmation of life is the spiritual act by which man ceases to live unreflectively and begins to devote himself to his life with reverence in order to raise it to its true value. To affirm life is to deepen, to make more inward, and to exalt the will to live."

"All work that is worth anything is done in faith."

"Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing."

"Happiness! That's nothing more than good health and a poor memory."

"An optimist is a person who sees a green light everywhere, while the pessimist sees only the red light... The truly wise person is colorblind."

"All the kindness which a man puts out into the world works on the heart and thoughts of mankind, but we are so foolishly indifferent that we are never in earnest in the matter of kindness. We want to topple a great load over, and yet will not avail ourselves of a lever which would multiply our power a hundredfold."

"Man must cease attributing his problems to his environment, and learn again to exercise his will - his personal responsibility in the realm of faith and morals."

"Martyrdom has always been a proof of intensity, never the correctness of a belief."

"Any religion or philosophy which is not based on a respect for life is not a true religion or philosophy."

"He who loses his life shall find it."

"Humanitarianism consists in never sacrificing a human being to a purpose... The tragedy of man is what dies inside himself while he still lives."

"We all have to struggle to be willing to become truly peaceful."

"The soul is the sense of something higher than ourselves, something that stirs in us thoughts, hopes, and aspirations which go out to the world of goodness, truth and beauty."

"Reverence for Life affords me my fundamental principle of morality, namely, that good consists in maintaining, assisting, and enhancing life and that to destroy, to harm, or to hinder life is evil. Affirmation of the world - that is affirmation of the will to live, which appears in phenomenal forms all round me - is only possible for me in that I give myself out for other life."

"Only by means of reverence for life can we establish a spiritual and human relationship with both people and all living creatures within our reach."

"To think out in every implication the ethic of love for all creation - this is the difficult task which confronts our age."

"You must give some time to your fellow men. Even if it's a little thing, do something for others - something for which you get no pay but the privilege of doing it."

"Wherever there is lost the consciousness that every man is an object of concern for us just because he is a man, civilization and morals are shaken, and the advance to fully developed inhumanity is only a question of time."

"What we call love is in its essence Reverence for Life. All material and spiritual values are values only insofar as they serve the maintenance of life at its highest level and furtherance of life. Ethics are boundless in their domain and limitless in their demands. They are concerned with all living things that come into our sphere."

"What you owe the world is this: to move all goodwill to an enthusiastic, personal, and sensible commitment. Therein lies the great problem. Whatever you do toward this end will arouse people of goodwill throughout the world and encourage them to lend a hand in other countries."

"Whatever you have received more than others - in health, in talents, in ability, in success, in a pleasant childhood, in harmonious conditions of home life - all this you must not take to yourself as a matter of course. In gratitude for your good fortune, you must render in return some sacrifice of your own life for another life."

"As we acquire more knowledge, things do not become more comprehensible, but more mysterious."

"By the spirit of the age... 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... Truth taken over by skepticism which has become believing... is not capable of uniting itself with him to the very marrow of his being."

"I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve."

"Medicine is not only a science, but also the art of letting our own individuality interact with the individuality of the patient."

"My life is full of meaning to me. The life around me must be full of significance to itself. If I am to expect others to respect my life, then I must respect the other life I see, however strange it may be to mine... Ethics in our Western world has hitherto been largely limited to the relations of man to man. But that is limited ethics. We need a boundless ethics which will include the animals also."

"No ray of sunshine is ever lost, but the green which it wakes into existence needs time to sprout, and it is not always granted to the sower to live to see the harvest. All work that is worth anything is done in faith."

"Not one of us knows what effect his life produces, and what he gives to others; that is hidden from us and must remain so, though we are often allowed to see some little fraction of it, so that we may not lose courage. The way in which power works is a mystery."

"One thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve."

"One truth stands firm. All that happens in the world history rests on something spiritual. If the spiritual is strong, it creates world history. If it is weak, it suffers world history."

"Reverence for life is the only sound basis for viable ethics."

"Reverence for life does not allow the scholar to live for his science alone, even if he is very useful to the community in so doing. Reverence for life does not permit the artist to exist only for his art, even if he gives inspiration to many by its means... Reverence for life demands for all that they should sacrifice a portion of their own lives for others."

"Science has led us from knowledge to knowledge but also from mystery to mystery. Mystery alone can lead us on to true spirituality, to accept and be filled with the mystery of life in our existence."

"The main concern of philosophy is to make men better."

"The only road to a fuller grasp of Reality is the exploration of 'super-normal' perception."

"The power of ideals is incalculable. We see no power in a drop of water. But let it get into a crack in the rock and be turned into ice, and it splits the rock; turned into steam, it drives the pistons of the most powerful engines. Something has happened to it which makes active the power that is latent in it."

"Thought is the strongest thing we have. Work done by true and profound thought - that is a real force."

"Truth has not special time of its own. Its hour is now - always, and indeed then most truly when it seems most unsuitable to actual circumstances."

"The abdication of thought has been the decisive factor in the collapse of civilization."

"The basic significance of all difficulty is that it reorients us from the external to the spiritual. the meaning and purpose of the world remain to a large extent inexplicable. but one thing is clear: the purpose of all events is spiritual."

"The deeper we look into nature, the more we realize that it is full of life, and the more profoundly we know that all life is a secret and that we are united with all life that is in nature. Man can no longer live for himself alone. We must realize that all life is valuable and that we are united to all life. From this knowledge comes our spiritual relationship to the Universe."

"The great secret of success is to go through life as a man who never gets used up. That is possible for him who never argues and strives with men and facts, but in all experiences retires upon himself, and looks for the ultimate cause of things in himself."

"A man does not have to be an angel in order to be saint."

"A man is ethical only when life, as such, is sacred to him, that of plants and animals as that of his fellowman, and when he devotes himself helpfully to all life that is in need of help."

"A new public opinion must be created privately and unobtrusively. The existing one is maintained by the Press, by propaganda, by organization, and by financial and other influences which are at its disposal. This unnatural way of spreading ideas must be opposed by the natural one, which goes from man to man and relies solely on the truth of the thoughts and the hearer’s receptiveness for new truth."

"All living knowledge of God rests upon this foundation: that we experience Him in our lives as Will-to-Love."

"All the kindness which a man puts out into the world works on the heart and thoughts of mankind."

"As the sun makes the ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate."

"As long as we look at our own existence as meaningless, there is no point whatevr in desiring to effect anything in the world."

"Example is not the main thing in influencing others; it is the only thing. One thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve."